Tesla Unveils an Electric Rival to Semi Trucks

Neal E. Boudette – The New York Times:

Mr. Musk said Tesla expects to begin producing the truck by the end of 2019. He gave no price but hinted that it would be costly. “Tesla stuff is expensive,” Mr. Musk said, drawing another cheer from the crowd, gathered at an airfield outside of Los Angeles.

But he also said the electric truck would be less expensive to operate, in part because it has fewer components that require regular maintenance (no engine, transmission or drive shaft). Instead, the truck, called the Tesla Semi, is powered by a giant battery beneath the cab. It has two rear axles, each outfitted with two electric motors, one for each wheel. Its acceleration and uphill speeds will allow it to cover more distance in less time than diesel trucks, he added.

As a result, Tesla is estimating it will cost $1.26 per mile to operate, compared with $1.51 a mile for a diesel truck. The cost can fall further — to 85 cents a mile, according to Tesla — if groups of trucks travel together in convoys, which reduces wind drag. “This beats rail,” Mr. Musk said.

This has been a few years coming. An autonomous diesel semi-truck made an Interstate-only beer delivery last year.

Piling on the efficiency of electric locomotion may be the beginning of the end of the long-haul truck driving profession, though. Economy of scale will make the per-mile cost of a fleet fall even as Tesla charges an arm and a leg for the equipment.

#ElectricTruck #Tesla

∴ Getting my iPad Off my Lap in the Car

Here’s a useful, easy project that took all of a half-hour to complete, and yielded a handy car mount for my iPad.

We use an iPad for navigation when Kelly and I take to the road. Whichever one of us isn’t driving has Waze running for traffic updates, ETA, and the occasional peek at a weather radar, social media, and email. The downside is that one of us winds up with an iPad in their lap for the trip.

I use Waze on my daily commute, too. It’s saved me from waiting through more than a few traffic jams. Until recently, though, I’ve used it on my iPhone mounted under the rearview mirror. That works ok, but the small screen makes it difficult to see much further ahead.

Installed tablet tray

I bought a floor-mounted tablet tray to resolve these shortcomings. The idea is simple enough – a long, flexible connecting rod with a foot on one end and a spring-loaded tablet mount on the other – but the installation depends on the vehicle it’s going into.

I was wary about how much room this arrangement would take up, how imposing it would be on the passenger, and how sturdy it would prove. We were about to set out for Galveston, Texas, for a cruise – perfect test case!

The tablet mount I chose is made by Arkon, and sold on Amazon. It has an open-foot mounting bracket at the bottom and a swivel-mounted, spring loaded tray at top. The long rod connecting the two is 18-inches of aluminum and takes a little elbow grease to bend to the right shape, ensuring a sturdy mount with a tablet attached. They also make a 22-inch model, for vehicles with a taller center console.

Installation was easy. The kit comes with a bracket and screws if attachment to the floor pan or center console is necessary. In my case, though, my first effort was to locate the front-left bolt securing the passenger seat rail to the floor. There are usually four such bolts, one at each corner of the seat. The bolt was exposed in the car we were driving to Texas, which made installation a snap. I later moved the tablet mount to my car, where a trim piece had to be removed to gain access to the bolt.

Open-toe foot bolted into place

A ratchet and socket had the bolt and washer backed out a quarter-inch in a few seconds, enough to slip the open-toe mounting bracket under the washer. I hand-tightened the bolt, then went about bending the connecting rod.

I put a bend in the bottom to bring the rod up against the center console, and another at the very top to allow the tray more tilt toward the driver. I wanted the iPad to directly face the driver to eliminate reflected glare coming in through the windshield.

I put one more bend at the bottom, tilting the tray toward the front console as far as I could without interfering with any controls. A little more tweaking of the bend near the top had the iPad right where I wanted it.

Removing the entire mount once I hade the basic shape, I gave the foot a little more bend toward the driver so the flexible connecting rod would lay more firmly against the center console. Re-mounting it, I secured the bolt with the ratchet and socket.

Mounted unit with power cable attached

One last detail: power. I have a two-port USB power adapter that plugs into the twelve-volt accessory socket, with an Apple Lightning cable. Using a single-hole punch I put a small hole about a half-inch from either end of the flexible covering that slides over the connecting rod, facing about halfway between the driver and the rear of the car. I popped the small Lightning connector end of the cable into one hole near the foot of the installation, threaded it up through the flexible covering and popped it back out the hole near the tray. I drew out enough cable to make a strain-free loop into the edge of my iPad, leaving the rest neatly looped alongside the center console.

The result is a mildly obtrusive plastic tray laying close to the front console, but out of the way of the passenger’s legs. The electrical connection is tucked neatly away, particularly with a tablet installed.

Our trip to Galveston proved the tablet mount a handy addition to the vehicle. We were able to use Waze much easier on the iPad’s larger display. The tray swivels and turns, so the passenger (we swapped back and forth several times each day to avoid fatigue) was able to use the tablet for mail, browsing, and texting, as well. Vibration at the top of the mount was minimal due to the passenger seat pressing against the connecting rod.

INstallation complete with passenger seat pulled into normal position

I’ve since transferred the tablet mount to my car for my daily commute. Using the tablet for Waze in this position is no more a distraction than changing the radio station, and given Waze’s voice warnings, a glance down is all that’s needed to verify traffic or road trouble ahead.

This was a simple, inexpensive project that’s proven useful. It’ll be unbolted and moved to my next car when that day comes.

#tablet #tray #car #mount #iPad #project

Volvo Says no More Diesel Engines, the Future is Electric

Volvo may have made this decision in response to impending regulation, but I have to wonder if the discovery and resulting fallout over VW/Audi’s gaming of tighter particulate emissions wasn’t what got them started thinking about ending diesel production. Just as well (Ars Technica):

But the outlook farther ahead involves regulations that will also severely limit nitrogen oxides (NOx). As a result, the company will devote its energy to electrification instead.

Nitrogen oxide from diesel vehicles killed a lot of people in 2015, study says As we reported earlier this week, NOx are noxious and linked to 38,000 premature deaths in 2015 alone.

#diesel #Volvo #VW #Audi #electric #emissions #particulate #sulphur

The Tesla Model S Now Has 12 Percent Of The California Luxury Market

Joe Weisenthal, writing for Business Insider:

Per California’s latest monthly auto sales report (via Slate’s Will Oremus), the Tesla Model S now commands 12% of the luxury market in the state.

Click through for a chart of luxury brand models and their California sales proportion.

I’ve had my eye on the muscular, yet shapely Audi A5, a close cousin to the entry-level A4, neither of which make the list here.

But look at that list. The beauties are all here: BMW 5-series, Merc-Benz E-class, Audi A6, Lexus GS and the spectacular Tesla S.

Shit. Can’t afford a single one of them.

What Good Is It?

Joe Weisenthal, writing for Business Insider:

“Here’s another extraordinary accomplishment by Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk.

The electric car company announced yesterday evening that its famous ‘Model S’ sedan has achieved the best safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of any car that’s ever been tested in history.”

As my wise spouse points out, though, at an MSRP of $70,000 what good is NHTSA’s safest and Consumer Reports’ highest-reviewed car if most people can’t afford it?

Is there sufficient value here, or are owners simply joining an elite club?

A Most Peculiar Test Drive

Tesla responds to the NYT:

“After a negative experience several years ago with Top Gear, a popular automotive show, where they pretended that our car ran out of energy and had to be pushed back to the garage, we always carefully data log media drives. While the vast majority of journalists are honest, some believe the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a salacious story.”

The NYT’s John Broder authored a recent piece in which he described his negative experience test-driving a Tesla Model S. He claimed the car was unable to make the distances between Tesla’s own charging stations along the east coast, particularly after a night of winter cold weather.

Turns out Tesla logged a great volume of data from that trip, giving them proof that Broder’s words were inaccurate at best. Click through for their rebuttal, including several annotated charts of the data logged refuting Broder’s claims.

I think I see a black eye forming at the NYT.

Electric Vehicles: We Ain’t There Yet

John M. Broder, writing for The NYT:

“I drove a state-of-the-art electric vehicle past a lot of gas stations. I wasn’t smiling.”

We’re at that point with electric cars where a century ago, when travel in a gasoline-powered automobile was fine within a local area, cross-country driving was still a crap shoot. It’s worth considering if you live anywhere but the west coast and really want that $100,000 Tesla sedan.

Or you could move to California.

Robot Cars Now Officially Legal In California

Cyrus Farivar, writing for Ars Technica:

“The new law obliges the California Department of Motor Vehicles to draft regulations for autonomous vehicles by January 1, 2015.”

DMV may not be the timeliest agent for change, but the legislature is moving California into the future anyway. Joining Nevada as a testbed for autonomous vehicles, California’s roads will provide a more complex test for Google and other software makers.

We’re slowly moving toward a Minority Report future for our highways. Can’t wait.