Archive for the ‘cars’ Category

Biden vows to electrify the federal government’s 600,000-vehicle fleet

January 26th, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC: President Joe Biden speaks before signing an executive order related to American manufacturing in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC: President Joe Biden speaks before signing an executive order related to American manufacturing in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The federal government owns more than 600,000 civilian vehicles—trucks, vans, and passenger vehicles—with a large large majority running on gasoline or diesel fuel. On Monday, Joe Biden vowed to change that.

"The federal government owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we're gonna to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America," Biden said at a press conference to announce a new "Buy American" initiative.

This won't be easy. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, the federal government owned fewer than 3,000 battery electric vehicles—less than one half of one percent of the federal vehicle fleet.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Barack Obama, battery electric vehicles, cars, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Bad news for land-speed record fans as Bloodhound goes up for sale

January 25th, 2021
A rocket-propelled car screams across the desert.

Enlarge / Bloodhound LSR made it to South Africa in 2019 to begin high-speed testing, but only with its single jet engine. (credit: Charlie Sperring/Bloodhound LSR)

Bad news, land-speed-record fans: the project to set a new 1,000mph (1,609km/h) speed record is yet again in serious doubt. On Monday morning, the Bloodhound Land Speed Record Project revealed that it's looking for a new owner in order to try and break the existing record. Whoever steps in will need pretty deep pockets, too—almost $11 million (£8 million), in fact.

Trying to set a new land speed record is probably one of the harder activities one can engage in. You need to design and build a vehicle capable of going faster than 763mph (1,228km/h), twice, within an hour. You need to find somewhere flat enough to run the car, presumably away from neighbors who might get annoyed by the window-shattering sonic booms. And while all that sounds like a serious challenge, perhaps the biggest problem is finding the money to make it all happen.

Bloodhound LSR—née Bloodhound SSC—certainly has the pedigree to do break the record. It was the brainchild of Richard Noble, who also masterminded the last two successful land-speed-record attempts. (Noble was even behind the wheel for the 1982 record.) Chief aerodynamicist Ron Ayers is another veteran, having designed Thrust SSC before Bloodhound. And the project identified and prepared an 8.5-square mile (225km2) stretch of South Africa's Hakskeen Pan to conduct the attempt.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Bloodhound LSR, Bloodhound SSC, cars, land speed record | Comments (0)

The secret to this $5,000 electric motorcycle is a cast aluminum frame

January 25th, 2021

It's unavoidably clear that staving off the worst extremes of climate change will require a wide-scale electrification of our vehicle fleet. There's a hitch, though—it's not cheap. We have the technology to make electric vehicles, and it's getting better all the time. But as of right now, the bill of materials for an electric car is still higher than for an equivalent vehicle with an internal combustion engine, even with impressive reductions in the cost of lithium-ion batteries.

The problem doesn't just affect passenger cars. It's more expensive to buy an electric garbage truck or school bus than one with a diesel engine, although after four to five years of operation, it balances out thanks to the cost of fuel. It's even true for motorcycles; Harley Davidson's new electric LiveWire costs an eye-watering $30,000—only slightly less than a Nissan Leaf. All of which makes the price of the Sondors Metacycle so notable. When it goes into production later this year, you should be able to pick one up for just $5,000.

Until now, Sondors was a brand people associated with electric bicycles. It's the brainchild of company founder Storm Sondors, who decided the time was right to expand the company's range with a highly affordable electric motorbike that's meant not for enthusiasts but for everyday transport. And the key wasn't perfecting a new type of motor or battery. "Oh, the hard part was done by people who are 1000 times smarter than any one of us," Sondors told me by phone.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in cars, electric motorcycle, Electric vehicles, Sondors Metacycle | Comments (0)

Waymo CEO dismisses Tesla self-driving plan: “This is not how it works”

January 22nd, 2021
Waymo CEO John Krafcik speaks in 2018.

Enlarge / Waymo CEO John Krafcik speaks in 2018. (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Many Tesla fans view the electric carmaker as a world leader in self-driving technology. CEO Elon Musk himself has repeatedly claimed that the company is less than two years away from perfecting fully self-driving technology.

But in an interview with Germany's Manager magazine, Waymo CEO John Krafcik dismissed Tesla as a Waymo competitor and argued that Tesla's current strategy was unlikely to ever produce a fully self-driving system.

"For us, Tesla is not a competitor at all," Krafcik said. "We manufacture a completely autonomous driving system. Tesla is an automaker that is developing a really good driver assistance system."

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in cars, Tesla, waymo | Comments (0)

One of Biden’s first climate actions looks at fuel efficiency rollback

January 21st, 2021
US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021.

Enlarge / US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021. (credit: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the first official actions taken by President Joe Biden after his inauguration on January 20 means the almost-certain demise of a Trump-era plan to weaken future fuel efficiency regulations. Among Biden's instructions to federal agencies was an "Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis."

This executive order tells federal agencies that environmental justice is a priority—one that will now be guided by scientific evidence. Additionally, the heads of each agency will have to review any regulations, policies, or other actions taken between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021 that are inconsistent with that goal. And there's a particular call-out for the US Environmental Protection Agency's recent actions to weaken US fuel efficiency standards over the coming few years, as well as the agency's attempt to neuter California's power to regulate air pollution.

The previous administration's attack on clean air and fuel efficiency began almost immediately and culminated with a pair of actions over the past 16 months. In September 2019 the EPA announced that it was revoking a waiver that has allowed California to set and enforce its own tougher air pollution standards within the state's borders. Then in March 2020 the EPA published a new fuel efficiency rule for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2021-2026 that significantly weakened fleet efficiency targets mandated by the Obama administration.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in California air resources board, cars, climate change, Environmental Protection Agency, fuel economy, fuel efficiency, president joseph biden, US EPA | Comments (0)

Three rows, 37mpg, and under $34,000? The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid

January 21st, 2021

You may have noticed that Kia is on a roll recently. It won over enthusiasts with the Stinger GT. The Niro EV is one of the few electric vehicles to rival Tesla in terms of range efficiency. And its big Telluride SUV has been a runaway success, garnering awards and plaudits as it flies out of the showroom.

Now it's the turn of Kia's popular Sorento SUV to get the revamp. It's a bit smaller and a bit cheaper than the Telluride, but it's still a three-row SUV. And, unlike the bigger vehicle, it's available with a 37mpg (6.4L/100km) hybrid powertrain from $33,590.

In fact, that's probably all anyone needs to read to know that the Sorento is going to be a hit. Over the two days we spent with a 2021 Sorento Hybrid EX—$36,590 plus $445 on some fetching red paint—we had no problem matching that EPA combined fuel number, as well as the 39mpg (6L/100km) city rating. If you want an efficient three-row hybrid SUV for less than $40,000, you can pick this Kia or the slightly more expensive Toyota Highlander, and that's about it. So even if the Sorento were mediocre in all other respects, its sales success seems inevitable. Happily, it's not mediocre.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in car review, cars, Kia Sorento Hybrid | Comments (0)

Trump pardons engineer Google accused of stealing secrets for Uber

January 20th, 2021
Anthony Levandowski exits federal court in San Jose, California, on August 27, 2019.

Enlarge / Anthony Levandowski exits federal court in San Jose, California, on August 27, 2019. (credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On his final full day in office, Donald Trump pardoned Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of Waymo's epic 2017 trade secret battle with Uber. Last year, Levandowski pleaded guilty to stealing a single confidential Google document; prosecutors agreed to drop other pending charges against him.

Levandowski was a key early member of Google's self-driving car project, but he quit Google in early 2016 to found his own self-driving startup. Within months, the startup was acquired by Uber for a nine-figure sum, and Levandowski was put in charge of Uber's self-driving efforts.

But then, Google's self-driving unit—now known as Waymo—accused Levandowski of stealing trade secrets. According to Waymo, Levandowski had downloaded thousands of confidential documents from Google in his final days as a Google employee. Waymo says it was tipped off to the theft after Uber submitted a design for a lidar circuit board to a third-party vendor—a vendor also used by Waymo. Uber's design looked almost identical to Waymo's.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in anthony levandowski, cars, Donald Trump, Policy, Uber, waymo | Comments (0)

Porsche adds a cheaper, lighter Taycan to its electric lineup

January 20th, 2021

On Tuesday, Porsche filled out its Taycan electric vehicle lineup with a cheaper, lighter variant. It's just called the Porsche Taycan—no S, no Turbo, not even any numbers—and it differentiates itself from the other Taycans by virtue of having just a single electric motor, which drives the rear wheels. It's even keenly priced... for a Porsche. At $79,900 (before any tax credits or incentives) it's almost $24,000 cheaper than the next variant in the range, the Taycan 4S.

As with the 4S, there is a choice of two batteries. The standard Taycan comes with a 79.2kWh (total capacity) pack and a rear motor capable of 321hp (240kW) and 250lb-ft (339Nm), boosting up to 402hp (300kW) and 254lb-ft (344Nm) if you use launch control. Do so—exiting a highway tollbooth, for instance—and the Taycan will reach 60mph in 5.1 seconds. Find a derestricted stretch of German autobahn, and eventually the Taycan will call time at 143mph (230km/h). At 4,566lb (2,071kg) it's the lightest Taycan, although the drag coefficient of 0.24 makes it slightly less slippery than the 4S or Turbo unless you add back the optional air suspension.

Thanks to Porsche's 800V electrical architecture, fast recharging is indeed fast. Connected to a 350kW-capable DC fast charger, the Taycan will charge at up to 225kW and from 5-80 percent state of charge in 22.5 minutes, just like the more expensive Taycans. An official EPA range should be available in the next few weeks, so for now, an EU figure of 28kWh/100km—which equates to 2.2 miles/kWh, with the understanding that the WLTP test is very different to the EPA's, making direct comparison difficult—is all the information we have. (The Taycan is notorious for having a greater real-world range than its EPA estimate.)

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in cars, Porsche Taycan | Comments (0)

Aston Martin’s new SUV is actually extremely good: The 2021 DBX review

January 19th, 2021

There's no escaping the crossover, even in the poshest of neighborhoods. Everyone knows that the Cayenne saved Porsche, particularly in new markets like China, and that's why we now have six-figure SUVs like the Rolls Royce Cullinan, Lamborghini Urus, Bentley Bentayga, and now Aston Martin's $176,900 DBX.

Last year was a hectic one for Aston Martin, and that's saying something for a company with as many ups and downs as its had during its 108-year history. Lawrence Stroll, Canadian billionaire (and dad to F1's Lance) bought a 16.7-percent stake as part of a $656 million cash infusion. Stroll is also behind Aston Martin's return to F1 as a constructor, with the British marque rebranding the team most recently known as Racing Point and hiring four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel to drive alongside

CEO Andy Palmer—who led the development of the Nissan Leaf earlier in his career—was replaced by Tobias Moers, formerly boss of Mercedes-AMG at Daimler. That strengthens ties with the German giant that supplies the low-volume British firm with powerful V8 engines and 21st-century infotainment tech. There's a brand new factory, just completed on the site of an old RAF maintenance base at St Athan, Wales. And it's from here that the brand is diversifying its lineup with what it describes as it's "first full-size five-seater." (Which tells you everything you need to know about the rear seat experience in the now-retired Aston Martin Rapide, I suppose.)

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in Aston Martin DBX, car review, cars, Crossover, SUV | Comments (0)

Microsoft invests in $30 billion driverless car company Cruise

January 19th, 2021
A white and red self-driving car parked on a street in San Francisco

Driverless Chevy Bolts are a common sight on the streets of San Francisco, where Cruise is based. (credit: Cruise)

Microsoft has invested in Cruise, the General Motors driverless car unit, in a $2 billion funding round that gives the autonomous driving company a $30 billion valuation.

Cruise, which was bought by GM for “more than $1 billion” in 2016, when it had just 40 employees, now has almost 2,000 staff and accounts for more than 40 percent of GM’s $71.5 billion market capitalisation.

Its latest investment round puts it head-to-head with Waymo, the Google sister company, as the world’s most valuable autonomous driving start-up. Waymo raised $3.2 billion last year at an undisclosed valuation that two people said to the FT was “more than $30 billion.”

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Posted in cars, Cruise, GM, microsoft, self driving cars | Comments (0)