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Two new factories for Tesla

Tesla’s Fremont factory

Tesla will be announcing locations for two new Tesla factories in a couple of months.

Currently, Tesla has one factory which was previously utilised by General Motors and Toyota. Located in Fremont, California, the automaker makes use of this factory to build its Model S, Model X, and Model 3 electric vehicles (EVs). According to CEO Elon Musk, the factory is “jammed to the gills.” 

Tesla is now searching for a new manufacturing location to begin operations within the next two years. This plant will be responsible for the production of Tesla’s upcoming vehicle, the Model Y. Depending on the size of the plant, it may also be used to either broaden current production numbers.

Musk also brought to light a second Gigafactory that the company plans to build in China. The existing Gigafactory located in Reno, Nevada has a primary focus of manufacturing batteries and the motors shared between the Model 3 and Tesla Semi. 

It was also mentioned that all future Tesla plants would be manufacturing both vehicles and batteries in the same facility. This is unlike the currently established model, where Tesla must transport its batteries over 320 kilometres from the Gigafactory to its Fremont facility.

Tesla’s production numbers of the Model 3 have been under scrutiny over the last several months, as the automaker struggled to meet production goals. An increase in space will allow Tesla to build a more robust platform for the production of their fleet of electric vehicles. 

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Uber looks to the skies

Uber has launched a ‘flying car’ project called Uber Elevate, which it hopes will be ready to take off in the US by 2020.

In a white paper published in 2016, Uber had said it would create a network of on-demand, fully electric aircraft that take off and land vertically.

“Essentially what we want to create (through Uber Elevate) is not only an Uber on the ground but also an Uber in the sky,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told a press event in New Delhi last month.

“They will be safe, they will be quieter, we are talking to manufacturers right now, and we are talking to cities about how you have to build this technology to be safe, what kind of air route can you create, from city centres to airports etc. Ultimately it is very much in the interest of a number of cities to solve congestion problems and create high-speed quarters for travel within their cities,” says Khosrowshahi.

This week the technology giant plans to host officials including Donald Trump’s transport chief, and the head of America’s airspace watchdog, at a summit in Los Angeles, at which it hopes to establish itself as a leader in urban flight. Uber has already hired senior Nasa and aerospace employees to deliver chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi’s plans.

The projected time frame for delivering the flying vehicles and for building physical and technological networks to support them is a mere five years. They would initially be human-piloted vehicles–but per Uber’s sales pitch, would evolve into fully autonomous ride-sharing flyers. 

Uber is not alone in the race. At least 19 companies are also developing flying-car plans, according to The Verge. These include manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus, and small startups like Kitty Hawk, who were testing their flying vehicles in Christchurch, New Zealand earlier this year. Meanwhile, Uber has made significant strides in partnering with a handful of aircraft manufacturers, real estate firms, and regulators to better its chances of developing a fully functional, on-demand flying taxi service. 



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GM using 3D-printed parts

GM is using new generative design software technology from Autodesk.

General Motors (GM) has announced that it will be using 3D-printed parts to achieve its goals in a bid to add alternative-fuel vehicles to its global product offerings, according to Reuters.

“This disruptive technology provides tremendous advancements in how we can design and develop components for our future vehicles to make them lighter and more efficient, said GM Vice President Ken Kelzer, Global Vehicle Components and Subsystems. “When we pair the design technology with manufacturing advancements such as 3D printing, our approach to vehicle development is completely transformed and is fundamentally different to co-create with the computer in ways we simply couldn’t have imagined before.”

GM is currently working closely with leading design software company, Autodesk Inc., who demonstrated a 3D-printed seat bracket made of stainless steel and developed with the technology last week. 

 Using regular manufacturing methods, the seat bracket would need around eight different components and several suppliers. When designed with the help of the new technology, it consisted of a single part. It also turned out to be 20 percent stronger and 40 percent lighter. It looked like “a mix between abstract art and science fiction movie.” Along with reducing tooling cost and material waste, it will also help reduce the number of suppliers required by GM.

The 3D-printing based manufacturing industry is working toward mass production and trying to address issues with “repeatability and robustness,” said Bob Yancey, Autodesk’s director of manufacturing. Autodesk has expertise in exploring different variations of a part design using the cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI)-based algorithms.

GM has used 3D printers for prototyping for years, but Kevin Quinn, the automaker’s director of additive design and manufacturing, said within a year or so GM expects these new 3D-printed parts to appear in high-end, motorsports applications. 

The leading automaker announced last year it plans to launch 20 new electric and fuel cell models globally by the year 2023. 

The ability to print lightweight parts is also a gamechanger for the electric vehicle (EV) industry. With consumer concerns over the limited range of electric vehicles a major obstacle to their mass adoption, making them lighter improves fuel efficiency and could help extend that range.

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Ex VW CEO charged

Martin Winterkorn, VW’s CEO.

The indictment of the former chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, who resigned promptly after the emissions scandal erupted in September 2015, significantly raises the stakes for Volkswagen.

The charge contradicts Volkswagen’s unwavering insistence that no management members were involved. It also weakens the company’s defence in related proceedings by shareholders — potentially adding billions of dollars to the scandal’s already monumental cost.

The New York Times reports that the US President, Donald Trump has been attempting to water down auto emissions standards, however, the indictment indicates that the Justice Department continues to pursue an investigation of the German carmaker that began during the Obama administration. 

The accusations against Winterkorn also raises further questions about the thoroughness of Volkswagen’s internal investigation of the wrongdoing. 

“Volkswagen continues to cooperate with investigations by the Department of Justice into the conduct of individuals,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “It would not be appropriate to comment on individual cases.”

”The indictment of Winterkorn alleges that he was informed of VW’s diesel emissions cheating in May 2014 and again in July 2015,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “The indictment further alleges that Winterkorn, after having been clearly informed of the emissions cheating, agreed with other senior VW executives to continue to perpetrate the fraud and deceive U.S. regulators.

The scandal has continued to plague the automaker. Last month, CEO Matthias Müller stepped down from the CEO role three years after replacing Winterkorn.

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Germany overtakes Norway

Germany overtakes Norway as Europe’s top market for electric vehicles (EVs).

Sales of EVs increased by 70 per cent in Germany to 17,574 cars in the first quarter, nudging ahead of Norway for the first time, according to data from European industry association ACEA. The figure includes full-electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

VW, Daimler and BMW are retooling their assembly lines in response to stricter European regulations on combustion engines and the fallout from the 2015 VW emissions-cheating scandal.

While consumers have turned away from diesel — especially in Germany — automakers are depending on customers to embrace electrified powertrains if they are to recover the massive investments they are making.

Across Europe, sales of EVs advanced 41 per cent, with full-electric cars up 35 per cent and plug-in hybrids up 47 per cent, while diesel in the EU dropped 17 per cent.

Once rare in Germany, Teslas have become increasingly common on the streets of cities such as Munich, alongside other fully-electric models like BMW’s i3 and the Nissan Leaf, according to Automotive News.

While the Germans have an advantage in Europe, their next challenge as the market for EVs expands will be to prove to consumers in the U.S. and China that their products are superior. Elon Musk’s recent troubles with Model 3 production issues and quality reviews, may have opened a door.

“Tesla’s golden age is nearing its end and it will become a product among many,” said Juergen Pieper, a Frankfurt-based analyst with Bankhaus Metzler to Automotive News. “As the consumer pool for electric cars grows, tolerance over quality issues may be lower too as it’s less about the early adopters who went for Teslas based on novelty.”

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SUVs provide momentum

The sales of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) continued to provide strong momentum to Australia’s new car market last month, with total April sales down slightly on last year but year-to-date sales running 3.3 per cent ahead of 2017.

Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

Total industry sales for April were 82,930, which is 0.2 per cent down on the same month last year, according to data released today by the industry’s official statistical service VFACTS.

However, the year-to-date total across the industry of 374,468 sales is viewed as a strong return, bolstered by the continued build in the SUV and light commercial (LC) vehicle categories.

SUVs accounted for 43.6 per cent of the April market, passenger cars for 33.2 per cent and light commercial vehicles 19.4 per cent.

Among the segments, SUVs were the stand out performers. Comparing last month with April 2017, the sale of small SUVs rose 33.3 per cent, medium SUVs climbed 12.8 per cent, large SUVs lifted 3.7 per cent and upper large SUVs surged 20.6 per cent.

SUV sales to private and business customers showed strong April gains, up 15.3 per cent and 17.5 per cent respectively. Private light commercial sales dipped by 13.6 per cent, while light commercial business sales fell 3.6 per cent during April

Among the passenger car segments, micro-cars had another good month with a sales gain of 8.6 per cent.

The steady performance of the national April market came despite NSW, historically Australia’s largest state for sales, showing a fall in monthly volume of 5.5 per cent. However, four states and territories produced gains with Western Australia climbing 7.3 per cent, South Australia up by 3.5 per cent, Victoria by 2.1 per cent and Queensland by 1.9 per cent.

The Chief Executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber, said that although April was the first month of 2018 in which the industry had not bettered its results of last year, the industry was tracking strongly.

“There’s good reason to be confident about how sales nationally are tracking given we are a third of the way through the calendar year,” Mr Weber said.

“The market dynamic has changed with the growth of SUVs but brands have adapted quickly to that change and the new products coming into those growth segments clearly have strong consumer appeal.”

The Toyota Hilux light commercial was the top-seller during April with 3,596 sales, followed by the Toyota Corolla with 2,979, then the Ford Ranger (2,796), Mazda3 (2,261) and the Toyota LandCruiser (2,018).

Toyota was the April market leader with a 20.1 per cent share, followed by Mazda (9.3 per cent), Hyundai (8.6%), Mitsubishi (6.6%) and Ford (5.8%).

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JLR prepares for electric future

In preparation for an electrified future, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is replacing its director for manufacturing, the firm said today.

JLR operates three factories in its home market but is building its first electric car, the I-PACE, in Austria.

The Indian-owned automaker’s Chief Executive Ralf Speth told Reuters earlier this year he is waiting for more information on trading conditions after Brexit before he decides whether to make electric cars in Britain.

On Thursday, he said Executive Director for Manufacturing Wolfgang Stadler is retiring from the business, to be replaced by Director of Quality and Automotive Safety Grant McPherson from July 1.

“He will oversee the ongoing investment into our UK and global manufacturing, transforming our plants to enable Jaguar Land Rover’s exciting electrified future,” Speth said in a statement to Reuters.

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Tesla beats expectations

Tesla’s Fremont factory

Tesla reported its Q1 2018 earnings today, posting adjusted losses of $3.35 per share with revenues of $3.4 billion (NZ$4.86 billion).

This is a win for Tesla, as analysts polled by FactSet expected Tesla to report a loss of $3.48 a share with revenues of $3.22 billion, up from $2.7 billion a year ago. Last quarter, Tesla reported revenues of $3.29 billion. Tesla also ended Q1 with $2.7 billion in cash.

However, the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer posted a record US$709.6 million (NZ$1.014 billion) net loss in the first quarter and burned through US$745.3 million (NZ$1.065 billion) in cash while struggling to crank out large numbers of its Model 3 mass-market electric car.

The loss raises questions about the company’s future and whether it will be able to pay all of its bills by early next year without more borrowing or another round of stock sales.

Tesla also provided some updates to its Model 3 production, stating that they have managed to produce 2,270 cars per week for three straight weeks in April.

“Even at this stage of the ramp, Model 3 is already on the cusp of becoming the best-selling mid-sized premium sedan in the US, and our deliveries continue to increase,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk and CFO Deepak Ahuja wrote in a letter to investors.

“Consumers have clearly shown that electric vehicles are simply more desirable when priced on par with their internal combustion engine competitors while offering better technology, performance and user experience.”

Tesla expects to hit its ideal production rate of 5,000 Model 3 units per week within two months and plans to increase that goal to 10,000 shortly after that.

“In the end, this is all about having factories that are producing the world’s highest quality cars as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible, and with as close to zero injuries as we can possibly get,” the investor letter states. “Our automation strategy is key to this and we are as committed to it as ever.”

Assuming Tesla hits its 5,000 Model 3 cars produced per week goal, Tesla expects to be profitable in Q3 and Q4, excluding non-cash, stock-based compensation. Tesla also expects to achieve full GAAP profitability in Q3 and Q4 as well.

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BMW linked to fatal accident

An electrical fault with a range of BMWs has been linked to a fatal accident after a British man crashed and subsequently died after he was forced to avoid a broken-down BMW with no lights or power on a dark A-road.

The ongoing inquest into the death found that BMW was aware of the issue, which involved overheating battery cables leading to a loss of power and lights. The fault affected some models of BMW 1 Series, 3 Series and Z4, and prompted a recall in 2013 of over 500,000 vehicles in the USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

The court heard that BMW didn’t initially issue a recall for the fault in the UK, as it was not felt to be “critical” because drivers would still be able to brake and steer if their cars were affected, however, their brake, head and hazard warning lights would not function.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the government organisation responsible for monitoring car safety recalls, told BMW at a meeting in 2016: “we do not want a fatality”. In February 2017, two months after Mr Gurung’s death, BMW recalled 36,000 affected cars in the UK. 

The lawyer representing Mr Gurung’s family at the inquest told Mark Hill, BMW’s supplier quality engineer that: “If someone’s vehicle suffers a total electrical failure on a motorway or on an A-road they lose the ability to use their brake lights or hazard lights and that gives rise to serious injury or death. No lights are the biggest concern. Another road user cannot see the powerless car.”

Hill said: “It is not a safety defect because a prior warning [such as the car not starting] is given to the user in the majority of cases.” He added the fault: “Is deemed not critical because the driver is still able to steer the car and brake the car. The car is still under control.”

A statement released by BMW said: “We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family of Mr Gurung. As this matter is still the subject of court proceedings, we are unable to comment specifically on it.”

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Tesla hit with lawsuit

Tesla vs. Nikola – Source: Teslarati

Nikola Motor Company has filed a lawsuit against Tesla alleging they copied patents from their all-hydrogen truck. Nikola is seeking NZ$2.8 billion in damages in return.

“It’s patently obvious there is no merit to this lawsuit,” a spokesperson for Tesla told The Verge. 

A representative for Nikola Motors said in a statement to The Verge that “[w]e are not commenting because it is in the courts. The lawsuit speaks for itself.”

Nikola was founded in 2014, and the company showed off its first a hydrogen-electric semi truck in May 2016. 

The complaint filed by Nikola lays out a number of claims that viewed together, the company says prove Tesla copied from the startup’s patents. Nikola points to the trucks’ front fenders, wraparound windshields, mid-entry doors, aerodynamic fuselage for similarities.

Nikola also claims that a recruiter for Tesla, Aaron Hoyos, tried to poach Nikola’s chief engineer just a few months after the startup unveiled its hydrogen semi truck and that this is evidence that Tesla was aware of Nikola’s unique design features.

Nikola says that Tesla’s truck is causing “confusion in the market,” and claims that “Tesla’s infringement has harmed Nikola’s ability to attract investors and partners because investors can now partner with Tesla to have an alternative fuel semi-truck.”

Nikola announced that it will refund all current reservation-holders’ deposits, without changing their place in line for its hydrogen fuel-cell semi trucks.

The company said deposits would be refunded within 60 days, and noted that “we have never used a dollar of deposit money in the history of our company.” New reservations won’t require a deposit, the company said.


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Hybrid VW golf confirmed

48-V belt-integrated starter generator, 48-V battery and DC/DC converter

Volkswagen has confirmed an upcoming hybrid model of the eighth-generation Golf. 

Due to be revealed in 2019, the next-generation Golf will be offered with an all-new 48-V mild hybrid option that will work alongside Volkswagen’s current 12-V system.

Volkswagen already offers a completely electric e-Golf, which is currently one of New Zealand’s best selling electric vehicles (EVs), however, the next-generation Golf will be the first time Volkswagen use the new hybrid option, which will be utilised in further models.

Volkswagen will combine a combustion engine with a new 48-V belt-integrated starter generator and a 48-V battery. The mild hybrid system will enable the new Golf to ‘coast’ while the combustion engine is completely switched off, saving up to 0.3 litres of fuel over 100 kilometres while promising improved dynamics and convenience with an “electric boost.”

“Electrifying conventional drives will enable us to further reduce consumption and emissions while also increasing dynamics and convenience”, says Dr Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management for Volkswagen Passenger Cars with responsibility for Technical Development.

Welsch continues: “We are starting this extensive electrification campaign with Volkswagen’s best-selling vehicle to date – the Golf. Our newly developed, cost-effective 48-V mild hybrid will pave the way for introducing this type of technology to the mainstream”.

Volkswagen states that the 48-V system enables a considerably higher amount of energy to be saved than the 12-V system, e.g. via recuperation when the vehicle brakes. This high level of voltage enables a number of operations, including the actuation of the 48-V belt-integrated starter generator.

The generator performs the role of alternator and starter. At the same time, it functions as a small, lightweight electric motor that immediately increases drive torque upon start-up by means of an electric boost. The power of the generator is transferred via a belt. The generator also starts the combustion engine – which is switched off as much as possible while the vehicle is moving.

Welsch continues: “The basic interaction of different energy sources – electricity, petrol, diesel and natural gas – represents a paradigm shift at Volkswagen. For the first time, the company will simultaneously offer product lines such as the Golf with conventional, electrically assisted drives as well as product lines such as the I.D. with purely electrical drives in the future.”

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