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Today — January 22nd 2020Your RSS feeds

Tesla could soon sell and service its vehicles in Michigan

By Matt Burns

Tesla reportedly reached a settlement with the State of Michigan regarding the sales and service of its vehicles. According to the AP, this settlement would end the automakers lawsuit against the state, which barred Tesla and others from selling vehicles directly to consumers. This would lead to consumers being able to purchase, take delivery, and service Tesla vehicles within the State of Michigan.

Currently, Michigan law states consumers can only purchase vehicles through franchised dealerships and not directly from an automaker. Tesla, as an automaker, sells directly to consumers through dealerships it owns. As a result, consumers in Michigan had to jump through hoops to purchase a Tesla vehicle.

Currently, Tesla has a limited presence in the home state of America’s Big Three automakers. Shoppers have to visit a so-called showcase within an upscale mall located in a Detroit suburb. Representatives at this location cannot advice shoppers on vehicle pricing or buying options. What’s more, if a Tesla vehicle is purchased in Michigan, it must be obtained in a different state.

Tesla challenged Michigan’s stance in a 2016 lawsuit and this settlement would give consumers more freedom of choice by allowing Tesla to sell and service vehicles. Under the terms of this settlement, Tesla would sell vehicles through a subsidiary and deliver vehicles to consumers. However, these vehicles would be titled from a different state, forcing the new owners to retitle them for Michigan. Tesla will also be allowed to open service centers in Michigan.

Elon Musk seems happy with the report of the settlement.

Yay!

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 21, 2020

Yesterday — January 21st 2020Your RSS feeds

Tesla calls claims of unintended acceleration in NHTSA petition ‘completely false’

By Kirsten Korosec

Tesla pushed back Monday against claims that its electric vehicles may suddenly accelerate on their own, calling a petition filed with federal safety regulators “completely false.”

Tesla also questions the validity of the petition, noting that it was submitted by a Tesla short-seller.

Last week, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration said it would review a defect petition that cited 127 consumer complaints of alleged unintended acceleration of Tesla electric vehicles that may have contributed to or caused 110 crashes and 52 injuries.

The petition, which was first reported by CNBC, was filed by Brian Sparks, an independent investor who is currently shorting Tesla’s stock. Sparks has hedged his bets and has been long Tesla in the past, according to the CNBC report.

At the time, Tesla didn’t respond to requests for comment. Now, in a blog post, the company said that it routinely reviews customer complaints of unintended acceleration with NHTSA.

“In every case we reviewed with them, the data proved the vehicle functioned properly,” Tesla wrote in a blog post on its website.

The automaker argued that its vehicles are designed to avoid unintended acceleration, noting that its system will default to cutting off motor torque if the two independent position sensors on its accelerator pedals register any error.

“We also use the Autopilot sensor suite to help distinguish potential pedal misapplications and cut torque to mitigate or prevent accidents when we’re confident the driver’s input was unintentional,” the company wrote.

Here is the complete response from Tesla:

This petition is completely false and was brought by a Tesla short-seller. We investigate every single incident where the driver alleges to us that their vehicle accelerated contrary to their input, and in every case where we had the vehicle’s data, we confirmed that the car operated as designed. In other words, the car accelerates if, and only if, the driver told it to do so, and it slows or stops when the driver applies the brake.

While accidents caused by a mistaken press of the accelerator pedal have been alleged for nearly every make/model of vehicle on the road, the accelerator pedals in Model S, X and 3 vehicles have two independent position sensors, and if there is any error, the system defaults to cut off motor torque. Likewise, applying the brake pedal simultaneously with the accelerator pedal will override the accelerator pedal input and cut off motor torque, and regardless of the torque, sustained braking will stop the car. Unique to Tesla, we also use the Autopilot sensor suite to help distinguish potential pedal misapplications and cut torque to mitigate or prevent accidents when we’re confident the driver’s input was unintentional. Each system is independent and records data, so we can examine exactly what happened.

We are transparent with NHTSA, and routinely review customer complaints of unintended acceleration with them. Over the past several years, we discussed with NHTSA the majority of the complaints alleged in the petition. In every case we reviewed with them, the data proved the vehicle functioned properly.

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

China-based NIO’s shares skyrocket as the Tesla rival beats investor expectations

By Alex Wilhelm

Shares of NIO, a China-based electric car manufacturer, are soaring this morning after the company’s Q3 2019 earnings beat investor expectations. NIO’s surprise win comes directly on the heels of Tesla, a competitor, announcing the delivery of its first cars made in China, NIO’s home market.

NIO went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2018 for $6.26 per share. Its value has plunged as a public company, seeing its per-share price fall to as little as $1.19. Today, after its earnings report, NIO shares are up more than $1 apiece, to $3.47 per share as of the time of writing. That new price represents a gain of a touch less than 44% in today’s trading.

Earnings

NIO managed to beat both revenue and profit expectations in the quarter. And, the company’s forecast for its next quarter’s car deliveries show a sharp rise in automotive deliveries.

According to Yahoo Finance, investors expected NIO to lose $0.34 per share in Q3 on an adjusted basis off revenue of $230.8 million. In fact, NIO reported $257.0 million in revenue leading to an adjusted $0.33 per share loss. NIO managed a top-and-bottom beat while growing its total revenues by 21.8% compared to the sequentially preceding quarter, and 25% compared to the year-ago period.

While NIO did beat expectations, it remains a company deep in its investment cycle. That’s a polite way of saying that it loses lots of money. For example, in its most recent quarter, NIO’s gross margin on selling automobiles came to -6.8%. That was a bit worse than its year-ago result of -4.3%, if better than what it managed earlier in Q2 2019.

NIO’s core business can’t even cover its cost of revenues, let alone the operating costs of the rest of the company. This means that the company is consuming cash, putting an end date on its ability to operate without more cash.

As NIO put it in its earnings letter (emphasis: TechCrunch):

The Company operates with continuous loss and negative equity. The Company’s cash balance is not adequate to provide the required working capital and liquidity for continuous operation in the next 12 months. The Company’s continuous operation, which has also constituted the basis of preparing the Company’s third quarter unaudited financial information, depends on the Company’s capability to obtain sufficient external equity or debt financing. The Company is currently working on several financing projects, the consummation of which is subject to certain uncertainties. The Company will announce any material developments or information subject to the requirements by applicable laws.

So, NIO needs more money. Luckily for it, with a newly risen share price the firm has a better shot at selling more of itself to raise the capital it needs to stay in business and grow.

And grow it intends, with a written expectation of delivering “over 8,000” vehicles in Q4 2019, which it notes is about two-thirds more than it managed in Q3 2019; so NIO is telling investors that its revenue will be sharply higher in the current period than it was in the preceding three-month period.

All good news for NIO, even if Musk and company are breathing down its neck. And good news for the 2018 IPO class.

Tesla to begin delivering China-built Model 3 cars next week

By Darrell Etherington

Tesla will start making the first deliveries of its Shanghai-built Model 3 sedans on Monday, Bloomberg reports. The cars are rolling off the assembly line at the new Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory, which is operational but which will also be expanding in future thanks to a fresh $1.4 billion injection in local funding reported earlier this week.

The Shanghai gigafactory’s construction only began earlier this year, and its turnaround time in terms of construction and actually producing vehicles is impressive. The Model 3 vehicles built in China will provide a price break vs. imported vehicles, since cars made in-country enjoy exemption from a 10% tax applied to imported cars. Tesla Model 3s build in China will also get a government purchase incentive of as much as $3,600 per car, which should drive even higher sales.

Tesla’s Shanghai factory is its first manufacturing facility outside of the country, though there’s also a gigafactory in the works in Germany just outside of Berlin, and Tesla has teased plans for at least a fifth gigafactory with a location to be revealed later.

Tesla’s production capacity in Shanghai probably isn’t ver high-volume to begin with, although the company has said previously it was targeting a production rate of around 1,000 cars per week by year’s end, with potential to ramp up to around 3,000 cars per week. Tax breaks and incentives have helped demand for the Model 3 in China grow significantly in 2019, so any progress on production in-country is bound to help lift global vehicle sales.

Elon Musk says Tesla will add Disney+ to its vehicles ‘soon’

By Darrell Etherington

Elon Musk spent some time over this past holiday week answering questions posed by fans on Twitter, and one addressed the growing catalog of entertainment options available in-car via the Tesla Theater software feature: Musk said that Disney+ will be “coming soon” to the list of available streaming services drivers can access in their cars. Tesla Theater was introduced in the V10 software update that went out in September via over-the-air-update, and added streaming media from Netflix and YouTube, as well as Tesla vehicle feature tutorials.

Tesla also issued a new software update that began rolling out just before Christmas, which included the addition of Twitch to Tesla Theater, as well as support for popular farming sim game Stardew Valley, the ability to set dashcam video clips to automatically save whenever you honk the horn, support for voice commands and much more.

Tesla has put a lot of effort into its continuous software updates for vehicles, which are available to all cars in the fleet regardless of generation and which really do add a lot of post-purchase value, especially when compared to the traditional automaker practice of gating new features and improvements to only current and recent model-year releases.

Tesla Theater’s streaming media options are only available when the car is in park and not driving, but it’s a feature that is more valuable to Tesla owners than you might think — especially when you consider that Tesla cars require time to charge at charging stations, meaning even at a high-speed Supercharger you’ll likely be looking at a wait of half-an-hour or more depending on how much you’re looking to charge up.

Via Teslerati

The electric Porsche Taycan Turbo has an EPA range of 201 miles

By Kirsten Korosec

The Porsche Taycan Turbo, one of several variants of the German automaker’s first all-electric vehicles, has an EPA estimated range of 201 miles, according to government ratings posted Wednesday.

This is the first variant of the Taycan — Porsche’s first all-electric vehicle — to receive an estimated range from the EPA. The range, which indicates how far the vehicle can travel on a single charge, is far behind other competitors in the space, notably the Tesla Model S. But it also trails other high-end electric vehicles, including the Jaguar I-Pace and the Audi e-tron.

The biggest gulf is between the Taycan Turbo and the long-range version of the Model S, which has an EPA range of 373 miles. The performance version of the Model S has a range of 348 miles. It was also below the Jaguar I-Pace, an electric vehicle that launched in 2018. The EPA has given the Jaguar I-Pace an official estimated range of 234. However, the company recently said it was able to add another 12 miles of range to the vehicle through what it learned in the I-Pace racing series.

The European standard known as the WLTP placed the range of the Porsche Taycan Turbo at up to 279 miles.

Despite the lower EPA range estimate, Porsche said it’s not disappointed.

“We sought to build a true Porsche, balancing legendary performance our customers expect of our products with range sufficient to meet their everyday needs,” a Porsche spokesperson told TechCrunch. “The Taycan is a phenomenal car built to perform and drive as a Porsche should. We stand by that.”

epa electric range

Porsche introduced in September the Taycan Turbo S and Taycan Turbo — the more powerful and expensive versions of its all-electric four-door sports car with base prices of $185,000 and $150,900, respectively.

In October, the German automaker revealed a cheaper version called the Porsche Taycan 4S that is more than $80,000 cheaper than its leading model. All of the Taycans, including the 4S, are the same chassis and suspension, permanent magnet synchronous motors and other bits. However, this third version, which will offer a performance-battery-plus option, is a little lighter, cheaper and slightly slower than the high-end versions of the Taycan that were introduced earlier this year. Theoretically, the 4S should also have a higher range.

Porsche has always said it would have multiple versions of the Taycan. The 2020 Taycan Turbo will be among the first models to arrive in the United States.

While Porsche said it isn’t disputing the EPA range, the automaker did send an email to dealers Wednesday to share additional data that shows a far rosier picture.

Porsche asked AMCI Testing to conduct independent tests to evaluate the Taycan Turbo range, according to an email the automaker sent to dealers for Taycan customers. The independent automotive research firm came up with a range of 275 miles, a result that was calculated by averaging the vehicle’s performance over five test cycles.

Tesla Cybertruck reservations hit 146,000

By Kirsten Korosec

Tesla has received 146,000 reservations to order the Tesla Cybertruck, pulling in some $14.6 million in deposits just two days after the company’s CEO Elon Musk unveiled the futuristic and angled vehicle.

Reservations require a $100 refundable deposit. How many of those deposits will convert to actual orders for the truck, which is currently priced between $39,900 and $69,900, is impossible to predict. And there will likely be plenty of speculation over the next two years. Production of the tri-motor variant of the cybertruck is expected to begin in late 2022, Tesla said.

Musk tweeted Saturday that 146,000 Cybertruck orders have been made so far. Of those, 41% picked the most expensive tri-motor option and 42% of future customers chose the dual motor version. The remaining 17% picked the cheapest single-motor model.

146k Cybertruck orders so far, with 42% choosing dual, 41% tri & 17% single motor

Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 23, 2019

The Tesla Cybertruck, which Musk unveiled in dramatic fashion at the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, Calif., has been polarizing with skeptics heaping on the criticism and supporters pushing back in kind. Even Tesla fans at the Cybertruck event, which TechCrunch attended, seemed torn with some praising it and others wishing Musk had created something a bit more conventional.

The vehicle made of cold-rolled steel and features armored glass that cracked in one demonstration and an adaptive air suspension.

Tesla said it will offer three variants of the cybertruck. The cheapest version, a single motor and rear-wheel drive model, will cost $39,900, have a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds and more than 250 miles of range. The middle version will be a dual-motor all-wheel drive, have a towing capacity of more than 10,000 pounds and be able to travel more than 300 miles on a single charge. The dual motor AWD model is priced at $49,900.

The third version will have three electric motors and all-wheel drive, a towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and battery range of more than 500 miles. This version, known as “tri motor,” is priced at $69,900.

Tesla’s Cybertruck will have a solar charging option, says Musk

By Greg Kumparak

 

Tesla revealed its Cybertruck pickup last night, a SciFi-tastic wedge built from the same steel alloy that SpaceX is using for its Starship spaceship.

Elon Musk spent about twenty minutes showing off the truck, with demos ranging from a game of tug-of-war against an F-150, to racing a Porsche, to a window strength test that didn’t go quite as planned.

This morning Elon is trickling out other details he didn’t get around to mentioning on stage — like that they’re planning to offer a solar charging option.

While it sounds like Tesla is still working out the exact details, Elon shed some light on the solar option via tweet:

Will be an option to add solar power that generates 15 miles per day, possibly more. Would love this to be self-powered. Adding fold out solar wings would generate 30 to 40 miles per day. Avg miles per day in US is 30.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 22, 2019

The Cybertruck’s long, angled sides seem like they’d lend themselves well to doubling as solar panels — the whole cover of the “Vault” truck bed is effectively one big flat surface, after all. Even so, don’t go expecting a solar charging Cybertruck to get all of its power from the sun; solar panels just aren’t that efficient. Musk suggests that their current design could generate about 15 miles of charge per day, while conceptual “fold out solar wings” could potentially pull in 30-40 miles per day. Enough to get you around town, but you’ll still probably need to juice up the standard way for long hauls. But hey, that’s 15+ miles pulled from the sun!

(It also totally lends itself to the wildly post-apocalyptic look/feel of the Cybertruck. No grid? No problem. SEEYA LATER, ROBOCOP.)

There are still plenty of things to be worked out — how much the option could cost, what those “solar wings” might look like, whether it’ll be ready at launch, etc. With Cybertruck not expected to go into production until late 2021, though, they’ve got time to figure all that out.

Daily Crunch: Tesla unveils its futuristic Cybertruck

By Anthony Ha

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Behold, the Tesla Cybertruck is here

Elon Musk has unveiled a vehicle that looks like it was ripped straight out of a post-apocalyptic science fiction movie.

The Tesla Cybertruck is made of cold-rolled steel, armored glass (which cracked in one demonstration at yesterday’s event) and adaptive air suspension. The cheapest version — a single-motor and rear-wheel drive model — will cost $39,900.

2. Twitter will finally let you turn on two-factor authentication without giving it a phone number

After countless tales of people having their phone numbers and inbound messages hijacked by way of SIM swapping, it’s clear that SMS just isn’t the right solution for sending people secondary login codes. And yet for many years, it’s been the mandatory go-to on Twitter — you could switch to another option later, but you had to give Twitter a phone number to turn it on in the first place.

3. Y Combinator abruptly shutters YC China

Startup accelerator Y Combinator has abandoned plans to establish a branch in China. The company cites a general change in strategy, but the firm’s silence on the complexity and controversy of working with China right now suggests there’s more at play.

4. Hyundai and Seoul set to test self-driving cars on city roads starting next month

Seoul will provide smart infrastructure to communicate with the vehicles, including connected traffic signals, and will also relay traffic and other info as frequently as every 0.1 seconds to the Hyundai vehicles.

5. Alphabet’s X details a garbage-sorting bot that’s part of its plan to make robots an everyday thing

X — formerly Google X — focuses exclusively on ambitious “moonshots,” a.k.a. tech you’d expect to find in science fiction (a recurring theme in today’s newsletter), not a real product in development. For example: A robot that can sort through office trash.

6. OutVoice officially launches its freelancer payment tools

The startup, which allows editors to pay freelance writers and photographers with the push of a button, has also raised seed funding from content monetization startup Coil.

7. Morgan Stanley’s ‘Teflon banker’ talks direct listings and much more

Michael Grimes, a banker for 32 years — 25 of them with Morgan Stanley — has played a role in the IPOs of Salesforce, LinkedIn, Workday and hundreds of other companies. In an interview, Grimes told us why he supports direct listings. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Here’s why the Tesla Cybertruck has its crazy look

By Matt Burns

Elon Musk revealed the Cybertruck last night, saying it looks like nothing else on the market. That’s true, but the Cybertruck shares several key features with an unlikely pickup — the first-generation Honda Ridgeline.

Both the Cybertruck and Honda Ridgeline are built differently from standard pickups. They employ a unibody design, much like what’s used in most passenger vehicles. Instead of a body sitting on a frame, the Cybertruck and Ridgeline are built around what is essentially a metal cage. A unibody truck makes sense for Tesla, which doesn’t want a large, bulky frame under the body. Tesla wants batteries under the vehicle and uses the body to protect them.

Because of the unibody pickup design, the vehicle has to employ a key design element to enable high-capacity towing: a sail pillar.

Most often, a vehicle’s towing capacity is limited by body design rather than engine strength. Towing places a lot of stress on the vehicle’s frame. Want to pull more? Make a beefier frame under the truck. But with the unibody Tesla Cybertruck, to increase the towing capacity, it had to use as big of a sail pillar as possible, explaining the unconventional design.

A vehicle naturally wants to twist. Think of wringing out a washcloth. In a body-on-frame design, the engine rests on a large frame, which absorbs a lot of the stresses. In a unibody design, vertical supports help, and are employed throughout, starting with an A pillar by the windshield and ending with a D pillar in the rear window of SUVs.

With a body-on-frame design, like what’s used in most pickups, the force from a trailer rests on the frame. Most of the energy is absorbed in the structure located under the body of the truck. The truck’s cab is decoupled from the bed, allowing the cab and bed to move relative to one another and better compensate for the stress on the frame.

In a unibody design, like in the Cybertruck, Ridgeline or most SUVs, the body is subjected to the same forces, but has to use the body to prevent twisting. The buttress-like sail pillar helps absorb the energy and prevent the truck from twisting.

Unibody SUVs have D pillars — the vertical supports at the rear of the vehicle — where pickups do not. This D pillar is needed to prevent the unibody from twisting and flexing when under load. But without the D pillar in a unibody pickup, a sail pillar connects the C pillar to the rear of the truck, achieving a similar result.

The first-generation Honda Ridgeline had a modest sail pillar, but Honda was able to ditch the feature for the second generation by reinforcing critical points throughout the unibody.

Honda described the redesign like this:

The rear frame structure of the 2017 Ridgeline is vitally important to the overall structural rigidity of the body, to collision safety performance and to the Ridgeline’s hauling and towing capability. Utilizing fully boxed frame members for the body sides and rear tailgate frame, the truss-style rear inner construction contributes to the new Ridgeline’s more conventional three-box design profile—allowing for the elimination of the buttress-style body structure in the forward portion of the upper bed on the previous model—while contributing to a 28-percent gain in torsional rigidity versus the previous model. Also, the U-shaped rear frame member serves as a highly rigid mounting structure for the rear tailgate, allowing for a highly precise tailgate fit.

The Chevrolet Avalanche also used a sail pillar to compensate for the lack of a D pillar. To make the Avalanche, Chevy took a full-size Suburban SUV and cut off the rear quarter.

It’s unclear if Tesla unveiled the final version of the Cybertruck. We still have significant questions. And if it’s not the final design, there’s a chance Tesla will be able to use some of Honda’s tricks to reduce the flying buttresses and produce a more conventional pickup design.

We have five questions about Tesla’s Cybertruck

By Matt Burns

Tesla just unveiled its first pickup truck, and the Cybertruck gets a lot of things right. The look is polarizing, but from a truck perspective, it’s capable, practical and relatively affordable compared to other pickups. Of course, all those qualifiers come with an asterisk. Tesla didn’t say when it will hit the market and past Tesla vehicles have been hit with delays and missing features.

Now that the dust has settled, some questions stick out. Is the design final or how will Tesla have to change it to meet regulations? Tesla says the Cybertruck has a maximum range of 500 miles, but how will that change once a trailer is behind it? And what’s the size? It looks significantly longer than a full-size Ford F-150. Why does it have super glass and who does Tesla expect to buy it?

How does the design need to change to meet safety regulations?

There are many safety regulations throughout the world. Each market has slightly different variations. Does the current design meet these regulations? What changes are expected to meet these regulations?

The tires look to stick out from the wheel-wells, and that’s not allowed. The vehicle seems to lack a pedestrian-friendly front bumper. Where are the windshield wipers and turn signals and side mirrors?

How does load affect the range?

Weight kills range — in electric and gas vehicles. In my F-150 Ecoboost, when towing a large camper, my mpg drops from 19 mpg to 10 mpg. Where I can generally get around 700 miles on a tank, when towing a camper, I get about 400 miles.

Tesla seems to be addressing this in a few ways. One, adding another motor should increase the efficiency and help increase range, and the Cybertruck will be offered with two and three motors. Two, an air suspension is better suited to handle the added weight on the rear axle, allowing the vehicle to distribute the weight better.

What are the vehicle dimensions?

The Cybertruck looks massive. During the presentation, it’s showed next to several other vehicles, including a Ford F-150 SuperCrew with a five-and-a-half-foot bed. The Cybertruck looks significantly longer and wider.

I drive a Ford F-150 SuperCrew with a six-and-a-half-foot bed. It’s longer than a standard parking spot. It’s very long and hard to park, even in suburban parking spots. I worry the Cybertruck will be even harder to park — though the tough exterior will help door dings.

If the Cybertruck is longer and wider than a standard pickup truck, it will need additional lights to drive on U.S. roads. The U.S. government mandates any vehicle wider than 80 inches must have five orange safety lights to illustrate the width. The Cybertruck showed during the presentation lacked these lights.

Why super glass?

The Cybertruck is a unibody design, something Elon talked up extensively throughout the introduction. A unibody vehicle distributes stress throughout the body instead of a decoupled frame. But unibody trucks are not new, and there are several on the market, including the Honda Ridgeline. None have bulletproof glass.

With more stress hitting the body, durable glass is wanted to help handle the pressure.

But why extra-strong glass? Adding extra-durable glass seems like a waste of weight, and Tesla didn’t explain the justification outside of saying it’s cool.

What’s the target market?

Who does Tesla expect to buy the Cybertruck?

For construction companies, the massive (and necessary) sail pillar is polarizing and impractical, as it limits the utility of the bed. Plus, Tesla doesn’t like owners wrenching on their vehicles, which could hamper on-the-spot repairs construction companies generally employ.

For those hauling trailers, the Cybertruck’s range is dramatically less than what’s possible with gasoline and diesel engines and will be even less once under load.

For the weekend DIY, the Cybertruck appears to be extremely long, limiting its appeal as a daily driver when it needs to navigate parking lots and city streets.

Eventually, Tesla will answer the questions above as the Cybertruck nears release.

Tesla all-electric ATV makes a surprise debut at Cybertruck event

By Darrell Etherington

Tesla CEO Elon Musk definitely didn’t have the most issue-free presentation during last night’s Cybertruck unveil, but he did pull off a pretty impressive ‘one more thing moment’ – revealing a surprise all-electric all-terrain vehicle (ATV) that Tesla created to pair with its futuristic pickup.

The Tesla electric ATV didn’t get a lot of time to shine on its own, and instead was used primarily to demonstrate how the Tesla Cybertruck bed and active suspension works for loading up cargo, but it’s a real enough thing that Tesla made sure to point out that you can charge the electric four-wheeler right from the Cybertruck while the ATV is loaded in the bed.

Musk didn’t reveal anything about pricing or availability regarding the ATV, but a demo drive did actually drive it up on stage and load it into the bed, so it’s real enough to be functional. Like the Cybertruck itself, it also featured a body design with a lot of intersecting flat planes and angels, and it was done up in matte black, which makes it look like the ATV version of a stealth bomber.

In the past, Musk has discussed the idea of electric motorcycles, dismissing Tesla’s interest in the category in favor of electric bikes. Musk said that a motorcycle was not in the cards at a Tesla shareholder meeting in 2018, and also floated the idea of doing an e-bike instead that same year.

An ATV is a very different kind of vehicle – designed more for utility and recreation than for road use, but it’ll be interesting to see what kind of consumer launch Tesla has in mind for such a vehicle. A ‘Cybertruck: ATV Edition’ would probably incur a lot of demand.

Tesla’s Cybertruck is made of the same stainless steel alloy that SpaceX is using for Starship

By Darrell Etherington

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the much-anticipated Cybertruck electric pickup in LA on Thursday, and the vehicle is obviously getting a lot of attention for its eye-catching and unique design. It looks more like a rover designed for space exploration than a truck — and the analogy in this case is particularly fitting, because the Cybertruck is clad in the same stainless steel alloy that Musk’s other company SpaceX will use as the skin of its forthcoming Starship spaceship.

“It is, it is literally bulletproof to a nine millimeter handgun,” Musk said onstage during the unveiling. “That’s how strong the skin is — it’s ultra-hard, cold-rolled stainless steel alloy that we’ve developed. We’re going to be using the same alloy in the Starship rocket, and in the Cybertruck.”

Musk had previously revealed at an event unveiling the full-height Starship Mk1 prototype that it would go with stainless steel for the outer shell, with an additional glass tile covering layer for the half of the space craft that will endure the highest heat from re-entry (the ship is designed to essentially belly-flop down through Earth’s atmosphere prior to landing). The Super Heavy booster that the Starship will ride atop during its exit will be clad entirely in stainless steel. The reasoning for going with that material was a combination of cost and effectiveness, as it’s actually remarkably good at withstanding and shedding high heat.

Using the same stainless steel alloy across both Tesla and SpaceX will obviously provide some cost efficiencies — especially if the Cybertruck manages to become a high-volume production vehicle (unlikely because of its controversial design, but perhaps possible based on the economics if Tesla can stick to the price points it revealed onstage). There’s another way that the Cybertruck could benefit SpaceX’s work, and Elon alluded to it on Twitter ahead of the event — Mars will need ground transportation, too.

Yes, Musk said in a tweet that the “pressurized edition” of the Cybertruck will be the “official truck of Mars.” As always with Elon, sometimes it’s difficult to suss out exactly where the line is between jokes and actual plans with what he tweets, but I think in this instance he actually means this literally, at least at this stage in the game.

A Cybertruck rover for astronaut use on Mars could theoretically benefit both Tesla and SpaceX because of efficiencies in cross-production and engineering, and as the stainless steel alloy case illustrates, one of the big benefits of designing things for space has always been that the resulting technology often turns out to have really beneficial applications on Earth, too.

Tesla accidentally busted two windows on the Cybertruck while demonstrating how tough they are

By Greg Kumparak

Well, I don’t think that was supposed to happen.

In what was one of the more surreal product launches I’ve seen, Tesla debuted its $39,900 Cybertruck pickup tonight. After running through some specs and hitting the truck’s door with a sledge hammer, Elon asked an onstage companion (Tesla’s lead designer, Franz von Holzhausen) to demonstrate the strength of the Tesla “Armor Glass” by throwing a solid metal, baseball-sized ball at the driver side window.

It… did not go well.

While the glass didn’t completely shatter, it did appear to crack from edge to edge.

“Oh my [bleeping] God,” Musk laughs. “Well, maybe that was a little too hard.”

So they tried it again on the rear passenger window… and it cracked too. “Room for improvement,” Musk says with a shrug.

Was this a gag? A “Hah hah! Just kidding, here’s a test on the real glass!” sort of thing? Nope. Elon stood in front of the truck, two broken windows and all, and completed the presentation.

While no one would expect most standard windows to stand up to a test like this, even Elon seemed surprised by the results. “We threw wrenches, we threw everything,” he said on stage. “We even literally threw a kitchen sink at the glass, and it didn’t break. For a little weird reason it broke now, I don’t know why.”

“We’ll fix it in post,” he followed up with a laugh, then moved on to talking about the car’s suspension. The video went private on Tesla’s YouTube channel about 30 seconds after the live stream was over.

And with that, the undeniable truth that is “live demos never work” lives on.

tesla cybertruck

 

Behold, the Tesla Cybertruck is here

By Kirsten Korosec

Elon Musk revealed Thursday evening the Tesla Cybertruck, a futuristic vehicle that seemed stripped straight out of a post-apocalyptic-era movie.

The Tesla Cybertruck, which Musk unveiled in dramatic fashion and to the hoots and hollers of invited guests at the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, Calif., is made of cold-rolled steel, armored glass that did crack in one demonstration and adaptive air suspension.

When the vehicle first came out people cheered and gasped. Some wondered out loud if this was really the cybertruck Musk had been promising. Others seemed disappointed it wasn’t a more market-ready truck. But as Musk began rolling through the specs — first the body, then the performance and finally the price — the enthusiasm in the crowd began building.

By the time Musk uttered “one more thing,” the crowd was frenzied and fully committed to the ride he was taking them on. And then an ATV rolled out onto the stage and the crowd went wild.

Later, while hundreds stood in line for a chance to take a two-minute ride in the cybertruck, the most common phrase from invited guests was “It’s growing on me.” Whether it will “grow on them” is unclear. All of the invited guests at the event, and those watching online, will have a couple of years (at least) to decide if it’s grown on them enough to buy.

One, two, three motors

Tesla will offer three variants of the cybertruck. The cheapest version, a single motor and rear-wheel drive model, will cost $39,900, have a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds and more than 250 miles of range. The middle version will be a dual-motor all-wheel drive, have a towing capacity of more than 10,000 pounds and be able to travel more than 300 miles on a single charge. The dual motor AWD model is priced at $49,900.

The third version will have three electric motors and all-wheel drive, a towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and battery range of more than 500 miles. This version, known as “tri motor,” is priced at $69,900.

Musk touted the acceleration of the Cybertruck as well, showing a video at one point of the truck beating a Porsche 911 off the line. Musk said the “tri motor” version can travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 2.9 seconds. The single-motor rear-wheel drive model is the slowest off the line, with a 0 to 60 mph acceleration of less than 6.5 seconds.

tesla cybertruck

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed the Tesla Cybertruck on Thursday, November 21, 2019

Tesla said customers can put down a $100 deposit. They’ll be able to complete their configuration as production nears in late 2021. Tri-motor AWD production is expected to begin in late 2022.

Musk has talked about producing an all-electric pickup truck for years now. In December, Musk resurrected the idea, saying that Tesla might have a prototype to unveil in 2019.

Musk mentioned on Twitter in April 2017 the desire to produce a pickup truck, before the first Model 3 sedans had been handed over to customers and the CEO had entered production hell. At the time, Musk tweeted that a pickup truck would be unveiled in 18 to 24 months.

If Tesla were to hit that mark it would be bringing its electric truck to market after GM and Rivian have started delivering their products.

Rivian is expected to begin vehicle production of its electric R1T pickup truck in the second half of 2020. GM CEO Mary Barra said Thursday during an investor conference that the automaker plans to bring an electric pickup truck to market in 2021. Ford also is planning an electric F-150 truck.

It’s unclear how much demand there will be for electric pickup trucks. However, the demand for gas and diesel-powered trucks is growing. Large trucks account for 14.4% of new vehicle sales through October, compared to 12.6% in 2015, according to Edmunds.

Midsize trucks accounted for 3.7% of new vehicle sales through October, compared to 1.5% in 2014.

Automakers are keen to tap into that growth because trucks and SUVs tend to have higher profit margins than sedans. And those margins could continue to increase if automakers can keep costs down.

The average transaction price of a full-size truck (gas and diesel) crossed $50,000 for the first time in September, and continues to climb, according to Jessica Caldwell, the executive director of insights at Edmunds. The average transaction price of a full-size truck was $50,496 in October, and a midsize truck was $36,251.

GM will bring an electric truck to market in 2021

By Kirsten Korosec

GM CEO Mary Barra said Thursday that the automaker will bring its first electric truck to market in the fall of 2021.

The comments were made Thursday during GM’s investor day. Later this evening, Tesla, which also plans to start selling an electric truck in 2021, will reveal its “cybertruck” at an event in Hawthorne, Calif. Reuters first reported the news.

“General Motors understands truck buyers and… people who are new coming into the truck market,” Barra said during the investor conference, explaining the company’s rationale for the move.

GM’s foray into electric trucks has been public before. Last month, the Detroit Free Press reported the that GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant would remain open to produce an electric pickup under a deal between the UAW and the automaker.

This is the first time the company has provided a timeline.

Several other companies are expected to bring electric trucks to the marketplace in the next several years, including newcomer Rivian, Tesla and Ford.

Four must-haves for the Tesla ‘Cybertruck’ all-electric pickup truck

By Matt Burns

Tesla is set to unveil its pickup this week and it needs to be widely different from its current lineup. The current line of Tesla vehicles share a lot of parts, and, logically, the Tesla pickup will do the same. However, a truck has different demands than a passenger car or sport utility vehicle. It has to be more robust and able to stand up to more abuse. It has to tow and haul and scale more than a mall flowerbed.

The Tesla pickup is launching as Rivian’s electric pickup is nearing launch. The Rivian R1T looks and feels like an electric pickup. It’s also built off of a purpose-built platform designed to haul and tow. Tesla does not have a similar platform as the Model X SUV is more car than a truck.

Eventually, more automakers will offer electric trucks. Ford has confirmed it’s building an electric F-150 and recently showed it off pulling a train. The upsides are profound. An electric truck will, in theory, offer improved toque (better towing), high payload capacity (due to better weight distribution), and improved performance numbers (electric motors are quick). A truck platform is also, by nature, larger and stronger allowing automakers to stuff more batteries into the frame.

Here’s what we want to see in a pickup from Tesla:

Twice the towing capacity of the Model X

The Tesla Model X is incredible and by most measures, the fastest production SUV available. But it cannot tow much. That’s not because of the powertrain but rather the vehicle platform. A Tesla pickup needs to be able to tow and haul.

According to the Model X owners manual, the vehicle can tow 5,000 pounds. That’s good enough for a couple of jet skis or a tiny trailer, but not much else. For comparison, most Ford F-150 models can tow over 10,000 pounds with some models topping off at 13,000 lbs. Rivian projects its electric pickup can tow over 11,000 pounds. The difference comes from the frame design and vehicle length.

The design of the vehicle often limits towing. The rear suspension needs to be able to support the weight, and the vehicle needs to be long enough to reduce trailer sway. Short vehicles have a hard time towing trailers, and the Model X, built on a version of the Model S, is a compact vehicle. There’s nothing worse than looking out the driver-side window and seeing your trailer racing you down the hill.

In the name of safety alone, a Tesla pickup must have improved towing capacity over the Model X. It should have an integrated trailer brake controller, too — something missing from the Model X.

The Model X platform is not built for hauling either. According to the owner’s manual, when two passengers are in the vehicle, it can only hold an additional 654 lbs. That’s just eight bags of Quickrete cement. To make matters worse, the rear deck of the Model X can only support 285 lbs somewhat saying the rear axle cannot hold that much weight, and the additional weight needs to be spread between the two axles.

A pickup needs to be able to take a load of wood mulch or a couple of major appliances, and Tesla’s current platforms are not designed for such.

Most light-duty pickups, from the Honda Ridgeline to the F-150, can support from 1,500 lbs to 2,000 lbs in the bed. And it’s easy to exceed that rating, too. An open truck bed is an invitation to load it up, but unless you’re using a heavy-duty pickup, don’t get a pallet of landscaping bricks.

Robust Serviceable Parts

Even if a pickup is only used for monthly Home Depot runs, it sustains more abuse than passenger vehicles due to its size. Brakes wear out quicker, and tires need more attention. If it has a light-duty suspension, bushings and joints wear out faster than in cars or SUVs.

Tesla makes it difficult for owners to repair the vehicles they purchased. I don’t expect that to be any different with the Tesla pickup. Tesla is not going to want owners wrenching on the truck. Since that’s the case, the pickup must come with improved parts.

The serviceable parts (brakes, suspension, and tires) that come on the Tesla pickup needs to be more robust and reliable than that used on the Tesla passenger vehicles.

Electric vehicles feature much fewer parts that can go wrong than internal combustion vehicles. It’s great. Owners do not have to change a timing belt or engine oil. But there are still items that will wear out, and most pickup buyers need assurances that they can go the distance.

Off-roading capabilities (or the ability to add off-roading capabilities)

The electric Rivian R1T is currently racing across South America to demonstrate its off-roading chops. Here’s the company’s blog post about it. This excites the truck guy in me. Now that’s a truck, I yell!

I don’t have the data, but I suspect most light-duty pickups are hardly used to their potential. I have a well-equipped F-150 that is used to tow a trailer twice a year.

Trucks are often aspirational purchases where buyers shop for potential lifestyles. Sure, you must have a truck, because one day, you’re going to buy that travel trailer and drive through Yellowstone. To fulfill this dream, a pickup should be able to run the desert or climb rocks.

The Rivian R1T gets a lot of things right, and I hope Tesla is following Rivian’s lead. It’s longer than a Ford Ranger and exceeds the Toyota Tacoma’s bed capacity rating. The wheel wells are large, seemingly saying it can support larger tires than the original from the factory. The R1T has an imposing stance. It looks the part, and the Tesla pickup needs to look the part, too.

Even if the Tesla looks like a weak truck, it’s essential to be able to modify the truck. Add-ons are a big part of the truck culture. My F-150 has become a money pit as I’ve thrown cash into buying accessories. Rivian knows this and has shown off its pickup with a handful of adds-on from tents to kitchens.

Power output

A Tesla pickup could have a unique selling point by allowing owners to use it as a high-output generator.

Right now, a lot of trucks have plenty of power ports, both 12v and 110v. They’re found throughout the cab and bed but cannot power serious tools. The 12v system used in internal combustion vehicles will not power much more than a drill or small saw, let alone a house by acting as a whole house generator.

The functionality would be well received. Homeowners would appreciate the ability to power parts of their homes during blackouts. Campers could use it when taking the pickup on an adventure. Construction works could use it to power and recharge tools.

Right now, there isn’t a way to output the full power of a Tesla vehicle. Owners can use an inverter, but that’s also limited and requires extra parts. Tesla would need to build safeguards and regional power ports into the battery platform to ensure safety and compatibility.

A word about the price.

There’s no way around this. A Tesla pickup will be more expensive than its internal combustion counterparts. It will be an upscale pickup, aimed at those that wear Arc’teryx instead of Carhart.

Rivian is pricing its pickup with a starting price of $69,000 and a Tesla pickup will likely start in the same range. If it’s a new platform built for hauling or towing, Tesla will have a lot of engineering and manufacturing hours to recuperate, which will drive the price north. Until more are available, Tesla and Rivian will be able to set the market price.

It’s a lot for a truck. That’s the price of a fully-spec’d out Ford F-150 that’s more comfortable or capable than it has any right to be. It’s also the same price as a beefy F-350 with Ford’s most potent engine and a towing capacity of 37,000 lbs.

Check back later this week as TechCrunch will be on hand later this week when Tesla unveils its pickup.

Ford Mustang Mach-E: 5 tech and design details that stood out

By Kirsten Korosec

Ford finally showed the world its highly anticipated all-electric crossover, the Mustang Mach-E. The vehicle, which was unveiled Sunday at the Hawthorne Airport and in Tesla’s backyard, marks a series of firsts for Ford and the Mustang badge.

It’s the first vehicle to come out of Team Edison, the automaker’s dedicated electric vehicle organization. It’s not only the first electric Mustang, it’s also an SUV. 

TechCrunch has had an up-close look and ride in the Mach-E, the first variant of which will become available in fall 2020. While there’s a lot to highlight, here are some of the details that stood out.

Door handles

Ford went an entirely new direction with the door handles on the Mustang Mach-E. You won’t find any Tesla lookalike door handles here. The doors seem to be lacking handles at all. A closer look though reveals illuminated buttons on the B and C pillars. The front doors also have a small, protruding handle located just under the button to grab onto.

Pressing the button for the backdoor immediately pops it open just slightly. Then the passenger reaches into the ajar door to hit the latch. This might sound dangerous and apt for a crushed finger. Except there’s an immediate safety in place that doesn’t allow the door to close. TechCrunch tested it out.

Owners also will be able to use their smartphone to unlock the Mustang Mach-E. This phone as a key technology is new to Ford.

Tech tray

It’s a seemingly small detail, but so many automakers ignore that their customers have smartphones and want to put these devices somewhere other than a cup holder. Behold the tech tray, which has a wireless charging pad.

The cup holders, located just below the tech tray, can be used to hold actual cups.

Infotainment system

The 15.5-inch screen will get a lot of attention, perhaps because its location and vertical placement is reminiscent of the Tesla Model S. But then there’s the physical dial placed on the bottom of the screen to control the volume.

Ford Mustang Mach-E screen

While not everyone will love this feature, it’s interesting how this dial came to be. Team Edison was assembled in 2017 to do more than create a new electric vehicle. It was created to do it differently and much faster than a typical vehicle program.

How the look and functionality of the infotainment system was developed is an example of this newfound nimbleness. A group of just over a dozen people with minimal oversight started with a research trip to China. Further customer research revealed that people wanted native apps in their car’s infotainment system and they didn’t want to learn anything new, Philip Mason, who is on Team Edison’s user experience, said during a backgrounder event prior to unveiling.

A prototype of the physical dial was put together quickly — no fancy prototypes — and research groups responded positively.

The infotainment system is also cloud connected, allowing it to show traffic in real time in the navigation feature; has natural language, activated by one of four “wake words” like “OK, Ford”; and allows users to create personal profiles. The system learns the behavior and likes of the user over time.

And the entire system will be updated and improved via over-the-air software updates.

Vegan interior

Ford is hardly the first to move away from leather for its interior. Tesla has dropped leather and the Porsche Taycan is also vegan. Now the interior of the Mustang Mach-E also qualifies.

The synthetic material is among the better faux leather materials TechCrunch has come across. Even the steering wheel, a challenging area for synthetics, feels good.

Ford Mustang Mach-E interior

Frunk

A front trunk in an all-electric vehicle is nothing new. The Mustang Mach-E doesn’t have the biggest frunk on the market; it’s not the smallest either.

But there is something interesting about this 4.8-cubic-foot frunk. It’s drainable and plastic lined. Josh Greiner, senior interior designer on the Mach-E, was quick to note during a backgrounder prior to the unveiling that the frunk could be packed with ice and used while tailgating.

One more bonus item

Right above the steering wheel is a driver monitoring system. This might come in handy for the automaker’s eventual plans to offer a hands-free driver assist system in Mach-E.

Ford’s Mustang Mach-E all-electric SUV revealed in leaked photos, prices and configurations

By Darrell Etherington

Ford is officially debuting its fully electric crossover SUV on Saturday, November 17 – but we got a look at the new Mach-E (which was just officially named yesterday) a couple of days early. The leak comes from Ford’s own website, as screenshotted for posterity by Jalopnick, and includes photos of most angles of the car, including the interior, as well as pricing and configuration details for the model variants available at launch.

The Mach-E will start at $43,895 U.S., before any state or tax incentives are applied (and that turns into $36,395 once you apply the maximum $7,5000 Federal tax credit). The ‘Select’ trim Mach-E as configured at that price gets you 230 EPA-rated miles of range, either AWD or RWD (which presumably alters the price) and a 0-60MPH time in the mid 5-second range.

[gallery ids="1912448,1912446,1912445,1912438,1912437"]

Next up is the ‘Premium’ trim at starting at $50,600, again offering an AWD or RWD option, with 300 miles of estimated EPA-rated range, and that same mid 5-second 0-60MPH time. The ‘California Route 1’ model above that comes in only AWD, has that longer 300 miles of EPA range, and promises a mid 6-second 0-60MPH time. It’s a bit slower off the jump, but it’s “named for its cruise-worthy engineering,” so presumably it’s got a more luxe interior for long-distance highway scenic drives.

Next up is a $59,900 ‘First Edition,’ which will be in limited availability and only at launch for the first batch of customers to reserve. It’s got AWD, a range of around 270 miles, a mid 5-second 0-60MPH time and exclusive exterior color options, special scuff plates, brushed aluminum pedals and red brake callipers, as well as contrast-coloured interior stitching. There’s a GT edition at the top end, with an MSRP starting at $60,500, that will manage to get a 0-60MPH time in the mid 3-second range, so that’s clearly the peak performance options for thrill-seekers. Estimated EPA range on that one is around 230 miles.

[gallery ids="1912449,1912442,1912440,1912439,1912444,1912443"]

In terms of looks, the Mustang Mach-E’s design won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s seen the camouflaged spy shots, or the teaser peeks officially released by Ford. It’s definitely got Mustang vibes, and looks a bit like a Mustang that has been lifted up with paneling extended down towards the road. It looks like a panorama roof is an option, and that hatchback will probably please a lot of small SUV fans. There’s also something funky going on with the door handles – the front ones appear very small and near the base of the door windows, while I’m not sure how exactly it works on the rear passenger doors based on these photos.

There’s also a panoramic sunroof at least as an option, and you can see the interior looks pretty blatantly Tesla -inspired, with a large vertical touchscreen taking up most of the center of the dash – albeit with something that looks like a large physical dial right at the base, instead of going for fully touch-only input. A second digital display appears to replace the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel.

Ford has since taken this down, since it’s hosting a splashy event on Saturday with Idris Elba in LA for the full official reveal. TechCrunch will be on site to bring you more photos and details around availability, customization options and more on the day.

Consumer Reports puts Tesla Model 3, Model S back on its recommended list after reliability improves

By Kirsten Korosec

Tesla gained ground and moved up four spots in in the latest Annual Auto Reliability Survey from Consumer Reports, thanks largely to improvements with the Model 3.

Reliability has improved in the Model 3 and Model S enough that Consumer Reports can now recommend the two models.

Consumer Reports announced Thursday the results of its Annual Auto Reliability Survey, which is based on data collected from the organization’s members about their experiences with more than 400,000 vehicles. The survey covers more than 300 models.

CR does not recommend the Model X. The Model X continues to rank among the least reliable models in the survey.

The reversal is good news for Tesla. In February, Consumer Reports said it could no longer recommend the Model 3 because issues with the paint, trim and body hardware raised reliability questions.

Lexus took the top spot, followed by Mazda, Toyota, Porsche and Genesis. Tesla is still ranked in the bottom third of the survey. It now is ranked 23 out of 30 brands reviewed in the annual survey.

“The Tesla Model 3 struggled last year as the company made frequent design changes and ramped up production to meet demand,” Jake Fisher, senior director of auto testing at CR said in a statement. “But as the production stabilized, we have seen improvements to the reliability of the Model 3 and S that now allow us to recommend both models.”

While Tesla has improved, Fisher said he expects Tesla’s reliability rankings will fluctuate, given its track record to date.

Cadillac came in last place by . Audi, Acura and Volkswagen are among the brands that saw sharp drops, following the introduction of troublesome redesigned vehicles. Volkswagen, which is ranked 27th, dropped nine spots from last year due reliability issues with the Atlas and Tiguan. The Consumer Reports survey noted that the two SUVs had problems with power equipment, in-car electronics and emissions/fuel system.

 

Consumer Reports-reliability 2019

Dodge posted one of the best improved reliability scores in the annual survey, gaining 13 places to round out the top 10 after years as a lower ranked brand.

Audi also fell seven spots in its ranking. CR said the number of new or redesigned 2019 models that shared similar powertrains and the new infotainment system caused the fall in ranking. The A6 and Q8 had well below average reliability, CR said.

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