Posts with «automotive industry» label

Riding along in Ford’s F-150 Lightning

Ahead of being able to actually drive it, Ford offered us a chance to check out a prototype of the fleet version of the upcoming F-150 Lightning. While we don’t know what it’s like to be behind the wheel, we did have a chance to check out the truck, some of its features and experience the EV torque as it blasted up a hill.

The F-150 Lightning, whether it be for fleets or for customers, is a huge deal in the EV world. The F-Series truck has been the number one selling vehicle in the United States for three decades. Electrifying that sales juggernaut gives the automaker a leg up in the EV truck world since it has such a large established customer base. Check out the video above for the full story. 

Tesla kept its record 2021 profits rolling right through Q4

Following a profitable — and, ahem, notable — 2021, Tesla remains at the forefront of EV production in America as we enter the new year. With deliveries up nearly 90 percent over 2020’s figures, Tesla achieved “the highest quarterly operating margin among all volume OEMs,” during that time frame, according to the company’s Q4 figures released Wednesday The company not only hit $5.5 billion in net income despite a $6.5 billion outlay for new production facilities in Berlin and Austin, Texas, it also exceeded its own revenue goals by a cool billion dollars.

In Q4, 2021, Tesla produced 930,000 electric vehicles (99 percent of which were Xs and Ys) and delivered 936,000 of them to customers around the world. At the same time, the company expanded its proprietary Supercharger network by a third, now totalling 3,476 stations.

Despite widespread supply chain issues impacting the entire automotive industry, Tesla maintained its production capabilities better than virtually any other automaker. The Fremont factory churned out around 600,000 vehicles last year with plans to increase that figure even after the Austin and Berlin plants come online later this year. Production in the Shanghai plant continues to ramp up as well. According to Tesla, it has managed to lower the per unit cost of producing its vehicles to around $36,000 (and did so in both Q3 and Q4, 2021).

Tesla's Q4 investor call happens at 5:30pm ET today, stay tuned for live updates and comment from Tesla executives.

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GM is building EV production and battery factories in Michigan

GM and LG are building a third Ultium factory in the US. The $2.6 billion plant in Lansing, Michigan will make batteries for GM’s electric vehicles.

Ultium Cells, a joint venture between the companies, expects to create 1,700 manufacturing jobs at the plant, which is projected to open in late 2024. At full production, Ultium expects the factory to have a battery cell capacity of 50 gigawatt hours, and it will be able to adapt to advancements in materials and tech. Construction is underway on Ultium's other battery manufacturing sites in Tennessee and Ohio.

Ultium's cells can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside battery packs, which allows GM to customize the layout for each vehicle design. Energy options range between 50kWh and 200kWh. GM says Ultium system may deliver a range of 450 miles or more on a single charge and accelerate from zero to 60MPH in three seconds. The company is designing Ultium-powered EVs with fast charging in mind — most of them will have 400-volt battery packs and up to 200 kW fast charging. Electric trucks, meanwhile, will have 800-volt packs with 350kW charging.

The Ultium factory forms part of a new $7 billion investment by GM (the company's largest single outlay to date) in four Michigan sites. The automaker is spending $4 billion to convert a plant in Orion Township, which will become its second US manufacturing location for the Chevrolet Silverado EV and electric GMC Sierra.

Conversion work is underway, and GM expects to start making the electric trucks at the plant in 2024. It expects to retain around 1,000 current jobs and add more than 2,350. Production of the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV will continue during the transition. The company projects that it will convert half of its North American assembly capacity to EV production by 2030.

GM is aiming to make more than a million EVs in the US per year by the end of 2025, and today's investment announcement forms a key part of that. The company's also spending more than $510 million to increase production at two sites in the Lansing area, one of which is building the next-gen Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave.

Consumer Reports now rewards driver monitoring, but only Ford and GM pass muster

With more automakers including driver assistance systems in their cars, Consumer Reports is changing how it grades those vehicles. Starting this year, the outlet will add an additional two points to a car’s overall score if its included driver assistance system encourages safe driving. Moving forward, it will also deduct points from a vehicle’s total score if it finds the opposite is true, starting with two points in 2024 and then four points in 2026 and beyond.

“We believe it's time to recognize vehicles that have found a safer way to deploy this technology,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of the publication’s Auto Test Center. By its own estimation, Consumer Reports says an adequate driver monitoring system is one that will “reliably” detect when the driver has become inattentive and alert them to that fact. It adds the system should escalate those warnings and eventually stop the car if it finds they’re not responding.

Consumer Reports said it would also take into account an automaker’s privacy policy when evaluating a driver monitoring system, and may not award additional points in some instances. The outlet reasons strong privacy protections are essential to convince drivers to use the feature.

The outlet will put the new ranking guidelines into action when reveals its 2022 Autos Top Picks on February 17th, but it gave an early preview of what to expect on Thursday, noting only cars from Ford and GM earned additional points for their driver assistance features. The outlet said BMW, Ford, GM, Tesla and Subaru all claim their systems can detect and prevent driver inattention, but notes it found some “serious flaws” in those systems through its testing.

Beyond mentioning the automaker, Consumer Reports didn’t call out Tesla specifically, but the two have an adversarial history. In 2020, Consumer Reports ranked Autopilot a “distant second” to GM’s Super Cruise. At the time, it said GM’s system was better at notifying drivers when it was about to disengage, and the automaker’s use of an infrared camera to monitor the driver led to a safer system overall.

Airstream's concept electric camping trailer propels itself

Even Airstream is getting in on electric vehicles. According to Autoblog, the Thor brand has introduced a pair of EV concepts that include the eStream, a self-propelled camper. The dual-motor trailer not only reduces the burden on the towing vehicle, but can be remote-controlled from your phone to help you hitch up, reverse or simply move your camp site. You can even use the motors to shift the weight distribution, so you might not need a special hitch to handle certain trailer loads.

The other concept, the Thor Vision Vehicle, is a Ford Transit-based electric RV. The design is conventional, but Thor teased a "best in class" 300-mile range along with a digital cockpit that includes extensive tools to find chargers along your route.

There's no mention of whether or not the eStream or TVV will lead to ready-to-buy models, let alone timeframes for production. However, it's easy to see both reaching customers. Campers and other trailers significantly limit the range of any towing vehicle, and often demand extra power. While an electric camper like the eStream would have its own challenges (the weight and wear of its batteries, for instance), it could limit the overall impact on range and make towing an option for vehicles that would normally struggle.

Nuro's third-gen driverless delivery vehicle includes an external airbag

Nuro already has a third driverless delivery vehicle on the way, and this model is focused as much on protecting others as it is hauling goods. The newly introduced version, simply called Nuro, includes a host of 360-degree sensors including cameras, LiDAR, radar and thermals, but also includes a giant external airbag to protect pedestrians. We still wouldn't risk stepping in front of this machine (you'll still hit the ground, after all), but this should reduce the chances of a serious injury.

The new vehicle also carries twice the cargo, and offers both temperature-controlled compartments and modular inserts to help shuttle a wider variety of goods. Nuro didn't say when this latest self-driving vehicle would be ready, but the North American branch of China's BYD will help produce units at a Nuro factory due to go online later in 2022. Kroger (an investor in Nuro) has already committed to using this latest hardware.

Nuro

The upgrade might be necessary. Nuro already has deals and tests with major brands like 7-Eleven, CVS, FedEx and Kroger, but it's facing stiffer competition from Walmart, Uber and automakers like Ford. The firm risks losing business if would-be customers either need larger payloads or are worried about liability in the event of a collision.

GM recognizes California's authority to set its own vehicle emissions standards

GM has reversed course on its emissions policy, saying it now recognizes California's authority to set its own vehicle pollution standards, TechCrunch as reported. Previously, the automaker backed efforts by the former Trump administration to force the state to abandon its own standards in favor of federal emissions policies. However, it began to reverse course shortly after Biden was elected president, pulling out of the Trump administration's lawsuit against the state. 

As the most populous state with the strictest rules, California generally sets the emissions agenda for automakers and other states. Back in 2018, however, the Trump administration challenged California's ability to set its own rules independently from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Volkswagen, BMW, Ford and Honda agreed to work with California on voluntary targets, but GM, along with Fiat Chrysler and Toyota, sided with the Trump administration. 

"[GM] is committed to emissions reductions that are aligned with the California Air Resources Board's targets and... complying with California's regulations," GM VP Omar Vargas wrote in a letter to California governor Gavin Newsom. 

Because of its past decision to side with the Trump administration, GM was banned by California in 2019 for government fleet purchases. "Carmakers that have chosen to be on the wrong side of history will be on the losing end of California’s buying power," Newsom said at the time. Now, the state will allow GM to become a supplier, with Newsom welcoming the company to its "clean vehicle revolution." 

After defeating Trump, President Joe Biden announced a plan to accelerate a transition to EVs in order to combat global warming. GM followed those political winds, renouncing the earlier lawsuit and accelerating its own EV plans. The company now says it will stop selling ICE vehicles by 2040 and will spend $35 billion to develop EVs and self-driving cars by 2025. The company recently unveiled an electric version of its Silverado pickup designed to fight Ford's F-150 Lightning that's proved to be a hit with buyers.

Ford tries to fight F-150 Lightning scalpers by banning resales

Ford is swamped with F-150 Lightning orders, and it's taking special steps to make sure the electric pickup truck reaches honest-to-goodness buyers. Roadshowreports Ford is now giving dealerships the option to ban customers from reselling the Lightning for up to a year after purchase. As the (since-pulled) document on the F-150 Gen 14 forums revealed, the dealer could "seek injunctive relief" to block the ownership transfer or even demand payment for "all value" generated from the sale.

The automaker is also cracking down on a "limited number" of dealers that allegedly violated sales and service terms by forcing customers to make additional payments beyond those Ford requires. It's not clear just what those payments were, although this suggests they were more than the markups you frequently see when cars are scarce or in high demand.

This no-resale clause isn't new to the automotive world. Ford used it to ensure its GT supercar reached real owners. However, it's still rare for EVs — particularly for relatively mainstream vehicles like the F-150 Lighting. This reflects the popularity of the Lightning, of course, but it might also be vital to Ford. Scalping has hurt access to many other tech products, such as game consoles and video cards — Ford likely doesn't want those opportunists to sour the launch of such an important vehicle, particularly with Chevy, Rivian and Tesla chasing after many of the same customers.

Google and Ford want to bring small radar to more devices

Radar might soon find its way into more personal technology than Google's phones and smart speakers. 9to5Googlenotes Google, Ford and four other partners have published specs for a Ripple standard that could bring small radar to more devices in a "privacy-respecting" fashion. The framework, hosted by the Consumer Technology Association, theoretically lets any device maker use small-scale radar for tasks ranging from existing uses like touch-free gesture control and health monitoring through to exercise tracking and even occupancy detection in buildings.

The early details are currently available through GitHub, with a focus on interoperability between radar types. Developers will initially have to add special use cases through extensions, but the Ripple team hopes to build those add-ons into later versions of the standard.

The involvement of Google and Ford is logical. Both have already used radar in shipping products like the Nest Hub or Ford's Co-Pilot 360 driver assists. The more industry-wide support there is for radar, the more customers are likely to seek it out in the companies' products. Still, it might be genuinely useful if radar becomes more than a rare-but-inessential bonus feature.

“Ripple will unlock helpful innovation that benefits everyone. General purpose radar is a key emerging technology for solving critical use cases in a privacy-respecting way.” - @ipoupyrev, Director of Engineering and Technical Projects Lead, Google ATAP.#AmbientComputing

— Google ATAP (@GoogleATAP) January 6, 2022

Lyft and Kakao drivers can soon take ride requests through Android Auto

Many ride hailing drivers won't have to mount their phones in the near future. Google is partnering with Lyft and Kakao Mobility to bring their driver apps to Android Auto sometime this summer. If you work for either service, you'll accept and navigate rides directly from your car's touchscreen. This won't help you much if you're a passenger, of course, but it will give drivers a much clearer view of the route ahead.

It should be much easier to use wireless Android Auto if you are driving. Motorola is releasing a $90 MA1 adapter on January 30th that enables wire-free use on cars where Android Auto is already available.

The additions come alongside other car-related integrations unveiled at CES, such as starting and unlocking BMW cars, UWB car door access from your pocket and key sharing. Google Assistant car control and YouTube are also coming to compatible cars from Volvo and others. While it will take months for all of Google's plans to unfold, it's evident Android is about to play a more important role in vehicles — whether or not you're at the wheel.

Follow all of the latest news from CES 2022 right here!