This company may have solved one of the hardest problems in clean energy

David Roberts:

Hydrogen — the H of H2O fame — turns out to be something of an all-purpose element, a Swiss Army knife for energy. It can be produced without greenhouse gases. It is highly flammable, so it can be used as a combustion fuel. It can be fed into a fuel cell to produce electricity directly, without combustion, through an electrochemical process.

It can be stored and distributed as a gas or a liquid. It can be combined with CO2 to create other useful fuels like methane or ammonia. It can be used as a chemical input in a range of industrial processes, helping to make fertilizers, plastics, or pharmaceuticals.

It is quite handy.

And it is the most abundant chemical element in the universe, so you’d think we’d have all we need. Sadly, it’s not that easy.

It is expensive, in both money and energy, to pry hydrogen loose from other elements, store it, and convert it back to useful energy. The value we get out of it has never quite justified what we invest in producing it. It is one of those technologies that seems perpetually on the verge of a breakthrough, but never quite there.

Seattle native Evan Johnson thinks he can change that. He thinks he’s finally figured out how to unlock a hydrogen economy.

Dyson’s audacious attempt to shake up car industry

Peter Campbell:

In the skies above Hullavington airfield in south-west England, there was a time when trainee parachutists would leap out of planes into the void, trusting in the kit strapped to their backs to save them from falling to earth.

The former RAF base’s current inhabitant, Dyson, is embarking on its own adventure fraught with peril: a £2bn project to develop and build electric cars from scratch.

The UK company is betting on its ingenuity, engineering skills and technology to save it from falling to earth in its audacious attempt to break into the global automotive industry.

Porsche exec talks Mission E battery and charging technology

Electric Cars:

Uwe Michael, Head of the Electrics/Electronics Development Division at Porsche, on battery technology, charging times, apps and artificial intelligence – and how his team are remaining true to the Porsche ethos in this area.

Mr Michael, why is Porsche forging its own path in terms of charging technology?

Fast loading is a great match for our intelligent performance strategy. We’ve closely examined what customers really expect from e-mobility, and what they actually want. There are two key challenges in this respect: the power and performance of e-vehicles and, following on from this, the infrastructure. Customers have two main concerns in this regard, namely inadequate ranges and long charging times.

Via Farooq Butt.

Sidewalk Talk: What city transportation will look like, circa 2043

David Levinson:

It’s 2043. Few people in cities own cars anymore. It’s cheaper to rely on electric, self-driving taxis. Some vehicles are big enough to share; others are individually sized to make the most of limited street space. They have one button inside: Stop. Dynamic curbs—patrolled by enforcement droids—remain clear for deliveries, pick-ups, and drop-offs. Street parking no longer exists, and this space has been recaptured for better public uses.

That’s the future as seen by David Levinson, the University of Sydney transport professor who writes the popular Transportist blog and is co-author of the 2017 book The End of Traffic and the Future of Access. “Look back to the 1920s, and you have magazines that ask: What does the future look like?” he says. “Some of it is absurd. Why would we all be using blimps? But some of it’s still like: Why doesn’t the future look like that?”

Podbike electric four wheeler coming to the streets in late 2018

ebiketips:

Yes, we know it’s not really a bike. But the Nowergian Podbike is certainly an interesting development. We’ve seen some movement in the electric personal transport space over the last year or two: vehicles that are more than a bike, but still pedal-based. There’s the Schaeffler Bio Hybrid, for one, and the Iris e-trike for another. The Podbike hails from Norway, and is another solution to urban transport that’s lighter and more efficient than a car.

Toyota, JapanTaxi Agree to Consider Joint Development of Taxi Services

Toyota PR:

With an aim to revitalize Japan’s taxi industry and improve its efficiencies, Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) and JapanTaxi Co., Ltd. (JapanTaxi) have concluded a basic agreement on considering, among other activities, the joint development of services for taxi operators. They also agreed that, to strengthen ties between the two companies, Toyota will invest 7.5 billion yen in JapanTaxi and subscribe for and acquire shares to be newly issued by JapanTaxi though a third-party allocation.

Toyota has been exploring ways to revitalize and improve the efficiencies of Japan’s overall taxi industry through R&D and the development of services. Activities have included Toyota’s concluding a memorandum of understanding with the Japan Federation of Hire-Taxi Associations on August 5, 2016 to study areas for collaboration, leading to such activities as the start of verification testing on data collection using Toyota data-transmission driving recorders in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Car Hackers Handbook

Open Garages:

Below you can download the book in several different formats. The license of the books is under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, which lets you share it, remix it, and share your remixes, provided that you do so on a noncommercial basis.

Modern cars are more computerized than ever. Infotainment and navigation systems, Wi-Fi, automatic software updates, and other innovations aim to make driving more ­convenient. But vehicle technologies haven’t kept pace with today’s more hostile security environment, leaving ­millions vulnerable to attack.

The Car Hacker’s Handbook will give you a deeper understanding of the computer systems and embedded software in modern ­vehicles. It begins by examining vulnerabilities and providing detailed explanations of communications over the CAN bus and ­between devices and systems.

How Bikes Will Take Their Revenge on Cars and Help Us Reclaim Our Streets

Marija Gavrilov:

Without this shift away from car use, London cannot continue to grow sustainably. […] The design and layout of development should reduce the dominance of cars, and provide permeability to support active travel (public transport, walking and cycling), community interaction and economic vitality.
 London is one of a number of major cities committing to the future where getting from point A to point B doesn’t depend on personal cars.
 
 Reflected in this decision is a move towards micromobility, a trend of adopting more compact, efficient, and often shared modes of transportation in the urban setting. It is a counterweight to macromobility— transportation that relies on large vehicles for long distances and generic applications. As industry analyst Horace Dediu put it, “it’s the personal computer of 1980s.”¹
 
 I am excited about the switch. As an enthusiastic cyclist and environmentalist, I’m quick to notice the tragedy of the commons flourishing in personal transportation, especially in the U.S. Driving in one’s own vehicle is comfortable, convenient, for some people fun. At the same time, it is seriously polluting the environment and supports a sedentary lifestyle. Both unquestionably are hurting public health outcomes.
 
 As much as it is the means to connect, transportation has been divisive and discriminating throughout U.S. history. Observing some of the struggling areas of New Hampshire, where I happen to spend more time than I ever thought I would, has taught me that owning a car is often a prerequisite to having a job (one that barely pays for that same car).

Canadian energy company to replace 400 truck drivers with self driving trucks

Wimberly Patton:

Canada’s largest oil company announced on Wednesday that they will be cutting about 400 heavy-equipment operator positions over the next six years as they phase in a new fleet of self-driving trucks.
 
 The company, Suncor Energy based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, announced on Wednesday, January 31st, that it plans to deploy over 150 driver-less trucks, leading to job cuts starting as soon as 2019. At present, Suncor has nine self-driving trucks moving building materials at a job site in Alberta, making it one of the first companies in Canada to use autonomous trucks, reported Rueters.

Driving a Car in Manhattan Could Cost $11.52 Under Congestion Plan

Jim Dyer and Winnie Hu:

Driving a car into the busiest parts of Manhattan could cost $11.52 under a major proposal prepared for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that would make New York the first city in the United States with a pay-to-drive plan.
 
 Similar traffic charges are already used in cities like Singapore, Stockholm, London and Milan, but New York has rejected or ignored versions of them dating to at least the 1970s. The newest plan embraces the twin goals of easing Manhattan’s choking traffic while raising badly needed revenue for the city’s failing subways and buses.
 
 Trucks would pay $25.34, and taxis and for-hire vehicles could see surcharges of $2 to $5 per ride. The pricing zone would cover Manhattan south of 60th Street. In a key change from past efforts, drivers would not have to pay if they entered Manhattan by all but two of the city-owned East River bridges, which are now free to cross, as long as they bypassed the congestion zone.

Mazda Skyactive3

Chris Perkins:

Have self driving cars stopped getting better?

Mark Harris:

Subprime Auto Debt Is Booming Even as Defaults Soar

Cecile Gutscher:

A boom in sales, a pickup in defaults, and risk premiums keep on dropping.
 
 It’s all happening in the market for subprime auto bonds, where loans to American consumers with some of the patchiest credit histories are packaged into securities to be sold to big investors. A decade after risky mortgage lending toppled the U.S. financial system, the securities have rarely been so popular. But the collateral behind the bonds is getting less safe: car-owners are increasingly falling behind on bigger loans with longer repayment terms made against depreciating assets.
 
 “As used-car values drop a bit and delinquencies and roll rates begin to increase, the subprime sector will show significant underperformance and lack of decent liquidity,” said Don McConnell, senior portfolio manager at Bank of Montreal’s BMO Global Asset Management in Chicago, who helps manage $15 billion of taxable bonds. He’s reinvesting cash from maturing notes elsewhere.

Could Self-Driving Trucks Be Good for Truckers?

Alexis Madrigal:

The outlook for trucking jobs has been grim of late. Self-driving trucks, several reports and basic logic have suggested, are going to wipe out truckers. Trucking is going to be the next great automation bloodbath.
 
 But a counter-narrative is emerging: No, skeptics in the industry, government, academia are saying, trucking jobs will not be endangered by autonomous driving, and in the brightest scenarios, as in new research by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, there may be an increase in trucking jobs as more self-driving vehicles are introduced.
 
 “We’ve been disappointed over the last year to see a lot of stories about how self-driving trucks are going to be this huge problem for truck drivers,” says Alden Woodrow, the product lead for self-driving trucks at Uber. “That’s not at all what we think the outcome is going to be.”

The world’s longest and toughest ongoing driving test

Waymo:

Over the past nine years, we’ve put our vehicles through the world’s longest and toughest ongoing driving test. Each day our vehicles can be found test driving on closed courses, on public roads, and in simulation. Waymo’s testing program is a critical aspect to building a safe and capable driver: it lets us extend our vehicle’s capabilities, try out new driving skills, and introduce new vehicle platforms and hardware.

As we prepare to launch Waymo’s self-driving ride-hailing service this year, we’ve accelerated the pace of testing at every level. Last year was a record year for Waymo:

Taxi deregulation brings cheap rides and innovation to Finland in 2018

Metropolitan:

Taxi transportation is deregulated in Finland in July 2018. The market moves from a system where the number of taxi licenses was limited to one where there are no arbitraly limits. This opens up the market for new players. One of them is Fixutaxi that brings flat rate 10 € rides to the capital Helsinki.

Opening up personal transportation is a global trend with US companies Uber and Lyft being the most prominent in western media, but there are many operators such as Dixi Chuxing in China and Yandex Taxi in Russia. After years of combatting Uber, Finland chose to embrace the change instead of wasting tax payer’s money.

Ford Paves a Path From Big Automaker to Big Operating System

Arrian Marshall:

In its 114-year history, Ford has been many kinds of automaker. A manufacturing innovator, a hawker of Mustang muscle, a pickup powerhouse. Now the company that helped put a car (or two) in every garage wants to be something else altogether: an operating system.
 
 “With the power of AI and the rise of autonomous and connected vehicles, for the first time in a century, we have mobility technology that won’t just incrementally improve the old system but can completely disrupt it,” CEO Jim Hackett said in a keynote address at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, trumpeting the pivot. “A total redesign of the surface transportation system with humans and community at the center.”
 
 As Ford executives move to execute the plan, they unveiled yesterday a reorganization of the automaker’s young mobility business, with two acquisitions to help it along. It’s all in service of a new, very 21st century goal. Ford will put less effort into convincing people to plunk down their credit cards for personal cars (though that’s still important) and more into moving them from A to B, with a little Ford badge tacked onto whatever gets them there.
 
 It’s a turbulent time for traditional automakers, which have to keep making money today while aggressively prepping for the market changes—carshare, ridehailing, self-driving—that will happen tomorrow. Ford’s news comes eight months after the company dismissed CEO Mark Fields in favor of Hackett, a former furniture exec who oversaw the formation of Ford’s mobility subsidiary—and promised a greater vision for the future. Earlier this week, the Detroit automaker posted disappointing quarterly profits. Ford blamed rising metal prices while CFO Bob Shanks said, “We have to be far fitter than we are.”
 
 In lean times, every expenditure merits extra scrutiny. And while Ford Mobility President Marcy Klevorn did not disclose how much it spent on its new companies, she says they’re important steps on Ford’s path to becoming more than a big ol’ automaker. “We did an assessment of our strategy and what our gaps were and the speed we wanted to go,” she says. “We looked at where we thought we needed a really fast infusion of help.”

Dirty Money review – Alex Gibney left choking with rage by VW

Sam Wollaston:

I thought I knew the VW emissions scandal story quite well. But I’ve never seen it so well laid out as in this documentary, Hard NOx, one of a new investigative Netflix series from Alex Gibney about scandal and corruption in the business world.
 
 It is mainly told from a US viewpoint but the story is a global one, from 2015, when the German car manufacturer was discovered to have installed defeat devices to dupe emissions tests, affecting 11m vehicles.
 
 Gibney directs and presents this episode himself, and brings to it an extraordinary thoroughness. He interviews everyone who could and would be interviewed – VW employees, scientists, testers, lawyers, car journalists, etc, and turns up new evidence, more shocking details about the scale of the deceit, the attempts to cover it up, and the unhealthy alliance between governments and car manufacturers that allowed it to happen in the first place.
 
 He also sets Volkswagen in a historical context, going right back to Hitler and his people’s car, through the 60s counterculture of Beetles and Campers, to declining sales, and the intense pressure to sell more, at any cost, which is what a corporate culture permeated by fraud was born of.

Charging racism, Cottage Grove parents want Harper Lee book barred from classroom

Karen Rivedal:

But to Cottage Grove parents Tujama and Jeannine Kameeta, whose son is a freshman at Monona Grove High School, the novel “provides no educational value” and is racist itself due to how themes are presented and because of its use of racial slurs — the Kameetas counted 48 — in character dialogue, they said in a statement.

“By mandating students read this book the school district is subjecting students of color to racial harassment,” the statement said. Tujama Kameeta also clarified in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal on Wednesday that he was OK with the book being available in the high school library but found it inappropriate as curriculum.

“The N-word is used so many times that it numbs the readers to its potency,” he said, also charging that the “novel reduces black people to passive, humble victims and ignores the reality of black agency in resistance.”

There are many newer books available that deal with “the same topics in more contemporary ways,” he noted, including those by minority authors who have “a different and more valid perspective when it comes to racism.”

SF sues Turo for not having airport permits

Carolyn Said:

SF city attorney Dennis Herrera has filed a lawsuit against Turo, a company that arranges rentals of personal vehicles.

San Francisco is suing Turo, which arranges rentals of people’s personal cars, for allegedly flouting fee requirements and other rules at San Francisco International Airport. Turo’s defiance of SFO regulations, such as bans on terminal curbside rental pickups and dropoffs, contributes to airport traffic congestion and gives it an unfair advantage against competitors, according to the complaint, which was filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Wednesday.

San Francisco’s Turo said it was “stunned” by the lawsuit, and that it had been trying for years to work with SFO on a permit system that would acknowledge its status as a “peer-to-peer car-sharing company.”

Why driverless cars may mean jams tomorrow

The Economist:

They will spare the world neither traffic congestion nor infrastructure expense

Toyota wants to change the world with Mirai, its new hydrogen car

Jonathan Bell:

The fourth-generation Toyota Prius is manufactured at the company’s Tsutsumi plant, a few kilometres south-east of Nagoya, around 100 minutes from Tokyo by Shinkansen bullet train. From Tsutsumi’s viewing gantries, two production lines stretch away into the distance. These halls house the trim workshop. Here, completed body shells roll in, are divested of their doors (which make their way in pairs along a separate line) and the interior, hybrid system, dashboard and seats are installed. The factory, which has been making Priuses since 2003, produces 430,000 cars a year. From 6.30am to 1am, it can turn out a Prius every minute.

This is the Toyota Production System (TPS) at work, a fabled refinement that funnels the immense complexity of car-making into a series of simple stages. Each step is serviced using the just-in-time manufacturing process by the requisite parts supplier. The system is controlled by the workers themselves, who have autonomy over stopping and starting the line to resolve issues.

Driving a Car in Manhattan Could Cost $11.52 Under Congestion Plan

Jim Dwyer and Winnie Hu:

Driving a car into the busiest parts of Manhattan could cost $11.52 under a major proposal prepared for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that would make New York the first city in the United States with a pay-to-drive plan.
 
 Similar traffic charges are already used in cities like Singapore, Stockholm, London and Milan, but New York has rejected or ignored versions of them dating to at least the 1970s. The newest plan embraces the twin goals of easing Manhattan’s choking traffic while raising badly needed revenue for the city’s failing subways and buses.
 
 Trucks would pay $25.34, and taxis and for-hire vehicles could see surcharges of $2 to $5 per ride. The pricing zone would cover Manhattan south of 60th Street. In a key change from past efforts, drivers would not have to pay if they entered Manhattan by all but two of the city-owned East River bridges, which are now free to cross, as long as they bypassed the congestion zone.
 
 The proposals are part of a report by a task force, “Fix NYC,” convened by Governor Cuomo after he declared a state of emergency in the subways last June. The report says that the fees on taxis and for-hire vehicles could be put in place within a year, followed by trucks and then cars in 2020. None of those fees should be charged, the task force said, until repairs are made to the public transit system.

The American Sedan Is Dying. Long Live the SUV

Keith Naughton , Jamie Butters , David Welch , and Tommaso Ebhardt:

Cars that probably won’t survive are large sedans like Ford’s Taurus and its competitors, said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with researcher IHS Markit. She said mid-size sedans like the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion have gotten bigger, making the Taurus or Chevy Impala less necessary. A consumer who needs more space will just buy an SUV.
 
 “In another couple of years, you just won’t see these cars being developed for another generation,” Brinley said. “There’s a good chance that in eight years, this segment of the market doesn’t even exist.”
 
 Other GM models with uncertain futures in the U.S. include the Buick LaCrosse, while Cadillac plans to whittle down its sedan lineup to just three nameplates. But Detroit’s passenger cars won’t completely die off, said Alan Batey, president of GM’s North American business.

Study confirms what every Texan already knows: Buc-ee’s is no. 1 when it comes to gas stations

William Axford:

“With 33 U.S. locations, Buc-ee’s sweeps the ranking by capturing the highest ratings and reviews in all six GasBuddy categories: coffee, cleanliness, customer service, outdoor lighting, restrooms and overall,” GasBuddy said of Buc-ee’s.

Other top gas station brands include Illinois-based Kelley’s Market, Wisconsin-based Kwik Trip and Pennsylvania-based Wawa.

Buc-ee’s in Katy recognized for its car wash by Guinness World Records

The Katy location holds the record for the longest car wash conveyor belt.

Ban the bike! How cities made a huge mistake in promoting cycling

Lawrence Solomon:

The bicycle has come a long way since the 1980s when bicycle advocacy groups (my group, Energy Probe, among them) lobbied against policies that discriminated against cyclists. In the language of the day, the bicycle epitomized “appropriate technology”: It was a right-sized machine that blessed cities with economic and environmental benefits. At no expense to taxpayers, the bicycle took cars off the road, easing traffic; it saved wear and tear on the roads, easing municipal budgets; it reduced auto emissions, easing air pollution; it reduced the need for automobile parking, increasing the efficiency of land use; and it helped keep people fit, too.

Today the bicycle is a mixed bag, usually with more negatives than positives. In many cities, bike lanes now consume more road space than they free up, they add to pollution as well as reducing it, they hurt neighbourhoods and business districts alike, and they have become a drain on the public purse. The bicycle today — or rather the infrastructure that now supports it — exemplifies “inappropriate technology,” a good idea gone wrong through unsustainable, willy-nilly top-down planning.

BMW acquires Parkmobile parking app to help tackle city traffic

Darrel Etherington:

BMW has acquired Parkmobile, an app that provides guidance and services for those looking for parking in North America, including on-street and garage parking payments and spot reservation. BMW Group had already held a minority investment in the company, and owned its Parkmobile Group Europe affiliate, but today it increased its holdings to reach majority ownership of Parkmobile, LLC, which is based in Atlanta.
 
 This will provide BMW with a significant foothold in the U.S. parking services market, since Parkmobile is available in over 300 cities stateside, including NYC, Philadelphia and Phoenix. Parkmobile will become part of BMW Group’s Mobility Services portfolio, which is expanding in scope and influence now that mobility is an area of increasing interest for automakers.

How to overcome ve myths that are distracting your auto company

pwc:

The global auto industry has been in high gear for the last decade. Thanks to strength in North America and emerging markets such as China and India, annual vehicle sales in 2017 will approach 93.5 million units, up from around 63.5 million in the throes of the 2008 recession. Moreover, combined annual pro ts for the top
 17 automakers worldwide are at record levels, well above US$120 billion.
 Yet automotive companies — suppliers and manufacturers (OEMs) alike — are anything but sanguine. Huge upheavals in the look, feel, propulsion, and technology of automobiles, both existing and predicted, have created a deep well of uncertainty. Many companies are unsure which way to turn strategically to prepare for the transformation that appears to be under way. As a result, they have poured money into new and, in many cases, unproven technologies for automobile connectivity, new engine designs, and self-driving features. The riskiness of this approach is glaring when you consider the industry’s record of unimpressive value creation, even when the sector is delivering record pro tability. In 2016, the return on invested capital for the top 10 OEMs was only 6.6 percent, just over half the cost of capital.
 
 Certainly, major changes are coming to the industry but not as quickly as many would have us believe. Indeed, ve myths have gained credence and have served to potentially misdirect auto OEMs.

Will Self-Driving Cars Usher in a Transportation Utopia or Dystopia?

Jacques Leslie:

”The news sounds almost too good to be true.
 
 “How the U.S. Transportation System Can Save $1 Trillion, 2 Billion Barrels of Oil, and 1 Gigaton of Carbon Emissions Annually,” proclaimed the headline of an article published by the Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmentally minded, innovation-focused Boulder, Colorado think tank. The institute’s prescription is a technological trifecta: electric, autonomous, shared cars.
 
 Propelled by the ongoing digitization of just about everything, notably including cars, the thinking trumpeted in that 2015 article has been percolating in the transportation sector for the last several years⁠. All three components of this vision are already expanding. Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are slowly growing and should increase greatly as EVs become cheaper to own than combustion-engine cars — something that Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts believe will happen by 2024⁠.
 
 Automated cars, often referred to as “autonomous vehicles” (AVs) — whose passengers determine their routes without having to drive them — are being widely developed and tested, and probably will be used commercially in controlled settings within a few years. Lyft, Uber, and others have introduced ride-sharing, in which customers agree to travel with strangers in return for reduced fares. Put all three concepts together in one vehicle, posit that within a few decades this shared EV-AV technology will take over the nation’s automobile fleet, and the outcome seems environmentally irresistible, verging on fantastical.

Self-Driving Car Startup Aurora Joins Forces With Volkswagen and Hyundai

Alex Davies:

Less than a decade after Google launched the age of the self-driving car, most of the main players have made some long-term commitments—not in the name of love, but to ensure success. With few exceptions, the companies eager to turn robots loose on our streets can’t go through life alone. None have the particular combination of manufacturing, software, and customer-facing expertise this work demands.

The hookups between the software whiz kids and the folks with the factories are especially hot and heavy. In 2016, General Motors bought startup Cruise. Last year Ford invested $1 billion in Argo AI, and industry supplier Delphi went home with MIT spinoff Nutonomy. Now one of the last significant startups without a manufacturer to call its own has found its beloved.

Two beloveds, actually. Pittsburgh-based Aurora Innovation announced today it has signed deals with both Volkswagen and Hyundai to get its self-driving software into commercial service.

“Our mission is to deliver self-driving technology safely, quickly, and broadly. And to do that, we needed to find automotive partners that had global scale,” says cofounder and CEO Chris Urmson.

Mark Bergen and Dana Hull have more.

The Three Students Who Uncovered ‘Dieselgate’

Phillip:

Arvind, Hemanth and Marc actually only came to the United States to attend university. Arvind Thiruvengadam and Hemanth Kappanna are both from India, from Chennai and Bangalore, respectively, while Marc Besch is from Biel, Switzerland. They all ended up in West Virginia, not exactly the America you dream of when you come from Chennai or Bangalore. Probably not even when you come from Biel.
 
 Attached to West Virginia University is an institute for emissions research – also, perhaps, not the field of study you dream of when you’re around 30 and aspiring to a career in auto engineering. The institute is called the Center for Alternative Fuels Engines and Emissions (CAFEE), located in an unprepossessing corrugated iron structure in a clearing in the hills of West Virginia. In other words, in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town is Morgantown, the nearest place you might have heard of, Pittsburgh.
 
 This is where Arvind, Hemanth and Marc began measuring emissions. First truck emissions and then passenger cars – until they accidentally uncovered a scandal that brought the world’s biggest carmaker at the time to its knees. The emissions tests carried out by Arvind, Hemanth and Marc have already cost the Volkswagen company around 25 billion euros, mainly in buybacks, fines and settlements, and that is by no means the end of it. Because of a study written by these three students, former VW managers are wanted by the FBI, one has been arrested in the U.S. and others are in custody in Germany. One German politician called the diesel scandal “the biggest industrial scandal since World War II.”

Jump starting the EV revolution will take more quick charging stations, but who will pay for them?

Aldo Svaldi:

More than a quarter of the energy consumed in Colorado goes to transportation — and a big shift from gasoline toward electricity is expected in the near future.

But before large numbers of consumers sign on, they want to see longer driving ranges on electric vehicles and more public charging stations, especially the kind that can recharge batteries quickly.

“More stations equals more electric vehicles equals more stations,” said Jonathan Levy, director of policy and strategy at Vision Ridge Partners in Boulder.

The War On Driving To Come

Charles Cooke:

Regardless, everyone will suffer from the catastrophic loss of privacy. Any network of self-driving cars would, by definition, necessitate total and unceasing tracking of their occupants. I may know how to get to the local liquor store without a map, but my car most certainly does not. To make it there in a driverless model, I’d first have to tell it where I was going, and then it would have to ask the Internet, and the satellites, and, probably, my credit card. To the existing framework we would thus be adding a planet-wrapping exoskeleton with a perfect digital memory. The car, far from serving as a liberator, would become a telescreen on wheels — an FBI-approved bug, to be slipped beneath the chassis in plain sight of the surveilled. At a stroke, my autonomy would be gone. Without permission from the Web, I would be lost in space. A mere server glitch could render me immobile. The government, should it so choose, could stop me dead in my tracks. Yet again, I would be handing over my self-reliance to the government and to the corporations, and asking, plaintively, “Please sir, may I move?”

Can Mitchonomics Fix the Broken Business of Higher Ed?

:

Under Daniels, things have been generally cheery at Purdue. With return on investment increasingly important to students, given the price of attending and the corresponding debt, Purdue has something to sell: static costs and a good job if you graduate, especially in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Since Daniels started in 2013, undergrad applications and enrollment have hit record levels, as have alumni donations, graduation rates, and the number of startups launched by researchers. Purdue has added 75 tenure-track positions in engineering and increased the number of students earning STEM degrees by 24 percent, with big gains among women (40 percent) and underrepresented minorities (65 percent). Daniels has rolled out initiatives that range from the audacious, such as interest-free financial aid in exchange for a percentage of future earnings, to the alcoholic: Boiler Gold, a craft beer that went on sale in West Lafayette this fall, is a collaboration among a local brewer, the university, and its food science department.
Daniels’s moves are driven by necessity. Founded in 1869, Purdue was part of a wave of public universities established after the Civil War that helped expand the middle class and propel the research advances that fueled the manufacturing boom in the 20th century. Today, tighter public spending means more schools are getting less state funding. Some, including the University of California at Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, have replaced that loss with a combination of jacked-up tuition, even-more-jacked-up out-of-state tuition, successful sports programs, and donations from exuberant—and wealthy—alumni. Other large public universities, especially in the Midwest, have struggled to replace state funding cuts, making it tough to keep faculty from seeking higher salaries and bigger research budgets elsewhere. Professors at Midwestern public universities make about 30 percent less than their Northeastern counterparts.

If You Love Interesting Cars, You Owe Kenichi Yamamoto A Debt Of Gratitude

Patrick George:

Outside of Japan, Kenichi Yamamoto isn’t a household name. Not the way Henry Ford and Carroll Shelby and Lee Iacocca are. Yet most people who enter the auto industry don’t get to produce one of the greatest alternative engines ever made, or oversee the development of one of the most beloved sports cars of all time. Kenichi Yamamoto got to do both.
 
 Yamamoto died this week at the age of 95, according to news reports. His life and career saw him rise from the literal ashes of post-World War II Hiroshima to key roles within Mazda, and along the way, he would help the automaker rise in much the same way.
 
 Along the way he brought the world Mazda’s Wankel rotary engine—and Mazda remains the only car company to ever really get it right—and the MX-5 Miata. On two fronts, Yamamoto helped make Mazda the company it is today and inspired generations of enthusiasts along the way.
 
 Like many in Japan who came of age in the aftermath of WWII, Yamamoto didn’t have it easy. As a 1995 profile by Automotive News recounts, he graduated university in 1944, and briefly oversaw a fighter airplane factory. The year after that, his hometown of Hiroshima was essentially wiped out by a horrifying new kind of weapon the world had never seen before:

A bike-sharing war is coming to the U.S. as investors pour money into new entrants

Johana Bhuiyan and Rani Molla:

Forget the ride-sharing wars. Transportation has a new battleground: Bike-sharing.

After seeing great success in places like China and Europe, dockless or free-floating bike-sharing has started to expand aggressively into the U.S. — but with that comes staunch opposition from incumbent players and, in some cases, the very cities they’re trying to court.

For the uninitiated, dockless bike-sharing works a lot like today’s bike-sharing systems, except you can, in theory, park the bikes anywhere, locking and unlocking them by scanning a QR code with an app. That differs from current bike-sharing programs in places like New York and San Francisco, where bikes are docked to fixed locations.

Dockless bikes are also GPS enabled, allowing companies to easily track and move them around to places of high demand.

Fixing Manhattan’s Traffic Problem: Empty Seats, full streets

Schaller Consulting:

The rapid growth of app-based ride services such as Uber, Lyft and Via, also called Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) raises the question of how anti-congestion plans being developed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio should address the impact of TNC trips on traffic congestion, particularly in the most congested areas of Manhattan.

Using newly available data on TNC trips, this report examines the impact of TNC growth on Manhattan traffic conditions. Findings indicate that TNC growth has generated large increases in the number of TNC vehicles in the Manhattan Central Business District (CBD) between 2013 and 2017. Highlights:

Taking into account the decline in yellow cab trips, the combined number of taxi/TNC vehicles on weekdays in the CBD increased by 59 percent between 2013 and 2017.

In the afternoon peak from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., there are over 10,000 taxi/TNC vehicles in the CBD, more than double the number in 2013.

One-third of the vehicles are empty, meaning between the drop-off of one passenger and pick-up of the next passenger, clogging the streets without any mobility benefit to anyone.

This rapid growth is the product of several factors: increased number of trips, a trend toward longer trips (in distance), slower traffic speeds, and drivers spending more time between fare-paying trips.

Subprime Auto Defaults Are Soaring, and PE Firms Have No Way Out

Gabrielle Coppola and Claire Boston :

Private-equity firms that plunged headlong into subprime auto lending are discovering just how hard it might be to get out.
 
 A Perella Weinberg Partners fund has been sitting on an IPO of Flagship Credit Acceptance for two years as bad loan write-offs push it into the red. Blackstone Group LP has struggled to make Exeter Finance profitable, despite sinking almost a half-billion dollars into the lender since 2011 and shaking up the C-suite multiple times. And Wall Street bankers in private say others would love to cash out too, but there’s currently no market for such exits.
 
 In the years after the financial crisis, buyout firms poured billions into auto finance, angling for the big profits that come with offering high-interest loans to buyers with the weakest credit. At rates of 11 percent or more, there was plenty to be made as sales boomed. But now, with new car demand waning, they’ve found the intense competition — and the lax underwriting standards it fostered — are taking a toll on profits.

The Beginning of a Big Tech Backlash?

David Dayen:

The Beginning of a Backlash
 
 “I think you do enormous good … but your power sometimes scares me,” said Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana in October to the general counsels of Facebook, Google, and Twitter at the first major congressional hearing on Big Tech in years. The topic was Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, but the testimony illuminated the platforms’ domination of large parts of American life, without any interest in managing that control. Malign actors could so easily penetrate platform defenses because there weren’t any. Facebook has five million advertisers at any one time; it couldn’t possibly vet them if it tried.
 
 Furthermore, tech firms have no incentive to interfere with the source of so much revenue. That’s why ProPublica could list discriminatory rental housing ads excluding races and ethnicities in 2016, and then again in 2017, after Facebook claimed to fix the problem. That’s why Google is purging videos and disabling comments on YouTube’s predatory, sexualized user content aimed at children, but not always removing the predators’ accounts. Allowing the narrowest possible targeting and the maximum possible targets has built the most lucrative ad mechanism in history, and it generates big bucks, even if the bill is paid in rubles.
 
 The hearings were important more for their explanatory power than for the technicalities of election integrity. “The end of the story is not Russia hacking the election, but that gross harm exists,” says Marshall Steinbaum, research director at the Roosevelt Institute. It filled out the picture on these platforms, whose operations we understand as much as the proverbial blind man feeling around an elephant. “We need to make sure that the public fully understands the scope of the problem we face, and how it could be dramatically worse, given the speed at which these companies are growing,” says Lina Khan, legal policy director at the Open Markets Institute.
 
 We don’t know how our data is handled. We don’t know how algorithms nudge us into certain apps or products. We don’t even have a confirmed figure of Amazon Prime memberships (recent estimates range between 52 million and 85 million households). There are nearly 270 million fake and duplicate accounts on Facebook, a number they quietly updated only in November.
 
 Platforms like Google have invested heavily in the academic research establishment. The search giant has funded around 100 public research papers since 2009, with up to $400,000 in seed money for each, according to data from The Wall Street Journal. Most of the research papers failed to disclose Google’s funding; Google even gives notes on the studies before they get published. This academic payola tilts the debate about how these businesses work, and in whose interest.

Subprime Auto Defaults Are Soaring, and PE Firms Have No Way Out

Gabrielle Coppola:

Private-equity firms that plunged headlong into subprime auto lending are discovering just how hard it might be to get out.
 
 A Perella Weinberg Partners fund has been sitting on an IPO of Flagship Credit Acceptance for two years as bad loan write-offs push it into the red. Blackstone Group LP has struggled to make Exeter Finance profitable, despite sinking almost a half-billion dollars into the lender since 2011 and shaking up the C-suite multiple times. And Wall Street bankers in private say others would love to cash out too, but there’s currently no market for such exits.
 
 In the years after the financial crisis, buyout firms poured billions into auto finance, angling for the big profits that come with offering high-interest loans to buyers with the weakest credit. At rates of 11 percent or more, there was plenty to be made as sales boomed. But now, with new car demand waning, they’ve found the intense competition — and the lax underwriting standards it fostered — are taking a toll on profits.

Uber Dealt Blow as EU’s Top Court Rules It Is a Transport Company

Natalia Drozdiak:

Uber Technologies Inc. suffered a major defeat in its effort to overturn strict rules and licensing requirements in Europe, after the bloc’s highest court Wednesday ruled the ride-hailing company should be regulated as a transportation service, rather than a digital service.

The judgment by the European Court of Justice won’t force Uber to curtail most of its services in Europe, but the decision is a blow to the company’s efforts to use courts to lighten its regulatory load—and forces it to deal more directly with national and local governments that set rules governing car and transport services in Europe. Those authorities have sought to hold Uber to often-strict rules and licensing requirements that apply to taxi and traditional car-hire services.

“This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law,” an Uber spokeswoman said. “As our new CEO has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe.”

Still, the decision could have wider ramifications for Uber, and other sharing-economy firms, in markets beyond Europe. Officials here over recent years have taken a more aggressive stance than other jurisdictions on a wide array of regulatory and enforcement issues affecting Silicon Valley firms—including taxes, privacy and alleged anti-competitive behavior. While the legal reach of such rulings extends only to Europe, other jurisdictions have started looking to the continent as an example when tackling regulatory and enforcement issues on their own turf.

China Blocks Foreign Companies from Mapping Its Roads for Self-Driving Cars

Stephen Edelstein:

Self-driving cars need high-quality digital maps to function properly. They not only use digital maps to find their general location, but also in some cases to locate landmarks that aid maneuvering in low-viability situations, or when a GPS link isn’t available. Consequently, accruing map data has become a major priority for automakers and tech companies. But the world’s largest new-car market is throwing up a major roadblock to these efforts.
 
 The Chinese government is blocking foreign companies from mapping its roads in great detail, according to a Financial Times report. The restrictions, which reportedly do not apply to Chinese firms, are being instituted in the name of national security. China is concerned about spying.
 
 China has restricted the recording of geographic information for more than a decade because it believes giving other countries access to that information constitutes a security risk. Geographic surveys can’t be performed without permission from the government, and many digital cameras don’t record GPS coordinates for geotagging, as they do in other countries, according to Fortune.
 
 The restrictions on mapping mean foreign companies looking to sell or operate self-driving cars in China may have to partner with local firms to gain access to all of that precious map data. This wouldn’t be too different from the situation foreign automakers currently face in China.

China to spearhead US$1 trillion autonomous driving revolution

Karen Yeung:

Car-based “mobility services”, such as car-sharing, ride-hailing as well as driverless cars with entertainment, information and communications services, are projected to generate US$1 trillion in revenue for suppliers globally in 2040 from nearly zero a decade ago, according to latest industry figures from information and analytics provider IHS Markit.

And China, the world’s largest market for electric cars, is predicted to be in pole position to shape the future of such services, transform global business models, improve road safety conditions and cut pollution, according to industry experts.

So far, 290 cities have initiated “smart-city” pilot projects controlled by artificial intelligence (AI) technology, including 93 that are focused on mobility that could potentially use infrastructure interlinked by software to allow driverless cars, or autonomous vehicle (AV), and shared-driving models.

How the auto industry is preparing for the car of the future

McKinsey:

Autonomous and electric cars, connectivity, and ridesharing are changing the way auto industry players think about value chains, data analytics, and manufacturing.

Behind all the talk of robo-cars, electric vehicles, and increased car connectivity is a focus by major car companies on serving customers’ more intricate technological needs. In this episode of the McKinsey Podcast, senior partners Asutosh Padhi and Andrea Tschiesner speak with McKinsey’s Simon London about how four trends—autonomous driving, connectivity, electrification, and ridesharing—are paving the way for entirely new forms of mobility.

Some go to production hell. I went to production heaven

Bertel Schmitt:

The car factory has been built by Swedish carmaker Volvo. The factory is “owned by Geely, financed by Geely, and operated by Volvo,” tells me the plant’s manager Benoit Demeunyck, a bearded Belgian with an imposing figure, especially when surrounded by smaller Chinese. Demeunyck has been mass-producing car factories for many years. Luqiao is the third he built in China, “after Daqing and Chengdu,” and it looks like there will be more.

How Volvo came to China is another platitude-defying story.

When Volvo’s former owner Ford was perilously short of money during carmageddon, Geely bought Volvo in 2010 for a bargain-basement $1.5 billion. It was one of those rare deals that worked all around. Ford came through alive, if not entirely unscathed (it also sold Jaguar Land Rover to India’s Tata, Aston Martin to private investors, and its controlling share in Mazda to Japanese banks.) Volvo was not dismantled and shipped-off to China, as many predicted.

Geely did not buy Volvo for its worn-out toolings, or its dated manufacturing lines from the Ford era. Geely bought Volvo for its ability to come up with class-leading, future-proof technology. Volvo engineers gave Geely a head-start in autonomous tech, and they developed the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), a smaller but equally advanced version of Volvo’s acclaimed Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). Flexible and scalable architectures are the secret to success in the auto business. Volkswagen has MQB and MLB, Toyota has TNGA, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi has CMF-A, B, and C.

Signs Of The Peak: These 10 Charts Reveal An Auto Bubble On The Brink

Tyler Durden:

U.S. auto sales have hovered well north of replacement rates for several years now on the back of an improving labor environment and more importantly an extremely accommodating financing market characterized by $0 down, 0% interest loans to subprime borrowers, with perpetually longer maturities to help manage monthly payments…because if your monthly payment is $500 you can afford it, right?

China Goes All In on the Transit Revolution

Nathaniel Bullard:

In 2009, the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen rolled out its first electric city bus. As of May of this year, it had 14,500 of them on the road — and by the end of this month, the city plans to have an all-electric fleet. Shenzhen’s efforts are another example of how China is leading the way in transforming urban transportation.

Shenzhen’s effort is striking in its scope. The largest city bus fleet in North America is in New York City, whose 5,700 buses put it well ahead of Los Angeles, New Jersey, suburban Chicago and Toronto. These five fleets total 14,200 buses.

Shenzhen’s fleet of electric buses is bigger than the five largest North American bus fleets combined. Not their electric bus fleets — their entire bus fleets.

China Will Lead an Electric Car Future, Ford’s Chairman Says

Keith Bradsher:

The world’s automakers are just starting to bet on an electric car future — and already, one of the most powerful people in the industry says that future belongs to China.

The Ford Motor Company said on Tuesday that it planned to introduce 15 battery electric or plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid car models in China by 2025. Speaking in Shanghai, William C. Ford Jr., Ford Motor’s longtime executive chairman, outlined why in an unusually blunt comment.

The Latest Bull Case for Electric Cars: the Cheapest Batteries Ever

Mark Chediak :

The kind of battery that powers electric vehicles is now the cheapest it’s ever been thanks to a global ramp-up in production.

Lithium-ion battery packs are selling at an average price of $209 a kilowatt-hour, down 24 percent from a year ago and about a fifth of what it was in 2010, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance survey shows. The rate has further to fall — reaching below $100 a kilowatt-hour by 2025, according to a report by BNEF analyst James Frith.

That’s a magic number for the electric car business. According to Frith, $100 is widely seen as “a tipping point in the adoption of EVs.”

Total cost of ownership and market share for hybrid and electric vehicles in the UK, US and Japan

Kate Palmer and John Nellthorp:

New powertrain technologies, such as Hybrid Electric Vehicles, have a price premium which can often be offset by lower running costs. Total Cost of Ownership combines these purchase and operating expenses to identify the most economical choice of vehicle. This is a valuable assessment for private and fleet purchasers alike. Studies to date have not compared Total Cost of Ownership across more than two vehicle markets or analysed historic costs. To address this gap, this research provides a more extensive Total Cost of Ownership assessment of conventional, Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid and Battery Electric Vehicles in three industrialized countries – the UK, USA (using California and Texas as case studies) and Japan – for the time period 1997–2015. Finally, the link between Hybrid Electric Vehicle Total Cost of Ownership and market share is analysed with a panel regression model.

In all regions the incremental Total Cost of Ownership of hybrid and electric vehicles compared to conventional vehicles has reduced from the year of introduction and 2015. Year on year Hybrid Electric Vehicles Total Cost of Ownership was found to vary least in the UK due to the absence of subsidies. Market share was found to be strongly linked to Hybrid Electric Vehicle Total Cost of Ownership through a panel regression analysis. Financial subsidies have enabled Battery Electric Vehicles to reach cost parity in the UK, California and Texas, but this is not the case for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles which haven’t received as much financial backing. This research has implications for fleet purchasers and private owners who are considering switching to a low-emission vehicle. The findings are also of interest to policymakers that are keen to develop effective measures to stimulate decarbonisation of the fleet and improve air quality.

Via Steve Crandall.