Archive for the ‘cars’ Category

Project SAM gave a paralyzed racer his wheels back—and he took us for a spin

August 28th, 2017

Jonathan Gitlin

WASHINGTON—We’ve been for rides in quite a few autonomous cars of late, but today was something a little more special. Today, we went for a ride in Project SAM—short for Semi Autonomous Motorcar.

It all started back in 2000, when a promising racing career was cut short as a pre-season crash left Sam Schmidt paralyzed from the neck down. In the decade-plus since, Schmidt has gotten on with his life, and he now runs a successful IndyCar team. But as a quadriplegic, he’s been dependent on others for many things you or I take for granted—except driving, that is.

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Aston Martin is the latest car maker to announce an all-hybrid or EV future

August 28th, 2017

Aston Martin

Aston Martin is the latest car maker to announce it’s going to move to an all-hybrid line up. CEO Andy Palmer has told the Financial Times that “We will be 100 per cent hybrid by the middle of the 2020s.” Palmer also told the FT that he expects about 25 percent of Aston Martin sales will be EVs by 2030. A similarly bold announcement was made by Volvo earlier this summer; however in this case Aston Martin will continue to sell non-hybrid versions of its cars as an option.

The first all-electric Aston Martin will be the RapidE, a sleek four-seater due in 2019. But that will be a limited-run model, with only 115 planned. There’s also the hybrid Valkyrie hypercar in the works, an F1 car for the road that’s being designed by Aston Martin in conjunction with Red Bull Racing’s Adrian Newey. But there will be more mainstream (if such a word can apply) hybrid and battery EV Aston Martins coming too. Like Volvo, some of these will just be 48V mild hybrids.

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Is a 200-300 mile range enough for Tesla to break into electric trucking?

August 26th, 2017

Enlarge / From the bureau of Transportation Statistics: “Long-haul freight truck traffic in the United States is concentrated on major routes connecting population centers, ports, border crossings, and other major hubs of activity. Except for Route 99 in California and a few toll roads and border connections, most of the heaviest traveled routes are on the Interstate System.” (credit: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration)

On Thursday, Reuters reported that Tesla is building electric semis with ranges of 200-300 miles. Tesla has said it will make all details about the semis public at an announcement in September.

Ars reached out to the company to confirm the report, and a spokesperson responded with a statement saying: “Tesla’s policy is to always decline to comment on speculation, whether true or untrue, as doing so would be silly.”

So if the report is true, would a truck with a range of 200-300 miles be enough to win entry into the freight trucking market? Possibly. A 2013 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado notes that “trucks dominate the market today for freight shipments under 500 miles, which account for almost 80 percent of all domestic freight tonnage.” Freight that needs to travel 500 miles or more tends to be transported by rail, waterways, or pipeline, at least if you’re counting by tonnage (the Bureau of Transportation Statistics counts oil and gas pipeline deliveries as freight).

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Continental rethinks the wheel—and the brake—for electric cars

August 25th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Continental)

When it comes to making a car slow down, for the last few decades pretty much every car on the road has used the same idea: a brake disc mounted to the axle with calipers that press high-friction pads onto the disc’s surface, slowing its rotation. It’s a tried-and-tested formula, one that car makers adopted from the aerospace industry as a better solution than the venerable drum brake. But the boffins at Continental (the tire company) have been rethinking the standard way of doing things, specifically in the context of small and medium-size electric vehicles. Enter the New Wheel Concept.

The focus on EVs is logical, since in their case deceleration is often achieved via regenerative braking using the electric motor instead—at least on the driven wheels. Obviously, EVs can’t ditch the conventional brake, there needs to be redundant system for situations when regenerative braking isn’t possible like when the battery is full and can’t accept more energy. A consequence of using regenerative braking is that the friction brakes get much less use than in a conventional car, so they tend to last a lot longer. But there is a downside: a buildup of rust that can impair their performance when you need to use them, according to Continental. (This is only an issue with cast iron brakes, but we’re not aware of many hybrids that use carbon ceramic discs outside of the hypercar crowd.)

“In EVs, it’s crucial that the driver expends as little energy as possible on the friction brake,” said Paul Linhoff, Head of Brake Pre-Development in the Chassis & Safety Business Unit at Continental. “During a deceleration, the momentum of the vehicle is converted into electricity in the generator to increase the vehicle’s range. That’s why the driver continues to operate the brake pedal—but it certainly doesn’t mean that the wheel brakes are active too.”

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Ferrari says goodbye California T, hello Portofino

August 25th, 2017

Ferrari

The Frankfurt International Motor Show is fast approaching, and while more than a few car makers have chosen to skip this year’s event, Ferrari has something new in store for us. It’s replacing the California T with a newer, lighter convertible—the Portofino. It’s a more aggressive look for the company’s entry-level model, and the looks have been heavily influenced by the aerodynamics department, something that’s fast becoming a Ferrari calling card.

We were pleasantly surprised by the California T when we tested one last year; the car has an undeserved reputation, probably because it’s not mid-engined or doesn’t have a massive V12 up front. It’s no out-and-out sports car, for even Ferrari describes it as a GT (grand tourer), but we imagine the Portofino is going to offer a noticeable performance bump over the outgoing car.

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Report: Tesla is bleeding talent from its Autopilot division

August 25th, 2017

Enlarge / Tesla CEO Elon Musk. (credit: Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Self-driving cars are coming, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been pushing his engineers hard to make sure that Tesla stays on the cutting edge. Indeed, in October 2016 he promised that the latest version of the Model S and Model X—cars with Tesla’s new “Hardware 2” suite of cameras and radar—would become capable of full self-driving in the future, with just a software update.

But according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, some Tesla engineers are skeptical that Tesla can keep this promise any time soon. Disagreement about deadlines—as well as “design and marketing decisions”—is causing turmoil inside the company.

“In recent months,” the Journal reports, the Autopilot team “has lost at least 10 engineers and four top managers.” That included the director of the Autopilot team, “who lasted less than six months before leaving in June.”

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Monterey Car Week, where you can meet cars most mortals only read about

August 24th, 2017

Enlarge / When you have so much eye-candy in one place, this becomes a familiar sight. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Although we usually pay for our own travel expenses, for this trip Genesis provided flights to San Francisco and five nights’ accommodation in Monterey, California.

MONTEREY, Calif.—There are a few big tentpole events on the automotive world’s calendar. First come the auto shows of New York and Geneva, when manufacturers whip the dust sheets off their latest wares. Next up are Indianapolis, Monte Carlo, and Le Mans, where races have been held for decades (for more than a century in the case of the former). That trio annually puts machines and the teams that run them through the wringer. But none of these iconic happenings is quite like Monterey Car Week.

Each year toward the end of August, this normally sleepy peninsula a hundred miles or so south of San Francisco plays host to a four-wheeled festival that might best be described as a cross between Comic Con and the Oscars, just for cars. The Comic Con comparison feels apt because, for the fan, there’s just about everything you could hope to see. And the Oscars? Well, Monterey is where the megastars of the car world show up. I don’t mean famous people—though there are plenty of those—but the A-list automobiles themselves. Cars that mere mortals like me just read about, vehicles distinguished by otherworldly valuations or legendary histories, are suddenly sharing the same sunlight as the rest of us.

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Ariel—makers of the Atom—have a hybrid hypercar in the works

August 23rd, 2017

Ariel Motor Company

If you watch Top Gear, you’ll know the Ariel Motor Company. It’s the British maker of the Atom, a mid-engined assortment of scaffolding that was dreamt up as a modern answer to the Lotus/Caterham Seven—the same car that gave Jeremy Clarkson an epiglottis full of bees. Ariel also makes the Nomad, an off-road version of the Atom that featured in Matt Le Blanc’s Top Gear debut.

Both of those vehicles are utterly bonkers, stripped down to the very essence of a car but overloaded with excitement. Which makes us rather excited about the fact that the next four-wheeled thrill ride to emerge from its Somerset factory is going to be an electric vehicle.

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Hyundai looks to build a >300-mile-range electric car

August 17th, 2017

Enlarge / Signage for an electric car charging booth is displayed at Federation Square car park in Melbourne, Australia, on Friday, April 28, 2017. Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg via Getty Images (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

On Thursday, Hyundai said that it intends to produce a long-range electric vehicle by 2021 that will be capable of traveling 310 miles on a charge. That vehicle, a luxury Genesis sedan, will follow an electric version of the Kona sport utility vehicle that the Korean automaker hopes to release in the first half of next year. The electric Kona should have a range of 243 miles, Reuters noted.

Along with affiliate company Kia, Hyundai announced eight electric cars and two fuel-cell vehicles coming to market in the near future—a significant jump in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) that the company has planned to bring to market in years prior. Hyundai, like Toyota, has boosted the fuel cell vehicle for years. Fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen as fuel and emit water as a byproduct. But the compressed hydrogen that runs fuel cell vehicles is hard to store and hard to transport, so it has been slow reaching the market, although fuel cell vehicles do have the advantage of being fast to refuel, unlike electric vehicle batteries.

Toyota has also recently shown signs that it’s pouring more resources into mass-producing a long-range electric car as well. In July, an article in The Wall Street Journal noted that the Japanese automaker was working on building a battery with a solid electrolyte that would go into production in 2022. With Tesla and Chevrolet rolling out moderately priced EVs with long-range capabilities, other automakers known for moderately priced cars seem to be ready to get in the ring as well.

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Fiat Chrysler, BMW, and Intel announce plans to build self-driving tech

August 16th, 2017

Enlarge / Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne speaks at an event in Michigan on August 26, 2016. (credit: Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is joining forces with BMW and Intel to develop self-driving car technology, the company announced on Wednesday. FCA is joining an existing alliance between BMW and Intel that also included Mobileye, the self-driving technology company Intel announced it was acquiring in March.

FCA is the smallest of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, and its approach to the self-driving car revolution has been less ambitious than rivals GM and Ford. GM paid $1 billion for self-driving car startup Cruise last year and is hoping to develop its own self-driving car technology. Ford invested $1 billion in the self-driving car startup Argo AI earlier this year and has also opened a technology subsidiary in Silicon Valley.

By contrast, FCA seems content to rely more on partners to supply the self-driving technology it will need to make its vehicles competitive in the coming decade.

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