Formula E ends its season—and an era—in Brooklyn

Enlarge (credit: Elle Cayabyab Gitlin)

NEW YORK—Racing cars came to Red Hook this past weekend as Formula E held its season four finale, the NYC ePrix. Although the event is only in its second year, the Big Apple is fast feeling like home for these all-electric race cars, and once again we saw championship-deciding races play out against the Manhattan skyline.

But this event also marked a different sort of finale—the end of Formula E’s first chapter as the series prepares to retire the cars its been using for these last four seasons. When season five gets underway in Saudi Arabia this December, Formula E will have a new vehicle in the spotlight: one with more power, wild looks, and enough battery to make mid-race vehicle swaps a thing of the past.

Formula E’s current reality

Unlike other racing series, Formula E exclusively races on temporary street tracks in city centers, because city centers are where electric vehicles make the most sense. (Yes, the Mexico round is the exception that proves the rule, but that permanent circuit is in a pretty urban part of Mexico City.) Not all of those city centers have proved welcoming; races in Miami and Montreal were one-offs, and the London ePrix lasted but two years. But the series signed a 10-year deal with New York City, and by building the course around the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, the impact on local residents from road closures and the like are minimal. (The course itself is slightly modified from last year, including longer straights that increase the track length to 1.5 miles, or 2.4km.)

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Source: Ars Technica

Tesla drops $35,000 price from Model 3 page—insists plans haven’t changed

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The release of the Model 3 was supposed to be the moment when Tesla finally made a car that was affordable for the masses.

“In terms of price, it’ll be $35,000,” Musk said at the March 2016 Model 3 announcement event. “And I want to emphasize that even if you buy no options at all, this will still be an amazing car.”

For the last two years, Tesla’s page for the Model 3 has touted a starting price of $35,000. “Model 3 achieves up to 310 miles of range while starting at only $35,000 before incentives,” the page read on Thursday morning.

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Source: Ars Technica

Uber lays off 100 safety drivers as it scales back self-driving tests

Enlarge / An Uber self-driving car in San Francisco in 2017. (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Uber is laying off its safety drivers in Pittsburgh and San Francisco—about 100 people in total. It’s the latest sign that Uber is scaling back its testing operations as it tries to move beyond the March crash that killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona.

Uber’s testing operations have been suspended nationwide since that fatality. It already laid off its safety drivers in the Phoenix metropolitan area—previously the company’s most significant testing location. And the company decided not to renew its permit to test self-driving cars in California.

But Uber says it’s still aiming to resume testing in the Pittsburgh area. While about 100 Uber safety drivers are officially being laid off, Uber expects many of them to apply for 55 newly created “mission specialist” jobs doing similar work. Previously, Uber had separate teams testing on public roads and on private test tracks. Now, Uber wants a single team of drivers to perform testing in both cases and to provide them with additional training to better aid Uber engineers in improving the company’s self-driving software.

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Source: Ars Technica

Tesla sold 200,000 cars in the US, so the $7,500 tax credit is going away

Enlarge (credit: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Well folks, it’s official: Tesla has now sold and delivered more than 200,000 electric vehicles here in the US. That’s an important milestone for the EV maker, because it means that the $7,500 IRS tax credit that buyers have been eligible for will soon be a thing of the past.

Speculation that Tesla had hit the 200,000 mark for US sales has been rampant, particularly in the wake of the company’s recent statement regarding production numbers. In the second quarter of 2018, it says it produced 53,339 vehicles, a 55 percent increase over Q1 2018. That big increase was in large part down to the company finally finding its feet with regards to the Model 3 production lines. More than half its Q2 output (28,571 cars) were Model 3s; the remainder were Model S and Model X EVs.

However, it was unclear at the time of Tesla’s announcement just how many of those cars were actually bound for US customers. In the past, Tesla has often focused one month a quarter on delivering vehicles to countries outside of the US, and it was thought likely that the company was doing everything possible to ensure it didn’t break the 200,000 US sales mark before the end of Q2. But on Thursday morning the company updated the page on its website dealing with EV incentives in light of reaching this milestone.

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Source: Ars Technica

An experiment in people-moving: Transit agency buys electric double-decker bus

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Source: Ars Technica

All SUV, all of the time: The Range Rover Sport reviewed

If you’re going to buy a luxury SUV, why not buy it from the company that has been manufacturing them for six decades or so? That’s the value proposition behind the insanely expensive $360,000 Range Rover SV Coupe we encountered last month. And the same can be said about the rest of the Range Rover lineup. We know what we’re doing, we know what you want in a luxury SUV, so why bother looking at any of the johnny-come-latelies? I’m no ad man, but if were writing ad copy for Jaguar Land Rover, that’s probably where I’d start.

That’s the vibe the Range Rover Sport gives off—quiet, luxurious confidence. For the 2018 model year, the Range Rover Sport takes what Land Rover does well and puts another level of spit and polish on it. The result: a solid but unspectacular ride for those with an itch for a midsize SUV and $70,000+ to spend.

The Range Rover Sport sits near the top of the Land Rover’s US lineup, above the Discovery, Velar, and Evoque. Pricing starts at $66,750 for the Range Rover Sport SE, which has a supercharged 3.0L V6 power plant capable of 340hp (253kW). Looking for more power? You can get a supercharged V8 that can crank out up to 575hp. The model we tested is the Range Rover Sport HSE TD6, which has a turbocharged V6 diesel that puts out 254hp (189kW) and an impressive 440lb-ft (597Nm) of torque—an impressive number that speaks to Land Rover’s roots making vehicles for serious off-roading. The diesel engine uses diesel exhaust fluid, which is injected into the exhaust to reduce NOx emissions.

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Source: Ars Technica

Tesla whistleblower tells SEC of alleged wrongdoing at Gigafactory

Enlarge / Tesla’s new Model 3 car on display is seen on Friday, January 26, 2018, at the Tesla store in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images)

Martin Tripp, the ex-Tesla technician who has been sued by his former employer, has now filed a formal whistleblower tip to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Tripp’s lawyer, Stuart Meissner, told Ars that his client is reiterating claims that the company has been allegedly dishonest with the public and with investors in statements regarding Model 3 production.

Previously, Tripp told Ars that he wanted to reveal internal waste and safety flaws in Tesla batteries that he claimed he observed while working at the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada. The tip, known as a “TCR,” was filed late last Friday.

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Source: Ars Technica

Arcimoto raised $19 million to build “fun utility vehicles”—now what?

Enlarge / In this newly acquired/unassuming warehouse located within Eugene, Oregon’s Whiteaker neighborhood, one of the most fun vehicles we’ve driven to date is born. (credit: Jeremy Bronson / Arcimoto)

EUGENE, Ore.—It’s 2pm on a Saturday afternoon, and Eugene, Oregon is about to witness the (re)launch of its most serious entry in the electric mobility industry to date. Outside of Arcimoto’s new factory, located in the sliver of industrial space between the railroad tracks and the increasingly-hip Whiteaker neighborhood, parked cars are starting to line up. Heavily represented are Eugene’s automotive stalwarts: Volkswagen diesel wagons, Toyota hybrids, Subaru Outbacks, and a smattering of newer electric cars and quirky vehicles like the Isuzu Vehicross.

The crowd assembled to witness the delivery of Arcimoto’s first “Signature” line of three-wheeled “Fun Utility Vehicles” is as classically Eugene as the vehicles they drove here. Aging hippies brush shoulders with middle-aged public radio-supporters, and there’s also a mix of more mainstream families and a few younger alternative types—including one performatively circling the parking lot on a OneWheel. Any hope of assessing the prospects of Arcimoto’s quirky three-wheeled electric runabout based on the crowd in attendance faded as I realized that this same group could just as easily be on hand to check out the opening of a new microbrewery or outdoor wear store.

This left me back at the problem I was presented with when I accepted an Ars assignment to cover my hometown’s “automaker”—how do you judge a three-wheeled electric vehicle that straddles the recreational and practical markets, and is built by a company that has gone through seven previous iterations over its decade-long history? This problem is only amplified by the fact that even the version of the FUV I was recently given access to represents an early “Signature” build. Significant design iterations remain ahead. And even if there were a solid point of reference in the market for the Arcimoto FUV today, it would still be a moving target.

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Source: Ars Technica

Feds arrest Apple employee for stealing self-driving project secrets

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Federal prosecutors have charged a former Apple employee with stealing trade secrets from Apple’s self-driving car project and attempting to take them with him to a new job at a Chinese startup. Xiaolang Zhang had worked on Apple’s self-driving car project since 2015. According to the FBI, he “designed and tested circuit boards to analyze sensor data.” But at the end of April, he informed his supervisor that he was quitting, moving to China to be closer to his mother, and that he would be taking a job at a Chinese startup.

The supervisor thought Zhang had been “evasive” during this conversation, so he asked Apple’s security team to look into the situation. They discovered that Zhang’s activity on the Apple network had “increased exponentially” in the days before Zhang announced his departure.

According to the FBI, Zhang downloaded numerous documents from Apple’s network and transferred them to his wife’s personal laptop. The information Zhang took was “largely technical in nature, including engineering schematics, technical reference materials, and technical reports.”

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Source: Ars Technica

Tesla makes massive bet on China with new 500,000-car Shanghai factory

Enlarge / Elon Musk unveiled the Model X back in 2015. (credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, currently traveling in Asia, signed an agreement Tuesday with officials in Shanghai to build a factory with the capacity to produce up to 500,000 vehicles per year. Shanghai officials describe it as the largest foreign-funded manufacturing project in Shanghai history.

The deal comes in the midst of an increasingly bitter trade war between the United States and China. A 25 percent Chinese tariff on US-made cars recently forced Tesla to raise the Chinese price of the Model S and Model X. Having a Chinese factory would help Tesla avoid these taxes, as it could manufacture cars in China and then sell the cars directly to Chinese consumers—or to customers in Asian countries with good trade relationships to China.

Tesla’s China project was first reported by Bloomberg. A Tesla spokesperson confirmed the news to Ars Technica.

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Source: Ars Technica

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