The first all-new Lotus in years will be a 1,971hp electric car

Depending how old you are, the name “Lotus Cars” will mean different things. For some, it’s fast-but-fragile F1 cars in the 1960s and 1970s. Or perhaps it’s James Bond’s submarine car. Or it’s the lightweight, nimble Elise, variations of which have made up the bulk of its range since 1996. Regardless of which era you identify with, throughout those decades a common thread has always been the company’s precarious financial situation. But that changed in 2017, when Geely became Lotus’ new corporate parent.

Geely is the Chinese company that has been responsible for Volvo’s renaissance since it purchased the Swedish automaker from Ford in 2010. And ever since news of the Lotus purchase broke, we’ve been wondering what the boutique British brand might be able to achieve. After all, the company has never lacked ideas, particularly those involving making cars lighter or making cars handle better (often the two are related). Many industry watchers have worried that we’d be faced with a souped-up SUV, something derived from Volvo’s SPA or CMA platforms. That may still come to pass; just ask Porsche whether the Cayenne was a bad idea if you’re unsure.

But before that happens—and before the Elise gets redesigned for a third generation—there will be the Evija. That’s the name for its new all-electric hypercar, which is to be a low-volume halo car for the rest of the brand. Its specs are eye-opening, even among this rarefied class of vehicles.

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Source: Ars Technica

Formula E racing tech will improve the charger for your electric car

BROOKLYN, New York—This past weekend, the Formula E electric racing series made its annual return to these shores, racing in Red Hook against the backdrop of the downtown Manhattan skyline. When the checkered flag waved on Sunday, it marked the end of Formula E’s fifth season. I’ll have some more thoughts on the race weekend itself, as well as how the series has matured over the past half-decade shortly. But first, I wanted to look at an aspect of the sport that maybe we’ve neglected down the years. It’s one that probably has more direct relevance to anyone who owns an electric vehicle than any other aspect of EV racing—DC fast charging.

Perhaps it should have been obvious. After all, I’ve written thousands of words about the reasons why car companies decide to enter motorsports. Every racing series balances competing aspects—being a sporting competition, being entertainment for the public, being a marketing platform, and being an arena for research and development for new road-car technology.

While I’m not naive enough to think that technology transfer into road cars is the most common or predominant reason to go racing, it’s also not an avenue that should be dismissed out of hand. Windshield wipers, disc brakes, dual clutch transmissions, and even direct injection engines were proven on track before filtering their way into the showroom. For the automotive OEMs that are flocking to Formula E, this is one of the attractions, particularly as the series is keeping a tight control of things like race-car aerodynamics that can explode budgets without a scintilla of relevance for street cars.

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Source: Ars Technica

Elon Musk announces another price hike for “full self-driving” package

A Tesla Model 3.

Enlarge / A Tesla Model 3. (credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Next month, Tesla will begin charging an additional $1,000 for the “full self-driving” upgrade, CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter on Tuesday. The option currently costs $6,000. It’s the latest in a series of price changes for a package whose main function—”full self-driving”—is still largely aspirational.

The price hike reflects Musk’s view that Tesla is less than 18 months away from delivering full self-driving technology to customers and that this capability will drastically increase the value of Tesla vehicles.

At an April event, Musk predicted that Tesla vehicles would be capable of operating as autonomous taxis by the end of 2020. In a back-of-the-envelope calculation, Musk estimated that a Tesla vehicle could generate as much as $30,000 per year in profits. If that came to pass, it would easily make even the cheapest Model 3 worth more than $100,000.

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Source: Ars Technica

Tesla cuts prices and simplifies its product line

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Source: Ars Technica

Ford-VW alliance means more EVs for Europe, joint Argo AI investment

Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess (L) and Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett (R) announced their companies are expanding their global alliance to include electric vehicles and will collaborate with Argo AI to introduce autonomous vehicle technology in the US and Europe.

Enlarge / Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess (L) and Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett (R) announced their companies are expanding their global alliance to include electric vehicles and will collaborate with Argo AI to introduce autonomous vehicle technology in the US and Europe. (credit: Sam VarnHagen)

On Friday, Ford and Volkswagen made official news that first leaked last week. The pair are strengthening their alliance to work together on those hottest of emerging automotive technologies, electric vehicles and autonomous driving.

Equal partners in Argo AI

VW will become an equal partner in the self-driving startup Argo AI, putting in $1 billion in cash and another $1.6 billion in the form of Audi’s Autonomous Intelligent Driving spinoff, which will become Argo AI’s European center of operations. Over the next three years, VW will also buy an additional $500 million of Argo AI shares from Ford. (Ford will still complete its billion-dollar investment in Argo AI). Until now, Argo AI has operated as a de facto Ford subsidiary, but this investment makes VW an equal partner, with the remaining shares in the company reserved for employee compensation.

Argo AI’s technology will be incorporated into both Ford and VW vehicles as part of each company’s plans to offer geofenced driverless robotaxis or goods delivery services in the US and Europe. “While Ford and Volkswagen remain independent and fiercely competitive in the marketplace, teaming up and working with Argo AI on this important technology allows us to deliver unmatched capability, scale, and geographic reach,” said Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett in a statement.

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Source: Ars Technica

The 2019 Volkswagen Golf R is king of the hot hatches

From its earliest days, the automobile has been a status symbol, where badge has mattered often as much as engineering. There’s a human tendency to pigeonhole, and we infer much about a person simply by knowing what they drive. Occasionally though, something comes along that transcends this class structure. The original Mini, which appealed to the smart set in 1960s Europe, for instance. Or the Ford F-150, as often used to commute to an office as to a construction site. The Volkswagen Golf definitely falls into that category.

When it was first launched in Europe in 1974, the Mk1 Golf was utilitarian, a people’s car to replace the Beetle. But the secret of a classless car is that it’s anything but. Peter Sellers might have driven a Mini at the height of stardom, but his was lavishly trimmed by the coachbuilder Radford. Suburban dads can spend as much on a leather-lined F-150 as they could on a big BMW the way their forebears did in the ’90s. And the Golf broke out of being a mere people’s car when it added the GTI to the lineup. VW didn’t invent the hot hatch, but it did execute it probably better than anyone else. The company certainly advertised it better, and the car was as popular with yuppies as it was with middle-class moms.

Take a GTI and turn it up to 11

More recently, VW decided it could sell even more Golfs if it added a variant above the giant-killing GTI—enter the Golf R. If the idea behind a GTI was to take a front-wheel-drive hatchback and give it more power and better suspension, the R takes it a bit further. Now there’s an even more powerful engine—a 2.0L turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder with 288hp (215kW) and 280lb-ft (380Nm). To achieve this with VW’s ubiquitous EA888 engine, the R engineers gave it a new cylinder head (plus valves and springs), a new turbocharger, new pistons, and a new injection system.

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Source: Ars Technica

How helicopters bring us amazing views of the Tour de France

It’s the time of year when the only bicycle race that most people pay attention to is at hand. The Tour de France began on July 6 and with it an intense competition that circles the country and ends in Paris with a yellow jersey presented to the winner. But for millions who watch it on TV, the race is secondary to the scenery. The Tour de France has been referred to as a travelogue for France, luring viewers worldwide with picturesque scenes of the French countryside and culture. The race began in 1903, and today the Tour is the third-largest sporting event in the world after the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.

Many of the best views of the three-week-long competition come from video provided by helicopters that follow and shoot the action from overhead. Beyond the cyclists, the aircraft of Hélicoptères de France (HdF) capture jagged mountain slopes, ancient French castles, fields of sunflowers and the wide boulevards of Paris. Founded in 1991, HdF provides helicopter services from passenger transport and tours to cargo and medevac operations. But the company, which is based in the town of Tallard in southeastern France, is best known worldwide for its work as the official aerial film and support unit for the Tour de France, a status it has held since 1999.

Flying squirrels?

HdF uses a trio of AS355 and AS350 Écureuil (Squirrel) helicopters to film and relay live images of the Tour. Built by Eurocopter (now Airbus), the AS355 is a light, five-passenger helicopter powered by a pair of 566 shaft-horsepower (shp) Safran Arrius 1A1 turbine engines. The AS350 is basically the same helo with a single 732shp Safran Arriel 1D1 turbine. Écureuils are in civilian use around the world, including the US, and with numerous military/government operators.

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Source: Ars Technica

Bloodhound LSR, the 1,000mph car, starts high-speed tests in October

Needle-shaped rocketcar in a high-tech garage.

Enlarge / Bloodhound SSR, wearing the tire-shod wheels it used for low speed testing. For high-speed runs, the car will use solid metal wheels instead. (credit: Bloodhound)

On Tuesday, we have some rare good news from England. Bloodhound LSR, the land-speed-record car designed to reach 1,000mph, will finally get to travel to South Africa to begin high-speed testing. Until now, the rocket- and jet-powered machine had only been able to test at low speed—if 210mph (338km/h) can be considered low speed—on a runway in the United Kingdom. But in October, the team will take it to a specially prepared stretch of the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa and begin to stretch Bloodhound’s legs.

It has been quite an up-and-down ride for the land-speed effort. The project was started by Richard Noble, who set a land-speed record in 1982 with Thrust 2 and then spearheaded the Thrust SSC car that broke that record (and the sound barrier on land) in 1997 with RAF Wing Commander Andy Green behind the wheel. The Bloodhound is equipped with a Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine (from a Eurofighter Typhoon) and a hybrid (solid-fuel, H2O2 oxidizer) rocket from Nammo that together will provide more than 47,000lbf (20,900kN). Together, they will power the car to speeds normally reserved for aircraft (and the occasional rocket sled).

But land-speed records aren’t easy. Not only do you need to design and build a car capable of that speed, you also have to find somewhere suitable to run it. The place that the team chose—as detailed in our earlier feature on the effort—is located in a dry lakebed in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, near the border with Namibia. More than 300 local volunteers helped prep part of the Hakskeen Pan, clearing 37 million pounds (16,500 tonnes) of rocks from an 8.5-square-mile (22km2) stretch to create a suitable track.

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Source: Ars Technica

“Close to 10%” of Autopilot software team reportedly departs after shakeup

Elon Musk.

Enlarge / Elon Musk. (credit: DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images)

Tesla has always been a turbulent place to work, and that has been especially true of Tesla’s Autopilot team. Between 2016 and 2018, Tesla lost three Autopilot chiefs in a period of 18 months, with a number of lower-level Autopilot managers and engineers leaving as well.

The Information’s Amir Efrati reports that Tesla has suffered a fresh wave of Autopilot departures.

“At least 11 members of the software team, or close to 10% of the total group, including some longtime members, departed in the past few months,” Efrati writes. “These departures follow Mr. Musk’s removal of the Autopilot group’s leader Stuart Bowers around the start of May.”

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Source: Ars Technica

The electric Mini is going into production; deliveries start early 2020

Toward the end of June, we reported that BMW is accelerating its electrification strategy. Originally, it had promised 25 new electric models across its brands by 2025; now that timeline has been moved up by two years. And the first of these will be a Mini Cooper SE battery electric vehicle. We’ve actually known the BEV Mini has been in the works for a while, but on Tuesday the automaker confirmed that production will begin at Mini’s Cowley plant in the UK in November, and it has released some of the car’s specs.

Throughout Mini’s 60-year history, the brand has always been about small front-wheel-drive cars, and that continues here. In this case, the front wheels are going to be driven by a 181hp (135kW), 199lb-ft (270Nm) electric motor, powered by a 32.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack. To avoid compromising the Mini’s diminutive form factor, the battery pack is T-shaped, and apparently there’s no reduction in cargo volume as a result.

Although weight has crept up by 319lbs (145kg) compared to a Mini Cooper S (with an automatic transmission), overall weight is still only 3,009lbs (1,364kg) which isn’t too bad for a BEV. And despite an increase in height (0.7 inches/18mm), the weight of the batteries in the floor means the car’s center of gravity is actually lower by 1.2 inches (30mm).

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Source: Ars Technica

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