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Tech News

VW electric racer smashes Pikes Peak's overall record

June 24, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Drew Phillips

VW may have been overly cautious when it hoped to beat Pikes Peak’s electric vehicle record with its purpose-built racer. Official lap time data has confirmed that Romain Dumas’ I.D. R Pikes Peak made it up the legendary hill in just over 7 minutes and 57 seconds, crushing not only the EV record (8 minutes and 57 seconds) but the overall record (just over 8 minutes and 13 seconds in the Unlimited class). It managed that with an average speed of 90.5MPH, clearly trouncing the 83.5MPH of its closest competitor, a Norma M20 SF PKP.

There’s not much mystery to why the I.D. R Pikes Peak came out in front: it made the most of its electric motor. It doesn’t have the most raw horsepower at 680HP, but the combination of instant access to 479 pound-feet of torque, a relatively light weight for an EV (2,500lbs) and Porsche-derived aerodynamics make for a vehicle that can quickly recover speed when exiting the hill’s 156 turns. EVs are practically tailor-made for twisty hill climbs, and VW’s achievement serves as proof.

The time is … hold on. Is that? Whooooohooo! It is the new overall record for the @Volkswagen I.D. R #PikesPeak at the #RaceToTheClouds! C’mooooooooooon! 7m 57.148s make history! #ChargedToThePeak

— VolkswagenMotorsport (@volkswagenms) June 24, 2018

Tech News

Tesla will charge for 'premium' internet on new cars starting July 1st

June 24, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Reuters/Mike Blake

Ever since Tesla started offering cellular data access in its cars, there’s been the implication that it would eventually charge for service. In 2014, it indicated that would start charging in 2018. Four years later, that moment is at hand… although it’s not playing out as you’d expect. Electrek has obtained a sales team email indicating that Tesla is launching a paid Premium Connectivity package for cars ordered on or after July 1st. There will still be no-extra-charge (Standard Connectivity) cell access, according to the email — you’ll just have to pay to get features that current owners take for granted.

You’ll still get navigation (with traffic-based routing) over cellular as well as live Supercharger usage info and safety-related car updates. Anything that’s essential to the experience and doesn’t consume too much data will remain free, to put it another way. Most everything else, however, will fall under the Premium package. That includes the satellite view, live traffic visuals, the web browser, music streaming and non-safety updates. It’s a good thing Tesla just added WiFi access to the Model 3, then.

The price reportedly hasn’t been nailed down, but the target is roughly $100 per year. That’s a bit of a hassle, but something you can probably afford if you own a Tesla. As it is, you’ll get a year’s worth of free Premium Connectivity if you buy a Model 3 with the Premium Interior option, or any Model S or Model X. And if you’ve already ordered a car before July 1st, everything remains free — a slight relief if you bought a Model S back in 2014 and were dreading that first data bill.

We’ve asked Tesla for comment.

As with the decision to start collecting payment for Supercharger access, this really comes down to the scale of service and its effect on Tesla’s bottom line. It’s relatively easy to offer free cellular data when you’re selling a small number of luxury cars per year, but it’s another matter entirely when you’re selling hundreds of thousands of (relatively) mainstream vehicles. The Premium package could help offset millions in data costs and assuage providers worried that their networks will come under strain from legions of Tesla drivers streaming tunes during their commutes.

Tech News

Tesla's Model 3 catches up on Autopilot and WiFi features

June 23, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Drew Phillips

Tesla is still rushing to give the Model 3 some of the features you might take for granted in its EV stablemates. As part of a broader update across the lineup (including increased Autopilot nagging), Model 3 units now support a few key features, most notably Summon — that is, the ability to move the car into and out of a parking space using either Tesla’s phone app or the key. It’s been something of a given for Model S and X drivers, but it’ll definitely be appreciated if you’d rather not contort yourself to enter the 3 in a small garage.

The patch also adds something as simple as WiFi access. Until now, the Model 3 had to connect to LTE to receive updates — this could give you a speedier connection when you’re parked at home and help you grab… well, more updates. And if you live in a hot climate, cabin overheat protection (again available in other models) prevents the temperature from venturing past 105F for up to 12 hours after you’ve left your vehicle. It’s primarily intended for drivers worried they may leave a kid or pet in the backseat for an extended period.

The ongoing updates are a reminder of how aggressively Tesla launched the Model 3 in order to meet its production promises — the software continues to be rough around the edges nearly a year after the first vehicle rolled off the line. Even so, it’s good to know that Tesla is determined to address shortcomings and give you many of the perks from its more expensive rides.

Tech News

Electric GT's first race-spec Tesla Model S hits the track

June 23, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Electric GT

Two years ago, we learned that a Tesla Model S-based electric racing series was in development. This week Electric GT holdings showed off its first race-spec Model S P100DL in Barcelona ahead of the series’ planned debut in November. Its builders say the EPCS V2.3 Tesla P100DL is more than just a standard P100D with Ludicrous mode, capable of going from 0 – 100 km/h in 2.1 seconds, which is three tenths faster than the production car, and speeds up to 250 kph.

The improvement comes thanks to Pirelli P Zero wet/dry tires, and a race weight that’s lighter by 500kg with carbon fiber body panels and a roll cage. There’s a double steel wishbone suspension up front, a new front splitter / rear wing setup for more downforce plus upgraded suspension and race brakes to keep everything under control on the track. With the 100 kWh battery on board, Electric GT expects its cars to complete 90 km on a single charge.

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When the season starts, drivers will compete in identically-prepared sedans, and according to Motorsport.com, Electric GT CEO Mark Gemmell said each one costs “a bit less than 300,000 euros” ($350k). The racing series also announced a sponsor, Spanish esports league VP (League of Videogame Professionals, by Mediapro), and posted a virtual version of the car for the Assetto Corsa sim.

A 10 race first season will wrap up in October 2019 at Vallelunga, Italy. Once it launches, Electric GT will join Formula E as a racing series seeking to not only embrace competition but also increase awareness and acceptance of electric vehicles as they ride quietly around the track at high speed.

Take a tour of the #EPCSeries car before she hits the track for the first time today#AgeOfLight pic.twitter.com/N128dlnzzp

— Electric GT Holdings (@EGTChampionship) June 21, 2018

And there she goes!
The first race-ready #EPCSeries car has hit the track for the first time!
And @Circuitcat_cat has laid on a beautiful day for it!#AgeOfLight pic.twitter.com/MEljgVB3xr

— Electric GT Holdings (@EGTChampionship) June 21, 2018

Tech News

Tesla built Model 3 assembly 'tents' to meet production goals

June 22, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Elon Musk, Twitter

Remember how Elon Musk casually mentioned that Tesla had built a new assembly line in just three weeks to help it meet its lofty Model 3 production goals? It was more audacious than you might have thought. A combination of follow-up tweets from Musk, first-hand observations and Fremont’s own approval process has made clear that Tesla built new manufacturing inside a group of several giant tents (or rather, tent-like Sprung structures) to boost output of its high-volume EV. If you think that sounds audacious, you’d be right. Ars Technica learned that each ‘tent’ is 150 feet long and 53 feet high, and there’s no known instance of other car manufacturers doing this before.

The Fremont approval gave Tesla six months, although it could extend that permit further if it wanted. And there’s a real chance it might become permanent. Musk claimed that the new line is “way better” than another assembly line that “cost hundreds of millions,” and wasn’t sure if his company “actually need[s] a building.” Sprung’s structures are considerably sturdier than actual tents, and the man challenge is ensuring that the outdoors doesn’t affect production.

Whether or not this actually helps Tesla meet its 5,000-per-week Model 3 production target isn’t certain. Musk was touting the tent in mid-June, or just a couple of weeks before the end-of-June target. At the time, Tesla was up to 3,500 cars per week — much better than before, but that left a lot of room for improvement. It depends on when the outdoor manufacturing began and how much it’s contributing to the end result. If nothing else, it shows Musk’s determination to meet targets and get Tesla back into profitability.

High res photos of the length of the $TSLA tent assembly line.From the last 24 hours.

Follow @ispytsla, who’s nudging me into retirement, for videos. pic.twitter.com/t5AJOz1fYK

— skabooshka (@skabooshka) June 19, 2018

Needed another general assembly line to reach 5k/week Model 3 production. A new building was impossible, so we built a giant tent in 2 weeks. Tesla team kfa!! Gah, love them so much ♥️🚘💫

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 19, 2018

Tech News

The undersea electric railway built and abandoned within six years

June 22, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

choochoo.gif

The seaside town of Brighton sits on the south coast of England, roughly 50 miles from the center of London. Famed for its pebble beaches, piers and cool residents, Brighton remains a popular destination for Londoners wanting a quick fix of fresh air and sea views. The town has been a tourist hotspot for hundreds of years for this very reason. Throughout its lifetime countless attractions have come and gone, but none perhaps as elaborate and bizarre as the short-lived electric railway on stilts, known at the time as “Daddy Long Legs.”

Credit: Filmoteca de Catalunya

Engineer Magnus Volk is best known for Volk’s Electric Railway, which first opened in 1883 and ferried passengers in small cars along a quarter-mile stretch of Brighton’s coastline. The line was extended and rerouted many times, and it still runs in some capacity today. As the 19th century was drawing to a close, however, Volk’s expansion plans were impeded by tough terrain. And so he came up with the idea of building a new line to complement the existing one, only this time with the rails running below the waterline.

Construction of the Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway began in the summer of 1894. Two separate tracks, the outer rails 18 feet apart, were installed along a stretch of Brighton’s coast, atop which sat an oversized streetcar on 23-foot-long legs. A similar contraption had actually been operating in France for two decades already, though the journey was much shorter and in calmer waters.

Le pont roulant de Saint-Malo à Saint-Servan

The French equivalent was also pulled by a cable, whereas Volk’s version was self-powered, using electricity fed from overhead lines into two, 25-horsepower General Electric motors. The carriage that ran along Volk’s Seashore Electric Railway was also much more comfortable. The 45-ton salt water tram featured an on-board saloon and promenade deck, upon which passengers could enjoy the view during a roughly 35-minute journey. The carriage was officially called “Pioneer,” though it colloquially became known as “Daddy Long Legs,” for obvious reasons.

Pioneer completed its maiden voyage on November 28th, 1896. Being a sea vessel of sorts, a certified captain was required to be on board at all times, as well as life boats and other safety equipment. But problems began to arise almost immediately. Less than a week after opening, a serious storm pulled Pioneer from her moorings, toppling the high-rise streetcar and causing significant damage.

Wikimedia Commons

Pioneer was put back together with legs measuring two feet higher, and the railway was reopened in the summer of 1897. Nearly 45,000 passengers took the railway that year, but all was not well. At high tide, the streetcar would slow to a crawl, but the venture had already become a moneypit and upgrading Pioneer’s motors was out of the question. Plans for a second car were also abandoned.

Over the next few years,

Tech News

Hyundai and Audi team up on hydrogen fuel cell technology

June 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Hyundai

Hyundai and Audi have reached a deal that will allow the two to share their hydrogen car technology, Reuters reports. Both companies will have access to the other’s intellectual property and they’ll share components, with the goal being to push hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles into the mainstream. So far, they’ve lagged behind battery EVs, which are currently cheaper and benefit from more charging stations.

Other automakers have made similar arrangements in the past. GM and Honda teamed up in 2013, going in on a fuel cell factory together last year. GM also recently started supplying Honda with its next-generation batteries. Toyota and BMW have also agreed to work together on green vehicle technology. Last year, Toyota, Honda and Nissan partnered with a handful of industrial firms in order to bring more hydrogen refuelling stations to Japan.

Hyundai and Audi’s deal is a multi-year cross-licensing agreement and includes affiliates like Kia and Audi’s parent company Volkswagen. “This agreement is another example of Hyundai’s strong commitment to creating a more sustainable future whilst enhancing consumers’ lives with hydrogen-powered vehicles, the fastest way to a truly zero-emission world,” Euisun Chung, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Company, said in a statement. “We are confident that the Hyundai Motor Group-Audi partnership will successfully demonstrate the vision and benefits of [fuel cell electric vehicles] to the global society.”

Tech News

Ford's future transportation plans include an iconic Detroit train station

June 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Corktown_Aerial-960x541.jpg

As Ford notches its 115th anniversary, the company celebrated its purchase of an iconic Detroit landmark with an eye toward the “smart cities” future we heard about at CES. Michigan Central Station served as a main passenger hub for the city once it opened in 1913, but the train station and 18-story office tower has been empty and unused since 1988. Now a massive restoration project will make the building a part of Ford’s planned Corktown campus, with 2,500 Ford employees working in the area by 2022 plus 2,500 employees of other businesses.

The expectation is that, along with its partners, there will be work on “autonomous and electric vehicles, and design urban mobility services and solutions that include smart, connected vehicles, roads, parking and public transit.” It’ll use the rest of the space for residential, retail and community space.

While those preparations take place, Ford already has a “Team Edison” working on projects like the Mach 1 electric performance SUV that it plans to release in 2020. Chairman Bill Ford told Autoblog “There will be a lot of mobility-related jobs, so what does that look like? There will certainly be software engineers, but there will also be people creating businesses around mobility. Think of a lot of services that will be created around that. So they will be here too. It won’t be just technical people.”

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Tech News

Porsche invests in EV supercar-maker Rimac

June 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Porsche

Just recently, luxury automaker Porsche teased its electric Mission E sports car, showing its shadowy silhouette that’s not unlike its other non-EV cars. Now, the company has shown that it’s getting even more serious about electric vehicles and its Mission E development by teaming up with EV supercar-maker Rimac. Porsche has taken a minority shareholding of ten percent in Rimac Automobili, which you might know as the creator of Concept Two hypercar EV. In addition to manufacturing incredibly fast electric vehicles, Rimac also develops and produces EV components.

Porsche Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board and Member of the Executive Board for Finance and IT Lutz Meschke, said the company hopes “to enter into close collaboration with the company in the form of a development partnership.” Presumably, that means Rimac will help its new partner design and make parts for its electric vehicles going forward. Rimac CEO Mate Rimac said in a statement: “This partnership now is an important step for [the company] on our way to become a component and system supplier of choice for the industry in electrification, connectivity and the exciting field of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.”

Tech News

Uber will pay drivers in some cities to use electric cars

June 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

PA Archive/PA Images

Uber would like its drivers to go electric, but it knows that practical realities like high prices and hours of charging time make that difficult. Its solution? Give those drivers a helping hand. It’s launching an EV Champions pilot program in seven cities (Austin, Los Angeles, Montreal, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle) that includes “direct monetary incentives” to drive EVs in some cities, including the existing testing ground of Pittsburgh. Local utilities are sometimes fronting part of the cost.

The compensation varies, but don’t expect to buy a Model 3 with your fare. The LA Times learned that drivers in Pittsburgh, San Diego and San Francisco are getting just $1 extra per ride, with at least San Diego drivers capping out at $20 per week. Sacramento drivers Suffice it to say this is more for part-time drivers who are thinking of signing up for Uber than full-timers who want to recoup the cost of their car.

There are other perks, though. Drivers get access to education and resources that can help them find every available rebate or other incentive program (not just federal level tax credits). In Canada, Quebec drivers will receive memberships to an EV advocacy group that can give them reduced insurance premiums. And wherever drivers operate, there will be EV-specific app features, such as a notification for longer trips (30 minutes or more) to help them plan their charging times.

As a passenger, you’ll be alerted when you pair up with an EV driver if you’re either in the US or Montreal, Canada.

Is this going to tip the balance dramatically in favor of Uber, or EVs as a whole? Not likely. It might influence an Uber driver’s buying decision if an EV is in their price range, though. We’d add that there’s a competitive motivation as well. Lyft plans to use EVs (particularly autonomous EVs) to help reach its climate goals, and it might cement its reputation as a kinder ridesharing service if it goes unopposed. Uber now has a talking point that it might use to reel in eco-conscious riders.