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Volkswagen ID. Buzz, Trinity, SEAT — A Trifecta Of Volkswagen News

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Volkswagen is pretty pleased with itself. Its factory in Zwickau is using renewable energy to manufacture fully electric cars, it is lowering emissions in its distribution network, it is building a new EV production line in Tennessee, and it is partnering with Microsoft to create autonomous driving systems. But it is not resting on its laurels. Here are three stories from today’s newswire that all relate to the company and its efforts to push the EV revolution forward.

ID. Buzz Timelines

Germany’s magazine Edison reports the ID. Buzz — the all-electric spiritual successor to the iconic VW Microbus — may use a 100 kWh battery and have a range of up to 500 kilometers (WLTP). The Google translation is especially lumpy for this story, but here’s the gist:

800 ABB robots have been installed at the company’s Hannover factory to assemble the ID. Buzz and its battery pack, with production scheduled to begin in February 2022. The first examples are expected to find their way into the hands of Volkswagen dealers in Germany in July of next year.

The Hannover factory currently builds commercial vehicles, particularly the T6 and T7 vans. The ID. Buzz will be assembled alongside those conventional products (the T7 has a plug-in hybrid powertrain available) so that the production mix can be adjusted as needed to meet demand. It is based on the MEB electric car platform and will be 4.7 meters long. Inside, there will be seating for up to 7 passengers — 2 in front, 2 in the middle, and 3 in the rear. With all the powertrain components mounted beneath the floor, load carrying capacity should be ample.

Visually, the production version is quite faithful to the concept first unveiled in 2017. Reportedly, Volkswagen will stick with the ID. Buzz name rather than ID. Bulli, because if you are in marketing, “buzz” is what it’s all about. The buzz about the ID. Buzz has been growing stronger ever since the concept was first unveiled.

A dual-motor, all-wheel-drive version may be offered but probably won’t appear until two years after the start of production. The least expensive version will come with a 60 kWh battery, a 125 horsepower motor, and a range of 300 kilometers (WLTP). A panel van will be offered for delivery customers as well as a long chassis version with greater cargo capacity.

Prices before incentives are expected to start at €40,000 and increase to more than €60,000 for the long-wheel-base, dual-motor version with the largest battery. Americans salivating over the ID. Buzz will have to wait a little longer. The decision has been made to only offer the long-wheel-base version in the US and deliveries are not expected to begin before the 2nd quarter of 2023.

The Trinity Project

Courtesy of Volkswagen

Volkswagen has always had a bit of an image problem. The name itself means “people’s car,” and since the very first Beetle, its core business has been producing cars for the masses, yet it yearns to compete with the likes of Mercedes and BMW in the premium segment. It has Audi and Porsche in its corporate stable, but still the desire lingers to make the Volkswagen name synonymous with the best the automotive world has to offer.

In 2002, the company unveiled its Phaeton sedan, a 12 cylinder car intended to stamp Volkswagen’s authority on the luxury car market. In Greek mythology, Phaeton was the son of Helios, the god who drove a chariot bearing the sun across the sky every day. Over time, the name came to stand for any vehicle — either horse drawn or gas powered — that offered sumptuous transportation. The Volkswagen Phaeton was quietly cancelled after several years of low sales and high maintenance costs.

Now the company says it wants to create an all-electric luxury car based on a new Scalable Systems Platform. According to Autoblog, it’s all part of Volkswagen’s new Accelerate program, which has four components — electrification, software defined products, new data-based business models, and autonomous driving. “In the coming years, we will change Volkswagen as never before,” said CEO Ralf Brandstätter in a press release.

The car itself is scheduled to appear in 2025. Few details have been released except for a concept drawing that shows a swoopy roofline. The company claims it will have long range and fast charging capability equal to the time needed to fill the tank of a conventional car. (Might that be a hint that the solid state batteries QuantumScape is working on will be production ready by then?) It will debut with Level 2+ autonomy but with the hardware for Level 4 technology baked in. The company says it will be the first Volkswagen to be part of a “fully networked vehicle fleet over which vehicles will continuously exchange data [on] traffic, obstacles, or accidents.” If that reminds you of a certain California car company that starts with the letter T, you’re not alone.

That last part may be the real news. Autoblog says Trinity is “supposed to lead Volkswagen into the financial promised land, taking the company out of the low margin business of manufacturing and into a new business model that offers the rich returns of software as a service,” as Volkswagen move to “new, data-based business models” that “generates additional revenue in the usage phase.”

Okay, what in the world does that mean? The company says future vehicles may have far fewer hardware configurations. Years ago, Detroit figured out it was cheaper to just add air conditioning, power windows, cruise control, and other features to every vehicle. Volkswagen may contemplate something similar with the Trinity, which could allow drivers to choose all wheel drive or extra power on a “fee for service” basis. Sharp-eyed readers may immediately think of a recent suggestion from Tesla that it may offer its Full Self Driving technology on a subscription basis.

VW says, “The cars will … have virtually everything on board and customers will be able to activate desired functions ‘on demand’ at any time via the digital ecosystem in the car.” Autoblog speculates drivers could select GTI level power, electronic damper tuning, or more sporting steering response simply by touching the appropriate buttons on their car’s touchscreen. Customers who want a less expensive automobile could simply choose a package that excludes certain performance or convenience options.

Ralf Brandstätter says, “In the future, the individual configuration of the vehicle will no longer be determined by the hardware at the time of purchase. Instead, customers will be able to add functions on demand at any time.” To which, Autoblog replies, somewhat tongue in cheek, “Your monthly vehicle usage charges could exceed your car payment. A brave new future indeed.”

EU Support For EV Manufacturing In Spain?

Finally, the government of Spain announced last week it will use funding from then EU to create a public-private partnership between SEAT and Spanish utility company Iberdrola with the goal of building the country’s first factory for EV batteries. SEAT branded cars are currently built in Germany and Slovakia, but Volkswagen said last year it is considering building a small electric car (the ID.1?) in Spain as early at 2025 — provided public support for the idea is forthcoming.

According to Reuters, Volkswagen Group chairman Herbert Diess was in Spain on Friday and told an audience that included King Felipe and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez that his company wants a firm commitment from Brussels to support the manufacture of electric cars in Spain. Diess added the potential project would include battery production and receive the EU’s pandemic recovery funds, but stressed more backing was needed.

“We hope for the willingness of the European Commission to let this flagship project of historic importance for Spain and Europe become reality,” Diess said. “The successful transformation of the Spanish auto industry will hinge upon a clear commitment by the European Commission.” SEAT chairman Wayne Griffiths said his company is seeking a broad alliance with Iberdrola, phone operator Telefonica, and Caixabank, as well as other Spanish companies, to meet its electric mobility goal.

Diess’ remarks were somewhat cryptic regarding exactly what Volkswagen expects the EU to do to promote EV production in Spain, but if you guessed it has something to do with a hefty chunk of change, you probably wouldn’t be too far wrong.

The Takeaway

No matter how you slice it, Volkswagen is taking the bull by the horns when it comes to producing electric cars and figuring out new ways to monetize them. The only other company that is anywhere near as creative in figuring out what the EV revolution will look like is Tesla. Volkswagen couldn’t have picked a better role model.

 



 


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/03/06/volkswagen-id-buzz-trinity-seat-a-trifecta-of-volkswagen-news/

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Waymo CEO Krafcik Steps Down — Does It Mean Anything?

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The longtime CEO of Waymo, John Krafcik, has been leading what many consider to be the leading autonomous driving company since 2015 — 6 years. Though, the news is that Krafcik and/or higher-ups at Alphabet decided it was time for him to find a new passion. He is stepping down as CEO and Waymo will now be led by co-CEOs, Dmitri Dolgov, previously Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and Tekedra Mawakana, previously Chief Operating Officer (COO).

The top question is: does this mean anything? Is Krafcik stepping down because he has failed to deliver on key targets? Is commercial rollout going too slowly? Are autonomous capabilities progressing too slowly? Has Krafcik accomplished what he set out to accomplish and is now ready for either new challenges or early retirement?

Notably, Krafcik recently got into a little communications tussle with Tesla. Krafcik claimed that Tesla’s “full self-driving” system isn’t the right approach toward a fully autonomous vehicle. He considers it a dead end.

“It is a misconception that you can simply develop a driver-assistance system further until one day you can magically jump to a fully autonomous driving system,” Krafcik said in an interview with Manager Magazin.

Naturally, Tesla CEO Elon Musk sees it differently. He expects that the only way to get to truly useful self-driving vehicles is through the vision + deep machine learning system it is continuously improving. It must feel like a frantic race to solve a giant puzzle to many of the members of these teams — that’s certainly what it looks like from the outside. With the different approaches, though, it’s not just a race — one of the companies may be putting the puzzle together in the wrong way.

(NNs = neural networks.)

 



 


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/03/waymo-ceo-krafcik-steps-down-does-it-mean-anything/

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The Fossil Fuel Industry Used Deception To Conceal Damage To BIPOC — NAACP Report

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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) just published a report titled Fossil Fuel Foolery, which identified 10 tactics that the fossil fuel industry used as excuses for not accepting accountability for its impacts on the environment and human health. DesmogBlog noted that the industry used a long list of deceptive tactics that concealed environmental destruction harming Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) as well as low-income communities. Not surprising — the fossil fuel industry only cares about money, and if the planet and human health stand in the way of that, so be it.

The article gave a snapshot of the report findings, and one of the most disturbing things I took notice of was the common tactic that the NAACP described as “co-opt community leaders and organizations and misrepresent the interests and opinions of communities,” sometimes with financial support, to “neutralize or weaken public opposition.”

In short, fossil fuel companies and utilities pour donations on churches, nonprofits, and advocacy organizations to pretty much secure the local community buy-in on projects that generate pollution. The article said it plainly: “to stifle the push towards renewable energy.” And that also includes misrepresenting the community through one or two hired hands.

One example noted in the article is Florida Power & Light’s donation of around $225,000 to the NAACP’s Florida state chapter between 2013 and 2017. Just after these donations, the Florida chapter began repeating industry talking points against the growth of solar energy. This helped accelerate the NAACP’s Initial 2019 report. In addition, the fossil fuel industry and its allies shift the blame onto the very communities affected the most by pollution to distract from the impact of industry operations. This sounds like a narcissistic abuser. Hurt someone and then blame them and convince them it’s their fault.

Last month, President Biden brought attention to a common nickname that encompasses my own city, Cancer Alley. In Louisiana, Cancer Alley is an area along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge (where I live) and New Orleans — the River Parishes of Louisiana where numerous industrial plants are located. This area has clusters of cancer patients and the constant coverage by the media led to the nickname.

President Biden spoke out about the petrochemical facilities that dump out the large quantities of toxic pollution onto predominantly Black communities, and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) accused the President of slamming our area. Considering Senator Cassidy’s stance in favor of fossil fuels, this isn’t surprising. Earlier this year, President Biden signed executive orders to transform our nation’s heavily fossil-fuel-powered economy into a clean-energy one and paused oil and gas leasing on federal land. President Biden also targeted removing subsidies for those industries. Senator Cassidy and Senator Kennedy spoke out against the President’s orders and in favor of the fossil fuel industry.

“Biden’s executive orders are counterproductive. They eliminate jobs and send them overseas to countries with worse environmental standards, increasing global emissions. We don’t need symbolism — we need solutions. So far, all we are seeing from this administration is an ‘energy’ agenda that betrays the working Americans who thought that this President was going to work for them.” — Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

DeSmogBlog noted that when United Nations human rights official issued a statement last month calling ”the development of petrochemical complexes” in the region “a form of environmental racism,” Senator Cassidy had some words to say about this. It should be noted that Senator Cassidy received around $600,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry during the 2020 election season. The fossil fuel-addicted senator pointed to obesity and cigarettes as the causes of cancer instead of the rampant pollution.

Late last year, I went down to the riverfront and was fortunate to have had my N95 mask — the chemicals from the plant across the river not only created a haze but made the air foul. That smell was well worse than cigarette smoke. I wrote about it here because it was so striking.

The Top 10 Fossil Fuel Industry Tactics

The NAACP listed the top 10 fossil fuel industry tactics that shift the blame and responsibility of its impact on BIPOC communities. They are as follows:

  1. Invest in efforts that undermine democracy.
  2. Finance political campaigns and pressure politicians.
  3. Fund scientists and scientific research institutions to publish biased research.
  4. Say government regulations hurt the economy and low-income communities.
  5. Deny or understate the harms polluting facilities cause to people and the environment.
  6. Deflect responsibility–shit blame to the communities they pollute.
  7. Co-opt community leaders and organizations and misrepresent the interest and opinions of communities.
  8. Exaggerate the level of job creation and downplay the lack of quality and safety in jobs.
  9. Praise false solutions while claiming that real solutions are impractical, impossible, or harmful for BIPOC and poor communities.
  10. “Embrace” renewables to control the new energy economy.

Some Key Highlights From The Report

The highly detailed report actually has information that is highly disturbing. For example, in 1980, ALEC founder Paul Weyrich stated: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

In 2010, the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission determined that limited political spending by corporations restricted their constitutional right to freedom of expression. This shifted the political power away from citizens to corporations and special interest groups.

Also, leading up to the 2020 election, the American Petroleum Institute spent over $5 million in lobbying practices. The group funneled money to campaign contributions — mostly financing the Senate Leadership Fund, which is a super PAC that supports the Republican Party. From the report:

“With financial support from the fossil fuel industry, politicians actively support destructive energy practices, falsely claim that emissions, not fossil fuels, are the enemy and draft diluted environmental agendas that focus on planting trees instead of shutting down industrially polluted, cancerous alleys.”

E = MC2: Enviro-lies = Manipulaiton X Ca$h

In this section of the report with the clever above headline, it noted that the Center for American Progress identified over 50 research agreements in a 2010 report. These agreements were between universities and major energy companies, where the companies donated a range between $1 million and $500 million toward energy-related research.

Another example cites a 1997 study by the National Centre for Cancer Institute which found that the chemical benzene, which is found in crude oil and gasoline, was connected to the development of chronic diseases in workers exposed to it. Following this report, several petrochemical companies gave nearly $40 million to fund scientific research “designed to protect member company interests.” One example of this type of research is the Shanghai Research Project which published research that supported the petrochemical companies’ practices.

Fossil Fuel Emissions Kill

The report noted that around 63,000 Americans are killed each year by air pollution and these Americans are disproportionally BIPOC and low-income community residents. Senator Cassidy can blame fat people and cigarettes all day, but it won’t change the fact that 40% of communities of color and low-income communities live within three miles of power plants that emit particulate matter that taints our air quality. Last year when the Exxon plant had that explosion — and, yes, despite what officials said, there were reports of an actual explosion (I was less than five miles away from the explosion) — who knows what was pumped into our air?

You can read the NAACP’s full report here.

 



 


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/02/the-fossil-fuel-industry-used-deception-to-conceal-damage-to-bipoc-naacp-report/

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Reports: Tesla Plans To Start Building 5 Semi Trucks A Week

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Tesla is building a low-volume Tesla Semi production line, and once it’s complete, Tesla reportedly plans to produce 5 Tesla Semi electric trucks on a weekly basis, reports Yahoo! Finance. The article noted that the low-volume production line is being built in a new building in the industrial park where the Nevada Gigafactory is located. Tesla is also still planning for volume production of the Semi trucks to be manufactured at Giga Texas once it’s able to ramp up battery production there.

On Monday, Tesla received a new order for 10 of its Semi EVs along with two Megachargers. Benzinga reported that this was backed with almost $2 million in federal government support. The Mobile Source Air Pollution Review Committee is investing in a clean transportation initiative on California’s southern coast. As a part of this investment, it awarded MXS Leasing LLC, which is a logistics company based in California, $1.8 million for the deployment of 10 Tesla Semi Class 8 semi trucks and an additional $560,000 for the deployment for two overhead electric cranes.

Momentum, the company that assisted MHX with its application for the funding, said that the deal includes two Megachargers at MXH’s Fontana, California, site. Just after that news broke, Tesla’s Elon Musk tweeted that Semi demand isn’t a problem, but that near-term cell supply makes it hard to scale the Semi. He also noted that this limitation will be less onerous next year.

Although many seem to view this as another delay, it should be noted, as Teslarati pointed out, that Elon Musk was talking about the difficulties of scaling the Semi’s manufacturing. The idea of Tesla actually producing its first few Semis in 2021 still seems possible.  This thought seems backed up by the new report noting that Tesla plans to produce 5 of its Semis on a weekly basis once the low-volume production line is completed.

 



 


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/02/reports-tesla-plans-to-start-building-5-semi-trucks-a-week/

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Chevy Bolt Sales Jump 53.7%

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The Chevy Bolt is not the most exciting or flamboyant electric car on the market — it’s not a Tesla or the Ford Mustang Mach-E. However, it is the electric vehicle I see most often on the roads around me aside from all of Tesla’s models. It’s exciting and uplifting to see them, even if the car never put a tingle in the back of my neck.

One thing the Bolt does have in common with the Mach-E is that, love it or not, its sales are pretty weak. That’s not going to change, because it’s a vehicle class that is just not that popular in America. However, the good news is that things are looking up for the little Bolt EV.

In the first quarter of 2021, the Chevy Bolt EV’s sales rose 53.7% over its sales in the first quarter of 2020. In fact, it was the Bolt EV’s best first quarter in history. (Admittedly, it’s not a very long history, but the Bolt EV was the first long-range, semi-affordable electric car on the US market.)

The Bolt EV had 9,025 US sales last quarter, up from 5,873 sales in the first quarter of 2020. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Bolt EV had just 9,025 US sales last quarter. Multiply that by 4 and you don’t even get to 40,000 sales a year. Heck, you don’t even get to 37,000 sales a year.

You’re not going to cut enough emissions, GM, with under 40,000 electric vehicle sales a year in the 2020s. Tesla likely scored more than 22,000 first-quarter Model 3 sales in the US and 43,000+ first-quarter Model Y sales here. GM needs to understand why its EV of a similar age does so much worse, and how the company could get closer to Tesla’s numbers. The electric revolution is not going to slow down, and a model getting under 100,000 — let alone under 40,000 — annual sales is not going to be seen as a leader for long.

“What about the Bolt EUV? It’s bigger than the little Bolt EV.” Well, we’ll see. …

Chevy Bolt EUV fleet ready for test drives. Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica.

Chevy Bolt EUV with attractive backdrop. Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica.

Inside a Chevy Bolt EUV. Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica.

 



 


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/02/chevy-bolt-sales-jump-53-7/

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