Next Nissan Leaf: ProPilot self-driving included, 200-mile range or more confirmed

2017 Nissan Leaf  Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn today confirmed that a second-generation Nissan Leaf electric car is coming “in the near future,” though he didn’t specify a date or model year. The new Leaf will come with Nissan’s ProPilot technology, which permits the car to drive itself autonomously within a highway under certain circumstances. Ghosn noted that more…

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Audi and Nvidia Partnering on AI System for Self-Driving Audis

Today Audi and tech supplier Nvidia launched the first phase of a nearly decade-long partnership using artificial intelligence to delivery fully automated driving.

These fully automated vehicles are scheduled to roll out in 2020, and Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America and Jen-Hsun Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia, announced the collaboration today during a keynote speech at CES 2017 in Las Vegas.

The first phase will focus on Nvidia Drive PX, which uses AI neural networks to analyze real-world surroundings and to determine a safe path forward.

The two companies are showing an Audi Q7 self-driving, piloted concept vehicle. It’s running off of Drive PX 2 and Nvidia DriveWorks software. The system is operated from the Nvidia PilotNet, described using “deep neural networks,” which the tech company says recognizes and understands the autonomous vehicle’s changing environment while driving. It looks for unpredictable road conditions such as roadblocks, construction, and changes in weather.

Audi and Nvidia have previously worked together on engineering and visual computing technologies used in Audi MMI navigation and the Audi virtual cockpit.

SEE ALSO:  Nvidia Working with Tesla on Autonomous Driving Hardware

The companies will first roll out, later this year, the next-generation Audi A8 featuring Traffic Jam Pilot, which would be the world’s first Level 3 automated vehicle (as defined by SAE’s standard). It will be equipped with a first-generation central driver assistance domain controller (zFAS), which integrates Nvidia’s computing hardware and software.

Nvidia has also been working with Tesla Motors. In October, Tesla announced that all Tesla vehicles — Model S, Model X, and the upcoming Model 3 — will now be equipped with a “supercomputer” through Nvidia’s Drive PX 2 AI computing platform.

The supercomputer will deliver 40 times the processing power over the previous system. It will run “a Tesla-developed neural net for vision, sonar, and radar processing,” according to Nvidia.

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78-Percent of Auto Execs See Brighter Future For Hydrogen Vehicles Over Battery Electrics

From now through 2025, automotive executives see battery electric vehicles as the top global trend, but more than three-quarters of them predict BEVs being overshadowed by hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in the long run.

This is according to KPMG’s Global Automotive Executive Survey 2017, which found that of almost 1,000 senior executives interviewed, 78-percent believe fuel cell electric vehicles “will be the golden bullet of electric mobility.” The problem of setting up a user-friendly charging infrastructure lead 62-percent of the surveyed executives to believe that BEVs will fail, KMPG said.

KPMG analyzed the survey and found that automotive executives see that FCVs can solve the recharging and infrastructure that BEVs face today. Refueling a FCV can be quickly at a traditional gas station, which makes the typical BEV charging time of 25 to 35 minutes seem unreasonable.

The study does acknowledge that FCV technology is “far from maturity,” and faces unsolved challenges like the “cooling of hydrogen or the safe storage in a car.”

KPMG interviewed almost 1,000 senior executives from global automakers, suppliers, dealers, financial services providers, car rental companies, mobility services providers, and information and communication technology companies. More than 2,400 consumers from around the world were also surveyed for comparison to the opinions of auto executives.

Regulatory pressure in key global markets, which increased after the “dirty diesel” emissions scandal broke, along with publicity generated by Tesla Motors, are reasons why BEVs have entered consumers’ mindsets, according to the consulting agency. Major automakers are working hard to keep up with these trends, and for the first time are thinking beyond manufacturing the BEVs through analyzing the charging infrastructure and power supply.

Today the Toyota Mirai is the best-selling FCV. Last month’s total for the California car: 116 sales. Sales for all battery electrics in December 2016: 13,077.

KPMG sees the auto industry being “lost in translation between evolutionary, revolutionary and disruptive key trends that all need to be managed at the same time.”

Traditional combustion engines are still considered technologically relevant but socially unacceptable, according to the study.

For the key automotive trends through 2025, BEVs are the top trend for 2017, followed by connectivity and digitalization, FCVs at third place, and hybrid electric vehicles in fourth place. Mobility as a service and carsharing came in at number eight, and autonomous vehicles finished in ninth place.

SEE ALSO:  Is Toyota Thinking Twice About Fuel Cell Vehicles?

One of the more interesting finding in the survey is that most automotive executives see car ownership going away soon, which could bolster support for mobility services and autonomous vehicles. In the study, 59 percent of auto executives and 35 percent of consumers surveyed think that more than half of all car owners will no longer want to own a car by 2025.

Diesel technology won’t be going away entirely, said the study. More than half of the surveyed executives believe that “diesel will be the first traditional powertrain technology to vanish from manufacturers’ portfolios.” However, diesel will remain an option over the next few years by vehicle manufacturers in India and for long-distance heavy truck engines.

Strong regulatory restrictions, which are increasing to the next phase globally by about 2025, are the key driver for BEVs to move up on the ranking. In the 2015 KPMG study, BEVs ranked number nine, moving up to number one this year.

Success of BEVs depend on infrastructure and application. To KPMG, that means, “Coordinated actions for infrastructure set-up, and a clear distinction of reasonable application areas (e.g. urban, long-distance) needs to be established.”

Investment into fast charging by automakers, such as Tesla’s Supercharger network, will help stabilize BEVs. Longer range BEVs such as the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 will aid the cause, as well.

But it’s not enough to win over consumers around the world to embrace BEVs at a large scale.

The majority of consumers do not yet embrace the concept of electric vehicles because the most essential requirements for electric vehicles are not met yet,” the study said.

“Execs are hesitant regarding cooperation and unsolved infrastructure challenges. The reason for execs to believe in fuel cells may be their strong attachment to the existing infrastructures and traditional vehicle applications,” said John Leech, KPMG’s Automotive Leader UK, in the study.

The KPMG study seems to imply that hydrogen can be added to existing retail gasoline fueling stations, but that hasn’t been the case yet. Hydrogen stations being built in California and other locations are standalone refueling stations with their own storage tanks and fueling pumps. Construction can be expensive, estimated to be $1 to $2 million per hydrogen station, while the cost of electric vehicle chargers has been declining. Getting the hydrogen to the storage tanks also presents its own host of challenges, such as building pipelines or delivering the fuel through trucks with pressurized storage tanks.

Automaker have forged alliances in the past few years to jointly develop fuel cell vehicle technologies and to support hydrogen refueling networks in Europe, the U.S., and Japan. But the numbers of sold FCVs and hydrogen stations are still very slight.

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Tesla Starts Battery Cell Production At Nevada Gigafactory

Electric car maker Tesla started producing lithium-ion battery cells yesterday at the company’s gigafactory outside Reno, Nev., alongside its longtime battery partner Panasonic.

Tesla and Panasonic’s new jointly designed cylindrical 2170 cells will first be used to power Tesla’s Powerwall 2 home energy supply unit, and the Powerpack 2 commercial solar energy storage product.

Cells destined for the $35,000 Model 3 electric car will begin in the second quarter, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said will be delivered by the end of this year.

At its current stage, the diamond-shaped factory is less than 30 percent complete, yet still manages to occupy 1.9 million square feet, Tesla said in a press release, with interior operational space of 4.9 million square feet total because of how it’s using different floors.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Scrambles To Finish ‘Gigafactory’ to Meet Model 3 Launch Date

The name gigafactory comes from the plant’s planned annual battery production capacity of 35 gigawatt-hours, which Tesla has said it would achieve by 2018.

“Giga” is a unit of measurement that represents “billions”.

Tesla has stated that it plans to sell half a million cars by next year, and much is riding on the Model 3, which sells for roughly half the price of the base Model S luxury electric sedan.

It needs cheaper, more plentiful batteries to be able to reach that goal.

The gigafactory looks to not only satisfy Tesla’s growing demand in terms of volume, but also drop the individual cost of batteries through use of automated production capacity and improved processes.

SEE ALSO: Eight Impressive Statistics About Tesla’s Gigafactory

The battery production news came a day after Tesla revealed that it missed its vehicle sales goals in the fourth quarter of 2016, delivering 2,750 fewer vehicles than forecast.

Still, total sales in 2016 were up 64 percent versus 2015, thanks in part to the addition of the electric Model X crossover.

High volume, low cost batteries are a step in the right direction for Tesla to make good on its promise to begin deliveries of the Model 3 by the end of the year.

The question is, can the California car manufacturing plant come through on time?

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