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Houston Area Tesla Crash: NTSB Preliminary Report Confirms Tesla’s Statements, Raises Questions About Local Investigation



A few days ago, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its preliminary report for the investigation of the April 17th crash of a Tesla near Houston, Texas. The NTSB’s findings confirm statements Tesla made and show that there was indeed a driver in the seat before the crash. The preliminary report also raises questions about statements made by responders after the crash.

What We Learned From Tesla So Far

The recently released preliminary report gives us a quick summary of what they’ve found so far about the accident. While it’s very informative, we do have to keep in mind that the investigation continues. It all seems to line up pretty well, though, with what Tesla’s VP of engineering told us during the Q1 earnings call:

“Regarding the crash in Houston specifically, we worked directly with the local authorities, NTSB, and NHTSA wherever applicable, and whenever they reach out to us for help directly on the engineering level and whenever else we can support.

“In that vein, we did a study with them over the past week to understand what happened in that particular crash and what we’ve learned from that effort was that autosteer did not and could not engage on the road conditions as it was designed. Our adaptive cruise control only engaged when a driver was buckled and above 5 miles per hour, and it only accelerated to 30 miles per hour over the distance before the car crashed. As well, adaptive cruise control disengaged the cars fully to complete to a stop when the driver’s seatbelt was unbuckled.

“Through further investigation of the vehicle and the accident remains, we inspected the car with NTSB and NHTSA and the local police and were able to find that the steering wheel was indeed deformed, leading to a likelihood that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash and all seatbelts post-crash were found to be unbuckled.

“We were unable to recover the data from the SD card at the time of impact, but the local authorities are working on doing that, and we await their report.”

Just to clarify, as I did in this other article, they were talking about a test vehicle that Tesla ran to help NHTSA complete their investigation. They determined that lane centering would not activate on that particular road, and they confirmed that traffic aware cruise control (TACC, aka Active/Adaptive Cruise Control or ACC) could not have propelled the vehicle to faster than 30 MPH in the distance the vehicle was known to have driven prior to crashing. Also, the feature wouldn’t work anyway, as the occupants were not buckled in at the time of the crash and ACC won’t work without a seatbelt fastened.

More importantly, though, Tesla was aware that there was evidence that a driver was in the driver’s seat at the time of the collision, which contradicted an early statement made by local law enforcement. Local Constable (an elected law enforcement/court office) Mark Herman said that they were “100% certain” that there was nobody in the driver’s seat.

The NTSB report confirms all of this and gives us some more detail.

The Preliminary Report

Photograph of the crash site, provided by National Transportation Safety Board (Public Domain)

The second paragraph gives us some very important information:

“The crash trip originated at the owner’s residence near the end of a cul-de-sac. Footage from the owner’s home security camera shows the owner entering the car’s driver’s seat and the passenger entering the front passenger seat. The car leaves and travels about 550 feet before departing the road on a curve, driving over the curb, and hitting a drainage culvert, a raised manhole, and a tree.”

Most importantly, it’s clear now that the vehicle did indeed have a driver. The owner was seen on camera getting into the driver’s door, and the passenger into the passenger’s door. Neither of them got into the back or were seen vacating their seats in the driveway. After that, the vehicle quickly accelerated, going 550 feet and hitting several things before running into the tree.

While CleanTechnica‘s writers have already dismissed the idea of Autopilot abuse, this is the clearest confirmation yet that Autopilot was not a factor in this accident.

Another piece of information thoroughly rules out TACC abuse:

“The crash damaged the front of the car’s high-voltage lithium-ion battery case, where a fire started. The fire destroyed the car, including the onboard storage device inside the infotainment console (figure 2).”

Photograph of the vehicle’s wreckage, provided by National Transportation Safety Board (Public Domain)

The level of damage here is not consistent at all with a 30 MPH collision, and that’s the fastest TACC could have brought the vehicle in 550 feet. Clearly, the vehicle was under the full manual control of the driver.

The Local Investigation Should Be Treated With Skepticism For Now

NTSB tells us that there’s a separate local investigation into the accident being conducted by Constable Mark Herman and other local officials, and this is the same guy who told media that his investigators were “100% certain” there was nobody in the driver’s seat that night. Since then, his office has refused to release records detailing how they determined this when video evidence and a deformed steering wheel both later disproved it.

It could be an honest mistake based on limited evidence, as they might not have seen the video or the wheel before the Constable made that statement. If that’s the case, though, I don’t see why their office won’t release public records as required by Texas law. Sure, active criminal investigations can be exempted, but there’s clearly no living person to prosecute, and thus no actual criminal investigation. Hopefully they’ll release that information soon.

At this point, my opinion is that media outlets that were led astray by his initial statements would be smart to take statements from his office with a grain of salt, and compare them to the findings of other investigating entities, until we get a reasonable explanation for the erroneous early statements. [Editor’s note: I would also advise that such media outlets have people who understand how Tesla vehicles work covering Tesla news. It was clear to many Tesla owners very quickly that the statement didn’t make sense and early coverage didn’t match the technology. I’ll write more about this in a separate piece. —Zach]

Remaining Question: How Did The Driver End Up In The Back?

This is a remaining question that we don’t have an answer for yet, and it’s entirely possible that we may never know.

One possibility this preliminary report uncovers is that impacts prior to the final crash could have resulted in the driver being thrown to the back. It says they went over a curb, struck a drainage culvert, and then a raised manhole cover before the final impact with the tree. The curb seems pretty flat in the photos, but we don’t know how big or raised the culvert and manhole covers are.

Other possibilities, like the driver attempting to escape flames, are certainly still plausible. Wilder things I’ve seen people posit, like a third person who fled the scene, are pretty well debunked at this point, though.

Featured image: Photograph of the crash site (cropped), provided by National Transportation Safety Board (Public Domain)

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SolarTaxi Adds The XPeng G3 To Its Growing Range Of EV Models For Sale & Leasing In Ghana!



One of the best ways to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles is just to make them available. In many markets, there are only a few models available for consumers to buy. In South Africa, for example, the BMW i3 was for a very long time the only full electric vehicle available on the market. Right now, there are still only 4 fully electric models to choose from in South Africa. These include the i3, the Mini Cooper SE, the Jaguar i-Pace, the Porsche Taycan, and the Volvo XC 40 Recharge.  All these models cost well over R600,000 with most costing over R1,000,000. Not many people can easily afford these vehicles.

In Ghana, SolarTaxi Ghana wants to make sure a lot more full electric models are available to would-be buyers. It is now offering more than 12 models in Ghana which are available on a long term lease, rental, or outright purchase basis. Unlike a lot of countries in the East and Southern African region, Ghana and a lot of West African countries drive on the other side of the road just like China. This means they can get access to cheaper used and new fully electric vehicles from China.

Plugin vehicles are a hot item in China, having scored over 175,000 registrations in April. 8.2% of the total registrations in China were full electric vehicles in April. It is only going to get better from here on, meaning that there will be a lot more left-hand drive vehicles to bring to West Africa from China or even import as knocked down kits and then assemble on the continent. Egypt’s El Nasr and China’s Dongfeng are already setting a good example and are set to start producing the E70 EV in Egypt from mid next year.

Let’s look at 12 models that Solar Taxi is now offering in Ghana:

  1. The 32 kWh Dongfeng JunFeng ER30 SKIO EV (100,000 Ghana Cedis ($17,300)

Body dimensions: 3775 x 1665 x 1530 mm

Wheelbase: 2450 mm

Body style: 5-door, 4-seat hatchback

Range: 301 km (NEDC)

Battery: Lithium iron phosphate

Motor: 80 kW

Battery capacity: 32 kWh

Top speed: 115 km/h

  1. The 35.2 kWh JAC iEV7L.

Range of 302 km / 189 miles (NEDC). The battery pack has an energy density of 140.24Wh/kg. Its drivetrain produces 50 kW (67 hp) power and 215 Nm of torque.

  1. The 53.6 kWh Cherry Tiggo 3xe 480 EV SUV 

53.6 kWh battery good for a range of about 401 km (NEDC)

95 kW motor producing 280 Nm of torque

Top speed of 151 km/h

Dimensions of the Tiggo 3xe 480 EV SUV are 4200 mm long, 1760 mm wide, and 1570 mm high.

The wheelbase of the Tiggo 3xe 480 EV SUV is 2555 mm, and it has a ground clearance of 150 mm.

  1. The 82 kWh BYD E6 400 (pre-owned)

A range of 400 km / 250 miles (NEDC)

Its drivetrain produces 120 kW (161 hp) power, and 450 Nm of torque.

The top speed of the 2017 BYD e6 400 is 140 km/h 

  1. The 50.38 kWh Leopaard CS9

90 kW (121 hp) power, and 260 Nm of torque.

Range 360 km / 225 miles (NEDC)

The top speed of the 2019 Leopaard CS9 EV is 130 km/h

  1. The 52.5 kWh FAW Besturn X40 EV460 SUV

140 kW (188 hp) power, and 320 Nm of torque.

The top speed of the 2019 FAW Besturn X40 EV460 SUV is 160 km/h

  1. The 43.1 kWh Lifan 650 EV 

Range NEDC 300 km (186 miles)

Top speed 140 km/h (87 mph)

Engine power 136 hp (101 kW)

  1. The 66.5 kWh Xpeng G3

It has a CATL 66.5 kWh battery

520 km NEDC Range

145 kW (194 hp) power, and 300 Nm of  torque.

The top speed of the 2020 Xpeng G3 520i is 170 km/h

  1. The 26.6 kWh Renault K-ZE (Dacia Spring in Europe)

44 hp (33 kW), 125 Nm front-mounted electric motor driving the front wheels.

271 km range NEDC

  1. The 51 kWh Karry k60 

Range 351 km / 219 miles (NEDC)

80 kW (107 hp) power, and 240 Nm / 177 of torque

  1. 68 kWh Dongfeng Rich Pickup

NEDC range of around 400 kilometers

119 kW motor

5.29 meters long, 1.85 meters wide, and 1.79 meters high

  1. The Changan Oshan A600 

Maximum power of 90kW (122 hp).

Its NEDC cruising range is 251 miles (405 km)

It’s great to see SolarTaxi is bringing more EV models to Ghana, giving consumers more options to switch to electric. You can watch a video interview with SolarTaxi here.

According to Ghana’s Energy and Demand Outlook 2020, by the end of 2019, the installed electricity generation capacity available for grid power supply in the country was about 4,990 megawatts (MW). The peak load, however, was around 2,612 MW. The interesting part is the portion of the total dependable grid capacity which was 4,580 MW in 2019 and was therefore in excess of the peak load by a whopping 1,968 MW! Accelerating the adoption of EVs in Ghana will help boost revenue for the utility company by charging EVs.

All images courtesy of SolarTaxi

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Polestar 3 Electric SUV Will Be Manufactured In US



Polestar, which started as an independent performance tuning business for Volvo cars, was later purchased outright by Volvo. Then, when Volvo itself was sold, Geely bought the passenger car business and the Polestar brand came with it. Geely, in turn, made Polestar the brand name for electric cars from Volvo.

The Polestar 1 is a high performance plug-in hybrid GT with a carbon fiber body and 619 horsepower. The Polestar 2 is the company’s first fully electric, high volume car sedan, and features 408 horsepower.

Next up is the Polestar 3, a battery electric SUV. For the North American market, that car will be manufactured at the Volvo Cars factory in Ridgeville, South Carolina. That facility currently produces the Volvo S60 sedan and the XC90, Volvo’s largest SUV. The company claims adding the Polestar 3 to the manufacturing mix will transform Polestar into a truly global brand with an industrial capacity in the two largest single markets for electric vehicles in the world — the US and China. Volvo currently has two factories in Sweden and three in China.

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the Buy American emphasis for electric vehicles promoted by the Biden administration is having an effect on business decisions by several companies. Recently we reported on a story about BYD supplying 4 electric trolleys for the city of Walla Walla, Washington. In its press release, BYD went to great lengths to point out that its buses for the North American market are made by American workers using American parts in an American factory.

Volvo is also on board with the Buy American campaign. “Polestar 3 will be built in America, for our American customers,” says Thomas Ingenlath, COE of Polestar. “I remember the great response when I first shared Polestar’s vision here in the USA and I am proud that our first SUV will be manufactured in South Carolina. From now on, the USA is no longer an export market but a home market.”

Polestar is ramping up its marketing efforts in the US and will open about 25 retail Spaces — equivalent to a Tesla store — across America in 2021. Each Space will offer customer such conveniences as home test drives, free pick-up and delivery servicing, and mobile service for consumers in markets still awaiting the opening of a Polestar Space.

“Production in the USA reduces delivery times as well as the environmental impact associated with shipping vehicles around the world. It will even have a positive impact on the price of Polestar 3,” claims Dennis Nobelius, COO of Polestar. “All of this makes the brand even more competitive in the critical American sales market.”

The Polestar 3 will feature industry leading connectivity based on the Google Android Automotive OS infotainment system, as well as advanced autonomous driving features that focus on safety, which has long been the hallmark of Volvo cars. Production of Polestar 3 is expected to begin globally in 2022.

Pricing and performance details will be forthcoming as the Polestar 3 gets closer to production, but longtime Volvo customers know what to expect — safe, solidly built cars with every amenity known to the auto manufacturing world. Volvo cars offer a premium ownership experience at a premium price. For those of us who want to see the EV revolution pick up speed, having more offerings from Polestar is just what the doctor ordered.

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The Himiway Escape Electric Bike — CleanTechnica Review



The Himiway Escape is a moped-style e-bike with a fixed-height seat and dual suspension. It was designed to make it easy for riders at all levels of fitness to get around on an electric bike, and after spending a few weeks riding around town on it, we wholeheartedly agree.

First and foremost, the Escape is designed as a moped-style bike. That starts with an extremely durable full suspension frame with a motorcycle style fixed seat. The design makes it super easy to simply hop onto the bike and throttle away to your destination. A small rack sticks out from behind the single passenger seat, giving owners the option to add a seat extension for a second passenger, a basket, or some panniers.

Himiway Escape Electric Bike

Himiway offers a wide range of accessories for its bikes that make it easy to kit it out for delivery, commuting, or just everyday play right from the factory. We loved how easy it was to just hop onto the Escape and get out on the town. Rides to the park with the family were a breeze and a joy. It is truly a workhorse of an e-bike with an extremely low barrier of entry.

The 750-watt rear hub motor packed plenty of power to haul us and our gear around, and the Escape was built to work. With a carrying capacity of 330 pounds, it was able to comfortably carry my wife and I around town. It might not sound like much, but the ability to quickly hop onto a bike as a couple makes it easy to run out to pickup groceries, grab coffee, or visit the library.

Himiway Escape Electric Bike

And really, that’s just about the best thing any electric vehicle can do to electrify transit: make it easy to electrify as many miles as possible. Tossing a basket or cargo bag onto the rear rack transforms the Escape into a not so lean, green gear-hauling machine. It’s the perfect setup to run down to the store for enough groceries for dinner or for a week.

In our testing, the Escape held up well on the range front, easily hauling me around for 25 miles per charge with zero assistance from my feeble legs. Cranking up my contribution to the procession, I was able to hit those same 25 miles with about half the battery remaining. Scaling my experience up, the Escape is on track for the ~45 miles per charge Himiway estimates and that’s a very healthy amount of range to cover most daily commutes.

Himiway Escape Electric Bike

As a 6’2″, 200-pound man, I found the Escape an extremely comfortable bike to cruise around town on, but not so great to pedal on. It’s a lot like the three little bears. It might be just right for a few people, but it’s going to be a bit too tall or a bit too short for folks on either end of the ideal height. I did love how the BMX-style cruiser bars gave the bike a wide range of adjustment for the handlebar height and front to back position.

We found it most comfortable to use the pedals to get the bike moving and quickly follow up with a burst of throttle to get everything moving. It’s deceivingly easy to ride and we had to constantly keep reminding ourselves just how easy it was to get up to 20 mph. Safety first, my friends.

Himiway Escape Electric Bike

The Escape comes with a set of integrated front and rear LED lights to improve the safety of riding at all hours of the day. The rear light is nice and bright and the dual beam front headlight is the brightest and most illuminating e-bike headlight we’ve seen.

On the comfort side of things, the Escape boasts a fixed-height seat that makes cruising around town on the throttle a breeze. The oversized 20″ x 4″ tires absorb most of the smaller bumps in the road, with the dual front and rear suspension working together to mitigate larger hits. The result is an extremely comfortable ride that makes it a fun bike to ride whether you’re pedaling or not.

Himiway Escape Electric Bike

When it comes time to slow down, the Escape is equipped with a set of front and rear hydraulic brakes that provide a reassuring amount of grip on the 180mm rotors.

Overall, the Himiway Escape offers up an impressive amount of functionality for its $1,699 price tag. Most moped-style electric bikes with this much capability are pushing the $2,000 price tag, but Himiway manages to pack a comparable amount of bike in at a much more attractive price point.

For all the juicy details about the Himiway Escape or to order one, head over to its online home.

Himiway Escape Electric Bike Specs

  • Motor: 750 watt brushless rear hub motor
  • Battery: 48 v, 14 Ah, 672 Wh removable frame-integrated battery
  • Range: 45+ mi per charge
  • Assist: 5 levels of pedal assist + right-mounted twist throttle
  • Charging Time: 6-7 hours
  • Frame Material: 6061 Aluminum
  • Lighting: Integrated front and rear LED headlights
  • Tires: 20″ x 4″ Kenda fat tires
  • Brakes: Front and rear 180mm hydraulic disc brakes
  • Gearing: 7 speed Shimano Altus-based system w/14-28 tooth rear cassette
  • Weight Capacity: 330 lb
  • Weight: 92 lb
  • Price: $1,699

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Get Ready for a Massive Paradigm Shift in the Auto Sector



The dream of an electric car future began to crystallize in 2010. That’s the year Tesla went public. Soon after, Tesla introduced its Model S sedan. By 2013, the company finished the year selling just 22,000 cars. Most industry observers predicted Elon Musk’s Silicon Valley startup would be the next DeLorean. Wall Street analysts widely predicted the company would go bankrupt.

Tesla Model S (Source: EVANNEX. Photo by Casey Murphy)

Fast forward to 2020. As the year came to a close, TheStreet praised Tesla’s “meteoric 731% rise year-to-date” to become one of the ten most valuable companies in the world. At the time, Tesla’s market cap grew higher than Volkswagen, Toyota, Daimler, BMW, GM, and Ford combined.

A few weeks ago, a report from Money UK noted Tesla was the most “Googled” investment opportunity in the world, “ranking as the most searched for investment in 82 countries worldwide.”

Tesla is at the vanguard of a paradigm shift unfolding in the automotive space. Just as the past 5–10 years surprised the majority of the market, the next 5–10 will shock everyone. EV adoption will accelerate far faster than anyone thought possible.

Zachary Shahan, the editor of CleanTechnica told me,

“On the one hand, such rapid growth seems hard to believe in an industry as large, complex, and slow-changing as the auto industry. On the other hand, tech transitions aren’t slow once a technology becomes cost-competitive. The fabled S-curve of tech adoption looks much more like a steep rise than an S.”

He adds, “How many major companies have faced such moments of shock and disruption? Countless have, from Kodak to Blockbuster.”

Above: New tech adoption rates for popular technologies over time (Source: New York Times, via CleanTechnica)

Most agree, electric vehicles (EVs) are poised to replace internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles over the next few decades. Traditional automakers, EV upstarts, and government initiatives all point to this future.

According to Marketwatch, electric cars currently make up around 2% of global auto sales, and estimates for a future market share vary from a low-end forecast of 10% to 20% of cars sold by 2030 to as much as two-thirds of the market by that time. “The EV party is just beginning, buckle the seat belts,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said recently.

Traditional Automakers Go Electric

On the heels of Tesla’s stunning success, traditional automakers have aggressive plans in place to transition to EVs.

A recent clip from Bloomberg Green showcases the direction of the auto industry moving forward (Source: Bloomberg Green)

For example, three major automakers have recently made significant announcements touting an electric future.

FORD. Ford just announced an electric version of their best-selling F-150 pickup truck. Bloomberg reported the company revealed plans to boost its investment into EVs to $30 billion and pledged that 40% of vehicles sold would be battery powered by the end of the decade.

GENERAL MOTORSAutoweek reports that GM plans to invest most of its $27 billion in electrification efforts as “the automaker plans to offer 30 battery-electric models by the middle of this decade, aiming to offer 40% of its lineup as BEVs by the end of 2025.”

VOLKSWAGEN. According to Reuters, Volkswagen is planning to invest a staggering $41.7 billion (35 billion euros) in EVs including an ambitious plan to build six European battery gigafactories by 2030.

Meanwhile, many other auto brands including Mercedes, Hyundai, Audi, and Porsche are all pushing to fast-track plans for vehicle electrification as well.

New EV Companies Are Coming To Market

At least $28 billion was invested in public and private electric vehicle companies in 2020, according to data from CB Insights and Dow Jones Market Data Group (via Marketwatch). While traditional automakers join the EV race, investors are funding EV startups in hopes to find the next Tesla.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Rivian received 8.2 billion dollars from notable investors like Blackrock and Amazon. Lucid has received 7.4 billion dollars from other major investors including the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund.

EV startups like Workhorse, Proterra, Bollinger, Fisker, and Canoo show promise (and significant funding) too.

In addition, well-funded Chinese EV companies like NIO, Li Auto, Xpeng, and Warren Buffet–backed BYD are also looking to enter the US auto market soon in order to compete globally in the EV space.

A Backdrop Of Government Support

All of this investment into EVs from traditional auto and new car companies is happening against a backdrop of strong government support for electrification.

According to Barron’s, President Biden now has a bill coming out of the Senate Finance Committee that offers federal tax credits for EV buyers ranging from $7,500 to $12,500, which would be “a potential boon for American car makers, including General Motors, Ford, and, of course, Tesla.”

In addition, many states in the US offer additional tax credits for buying an EV, including CARB states offering up to a $2,500 tax credit which can be used in addition to the federal tax credit. In some cases, these combined tax credits could reduce the cost of buying an electric car by $15,000.

Often, government support for EVs is actually more generous in other countries. And it goes beyond just tax credits and incentives. In fact, according to CleanTechnica, “there are 31 national and local governments that have announced bans on the sale of some forms of transportation powered by internal combustion engines.” And this list is always growing.

A partial list of the national and local governments that have announced bans on the sale of some forms of transportation powered by internal combustion engines (Source: Charged Future, via CleanTechnica)

Tesla Poised For 50% Annual Growth

While traditional auto and EV upstarts look to challenge Tesla, Elon Musk and Team Tesla aren’t simply standing still. The company is making significant investments to build and expand its gigafactories in Nevada, Texas, Shanghai, and Berlin.

Will Tesla’s bold investments result in accelerated growth? In Tesla’s Q1 Investor Update shareholder deck (on slide 10), the company forecasts: “Over a multi-year horizon, we expect to achieve 50% annual growth in vehicle deliveries.”

In the immediate future, the forthcoming introduction of the Tesla Cybertruck — a vehicle that currently has an estimated 1 million pre-orders — will prove to be a bold entry into the lucrative pickup truck market. Following Cybertruck, Tesla plans to introduce its first mass-market car, the so-called “Model 2” (in 2024), with an estimated price point of $25,000.

So Who Will Win This Race?

Tesla is certainly a good bet. But keep in mind, overall global EV sales should top 12.2 million by 2025, indicating annual growth of nearly 52% (compounded), according to IHS Markit. Everyone is getting in. So get the popcorn, it’s going to be fun to watch this race.

This decade should mark a dramatic turning point for electric vehicles. The transition from outdated ICE technology to a battery-powered future will gain traction and accelerate. And with zero tailpipe emissions, we can all breathe a sigh of relief (and some cleaner air) as the auto industry embraces electrification.

Originally posted on EVANNEX.

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