After 3 straight wins, Porsche kills its Le Mans hybrid in favor of Formula E

Porsche

As was sadly expected, on Friday Porsche confirmed its plans to end the all-conquering 919 Hybrid LMP1 racing program at the end of 2017. Like Audi before it, the German brand is going to refocus its energy on Formula E, entering the fray in season six, which starts in 2019. That’s a boost for the all-electric racing series, which is also adding Mercedes-Benz to the grid for season six, but it’s a huge blow for the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Just two years ago, the uppermost echelon of endurance racing was at a zenith with the 1,000-hp hybrids from Audi, Toyota, and Porsche duking it out in thrilling races around the world. But Audi ended its Le Mans participation at the end of 2016, no thanks to dieselgate. With Porsche gone from the end of this year, one has to question whether Toyota will stand by an earlier commitment to keep its own hybrid prototype program running until 2019. (Porsche will still keep racing the 911 RSR in WEC’s GTE-Pro and IMSA’s GTLM classes.)

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Source: Ars Technica

UK government wants to ban sale of gas and diesel cars starting in 2040

Enlarge (credit: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

All new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from UK roads from 2040, the government will announce on Wednesday in a revised “controversial bomb” air pollution plan.

The Tory government published a draft air pollution plan in May, but it faced criticism from environment lawyers and clean air campaigners for being too floppy at curbing the nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollution that causes thousands of premature deaths in the UK each year. The High Court demanded that a final version of the plan be published by the end of July—and so here we are.

In addition to following in France’s footsteps with an internal combustion engine ban by 2040, the plan mostly focuses on empowering local councils to make major changes to their road systems. Reprogramming traffic lights, removing or redesigning speed bumps (!) and roundabouts, and retrofitting buses are all being mooted as possible ways of reducing air pollution.

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Source: Ars Technica

What is the car industry’s problem with over-the-air software updates?

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Source: Ars Technica

Toyota wants to commercialize solid-state EV batteries by 2022, reports say

Enlarge / A power cable sits in the charge point of a Toyota Motor Corp. FT- EV III concept electric vehicle on display during the China (Guangzhou) International Automobile Exhibition in Guangzhou, China, on Saturday, November 21, 2015. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

According to reports in The Wall Street Journal and Japan’s Chunichi Shimbun, Toyota is in the “production engineering” stage of building an electric vehicle (EV) battery with a solid electrolyte. Reports suggest the new battery will debut in Japan in a model 2022 car with an all-new platform.

So-called “solid state” batteries have both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes. Solid-state batteries can be made smaller and lighter than the lithium-ion batteries that currently power electric vehicles, but engineering such a battery at an attractive price point for mass production has been a challenge. The Chunichi Shimbun reported that Toyota’s battery will be able to charge in a few minutes and have a long range, but the article did not list specifics.

A solid-state battery would also reduce the fire risk that comes with lithium-ion batteries that use a liquid electrolyte. And, because the electrolyte wouldn’t be in danger of freezing, it could withstand a wider range of temperatures.

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Source: Ars Technica

A Danish town has been using Bluetooth sensors to track traffic patterns

Enlarge / Who needs connected cars when almost all of us drive around emitting Bluetooth signals? (credit: dion gillard @flickr)

One big promise of the connected car revolution has been the potential to help clear up traffic problems. When every vehicle and traffic signal is connected to the cloud, municipalities and local governments should be able to have a constant view of the traffic on their streets, aware of any problems almost instantly. The catch? It’s going to take a long time before there are sufficient vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) or even vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V)-equipped cars on our roads. But the city of Aarhus in Denmark has shown you don’t need to wait for V2x to finally penetrate the market to start doing that; all you need are outdoor Bluetooth sensors.

For some time, Aarhus has been using Bluetooth sensors to collect traffic pattern information. As people drive around, emitting Bluetooth signals, the sensors log their movements around the city. In doing so, their traffic patterns can flag and reveal problems that the city needs to fix.

Blip Systems

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Source: Ars Technica

NY-DC Hyperloop tunnel? Musk tweets about vague “verbal govt approval”

Enlarge (credit: The Boring Company)

Elon Musk has been talking about The Boring Company, his tunnel-digging endeavor, for months now. Today, he tweeted, “Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.”

Ars has reached out to Musk directly and to The Boring Company’s media contact to get more details on the “verbal govt approval.”

Ars also contacted the US Department of Transportation, and a White House spokesperson noted, “We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector.”

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Source: Ars Technica

Racing comes to the Big Apple: The New York City ePrix

Elle Cayabyab Gitlin

NEW YORK—On July 15 and 16, the fledgling sport of Formula E racing managed something its older, bigger, much richer sibling never managed: racing with the Statue of Liberty and the downtown Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. After races in Miami (2015) and Long Beach, California (2015, 2016), the Big Apple became the third US venue to host an ePrix, and it should provide the electric racing series a home for some time to come thanks to a 10-year contract with the city.

Before a sold-out crowd of 18,000, DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird stepped up to the pressure and took two wins from two races. And with championship leader Sebastien Buemi absent—the Swiss driver was committed to racing in Germany in the World Endurance Championship the same weekend—ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport’s Lucas di Grassi made up ground in the title fight, narrowing the gap to just 10 points with two races left to go. Given all the excitement (and the fact NYC qualifies as the closest stop on the Formula E calendar), Ars took to the grandstands to see how one of our favorite racing series is starting to mature.

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Source: Ars Technica

Buick’s 2018 Regal GS takes aim at the Audi A5

Buick

MILFORD, Mich.—When Buick’s invite to witness the unveiling of its new 2018 Regal GS hit our inbox, we didn’t have to think long before replying in the affirmative. For one thing, despite a punishing travel schedule of late, the reveal would take place at General Motors’ Milford Proving Ground.

Any chance one gets to visit one of these asphalt and concrete automotive playgrounds is an opportunity to be seized; the grounds are normally off-limits to members of the press, as they’re home to numerous prototypes being tested away from public glare. For another, Buick is a rather enigmatic automaker. Not as brash or flashy as Cadillac but more refined than the blue-collared Chevrolet, it’s ploughing the same ground as Mazda—a small brand with upwardly mobile aspirations.

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Source: Ars Technica

Daimler to offer software update for 3 million Mercedes-Benz diesels in EU

Enlarge (credit: Michiel Dijcks)

On Tuesday evening, Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler released a statement saying that it would voluntarily recall three million Mercedes-Benz diesels in the EU to offer a software update that would improve emissions control system performance. The recall will cost the company about €220 million ($254 million). Mercedes-Benz was already in the process of offering software update-focused recalls to improve emissions systems in compact-class cars and V-Class cars with diesel engines, so this new announcement widens the radius on those existing recalls.

Dieter Zetsche, a Daimler AG Chairman and the head of the German automaker’s Mercedes-Benz brand, explained the action as a move to clear up uncertainty. He described the recalls as “additional measures to reassure drivers of diesel cars and to strengthen confidence in diesel technology.”

“We are convinced that diesel engines will continue to be a fixed element of the drive-system mix, not least due to their low CO2 emissions,” Zetsche added.

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Source: Ars Technica

Bosch took us for a ride in its level 3 autonomous car

Bosch provided flights to Frankfurt and three nights’ accommodation for this trip to the Bosch Mobility Experience.

Video edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

BOXBERG, GERMANY—Are autonomous cars like buses? In one way, yes. You wait ages for a ride in one, and then all of a sudden several show up in short succession. In late June, we went for a spin in Jack, Audi’s level 3 autonomous test vehicle. Then, a couple of weeks later in Germany at the Bosch Mobility Experience, we got to sample another such vehicle.

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Source: Ars Technica

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