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Freightliner Takes Aim at Tesla with Two Big EV Semis and a New E-Mobility Center

Daimler’s U.S. truck division will put first 30 into field tests this year.

by on Jun.07, 2018

The new Freightliner eCascadia and eM2 semis.

Freightliner, the U.S.-based truck subsidiary of Daimler AG, is taking direct aim at Tesla with the debut of two new battery-powered semis that it plans to begin fleet testing later this year.

The eCascadia and eM2 join a range of smaller delivery trucks that Freightliner and other Daimler truck brands have been rolling out over the last couple years. A number of major freight and delivery companies, ranging from UPS to PepsiCo, have expressed interest in the clean, fuel-efficient technology. That has drawn a number of vehicle manufacturers into the emerging field, including Volvo AB and Volkswagen AG, as well as Freightliner and Tesla.

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Daimler also plans to set up a new Automated Research and Development Center near Freightliner’s headquarters in Portland, as well as a new E-Mobility Group to help share technologies among its various truck brands.

“We are the undisputed global leader of the trucking industry and we intend to remain in that position with electric trucks and buses,” Daimler Trucks chief Martin Daum said in a statement.

That was echoed in a comment by Roger Nielsen, the president of Daimler Trucks North America, that took a clear shot at Tesla, a company that has not only never built a truck before but which has had major trouble meeting production targets and quality goals for its passenger vehicles. But it also underscored the fact that Daimler is taking Tesla’s imminent arrival in the truck market as seriously is it is the California company’s electric passenger car line-up.

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Toyota Earnings Jump, Despite Rising U.S. Incentives

Record R&D spending could hurt operating profit.

by on May.09, 2018

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda is not only pushing for automotive sales growth, but leading the company into the emerging mobility sector.

Toyota saw earnings jump 21% between January and March, the final quarter of its fiscal year, despite having to sharply ramp up incentives in a slowing U.S. automotive market.

The automaker reported a profit of 480.8 billion yen, or $4.4 billion, up from 398 billion yen the year before. Toyota’s sales also rose 2% to 7.58 trillion yen, or $69 billion. For the full fiscal year, it earned 2.49 trillion yen, or $23 billion, a 36% increase, with sales rising 6%, to 29.38 trillion yen, or $268 billion.

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The strong performance helped highlight the cost-cutting efforts initiated by CEO and President Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota’s founder declaring, “We’ve become a leaner, trimmer company … and in the past year we’ve developed our remaining fat into muscle, so that we’re in a strong position to be more competitive.”

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One in Five Americans Wants to Own an Electric Vehicle

But how many will follow through is another matter entirely.

by on May.08, 2018

If the new study is any indication, sales of electric cars could soon climb into the millions.

Automakers are investing tens of billions of dollars gearing up to produce a new generation of plug-based vehicles, a worrisome effort considering that all electrified vehicles – from mild hybrids to pure battery-electric vehicles – accounted for just 3% of the overall American market last year.

But a new study finds that a full 20% of U.S. motorists want their next car, truck or crossover to be electric, according to the AAA. That’s up from 15% in just a year, the travel service reports and, perhaps not so coincidentally, the increase comes at a time when manufacturers are beginning to roll out an assortment of new models that offer longer range and quicker charging at a lower cost.

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“Today, electric vehicles have mainstream appeal,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering. “While concern for the environment is still a major motivator, AAA found U.S. drivers are also attracted to the lower long-term costs and advanced technology features that many of these vehicles offer.”

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GM Getting the Weight Out with 3D Printing

Technology could mean lighter, strong vehicles, but challenges remain.

by on May.03, 2018

The technology could reduce the weight of a future Chevy Bolt - and simplify assembly.

Since the earliest days of the auto industry, manufacturers have stamped, forged, cast and molded most of the parts that go into their products, but the search for lighter cars and trucks is forcing them to search for alternative approaches.

Working with the software company Autodesk, General Motors is exploring the potential of using additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, and may introduce the technology on one of the more than 20 new battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles it plans to bring to market over the next five years. And it isn’t alone. Niche manufacturers, such as Swedish hypercar company Koenigsegg, as well as major manufacturers BMW and Ford, are also exploring ways to utilize 3D printing.

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“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, head of the automaker’s Global Vehicle Components and Subsystems.

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Musk Looks Beyond Model 3 Problems, But Creates Some Headaches in the Process

CEO talks future product, factories – but still sends stock plunging.

by on May.03, 2018

Forget those earnings numbers. Tesla CEO Elon Musk was far more interested in talking about future products, the next-gen Roadster shown here.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is not one to suffer fools – or critics – lightly, as he proved during a 75-minute teleconference call following the release of the automaker’s first-quarter earnings report on Wednesday evening.

The South African-born executive attempted to put a positive spin on what was Tesla’s worst-ever quarterly deficit, promising future earnings while also revealing plans for new factories, new products and a new, fully hands-free version of the Autopilot system. But Musk also offered a harsh assessment of some of the reporters on the earnings call, while repeatedly cutting off analysts looking for long-term financial projections that he dismissed as “boring.”

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“These questions are so dry, they’re killing me,” he interjected before dismissing one analyst’s questions. Musk later shifted his disdain to reporters, at one point suggesting that by questioning the safety of Tesla’s current, semi-autonomous version of Autopilot, reporters might convince drivers to turn it off “and then die.”

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Nikola Sues Tesla Over Alleged Patent Infringement

Radically different powertrain technologies - but curiously similar cab designs spark lawsuit.

by on May.02, 2018

The Nikola One heavy-duty rig will be able to travel up to 1,000 miles on a tank of hydrogen.

There’s something ironic about learning that Nikola is suing Tesla, two companies both meant to honor maverick inventor Nikola Tesla, but the Salt Lake City-based Nikola Motor Co. has filed a suit against Silicon Valley rival claiming Tesla has infringed on its design patents.

While Tesla is best known for its battery  sedan and SUV models, it is also hoping to become a big player in the truck market with the upcoming launch of its electric Semi. Nikola, meanwhile, also wants to turn the truck industry green, though it is focusing on the hydrogen fuel-cell technology that will power rigs like its heavy-duty Nikola One. And it claims the similarities in the look of the two trucks is more than coincidental.

Keep on Truckin'!

“The Tesla Semi design is substantially similar to Nikola’s unique design, and Tesla copied Nikola’s patents,” the start-up claims in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday. It added that it “estimates its harm from Tesla’s infringement to be in excess of $2 billion.”

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EPA Rolling Back CAFE in Move Likely to Set Up Legal Battle with California

The Trump Administration wants to eliminate the California waiver and adopt one national mileage standard.

by on Apr.02, 2018

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt plans to rollback CAFE - and eliminate the CA waiver.

In a widely expected move, Trump EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has confirmed the agency will roll back the current Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, though by how much is not yet clear.

The news was largely hailed by the auto industry, which had challenged the 54.5 mpg target it initially agreed to under the Obama Administration. But the announcement drew significant criticism from consumer groups, environmentalists and, in particular, California regulators. Under current Clean Air standards, that state has the right to set its own standards which are normally even tougher than the EPA rules. But Pruitt signaled his intention of revoking that authority, something likely to touch off a legal battle that could delay any steps the EPA takes.

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“The Obama EPA’s determination was wrong,” Pruitt said in a statement Monday. “Obama’s EPA cut the midterm evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality and set the standards too high.”

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Nissan Aims to Add 8 New EVs, Boost Electrified Vehicle Sales to 1 Mil Annually

Japanese maker also planning 20 autonomous models.

by on Mar.23, 2018

One of the new EVs will be based on the Nissan IMx concept that debuted at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show.

Already the world’s largest seller of battery-electric vehicles, Nissan is targeting sales of 1 million electrified models by 2022, a five-year, six-fold increase, officials said Friday at the company’s headquarters in Yokohama.

The second-largest of Japan’s automakers also plans to add 20 new autonomous models by 2022, while having all of its vehicles, both under the Nissan and Infiniti brands, equipped with connected car technology.

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“The heart of our strategy in terms of electrification is battery EVs and e-Power technology,” Nissan Chief Planning Officer Philippe Klein told reporters during a media briefing. E-Power is the company’s term for vehicles using gasoline engines to extend range.

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GM Boosting Bolt EV Production as Demand Surges

CEO Barra asking Congress to expand electric-car tax credits.

by on Mar.08, 2018

There's significant room to expand Chevy Bolt EV production at GM's Orion Assembly Plant.

General Motors plans to expand production of its first long-range battery-car, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, CEO Mary Barra said during an energy conference in Houston.

The Bolt has experienced stronger than expected demand in recent months, some analysts suggesting that is the result of the slow ramp-up of production for Tesla’s own mainstream EV, the Model 3.

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Demand has also been buoyed by $7,500 federal tax credits that bring the base price of the Bolt down below $30,000. But under the current rules, GM is expected to soon see the credits phase out, something that could cut into demand, leading Barra to say that, “We feel tax credits should be expanded so our customers continue to receive the benefits going forward.”

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Japan Going All In on Fuel Cells

Country plans to have 800,000 fuel cell vehicles on roads by 2030.

by on Mar.08, 2018

Toyota's Yoshikazu Tanaka, the chief engineer of the Mirai fuel-cell vehicle, confirmed Toyota's commitment to fuel cell vehicles.

Japan is gearing up to put 800,000 vehicles powered with fuel cells on the road by 2030.

Japanese experts from business and academia outlined Japan’s fuel-cell push at the “Coping with Change: Global Warming and Decarbonization,” an international symposium organized by Venice International University and Alcantara, the Milan-based maker of luxury fabric used for automotive interiors. Japan’s fuel cell push has the support of the Japanese government.

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Yasuhiro Daisho, senior research professor at Waseda University and an emeritus researcher for Japan’s Next Generation Vehicles Research Council, offered a broad overview of the goals set out by Japanese industry and Japanese government. (more…)