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London's Deputy Mayor On Ditching Diesel 185

dkatana writes: During an interview in Barcelona last week, at the Smart Cities Congress, London's Deputy Mayor Matthew Pencharz said that he doesn't believe diesel cars belong in cities. He said, "I don't believe that for the urban setting, for light vehicles, diesel is the right thing," He added, "I don't think it is the right thing if you are an urban driver, stopping-starting in traffic all day, not going very far, not zipping along at 50 mph on the motorway. [I think] diesel is not the right technology." He also blamed the European Commission for being too lenient with emission standards and conformity factors. "The conformity factors the Commission [has recently approved] are not as good as we would like, clearly, because we are going to have the same problem again," he said. "The VW scandal has focused attention on a problem we hardly knew about, and it has raised to the top the public policy of failure of dieselization across the European Union, and the UK too, combined with the spectacular failure of the Euro engine standards," he said. "[The scandal] has focused our minds on the fact that we need to accelerate the way out of diesel."

Why Car Salesmen Don't Want To Sell Electric Cars 480

HughPickens.com writes: Matt Richtel writes in the NYT that one big reason there are only about 330,000 electric vehicles on the road is that car dealers show little enthusiasm for putting consumers into electric cars. Industry insiders say that electric vehicles do not offer dealers the same profits as gas-powered cars, they take more time to sell because of the explaining required, and electric vehicles may require less maintenance, undermining the biggest source of dealer profits — their service departments. Some electric car buyers have said they felt as if they were the ones doing the selling. Chelsea Dell made an appointment to test-drive a used Volt but when she arrived, she said, a salesman told her that the car hadn't been washed, and that he had instead readied a less expensive, gas-powered car. "I was ready to pull the trigger, and they were trying to muscle me into a Chevy Sonic," says Dell. "The thing I was baffled at was that the Volt was a lot more expensive." Marc Deutsch, Nissan's business development manager for electric vehicles says some salespeople just can't rationalize the time it takes to sell the cars. A salesperson "can sell two gas burners in less than it takes to sell a Leaf," Deutsch says. "It's a lot of work for a little pay."

Jared Allen says that service is crucial to dealer profits and that dealers didn't want to push consumers into electric cars that might make them less inclined to return for service. Maybe that helps explains the experience of Robert Kast, who last year leased a Volkswagen e-Golf from a local dealer. He said the salesman offered him a $15-per-month maintenance package that included service for oil changes, belt repair and water pumps. "I said: 'You know it doesn't have any of those things,'" Mr. Kast recalled. He said the salesman excused himself to go confirm this with his manager. Of the whole experience, Mr. Kast, 61, said: "I knew a whole lot more about the car than anyone in the building." "Until selling a plug-in electric car is as quick and easy as selling any other vehicle that nets the dealer the same profit, many dealers will avoid them, for very logical and understandable reasons," says John Voelker. "That means that the appropriate question should be directed to makers of electric cars: What are you doing to make selling electric cars as profitable and painless for your dealers as selling gasoline or diesel vehicles?"
The Courts

Taxi Owners Sue NYC Over Uber, While Court Overrules Class-Action Appeal (thestack.com) 210

An anonymous reader writes: Taxi owners in New York have filed a lawsuit against cab-hailing app giant Uber, citing damaged revenues and a hefty fall in value of NYC's 'medallion' business. The case against the city and its Taxi and Limousine Commission claims that the regulators have unfairly permitted Uber to steal away business from the regulated cab industry. Getting away without regulation has enabled Uber drivers to compete directly, and drown out official taxi companies. A further lawsuit case hovering over Uber this week, is its request to immediately appeal an order approving class certification filed by its own drivers. The appeal was denied by a U.S. court yesterday.

Uber South Africa Launches $500 a Month Car Lease Which Includes Replacing Tires 83

An anonymous reader writes: Taxi hailing platform Uber has experimented with vehicle financing schemes around the world this year: it launched a pilot program for car loans in three US towns in the summer and had a two year relationship with Santander too. It's South African arm has gone one step further, however, with an official vehicle leasing — rather than purchase — scheme backed by local lender Wesbank. For about $500 a month which covers the car, maintenance and even tire wear, drivers get access to a mid-sized sedan. Hertz and other car hire firms are also joining in with similar schemes to boost the number of Uber drivers in the country.

What Happened To Passenger Hovercraft? (bbc.com) 69

An anonymous reader writes: Although much has been written about hoverboards lately, hovercraft have largely faded from public imagination, BBC News reports. The Bond-esque 1960s sensation proved too noisy to roam inland rivers regularly, while too small to compete at sea with a new generation of conventional mega-ferries and high-speed car-carrying catamarans. Military aside, only a 10-minute English route and a Sino-Russian river border crossing keep hopes air-cushioned nowadays, while civilian operators wait for electric propulsion to become practical, aiming to reduce airplane-like noise levels and excessive fuel costs with new technology.

Electric-Car Startup Faraday Future Building a $1 Billion Factory In California (businessinsider.com) 162

An anonymous reader writes: Faraday Future, an electric car startup based in California, wants to take on Tesla. They're building a $1 billion factory in California. Business Insider reports: "The startup of about 400 employees has poached executive talent from Tesla and also draws its name from a luminary scientist — Michael Faraday — who helped harness for humanity the forces of nature. Even Faraday's public announcement that California, Georgia, Louisiana and Nevada are finalists for the factory mirrors the approach Tesla took to build a massive battery factory. Nevada won that bidding war among several states last year by offering up to $1.3 billion in tax breaks and other incentives. Faraday hopes to distinguish itself by branding the car less as transportation than a tool for the connected class."

VW Engineers Have Admitted Manipulating CO2 Emissions Data (reuters.com) 201

An anonymous reader writes: According to a report in German newspaper Bild am Sonntag several Volkswagen engineers have come forward and admitted manipulating carbon dioxide emissions data, blaming the overly ambitious goals set by former Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn. Reuters reports: "The paper said VW engineers tampered with tyre pressure and mixed diesel with their motor oil to make them use less fuel, a deception that began in 2013 and carried on until the spring of this year. 'Employees have indicated in an internal investigation that there were irregularities in ascertaining fuel consumption data. How this happened is subject to ongoing proceedings,' a Volkswagen spokesman said, declining to comment on the Bild report."

EPA Finds More VW Cheating Software, Including In a Porsche (nytimes.com) 142

schwit1 writes with this news from the Times that Volkswagen's emissions scandal just expanded to include more expensive vehicles with larger diesel engines, including Porsche, and Audi sport-utility vehicles. According to the article: "The Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday that it had discovered emissions-cheating software on more Volkswagen and Audi cars than previously disclosed and, for the first time, also found the illegal software in one of the carmaker's high-end Porsche models. The German carmaker disputed the claims, however, saying it had not installed defeat software on the models in question that would 'alter emissions characteristics in a forbidden manner.' The company pledged in a short statement that it would cooperate with the E.P.A. 'to clarify the matter in its entirety.' The latest findings by environmental regulators put significant new pressure on Volkswagen and its new chief executive, Matthias Müller, who was previously the head of Volkswagen's Porsche division. E.P.A. officials indicated the latest violations were found during testing performed by federal regulators and their counterparts in California and Canada. The implication is that Volkswagen did not provide the information."

How Tesla's Autopilot and Google's Car Are Entirely Different Animals (robohub.org) 142

Hallie Siegel writes: Developers and futurologists have long talked of two paths to autonomous cars: the incremental path (where autonomous features such as adaptive cruise control, autonomous parking etc are slowly added to make the car increasingly autonomous) and the revolutionary path that abandons the human driver altogether — the Google car approach. Robocar expert Brad Templeton compares Tesla's latest autopilot technology to the approach Google is taking, explaining why some people think autonomous cars are still decades away, while others believe they are just around the corner.

Could the Volkswagen Cheating Scandal Improve Emissions Standards? (citiesofthefuture.eu) 144

dkatana writes: An article in Cities of the Future suggests that the "automaker's emissions scandal could end up being a boon if it pushes governments and the industry to reassess diesel's impact more honestly and move away from it altogether." The article also asks the European Union to accelerate the introduction of new emissions standards, currently slated to take effect in September 2018, and to order mandatory recalls for all the vehicles affected, as Germany has. It points out that some drivers could refuse to have their cars "fixed" out of fear that the diesel engine will lose gas efficiency and power output.

Universities, Gov't Testing Magnetic Resonance Charging For EVs In Transit (computerworld.com) 77

Lucas123 writes: At least two universities are testing the use of magnetic resonance and mobile receivers to charge electric vehicles while they're on roadways. Partially funded by a multi-million dollar DOE grant, Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research has been testing stationary wireless vehicle charging and is now preparing to test mobile wireless recharging for vehicles.In the U.K., the government is expected to perform off-road trials of dynamic wireless charging that it acquired from researchers at North Carolina State University. The idea behind dynamic wireless charging is to create a series of embedded highway stations that can incrementally recharge EV carrying mobile receivers as the vehicles drive by. The vehicles would use a Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) technology to communicate with roadway chargers. DSRC can support both stationary wireless charging and in-motion wireless charging with the same system architecture. DSRC is already being used in crash avoidance systems and is expected to be required over the next five years, so the charging technology could piggyback on the DSRC modules already installed.

Stanford's Autonomous DeLorean Can't Time Travel, But It Can Do Donuts (stanford.edu) 28

Zothecula jumps on the "Back To the Future Day" bandwagon with this news about Stanford's experimental DeLorean. Gizmag reports: "It doesn't have a flux capacitor and may not be able to travel through time like its inspiration in the 1985 feature Back to the Future, but Stanford University's converted DeLorean Multiple Actuator Research Test bed for Yaw (MARTY) can cut some wicked donuts without the aid of a driver. The creation of professor of mechanical engineering Chris Gerdes and his students, the autonomous, electric, drifting automotive research vehicle is part of a student-driven research project into the physical limits of autonomous driving that aims to improve the safe operation of self-driving cars under all conditions."

Charge Rage: Electric Cars Are Making People Meaner In California 554

HughPickens.com writes: Matt Richtel reports that the push to make the state greener with electric cars is having an unintended side effect: It is making some people meaner. The bad moods stem from the challenges drivers face finding recharging spots for their battery-powered cars. Unlike gas stations, charging stations are not yet in great supply, and that has led to sharp-elbowed competition. According to Richtel, electric-vehicle owners are unplugging one another's cars, trading insults, and creating black markets and side deals to trade spots in corporate parking lots. The too-few-outlets problem is a familiar one in crowded cafes and airports, where people want to charge their phones or laptops. But the need can be more acute with cars — will their owners have enough juice to make it home? — and manners often go out the window. "Cars are getting unplugged while they are actively charging, and that's a problem," says Peter Graf. "Employees are calling and messaging each other, saying, 'I see you're fully charged, can you please move your car?'"

The problem is that installation of electric vehicle charging ports at some companies has not kept pace with soaring demand, creating thorny etiquette issues in the workplace. German software company SAP installed 16 electric vehicle charging ports in 2010 at its Palo Alto campus for the handful of employees who owned electric vehicles. Now there are far more electric cars than chargers. Sixty-one of the roughly 1,800 employees on the campus now drive a plug-in vehicle, overwhelming the 16 available chargers. And as demand for chargers exceeds supply, there have been notorious incidents of "charge rage." Companies are finding that they need one charging port for every two of their employees' electric vehicles. "If you don't maintain a 2-to-1 ratio, you are dead," said ChargePoint CEO Pat Romano. "Having two chargers and 20 electric cars is worse than having no chargers and 20 electric cars. If you are going to do this, you have to be willing to continue to scale it."

Hundreds of Southwest Flights Delayed By Online Booking Problems 36

An anonymous reader writes: A technology problem delayed hundreds of Southwest Airlines flights Sunday while the airline checked-in passengers manually at airports. Around 300 flights had been delayed as of Sunday afternoon. In a statement on its website, Southwest said intermittent technical issues "are impacting website performance in creating new bookings and requiring us to process some customers manually as they arrive for travel."

Volkswagen Boss Blames Software Engineers For Scandal (bbc.co.uk) 479

hattig writes: Today VW's Michael Horn is testifying to Congress and has blamed the recent scandal on engineers saying: "It's the decision of a couple of software engineers, not the board members." However, 530,000 cars in the U.S. will need to be recalled for significant engine modifications, not a software fix. Only 80,000 Passats are eligible for the software fix. There is no word on the effects these modifications will have on the cars' performance, fuel consumption, etc. The BBC reports: "The issue of defeat devices at VW has been a historic problem, points out a Congress panel member questioning VW US chief Michael Horn. In 1974, VW had a run-in with US authorities regarding the use of defeat devices in 1974, and in December 2014 it recalled cars to address nox emissions."

If it's worth hacking on well, it's worth hacking on for money.