Tesla Model 3 earns five-star NHTSA crash rating

NHTSA

A video of a Tesla Model 3 crashing is rarely cause for celebration. But today it is, because the videos are of recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) safety tests, which the littlest Tesla just aced. Whether it was front impact, side impact, or rollover testing, the Model 3 performed to a T, earning the full five stars on each test.

We probably should not act particularly shocked: both Tesla Model S and Model X also scored top marks in NCAP testing. What’s more, the very layout of battery EVs affords them inherent advantages.

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First hydrogen-powered train hits the tracks in Germany

René Frampe, Alstom

French train-building company Alstom built two hydrogen-powered trains and delivered them to Germany last weekend, where they’ll zoom along a 62-mile stretch of track that runs from the northern cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde, and Buxtehude. The new trains replace their diesel-powered counterparts and are the first of their kind, but they are likely not the last. Alstom is contracted to deliver 14 more hydrogen-powered trains, called Coradia iLint trains, before 2021.

The trains are an initial step toward lowering Germany’s transportation-related emissions, a sector that has been intractable for policy makers in the country. But hydrogen fuel faces some chicken-and-egg-type problems. Namely, hydrogen is difficult to store, and making it a truly zero-emissions source of fuel requires renewable electricity to perform water electrolysis. The more common option for creating hydrogen fuel involves natural gas reforming, which is not a carbon-neutral process.

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EU investigating German automakers, alleging collusion on emissions tech

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The European Commission said on Tuesday that it is opening an investigation into possible collusion among Volkswagen Group, BMW, and Daimler to avoid competition on developing state-of-the-art emissions control technology.

According to Bloomberg, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told reporters at a press conference that the investigation is not focused on price-fixing as much as it is focused on the allegation that the companies together “agreed not to use the best technology” in order to cut costs together.

The emissions control technology in question applies to both gas and diesel vehicles in the EU. A press release from the European Commission noted that it suspected the companies of agreeing to limit the development and roll-out of two types of emissions-regulating technology. The first is Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems, which are specific to diesel engines and reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted by the vehicle. The second are “Otto” Particulate Filters (OPF), which reduce the particulate emissions from gasoline vehicles. These emissions treatment systems are based on their diesel counterparts and started appearing in Daimler vehicles after 2014.

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Review: Ford crosses over into the mini-SUV segment with tiny EcoSport

Ford EcoSport on the road

The crossover and SUV market, being what it is, has been sliced and diced into discrete chunks. There are the behemoths: true full-size SUVs like the Chevy Suburban. There’s the luxury market, where the relevance of “utility” sometimes falls into question. Then there are the subcompacts, cars like the

A wee SUV

Ford

New to the US market in 2018, Ford’s bite-size crossover sits below the Escape in Ford’s soon-to-be-sedan-less lineup, and it has an attractive sticker price. The base model, the EcoSport S, starts at $19,995 and offers a 1.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected three-cylinder engine. The model we tested, the SES, begins at $26,880. Engine size is doubled, with a 2.0L four-cylinder direct-injection Ti-VCT engine. That’s paired with a six-speed transmission and all-wheel drive (on the SES only; the other three models are front-wheel drive). Safety-wise, the EcoSport has side air-curtain tech for both the front and back seats, roll stability control, and Ford’s SOS Post-Crash Alert System.

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The coolest tech in Audi’s new e-tron electric SUV is banned in the US

Audi e-tron launch

SAN FRANCISCO—Luxury electric SUVs must be like buses: you wait ages for one and then three show up all at once. That’s certainly how it feels right now—first it was the Mercedes-Benz EQC, then last week BMW showed us the iNext, and on Monday night it was the Audi e-tron. This one is going to reach showrooms first—production just started at a carbon-neutral plant in Belgium in the past few weeks, and US deliveries are scheduled to begin in mid-2019.

That’s sufficiently far off that Audi is still in the process of homologating the US version for sale, so some of its vital statistics are still TBA. We can’t tell you how exactly much power you get for $74,800, although the European version is 300kW (402hp), if that helps. It hasn’t undergone EPA testing yet, so there’s no official word of how many miles of range the 95kWh lithium-ion battery provides. (Again, if it’s helpful, the e-tron earned a 400km range on the very different European WLTP test.)

And I’m sad to say the e-tron’s coolest feature—those side-view cameras—will require some changes to federal vehicle regulations before we can get them here in the US. That goes for the matrix-beam headlights, too. That’s a shame, because this is an electric Audi that was designed with the US in mind. The company expects us to be the biggest market for the e-tron, and it’s pitching this one straight into the mainstream. There are no flashy falcon wing doors or a massive panoramic screen like those in the bigger Tesla Model X. Neither are there futuristic design or racetrack credentials as with the Jaguar I-Pace.

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Report: Tesla facing criminal probe over “funding secured” tweet

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Elon Musk’s August 7 tweet that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private has become the subject of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department, Bloomberg reports, citing two anonymous sources. The involvement of the Justice Department would be significant because the Securities and Exchange Commission—which has been investigating the case for several weeks—only has the power to bring civil charges.

Tesla’s share price dropped by about 6 percent in the minutes after Bloomberg reported the news.

While Musk’s initial tweet claimed he had “funding secured” to buy out existing shareholders, he soon admitted he didn’t actually have anything in writing. Days before the tweet, he had a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and emerged from the meeting convinced that the Saudis would be willing to fund a deal.

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Google partners with Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi to put Android into millions of vehicles

Google will partner with Renault -Nissan-Mitsubishi, the largest auto alliance in the world by vehicle sales, to put Android-based infotainment systems into millions of cars, the companies told Wall Street Journal. The alliance’s next-generation infotainment system and dashboard displays will use Android and launch in 2021.

Drivers will be able to access Google’s maps, app store and voice assistant from their vehicle’s dashboards. The new partnership is a giant step forward for Google’s ambitions to get its operating system into more cars (the alliance sold a combined 5.5 million vehicles in the first half of this year, putting it ahead of Volkswagen and Toyota Motor).

The alliance’s executives told WSJ that they decided on the partnership because many of their customers are accustomed to using Google Maps and other apps and prefer sticking with them instead of using software developed by automakers when they drive.

Auto executives have also become more comfortable with Google, which made its software open source in 2007. Kal Mos, the alliance’s vice president of connected vehicles, told the Wall Street Journal that “the trust was built in the last few years.”

By partnering with Google, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi ups the ante on rival automakers to partner with tech companies instead of developing their own software ecosystems. While this may win customers over, it also means potentially ceding control over valuable user data to companies like Google and Apple. Mos told WSJ that Google will have access to data collected from its in-car apps, but must ask for user permission first.

Other automakers that are already integrating Google apps into their vehicles include Volkswagen, which put Google Earth into the Audi’s in-car navigation system, and Volvo Cars, which said its next in-car infotaintment system will run on Android.

Tesla’s most credible rival raises $1 billion from Saudi Arabia

Electric car speeds across desert.

Lucid Motors, the electric car startup we described as Tesla’s most credible rival last year, got a shot in the arm on Monday as Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund announced a $1 billion investment. The company aims to bring its first car to market in 2020.

Lucid has been building up to this moment for more than a decade. The company was founded in 2007 under the name Atieva to build technology related to electric cars—but not the entire car itself. In 2015, the Chinese state-owned automaker BAIC became Lucid’s biggest investor, and we learned that Atieva was pivoting to face Tesla head-on by building an electric car of its own.

The company rebranded as Lucid two years ago and has a number of Tesla veterans—including chief technology officer Peter Rawlinson—helping design its first car, the Lucid Air.

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