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 semi-tractor is being delayed yet again, Waymo promoting the safety of self-driving cars

Another delay on Tesla truck:  The Tesla semi-tractor heavy-duty truck is being delayed yet again, this time until mid-November. Resources will go instead to fix production bottlenecks for the Model 3. Another priority, in which Musk tweeted about, is diverting resources to help bring Puerto Rico back through battery production to help the island recover from hurricane devastation. Residents have been going without electricity. Tesla was below its production target to build more than 1,500 Model 3 units in the third quarter. The company had just delivered around 220 Model 3 sedans and produced 260 during the quarter. Earlier this week Tesla reported that “production bottlenecks” had left it behind the planned ramp-up for the Model 3.

Charging study:  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has published a study on the state of charging stations in the U.S. The study looked into best practices for avoiding wasting funds on charging equipment that could be the wrong type or located in the wrong places. There are quite a few variables to consider including the ratio of plug-in hybrid to battery electric vehicles. Plug-in hybrids have smaller battery packs than all-electrics; they charge faster and become depleted more quickly. Drivers do have the advantage of running out of battery power and getting there powered by a gasoline engine.

Waymo public education drive:  Waymo is teaming up with non-profit groups to talk Americans into believing in the safety of self-driving cars. Google’s self-driving car company is teaming up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Safety Council, and the Federation for Blind Children in a campaign called “Let’s Talk Self-Driving.” Waymo also emphasizes that autonomous vehicles can eliminate most alcohol-related fatal crashes, and would offer the blind a transportation option. The company said the public awareness ad campaign will begin in Arizona on Monday. That’s where Waymo has been doing a lot of its self-driving car testing. The ad campaign will be delivered through digital ads, outdoor billboards, fuel pump advertising, and radio spots.

 

For Today: Ford Escape plug-in coming, Avis managing Waymo’s autonomous vehicle fleet

Escape plug-in hybrid:  Ford has a new plug-in hybrid in the works, which will be built on the Escape crossover SUV. It may not arrive until the 2020 model year, and it’s slated to replace the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. Ford has been disappointed with the C-Max Energi’s sales performance, though it has been doing a little better lately. Ford has been playing with the idea of a PHEV Escape for about a decade, having tested out a small fleet. Hybrid versions of competitors are out there with the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue, and an expectation that Honda will bring out a hybrid CR-V.

Fuel-efficient Camry hybrid:  Toyota announced that the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid will be delivered to dealers later this summer with a better, more fuel efficient hybrid system. The automaker said the LE option received a 52 mpg combined highway estimated-EPA rating, the same as the 2017 Prius hatchback gets in EPA combined rating. The Camry Hybrid will be priced at $27,800 for the LE to $32,250 for the XLE, but there will be an additional cost for a delivery, processing and handling (DPH) fee. Fuel economy improvements come from a few changes being made, including a new Total Hybrid System (THS II) through a more-efficient transmission system.

Waymo inks deal with Avis:  Alphabet’s self-driving car division, Waymo, has signed a deal withAvis Budget Group for the car rental company to manage Waymo’s fleet of autonomous vehicles. Avis will service and store Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid minivans, with Waymo owning the vehicles and paying Avis for these services. It will start out in Phoenix, where Waymo has been doing much of its testing lately. The agreement will cover multiple years but won’t be exclusive. Avis has been very active in the mobility space, having purchased carsharing market leader Zipcar a few years ago.