Category Archives: Electric

More efficient pickups, Tesla’s next 10 years, US-made diesel, home solar and batteries: Today’s Car News

Prototype for Tesla Semi electric semi-trailer truck

Prototype for Tesla Semi electric semi-trailer truck

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Today, we’ve got an update on Tesla’s next 10 years, some thoughts on why far more fuel-efficient engines are more important than electric-car advocates may think, 25 plug-in cars from BMW, and a silent semi seen on the street. All this and more on Green Car Reports.

What percentage of full-size pickup trucks will come with a plug just six model years from now, in 2025? Take our new Twitter poll to share your opinion.

One carmaker has long been known for selling not only electric cars, but also solar panels and home energy-storage batteries. Now, another one has joined the game—but can you figure out which one it would be?

Light-duty full-size pickup trucks are meat-and-potatoes American icons, but until now, their optional diesel engine have been built overseas. Now, that will change.

BMW is planning to offer 25 battery-electric and plug-in hybrid models by 2025, but it’s taking a different path to get there than most makers.

We learned today that Tesla CEO Elon Musk will stay on for another 10 years, and we looked at what the company’s accomplished to date.

Electric cars are a necessary part of radically cutting vehicle carbon emissions, but so are far more efficient combustion engines. Big Oil is now in that game too.

Retirees in Florida will take part in the largest self-driving car test to date.

Finally, what would you say if you saw a prototype all-electric Tesla Semi cruising silently down the street? One startled onlooker even got video.

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More efficient gas engines as well as electric cars required to cut carbon emissions

Achates 2.7-liter opposed-piston gasoline compression-igntion engine in Ford F-150 test pickup truck

Achates 2.7-liter opposed-piston gasoline compression-igntion engine in Ford F-150 test pickup truck

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As nations, automakers, and utilities contemplate how to tackle climate change in real terms, a perfect storm of competition is brewing that will—ideally—produce positive change for the rest of us.

Automakers and electric utilities have been incentivized to build electric vehicles and install vast numbers of public charging stations to support those vehicles’ deployment.

But they aren’t the only parties involved in cleaning up the air and cutting carbon emissions from vehicles. Now, Big Oil is investing money to clean up its act, too.

DON’T MISS: Achates engine in Ford F-150 pickup targets 37 mpg, with Saudi oil company backing

Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, has placed its bet on making internal-combustion engines more efficient.

It believes fully 90 percent of vehicles on the world’s road in 2050 will still be traditionally powered, and technology advances in that area will have a greater impact than electric vehicles.

“The internal combustion engine is here to stay,” Saudi Aramco technology chief Ahmad Al Khowaiter told the British Financial Times during a tour of the company’s research plant near Detroit.

Achates 2.7-liter opposed-piston gasoline compression-igntion engine in Ford F-150 test pickup truck

Achates 2.7-liter opposed-piston gasoline compression-igntion engine in Ford F-150 test pickup truck

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While most of its research is focused on oil and its byproducts, Saudi Aramco has also partnered with companies that develop new engine techynologies, such as Achates Power.

Achates (“Ah-CAY-tees”) showed its opposed-piston 2.7-liter gasoline compression-ignition engine at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, fitted into a Ford F-150 pickup truck that will begin on-road testing later this year.

Aramco announced it will be an integral partner in the process of developing and refining the engine to the point that its technology can be licensed to other companies for high-volume manufacturing.

READ MORE: Shell Eco Marathon: Why Odd Cars Built By Students Matter

After all, it’s in Aramco’s best interests to insure the continued use of oil in internal-combustion engines—though the net change is positive for the rest of us who breathe air in the near-term.

Aramco isn’t the only oil company promoting vehicular efficiency.

Since 1939, Shell has held the Eco-Marathon, which challenges teams to travel the highest distance they can on the energy contained in 1 gallon of gasoline (or its equivalent).

Student team vehicles at the 2015 Shell Eco Marathon Americas

Student team vehicles at the 2015 Shell Eco Marathon Americas

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While many of the vehicles built by student teams are far from saleable vehicles, the contest offers a glimpse into what’s to come in automotive efficiency in the future.

In the end, there’s no choice between wider acceptance of electric vehicles and working toward far more efficient internal-combustion engines.

Both are absolutely critical to tackling climate change in the future, as countries that have signed on to the Paris Agreement attempt to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Green Car Reports respectfully reminds its readers that the scientific validity of climate change is not a topic for debate in our comments. We ask that any comments by climate-change denialists be flagged for moderation. We also ask that political discussions be restricted to the topic of the article they follow. Thank you in advance for helping us keep our comments on topic, civil, respectful, family-friendly, and fact-based.

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Tesla met promises in first 10-year Master Plan; Musk to stay 10 more years

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013

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At this point, a majority of the global auto industry agrees that Tesla and its electric cars have had a remarkable impact in less than 10 years.

Founded 15 years ago by two Silicon Valley engineers, Tesla won funding from venture capital, private investment, and government loans that totaled billions of dollars.

In that time, short by auto-industry standards, it has built and sold a couple of hundred thousand highly desirable all-electric cars and built a hugely valuable global brand.

CEO Elon Musk has become a global star, seen—as Thomas Edison was in his day—as an engineer and inventor who creates new technologies to make the world a better place. (For the record, however, he didn’t actually found the electric-car company.)

Tesla has lost money every year since its founding, and the likelihood of its survival as an independent business remains highly debatable.

A few industry analysts have suggested Tesla’s fourth-quarter loss, to be disclosed in early February. could reach $1 billion.

Equally debatable is what the company actually does.

Tour of Tesla battery gigafactory for invited owners, Reno, Nevada, July 2016

Tour of Tesla battery gigafactory for invited owners, Reno, Nevada, July 2016

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It’s a carmaker, clearly, but one that also sells home energy-storage batteries—and after its November 2016 purchase of Solar City, it’s also a solar-energy company.

As a carmaker, it’s missed every deadline it’s first announced for the launch of new models.

Every one of its four vehicles to date has had a prolonged, lumpy, troubled launch as it works out quality glitches, though its earliest buyers seem willing to be used as unpaid beta-testers.

But lost in the day-to-day debates is one remarkable fact: Tesla said in 2006 what it would set out to do—and then did just that. (Through a major global economic recession, to boot.)

In August 2006, Musk published “The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me),” which remains online today.

It said Tesla’s “overarching purpose” and “long-term plan is to build a wide range of [electric car] models, including affordably priced family cars.”

In essence, the company prototyped its technology in a small number of expensive but very desirable sports cars (the 2008-2012 Roadster) before moving on to its first volume car (the 2012 Model S, still in production today).

The 10-year goal was to get to an “affordably priced” family car, and the company is arguably there.

2017 Tesla Model 3 and Model S in Tesla assembly plant parking lot, Fremont, CA, November 2017

2017 Tesla Model 3 and Model S in Tesla assembly plant parking lot, Fremont, CA, November 2017

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While you can debate whether an all-electric BMW 3-Series competitor now selling only in versions costing $45,000 or more is a family car, the Model 3 remains the only sleek all-electric sedan on the market with a 200-plus-mile range that’s below $50,000.

Competing vehicles, including the 238-mile 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV and the 150-plus-mile 2018 Nissan Leaf, are compact hatchbacks and far more utilitarian in nature than the Model 3.

This year will tell whether the Model 3 can get to the high-volume production that could let Tesla break even. The company recently pushed back its 5,000-cars-per-week goal again, to the end of June 2018.

Granted, there are a few parts of the Master Plan that didn’t quite make it: relatively few Tesla buyers are likely “energy positive” and producing more renewable energy than they and their cars together consume.

Still, even if the company were to go belly-up next month, it would have had a lasting impact on the world’s auto industry, not to mention its ability to start cutting the carbon emissions of personal road transport.

As Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid wrote last month, “Even if it doesn’t survive, the Tesla vision has already won.”

We learned this morning that CEO Elon Musk plans to stay at the helm for another 10 years; he told The New York Times his compensation will be entirely tied to a series of benchmarks and increases in Tesla’s overall market capitalization.

So what does Tesla plan for its next 10 years? Oh, that’s already been revealed.

Exactly 10 years after its first “secret master plan” was published, it issued its “Master Plan, Part Deux.”

Advocates, analysts, and onlookers may want to read through it in light of the company’s track record to date.

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BMW will have 25 electric cars, plug-in hybrid models by 2025

The last 12 to 18 months have seen a slew of global automakers promising rafts of new plug-in electric vehicles on sale by deadlines set several years into the future.

Working to move past its worldwide diesel-emission scandal, for instance, VW Group has promised 30 battery-electric models on sale by 2025—the majority of them likely in China.

Last month, BMW joined the list with its own pledge.

DON’T MISS: BMW partners with Solid Power to develop solid-state cells for electric cars

The maker of “ultimate driving machines” said it will have a combined total of 25 different battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in the market by 2025.

The number came from a company presentation and interview late last year, as covered by the British outlet AutoExpress in early December.

A total of 25 vehicles globally isn’t as much of a stretch for BMW as numbers cited by other makers: BMW already offers the battery-electric i3, the plug-in hybrid i8, and half a dozen plug-in hybrid versions of its production sedans and crossovers.

Internal BMW conventions indicate that its current electric cars—the 2017 BMW i3 with the larger 33-kilowatt-hour battery and the 2019 BMW i8 with a larger battery as well—are “Generation 4” of its electric-car program.

The fifth generation, according to the slides accompanying the AutoExpress piece, will be reworked versions of two basic BMW architectures that underpin virtually all of its cars.

Larger vehicles will use a new version of the so-called CLAR platform first introduced in the most recent 7-Series and 5-Series sedans, modified to accommodate two different thicknesses of battery packs under the cabin floor.

READ THIS: BMW ‘i’ electric-car sub-brand to expand into SUVs, utility vehicles, with ‘iX’ models

Smaller vehicles will use a modified version of the UKL front- or all-wheel-drive platform that underpins all current Mini Cooper models and the BMW X1 crossover.

It will be called FAAR, and will also accommodate two different battery heights.

According to BMW, while vehicles batteries under the floorpan will sit taller, that can be accommodated just by enlarging the wheels to keep the vehicles in proportion.

BMW Group's vehicle electrification pathway [Dec 2017 presentation]

BMW Group’s vehicle electrification pathway [Dec 2017 presentation]

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BMW electrified vehicles from 2013 through 2025 [Dec 2017 presentation]

BMW electrified vehicles from 2013 through 2025 [Dec 2017 presentation]

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 BMW plans single platform for all powertrain derivatives from 2021 onward [Dec 2017 presentation]

BMW plans single platform for all powertrain derivatives from 2021 onward [Dec 2017 presentation]

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The first fifth-generation vehicle to use the CLAR platform will be the production version of the BMW iNext concept, a flagship sedan arriving in 2021 that will be fully electric and packed with self-driving and connectivity features.

One year prior, in 2020, an all-electric version of the BMW X3 will join the company’s lineup.

There will also be additional plug-in hybrid variants of high-volume models, and updates to the existing ones, likely including higher-capacity batteries that could boost their EPA-rated ranges above their current 10- to 25-mile window.

CHECK OUT: 2017 BMW i3 REx: drive review of range-extended electric car

Like its German luxury competitor Audi, BMW says it expects up to 25 percent of its sales to be plug-in electric vehicles by 2025.

But Audi, part of the giant VW Group, has adopted that company’s philosophy that while conventional vehicles with engines can be engineered to accomodate plug-in hybrid variants, battery-electric vehicles require their own dedicated platforms.

We interviewed Stefan Juraschek, BMW’s head of electric powertrains, at the Detroit auto show last week—and we’ll cover his thoughts on why BMW thinks it can use a single architecture for both types of plug-in vehicles in a future article. Stay tuned.

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Inline-6 turbodiesel in 2019 Chevy Silverado pickup to be built in Michigan

The forthcoming diesel-powered 2019 Chevrolet Silverado will, without a doubt, thump with the Heartbeat of America.

During the new truck’s launch at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GM product chief Mark Reuss hinted at a future announcement regarding the next-generation truck and the Michigan city of Flint, where it will be built.

Last week, General Motors kept that promise by announcing the new 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-6 would be produced at GM’s Flint Engine Operations plant.

DON’T MISS: How Silicon Valley startup boosted MPG in 2019 Chevy Silverado pickup truck

The news follows a 2015 announcement by GM revealing a plan to invest $263 million in Flint Engine Operations for a new engine line.

The engine line wasn’t specified at the time of that earlier announcement.

“The next-generation Silverado builds on the success of our current models, many of which are produced here in Flint,” said John Urbanic, Flint Engine Operations plant manager, said in a GM release.

Auto workers adjusting the chassis of the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD

Auto workers adjusting the chassis of the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD

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“We are proud to expand the industry-leading diesel portfolio here in Vehicle City.”

GM’s decision to build the engine in Flint makes it the only diesel engine used in a light-duty pickup that’s built in North America.

The company’s smaller midsize pickup twins—the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon—are powered by a 2.8 Duramax inline-4 turbodiesel built in Rayong, Thailand.

READ MORE: New 2019 Chevy Silverado pickup: planned for all powertrain types

Meanwhile, FCA subsidiary VM Motori produces the 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel for the Ram 1500 in Italy.

Ford’s new 3.0-liter Power Stroke V-6 turbodiesel, announced earlier in the month for a version of the 2018 Ford F-150 full-size pickup, will be built in England alongside similar engines used by Jaguar Land Rover.

While the Nissan Titan XD pickup is powered by a Cummins 5.0-liter turbodiesel V-8, built in Indiana, that truck is classed as a heavy-duty pickup.

Nissan Frontier Diesel Prototype, Nashville, July 2014

Nissan Frontier Diesel Prototype, Nashville, July 2014

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That hasn’t stopped Nissan from flirting with diesel for light-duty applications as well.

Four years ago, it displayed prototype versions of the current Frontier mid-size pickup powered by a 2.8-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel also developed by Cummins.

Back at GM, the 3.0-liter diesel powering the Silverado is a clean-sheet new design, the automaker said, unlike the VM Motori-derived engine in the Colorado and Canyon.

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Electrify America selects Greenlots to develop operating platform to manage national network of EV charging stations

Electrify America has selected Greenlots, a leading provider of grid-enabled electric vehicle (EV) smart charging solutions, to deliver the operating platform for its network of high-power fast chargers that will greatly expand highway and other EV charging capabilities across the United States.

As part of its $2-billion investment in EV infrastructure, Electrify America will install EV charging stations in major metropolitan areas and along major US highways over the next 10 years. Electrify America is currently implementing Cycle 1 of its Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) investment plan, an initial investment of $500 million, that calls for more than 2,000 chargers in California and 38 states. (Electrify America has also called for input into its $500-milion tranche of Cycle 2 investments, earlier post.)

The Cycle 1 investments (earlier post) will establish a network that includes non-proprietary electric vehicle chargers (CCS, CHAdeMO and J1772 standards) at more than 650 community-based sites and nearly 300 highway sites across the US.

Highway sites will be located along high-traffic corridors between metropolitan areas, including two cross-country routes, and will include between four and ten 150kW and 350kW individual DC fast chargers at each location before June 2019.

Community-based charging station sites will be built in workplaces, retail (shopping centers, restaurants, etc.), multifamily residential locations and municipal lots and garages, as well as high-speed community depots that will feature fast EV charging at speeds of up 150kW.

These sites will be located no more than approximately 120 miles (193 km) apart—and on average just 70 miles (113 km) apart. Many shorter range EVs will benefit from 50kW DC fast charging on the Electrify America highway network, including any CHAdeMO equipped vehicles.

Electrify America is also building the network with the aim of making it “future-proof” to accommodate new technologies and charging speeds as the electric vehicle market grows.

Our goal is to build the most advanced high-power charging network in the US—one that demonstrates the future of alternative transportation. We chose Greenlots because their SKY Network Operating Platform is a scalable, flexible foundation to develop our own networking system that integrates dozens of new EV models, thousands of new EV chargers and other distributed energy resources with the grid.

—Mark McNabb, CEO of Electrify America

The Electrify America IoT network enabled on Greenlots SKY Network Operating Platform will act as a virtual command center for Electrify America’s network of EV charging stations being deployed throughout the country. Greenlots’ technology will enable Electrify America to build, operate and manage its high-power charging network by providing real-time charger health status, utilization data, dynamic pricing capabilities and predictive analytics to identify future maintenance.

The operating platform will make it easy for drivers to locate the closest charger, receive notifications of their charging status and quickly make payments with their mobile device or through vehicle authentication.

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What maker offers electric cars, plus solar panels and energy storage, beside Tesla?

While Tesla may be the automaker most known for marketing home-solar equipment, it’s actually not the only player on the block.

Japanese automaker Nissan previously offered home-energy storage solutions in Europe, dubbed Nissan xStorage, that utilitzed cells recycled from Nissan Leaf batteries.

That’s as far as Nissan has gone—until now.

DON’T MISS: Nissan home energy-storage battery: another front against Tesla?

Last week, Nissan introduced Nissan Energy Solar, a product that combines its xStorage solution with solar panels that generate electricity during the day.

Buyers can then use that energy at night or during times when electric rates are at their highest due to peak demand.

The carmaker aims to sell a six-panel system with associated energy-management systems in the United Kingdom for just under £3,900 GBP ($5,400).

For that price, Nissan claims, “a family located in the South East [of England], at home on average half a day and with an annual electricity demand of 4,500 kilowatt-hours, could cut their electric costs by up to two-thirds.

The solar panels have a peak generation rate of 4 kilowatts, and the battery capacity is 7.5 kilowatt-hours.

Nissan did not detail if it would sell the system in other parts of Europe or North America.

READ MORE: Nissan Leaf-To-Home Electric-Car Power Tests: More Practical For U.S. With Longer-Range Cars?

It’s worth noting, however, that average households in the U.S. and Canada consume 32 kwh a day, whereas in the U.K. it is only 12.6 kwh.

Comparing the Nissan system to Tesla’s offerings is difficult without doing some hefty math.

While Nissan Energy Solar offers traditional photovoltaic solar panels, Tesla’s promised solution—part of the Solar City company it bought in November 2016—integrates those cells into “Solar Roof” tiles so homeowners can protect the look of their homes without panels some deem unsightly.

The Nissan solution lets owners manage the energy mix in their home either automatically, or manually via an app.

In 2014, Nissan began testing its Leaf-to-Home system, which allowed Nissan Leaf owners in Japan to use the batteries in their cars for home-energy storage.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz recently jumped into the home-energy storage game as well last year. It offers a 2.5-kilowatt-hour home battery, developed in partnership with Vivint Solar.

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