eMotorwerks Chargers Bring Intelligence To Home EV Charging

Originally published on CleanTechnica

EV charging supplier eMotorWerks has announced that it has increased sales year over year by 100% for the third year in a row. We spoke with eMotorWerks Chief Operating Officer and Chief Marketing Officer Preston Roper about what is fueling its growth and what the company has planned for the next few years.

EV Charging as a Flexible, Dynamic Load

The big news out of eMotorWerks is related to the products the company has built — and I’m not talking about electric vehicle chargers. eMotorWerks has built a software platform that taps into the massive potential of electric vehicle charging to serve as a “flexible, dynamic load” for utility operators to use to balance the production and consumption of grid power. The hardware is important but, ultimately, the platform that eMotorWerks has built is more important and impactful. That is the company’s core expertise.

The concept is similar to the idea of a “virtual power plant” that combines users with small to medium loads, users with storage capability, and users with large energy demands — like a massive number of electric vehicles charging at the same time — which predictably consume copious amounts of power at night. eMotorWerks’ intelligent platform taps into the connectivity of its Juicebox chargers to determine charging needs and customer preferences, as and then to throttle charging up and down to maximize the benefits to the grid.

“We self-funded this company because we’ve been able to sell a very good product with a nice gross margin that solves people’s immediate need, which is to have level 2 smart connected charging time of use alerts, notification, all the kind of cool stuff we built into the platform.”

The integrated smart charger that eMotorWerks has built and the cloud-based software platform that supports it is the first to truly leverage EV chargers as smart devices — something that eMotorWerks has been building since day 1.

Preston shared that the nature of home EV charging and the intelligent network eMotorWerks has built allows the team to throttle charging down to very specific geographies or regions depending on the need of the utility. As more and more smart meters are brought onto the grid, this granular control becomes that much more valuable to utilities as they continue to adapt to more renewables, more storage, and more EVs on the grid.

JuicePoints

Customers are rewarded for their flexibility through the JuicePoints system, which aims to reduce the emissions generated by electric vehicle charging by throttling charging down when grid demand spikes (which causes peaker plants to come online). Conversely, charging is throttled up when grid power is low and cleanest.

Users can select how long the vehicle will charge and how full they need it to be, which provides the system with a window of opportunity over which it can then automagically throttle charging up and down to minimize the impact to the grid, maximize the charge over the time horizon, and reward EV drivers with JuicePoints.

Drivers are rewarded with direct cash payouts through PayPal or they can opt to direct their credits towards an environmental nonprofit like the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is similarly putting a massive effort towards eliminating coal-fired electricity generation via its Beyond Coal campaign, so you can have twice the impact on cutting grid emissions by using smart charging and directing the money to the Sierra Club.

The JuicePoints system is currently only available in select zip codes.

Vehicle To Grid

The addition of intelligence to the EV charging equation naturally brings up the question — what about vehicle to grid? The reality is pretty bleak even though it seems to makes sense. The risks with vehicle to grid (V2G) schemes can be high with a customer, potentially feeding power back to the grid during an outage, exposing workers to energized lines (which creates a dangerous situation), and degrading their EV batteries. Beyond that, there isn’t strong demand from customers for V2G-capable vehicles.

I talked about this with Preston and he shared that there are 3 primary reasons he doesn’t think we are seeing much progress with V2G:

  1. Car companies are not interested in this, so they are not developing for this.
  2. Required hardware is much more expensive to do this.
  3. Getting interconnection agreements from utilities for V2G is difficult and an extra hurdle.

Having said that, the eMotorWerks Juicebox has the capability to work with V2G systems if market signals change, but Preston doesn’t see that happening anytime soon. He noted that “just scaling the charging at a macro level provides the same net effect without the extra hassles of vehicle to grid.”

eMotorWerks is Growing

The eMotorWerks JuiceBox EV charging station is the highest rated EV charger on Amazon, which is a testament to the innovation it packs. The smart charger has brought intelligence to an appliance most drivers had just assumed was dumb. It has proven to add value to the charging experience.

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As noted at the top, the preference of customers is showing in its sales as well, with eMotorWerks doubling revenues year over year in 2016 for the third consecutive year in a row. It has locked in agreements with suppliers across the spectrum, including EVSE provider AeroVironment, OEM supplier Webasto, and the cashless payment provider Nayax. These partnerships leverage the strength of the JuiceNet cloud software the team has built and expands the positive environmental impact the system can have through its integration with utilities.

“Our smart grid charging solutions continue to gain significant growth because we solve problems that directly affect EV drivers, charging station equipment manufacturers as well as utility operators,” said eMotorWerks CEO, Val Miftakhov. “Beyond the well publicized growth the EV industry will enjoy during the next five years, a massive challenge lies ahead: the ability for electricity providers to charge EVs while maintaining a reliable grid for everyone, while at the same time taking advantage of the abundant and less expensive solar and wind energy available on our grid.”

Stuttgart: A City Caught Between Two Worlds Part 2

Originally published on CleanTechnica

The City of Stuttgart in Germany is a case study in the clash between the old world & industries that humans have developed over the centuries and the new realities resulting from the very same industries that have elevated humanity: air pollution, hazardous waste, and soot-covered buildings. Traffic clogging its streets that resonate with the static emanating from thousands of autos idling in traffic.

But not all is lost. This is not a story of defeat but rather, of a city boldly reimagining its future. Stuttgart is a city that is plowing a path forward to an electrified future powered by renewable wind and solar energy. Its leaders envision citizens zooming around on electric bikes that can be loaded onto silent electric trains headed to destinations near and far.

In part one of the story, we mapped out the history of Stuttgart which is intertwined with the evolution of the internal combustion engine and the automobile over the last 100 years. That has resulted in a city that benefits from the innovative lifeblood of the industry and is, at the same time, mired in the worst particulate pollution in Germany.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

The citizens of Stuttgart take an immense amount of pride in the innovative, dynamic history of the region and are not content to let that rich history go by abandoning their automobiles for public transit, nor are they willing to concede to the otherwise imminent fate of going down in history as the most polluted city in Germany. With such entrenched forces brought to bear against each other, and with the 2.3 million member strong union IG Metall also aligned against any change so radical that it might disrupt the stability of the petrol-centric German automotive industry, the city of Stuttgart and the state of Baden-Württemberg as a whole are at a historic crossroads.

In spite of the tension, local citizens and a handful of the leaders of Stuttgart are banding together to map out a path towards a clean air future for the city. The plan is a smorgasbord of solutions that all center around the controversial Stuttgart 21 that aims to modernize Stuttgart’s Central Train Station,  more efficient buses, an intentional effort to maximize the walkability of the city and even a push towards ebikes.

Stuttgart 21: A Massive Transit Upgrade

The tip of the spear in the effort to modernize Stuttgart’s transportation centers around the 4.5 billion euro ($5 billion USD) project to upgrade Stuttgart’s central train station known as Stuttgart 21.

Stuttgart Central Station

Stuttgart 21 aims to transform the central station from a terminus station — where trains must pull up to a dead end stop and then back out again to continue — to an underground pass-through station that even with half the number of lines, will allow for more trains to flow through with fewer delays.

The controversial project was originally announced in 1994 with work starting in 2010 against an estimated budget of 4.5 billion euros ($5 billion USD). It was originally scheduled to be completed in 2019, but that timing has slipped to 2021 which has come with an increase in the estimated cost to 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion USD) (via Wikipedia).

Local activist groups have rallied in opposition to Stuttgart 21 on the grounds that it is too expensive, will provide diminished access to the neighboring “Green U” park that surrounds central Stuttgart, and that it does not respect the historic nature of the Stuttgart central station. With the funding being provided by the German national rail system Deutschbahn, the federal government, the state of Baden-Württemberg, and the City of Stuttgart, the decision is out of the control of just the city and thus, more complicated to oppose. Even with the fierce opposition, the majority of the Stuttgart residents have continued to support the undertaking over the years.

Vehicle sharing

To ensure citizens who embrace life without a personal vehicle retain the means for longer road trips, Stuttgart has also encouraged vehicle sharing services like Daimler’s Car2Go and Deutsche Bahn’s Flinkster to come into the city. Car2Go has the added benefit of getting the population familiar with electric vehicles without the commitment of a purchase or lease. The system acts as a safety net for those unsure of whether or not a new form of transportation will work and enables flexible travel options.

The vehicles, like this Smart forTwo electric, are scattered about the city at predetermined charging locations that can be found with the easy to use smartphone app.

Public Bike Sharing

Stuttgart has partnered with Deutsche Bahn and its ‘Call a Bike’ rental scheme which was designed to give train riders an easy way to get from train station to and from their final destination. Users simply have to set up a single account that can be used in cities all around Germany to rent bikes.

These types of systems are perfect for cities and nations with well developed mass transit, as they provide a solution for the “last mile” which is a generalized figure for the distance from the end of a mass transit route to the traveler’s ultimate destination. At the handful of stations we visited in Stuttgart, we found the bike rental stations to be consistently well used, even empty at times, indicating that the system is seeing heavy use.

Hybrid buses

For trips around the more popular routes in town, Stuttgart has a healthy bus system that has received an injection of electrification in recent years in the form of Mercedes-Benz hybrid electric buses.

Electric Scooter Sharing

Stuttgart has also become home to an electric scooter sharing service that offers all the mobility of a vehicle at a lower cost. The deployment of scooters is also much easier as they can be parked on curbs as compared to hard-to-find street parking. Over the last few months, 75 of the iconic blue electric scooters from Emco have appeared all around the city.

As anyone who has ridden a scooter or motorcycle knows, they are great for getting around the inner city and allow riders to stay much more connected to the city without having to stay in the cocoon of a car.

Importantly, the e-scooter program was not incentivized by the city but evolved out of the natural demand from the market which lined up perfectly with the only recently available electric scooters. This trend is happening in cities like Berlin and Paris as well with the COUP scooter sharing program.

eBikes

Stuttgart is also looking to ebikes as a key piece of the solution to the transportation puzzle. As residents get increasingly frustrated with the traffic in Stuttgart, they have started turning to alternatives like ebikes to fill in the gaps of their commutes. To stimulate this trend, the city of Stuttgart holds education sessions for ebikes to give residents the inside scoop on the new technology and to showcase the ways electrified bikes can help with their commutes.

In travelling around the city for a few days, ebikes were everywhere. Residents zoomed around on the many bike paths, stores featured them, and city officials were familiar with them as a key component of the solution to the city’s mobility challenge. For those that have not ridden an ebike, they are leaps and bounds easier to ride than a traditional bike as they do not require any sort of strength or endurance from the rider. They simply have to get on, select how much assist the motor will provide and off they go. Configurations and price points vary significantly so it’s worth reading up on them before diving in.

The Control Center – Stuttgart’s Transportation Hub

The City of Stuttgart manages the entire transportation system for the city from a new, high tech control center that is shared with the city Police Department and Fire Department. This ensures that the city resources are positioned to respond from anything from a minor traffic collision up to a major disruption of city services.

The hub brings together all of the sensors, cameras and data collected from the transportation system staffed by a team of skilled first responders that are trained to react quickly and appropriately to any need, big or small.

What does the future hold?

The leaders of Stuttgart have no plans to let up in their efforts to reduce sources of pollution in and around the city on the path leading to clean air in Stuttgart for the residents, workers, and for future generations. While their passion and drive to create the Stuttgart they envision is driving near term results, the outcome is all but certain.

Opposition from the entrenched industry threatens to stifle progress. Fearful unions threaten to delay the transition to electric vehicles in the city and around the world. Companies with holdings and future business tied to legacy business models are resisting the transition. Not everyone in the city is on board with the multi-billion dollar plan to gut the city’s historic train station in favor of a modern train station that will be better suited for the hub Stuttgart has become.

What is certain is that the seeds of the future Stuttgart have been planted and they are taking root. The future is coming. and I for one am hopeful that Stuttgart will indeed pivot past these struggles to become the city its residents want to live in. To become the city known not for diesel engines and particulate, for traffic congestion and feinstaubalarms but for its parks, for the innovative spirit of its residents. It will take immense amounts of effort and many years but it is possible. The future is now.

How Does The Chevy Bolt Compare To The Tesla Model 3?

Originally published on CleanTechnica

The reality of electric vehicles is that there are many more people who would love to drive an electric vehicle (EV) but aren’t doing so today for a number of reasons. Cost and range are the top 2 reasons, with charging being an issue for some buyers as well. The Chevy Bolt was the first mass-produced, widely available, affordable, long-range EV in the US that also happened to offer fast charging. Right on its heels is the Model 3.

Having owned a Tesla Model S for a few years and having spent some quality time with a 2017 Chevy Bolt loaner, I spent some time to compare the two in the categories I felt were most impactful based on my years as an EV driver (owning or having owned a Mercedes B250e, Nissan LEAF, and Tesla Model S).

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Charging

Drivers are split into two categories — those who have owned and lived with an electric vehicle and those who have not. To those who have not owned an EV, they may appreciate the benefits of driving one and have an idea what charging might look like if they were to buy an EV, but it is a different thing altogether to own an electric vehicle. Living with an EV with fewer than 100 miles of range forces the owner to work the kinks out of the system where the rubber meets the road.

Those who have taken a journey that is longer than the range of their EV understand what it is like to really, truly have to rely on public charging in their area. The Chevy Bolt is a big step for electric vehicles with regards to charging, as it has an option for a DC Fast Charging CCS port that enables much faster charge rates. While CCS chargers are not as prevalent as Tesla Superchargers, there are not as many vehicles looking to use a CCS charger to refill.

[Editor’s note: It’s important to understand that Tesla’s Superchargers allow a driver to add about 170 miles of range in ~30 minutes, whereas the Bolt is more likely to max out at about 90 miles in ~30 minutes. However, again, the faster charging stations the Bolt would need to charge this fast can probably be counted on one hand. They will be increasing in number, but not nearly as fast as Tesla’s Superchargers.]

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Chevy Bolt DCFC @ 21 kW. Image Credit: Kyle Field

Here in progressive Southern California, there are generally one or maybe two 50 amp DC Fast Charging stations in each city. They are typically bundled with a CCS and CHAdeMO port, which makes it easier for the stations to charge up a DCFC-capable vehicle but can also further restrict the charging station’s ability to deliver a charge to more than one vehicle at a time. In my time with the Bolt, I fast charged via DCFC stations several times and found the experience better than I expected, but I also realized that range anxiety came back. With just one station, it was all too easy for the station to be ICE’d with a gasmobile parked in the charging spot or found to be non-functional, which would have left me stranded.

Tesla’s foresight and upfront investment in building multi-station Level 4 Supercharging stations serves the company well in this regard. Most stations include 8 or 10 stalls, and (almost) no station has fewer than 4 stalls. Tesla is also adding stalls to high-traffic stations in advance of the flood of Model 3s that are expected to hit the road in the next 12 months.

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Oxnard Supercharger expansion from 10 to 18 stations. June 6th, 2017. Photo Credit: Kyle Field

On my 2,600 mile road trip across most of the United States in my Tesla Model S, I never worried about whether a Supercharger would be available when I arrived or even where it was, as they are built in as stops by Tesla’s integrated navigation by default. This highlights the difference between Tesla and Chevrolet. Tesla is run by people who drive electric. They understand the real barriers and benefits of electric vehicles and operate with that in mind. No other automotive manufacturer has had the foresight into electric vehicles to invest in a charging network like Tesla has … and no, VW’s dieselgate-mandated Electrify America initiative does not count.

In my mind, the first major automotive company that forces all of its executives to drive electric cars will be the first one to truly make an intelligent push into the electric vehicle market.

The Tesla Model 3 wins the charging wars with its massive network of ~130 kW Tesla Superchargers boasting multiple charging stations in an intentionally deployed, integrated charging network that spans most of the US, Europe, and several other regions around the globe. Yes, any other manufacturer could do this, and it’s just a matter of a few billion dollars … but they have not done it to date and suffer because of this inaction.

Price

Affordability of a long-range electric car was, until recently, a major constraint for those wanting to drive electric. The new $30,000 Chevy Bolt (after the US federal tax credit for ZEVs) is a major accomplishment and evidence that Tesla has indeed scared mainstream manufacturers into bringing long-range, affordable electric vehicles to market. It was clearly a response by GM to the threat of Tesla’s Model 3 and I’m sure Tesla is excited about its existence.

Before rebates, the price of the Bolt at $37,500 is slightly higher than the Model 3 at $35,000. Federal tax credits for Tesla vehicles are expected to run out in the next 12 months, meaning that anyone who is not already in the reservation queue for the Model 3 will likely not get a tax credit for it. Chevrolet has similarly produced numerous plug-in vehicles over the years and is thought to be nearing the end of the 200,000 plug-in vehicles that are eligible for the $7,500 US federal tax credit. Though, with lower demand for the Bolt (available in showrooms today), a tax credit is all but guaranteed for buyers.

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Chevrolet Bolt specs at CES reveal. Image Courtesy: Chevrolet

The base Tesla Model 3 does not include important add-ons like the current Autopilot suite and full self-driving software, features expected to add thousands to the price of the vehicle. Based on data gathered by the Model 3 Owners Group, the average selling price of the Model 3 is expected to be around $50,000. That’s not to say that you have to spend that much, but most buyers will add options. Bolt does not have as many options in this regard and many buyers are comfortable with the base model with the exception of the missing DC fast charging option at $750.

I’m calling the price category a wash. Though, technically, Model 3 beats the Bolt at the base price.

Availability

For drivers who are just done driving a gasmobile, the Bolt can be purchased today, and as some of our single-car readers are aware, it meets the vast majority (if not all) of the needs of the average driver. (More on that later, though, when some of our Bolt-driving readers publish their own reviews of the car.) Deliveries of the Bolt started in December, while Model 3 will not be delivered to the first people in the reservation queue until July. Having said that, if you are not in the reservation queue for Model 3, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that you should expect to wait until late 2018 to get your Model 3.

This gives the Bolt a sizeable advantage with the average consumer, as it can literally be driven off the lot today, whereas that same luxury for Model 3 is around 18 months away for most prospective buyers — and even then, we don’t know how long demand will outstrip production capacity and force consumers to wait a bit for their cars.

Autonomous Driving

While not specifically cleantech focused, autonomous driving technology has become synonymous with Tesla. Its Autopilot suite of technology changes the driving experience for drivers today, with nearly hands-free freeway driving in most regions and Elon Musk committing the company to performing a fully autonomous hands-free cross-country road trip by the end of this year.

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Zach testing Autopilot in a Tesla Model X. Image Credit: Kyle Field

Chevrolet, on the other hand, has developed a healthy suite of autonomous driving technology that it has demonstrated in San Francisco but with none of the features included in the production version of the Chevy Bolt EV. In response to Tesla, Chevrolet has escalated the pace of its development of autonomous vehicle technology — but, again, the technology is absent in the production version nor has Chevrolet committed to bringing it to market in any future vehicles.

Model 3 will have all the hardware necessary for full self-driving functionality and clearly comes out on top for autonomous driving technology.

Performance

The Chevy Bolt is no slacker when it comes to performance. Stomp the pedal and even with its impressive traction control it is possible to chirp the tires. It boasts an impressive 0–60 mph time of 6.5 seconds and is a blast to drive. Most people do not care about a 0–60 time, and in my 7 years of owning my Prius, I had and still have no idea what it was. Performance for most is about the day-to-day driving experience, and in that regard, the Bolt delivers a peppy pedal with all the torque one could want.

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Matte Black Tesla Model 3. Image Courtesy: Tesla

The Tesla Model 3, on the other hand, will have a 0–60 time of around 6.0 seconds, with Tesla’s famous Ludicrous mode being available as an (expensive) option farther down the line. The addition of a second motor also promises to offer an incremental performance boost for those who want a faster vehicle but want to retain the ability to breathe during acceleration. Tesla has always had a sweet tooth for performance, clearly claiming it as one of the top selling points of its vehicles (example: the Tesla Model S boasts the fastest 0–60 time of any production sedan at just over 2.2 seconds!!!).

For the average driver, these two cars will feel about the same in terms of acceleration, but with Model 3 offering extra options to step it up, Tesla takes the cake for performance.

Dealership Experience

When I bought my Model S, I was very impressed by the “dealership experience” Tesla provided. It had been a few years since I had visited a dealership, as I bought my Nissan LEAF online (which was also a very satisfying, low-stress purchase). Unrelated, unsolicited, and unpaid aside: we bought our LEAF from John Dibella at Wayzata Nissan. They had (have?) LEAFs from the factory that had/have not been titled but do have a few miles on them at great discounts. I highly recommend them.

Tesla is known for its all-out customer service and held up to that high standard in spades. I was VERY impressed and enjoyed every aspect of it. Knowing that prices are not negotiable at any Tesla store anywhere in the world at any time is nice. Tesla vehicles can also be configured and purchased online, which is handy in states where Tesla still cannot operate a physical sales center.

Tesla Santa Barbara. Image Credit: Kyle Field

And then we have … Chevrolet dealerships. I went into a few to test drive the Bolt before I took possession of the loaner Chevrolet that provided to me to review for CleanTechnica, and it was an eye-opening experience. To be fair, this is not a Chevy thing — it’s a dealership thing for all major automakers with very few exceptions. The salesmen were high-pressure sales people, were uneducated on the product, and left me feeling gross. I was pressured with follow-up phone calls to the point that I had to threaten to escalate to the manager to get him to stop calling (harassing) me. This is an issue with all dealerships, not just Chevrolet, but it is a HUGE disadvantage. (Editor’s note: Automakers would do well to understand and try to solve this sooner rather than later. And, no, fighting Tesla in the courts regarding its right to sell directly to customers is not the solution.)

Similar to how conventional vehicle manufacturers should force executives to drive electric, they should also be forced to buy a car from a handful of their dealerships … and from Tesla. The contrast is stark. I like going to the Tesla dealership even though I have no reason to go there. Granted, I’m a fan, but it goes beyond that. The experience was so positive and the approach is so different. (Editor’s note: I’ve heard of other Tesla stores being places for Tesla enthusiasts to hang out as well, almost like clubhouses.)

Tesla has redefined the car-buying experience in a way that makes it a competitive advantage. If I had to choose between buying another Tesla from a dealership or having to negotiate at a Chevrolet dealership for a car … even if it were free in the end, I would be hard-pressed to not choose Tesla.

Safety

The foundation of the autonomous driving technology is a base of sensors and cameras that, even on the base Model 3, provide a brilliant array of active safety features that will enable Model 3 to perform feats like “Automatic Emergency Braking,” swerving and dodging — and even accelerating — to avoid incoming vehicles. These features truly raise the bar for what it is to be a safe vehicle. Model S and Model X are the safest vehicles in their respective classes, and with safety as the #1 priority for Tesla, all signs point to Model 3 being an extremely safe vehicle as well.

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Bolt Airbags. Image Courtesy: Chevrolet

While Chevrolet offers many of these active safety features, they are only included on higher-optioned vehicles, meaning most buyers will not benefit from them. Chevrolet has high hopes for a favorable safety rating for the Bolt, and based on the performance of the Volt with its Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Pick rating, I am hopeful that the Bolt will earn high marks.

Because of Tesla’s proven track record of delivering safe vehicles, the inclusion of active safety features in all current Tesla vehicles, and its safety-first focus, I’m going with Model 3 for the safety category.

Summary

The Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt EV are neck and neck in just about every area, and everyone will weight each of the categories differently, which makes it difficult to compare the two. With the massive advantage of the Tesla Supercharging network and the autonomous vehicle technology the Tesla Model 3 will arrive with next month, I’d say the Model 3 takes the cake. Buying a car is often an emotional decision not driven by categories or data, so take this comparison for what it is — my perspective — and do your own research. Become an expert and, most importantly, Drive Electric!

Stuttgart: A City Caught Between Two Worlds, Part 1

Originally published on CleanTechnica

The City of Stuttgart in Germany is a case study in the clash between the old world & industries that humans have developed over the centuries and the new realities resulting from the very same industries that have elevated humanity: air pollution, hazardous waste, and soot-covered buildings. Traffic clogging its streets that resonate with the static emanating from thousands of autos idling in traffic.

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Downtown Stuttgart

But not all is lost. This is not a story of defeat but rather, of a city boldly reimagining its future. Stuttgart is a city that is plowing a path forward to an electrified future powered by renewable wind and solar energy. Its leaders envision citizens zooming around on electric bikes that can be loaded onto silent electric trains headed to destinations near and far.

Stuttgart’s History of Innovation

Stuttgart’s story starts with the birth of the automobile. The first 3-wheel and the first 4-wheel internal combustion powered automobiles were invented in the greater Stuttgart area. The diesel engine was also invented in the region, which builds a strong case as to why the people of Stuttgart hold the automobile so close to their hearts. It is a legacy, a passion, their history.

The automobile grew from a series of inventions into companies. Those companies grew into legacies now known by iconic names like Daimler, Benz, Maybach, Diesel, Porsche, and many more that harken back to the days of fervent innovation as the creative juices of brilliant minds unleashed wave after wave of petrol-fired innovation that led humanity into the industrial age by way of the internal combustion engine. From wikipedia:

  • 1860 — Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir produced a gas-fired internal combustion engine
  • 1864 — Nikolaus Otto patented the first atmospheric gas engine
  • 1876 — Nikolaus Otto, working with Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, patented the compressed charge, four-cycle engine.
  • 1879 — Karl Benz patented a reliable two-stroke gas engine
  • 1885 — Karl Benz built the first 3 wheeled horseless carriage which he named the Benz Patent Motorwagen. In 1889, Benz revealed the world’s first Model 3 (Sorry, Elon)
  • 1890 — Daimler Motor Company was founded by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Stuttgart and produced motors and later, automobiles
  • 1892 — Rudolf Diesel developed the first compressed charge, compression ignition engine
  • 1931 — Porsche was born out of the factories of Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart which still maintains center stage on its emblem.
  • 1936 — the Mercedes-Benz 260 D in the W 138 series was the world’s first series-production diesel passenger car.

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These early days of automotive innovation drove the automotive roots of Stuttgart deep into the foundational industry and innovation that helped forge modern Stuttgart.

In an attempt to summarize what he was looking for from a cutting-edge race vehicle, Emil Jellinek — one of the original designers of the first Mercedes-Benz vehicle — said simply, “I don’t want a car for today or tomorrow, it will be the car of the day after tomorrow.” In many ways, we are back at the same intersection of the end of an era of old technology as it is faced with the dawning of a new era.

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Entrenched Industries & Powerful Unions

The blossoming automotive industry launched Stuttgart into an age of prosperity as automakers developed models for the masses, as widespread electricity distribution and assembly lines came together to usher in a new age of industry in Stuttgart with loads of money following close behind.

What started out as a single innovation grew into powerful companies and industries. To keep these powers in check, unions like powerhouse IG Metall in Germany rose up to ensure the voice of the worker was not lost amongst the drive for production and profitability. As with the companies they work in, IG Metall continues to represent workers’ rights to this day, even posing a challenge for Tesla with a threat to unionize its new German engineering unit, Tesla Grohmann Automation.

What’s a little feinstaub between friends?

Along with the industry, jobs, and money that came to Stuttgart in the early days, the natural bowl shape of the geography in the region kept many of the emissions coming from the manufacturing plants in the region from dissipating. Feinstaub is German for “fine dust” or “particulates” and has become a part of the local language as modern sensors have revealed that the beautiful city of Stuttgart is home to the worst PM10 concentrations in the country.

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You wouldn’t know it from a walk in the park or along one of the many walking paths in the city, but the data tell a different tale. Local officials have taken to the offensive to tackle the problem, focusing efforts on a campaign geared towards raising awareness and driving behavioral changes on days where particulate and nitrous oxide (NOx) levels are especially high. A “feinstaubalarm” has been created to notify local residents and commuters of days when particulate and/or nitrous oxide levels rise above designated trigger levels.

On feinstaubalarm days, mass transit is half price, with all the locals clued in on the fact that they are able to buy a child’s ticket (kinder) on feinstaubalarm days. When travelling around the city, I was told by several locals about the phenomenon — though, I did not realize why it was okay to buy a child’s ticket at the time.

stuttgart

The rollout of the feinstaubalarm program has been an all-out blitz on the town, with the alarm status posted for the next calendar day on a central website and radio spots announcing the status as a way to not only mitigate short-term emissions but also to raise awareness of the environmental impact of commuting in general.

The town is not just asking for help from the public. Stuttgart has developed a holistic approach to combating the pernicious particulate and nitrous oxide emissions, with the approach spanning all sources and solutions. The focus of all the programs is on the Umweltzone, which is the defined environmental zone or low emission zone that is the key area in which NOx and particulate emissions must be reduced on feinstaubalarm days.

The city has identified that motor vehicle traffic is a key contributor to the high particulate and NOx emissions and is considering banning diesel vehicles from the city on feinstaubalarm days as a result. Combined with reductions in fares on public transportation, the city hopes that its citizens will, out of obligation, cut their travel by car and achieve the required reductions in emissions, but environmentalists are not so keen on the voluntary nature of the proposal. Even if it were to go into effect, the fine for violating the ban is so low as to be trivial and the local police have already declared that they are not staffed to enforce such a massive ban across the city.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

The citizens of Stuttgart take an immense amount of pride in the innovative, dynamic history of the region and are not content to let that rich history go by abandoning their automobiles for public transit, nor are they willing to concede to the otherwise imminent fate of going down in history as the most polluted city in Germany. With such entrenched forces brought to bear against each other and with the 2.3 million member strong union IG Metall also aligned against any change so radical that it might disrupt the stability of the petrol-centric German automotive industry, the city of Stuttgart and the state of Baden-Württemberg as a whole are at a historic crossroads.

Stay tuned for part two where we will dive into the transportation solutions being explored and implemented across Stuttgart.

Disclaimer: Travel to and around Stuttgart provided by the Clean Energy Wire to showcase the clean energy transformation currently underway in the Stuttgart.

New App “Co-pilot for Tesla” Adds Much Needed Alerts To Tesla’s Autopilot

Originally published on CleanTechnica

New smartphone app Co-pilot for Tesla* aims to leverage crowdsourced data to fill in the safety gaps in Tesla’s current autopilot solution.

Where did the idea for Tesla Co-pilot come from?

The idea for Co-pilot for Tesla app came about as a result of founder Jeff’s experiences using Autopilot in his Tesla. He loved the convenience of using Autopilot / auto-steer and was hooked on using it. A few weeks into using Autopilot, however, he had a few close calls with it around town where it responded inappropriately to temporary traffic flow changes that could have ended terribly. The near misses with Autopilot scared him to the point where he was not comfortable using it for quite a few months which kickstarted an innovative period for him.

Jeff’s experiences are not isolated, with many users in the Tesla Motors Club forums posting similar experiences with Autopilot. Consumer Reports even went so far as to demand that Tesla make sweeping changes to Autopilot in response to a fatality that occurred while a driver was using the system.

While taking time away from Autopilot, Jeff started thinking about what could be done to fix the times when Autopilot misreads, misinterprets or fails to react to a situation in such a way that it results in a dangerous situation. Autopilot asking a driver to take the wheel on very short notice in the middle of a complicated traffic situation does not ensure that the situation will end well.

Jeff saw the potential in Autopilot and had an idea about how he could take it to the next level. After months of working through a few options, he created the solution in the form of a smartphone app he called “Co-pilot for Tesla.”

What is the Co-pilot app?

Co-pilot for Tesla is a crowdsourced, GPS-powered app that allows users to flag areas where the Tesla Autopilot system has failed for them. These alerts allow users to take control of the vehicle or at least closely monitor the situation to confirm their vehicle handles the potentially risky situation appropriately. With the downside of an Autopilot fail having the potential to be a life-altering event, advance warning of the locations where the system has failed can literally be a lifesaver.

Users can opt to simply sit on the receiving end of the app and take advantage of the alerts or to actively contribute to the app and enter the instances where autopilot has failed for them. Importantly, the ability for the solution to gather vast amounts of user-generated, real-life data about Autopilot system bugs has the potential to drive improvements in the system with Tesla as well as just provide data to Autopilot users.

How does the Co-pilot app work?

The fundamentals of the app, predictably, make use of the crowdsourced user data combined with the GPS location from the smartphone, but it does much more than that to achieve a higher degree of accuracy and functionality.

The app starts with a solid underpinning of map layers that it merges with crowdsourced insights as the foundational components of the app’s intelligence. To intelligently create Autopilot events, the app utilizes the mic on the smartphone to detect when Autopilot is turned on or off by recognizing the engage/disengage chimes.

It is worth mentioning that the audio from the mic is not sent to the cloud nor is it stored. It simply listens for the Autopilot on/off tones and triggers the start and end of Autopilot events accordingly. In the event that the start or end of a trip is missed, Co-pilot intelligently determines which portions of the trip are valid, if any.

Co-pilot kicks that up to the next level by connecting to the user’s myTesla account, which enables it to pull vehicle data directly from the Tesla Application Program Interface (API). The Tesla API is essentially a way for the app to listen to and talk back to the car using specific predetermined commands.

What can Co-pilot do today?

Today, Co-pilot provides alerts to users for known risky areas based on crowdsourced data from other users. The alerts are overlaid on a map showing the roads in the area where other users are using Autopilot to help users see which routes have fewer issues than others.

Users can also enter their own alerts to contribute to the pool, making the app function better for everyone. It works like unpaid Amazon reviews where the more alerts a single area gets, the higher the likelihood that all users will experience issues in the area. Conversely, one-off alerts can then also be identified and dismissed.

Because Co-pilot has access to data from the car through the Tesla API, it is also able to compile statistics for all trips in the vehicle. From these trips, the app automagically creates detailed charts with all the data for each including route information (distance, time, route), autosteer info, energy consumption, and battery charge. Additional graphs are displayed when swiped for battery range level, a graph showing speed, and a graph showing elevation.

How can I get my hands on Co-pilot?

Co-pilot for Tesla is available for iOS devices today for free. Just click the App Store Download button below to pull it up. The Co-pilot team is working on an Android version for release in the near future. For more information about the app and to stay apprised of its progress, head over to the Co-pilot website or email your questions, concerns, or excitement to Jeff directly.

*This post was featured on CleanTechnica as a sponsored article.

24 Hours With The 2017 Chevy Bolt (CleanTechnica Review)

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Many electric vehicle designers felt the need to stand out, to create a design that flies a bold flag to everyone around that proclaims “I’m modern and different!” While this is great for individuals or businesses looking to make a bold proclamation, most people are looking for a car that looks normal, that drives like a normal car with cool features inside that make day-to-day life just a little bit easier.

Being an electric vehicle advocate, I find myself in the first group, wanting my vehicle to scream out that it is different and that it doesn’t use any gasoline, which is why I paid just a bit extra to get a custom license plate that reads “NOGAAAS”. Having said that, I fully realize that for electric vehicles to achieve mainstream adoption and to usurp petroleum-fueled vehicles, we need vehicles that appeal to the masses to replace the Chevy S10 trucks and Toyota Corollas that sell by the millions.

It’s clear that this is what the team that designed the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt had in mind. On the outside, it looks very much like many modern subcompact cars on the market today. It features styling cues that place it right in line with the current Chevrolet brand identity. It looks and feels just like a “normal” car, a great feat.

The shiny exterior, the normal look and feel, and maybe even the new car smell are all part of an elaborate ruse to camouflage what is in all likelihood the most technologically advanced vehicle ever to set rubber on the floor of a Chevrolet showroom. The hard work done by the Chevy team in such a short period of time to develop the Bolt and move it to production shines through, and that work set the new high bar for what it means to be an affordable, long-range electric vehicle. Nothing on the market today comes close to the Bolt.

Range

The Bolt is a breakthrough first and foremost because of its range. With an estimated range of 238 miles per charge, it gives drivers more all-electric miles per charge than any vehicle in its class by a large margin. To put that range to the test, I took the Bolt out from the sunny beach town of Ventura, California, to the hilly wine country of Central California to see how it would handle long jaunts of freeway driving paired with a serious climb up the coastal range.

Over nearly 200 miles, the Bolt maintained an impressive efficiency of 3.9 miles per kilowatt-hour. This is an impressive achievement considering its official rating is 3.6 miles per kilowatt-hour. I attribute this to the efficient regeneration capability of the car. Given my initial results, I plan to put this to a more scientific test later in the week.

The efficiency is a noticeable improvement over the 3.0 miles per kilowatt-hour my Tesla Model S achieves on normal roads. Higher efficiency translates into faster effective charging rates that allow the vehicle to absorb more “range per hour” of charging than the Model S.

Interior Space

The Bolt is not a big car but the interior does not feel cramped. The cab-forward design enabled by the electric drivetrain puts the driver and passengers farther forward and in higher seating positions to allow for great visibility from any seat. The absence of a drive shaft and tunnel open up the center of the interior, which Chevrolet fitted with a number of roomy compartments that give drivers plenty of options for smartphones, chargers, and hand sanitizers to be stashed.

Asking my kids what they thought about the car from the back seat, they said they liked that the ride was smoother than our Model S and that it left a lot more room in the garage. I have to agree and both are nice features. For those who don’t want a large vehicle, the Bolt offers the interior features of a large car without leaving the passengers feeling cramped. I’m 6 foot 2 inches tall and fit in the car very comfortably.

Throttle Response

The first thing one notices when driving the Bolt is that the throttle response is extremely impressive. For those who have driven an electric car before, they are blown away with the snappy pedal that immediately throws your head back when punched. The EV smile comes out quickly as drivers realize that the Bolt accelerates with the speed and finesse of the famous Roadrunner from childhood cartoons, just without the “meep, meep” sound.

With the car weighing just 3,500 pounds (1,590 kilograms), mashing the pedal off the line throws you back into your seat and makes you question whether pounding the pedal was a good idea or not. The tires will squeal if you’re not careful, as the power overcomes the otherwise well tuned traction control. The torque from the motor also has the unhealthy tendency to pull the car to the right as it takes off, which is something to watch out for and potentially unsafe.

After slamming the pedal to the floor off the line a few times, it became clear that the steering is a bit squirrely after launch in general. Granted, I am not talking about the usual pace of driving around the neighborhood or on the way to get groceries, but it is worth noting. The design of the vehicle leaves the front wheels surprisingly light on the ground, and thus jittery through the acceleration of a launch. Having said that, it is a ton of fun to drive and that same 266 foot-pounds of torque all ready and waiting at zero RPMs makes this the most sporty subcompact I’ve driven — electric or not.

One-Pedal Driving

The Bolt diverges from the EVs of times gone past because of how it uses regeneration. First, the Bolt has the addition of a regeneration paddle that allows the driver to turn heavy regen on at the pull of a paddle. This paddle serves as another way to brake and can bring the vehicle to a complete stop but slows the vehicle at a more moderated rate than the actual brake pedal. On the downside, the regen paddle is either on or off. There’s no easing into it, which can make braking with the paddle nauseating if not used carefully.

The Bolt also has a “Low Drive” setting that allows for the famed one-pedal/single-pedal driving style. For drivers familiar with a Tesla, this is similar to driving with regeneration set to standard except that, in the Bolt, it can bring the vehicle all the way to a stop when the accelerator pedal is released — no need for the brake at all. Low Drive mode essentially activates aggressive regeneration when the accelerator pedal is let up.

In contrast with the regen paddle, single pedal driving in Low Drive allows the driver to throttle how much acceleration or regeneration they want based on how far the pedal is depressed. This mode admittedly takes some getting used to and can then enable mostly single pedal driving all the time. In my time with the vehicle so far, I’m a recent convert to the world of single-pedal driving and plan to use it exclusively moving forward. In summary, push pedal down = go, go, go. Release pedal = slow, slow, slow.

Traction Control

The Bolt packs a traction control system that is comparable to the system in Tesla’s Model S and X. Under normal driving conditions, it maintains solid traction and keeps the power going to the ground instead of to squealing the tires as many other EVs are prone to do.

Taking off around a right turn at full throttle or attempting what could have been interpreted as a drift slide around broad turn brought the system into question as the tires screamed in opposition, but those cases were extreme and not representative of normal driving conditions. My Tesla Model S was also able to be convinced to break traction with the ground but far less frequently. Having said that, the Bolt is the only other EV I have driven that even comes close to the traction control system in the Tesla … and at half the price.

Infotainment System

The infotainment system in the Bolt is a huge step beyond just about every other car on the road today, with a few exceptions. The 10.2″ color touch screen is beautiful and relatively intuitive to use. Users are able to customize it to their liking, but not so much as to confuse users who aren’t too tech savvy. For example, it allows users to change the color scheme, but only has 3 options. The panels on the home screen display can be rearranged, but only with a preselected set of panels.

On the awkward side, the angle of the screen is a bit strange. It is almost as though the screen were laid down at an angle to make it seem like more of a tablet, but it results in the screen looking and feeling a bit counterintuitive, just based on its physical placement.

Navigation in the Bolt is similarly awkward. I wasn’t able to find the map on the infotainment system so called the integrated On Star service to help find it. The representative I spoke with confirmed that the Bolt does not have a built-in map-based navigation system but that it was able to offer turn-by-turn directions through On Star. I gave my representative my destination and he was able to download the turn by turn directions to the vehicle.

After years of using integrated map-based navigation systems, it felt strange navigating to a destination with just the arrows and instructions. It was as if I were only driving with one eye open or with earplugs in. Something was missing. A bit of digging revealed that the integration of Apple Play and Android Auto were meant to solve this, giving connected drivers the ability to display maps from their phones on the infotainment screen.

This approach ensures that the maps being used are always current. Though, it requires the user to have a smartphone and a data connection. I see where they’re going with that … but for me, it’s a bummer. Perhaps that’s something Chevy will fix with an over-the-air update sometime in the (near) future.

Stay tuned here on CleanTechnica for more details on the 2017 Chevy Bolt as our exclusive in-depth review continues next week.

Images Credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

ChargePoint Launches European Expansion With New InstaVolt Partnership

Originally published on CleanTechnica

ChargePoint has announced a new partnership with InstaVolt to install more than 200 ChargePoint rapid charging systems. This represents the first major milestone in its European expansion.

UK electric vehicle charging network InstaVolt has signed a contract to purchase more than 200 of ChargePoint Express Plus systems. These systems will be installed by InstaVolt along popular routes in the UK with an aim to enable drivers to quickly recharge their EVs on longer road trips.

As we shared back in January, the ChargePoint Express Plus charging system is a modular solution that allows operators to install the charging station and then increase the charging speed of the systems as more vehicles capable of fast charging enter the market. This is critical because it gives operators confidence that the initial investment will not be lost as technologies change over time, but instead allows them to change with the times and increase charging speeds up to 400 kW … which is 3 times faster than any vehicle on the market today.

Tim Payne, CEO at InstaVolt, said of the partnership:

“We are delighted to partner with ChargePoint to deliver a best in class EV charging infrastructure. We own, install and maintain rapid electric vehicle charging units all over the country, giving landowners the opportunity to earn a rental income by housing them, and giving EV drivers access to the fastest charging available.

“ChargePoint will fulfill two important criteria for us: the charging units are future-proofed so the units can be configured to meet the precise requirements of any site and can be scaled incrementally as demand for higher rate charging increases. This is particularly important as EV manufacturers begin to bring out new models with increased battery capacity. We are also committed to making sure the units are working 24/7 and so the reliability of the ChargePoint solution is one of the cornerstones of our offer.”

The move into the European market for ChargePoint and this new partnership with InstaVolt represent major milestones in the rollout of the fast charging network of the future. To date, the fastest non-Tesla charging stations available top out at 50 kW, whereas these new ChargePoint units allow for dramatic expansion in the future.

This turns the notion of installing 6.6 kW chargers that will be out of date in a few years on its head. For the first time, it gives the public the confidence they need to buy an EV with the knowledge that public chargers exist that can support them over the life of the vehicle. Whether consumers will need to own vehicles in 10 years is another story altogether. …

EV Drivers Want (or Require) Superfast Charging

Worth highlighting here is that many of today’s EV drivers demand or at least greatly desire superfast charging in their next EVs. Depending on the type of electric vehicle they drive today (a non-Tesla fully electric car, a Tesla, or a plug-in hybrid) and where they live (Europe or North America), 32–92% of the respondents we surveyed said they required superfast charging in their next EV.

Survey results from our new EV report. Responses came from over 2,000 EV drivers across 26 European countries, 49 of 50 US states, and 9 Canadian provinces. Responses were segmented according to region — North America vs Europe — and type of electric car — plug-in hybrid vs Tesla vs non-Tesla fully electric car.

Looking at desires instead of requirements, the figures ranged from 45% (European non-Tesla fully electric car drivers) to 86% (North American Tesla drivers).

Survey results from our new EV report. Responses came from over 2,000 EV drivers across 26 European countries, 49 of 50 US states, and 9 Canadian provinces. Responses were segmented according to region — North America vs Europe — and type of electric car — plug-in hybrid vs Tesla vs non-Tesla fully electric car.

BYD Refuse Truck to Saves $13,000 Per Year In Fuel & Maintenance

Originally published on CleanTechnica

BYD announced a new electric long-range class 8 refuse truck at the ACT Expo in Long Beach this week that is estimated to save operators more than $13,000 per year in fuel and maintenance when compared to a diesel-based refuse truck.

Read that again. $10,000 per year in savings just by driving a different vehicle. It also comes with a hefty improvement in maintenance costs with another $3,000 saved on maintenance per year. This is a result of the reduction in parts required to move the vehicle around coming from the simplified electric drivetrain. Regenerative brakes support this by reducing the wear and tear on pads and rotors.

The new vehicle builds on the electric BYD trucks that were launched last year and represents the start of a flood of purpose-built electric trucks coming from BYD. The trucks make use of BYD’s proprietary iron phosphate battery technology, which is built to last longer but at the cost of a slightly heavier pack than more traditional 18650 lithium ion cell-based packs.

refuse truck

The new 10-ton payload trash truck can achieve 76 miles per charge with minimal battery degradation. These trucks are some of the first to roll off of the new production lines at BYD’s recently expanded Lancaster, California, Bus and Coach Factory. It complies with all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) to ensure maximum adoption in the North American Market.

Low speed, high torque vehicles with lots of starts and stops throughout the day, like mail delivery vehicles, parcel delivery vehicles, city buses, and refuse trucks with relatively predictable routes or fixed zones of operation, represent prime targets for electrification, as the vehicles can be purpose-built with en-route charging or perfectly sized batteries to maximize the financial returns for operators. Seeing BYD move into these spaces with intention is exciting and bodes well for increased fleet adoption in the North American market.

While it comes with a compelling set of figures, it is sure to be an uphill fight for BYD to move in on trash haulers with a new set of gear that’s going to have a higher cost up front. Educating operators about the fundamentals of electric vehicles, charging systems, new maintenance best practices and schedules are just a few of the real world challenges the team is faced with. But BYD continues to move forward. The silent giant in the world of plug-in vehicles doesn’t listen to the doubters, but it does keep taking orders and with each new order, continues to widen its lead as the top-selling plug-in vehicle manufacturer in the world.

The full specs on the new vehicle are below. Let us know what you think about this new entry down in the comments.

refuse truck

Tesla Model 3 Production On Track as Tesla Ramps Up Supporting Infrastructure

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Tesla announced earnings for the first quarter of 2017 today and the message is loud and clear about the Model 3 — Tesla is on track for the move to production and ramping up its infrastructure across the board in support of the launch.

Model 3

Starting with the most foundational of Model 3 activities, Model 3 production is on track with all production-ready manufacturing equipment set to start working in July for honest-to-goodness manufacturing:

“Model 3 activities related to vehicle development, manufacturing equipment installation and supplier readiness remain on plan to start production in July.”

The letter continues by unpacking the work Tesla is doing to improve its overall geographic footprint across the globe.

“We are significantly expanding our infrastructure to support Tesla owners by increasing the density and geographic footprint of our presence.”

This comes on the heels of Tesla’s focused announcement that the Tesla Supercharger network will be doubling in 2017.

All signs point to Tesla’s gamble on installing production-capable manufacturing equipment right off the bat vs installing special, essentially disposable equipment and then upgrading to full-volume equipment after the release candidate vehicles are validated. The release candidate vehicles have been built so that improvements can be taken back to the manufacturing process to ensure it is capable of supporting Model 3 production at scale — at quality targets.

As the world has already seen, release candidates are also getting out in public for real-world road testing as part of the validation process.

Digging into the details of the manufacturing lines, Tesla has brought its latest Schuler press line up and has started the commissioning process for it in preparation for Model 3 production. This timing is in-line with the planned Model 3 ramp and allows “sufficient time to install and tune die sets ahead of volume production.”

Work continues across the Fremont factory, with the paint shop getting an overhaul as well as upgrades in the new Model 3 body welding process and general assembly lines, with Tesla noting that these are all on track.

On the supplier front, Tesla is also pounding on the upstream suppliers to ensure it doesn’t hit any roadblocks like those encountered with the Model X production ramp, which had serious issues with the components required for the second-row seats, supersplendulous windshield, and falcon-wing doors.

Service Improvements

Beyond just physical service centers, Tesla has moved forward with mobile service teams and is ramping up from the pilot of just a single mobile service vehicle to a fleet of over 100 mobile service vehicles by the end of Q2 2017. Tesla notes that it has built its vehicles to be largely serviceable without the need for a lift, which means mobile service is much easier to accomplish at the home or business of a customer, which saves the customer the time and effort of traveling to and from a service center (SC) as well as the non-value-add logistics associated with a SC visit.

I personally found the Ranger Service to be extremely user-friendly when a tech came to my home to swap out a door handle on my Model S while I made dinner for my family in the next room.

Tesla has also done work to continue to drive service times down. Specifically, it has continued to leverage proactive and reactive remote diagnostics to identify and flag service items before they leave a driver stranded on the side of a road. This has the potential to drive the uptime of Tesla vehicles up higher than any other competitor, as no other automotive manufacturer has or is using this type of advanced, remote diagnostic capabilities today. The work done to drive service times down this year has resulted in reductions of repair times by 35% this year alone.

A 30% increase in physical footprint density is also in the works for this year, with over 100 new retail, delivery, and service locations globally in parallel to the previously communicated doubling of the Supercharger network in 2017 to 10,000 stations and a 4-fold increase in the destination charger network density to 15,000.

Tesla is also moving into the body shop business, which is a part of the service model that it has historically outsourced. Body work has been a source of significant headaches and delays for users, with the rear quarter panels being a known constraint that regularly cause delays of several months due to their complexity, lead time for parts ordering, and the sheer effort required to remove and rebuild that section of the vehicle.

On the investors call, which CleanTechnica joined, the Tesla team noted that there has been a significant ramp in the number of loaners the company is keeping ready to ensure owners have a Tesla to borrow when their vehicle is in for service. The company noted that it is stocking well-equipped vehicles to give owners the best experience and to make service a positive experience to the point where they will be sad when it’s over. If a fleet of loaner Model X P100Ds are sitting at the ready, Tesla may see an increase in service requests from owners. 🙂

That positive experience could also lead to more upgrades and Model X or S sales. As reported in our freshly released second-annual EV report, the largest percentage of current EV drivers in Europe and North America plan to next buy a Tesla Model 3, but another large portion of initial EV drivers plan to buy a Model S or X next. In fact, among current Tesla drivers, approximately 26% plan to next buy a/another Model S and 10–11% plan to next buy a/another Model X.


Pluto AI Aims To Transform Wastewater Treatment With Applied AI

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Artificial Intelligence startup Pluto AI has raised $2.1 million in VC funding in order to inject intelligence into the traditionally mundane world of wastewater treatment. Modern plants are flush with sensors and automated controls, but they typically operate independently and often require user intervention. Pluto AI aims to take these treatment plants to the next level by gulping up all the data produced by the array of sensors and controls equipment already in place, then provide intelligent insights to save time, money and water.

From the company’s recent blog post,

“Pluto is an analytics platform for smart water management. We enable water facilities like treatment plants or beverage processing plants to prevent water wastage, predict asset health, and minimize operating costs. We use cutting edge Artificial Intelligence (AI) to achieve this. Our pilot customers include some of the largest water and beverage companies in the world.”

As a startup, Pluto is not yet competing with the big players in smart water management systems like IBM’s Intelligent Water, but has a solid product that many industrial facilities, publicly owned treatment works (POTW), power plants, and other facilities that consume or process a significant amount of water could use.

As the Pluto team likes to say:

“If you have timestamped water data originating from sources such as sensors, meters, or other devices, our platform can ingest it and do a lot of great things with it.”

The solution lives in the cloud, meaning no local hardware or IT support is required. Pluto aims to make the addition of intelligence to water treatment systems a no brainer, just enable timestamped controls data to flow to the secure Pluto system and the the Pluto team takes it from there.

Because the solution resides in the cloud, it is easily scalable to meet the needs of the customers, which are largely based on the volume and frequency of data being processed by Pluto. As such, the service is billed as a Software as a Service (SaaS) wherein the customer pays monthly or annual fees for the services provided, but would not typically own any of the hardware or have any significant up-front capital cost to implement the system.

Pluto plans to use the injection of cash to ramp up its enterprise sales team to scale its offerings to get the solution into the hands of the world’s largest corporations and government agencies.

Just as electric vehicles and AI-powered autonomous driving technology are disrupting the auto industry as we speak, Pluto AI hopes to disrupt the stagnant water treatment industry where over 2.1 trillion gallons of clean water is lost each year in the US alone.

Source: TechCrunch | Pluto AI

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