Posts with «automotive industry» label

Porsche's Mission X concept offers a glimpse at its electric super car future

Porsche has unveiled its latest concept vehicle called the Mission X, and it says the model gives us "a glimpse into what the sports car of the future could look like." The Mission X is supposed to be an electric hypercar with a design that takes inspiration from the automaker's old models, including the 959, the Carrera GT and the 918 Spyder. With a body that's 177 inches long, 78.7 inches wide and 47.2 inches high, it's a relatively low-slung compact vehicle. 

The model Porsche has presented has a "Rocket Metallic" finish, though big parts of the vehicle feature a lightweight glass dome with an exoskeleton made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic. Those parts include half of the passenger doors, which are made in the style of Le Mans sports cars that open forwards and upwards. Inside, there are two seats made of leather and carbon fiber reinforced plastic, an open-top steering wheel, as well as multiple cameras and clocks on the instrument panel that can display lap times and the driver's vital stats.


Porsche has also designed the vehicle with staggered tires — 20-inch wheels at the front and 21-inch wheels at the rear — for aerodynamic purposes. If the Mission X ever goes into production, the automaker intends to make it the fastest road-legal vehicle around the Nürburgring Nordschleife, a popular circuit in Germany. Its battery will be installed centrally behind its seats, and it will feature a 900-volt system architecture that can charge the vehicle as twice as fast as the Taycan Turbo S. It if ever becomes a real product people can buy, of course. For now, it's just a concept, and you can look at more photos of the vehicle at Porsche's Mission X portal


This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Mercedes becomes the first automaker to sell Level 3 self-driving vehicles in California

Mercedes-Benz is the first automaker to get permission from California regulators to sell or lease vehicles with Level 3 (hands-off and eyes-off) self driving tech on designated roads, Reuters has reported. The California Department of Motor Vehicles issued a permit for the company's Drive Pilot system, provided it's used under certain conditions and on specific roads. Mercedes-Benz previous received a similar certification in Nevada. 

Drive Pilot will allow Mercedes-Benz drivers to takes their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel, then do other non-driving activities like watching videos and texting. If the rules for use are followed, Mercedes (and not the driver) will be legally responsible for any accident that happens. 

To do all this, the Drive Pilot system relies on sensors installed throughout the vehicle including visual cameras, LiDAR arrays, radar/ultrasound sensors and audio mics to keep an ear out for approaching emergency vehicles. It can even compare onboard sensor and GPS data to fix its precise location on roads. 

It's not as advanced as the systems on Waymo and Cruise vehicles, which allow full self-driving with no human driver aboard. At the same time, it's a step up from Tesla's so-called Full Self-Driving system, which is actually a Level 2 system and requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention at all times. 

Utilization is limited to high-traffic situations during daylight, with speeds under 40 MPH, and drivers must be available to resume control — so you can't go in the back seat and sleep, for example. To enforce that, the vehicle tracks the driver with an in-car monitor, and you'll need to take over if it goes faster than 40MPH, an emergency vehicle shows up, it rains, or other situations Driver Pilot can't handle on its own. 

The system will be available on 2024 S-Class and EQS Sedan models, with deliveries slated for later this year. Engadget was able to test the system at Mercedes-Benz's test track in Germany (and see it in action on LA roads). According to contributor Roberto Baldwin, "while it did what it was supposed to do, we found it hard to turn off our driving brain while behind the wheel."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

GM EV owners will gain access to Tesla Superchargers in 2024

Ford isn't the only electric automaker switching to Tesla's North American Charging Standard — General Motors says it's making the change, too. CEO Mary Barra announced the move during a Twitter Spaces chat with Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Thursday, stating that its electric vehicles will make the NACS open-source connector standard in all GM EVs in 2025.

As part of the collaboration, all GM EVs will gain access to 12,000 Tesla Superchargers in 2024. Drivers of existing GM EVs won't have to upgrade their vehicles to use Tesla's chargers, but will need to use an adapter to make their vehicle compatible. Likewise, GM says it will be developing an adapter that will allow future NACS-enabled EVs to charge its existing network of CSS-capable fast charging stations.

That backwards compatible charger could prove important. Tesla's willingness to open up its charging system to non-Tesla vehicles was originally announced alongside a $7.5 billion Biden administration initiative to expand EV charger availability in the US — but that plan heavily indexes on building out CCS chargers.

"This collaboration is a key part of our strategy and an important next step in quickly expanding access to fast chargers for our customers," Barra said in GM's statement on the partnership. "Our vision of the all-electric future means producing millions of world-class EVs across categories and price points, while creating an ecosystem that will accelerate mass EV adoption."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Ace Championship is more than just a Formula E feeder series

“There’s nothing in between.”

Ace Championship founder and CEO Dilbagh Gill is explaining the motivation behind building another all-electric racing series. Gill, who was CEO and team principal of Mahindra Racing since Formula E began, left his post last year to embark on something new. His project is one that had been “fermenting” in his mind for a year and a half. “I always thought there had to be a credible ladder in the electric racing series,” he said.

Gill explained that while traditional, combustion-engine racing has had a development path for decades, there’s nothing currently that exists between electric karting and FIA world championships like Formula E. “It’s not something we’re trying to reinvent,” he said. “We’re just trying to take the ladder the other direction.”

A major hurdle for young drivers climbing the ranks in motorsport is cost. It’s not enough for a driver to be quick, they need the financial backing as well. So, in addition to creating a new training ground for future champions, Ace is also working to reduce the barrier to entry when it comes to the cost of equipment. “They have the talent, but they don’t have the opportunity,” Gill noted. “Let’s try and make a championship which can be more inclusive than motorsport is today.”

Ace Championship isn’t just hoping to develop a new crop of drivers each season. The series will also offer opportunities for ages 15-25 who are interested in engineering, communications, marketing and other aspects of motorsport to get real-world experience. Gill said that during his eight years in England at the reins of Mahindra Racing, guest lectures opened his eyes to the fact that nearly 30 percent of university students in motorsport disciplines were from Asia. “What are they going to do next?” he asked himself. “Could something like [Ace] help them find a path?” Gill further explained that Ace would offer a scholarship program to reduce the financial burden even more. “Some talented folks who can’t afford getting in, we will be supporting them,” he said.

As a means of lowering costs, teams will be able to run four drivers with two cars. In most current series, each driver has their own vehicle – hence the high cost to participate. Ace Challenger will be the series’ entry-level format, meant for drivers who found success in karting and are looking for an academy experience. Here, races will run at reduced power so that drivers can acclimate to the car as well as learn about “technique, technology and collaborating with engineers.” Ace Championship is the higher level that runs the cars at increased power output. The focus shifts from the basics to things like detailed race strategy and energy management – two key elements for Formula E and other series.

To further level the playing field, Ace will keep all of the cars at its so-called Powerpark. “We don’t want the cars going back to their garages to start getting modified,” Gill explained. “We want to keep them in a controlled environment.” He also emphasized the importance of building the facilities in Asia. “We think Asia is going to be the melting pot [for electric racing],” he said. “From there, we are within five hours of flying to three or four regions.”

Serving as the series HQ, the campus will offer simulators for each team as well as classroom training on topics like telemetry, working with engineers and social media management. Preparation will be key because the currently proposed format would have each team traveling for around 10 weeks before returning to Powerpark. This means they’ll have to devise strategies for each circuit before they depart since there won’t be simulators to train on while they’re on the road.

With the new championship, Gill and his colleagues are also designing a completely new all-electric racer for the series. When Ace was first announced at the Hyderabad E-Prix in February, Gill showed off a prototype vehicle that was built from a Formula E Gen2 chassis. However, the car the series will use won’t just be modified leftovers from the previous generation forever.

“After eight years at Mahindra Racing, when I left, they gave me a Gen2 car,” Gill said. “So that was an easy acquisition of a prototype – my personal car.”

Ace is currently working to build a brand new chassis, which Gill explained won’t “use anything that exists on the market.” The reason for this, he noted, is that the custom-made cars will run a front powertrain kit and no existing chassis can integrate it “without a lot of work.” The current plan is to have the new cars ready for the third year of the championship, which should begin in 2024. Gill said Ace aims to use its initial design for six years before an anticipated upgrade. Both the Challenger and the Championship series will use the same car with some physical differences – like slight variations to the nose kit and rims. Power output can be controlled by software, which will allow a team’s four drivers to use just the two cars.

Another key element of the car’s design will be LED lighting. Formula E uses lights around the halo of its cars to indicate things like Attack Mode. The Ace Championship aims to make things a bit more dynamic here, with color changes for things like when the driver is accelerating, when a car is regenerating energy through braking or when the driver is coasting. Ace also wants to take a page from the Tour de France and use the LEDs to point out the leader. Gill said the lights could also indicate the driver in P1 as well as green and purple sectors in qualifying or the driver with the current fastest lap. “We have to figure it out,” he admits, but the lights could be a simple way to make races more informative for fans and they’ll undoubtedly provide a unique look during night events.

The series is also exploring the possibility of using two different tire compounds for Ace Challenger and Ace Championship, “so that drivers can understand the different nuances,” according to Gill. He floated the idea that there’s a tire with a smaller performance window for the Challenger series so that you have to bring it to a peak and manage it the rest of the way. And for the Championship, perhaps the tire is “a bit more forgiving… so you can push it without much degradation.” Gill enlisted former Formula 1 and Mahindra Formula E driver Nick Heidfeld to work with tire manufacturers on the various compounds and Ace already has a prototype that it’s currently testing.

The current Ace Championship prototype based on a Formula E Gen2 car
Ace Championship

At the end of the day, Gill envisions having a car that’s within three to three and a half seconds of the performance of a Formula E car. “The steps are smaller,” he explained. “New people coming to Formula E, especially on the drivers side, it takes a long time for them to get adapted.” The overall idea is for the Ace Championship cars to offer drivers a translatable experience to Formula E in the way Formula 2 does for Formula 1. “This step up from our championship isn’t where a [driver] will struggle for a year,” he said. Drivers who are new to Formula E may be quick over one lap, but variables like tire and energy management can be very challenging for the uninitiated.

“We believe tire and energy management is going to be valuable across all forms of motorsport,” Gill proclaimed. Internal combustion engines have hybrid components in series like Formula 1, and drivers and engineers must learn how to manage and deploy that energy properly during a race. That is amplified in Formula E where you start the race with less energy than it takes to finish. Teams rely on the drivers’ ability to regenerate the difference on track, as well as their strategy for managing consumption on each lap. And, of course, being able to go quick without using up your tires is a valuable skill for any racing discipline.

The Ace Championship plans to schedule races in four different regions: East Asia, Southwest Asia, The Americas and Europe and Africa. During its first two years, the series will only travel to two of those areas with the goal of expanding in 2026. Grouping races like this allows Ace to eliminate the cost of flying teams around the world between events. Racing in each region could take place over the span of a quarter, with the aim of having a new set of drivers each time. While the series hosts its first events in 2024 and 2025, it will also be building a second set of cars. Gill explained that Ace wants to have enough vehicles to have regional events take place while the others are back at Powerpark getting refurbished for the following quarter.

Scheduling is wide open at this point, though. Gill admitted a regional championship may have to be condensed into three weeks so Ace can “synchronize” with the Formula E calendar that runs from January to July. The goal here is to do tandem events with the FIA-sanctioned global EV championship, taking place around the E-Prix during the same weekend, even though it may only be one Ace category due to the time and logistics of street circuits. Again, it’s much like Formula 2 does at some Formula 1 races. Not only will piggybacking off Formula E events provide visibility for the series, but it will give young drivers and support staff a glimpse of how things are done at the next level.

Other Ace races will be standalone, including two of the six events during a regional championship being doubleheaders on back-to-back days. Gill said the current idea is for the independent races to take place on small circuits. Each regional schedule will serve as its own championship, so at the end of the first year, there will be four winners – two from each Ace category.

The ultimate prize for the Ace Championship is to train drivers, race engineers, mechanics and other members of a motorsport team who move on to FIA disciplines like the World Endurance Championship, Formula 2 or Formula 1. And that by doing so, they’re establishing a talent pool across all of those areas ready to contribute to the success of a world championship team.

“Our goal is to make world champions in the next five years,” Gill said.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Volvo officially unveils the EX30, its compact electric SUV

After a few teases, Volvo is finally revealing the EX30, its all-electric small premium SUV. Designed to have the lowest carbon footprint of all its offerings, Volvo’s fourth EV brings the company’s plan to go all-electric by 2030 one step closer to becoming a reality. 

The EX30 includes all of Volvo’s typical safety features and an updated Park Pilot Assist that will help you find parking spaces, along with getting into them. It also comes in five exterior colors and ambient light offerings inspired by Scandinavia, including a northern lights setting, with paired ambient soundscapes. It comes off more like what you’d get in a spa than a car, but as long as you don’t get too cozy while driving, it should be nice. 

The EX30 is available as a Single Motor Extended Range or Twin Motor Performance. They charge from 10 to 80 percent in 26 and a half minutes, have 64 kWh of usable battery and 268 rear horsepower. Plus, they have 31.9 cubic feet of luggage space. 

Now, where they differ: The Single Motor is real-wheel drive, offering an estimated range of 275 miles, going 0 to 60 in 5.1 seconds and with 253 lbs-ft of torque. The Twin Motor is all-wheel drive with a slightly shorter range at 265 miles, goes 0 to 60 in 3.6 seconds and has 400 lbs-ft of torque. Built with performance in mind, the Twin Motor delivers 154 more horsepower (a total of 422 HP) than its single motor sibling.

The Volvo EX30 is available for pre-order in the US starting at $34,950, with a cross-country variant launching next year. In a statement about the EX30’s release, Volvo’s chief executive Jim Rowan commented on the frequent financial barrier to buying an EV. “We know that price and cost of ownership is still one of the biggest challenges when people consider switching to an electric car,” he said. “With the Volvo EX30, we aim to bring premium, fully electric mobility to a much broader audience, helping to advance and speed up the transition to full electrification that our industry and society needs.” The EX30 is significantly cheaper than Volvo’s C40 and XC40 EVs — both with a starting price around $55,000 and the upcoming EX90, which Volvo says will be “under $80,000.” 


This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Acura ZDX EV gets Android Auto and built-in Google apps

Acura is preparing to launch its first fully electric vehicle, the 2024 ZDX, and just announced integration with a full suite of Google products, including Android Auto. These features will be available on all ZDK trims and bring apps like Google Assistant and Google Maps to the vehicle, offering a “personalized and more streamlined” experience.

Google Assistant lets you issue voice commands while keeping your eyes on the road to initiate phone calls, text friends, set reminders, change the cabinet temperature and more. Of course, this is fully integrated with Android Auto, so use Assistant to play favorite media tracks, skip to the next track, rewind a podcast and download a wide range of third-party apps.


While Google Assistant isn’t a vast departure from any other iteration, this version of Google Maps boasts some features just for EV drivers. It offers optimized route planning with an emphasis on finding EV charging stations and an estimation of the charging time required to reach any destination. It even preconditions the battery when preparing to enter a DC fast charging station.

There’s a large center touchscreen that acts as a primary dashboard for navigation, media selection and the like. The touchscreen integrates with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, with regular “fast and secure” Over the Air (OTA) software updates to enhance various functionalities.

This move comes as auto giant GM begins phasing out Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in its vehicles to make room for the more robust Android Automotive software platform. The Acura ZDX and ZDX Type S EVs will be available early next year, with all sales taking place online and not at brick-and-mortar dealerships.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Lordstown's EV pickup has a worryingly short 174 miles of EPA range

Lordstown Motors' problems now include the performance of its first EV. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rated the Endurance pickup's range at just 174 miles. For context, the all-wheel drive Ford F-150 Lightning manages 240 miles with a smaller battery, and the Rivian R1T manages 289 miles. This is also well short of Lordstown's original claim that the truck would manage an EPA-rated 250 miles of driving.

We've asked Lordstown for comment. Autoblognotes EPA figures are sometimes too conservative. The Porsche Taycan, for instance, regularly exceeds its government-rated range in real-world driving. The Endurance also tows more than the F-150, although it has less than half the payload capacity. The Ford is also priced $399 lower.

If the rating holds up, it largely limits the appeal of the Endurance to customers who only need short-distance hauls, such as contractors who make infrequent stops in a single city. It could be problematic for workers who make many stops, not to mention anyone who has to travel between cities.

Accurate or not, the EPA rating compounds Lordstown's troubles. The Ohio brand is still grappling with production issues that have hindered its output. GM sold its stake in the company last year, and manufacturing partner Foxconn is threatening to pull out over an alleged stock-related breach of contract. Now, it's not clear that the Endurance will be competitive even if Lordstown can solve its other dilemmas.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Ford will offer flexible Mustang Mach-E leases to Uber drivers in three cities

Uber drivers won't just have easy access to Tesla cars when they want to switch to EVs. Ford and Uber are launching an expanded Drive pilot program that provides a flexible Mustang Mach-E lease to rideshare drivers in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Operators pick leases in one- to four-month increments, and get their Mach-E within two weeks. After that, they use a Ford Drive app to handle payments and maintenance. Ford, meanwhile, buys fleets of the electric crossovers from dealerships and uses them for service.

A lease costs $199 per week with 500 included miles, and $249 per week with 1,000 miles. Drivers pay 20 cents for every additional mile beyond what their plan offers. That may seem expensive, but Ford is counting on the no-hassle exits and renewals as a draw. Uber workers can lease only when they have enough driving time to justify the expense.

Ford and Uber initially tested Drive in San Diego last year with over 150 Mustang Mach-E cars in the fleet. The companies didn't say how successful the initial run was, but they note that California is Uber's best market for EV demand. Nearly 10 percent of all passenger miles were completed in EVs as of late 2022, Ford says.

To qualify, drivers need to have at least a 4.85-star rating and over 150 trips. The Mustang on offer is a no-frills rear-wheel drive model with 247 miles of range, although it does have CoPilot360 driver aids.

The lease option is in line with Uber's goal of becoming a zero-emissions service in North America and Europe by 2030. This theoretically makes EVs more viable for drivers who can't commit to a purchase or multi-year lease. Uber also sweetens the proposition with an extra $1 per ride (up to $4,000 per year) and the option of serving premium Comfort Electric passengers. Not that Uber has much choice. California will require that most ride hailing cars are electric by 2030, while New York City wants a wholesale switch by the same year.

Ford, meanwhile, benefits by getting the Mach-E into the hands of rideshare drivers who would otherwise rent a Tesla EV through Hertz. This boosts exposure for the brand for passengers, too, and helps with Ford's bid to establish itself as a general mobility company. The challenge is simply competing against Tesla's sheer volume. The Hertz deal puts up to 50,000 Tesla EVs on American roads, and Ford's Drive pilot won't compete at its current scale.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

GM’s auto emergency braking feature is now standard on its latest EVs

GM announced today that it’s making five active safety features standard on all its 2023 and newer EVs. In addition, the automaker says it will surpass its commitment to add Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) to 95 percent of its vehicles; the feature is included in 98 percent of GM’s 2023 models — including all its EVs. The disclosure follows the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stating today that all new passenger cars and light trucks will be required to include AEB within three years.

In addition to AEB, GM says four other safety features will be standard in most of its 2023 model-year vehicles. These include Forward Collision Alert (warns you if a front-facing crash is likely), Front Pedestrian Braking (alerts you to oncoming pedestrians, automatically braking if needed), Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning (lets you know if you’re drifting out of your lane) and IntelliBeam (automatic high-beam headlight controls). “As we look ahead toward a future vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, these technologies are significant building blocks with proven benefits for reducing common crashes,” said John Capp, GM’s director of Vehicle Safety Technology, Strategy and Regulations.

The automaker touts its adherence to safety research data to inform the decision, citing a 2023 study at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) that showed AEB combined with Forward Collision Alert reduced rear-end crashes by 42 percent. The same research found that Front Pedestrian Braking cut head-on pedestrian collisions by 23 percent, while Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning lowered roadway departure accidents (crashes stemming from a car veering off-road or into other lanes) by 15 percent. Finally, the automaker sourced a separate 2022 UMTRI study demonstrating that IntelliBeam cut nighttime crashes involving pedestrians, bicyclists and animals by 22 percent.

GM is also upgrading the front sensors in the Cadillac Lyriq, 2023 Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. The enhanced sensors, with a wider field of vision, extend AEB operation to speeds of up to 80 mph while adding Bicyclist Automatic Emergency Braking to Front Pedestrian Braking — a welcome feature in cities with cyclists zipping in and out of traffic. In addition, the sensors enable smoother Lane Keep Assist engagement and Blind Zone Steering Assist (a short / sharp turn to avoid lane-change crashes). The automaker says the upgraded sensors and corresponding features will expand to other models in coming years.

The company emphasized that its safety features aren’t only for the wealthy and will also cover some of its cheapest gas-powered vehicles. For example, the 2024 Chevrolet Trax ($21,495 and up) will include all five of the safety features now standard in its more expensive EVs. “With this commitment, customers across all price points and trim levels will benefit from this set of proven safety technologies,” the company said.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

LG and Hyundai are building a $4.3 billion EV battery cell factory in the US

Korean companies LG and Hyundai are teaming up to build a new EV battery cell manufacturing plant in the US and have signed a memorandum of understanding to invest $4.3 billion in the project. The companies will each hold a stake of 50 percent in the joint venture, which will start construction on the new plant in the second half of 2023. Their new manufacturing facility will be located in Savannah, Georgia, where Hyundai is also building its first all-EV factory in the US. The battery plant is expected to be operational by 2025 at the earliest. After it starts production at full capacity, it will be able to produce 30GHWh of battery every year, which is enough to support the production of 300,000 electric vehicles.

LG and Hyundai are just the latest companies to invest in US-based battery manufacturing facilities over the past couple of years. Toyota announced in 2021 that it will build a battery plant in the country as part of a $3.4 billion investment, while Ultium Cells (GM's and LG's joint venture) secured a $2.5 billion loan from the Energy Department for the construction of EV battery facilities. More recently, Ford announced that it's spending $3.5 billion to build a lithium iron phosphate battery plant in Michigan. Lithium iron phosphate, which can tolerate more frequent and faster charging, costs less than other battery technologies and could bring down the cost of EVs.

Other companies could follow suit, seeing as the Biden administration is pushing to bring more EV and battery manufacturing to the US. Last year, it launched the American Battery Materials Initiative, which will give 20 companies $2.8 billion in grants in hopes of encouraging manufacturers to start battery production stateside and making sure that the US won't be heavily dependent on "unreliable foreign supply chains."

Hyundai and LG believe that the new facility can help create "a stable supply of batteries in the region" and allow them "to respond fast to the soaring EV demand in the US market." Hyundai Mobis, the automaker's parts and service division, will be assembling battery packs using cells manufactured in the plant. The automaker will then use those packs for Hyundai, Kia and Genesis electric vehicles. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at