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On-road tests next step for self-driving car

Jaguar Land Rover is taking part in the UK’s first road tests for autonomous and connected vehicles, bringing an intelligent vehicle one step closer to reality.

The NZ$38 million UK Autodrive project entails testing a range of technologies that will allow for communication between cars as well as roadside infrastructure.

The trials will demonstrate how connected and autonomous vehicles can replicate human behaviour and reactions when driving.

The company’s overall vision is to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on and off-road driving environments and weather.

Nick Rogers, Executive Director of Product Engineering at Jaguar Land Rover, commented, “Testing this self-driving project on public roads is so exciting, as the complexity of the environment allows us to find robust ways to increase road safety in the future. By using inputs from multiple sensors, and finding intelligent ways to process this data, we are gaining accurate technical insight to pioneer the automotive application of these technologies.”

There are currently 12 other cities, apart from Conventry that are conducting tests on public roads globally.

UK Autodrive is the largest of the three associations launched in order to support the introduction of autonomous vehicles into the UK. The consortium has already proven these research technologies in a closed track environment and the start of real-world testing is the next step to turning the research into reality.

The trials will carry on into 2018.


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Forget electric, Toyota 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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EVs driving lithium demand even higher

The Global Lithium-Ion Battery Market is expected to reach $46.21 billion by 2022, according to a report by Allied Market Research.

Lithium-Ion battery detail

Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries with high energy density and are mainly used in portable equipment. 

The report reports that the market for these batteries is expected to reach significant growth due to the increasing demand for electric vehicles. 

The increasing popularity of lithium is largely to do with technologically innovating companies. Tesla is a prime example who plays a major role in the lithium industry.

Recently an agreement between the Australian Government and Tesla was made, whereby Tesla will build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery to store renewable energy in South Australia.

Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, explained how the battery will work and its benefits.

“You can essentially charge up the battery packs when you have excess power when the cost of production is very low; and then discharge it when the cost of power production is high, and this effectively lowers the average cost to the end customer. It’s a fundamental efficiency improvement for the grid.”

The massive demand for global lithium is already sending shocks throughout industries. There are already expectations of a significant shortfall in the very near future.

To answer the heavy demand, lithium companies are increasing their production capacities and searching for new sources of lithium. This includes a number of early stage lithium mining companies who are using the market’s momentum to advance more quickly toward production.


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Volkswagen to spend big to meet EV quota

Yesterday the Volkswagen Group announced that it plans to spend 10 billion euros by 2025 in order to develop and build all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as it seeks to comply with upcoming stringent rules in China.

The group, which includes Volkswagen AG and Audi AG, intends to launch 15 of the new energy vehicles (NEV) models over the next two to three years, with an additional 25 after 2025.

China’s NEV production and sales quotas, which must be met by 2019, have prompted an increase in electric car partnerships and deals as automakers in China race to ensure they do not fall short.

China chief, Jochem Heizmann, speaking ahead of the Guangzhou auto show, added that the group is aiming to sell 400,000 new energy vehicles per year in China by 2020 and 1.5 million per year by 2025.

The Volkswagen Group is also confident that its group companies and their local China joint venture partners will be able to generate enough NEV sales volume to account for NEV quotas by 2019, Heizmann said, adding that there will be no need to buy credits.

The Guangzhou auto show starts on Friday.

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GM challenges Tesla

General Motors Co plans to launch a series of electric vehicles in 2021 that will cost less to develop and build, and will furthermore, make a profit for the U.S. No. 1 automaker, Chief Executive Mary Barra told investors earlier this week.

Mary Barra at the 2017 GM Annual Stockholders Meeting

Her plans demonstrate an aggressive electrification strategy and direct challenge to electric vehicle specialist Tesla Inc, which is struggling to get its more affordable Model 3 launched.

“We are committed to a future electric vehicle portfolio that will be profitable,” Barra said at the Barclays Global Automotive Conference in New York.

Electric and autonomous vehicles will underpin the future of transport; however, Tesla and other manufacturers are still trying to understand how to gain a profit from them.

GM is looking to break through this by creating an all-new electric vehicle family that will accommodate multiple sizes and variations, to be sold by different GM brands in the United States and China, Barra said.

GM’s cost reduction efforts on electric vehicles revolve around the creation of a cheaper new battery system.

By 2021 the company aims to make its lithium-ion batteries less than $100 per kilowatt-hour, instead of the current $145 per kilowatt-hour battery. This would bring the overall cost of electric vehicles closer to gasoline-engine equivalents.

GM announced that the batteries would be able to hold more energy and charge quicker. With the aim to boost the kilometre range to more than 483 km with the new batteries.

GM’s new electric vehicle platform will act as a base for at least nine derivatives, ranging from a compact crossover to a large seven-passenger luxury sports utility vehicle and a large commercial van.

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Wellington e-buses are on the horizon

Leaders in innovation, TDG (The Digital Group) and Foton Motor Group, are building and developing e-buses in Wellington.

Foton Motor Group is China’s largest group of commercial vehicles. TDG is the top supplier specialized in designing and building world smart cities, and leader in developing innovative solutions to smart cities.

This comes after US President, Donald Trump took a delegation of nearly thirty CEOs from major American companies to make three-day state visit to China earlier this month. During this time, the US and China had in-depth talks about deepening economic and trade ties between the two parties.

On November 8, President Gong Yueqiong of Foton Motor Group and President & CEO Paul Doherty of TDG signed a MOU of Smart Cities Public Transportation Solutions in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross witnessed the signing ceremony.

Foton Motor Group President, Gong Yueqiong and TDG President & CEO, Paul Doherty

It was agreed that both parties will push forward solutions of smart cities public transportation and application of intelligent transport facilitate development.

According to the MOU, Foton Motor Group and TDG, using their advantages in technologies and resources, will get in profound partnership to build and develop global leading smart cities, intelligent transport and intelligent buses such as driverless buses and green e-buses.

The e-bus destined for Wellington is two meters long and more units can be linked according to the number of passengers. At the same time, the futuristic bus will drive according to the route set by GPS. Camera lenses will be installed to detect obstacles so that the bus can drive and park automatically.

The 2 metre intelligent e-bus 

The e-bus provides the futuristic intelligent solutions to transport, featuring zero accident, congestion and pollution.

As plans of the two parties, TDG will focus on environmental facilities and providing solutions to energy, dynamic wireless charging technology, data analysis, LED light, visible light telecom, dynamic ads/brand communications, crossing public stops and safety. Foton Motor will provide advanced bus products and services while providing support in Internet of Vehicles and automatic driving development.

The total order amount will exceed over a billion USD.

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Kobe Steel plant loses last quality badge

The plant at the centre of the scandal has lost its ISO 9001 quality certification from the International Standards Organization (ISO)

The Kobe Steel plant at the centre of a data-falsification scandal that has shaken supply chains around the world has been stripped of all its industrial quality certifications, the Japanese government said on Wednesday.

The government sanctioned seal on insulated copper tubing from Kobe’s Hatano plant was also revoked after an investigation by a certification firm into its quality mechanisms, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a statement.

The plant southwest of Tokyo has also lost its ISO 9001 quality certification from the International Standards Organization (ISO), Japan Quality Assurance Organization said.

Earlier, the plant was stripped of its Japan Industrial Standards (JIS) seal for seamless copper pipe products used for air conditioning and refrigerators, as a consequence of the scandal.

JIS-certified products cover about 40 per cent of Hatano’s sales by weight, Kobe Steel said. Copper products made up about 7 per cent of the company’s total sales in the year to March 2017.

“We aim to regain the JIS certification and recover trust from our customers as soon as possible by implementing measures to prevent future misconduct,” Kobe Steel said in a statement.

Industry experts said customers may switch suppliers or pick Kobe’s competitors for future orders.

Three other Kobe Steel copper and aluminium plants tangled up in the data cheating had their ISO 9001 quality certifications suspended earlier this month for up to six months.

Kobe Steel is Japan’s third-largest steelmaker, which supplies producers of cars, planes, trains and other products across the world, said last month that about 500 of its customers had received products with falsified specifications.

Furthermore, Kobe Steel has an extensive role in global supply chains. It produces engine valve springs found in half the world’s cars, according to its website.

Kobe shares have dropped nearly a quarter since news of the data interfering in early October.

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Women’s World Car of the Year 2017 winners:

Hyundai’s Ioniq has been awarded the Women’s World Car of the Year 2017 award.

The Hyundai Ioniq was the clear winner at this years Women’s World Car of the Year award, along with winning the Green Car category as well.

The jury, consisting of 25 established women motoring writers from 20 different countries, including New Zealand’s Sandy Myhre, CEO of Women’s World Car of the Year and Jacqui Madelin.

The jury chose the Mazda CX-5 as the Family Car of the Year, the Ford Fiesta as its Budget Car, Peugeot’s 3008 as it’s SUV/Crossover and the BMW 5-series as the Best Luxury Car.

There was a close contest between the new Honda Civic Type R and Mazda MX-5 RF for the Best Performance Car, but Honda managed to take the crown.

The Holly Reich Dream Car award – dedicated to the memory of Holly Reich, one of the original judges for the Women’s World Car of the Year since its inception seven years ago – saw the McLaren win its second consecutive victory, with the 720S winning this year.

Women’s World Car of the Year CEO, Sandy Myhre, said at the occasion, “The car that wins the Supreme award has gone through a rigorous test by 25 judges from 20 different countries that are on the panel of Women’s World Car of the Year. It’s a democratic process and cars that have won categories and the supreme winner really have to stand out.”

This year 420 cars were on the first nomination list, whittled down to the top 60. Judges then must vote on those cars by allocating points. Voting is by secret ballot and audited by international accountancy company Grant Thornton from their Auckland office.

“This year, the Hyundai Ioniq was a standout.  It’s always a tight competition but there were a couple of cars that were ahead of the others in their category, notably, the Ford Fiesta and the BMW 5 Series,” said Paul Kane, Partner of Grant Thornton.

This is the eighth edition of the Women’s World Car of the Year Awards.


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Our man at Tokyo show

Tokyo Motor Show 2017 was a spectacle that needs to be seen to be believed. I’m pleased I had the opportunity to attend on the media-only days as, I understand, the public days are crazy, writes Malcolm Yorston.


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Tesla’s all-electric truck soon to be revealed

Tesla plans to reveal an all-electric truck with a working range of 300-450km on 16 November.

The Tesla Semi has been semi-revealed in a preview shown during an interview with TED.

The Tesla Semi’s previous debut date was the 26 October, but Tesla boss Elon Musk delayed the official unveiling following production difficulties with the Model 3.

Musk is using the extra three weeks since the truck’s original October 26 reveal date to iron out ‘production bottlenecks’ on the Model 3 production line.

Musk first revealed an image of the lorry and gave details of its performance during an interview with academic media outlet TED in June.

He also announced the product on social media, describing it as ‘unreal’, but did not give any further details on its capabilities.

According to reports, Tesla is aiming to crack regional hauling in the US and is expected to have an advanced level of autonomy.

Musk claimed that the heavy-duty, long-range Semi is capable of the heaviest class of haulage permitted on US roads. 

He also stated that the vehicle will be able to produce greater torque than any truck currently on the road.

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Tesla launches Chill Mode update

The Tesla Model S

A software update has been released to allow Tesla drivers to choose a gentler acceleration set up.

Tesla has introduced a ‘Chill Mode’ for its Model S and Model X electric vehicles, so drivers can tone down the rapid acceleration that the EV’s produce.

The setting will prove especially useful in the Model S, which can accelerate from 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds. Making it faster than almost any vehicle currently on sale. In Chill Mode the driver can’t utilise the full electric jolt of 603bhp and 967Nm of torque from its 100kWh battery pack.

“You can now choose between two acceleration options in your vehicle: Chill and Standard. Chill makes acceleration more gradual – ideal for smoother driving and a gentler ride for your passengers,” Tesla says about the new mode.

The software update also came with an ‘Easy Entry’ system, which gives drivers’ easier access getting in and out of their Tesla.

When parked the vehicle automatically adjusts the steering wheel and driver’s seat so the driver has more room when exiting.

Furthermore, the setting will remember the driver settings so that when you get back into the vehicle and step on the brake, it will return to the driver’s preferred driving position.

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