Waymo ready to launch first commercial AV service, Get ready for AutoMobility LA

The age of robotaxis is ready to launch:  Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo division is preparing to launch the first-ever commercial autonomous vehicle service in early December, according to a source familiar with the plans. It will be run under its own brand and compete directly with mobility companies like Uber and Lyft. It won’t be a splashy opening, but the start of a trial run in suburbs around Phoenix. That’s where Waymo’s Early Rider Program has been tested with a group of 400 volunteer families who’ve been taking autonomous rides with the company for more than a year. This news coincided with a comments made by Waymo’s chief John Krafcik speaking at Wall Street Journal’s TechD D.Live conference on Tuesday. Krafcik said the service will start with a small group of riders in the Phoenix area but will be expanding in the coming months. Passengers can pay for rides and corporate customers such as Walmart Inc. are planning on having their customers shuttled to the chain’s stores in these vehicles. Earlier this year, Waymo announced plans to buy thousands of vehicles from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Tata Motors’ Jaguar Land Rover to expand its self-self-driving vehicle fleet.

VW ramping up to mass produce EVs:  Volkswagen said it will convert three German factories to build electric vehicles — to meet expected demand and complete its commitment to zero emission vehicles made after the diesel-emissions scandal broke three years ago. The VW plant in Emden, which currently builds the VW Passat, would build electric cars from 2022 onwards, and its factory in Hannover would also start producing EVs the same year. Together with the company’s current Zwickau plant, it will make for Europe’s largest network for the production of EVs in Europe, the company said. This week, the German automaker also announced it will be spending 44 billion euros ($50.2 billion) on EVs, digitalization, autonomous driving and new mobility services by 2023. That will make for a plan 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) more compared to last year’s planning round by VW.

Tesla buying trucking companies, facing more investor suits:  Tesla chief Elon Musk tweeted Thursday that the company has acquired a few trucking firms to meet its delivery targets. The real challenge for Tesla this year has been building and delivering enough Model 3 compact electric cars to come close to meeting its earlier commitments to do so. It will shave off at least a month of time that it takes by using rail to get its electric cars to the East Coast. “We bought some trucking companies & secured contracts with major haulers to avoid trucking shortage mistake of last quarter,” Musk wrote without revealing details on the acquired companies.

Along with getting through hellish production schedules, the company has had to face a mounting crisis over Musk’s infamous August tweet on taking Tesla private. It will be likely be leading to two or three separate groups of securities fraud lawsuits, according to lawyers for shareholders. It would run the gamut of shareholders and their claimed losses, from traditional longtime institutional investors to others shorting the stock or holding options. The case presents “so many different types of investors and investments, long and short,” U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said at a hearing Thursday in San Francisco. “That may have some effect on how I measure who has the greatest financial interest.”

Get ready for AutoMobility LA and LA Auto Show:  AutoMobility LA will be taking place Nov. 26-29, 2018, in Los Angeles, featuring speakers and workshops on the latest in autonomy, connectivity, electrification, the sharing economy, and more. It’s the prelude to the 2018 LA Auto Show, which runs from Nov. 30-Dec. 9 at the LA Convention Center. More than 60 debut vehicles are scheduled for this year’s AutoMobility LA, with nearly half making their world premiere. Jeep will be rolling out a pickup, and Kia is expected to have multiple vehicles make their world debut, including one of the brand’s best-selling cars. Audi has confirmed that the e-tron GT concept 4-door electric performance coupe will make its global premiere at AutoMobility LA.

Keynote speakers during AutoMobility LA include Giovanni Palazzo, CEO of Volkswagen’s Electrify America, talking about “Racing to Create an Open, Fast-Charging Network Ready for a Tidal Wave of EVs.” Ted Klaus, VP and executive engineer of Honda R&D Americas, will discuss “Safe Swarm: Preparing Highways for the Autonomous Future.” Ned Curic, VP of Amazon Alexa Automotive, will speak on “Now We’re Taking: Amazon Alexa.”

Other speakers include: Luke Schneider, CEO of Silvercar, Audi’s app-based car rental service; Megan Stooke, CMO of General Motor’s Maven car-sharing service; and Jenny Ha, senior exterior designer at Lucid Motors.

Tesla Model 3 helping EVs go mainstream, Subscription services come to ride hailing

EVs going mainstream: Along with plug-in electric vehicles making it to the one million mark for U.S. auto sales in October, it was historic and interesting to see the Tesla Model 3 continue to make the Top 10 in America’s light-duty car segment — in October coming in at #6 behind the Hyundai Elantra and before the Nissan Sentra. In an interview this week with Recode, CEO Elon Musk said that 5,000 cars produced a week at its Fremont, Calif. plant has become the norm, and that’s being raised to 6,000 to 7,000 units a week. To hit about 6,500 a week “it would have to stress people out and do tons of overtime,” he said.

How long for AVs to go mainstream:  It was a milestone to see California grant Waymo the right to test self-driving vehicles without human safety drivers. Waymo has been putting in the hours and reporting the data — more than 10 million miles of real-world public-road testing, and seven billion miles of simulation testing. But it’s still in the testing phase in U.S. states allowing for it, and a few other countries overseas. We’re probably looking at a decade from now before they’re commonly seen on roadways. Perhaps trucking will see it first, with the lack of available commercial-grade drivers and accidents caused by those not getting enough sleep. Cargo carriers may have to come up with their own insurance for their fleets, as insurance companies are making it difficult to find the right coverage.

Subscription services comes to ride-hailing:  Uber is following Lyft — and several automakers — by now offering customers a subscription service, called Ride Pass. Users are guaranteed set prices for a monthly fee. That comes out to $24.99 in Los Angeles, and $14.99 in Austin, Orlando, Denver, and Miami. Subscribers pay fares based on historical data and won’t change based on demand or other circumstance, such as the costly “surge pricing” during peak hours. Lyft launched its All-Access Plan last month. The service costs $299 per month and gives users 30 rides worth up to $15 each. If a ride costs more than $15, the user pays the difference. Automakers have been offering their subscription services in recent years — with BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo, tapping into the car financing model where customers who might have been reluctant to come over to the brand are trying it out; with the hope they’ll be loyal brand buyers and tap into their dealer networks for service and maintenance, shared ride services, etc.

Automakers spending $90 billion on electrification, Ford issues anniversary edition of Bullitt’s Mustang

$90 billion on EVs:  Ford Motor Co. on Sunday said it’s more than doubling its investment in vehicle electrification to $11 billion. It will be part of $90 billion that global automakers have committed to spending on electric vehicles, and that total is still growing. That will include at least $19 billion by automakers in the U.S., $21 billion in China, and $52 billion in Germany, according to a Reuters analysis. U.S. and German automakers said in interviews at the Detroit auto show that most of the investments are earmarked for China, where escalating EV quotes will be staring in 2019. Ford executives just announced that 40 electrified vehicles will be launched by the company by 2022 – 16 battery electric and 24 will be hybrid or plug-in hybrid.

Autonomous vehicle federal guidelines:  New federal guidelines will be introduced this summer, expanded to include autonomous trucking, infrastructure, transit, and other industries affected by self-driving vehicle technology. Transportation Secretary revealed the DOT’s plans during a Sunday speech prior to the start of the 2018 Detroit auto show. The Obama administration’s Safety Assessment Letters have been kept in place, asking automakers and tech companies to release information on testing their autonomous vehicles. Chao sees General Motors’ recent announcement launching a robotaxi fleet next year as being possibly viable. “With the rapid advancement of the self driving technology, this request is now a reality. We will view the petition carefully and responsibly,” she said.

50th anniversary of Bullitt’s Mustang:  Ford Motor Co. has launched a 50th anniversary edition version of the Ford Mustang in tribute to the most famous car chase scene ever. In the 1968 film “Bullitt,” San Francisco Police Department Lieutenant Frank Bullitt spots two mob hitmen in a 1968 Dodge Charger tailing him in his 1968 Ford Mustang GT. He ends up turning the table on the hitmen, and pursues them on a high-speed chase through the streets of San Francisco, as the muscle cars leap over hills. It ends with the Mustang forcing the Charger off the road and into a gas station, where it explodes in a fireball.

Bullitt star Steve McQueen’s granddaughter Molly appears in a short movie tribute that was introduced at the Detroit auto show. Molly drives her new third-generation Mustang through a parking structure, battling two men in a Dodge Charger for the final space. Molly guns the Bullitt to win the space with its upgraded 5.0-liter V8 engine that can go up to 475 horsepower and 420 lb-ft. of torque. It can reach a top speed of 163 mpg, an 8 mph increase over the latest Mustang GT.

She also gets to sit in the actual 1968 Ford Mustang GT that her grandfather drove. It was one of two versions of the Mustang used in the film. The stunt double version had been recovered in early 2017 in Baja, Calif. The other version that had been driven by the actor recently showed up again for the first time in nearly 50 years. Owner Sean Kiernan had inherited McQueen’s Mustang in 2014 from his late father, Robert, who had purchased it in 1974. Kiernan contacted the automaker in time for it to be shown alongside the 2019 Mustang Bullitt at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

GM wants to start robotaxi service in 2019, Study looks at cost of fueling gasoline-powered cars versus electric

GM asks for approval of electric, autonomous rides by 2019:  General Motors could be launching public ride-hailing services in autonomous vehicles as early as next year, according to a petition filed with NHTSA. GM has asked for a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards waiver on 16 rules covering vehicles with human drivers but that don’t apply to self-driving cars. If granted, GM could launch as many as 2,500 autonomous vehicles a year starting in 2019. The automaker described the “Cruise AV” self-driving vehicle in the filing, which is based on the Chevy Bolt and includes fourth-generation AV technology from its Cruise Automation subsidiary. It includes five Lidars, 16 cameras, and 21 radars for safety and functional, efficient driving. GM says its would be a type of robotaxi providing ride-hailing services. GM’s Maven carsharing division and its investment in Lyft could provide channels for bringing these electric, autonomous rides to customers.

Federal report on fuel economy:  A federal government report said that 2016 model year vehicles hit a record 24.7 miles per gallon, just 0.1 mpg increase, according to the Environmental Protection Agency . It’s projected to reach 25.2 mpg for the 2017 model year, the study said. The increase for the 2016 model year came with a few automakers buying credits to meet federal requirements. Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover have emission deficits but still have three years to reach the compliance level. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had the biggest deficit but had credits saved up to meet the federal requirements. Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said that the 2016 fuel economy improvement fell far short of the 1 mpg target that the Obama-era rules called for and that vehicle technology is available for vehicles to meet the standard.

Gasoline Vs. electric:  Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan’s Sustainable Worldwide Transportation just authored a study comparing the costs of driving electric and gasoline-powered vehicles in the U.S. overall and by individual states. The fueling cost for charging electric vehicles is only half the cost of internal combustion engine vehicles, according to findings. The study found that the average fuel cost for operating a typical new gasoline-engine vehicle in the U.S. is $1,117, with a maximum of $1,509 in Hawaii and a minimum of $993 in Alabama. The current average annual cost of driving a typical new battery electric vehicle in the United States is $485, with a maximum of $1,106 in Hawaii and a minimum of $367 in Louisiana.

 

Tesla resets target dates for Model 3 production, VW partnership for smart mobility services

Newsworthy stories:  Tesla Inc. is slowly ramping up to meet its original production target for the Model 3, moving the 5,000 unit target into the second quarter. In its quarterly statement this week, the company announced that it delivered 1,550 Model 3 small sedans in Q4 2017, up from 220 the previous quarter. Tesla expects to reach a 2,500 unit weekly rate by the end of the first quarter, and the 5,000 per week milestone by the end of the second quarter. It was a good quarter and year for the electric automaker, with 101,312 of the Model S and Model X vehicles delivered in 2017 – a 33% increase over 2016. It was the best quarter ever for Tesla, with 15,200 Model S and 13,120 Model X vehicles delivered, representing a 27% increase over Q4 2016. As for the new Model 3, the company will “continue to focus on quality and efficiency rather than simply pushing for the highest possible volume in the shortest period of time.”…………. Westport Fuel Systems Inc. has entered into a development and supply agreement with Tata Motors for their 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder natural gas spark-ignited commercial vehicle engines to meet the Indian government’s new Bharat Stage VI emission standards, scheduled to take effect in April of 2020. Westport Fuel Systems has been working with Indian automaker Tata Motors since 2012, most recently working together on developing their next generation of natural gas spark-ignited engines to meet the BS-VI emission standards. Upon completion of the program, Westport will be supplying the critical natural gas components to Tata Motors, including advanced gas injection systems and controls…………..  CALSTART’s Clean Transportation Summit – California: 2030 will be taking place March 26-27 at the Sacramento Convention Center. This summit succeeds the Clean, Low Carbon Fuels Summit, which ran annually for the past five years with the purpose of building political support for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The first day of this year’s summit kicks off with concurrent sessions focused on electrification, Low NOx Natural Gas Vehicles market development, voucher incentives, and opportunities and issues for autonomous, electric and connected vehicles. The day concludes with a reception followed by a full day of General Session programming. Early bird discount registration will end on January 25. Learn more about the event here……………  U.S. car owners now lease almost 80% of battery electric vehicles and 55 percent of plug-in hybrids, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The lease rate for the country’s entire new vehicle purchases has been around 30% recently. However, Tesla does not reveal how many of its vehicles are leased. Consumers seem to be turning to leasing for the payment savings and because used vehicle values for electric vehicles have been weak in the marketplace. Consumers concerned about used vehicle values also tend to expect that the next generation of EVs with new technology and longer range will have stronger value on the used car market……………. California would ban the sale of new vehicles powered by fossil fuels in 2040 under legislation introduced Wednesday in the state Legislature. If passed, it would be a significant part of the state’s drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. The law would require that all new vehicles sold after Jan. 1, 2040, would be zero emission vehicles such as battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. “We’re at an inflection point: we’ve got to address the harmful emissions that cause climate change,” said Democratic Assemblymember Phil Ting, the bill’s author.

VW adding to its automated mobility presence:  The Volkswagen Group and self-driving technology company, Aurora Innovation, announced a strategic collaboration ahead of the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Aurora Innovation also signed a deal with Hyundai this week, similar to its alliance with VW, to bring its self-driving software into commercial use. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., and Pittsburgh, Penn., Aurora designs and builds self-driving technology, partnering with automakers to integrate, pilot and deploy advanced self-driving platforms into vehicles. Founded by CEO Chris Urmson, Chief Product Officer Sterling Anderson and Chief Technical Officer Drew Bagnell, Aurora is working to solve today’s most complex AI, automation and engineering challenges to improve transportation and positively impact cities. Urmson had played a leading role at Google’s self-driving car unit, before it became Waymo.

The collaboration between VW and Aurora aims to bring self-driving electric vehicles in cities as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) fleets. The collaboration will bring together a world-class engineering team to the ongoing development of software and hardware for driverless vehicles, and for mobility services for urban and rural areas. Cities can use the smart mobility solutions to help solve their traffic, pollution, and traffic safety challenges.

Automakers have been making serious investments in mobility and autonomous technology companies in the past two years. Ford acquired on-demand shuttle service Chariot in 2016 and then bought a majority stake in self-driving startup Argo.AI for $1 billion. Daimler now owns Hailo, MyTaxi, Taxibeat, and Ridescout. General Motors owns Cruise Automation and has a stake in Lyft.

Volkswagen’s MOIA division is preparing to bring mobility services to cities around the world. In early December, MOIA unveiled an all-electric car at the TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin event. It’s been designed to provide usable space for up to six passengers. It will make its official debut in service on roads beginning in Hamburg in 2018, where the company expects to put about 200 cars on the road at first. It’s based on ridesharing for users who seek to pool their vehicle use.

New format in GAM looks at news highlights and Toyota’s take on electric vs. fuel cell vehicles

Newsworthy:  Autonomous trucks appear to be ready to adoption on public roads faster than self-driving cars with huge investments being made for that to take place, according to technologists like Tesla and Embark. Trucking companies may not be as optimistic about the fast pace. Tesla will be showcasing its electric truck with some autonomous capabilities, while Silicon Valley startup Embark has been testing its autonomous trucking technology in a three-way partnership with Ryder and appliance giant Electrolux. CB Insights reports that companies will place about $1 billion in commercial truck autonomous systems this year, 10 times the level of spending three years ago………. General Motors’ joint venture company will be able to hit China’s new energy vehicle requirement of 10% in annual sales by 2019 without having to buy credits, GM China chief Matt Tsien said. “I can’t give you any specific (NEV production and sales volume) numbers other than to say that through the complicated formula we will either meet or exceed,” he said………….. Faraday Future is continuing to struggle, with three top executives leaving the company or already having done so. Stefan Krause, a former financial executive at BMW and Duetsche Bank, has left as CFO. Ulrich Kranz, another BMW veteran, and tBill Strickland, head of vehicle manufacturing who previously headed the Ford Fusion program, are exiting Faraday……….. It looks like the Ford C-Max will stop production over the next year. The 2018 model year lineup has dropped the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, and the C-Max Hybrid is expected to finish up at the Michigan Assembly Plant in mid-2018………. Volkswagen may be adding the third-generation Beetle to its electric vehicle lineup built on the new MEB platform, according to Board Chairman Herbert Diess.

State of the Technology:  While Toyota and a few other global automakers are taking hydrogen fuel cell vehicles quite seriously, the clean technology’s chances of reaching mass adoption are still far away. Yoshikazu Tanaka, chief engineer of the Toyota Mirai FCV, said that Toyota won’t be giving up on fuel cell vehicles, but electric vehicles are in a stronger position for widespread adoption in the marketplace. “Elon Musk is right – it’s better to charge the electric car directly by plugging in,” he said.

The Japanase automaker has so far only sold about 2,400 of its Mirais in the U.S., and about 4,300 total worldwide. That comes after two years of being on the market, and pales in comparison to EV sales in China, the U.S., and Europe. Toyota’s strategy is based on a diverse product portfolio, with hydrogen-powered commercial trucks being tested in Japan, sales of the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid taking off, and a new business unit dedicated to electric vehicle development. That comes from increasing pressure by governments to provide fossil-fuel free vehicles in the coming decades; and forecasts by several companies including oil giant Shell.

Fuel cell vehicles will be part of it as zero emission vehicles complying with government mandates, but the expectations are strong for mass adoption of EVs by the 2030s. Toyota doesn’t see a fight between the two technologies to be inevitable. “We don’t really see an adversary ‘zero-sum’ relationship between the EV and the hydrogen car. We’re not about to give up on hydrogen electric fuel-cell technology at all,” Tanaka said.

Fuel cell technology is seeing a lot of its business growth with companies like Amazon using it for powering fork lifts and providing energy to massive warehouse facilities. Plug Power is seeing demand grow in these sectors, with the company reporting 250% revenue growth in the third quarter.

For Today: Judge rules against Waymo’s damages expert, Tesla acquires Perbix to help speed up Model 3 production

Waymo faces tough ruling by judge:  Alphabet’s Waymo is facing a serious challenge in making its court case that Uber is guilty of stealing intellectual property behind its innovative self-driving car technology. The federal judge in San Francisco hearing the trial has excluded Waymo’s damages expert, Michael Wagner, from the case; and has restricted use of financial evidence at the trial, according to a docket entry. Waymo claims that it has received damages worth about $1.9 billion in losses. Uber has denied using intellectual property that had allegedly been stolen by former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski. Waymo responded to the judge’s decision with a statement that it could still pursue full damages using “the same documents” relied upon by Wagner.

Making hydrogen even cleaner:  Hydrogen fuel station company True Zero says that fuel cell vehicles in California have driven 17 million miles and have used 250,000 kilograms (250 metric tons) of clean hydrogen. That’s come from fuel supplied to 18 retail stations owned and operated by the company. There are now 31 stations open across California, supported by California Energy Commission grant funding. Two-thirds of True Zero’s hydrogen comes from fossil fuels, such as natural gas. One third comes from renewable sources such as biomass; the company says that it is working to increase the use of renewable hydrogen.

Tesla acquires automation company to speed production:  Tesla has acquired a company to further automation at its manufacturing facilities, opening the door to increase production of its closely watched Model 3. Perbix, a maker of automated machines used for manufacturing, has been acquired by Tesla after nearly three years of working with the electric carmaker. Tesla has declined to disclose the cost of the acquisition and other details. Tesla will be expanding Perbix’ operations in the Minneapolis area, where the supplier is based. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has recently been making comments about the automation challenges holding up hitting the production timeline that had originally been set for the $35,000 Model 3. In other news, Jon Wagner, Tesla’s director of battery engineering, has left the company and is launching a battery and powertrain startup in California.

 

For Today: Tesla preparing to build EVs in China, DOE funding extreme fast charging

Tesla readying for China plant:  Tesla, Inc., yesterday reaffirmed that it’s been in talks with the Chinese government to set up shop in a free trade zone in the Shanghai region – without indicating whether an agreement has been met. Those talks were reported to have been underway earlier this year. Tesla would still have to pay the 25% import fee that it’s had all along in China, but the company would have costs reduced not having to ship the cars into that market. It would also allow Tesla to stay true to its identity of being an independent operator by avoiding the traditional joint venture with a Chinese automaker that Tesla’s competitors have been doing for years. China is becoming more flexible to grow its local EV market and remain No. 1 globally, to clean up air pollution in its growing cities, and to free up the nation from foreign oil imports. The electric carmaker has been moving in this direction in recent years, with CEO Elon Musk thinking that it’s the most significant market in the world for company growth. The company now has a 5% stake from Chinse internet company Tencent Holdings, which should support Tesla’s strategy in that market.

Ethanol beats Big Oil:  President Donald Trump is keeping his campaign promise to ethanol-producing states by backing off proposed biofuel reductions recently announced by the Environmental Protection Agency. In a letter dated Oct. 19, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said that the agency will keep renewable fuel volume mandates at or above proposed levels, reversing a decision to cut the mandates demanded by oil companies and refineries. It’s a big win for corn-growing states like Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois, which are economically dependent on demand for corn-based ethanol. Companies such as PBF Energy Inc. and Valero Energy Corp. have been pleading with Trump to revise the costly mandate, and it at first appeared he would be going in that direction.

UK alliance for EV growth:  Automakers are working together in the United Kingdom to better educate car shoppers on the benefits of owning and charging electric vehicles. The Electric Vehicle Experience Center in Milton Keynes, north of London, will feature a multi-brand EV showroom. Sales pitches aren’t allowed, as it will be a showcase for explaining the technology to visitors. Funding participants include BMW, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, and Volkswagen, along with Chargemaster, a UK-based supplier of charging stations. Chargemaster CEO David Martell said the showroom will be carefully watched, and could be repeated elsewhere in the UK if it works.

LG partners with Qualcomm:  LG Electronics is entering the self-driving car market through an alliance with Qualcomm to jointly research and develop autonomous, connected car technology. The two companies have opened a joint research center in Seoul, with another one slated by open in that city by the end of 2018. The partners will be focusing on fifth-generation wireless communications technology – called 5G – that will deliver data much faster than the current technology. The move supports the three major trends in the auto industry – electrification, autonomous technology, and on-demand mobility services. It will also tie into Qualcomm’s efforts to bring wireless electric vehicle charging as a mainstay to vehicles of the future.

DOE funding extreme fast charging:  The U.S. Energy Department today announced that up to $15 million will be available for research projects on batteries and vehicle electrification technologies to enable growth in fast charging. It includes electrification projects that will support the development and verification of electric drive systems and infrastructure for what it defines as “extreme fast charging” (400-kW). It’s being done through the DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO), which funds early-stage, high-risk research to support improved vehicle efficiency, lowers costs, and increases use of secure, domestic energy sources. It’s part of a VTO-funded report that will be released today, where researchers at Idaho National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified technical gaps to bring an extreme fast charging network to the U.S. The full report can be found on the VTO reports and publications page.

For Today: Continental testing out robo-taxi technology, Proterra announces longer range drivetrain

Continental joins robo-taxi movement:  Major auto supplier Continental is making moves to join the futuristic robo-taxi world, starting with an autonomous shuttle called CUbE at its Frankfurt corporate campus. Continental won’t become a manufacturer – CUbE is a testing ground for automated technology that can be supplied to OEMs. The German supplier is watching several OEMs – including General Motors, Ford, Renault-Nissan, and Daimler – making moves toward autonomous mobility services. That might be through an alliance with Lyft, Uber, Maven, Waymo, or another partner committed to the new technology and ride services it has to offer. While the robo-taxi label has stuck in the past year, it’s much more than a taxi ride. This will include shared rides, point-to-point short trips, transporting groups, taxi rides, and shuttle services.

Propane-powered Ford E-350:  Roush CleanTech is now offering a propane-powered Ford E-350 single-rear-wheel and dual-rear-wheel cutaway targeted to buyers of transit shuttles, Type A school buses, and delivery trucks. The company has delivered over 1,000 Ford E-450 propane autogas cutaways to fleets across the country. For agencies and companies looking for smaller, lighter clean vehicles, the new propane Ford E-350 will be available at the beginning of the 2018 model year. They will be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board and compliant with heavy-duty onboard diagnostics.

Proterra makes two announcements:  Electric bus maker Proterra just introduced the DuoPower drivetrain for its Catalyst all-electric vehicles. The Catalyst bus will be five times more efficient than a standard diesel bus with a lot more horsepower and acceleration. It offers a 20% increase in efficiency over Proterra’s standard ProDrive system. For the Catalyst E2 max model, the DuoPower drivetrain enables a nominal range of 426 miles on a single charge, which the company says far exceeds the average distance of North American transit routes. Separately, the company announced that major bus and coach manufacturer Van Hool has selected Proterra to provide its highly efficient battery platform for Van Hool’s first all-electric motor coach. Van Hool’s CX Series electric vehicle will utilize the E2 battery technology.

 

 

For Today: Cummins building electric drive trains, Smart offering electric autonomous cars

Cummins electric heavy-duty truck:  Cummins Inc. is adding electric drive trains to its power options, the company announced yesterday at its Columbus tech center. The 18,000-pound truck will have a 44,000-lb. maximum payload and about 100 miles of range. That beats Tesla’s announcement, which takes place next month and is expected to focus on a 200-300 mile range electric semi truck. Named AEOS after a four-winged horse-driven chariot from Greek mythology, the Cummins electric truck (built by Roush) follows an announcement in June that the company will bring out an electric bus by 2019. Cummins is looking for vehicle manufacturers to work with and large fleets interested in buying them. For now, the electric heavy-duty truck is in the concept phase. The company is well known by fleets for its natural gas truck engines.

Solar-powered dealerships:  SunPower solar dealers are working with auto dealerships across the country to put solar panels on empty rooftops and over parking lots to cut energy costs and to meet sustainability targets. Construction of the solar installations has also helped protect roofs and a fleet of new cars underneath the stations. Minnesota-based Luther Auto Group, the largest privately held auto group in the Midwest, has placed 454 kilowatts of solar at 10 of its dealer locations. They’re projected to save the company more than $2.1 million in electricity costs over 25 years.

Smart Vision EQ ForTwo:  Daimler’s Smart division will be showcasing the Vision EQ ForTwo, tapping into the company’s CASE philosophy – Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electric. When it does come out years from now, customers will be able to hail a ride in the tiny electric car from their smartphone. Vision EQ vehicles will be able to flow through traffic more smoothing by “talking” to other autonomous vehicles out on the roads. It will be used for carsharing rides, and could be ideal for Daimler’s Car2Go subsidiary.