With the 2020 Cadillac CT4, GM begins to expand its hands-free Super Cruise driving system – gpgmail


GM’s high-end brand unveiled Thursday the 2020 Cadillac CT4, a sporty and small sedan that is designed and priced to attract younger buyers looking to enter the luxury car market.

The vehicle’s debut also marks an important expansion for GM’s hands-free driver assistance system, Super Cruise. The hands-free driving system has been lauded for its capabilities; it’s also been criticized because of its severe limitations. Today, Super Cruise is available in just one Cadillac model, the full-size CT6 sedan. And even in the CT6, the system is restricted to certain highways.

Super Cruise uses a combination of lidar map data, high-precision GPS, cameras and radar sensors, as well as a driver attention system, which monitors the person behind the wheel to ensure they’re paying attention. Unlike Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, users of Super Cruise do not need to have their hands on the wheel. However, their eyes must remain directed straight ahead.

GM is finally starting to expand where the system can be used and bringing it to more models. Earlier this year, the company said it will add another 70,000 miles of compatible divided highways in the United States and Canada to the existing system via a software update. By the end of the year, Super Cruise will be available on more than 200,000 miles of highways.

The automaker plans to bring Super Cruise to other GM brands, such as Chevrolet, GMC and Buick, after 2020.

The expansion follows other improvements rolled out in 2018, including adding a dynamic lane offset so that a CT6 with Super Cruise activated can adjust slightly over in its lane for driver comfort when passing large vehicles. Gauge cluster messages were also added, to inform drivers why Super Cruise may not be available in certain instances.

Super Cruise isn’t the only feature of note in the 2020 Cadillac CT4 model. Cadillac is offering the CT4 in a few trim levels, all of which will have turbo engines. The standard version will have an eight-speed transmission and a 2.0 turbo-4 engine that generates 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

The CT4-V, the premium luxury version of the CT4, will have a 2.7-liter turbo-4 engine with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The CT4 will come with unique grilles and bright exterior accents to distinguish the CT4 luxury and premium luxury models. The Sport and V-Series models are differentiated by darker accents and “performance-inspired” details, including unique grilles, fascias, rocker extensions, rear spoiler and exclusive performance design wheels, Cadillac said.

Every version of the CT4 will have LED exterior lighting, including headlamps, tail lamps and signature vertical lights at all four corners.

Cadillac 2020 CT4 Sport 023

The interior of the 2020 Cadillac CT4.

Inside the car, drivers will find an eight-inch touchscreen that is mounted prominently in the center of the instrument panel. GM’s new digital platform, which can handle over-the-air software updates, is integrated into the CT4, as well.

“We developed CT4 to appeal to youthful buyers in the luxury market who may be new to the Cadillac brand,” said Andrew Smith, executive director of global Cadillac design. “The vehicle was intended to draw attention, using a combination of great proportions, taught surfacing and Cadillac family details that hint at the athletic driving experience this vehicle offers.”


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Elon Musk promises to take Tesla Model S to ‘Plaid’ with new powertrain – gpgmail


Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised a more powerful powertrain option in future Model S, Model X and the next-generation Roadster sports car that will push acceleration and speed beyond the current high bar known as Ludicrous mode.

Musk tweeted Wednesday evening “the only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid,” a teaser to a higher performing vehicle and a nod to the movie Spaceballs.

 

These new higher performing versions of the Model S, Model X, and Roadster will contain what Musk describes as a Plaid powertrain and is still about a year away from production. This new powertrain will have three motors, one more than the dual motor system found in today’s Model S and X.

This Plaid powertrain has already seen some action. Tesla revealed Wednesday that a Model S equipped with a Plaid powertrain and chassis prototype had lapped Laguna Seca racetrack in 1:36:555, a second faster than the record for a four-door sedan.

 

The “Plaid” powertrain will not be offered in the lower cost Model 3 or Model Y, which isn’t expected to go into production until late 2020. Musk also promised that this plaid powertrain will cost more than “current offerings, but will be less than competitors” without explaining what that means.

Cclose followers of the automaker might recall hints of a three motor powertrain in the past.

When Tesla unveiled a new Roadster prototype in November 2017, Musk said it would have three motors and be able to travel a whopping 0 to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds and a top speed of 250 mph or even more. The Roadster isn’t expected to go into production until 2020.

What is new are Tesla’s plans to make this more powerful three-motor powertrain available in the Model S and Model X. And it stands to be an important option, if it does in fact materialize. The Model S has been around since 2012 and since the introduction the cheaper Model 3, sales have dipped.

And yet, Musk has said the X and S won’t be getting a major refresh. If Tesla hopes to maintain demand for either of its higher margin luxury vehicles, new trims like this plaid powertrain will be essential.

Tesla first announced Ludicrous mode in its Model S vehicles way back in July 2015. As shareholders and customers awaited the Model X to arrive, Musk unveiled several options for the company’s Model S sedan, including a lower priced version, longer battery range and “Ludicrous mode” for even faster acceleration.

Ludicrous mode, which improved acceleration by 10% to let drivers go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, came about as a result of an improved battery fuse. This new fuse, Musk explained in a blog post at the time, has its own electronics and a tiny lithium-ion battery that monitors current and protects against excessive current.

Tesla also upgraded the main pack contactor with a high-temperature space-grade superalloy instead of steel. This enabled the battery pack to remain “springy” under the heat of heavy current. In the end, the max pack output increased from 1300 to 1500 Amps.

Ludicrous was a $10,000 add on for new buyers. Tesla did reduce the price for existing Model S P85 owners for the first six months following the announcement and sold them the pack electronics upgrade needed for Ludicrous Mode for $5,000.

Musk joked in this 2015 blog post that there is “one speed faster than ludicrous, but that is reserved for the next generation Roadster in 4 years: maximum plaid.”




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Audi’s off-roading electric concept would be perfect for Tatooine – gpgmail


The all-electric concept, which has a range of up to 310 miles, is about 13.5 feet long and 7 feet wide and is outfitted with beefy 22-inch wheels. And because it’s a vehicle meant to off road, designers gave it ground clearance of 13.4 inches. This concept, if it really existed beyond the showroom floor, can ford through water more than half a meter deep. The range of the vehicle does drop on rough roads to about 155 miles, which would theoretically (if this vehicle actually existed) make wilderness travel more difficult.

The battery unit is integrated into the floor providing a spacious interior that sits four people. Glass surrounds the cabin to provide unrivaled views of the environment, whether it’s an earthly vista or the binary sunset over the fictional Tatooine desert.

The remaining exterior body is made of a mixture of high-tech steel, aluminum and carbon fiber, giving it a total weight of 3,858 pounds.

The concept vehicle is equipped with four electric motors, systems for assisted and automated driving and all-wheel drive. What you won’t find are any screens for streaming video. This concept was designed for viewing the outside world.

The interior, which uses recycled materials, is scant. There are pedals, a yoke for a steering wheel, a few buttons, and a smartphone attached to the steering column as a display and control center for vehicle functions and navigation.

The second row features seats that are designed to function like hammocks — and can be removed and used as mobile outdoor chairs.

Drones as headlights!

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the inclusion of five rotorless electrically operated drones, which serve a variety of purposes. The drones, which have matrix LED lighting, can dock on the roof to get more power with the inductive charging elements.

Audi calls these drones Audi Light Pathfinders because of their ability to fly and illuminate the path ahead. These drones, Audi says replace headlights altogether. When the vehicle is parked, the drones can be used ti light up the surrounding area.

Occupants control the drones through their smartphones in this theoretical use case. The on-board cameras can generate a video image that can be transmitted to the display in front of the driver via Wi-Fi, turning the Pathfinders into “eyes in the sky,” Audi says.


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Ford unveils lineup for Europe to outpace gas and diesel vehicle sales by 2022 – gpgmail


Ford unveiled a range of hybrid vehicles Tuesday at the Frankfurt Motor Show as part of its plan to reach sales of 1 million electrified vehicles in Europe by the end of 2022.

Ford introduced hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Mondeo wagon, Puma compact crossover, Kuga (shown below) and Explorer SUVs as well as the new Tourneo “people mover” at the show.

FORD KUGA SIDE CHARGING

But more are coming. Ford said earlier this year it plans to bring eight electrified vehicles to market this year and another nine that will be produced by 2024. One of those, an all-electric Mustang-inspired SUV, will come to market in 2020. The electric SUV with Mustang styling has a targeted range of 600 km (more than 370 miles) calculated using the World Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), and fast-charging capability.

Ford expects that electrified vehicles will account for more than 50% of its car sales in Europe by 2022, surpassing combined sales of conventional petrol and diesel models.

Ford’s upcoming portfolio is part of its broader plan to make its Europe division leaner and more profitable. The company said in June it will cut 12,000 jobs and consolidate its manufacturing footprint to a proposed 18 facilities by the end of 2020. Most of the job cuts, 2,000 of which are salaried position, will occur through voluntary separation programs.

The automaker also announced Tuesday partnerships with six energy suppliers in Europe, including Centrica in the U.K. and Ireland, to install home charging wall boxes and provide green energy tariffs. A partnership with NewMotion aims to help drivers locate and pay for charging more easily at more than 118,000 charging points in 30 countries.

“With electrification fast becoming the mainstream, we are substantially increasing the number of electrified models and powertrain options for our customers to choose from to suit their needs,” Ford of Europe President Stuart Rowley said in a statement.

Electrified doesn’t mean every vehicle will be solely powered by electricity. The term means the vehicles can use hybrid, plug-in hybrid or battery-electric technology. The showcase Tuesday supports the automaker’s earlier commitment that every new Ford passenger vehicle will include an electrified option.

Ford Europe plans

While some automakers have stuck to an all-electric strategy, Ford plans to produce a range of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles.

“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution when it comes to electrification – every customer’s circumstances and travel needs are different,” said Joerg Beyer, executive director of engineering at Ford of Europe. “Our strategy is to pair the right electrified powertrain option to the right vehicle, helping our customers make their electrified vehicle experience easy and enjoyable.”

Ford isn’t doing this alone. The automaker announced in July a partnership with Volkswagen Group that covers collaboration on electric vehicles and development of autonomous technology via a $2.6 billion investment by VW into Argo AI.

Under the EV part of the tie-up, Ford will use VW’s MEB platform, the underlying architecture for its upcoming line of passenger electric vehicles, to develop at least one fully electric car for Europe. VW debuted Monday the ID.3, the first model with MEB platform.


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Tesla Pushes Pickup Truck Unveiling to November


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Tesla has made incredible headway when it comes to selling electric sedans and sports cars, and the company is going to launch its first hatchback next year. However, Tesla’s next major vehicle will be a tougher sell. The company was expected to show off its upcoming pickup truck this summer, but now the company is looking at a November reveal at the earliest. 

Tesla launched its first electric vehicles in 2008, but things didn’t accelerate for the company until the Model S hit the roads in 2012. While the Model S is no budget offering, it was the first electric vehicle that offered solid performance and a price tag that consumers could justify in significant numbers. The Model 3 launch in 2017 has Tesla on the verge of mainstream acceptance — it has even run through its government tax credit allotment. 

CEO Elon Musk has long teased the company’s all-electric pickup truck, and Tesla even showed an early concept when it revealed the Tesla semi a while back. The vehicle, seen above, has a definite sci-fi vibe. It looks like the most significant departure from the “traditional” vehicle designs of anything Tesla has yet made. The final design could be entirely different, though.

Musk is an unusual CEO in a number of ways. He talks about financing deals that never happen, goes on podcasts to smoke marijuana, and always, always offers unrealistic timelines. That said, Tesla and SpaceX routinely come through on their promises. They just don’t do it as quickly as Musk’s exuberance would lead us to think. In the case of the Tesla pickup truck, Musk now says November is the new target. 

Sadly, that’s all the information Musk is willing to provide at this time, and that came as a reply on Twitter. Come to think of it, that’s another thing that makes Elon Musk a not-so-typical CEO; he loves to announce product news five replies deep on Twitter. In a previous teaser (yes, on Twitter), Musk said the pickup will have a “cyberpunk” vibe. In an interview last year, he said the design “stops [his] heart.”

Whenever the cardiac effects of the Tesla pickup truck might be, the company is running out of time to make good on its promises. Ford is spinning up plans to launch an electric version of its industry-leading F-150 pickup. That vehicle could hit dealers as soon as 2021. While Tesla will probably start taking reservations for the pickup as soon as it’s announced, it’ll probably be at least a few months before any of them are delivered.

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4 Automakers Agree to Cleaner California Air. Now They May Be Sued.


Is this crazy, or what: Four automakers face a Department of Justice investigation and possible lawsuit because they possibly conspired to, uh, build more fuel-efficient cars and help make California’s air cleaner. BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen are the reported targets of a Justice Department investigation into whether they skirted federal competition laws by agreeing with each other to agree to stricter emissions standards in California.

President Trump is mad at California and automakers standing in the way of his administration’s plan to roll back climate change regulations. It’s possible the DOJ is onto something if it can show the automakers agreed among themselves to act in a way that limits competition or product choices without involving the government beforehand. For instance, reducing the number of big SUVs sold there may be good for the air, but it might be seen as collusion.

States’ Rights vs. Executive Power

At a high level, the disagreement is over the rights of states to set a higher standard for higher fuel efficiency and lower air pollution–in this case, a right granted by federal laws (rather the 10th Amendment holding the “powers not delegated to the United States [are] reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”), and on the other hand, the powers of the executive branch.

The law at play here is the federal Clean Air Act, which dates to the 1960s. It has been modified over the years. It says the feds, not individual states, get to set clean air regulations. But there’s a huge loophole: Because California is the state most affected by car-driven air pollution since the end of World War II, the act lets California set more stringent standards. And it allows the other states to follow the same rules California sets (but not its own rules). Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico (model year 2011 and newer), New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington currently use California’s rules. These states represent the entire Pacific West Coast as well as the eastern seaboard from Maine to Washington, DC, and about a third of the US population. For what it’s worth, every California-rules state except Pennsylvania went for Clinton, not Trump, in the 2016 election.

In 2018, President Trump sought to roll back or freeze some fuel economy and air pollution standards. California wants to keep stricter rules. California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols, who was involved in the July agreement with the four automakers, says California’s emissions goals are achievable and they help US automakers because other countries, particularly China, hew closely to California’s rules. In other words, even if the US were to roll back standards, any automaker that wants a global footprint still has to engineer cars to meet the most stringent standards.

Trump “Enraged.” California Gov: “Political Interference.”

The President used his bully pulpit — Twitter — to excoriate BMW-Ford-Honda-VW. He called them “politically correct Automobile Companies [capitalizations his]” run by “Foolish executives” while the Golden State “will squeeze … [automakers] to a point of business ruin.”

Trump also tweeted that “Henry Ford would be very disappointed if he saw his modern-day descendants wanting to build a much more expensive car, that is far less safe and doesn’t work as well.” Pollution controls will increase vehicle cost — $3,000 a car according to Trump, or $2,100 a car by the Trump administration’s earlier statements. Factcheck.org said there’s little or no evidence that cars with higher mpg are less safe in accidents.

Lighter cars in accidents with heavier vehicles fare less well, but economy improvements could come from greater efficiencies rather than lightening a vehicle. At the same time, a lighter car does less damage to another lighter-weight car.

Consumer Reports weighed in and said Americans as a group will lose $460 billion in fuel savings “in the coming years if the federal government goes forward with plans to roll back the nation’s fuel economy and emissions standards for new cars and light-duty trucks.”

When The New York Times reported Trump was “enraged” by the audacity of California, his handlers opted to alert others in the media that The Times has correctly captured the President’s mood, according to Politico. California Gov. Gavin Newsom fired back at Trump’s “blatant political interference.”

Administration critics of the BMW-Ford-Honda-VW deal with California say the deal to raise fuel efficiency could mean the end of big SUVs and crossovers. Here, the 2019 Ford Expedition, with three rows of seats, room for eight, and EPA ratings of 18-20 mpg overall. The pact would raise efficiency to almost 50 mpg by 2026, although fuel efficiency mpg is higher than real-world mpg.

How It Came to This

The backstory dates to the early 1950s and the understanding almost 70 years ago of how smog affects California, to California clean air legislation signed by then Gov. Ronald Reagan, federal fuel economy and clean air legislation of the 1960s, and the California-US agreement thanks to the unique status of California and, in particular, the Los Angeles basin that traps smog.

California’s authority to act comes from the Clean Air Act, which was signed by President Richard Nixon.

When the Trump administration sought to ease some of the clean air standards, 17 automakers urged the White House to continue talks with California and avoid a legal battle. They warned that failure to reach agreement would lead to “an extended period of litigation and instability.” Of the 17, BMW, Ford, Honda, VW continued to discuss with California their support for strong clean-air/higher-mpg standards. They announced an agreement in late July. That’s what enraged the President.

The agreement has the four automakers agreeing to increase fuel efficiency standards by model year 2026, just six years away, to almost 50 mpg (fleet average). Note that what the government calls miles per gallon is considerably higher than the real-world mpg compliant cars would actually get. Between credits and dispensations that are the work of accountants and legislators, not engineers, a vehicle that gets roughly 35-40 mpg would be, roughly, a 50-mpg car for sake of the rules.

According to a Sept. 6 Wall Street Journal story by Timothy Puko and Ben Foldy with the tagline Politics (not Cars):

The four companies [BMW, Ford, Honda, VW] and the California Air Resources Board announced the deal in July to signal support for keeping one, nationwide emissions standard. Justice Department officials believe the agreement could effectively restrict competition by potentially limiting the types of cars and trucks the auto companies offer to consumers, according to people familiar with the department’s thinking. Such an impact of the deal—potentially cutting production of sport-utility vehicles and crossovers that burn more gasoline—could cross legal lines, the people said. Courts have prohibited such deals even if the motivation was for a public good, the people said.

The automakers would also be hurting themselves because big SUVs and pickups often have profit margins on the order of $10,000 per vehicle. To keep selling them, they’ll need to sell even more compact cars and hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs.

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Will Tesla, GM, and Nissan Get a Second Shot at EV Tax Credits?


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A proposed expansion of the $7,500 electric vehicle tax credit has become another polarizing issue, both for fiscal conservatives (“boondoggle … don’t need it”) and liberals and environmental advocates (“an important tool to slow climate change”). It is of greatest interest to Tesla and General Motors, which have already hit the cap. GM is still in the wind-down phase, with a maximum one-quarter credit, or $1,875, for the six months starting next month. Nissan will likely hit the cap in 2-3 years. Ford and Toyota may get there by 2025.

A proposal in front of Congress would expand the tax credit by another 400,000 vehicles per automaker for a total of 600,000. The maximum tax credit would become $7,000, not $7,500, and it would continue t0 apply to purely electric vehicles as well as to plug-in hybrids, but not to hybrids that only go a mile or two on battery power.

Tesla and GM are already over the current cap of 200,000 vehicles eligible for a $7,500 (max) federal tax credit. The site evadoption.com estimates Nissan will get there in 2022 or 2023.

Bill Before Congress

Tax credits for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids have been available since 2010. Tesla, by far the largest seller of EVs in the US, has maxed out is tax credit allocation, and General Motors is winding down its tax credits during a 12-month phaseout period. (See below for more details.)

In April, Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Susan Collins (R-ME), along with Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI), introduced the Driving America Forward Act that would extend the phaseout of the federal EV tax credit.  The legislation, if enacted, could include cars purchased between the phaseouts for Tesla and GM. Or not. Or it could be a partial credit, as people bought with little expectation of getting tax credit money. (But legislation with no provision for interim-period credits would drive EV sales close to zero in the months before passage.)

Proponents say the tax credits help drive buyers toward cleaner electrified vehicles during the period when battery technology is still costly. They note the government subsidizes other forms of energy-reducing transportation such as buses and commuter rail. There are subsidies for rebates for efficient houses, furnaces, appliances, and even light bulbs. (Some LED bulbs after energy company rebates are little more than $1 a bulb.)

While critics blame President Obama, the tax credit was passed in the George W. Bush administration, in the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008.

“Washington has been underwriting EVs for nearly 30 years,” a Sept. 3 Wall Street Journal charges.

“It’s hard to imagine a more blatant income transfer for the well-to-do,” says a Sept. 3 Wall Street Journal, adding, “Washington has been underwriting EVs for nearly 30 years.” Critics of EV tax credits include people who say the government shouldn’t be in the business of shaping buying decisions. Others — fewer each year — say climate change/global warming is a hoax. The foes got a boost this week with a Wall Street Journal lead editorial, “Subsidize My Electric Car, Please,” that claimed the tax credits mainly benefit the wealthy and that market forces should decide the fate of EVs.  Separately, Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) sent a letter to GOP senators urging them not to extend the EV tax credit.

Pro-EV credits people say the WSJ editorial made assertions that bear Snopes-style fact-checking, such as that “Washington has been underwriting EVs for nearly 30 years” and claiming it’s a “blatant income transfer for the well-to-do [of EVs, which have] a starting price of around $36,000.” Facts are slippery things. The feds have underwritten energy research (many kinds) for decades, but the first EV/PHEV credits weren’t until 2010. The average vehicle in 2018 sold for about $38,000 (per Kelly Blue Book), including options. Also, while four in five EVs sell to people with household incomes over $100,000 (in 2016), many were higher-priced Teslas like the Model S and X. Also, the majority of EV transactions are leases where it’s hard to determine income.

A more valuable piece of information would be to know the income of people acquiring mainstream EVs such as the Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen e-Golf, Chevrolet Bolt EV, and Hyundai Kona Electric.

If legislation does pass — and it is not currently being fast-tracked — it’s possible the backers might agree to a reduced or zero tax credit for costly EVs. If somebody buys or leases a Porsche Taycan EV — starting price $152,000 — it’s safe to say they are not in the mainstream of American wage-earners. Legislation also faces uncertain odds of being signed by the President. EV credits flow especially to staunch blue states such as California more than, say, West Virginia (the reddest state of the 2016 election). For tax credit backers, the long game may be waiting to see which way the nation votes in 2020. If the Senate, House, and President all go Democratic, the odds of a tax credit reinstatement are higher. The winning arguments may revolve around climate change issues and supporting new technologies.

For 2019, however, the No. 1 automotive/climate change discussion revolves around how much control California and a dozen other states have in setting their own pollution rules. For decades, California, because of its unique pollution issues especially in the Los Angeles basin, has had the choice of following federal air pollution regulations or setting its own. Thirteen other states have chosen to use California’s emissions rules: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

In July, four automakers cut a deal with California to adopt even tougher tailpipe emission rules. That effectively snubbed President Trump’s goal of a standards rollback.

Rules for the EV Tax Credit

The tax credit for an EV has several rules. They’re not hard to understand once you grasp it’s a credit on taxes you’d otherwise owe. It’s not a check, and it’s not always $7,500. To qualify for a tax credit:

  • It must be an electrified vehicle with a battery of at least 4 kilowatt-hours capacity, which is another way of saying hybrids such as the Toyota Prius do not qualify. Also, it must be capable of being charged by an external electric source, meaning it can’t just be recharged by the combustion engine or brake regeneration. It can’t weigh more than 14,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (the latter not a problem for passenger cars or even the biggest SUVs or pickups).
  • The full credit, $7,500, requires at least a 16 kWh battery. Cars with 4-16 kWh get partial credit. See the EPA fuel economy site for specific-car info.
  • Traditional hybrids already had their own tax-credit program. It’s gone, it’s not likely to come back, and hybrids sometimes cost only $1,000 more than gasoline-only versions. That means there’s little need for a tax credit, since the buyer may well earn back the cost delta over a couple of years.
  • It’s a tax credit, not a tax refund or other check from Uncle Sam. This is good because a tax credit is worth more than money back, on which you’d then typically owe taxes. But you have to owe taxes to get a tax credit and you have to owe taxes in the calendar year you bought the car. If you want a $7,500 credit, you need to owe $7,500 in taxes (over the course of the year, not the extra you might owe April 15.) It is not good if you don’t owe taxes, but then, most Americans would be happy to trade places with you assuming you’ve figured how to not pay taxes and still afford a new car.
  • The tax credit accrues to whoever bought the car. If you leased the car, the credit goes to the leasing company (or whoever holds title) and you should see a $7,500 offset in the implied priced of the car. If you didn’t get it, find someplace else to lease.
  • A dealer demo doesn’t count when you buy it almost-new, but the dealer should be figuring the credit into what it sells the car for. There is one credit per qualifying car, and it applies to the first purchaser.
  • When an automaker reaches 200,000 cumulative sales (counting from January 2010), the tax credit phases out, gradually:
    – The quarter that automaker hits 200,000 doesn’t count, nor does the quarter following. If an automaker hit 200,000 this month (September 2019), the third and four quarters would be full-tax-credit quarters.
    –  The following two quarters, the buyer is eligible for a half-credit, or up to $3,750.
    – The next two quarters, it’s a one-quarter credit, or up to $1,875.
    – Then the credit goes away (unless The Congress acts).

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NTSB: Autopilot Design Flaw, Inattentive Driver Led to Tesla-Firetruck Crash


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The NTSB said a combination of a  flaw in Tesla’s highly regarded (certainly by Tesla) Autopilot system, plus driver inattention, caused a Tesla Model S to slam into an on-call firetruck parked on a California freeway in January 2018. No one was injured, but the 2014 Tesla Model S P85 needed more than Dent Wizard repairs.

The National Transportation Safety Board said:

[T]he probable cause for the crash was the Tesla driver’s lack of response to the fire truck parked in his lane, due to his inattention and overreliance on the car’s advanced driver assistance system; the Tesla’s Autopilot design which permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task; and the driver’s use of the system in ways inconsistent with guidance and warnings from Tesla.

An NTSB timeline of the January 2018 crash in which a Tesla Model S rear-ended Engine 42 of the Culver City, CA, fire department. Orange segments show when Autopilot was engaged and the driver was hands-off the wheel. The crash is the right side of the timeline.

The NTSB recreated the 66-minute trip that ended in the crash (graphic above), with the help of Tesla’s onboard data recorder and various sensors. It found the driver was hands-off (on and off) for 12 of the 13 minutes leading up to the crash. The driver is supposed to always have hands at least lightly on the wheel to allow safe Level 2 self-driving. The latter means the car stays centered in its lane (if there are no sharp curves, this is almost never a problem on interstates) and maintains a set speed and/or paces the car in front. Most drivers of  Level 2 cars soon learn they can get away with giving the steering a little jiggle every 10-15 seconds and in some cases, even less often.

Here’s what the NTSB said in this week’s preliminary finding (NTSB accident ID HWY18FH004):

The NTSB’s investigation revealed the crash trip lasted about 66 minutes, covering about 30 miles, with the “Autopilot” system engaged for a total of 29 minutes, 4 seconds. Hands were detected on the Tesla’s steering wheel for only 78 seconds of that 29-minute, 4-second period. For most of the time the system was engaged, it did not detect driver -applied steering wheel torque (hands on the steering wheel). The “Autopilot” system issued several hands-off alerts during the last 13 minutes, 48 seconds prior to the crash and was engaged continuously during those nearly 14 final minutes of the crash trip. In the last 3 minutes, 41 seconds before the crash the system did not detect driver-applied steering wheel torque.

During most of the driver’s operation with the “Autopilot” engaged, the system detected and followed a lead vehicle, one that was ahead of the Tesla. In the 15 seconds prior to the crash the system detected and followed two different lead vehicles. Data show that 3 to 4 seconds before the crash, the lead vehicle changed lanes to the right, a movement commonly referred to as a “cut-out scenario” in testing and research. When the Traffic-Aware Cruise Control no longer detected a lead vehicle, the system accelerated the Tesla from about 21 mph toward the preset cruise speed of 80 mph, which had been set by the driver about 5 minutes before the crash. The “Autopilot” system detected a stationary object in the Tesla’s path about 0.49 seconds before the crash and the forward collision warning activated, displaying a visual warning and sounding an auditory warning. By the moment of impact, the Tesla had accelerated to 30.9 mph.

In simple terms, Autopilot finally recognized the firetruck when the two vehicles were 40-45 feet apart (basic math: a vehicle at 30 mph covers 44 feet per second), about two car lengths. The 47-year-old male driver told the NTSB he bought the Tesla in part because he could use the HOV lane to get to work in LA from his home in Woodland Hills (median home price: $815,000) without taking on a passenger. He was, however, accompanied by a cup of coffee and a bagel, but can’t remember if he was drinking coffee or eating the bagel when the car struck the firetruck and the airbag went off. (Memo to NTSB: Check the shirt for spatter marks.) He bought the Model S used, did not real the manuals, but did have the car safety-checked and says the Tesla staff explained the workings of Autopilot.

As a result of the accident, the report says, the NTSB went to the makers of Level 2-autonomy cars in the US and asked what they were doing to develop apps to “more effectively sense the driver’s level of engagement and alert the driver when the engagement is lacking while automated vehicle control systems are in use.” It went to VW Group (which includes Audi), BMW, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and Volvo. According to the NTSB, “All manufacturers except Tesla have responded to the NTSB.”

So, while the driver was not paying fullest attention, the blame for the crash, according to the NTSB, also goes to the “Tesla Autopilot’s design … which permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task … and the driver’s use of the system in ways inconsistent with guidance and warnings from the manufacturer.”

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Porsche Taycan EV Sedan Debuts: $152,250 and Up, 670 hp, 0-60 in 3 seconds


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Game on, Tesla. The Porsche Taycan EV sedan unveiled Wednesday (Sept. 4) in advance of the Frankfurt auto show is a vehicle of superlatives, a low-slung sedan with speed, handling, and most of all, the Porsche name. It will cost half again as much as a Tesla Model S Performance model, a plus for early buyers with deep pockets who want to show off, and later on a challenge because there’s a limit to how many super-costly cars the market can absorb.

According to the trio of worldwide announcements — in China, in Europe and in Niagara Falls, Ontario — the Taycan Turbo will be $152,250 in the US (including freight), while the Taycan Turbo S will be $186,350 with launch-special pricing, after which they go up an additional $2,410 and $2,610. The “Turbo” part of the name is a misnomer (the Taycans are electric-only vehicles) but why not: There’s enough BS already floating around the high end of the EV business. What’s a little more among friends?

The Porsche Taycan, here in its side view, looks like the Panamera.

Mission E Comes to Life

The 2020 Porsche Taycan evolved from the concept car called the Mission E that was unveiled at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show. The Mission E-now-Taycan is Porsche’s first electric except for a couple dating back a century. In silhouette, it looks a lot like the Porsche Panamera sedan.

The Taycan is an all-wheel-drive vehicle with a motor for the front axle and a second for the rear axle. The Taycan uses an 800-volt electrical architecture with the possibility of lightning-fast recharges at the right charge-points. It is the same electrical architecture as the Audi e-Tron GT. Porsche says it takes just 22.5 minutes to run up the battery from 5 percent to 80 percent with a DC fast charger that produces 270 kW of power, under ideal conditions. (Tesla says it takes 20 minutes to charge to 50 percent, using a 150-kW Supercharger.) Charge times can be reduced if the owner sets a departure time into their phone app and the battery will be warmed or chilled, depending on ambient conditions, prior to charging. US-bound Taycans will get free charging (the first 30 minutes) for three years through Electrify America.

Inside, there’s a 16.8-inch LCD instrument panel, a center stack LCD smaller than Tesla’s, and an optional passenger-facing LCD display for entertainment. It can’t be seen by the driver. As on the Panamera, the center console is chock full of gauges and switches and extends almost to the back seat.

The Taycan and solar panels.

Porsche Taycan vs. Tesla Model S

Both the Taycan and Model S are low-slung midsize sedans with two seating rows and four doors. Many dimensions are similar: 195.4 inches long (Porsche) versus 195.7 (Tesla Model S), and width is about 77 inches for both. But Tesla is markedly taller, 56.9 inches versus 54.3 inches, with a longer wheelbase (116.5 versus 114.2 inches) for a smoother ride. Tesla also has more trunk space, 28.4 cubic feet rear and front combined versus 16.8 cubic feet. If you’re going on vacation, the two are competitive — if you, as a Porsche owner, use FedEx second-day for your golf clubs.

Looking at the high ends of the line, the Taycan Turbo S battery is 93.4 kWh, the Tesla Model S Performance is 100 kWh. Both battery packs are under the floor. Porsche projects a range of 265 miles using the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure) methodology versus 365 miles for Tesla. (WLTP figures are about 10 percent more optimistic than EPA numbers.)  Car and Driver estimates 260-270 miles for the Turbo and 225-250 for the Turbo S.

Porsche rates the Taycan at 617 hp (751 hp for a 2.5-second overboost acceleration) while Tesla is rated at around 760 hp. Porsche claims 3.0-3.5 seconds 0-60 mph for the Turbo and less than 3 seconds for the Turbo S, both versus 2.4 for Tesla’s Model S Performance. Porsche’s top speed is 162 mph (260 kph); Tesla’s is 161.

Porsche has the bigger instrument panel LCD, Tesla has the bigger center stack display, and Porsche has an optional LCD for passenger entertainment and control. Tesla has semi-autonomous (Level 2) Autopilot self-driving.

One difference is modernity: The Tesla Model S interior feels dated. It has been around since 2012 with continual improvements and is still the same basic car.

Porsche Taycan cockpit

Why Porsche Did It: The Future Is Electric

From the perspective of the US, the idea of climate change may be still in doubt — in some minds, at least. Thus the comparatively lower interest in electrified vehicles here. The long distances across the US are more suited currently to a combustion-engine cross-country drive: From Stuttgart, home of Porsche, to Moscow is less in kilometers (2,400) than from Silicon Valley to Manhattan is in miles (3,000). But the world’s automakers are convinced they have to electrify, which means more EVs and more charging points every year. And they also know that nothing provides performance like an electric-motor vehicle.

Porsche Taycan instrument panel: 16.8-inch LCD.

Volkswagen last fall said its next generation of combustion engines, rolling out in 2026, will be its last new combustion engines ever. (With modifications, that could still be two more decades.) Porsche is part of Volkswagen.

Since the Taycan price is high, there’s already talk (among analysts and journalists) that Porsche might do a rear-drive model only to bring the price further below $100,000. To some, that would be the ideal commuter car, since it’d be eligible for an HOV sticker.

Tesla legitimized the EV market. Porsche adds an honored nameplate. Interest in high-performance EVs may grow the market and help those automakers already with great vehicles that haven’t yet caught the public eye, particularly the Jaguar I-Pace. With Porsche coming to market along with Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW can’t be far behind.

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Here’s every angle of the Porsche Taycan Turbo S in pictures – gpgmail


Four years ago, Porsche showed off a concept that would mark a turning point — in investment, R&D and product trajectory — for the German automaker. The reaction to the Mission E, as it was called then, prompted Porsche AG to push forward with a plan to not only develop one electric car, but commit billions of dollars towards electrification.

On Wednesday, in a debut held in three countries simultaneously, the world finally got to see the first fruits of its strategy.

gpgmail was in Niagara Falls for the splashy reveal. We have all the details of the two Taycan models introduced Wednesday including the pricing, power and performance stats. And of course, we have a side-by-side comparison of the Taycan versus a Tesla Model S. We even provided a timeline (along with photos) of Porsche’s development  of the Taycan.

Now here are more photos of the Taycan Turbo S on stage in Canada.

 


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