Will 2019 become the year of the electric car?
At next month’s auto show in Geneva, electric cars and concepts from Aston Martin’s Lagonda marque, Nissan, Audi, Mercedes, Honda and Kia will take center stage.
They’ll join a growing list of cutting-edge electronic vehicles, or EVs, entering the increasingly crowded segment this year.
The technology and design of these zero-emission vehicles has improved dramatically in recent years.
But a vexing challenge remains: convincing consumers to give up their internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and trucks.
Of the 17 million vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, 229,000, or 1.3 percent, were electric. Tesla’s Model 3 sedan accounted for over half (138,000) of EV sales, dominating the nascent market.
“The new electric vehicles are aimed directly at Tesla,” Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific, told ABC News. “The vast majority of them are in the Tesla price range. Tesla has real competitors.”
Jaguar, the British luxury automaker, introduced its challenger to Tesla last year: the all-electric I-Pace SUV. More than 600 units have been sold in the U.S. since last November, the first month of sales. Sleek and futuristic, with a minimalist, airy interior, the new $69,500 I-Pace is a departure from the British luxury carmaker’s traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.
To stay competitive in the fast-moving EV segment, Jaguar needed to act quickly. Doing so required major investments and extreme dedication. There was no other choice.
“This is brand new territory for us,” David Larsen, Jaguar Land Rover’s general manager of product development, acknowledged to ABC News. “The I-Pace was designed from the ground up.”
Unsurprisingly, the largest markets for the I-Pace are California, Florida and Texas – areas with warm year-round climates.
“Cold weather can cut range significantly – by even one third,” Kim said. “Lithium ion batteries are subject to temperature sensitivity. In California this is not an issue. In polar vortex conditions, these vehicles wouldn’t get far.”
The I-Pace, for example, gets as much as 234 miles from one full charge of its high-tech lithium ion battery, according to the EPA. That figure can shift significantly for reasons other than temperature. Heating or cooling the vehicle, how fast one drives and even radio usage can drain the battery.
I-Pace customers can charge their vehicles at home with a wall-mounted Level 2 240-volt home EV charger. It takes nearly 13 hours for the high-voltage battery to get a full-charge when starting at zero percent. Connecting the I-Pace to a standard 120V electrical outlet with a cable also works; Jaguar estimates the SUV would get an extra 30 miles this way if charged overnight.
“The car is constantly optimizing battery efficiency,” Larsen said. “The I-Pace learns how you drive and your driving behaviors to estimate what your range will be.”
Larsen, though, never has to charge his I-Pace at home. Jaguar’s office in Mahwah, New Jersey, offers charging stations. But he acknowledged that “range anxiety” — the fear of running out of battery charge on the road — is real and owning an electric car can take some adjusting.
Stable fuel prices in the U.S. have also slowed demand for these pricey vehicles, Kim explained.
“We are used to 5 minutes at the pump and going,” he said. “It takes a long time to fill these things up. Faster charging will get us closer to the level of convenience with gasoline cars.”
Tesla’s Model S made driving an electric car cool and trendy. Federal tax credits also helped move the needle for some drivers, though many EVs are purchased “by people who are not price sensitive,” said Kim. Plus, the majority of EV owners are not die-hard environmentalists. Many Tesla owners are “technology enthusiasts,” he noted.
Teslas may be the EV of choice with Americans but the Nissan Leaf is the top-selling EV globally. And with more models on the horizon, these industry leaders may see their monopoly on the market shrink.
Audi’s e-tron SUV will begin deliveries to U.S. customers this spring. Porsche’s much-anticipated Taycan electric sports car will be unveiled later this year. Mercedes Benz will soon roll out its EQC SUV, aimed at the e-tron. There will also be an all-electric Mini from BMW.
Cadillac, GM’s luxury brand, will be retooled to focus on electric cars. Volkswagen plans to invest $800 million to build a new electric vehicle at its plant in Tennessee.
“We’ll continue to see more EVs come on the market,” Kim said. “In the next three to four years, the market will be saturated with EVs. There will be a lot more supply than demand.”
There are two problems, however, that could put the brakes on the market expansion of EVs, according to Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Cox Automotive.
“They still cost a lot more than ICE cars and charging takes a long time,” he told ABC News. “For a rancher in Montana, EVs are not the solution. These cars are for people who live in urban areas and don’t travel more than 100 miles or more a week.”
Brauer, who has driven the I-Pace, said he was “fascinated” with the SUV at first — until it was time to juice the battery.
“It doesn’t charge as well as it should, even with a Level 2 charger,” he said. “There were times when I thought it was charging but it wasn’t. It has everything going for it and it drives extremely well. In terms of battery, I was disappointed.”
Driving an electric car also requires some patience and practice. They’re built with regenerative brakes, allowing the vehicle to function with single pedal driving. When the driver lifts his or her foot off the accelerator, the car will come to a sudden stop, especially when the regen braking is set to high. The abruptness can be jarring and disorientating in the beginning.
“It’s a different driving experience,” Larsen admitted. “There’s a steep learning curve. The first time I drove the I-Pace I had to turn off the regen braking. It felt weird.”
Automakers want consumers to believe that traditional cars are antiquated. In reality, an EV future is decades away.
“Electric cars are not mainstream yet,” Kim said. “There’s a lot of momentum building behind electrification, especially in Europe and Asia. Automakers will push them even though they’re low volume vehicles. They need North American sales. Consumers have to buy into the advantages of having an EV.”
New Paid Apple News Service Said to Feature Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal plans to join a new paid subscription news service run by Apple, according to two people familiar with the plans, as other publishers chafe at the terms that the Silicon Valley company is demanding of its partners.
Other major publishers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, have opted out of joining the subscription service, said the people, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the plans.
Apple and The Wall Street Journal plan to announce the deal Monday at a media event at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. The event is intended to draw attention to the company’s bet on news and entertainment, including a streaming service that will put Apple in direct competition with Netflix, Amazon and HBO.
The service, described by some as a “Netflix for news,” will offer access to a new paid tier of the Apple News app. Through that tier, readers will be able to consume articles from hundreds of participating magazines and news outlets. The app’s free tier will still let people read a smattering of select articles from a wide variety of publishers.
To persuade publishers to join the paid service, Apple executives have said the scale of Apple News, which is installed on every iPhone sold to consumers, could introduce millions of new customers to their content.
But the most recent terms that Apple is offering to publishers ask for a cut of roughly half of the subscription revenue involved in the service, the people said. Apple has also asked publishers to give unlimited access to all their content, which has caused concern among potential partners, they said. A subscription is expected to cost $10 a month.
The deal’s terms have caused some publishers to recoil, as a 50 percent cut is higher than the 30 percent that Apple usually takes from apps and subscriptions sold through its App Store. Publishers are also concerned that they won’t have access to important data about the consumers — credit cards, email addresses and other subscriber information — as part of the deal.
Representatives from Apple, The Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post declined to comment. Some deal terms were previously reported by Recode and The Wall Street Journal.
As sales of Apple’s marquee product, the iPhone, start to slow, the company is expanding into different software-based businesses, which typically have higher profit margins and do not rely on supply chains and manufacturing.
Publishers have also been seeking to expand beyond their core subscriber bases, finding new audiences across nontraditional platforms and striking deals with tech companies. Apple has teamed up with news organizations on its Apple News product for years, offering select content to consumers for free.
But publishers have grown wary of some partnerships in recent years, as past relationships with companies like Facebook, Medium and others have soured. In the past, Facebook has inked deals with publishers to fund or support new initiatives, only to quickly change plans and yank support from one year to the next.
The Google Stadia game controller feels surprisingly great
Google today took the wraps off its Stadia cloud gaming platform, showing off a bold but largely untested vision of the future of gaming that involves distributing and playing software in real-time over the internet. We still don’t know a lot about how Stadia will work, how much it might cost, whether it will operate as a Netflix-style subscription service for consumers or use a different business model, or when exactly it will come out later this year. But we did get our hands on the custom controller Google built, the only physical piece of the Stadia package.
Surprisingly, the Stadia controller feels and looks great. Granted, we didn’t get to try it on a live Stadia demo, but we did get to go hands-on with the same white and orange model that was used onstage during the reveal. It has a heft and texture similar to recent Xbox One gamepads — specifically the one that released with the Xbox One S redesign — but with the thumbstick layout of Sony’s DualShock 4.
It features a USB-C port on top, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom, and dedicated buttons to trigger Google Assistant-powered voice features and capture video of your gameplay. In a nice nod to gaming culture, images of the controller on Google’s website show it may have the Konami Code sequence as a barcode label on the bottom of the device, below the headphone jack. You can even type the requisite commands into the Stadia website to bring up a 3D model of the controller that you can inspect in your browser window. The controller we tried at GDC didn’t have the code on it, so it’s unclear whether the commercial version will feature it or if it’s just a fun Easter egg.
In one impressive demo shown onstage, Google showed off a feature that would let you use the Assistant button on the controller to pull a YouTube tutorial showing you how to overcome the specific hurdle or puzzle that’s giving you trouble in that exact moment in the game. The controller is also used to launch right into games that you may find on YouTube’s live streaming platform, so you can immediately start playing a title a favorite streamer of yours is playing at that moment.
According to Phil Harrison, former Sony and Xbox exec and current vice president at Google, the controller connects directly to Google’s data centers — rather than any specific screen you might be using — so you won’t need to re-sync it to, say, your laptop when you stop playing on the TV. In an interview with The Verge, Harrison says you’ll pair it with the Stadia network using a companion mobile app, which will connect the controller first to your local Wi-Fi network and from there to Google’s Stadia service.
We don’t know how much the controller will cost, or whether or it will come bundled with a Stadia plan. (Assuming there will be a subscription plan of some sort, which still isn’t clear.) But it doesn’t seem like Google skimped on this controller, which is a good sign for those who were worried it would be a cheaper, lower-quality gamepad compared with the devices that ship with Microsoft and Sony consoles.
And if you don’t want to use this controller, you won’t have to: According to Harrison, the service will support other gamepads, too. It sounds like the Google Assistant integration may be the only thing you’ll miss.
Elon Musk: Tesla Model Y Will Be Unveiled on March 14
Elon Musk announced on Twitter Sunday that Tesla would unveil its long-awaited Model Y on March 14. The event will take place at the company’s L.A. design studio.
According to Musk’s tweets, the Model Y is about 10% bigger than Tesla’s Model 3 but has slightly less battery range. In a January letter to Tesla shareholders, Musk said the Model Y would be cheaper to make because it shares 75% of its components with the Model 3. He also said high volume production of the car would begin at the end of 2020.
Musk first teased the Model Y in a 2015 tweet, which was quickly deleted. The Model Y will split the difference between the Model 3 and Tesla’s larger SUV, the Model X, giving the company a foothold in the crossover SUV business, which has proved lucrative throughout the industry.
Musk’s announcement of the Model Y unveiling comes amid increased scrutiny of his activity on Twitter from the Securities and Exchange Commission after he tweeted in February that Tesla would make 500,000 cars this year. That was at odds with the January shareholder letter, which said Tesla would produce 360,000 to 400,000 cars this year. According to the SEC, the tweet violated a settlement reached with Musk after he falsely claimed to have secured a deal to take Tesla private.
You may not be able to buy a Model Y yet, but you could ride in one: Musk said the March 14 launch would include test rides.
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