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Mazda and Toyota establish new company

Mazda Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation have established a new joint-venture company “Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A.” that will produce vehicles in Huntsville, Alabama starting in 2021.

The new plant will have the capacity to produce 150,000 units of Mazda’s crossover model that will be newly introduced to the North American market and 150,000 units of the Toyota Corolla.

The facility is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs. Toyota and Mazda are investing $1.6 billion towards this project with equal funding contributions.

“We hope to make a plant that will hold a special place in the heart of the local community for many, many years,” said Mazda’s Executive Officer Masashi Aihara, who will serve as President.

“The new plant, which will be Toyota’s 11th manufacturing facility in the U.S., not only represents our continuous commitment in this country, but also is a key factor in improving our competitiveness of manufacturing in the U.S.,” said Hironori Kagohashi, executive general manager of Toyota.

“We are committed to realising a highly competitive plant and producing vehicles with the best quality for customers by combining Toyota and Mazda’s manufacturing expertise and leveraging the joint venture’s synergies. Based on this competitiveness, we will make every effort to becoming a best-in-town plant that will be loved by our hometown,” he added.

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Significant milestone in autonomous driving

A world first autonomous driving initiative has launched which will ultimately see 100 families testing fully autonomous vehicles on public roads in Sweden.

Autonomous Driving Brain in Volvo’s XC90 Drive Me car.

The first two families from the Gothenburg area have received the specially equipped Volvo XC90 SUVs with which they will support the Drive Me project. Three more families will follow early next year, and over the next four years up to 100 people will be involved.

Drive Me is an autonomous driving experiment that now includes families in Sweden and will be extended to London and China in the future. The goal is to provide Volvo engineers with customer feedback for its first model with Level 4 autonomy, which means the car can drive itself but still has a steering wheel and pedals so that the driver can take control when needed.

The families will contribute to Drive Me with invaluable data by allowing engineers to monitor their everyday interactions and developments with the car, as they drive to work, take the children to school or go shopping for groceries.

Volvo’s NZ general manager, Coby Duggan says the human-centric trial is unique as it involves families driving in a real world environment.

“The Drive Me project is a significant milestone in the development of autonomous driving technology and one that will one day help make roads safer for Kiwi families,” he says.

Duggan says Volvo expects to have a fully autonomous car commercially available by 2021 and the data which is collected in the Drive Me trial will play a crucial role in the development of these vehicles.

The Simonovski family, one of the first two families from the Gothenburg area to have received the specially equipped Volvo XC90 SUV.

Alex Hain, one of the first people to receive their vehicle says the opportunity to be part of the trial was too good to pass up.

“It feels great to be a part of this project. We get the chance to be part of developing technology that will one day save lives,” says Hain.

During these first stages, the families will keep their hands on the steering wheel and supervise the driving at all times when using their cars. But, over time, all participants in the Drive Me project will gradually be introduced to more advanced levels of assisted driving, after receiving special training.

Even then, testing these more advanced cars will initially take place in controlled environments with supervision from a Volvo safety expert. No technology will ever be introduced if there is any question over its safety.

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Volvo to supply autonomous vehicles to Uber

Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars

Volvo has signed a non-exclusive agreement with Uber to sell tens of thousands of vehicles with autonomous driving capabilities.

“We’re thrilled to expand our partnership with Volvo,” said Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of auto alliances.

“This new agreement puts us on a path towards mass produced self-driving vehicles at scale.”

The vehicles are developed with Volvo’s fully modular, in-house developed Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). SPA is one of the most advanced car architectures in the world. It is currently being used on Volvo’s 90 series cars and the new XC60 midsized SUV.

The agreement enables a strategic partnership between both parties and marks a chapter in the merging of Silicon Valley-based technology companies and international car makers.

“The automotive industry is being disrupted by technology and Volvo chooses to be an active part of that disruption,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive.

“Our aim is to be the supplier of choice for AD ride-sharing service providers globally. Today’s agreement with Uber is a primary example of that strategic direction.”

By working together Volvo and Uber’s engineering teams have developed the XC90 SUV, which incorporated all necessary safety, redundancy and core autonomous driving technologies.

The autonomous cars are to be sold between 2019 and 2021.

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Musk unveils world’s fastest production car

Using the launch of the new electric semi-truck, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the new Tesla Roadster, the world’s fastest production car.

Roadster open convertible – Tesla Motors

Musk told the crowd at the company’s design studio, “I won’t say what the actual speed is, but it’s above 250 mph.”

“The point of this is to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars.”

While no specific details have been formally released, Musk showed off a prototype of the pricey new vehicle, a convertible which he said will go from zero to 100 kmh in 1.9 seconds and from zero to 160 kmh in 4.2 seconds, as well as covering 400 metres in 8.9 seconds.

Rear profile of Roadster – Tesla Motors

“These are all world records,” Musk said.

The battery pack will allow the three-motor, four-seat car to travel 1000 kilometres on one charge, enough to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back, Musk said.

Making this the first ever production electric car to cover 1000 kilometres on a single charge.

Roadster Steering Wheel – Tesla Motors

According to Musk, the Roadster will be available in 2020 and the car will cost around US$200,000.


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Tesla Semi truck: what we know so far

Tesla has unveiled its all-electric semi-truck, aptly named the ‘Tesla Semi’.

The Semi unveil event Tesla Motors

The Semi is the latest step in Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s mission to accelerate the shift to sustainable transportation.

It boasts a significant charge capacity, and its aesthetically distinct look will help the Semi stand out from the other class 8 freight vehicles on the road.

“From day one, having a Tesla semi will beat a diesel truck on economics,” Musk stated on Friday in California. “It’s got better drag coefficient than a supercar.”

Without a trailer, the Tesla Semi can achieve 0-100 kmh in five seconds, compared to 15 seconds in a comparable diesel truck. It does 0-100 kmh in 20 seconds with a full 80,000-pound load, a task that takes a diesel truck about a minute, Tesla says. 

Most notably the Tesla Semi requires no shifting or clutching for smooth acceleration and deceleration, and its regenerative braking recovers 98% of kinetic energy to the battery, giving it a basically infinite brake life.

Overall, the Semi is more responsive, covers more miles than a diesel truck in the same amount of time, and more safely integrates with passenger car traffic.

Tesla Semi Front Tesla Motors

Musk also claimed that if a driver were to have a medical emergency, the truck would come to an automatic stop, and would call for help if the driver wasn’t responsive.

The truck’s low centre of gravity makes for good handling and roll-over prevention, and its technology makes jack-knifing impossible, Musk said.

Semi Interior Overview Tesla Motors

The semi has automated-driving features including lane-keeping and automatic braking, and has four independent motors, he said.

“Even if you have only two of the motors active, it’ll still beat a diesel truck,” he said.

On one charge Tesla’s truck will be able to travel 800 kilometres at 96 kmh, with Musk adding that 80 per cent of trucking routes in the US are shorter than 400 kilometres.

A statement from an advocacy group for diesel vehicle and engine manufacturers was also issued at the same time as the announcement.

“Diesel is the most energy efficient internal combustion engine,” said Allen Schaeffer, the group’s executive director.

“It has achieved dominance as the technology of choice in the trucking industry over many decades and challenges from many other fuel types. Still, today, diesel offers a unique combination of unmatched features: proven fuel efficiency, economical operation, power, reliability, durability, availability, easy access to fuelling and service facilities, and now near-zero emissions performance.”

The launch also comes as the company faces financial and production issues. The most recent quarterly earnings report revealed a NZ$895.9 million loss and three-month delay for the Model 3 sedan.

Tesla is also venturing into an uncertain market. Demand for electric trucks is expected to grow over the next decade as the US, Europe and China tighten their emission regulations. So, it makes sense that Tesla is going after a market that contains traditional and mostly diesel-powered trucks, which is estimated to reach US$34 billion by 2020.

However, many analysts expect the demand for electric trucks to centre around smaller, medium-duty haulers like rubbish trucks and delivery vans.

These trucks can be charged overnight and due to their limited range, they require fewer expensive batteries.

Long-haul semi-trucks can be expected to go greater distances which can be a challenging variable. There’s little charging infrastructure on global highways and charging even a medium sized truck would likely require a two-hour stop, cutting into companies’ efficiency and profits, said Brian Irwin, managing director of the North American industrial group for the consulting firm Accenture.

However Tesla maintains that owners can expect to gain US$200,000 or more in savings over a million miles based on fuel costs alone due to the low and stable nature of electricity prices. These prices can be significantly less for commercial and industrial users, falling to almost nothing when combined with local solar generation and storage. 

The new electric Semi truck will be released into the market in around two year’s time.

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Forget electric, Toyota’s bets lie in hydrogen

Just as most of the industry is pushing for electric vehicles in order to reduce auto emissions, Toyota is banking on hydrogen fuel cells as its zero-emission option. 

Toyota believes that hydrogen is a more practical energy source due to batteries being only suitable for short urban commutes. 

Out of the approximately 10 million vehicles Toyota sells around the world, only 4,000 fuel-celled Toyota Mirai have been sold since late 2014, with roughly half being sold outside of Japan.

Hydrogen fuel cells don’t suffer from the EVs’ main drawback of limited range. Although, the Tesla Model S can go about 480 kilometres on a single charge, but this isn’t the norm, standard EVs usually run out of charge a lot quicker.

Toyota’s chairman, Takeshi Uchiyamada, believes hydrogen is an ideal, stable fuel for a future low-carbon society.

“Hydrogen doesn’t exist in the natural world on its own, but you can create hydrogen from various materials,” he said.

A fuel cell mixes hydrogen with the oxygen in the air to generate electricity that can power a motor. Ultimately, the idea is to convert energy from renewables like wind and solar power into hydrogen.

Unlike a gas-powered internal combustion engine, the only byproducts from a fuel cell are electricity, heat and water. There are no emissions of pollutants that can cause global warming. 

Toyota and other manufacturers pursuing hydrogen fuel cells face some significant hurdles. Japan has 28,000 EV charging stations but only 92 hydrogen fuelling stations.

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Audi recalls 5000 diesel cars

Audi is recalling around 5000 cars in Europe for a software fix after discovering they emitted too much nitrogen oxide, the polluting gas that Volkswagen hid from U.S. regulators in the 2015 “dieselgate” scandal.

In 2015 Volkswagen was found to have manipulated engine software so that the vehicles would meet the correct nitrogen oxide standards in laboratory testing but not in real-world conditions. 

 The carmaker said yesterday that they had reported the issue to Germany’s road transport authority KBA, which was concerned about the possible illegal manipulation of emission levels.

Audi said it would update the software of the 4997 A8 model vehicles with 4.2 litre V8 diesel engines, which were made between September 2013 and August 2017.

The software updates will likely be available in the first quarter of 2018 after winter testing.

“During the testing, it will be ensured that the new software has no disadvantages for customers in terms of fuel consumption or performance.”



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No more cars on Auckland’s wharves

The views of the Waitemata Harbour being spoiled by rows of cars will be no longer due to a new masterplan from Ports of Auckland, (POAL).

The port company has revealed a draft 30-year masterplan for the 77ha of land it owns on the sea’s doorstep. The plans include a five-storey car park to keep car imports hidden from public view topped with a 1ha waterfront park accessible to the public.

“We’re proposing to build a five-storey car handling building which will provide more capacity, hide cars from view and free up space on Captain Cook Wharf for cruise ships.”

“On top of this building we will create a new waterfront park and next to it on Quay Street, we have earmarked space for a new hotel, or other such building for public use.”

Consent for the carpark will be lodged next year, with a plan to have it completed within five years.

The draft masterplan also involves development plans for a 13m piled concrete extension at the end of Bledisloe Wharf, which the company says is essential for a new berth and the success of other projects.

The extension is guaranteed to cause a stir with critics due to further expansion into the harbour. Last night, Auckland mayor Phil Goff said he did not support further extension of the port into the harbour.

“This is a proposal only and needs to be subject to public discussion. Ultimately it will go through a consent process where public can make submissions,” Goff said.

However, the extension is smaller than previous expansion plans and it is line with recommendations from the Auckland City Council’s Port Future Study last year.

“We’ve developed a draft 30-year masterplan that we think balances Auckland’s economic, social and environmental needs…it creates space for freight and gives Auckland Council the time it needs to make a sound decision on where, when and how to move the port,” Tony Gibson, the port’s Chief Executive, said.

Details of the draft masterplan can be found at:

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The new Jeep Wrangler

Jeep is finally providing answers to questions regarding the hotly anticipated aluminium bodied 2018 Wrangler, releasing a few photos and details this morning.

In a statement, Jeep said:

“The all-new Wrangler’s unique design includes an instantly recognisable keystone-shaped grille, iconic round headlamps and square tail lamps, improved aerodynamics, a convenient fold-down windshield for off-road purists, even more open-air freedom, and dozens of different door, top and windshield combinations.”

According to Jeep, the new Wrangler will feature the recognizable keystone shaped grille, more safety features and more advanced technology while “staying true” to the brand’s origins. In addition, the Wrangler will get more fuel-efficient powertrain options.

Complete details on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler will be available on November 29 when the off-roader makes its world debut at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show.

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New F1 engine from 2021

Yesterday Formula 1 bosses and the FIA revealed its plans for a new engine from 2021. 

The proposals are aimed at reducing costs, “improving the sound” and increasing competitiveness between teams.

The plan is to retain a 1.6-litre V6 turbo hybrid but to remove one of the two ways currently used to generate hybrid power, allowing drivers to have greater control over energy deployment. 

The main proposals are:

  • A 1.6-litre V6 turbo hybrid.
  • Engines running 3,000rpm faster to improve sound.
  • The removal of the MGU-H, which is largely responsible for muting the sound made by the current engines.
  • A more powerful MGU-K – which recovers energy from the rear axle – to make up the loss in hybrid energy from the MGU-H and with the option for a driver to save up energy over a number of laps to add a tactical element to the racing.
  • A single turbo with constraints on dimensions and weight.
  • Standard battery and control electronics.
  • Research into tightening up fuel regulations

The new formula will enable smaller, private engine companies to enter F1 and compete with the manufacturers and attract other car companies into the sport.

“The new F1 has the target to be the world’s leading global sports competition married to state of the art technology. To excite, engage, and awe fans of all ages but to do so in a sustainable manner. We believe that the future power unit will achieve this,” states Ross Brawn, F1 managing director.

The overall framework for the 2021 engine will be published at the end of 2017. 



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Nissan’s sales plummet amid scandal

Nissan Motor Co announced earlier this week that Japanese sales of new vehicles has dropped by approximately 50% in October compared to last years figures. 

Last month the discovery of improper final inspection procedures at Nissan Motor Co.’s domestic plants caused it to partly suspend production. 

Nissan didn’t provide exact figures for this month’s sales, but the car company sold 38,708 vehicles in Japan in October 2016.

The plants will resume production once the final inspection procedures have been brought in line with transport ministry requirements, a spokesman for the automaker said.

Nissan has completed those measures at one assembly plant and expects to have made similar changes at five other plants by the end of the week, he said.

This month was supposed to mark the unveiling of an electric-vehicle offensive for Nissan, who is eager to establish itself as the leader in the race to electrify its vehicle line-up.

Nissan is anticipated to outline a global EV sales push when it reports its earnings next week.

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