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Teslas of the sea? CES showcases electric hydrofoil boats

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Teslas of the sea? CES showcases electric hydrofoil boats

Flying cars and self-driving vehicles always get attention at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, but this year electric recreational boats are making bigger waves.

Swedish company Candela on Thursday unveiled a 28-foot (8.5-meter) electric-powered hydrofoil speedboat that can cruise for over two hours at 20 knots, or about 23 mph. California startup Navier tried to outdo its Scandinavian rival by bringing an electric hydrofoil that’s a little bit longer, though Candela is further along in getting its products to customers.

Even the recreational motorboat conglomerate Brunswick Corporation tried to make a splash in Nevada this week by showing off its latest electric outboard motor — an emerging segment of its mostly gas-powered fleet.

WHY ELECTRIC?

A chief reason is environmental, as well as to save on rising fuel costs. But electric-powered boats — particularly with the sleek foiling designs that lift the hull above the water’s surface at higher speeds — can also offer a smoother and quieter ride.

“You can have a wine glass and it does not spill,” Navier CEO Sampriti Bhattacharyya told The Associated Press last month. “And it’s quiet, extremely quiet. You can have a conversation, unlike on a gas boat.”

WHEN CAN YOU GET ONE?

Candela CEO Gustav Hasselskog said his company has already sold and manufactured 150 of its brand-new C-8 model. The Stockholm-based startup has been scaling up its workforce from 60 employees a year ago to about 400 later this year as it prepares to ramp up production.

But with a roughly $400,000 price tag, neither the C-8 nor Navier’s N30 is aiming to replace the aluminum boat used to fish on the lake. They’ve been described as Teslas of the sea, with hopes that what starts off as a luxury vehicle could eventually help transform the marine industry.

“They tend to be entrepreneurs,” Hasselskog said of Candela’s first customers. “They tend to be tech enthusiasts, if you like, with an optimistic view about the future and the ability of technology to solve all kinds of societal challenges.”

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Navier’s investment backers include Google co-founder Sergey Brin, which means he’s probably getting one, too.

ARE BOATERS READY FOR THIS?

Probably not. These early electric boat models are expensive, heavy and could instill more serious “range anxiety” than what drivers have felt about electric cars, said Truist Securities analyst Michael Swartz, who follows the leisure boat industry.

“How safe is it for me to go out in the middle of the week with no one around, miles from shore, in an electric outboard engine?” Swartz said.

Swartz said they might make more sense to use electric motors — such as a new CES offering from Brunswick-owned Mercury Marine — to power a fleet of small rental boats, perhaps at the widely-used boating clubs also run by Brunswick.

“You’re not anywhere near the type of electric boat where you can go 50 miles offshore and go fishing for a couple of hours and come back,” Swartz said. “There’s no technology that can enable you to replicate that experience outside of an internal combustion engine.”

BRING ON THE WATER TAXIS?

Both Candela and Navier are planning for a secondary market of electric ferries that could compete with the gas-powered vehicles that now carry commuters around populated regions such as the Stockholm archipelago or along San Francisco Bay.

Hasselskog said the same technology powering Candela’s new leisure boat will also be used to power a 30-passenger catamaran prototype that could operate in Sweden by summer.

For a city like Stockholm, which has already electrified most of its public ground transportation, its dozens of large ferry boats are an outlier in producing carbon emissions.

“They need something like 220 of these (electric) vessels to replace the current fleet,” Hasselskog said. And instead of running on fixed schedules with empty seats, the smaller electric vehicles might be able to be summoned on demand such as how Uber or Lyft work on land.

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AUTOMATIC DOCKING

Many of the companies developing electric boat propulsion also have teams working on making these vehicles more autonomous. But since most recreational boaters like piloting their own boats — and most ferry passengers likely prefer a human captain at the helm — the self-driving innovation is focused on what happens at the marina.

“There’s an intimidation factor with boating and a lot of the intimidation factor you hear from consumers is with docking,” said Swartz, the Truist analyst. “So if that can be made seamless and automated, it’s a huge deal.”

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Tesla autopilot recalls: 2 million vehicles need to have their defective systems fixed

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Tesla autopilot recalls: 2 million vehicles need to have their defective systems fixed

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla is recalling nearly all vehicles sold in the U.S., more than 2 million, to update software and fix a defective system that’s supposed to ensure drivers are paying attention when using Autopilot.

Documents posted Wednesday by U.S. safety regulators say the update will increase warnings and alerts to drivers and even limit the areas where basic versions of Autopilot can operate.

The recall comes after a two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into a series of crashes that happened while the Autopilot partially automated driving system was in use. Some were deadly.

The agency says its investigation found Autopilot’s method of making sure that drivers are paying attention can be inadequate and can lead to “foreseeable misuse of the system.”

The added controls and alerts will “further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility,” the documents said.

But safety experts said that, while the recall is a good step, it still makes the driver responsible and doesn’t fix the underlying problem that Tesla’s automated systems have with spotting and stopping for obstacles in their path.

The recall covers models Y, S, 3 and X produced between Oct. 5, 2012, and Dec. 7 of this year. The update was to be sent to certain affected vehicles on Tuesday, with the rest getting it later.

Shares of Tesla slid more than 3% in earlier trading Wednesday but recovered amid a broad stock market rally to end the day up 1%.

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The attempt to address the flaws in Autopilot seemed like a case of too little, too late to Dillon Angulo, who was seriously injured in 2019 crash involving a Tesla that was using the technology along a rural stretch of Florida highway where the software isn’t supposed to be deployed.

“This technology is not safe, we have to get it off the road,” said Angulo, who is suing Tesla as he recovers from injuries that included brain trauma and broken bones. “The government has to do something about it. We can’t be experimenting like this.”

Autopilot includes features called Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control, with Autosteer intended for use on limited access freeways when it’s not operating with a more sophisticated feature called Autosteer on City Streets.

The software update will limit where Autosteer can be used. “If the driver attempts to engage Autosteer when conditions are not met for engagement, the feature will alert the driver it is unavailable through visual and audible alerts, and Autosteer will not engage,” the recall documents said.

Depending on a Tesla’s hardware, the added controls include “increasing prominence” of visual alerts, simplifying how Autosteer is turned on and off, and additional checks on whether Autosteer is being used outside of controlled access roads and when approaching traffic control devices. A driver could be suspended from using Autosteer if they repeatedly fail “to demonstrate continuous and sustained driving responsibility,” the documents say.

According to recall documents, agency investigators met with Tesla starting in October to explain “tentative conclusions” about the fixing the monitoring system. Tesla did not concur with NHTSA’s analysis but agreed to the recall on Dec. 5 in an effort to resolve the investigation.

Auto safety advocates for years have been calling for stronger regulation of the driver monitoring system, which mainly detects whether a driver’s hands are on the steering wheel. They have called for cameras to make sure a driver is paying attention, which are used by other automakers with similar systems.

Philip Koopman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who studies autonomous vehicle safety, called the software update a compromise that doesn’t address a lack of night vision cameras to watch drivers’ eyes, as well as Teslas failing to spot and stop for obstacles.

“The compromise is disappointing because it does not fix the problem that the older cars do not have adequate hardware for driver monitoring,” Koopman said.

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Koopman and Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, contend that crashing into emergency vehicles is a safety defect that isn’t addressed. “It’s not digging at the root of what the investigation is looking at,” Brooks said. “It’s not answering the question of why are Teslas on Autopilot not detecting and responding to emergency activity?”

Koopman said NHTSA apparently decided that the software change was the most it could get from the company, “and the benefits of doing this now outweigh the costs of spending another year wrangling with Tesla.”

In its statement Wednesday, NHTSA said the investigation remains open “as we monitor the efficacy of Tesla’s remedies and continue to work with the automaker to ensure the highest level of safety.”

Autopilot can steer, accelerate and brake automatically in its lane, but is a driver-assist system and cannot drive itself, despite its name. Independent tests have found that the monitoring system is easy to fool, so much that drivers have been caught while driving drunk or even sitting in the back seat.

In its defect report filed with the safety agency, Tesla said Autopilot’s controls “may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse.”

A message was left early Wednesday seeking further comment from the Austin, Texas, company.

Tesla says on its website that Autopilot and a more sophisticated Full Self Driving system are meant to help drivers who have to be ready to intervene at all times. Full Self Driving is being tested by Tesla owners on public roads.

In a statement posted Monday on X, formerly Twitter, Tesla said safety is stronger when Autopilot is engaged.

NHTSA has dispatched investigators to 35 Tesla crashes since 2016 in which the agency suspects the vehicles were running on an automated system. At least 17 people have been killed.

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The investigations are part of a larger probe by the NHTSA into multiple instances of Teslas using Autopilot crashing into emergency vehicles. NHTSA has become more aggressive in pursuing safety problems with Teslas, including a recall of Full Self Driving software.

In May, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes NHTSA, said Tesla shouldn’t be calling the system Autopilot because it can’t drive itself.

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AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke contributed to this story.

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Ford to build $3.5B electric vehicle battery plant in Mich.

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Ford to build $3.5B electric vehicle battery plant in Mich.

Ford Motor Co. plans to build a $3.5 billion factory in Michigan that would employ at least 2,500 people to make lower-cost batteries for a variety of new and existing electric vehicles.

The plant, to be built on land being readied for industrial development about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Detroit, would start making batteries in 2026. It would crank out 35 gigawatt hours worth of batteries, enough to supply 400,000 vehicles per year, Ford said.

The factory near the city of Marshall would produce batteries with a lithium-iron-phosphate chemistry, which is cheaper than the current nickel-cobalt-manganese chemistry now used in many EV batteries.

Consumers could then choose between a battery with lower range and cost, or pay more for higher range and power. The company wouldn’t give any prices just yet.

“The whole intent here is to make EVs more affordable and accessible to customers,” said Marin Gjaja, chief marketing officer for Ford’s electric vehicles.

Ford says a wholly owned subsidiary would own the factory and employ the workers. But China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited, or CATL, which is known for its lithium-iron-phosphate expertise, would supply technology, some equipment and workers.

The announcement comes at a time when U.S.-China relations are strained, and the Biden administration is offering tax credits for businesses to create a U.S. supply chain for EV batteries. To get a full $7,500 per vehicle U.S. tax credit to customers, EV batteries won’t be able to have metals or components from China in them.

Ford is hoping that the structure of the deal will defuse criticism of spending tax incentive money on a joint-venture factory that would be part-owned by a Chinese company. Last month the state of Virginia dropped out of the race for the same Ford plant after Gov. Glenn Youngkin characterized the project as a “front” for the Chinese Communist Party that would raise national security concerns. At the time Virginia had not offered an incentive package to Ford.

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The company expects to take advantage of U.S. factory tax credits, and says that buyers initially would get at least $3,750 in tax credits because the vehicles are produced in North America. Gjaja said that over time they could get the full $7,500 credit depending on sourcing of battery minerals.

Lithium-iron-phosphate batteries would go into standard-range versions of Ford’s EVs. For instance, the lowest price Mustang Mach-E electric SUV would get an LFP battery and would be able to travel 247 miles per charge. The long range version of the Mach-E will have a nickel-cobalt-manganese chemistry that takes it to 310 miles per charge.

The plant was revealed Monday at a meeting of the Michigan Strategic Fund, which approved a large tax incentive package for the project near the junction of Interstates 94 and 69.

About $210 million came from Michigan’s Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund, known as SOAR, set up to lure industry and jobs to the state. But the total size of the incentive package wasn’t clear.

The SOAR Fund has received nearly $1.8 billion from the state’s general fund since it was first created in December of 2021.

A tax-relief bill passed in the Michigan House last week could send up to $1.5 billion over three fiscal years to the SOAR Fund in addition to an $800 million one-time deposit that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined in her budget proposal last week.

The tax-relief bill, which still needs state Senate approval, has been heavily criticized by Republicans for giving too little to taxpayers and too much to large corporations.

Last summer, Ford announced that CATL will make lithium-iron-phosphate battery packs for Mustang Mach-E electric SUVs in North America this year and for F-150 Lightning electric trucks early in 2024 “creating more capacity for high-demand products.” The batteries at first would come from China, then be switched to the Michigan plant in 2026, Ford said.

The company expects to be able to produce electric vehicles at a rate of 600,000 per year by late this year.

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Whitmer said the plant will bring “generational opportunities” for west Michigan families. It will “make sure that production lines aren’t stalled by global shocks or shipping delays,” she said.

Lithium-iron-phosphate batteries already are in use in consumer electronics and some competitors’ vehicles, but all the batteries are imported, said Lisa Drake, vice president of industrialization for Ford’s electric vehicles.

“This project is aimed at de-risking that by actually building out the capacity and capability to scale this technology in the United States,” with Ford controlling the manufacturing and the workforce.

Conrad Layson, senior analyst with AutoForecast Solutions, says the new battery factory could supply multiple Ford models. “As Ford increases the number of all-electric nameplates, the output from this factory could be used to make lower-cost versions of those future all-electric Ford vehicles,” he said.

____

Associated Press Writer Corey Williams contributed to this report.

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Tesla hikes price of Model Y after US alters tax credit rule

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Tesla hikes price of Model Y after US alters tax credit rule

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla has raised prices on its Model Y in the U.S., apparently due to rising demand and changes in U.S. government rules that make more versions of the small SUV eligible for tax credits.

The Austin, Texas, electric vehicle company bumped up the price of the Model Y Long Range version by about 2% to $54,990 and the Performance version by about 2.7% to $57,990, according to its website. The prices exclude shipping and an order fee.

The moves, made Friday, come three weeks after Tesla cut prices nearly 20% on some versions of the Model Y, the company’s top-selling vehicle. The price cuts were made to boost sagging demand, and also to make more versions of the Model Y eligible for the $7,500 electric-vehicle tax credit in the Inflation Reduction Act. The full tax credits will be available at least into March.

On Friday, The Treasury Department revised vehicle classification definitions to make more EVs — including SUVs made by Tesla, Ford and General Motors — eligible the full $7,500.

The change came after lobbying by automakers that had pressed the Biden administration to change vehicle definitions to allow higher priced vehicles to qualify for a maximum credit. Tesla CEO Elon Musk met with top aides to President Joe Biden last week to discuss the EV industry and the broader goals of electrification.

Under the sweeping law approved last summer, pickup trucks, SUVs and vans with a sticker price up to $80,000 qualify for EV tax credits, while new electric cars, sedans and wagons can only be priced up to $55,000. The rule had disqualified some higher-priced SUVs, such as GM’s Cadillac Lyriq and some versions of the Model Y, prompting complaints from Tesla and other automakers.

The January price cuts apparently worked. On Tesla’s earnings conference call last week, CEO Elon Musk said that so far in January the company had seen the strongest number of orders year-to-date in company history. He also said the company had raised the Model Y price “a little bit in response to that.”

After Tesla’s price cuts, Ford responded by reducing the price of its Mustang Mach-E, in part to qualify for the tax credit and also to spur buyer interest. But crosstown rival General Motors said it had no plans to cut EV prices.

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The EV tax credits are among a host of changes enacted in the Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress approved in August with only Democratic votes. The law is designed to spur EV sales as part of a broader effort to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

But a complex web of requirements, including where vehicles and batteries must be manufactured to qualify, has cast doubt on whether buyers can receive the full $7,500 credit.

The Treasury Department said Friday that it hopes to make it easier for consumers to know which vehicles qualify for the credit. Under the revised rule, vehicle classifications will be determined by a consumer-facing fuel economy labeling standard, rather than a more complicated formula set by the Environmental Protection Agency, Treasury said.

A message was left Saturday seeking comment from Tesla on the price increases. The increases were reported Friday night by Bloomberg News.

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