Even More Evidence That Electric Cars Could Save the Planet

Everyone’s saying it: The future of driving is electric. The big-name car companies have plans to start devoting Tesla some tough competition. Jaguar’s I-Pace electric SUV will be on sale soon, and Porsche is taunting a new conception Mission E Cross Turismo, which looks like an SUV’d Panamera( in a good way ). And normal cars for regular people are going the same way. Blended, Ford and GM plan to offer 34 full electric models in the next five years.

Add to that cities or even whole countries talking about banning sales of cars powered by internal combustion engines: Norway( by 2025 ), India( by 2030 ), France and the UK( 2040 ). China, the world’s largest car market, has considered the idea, and in the meantime has imposed some of the planet’s most stringent environmental standards.

All this change comes in the name of environmental protection, eliminating the pollutants that stimulate cities gross and unhealthy and the CO 2 that contributes to global climate change. Instead, have the people drive battery-powered electric cars, the kind without exhaust pipes and that run emissions free. But the energy to charge the things has to come from somewhere. And if that place starts with burning coal, for example, then how green is your electric car, truly?

The Union of Concerned Scientists has just crunched the latest numbers to find the answer. The outcomes depend on where in the US you live and drive, but in general battery boosters can breathe easy.

“For the US overall, an electric vehicle is much cleaner than a gasoline vehicle, even when you take into account the emissions from natural gas, coal, or however else you’re generating the electricity, ” says Dave Reichmuth, a senior technologist in the nonprofit’s clean vehicles program. And as the electric grid moves away from dirty fuel sources, the gap is widen. The UCS study appears beyond driving-related emissions to consider the entire supply chain that goes into stimulating vehicles run. For the gas guys, that means all the emissions links with extracting crude oil are included. For electrics, the UCS employs power plant emissions data regarding the EPA, and includes the environmental cost of mining coal, for example. Because different chunks of the country build power in different ways, research results vary by region.

To put everything on the same scale, the researchers turned their computations into a familiar format: miles per gallon. An electric car driver in renewable-happy California is doing as much damage to the environment as a gas automobile that gets 109 miles per gallon. In Texas, that number drops to 60 mpg. In the center of the country, around Illinois and Missouri, it’s only 39 mpg. Nationwide, under this system, electric cars make the same emissions as automobiles that get 80 mpg–making them several times cleaner than the average economy of regular automobiles, which hovers around 28 mpg.

The impact of electric vehicles depends on how that energy is generated, which varies by region.

Union of Concerned Scientists

In 2009, when the UCS started running these figures, an electric car in California would get only 78 mpg. In Kansas and Colorado, they’d be luck to make 35 — now those areas have jumped to 46 mpg. Credit the increase to the country’s shift away from coal, which in 2009 induced half the nation’s electricity, and now makes about a third, and toward renewables, which now account for 10 percentage of electricity generation. “Even use EVs that are out there are getting cleanser over period, and that doesn’t happen with a gas car, ” Reichmuth says.

The engineer stresses that his figures are based on the average electric car, but all EVs are not created equal. A big, heavy electric SUV won’t get as many miles from its electrons as a small, aerodynamic auto. Reichmuth says the most efficient automobiles are currently the Hyundai Ioniq EV, the Tesla Model 3, and the Toyota Prius Prime( when it’s in electric-only mode ). Driving one of those vehicles would equate to getting 147 mpg in California.

The global scene isn’t quite so clear, but the same principles is only applicable. If the bulk of your energy production comes from coal( looking at you, India, Russia, and China ), then driving an electric car won’t bringing the same benefits. Norway, on the other hand, with 98 percent renewable energy generation, builds California look like a smog-covered dump.

If you live in a coal country but want your electric habit to make a bigger change, consider pairing your auto with rooftop solar panel. Tesla sells fancy solar roof tiles and home battery storage solutions; Mercedes also offers a home battery. And so America’s driving habit gets ever cleaner, from generation to acceleration.

Charge Accounts

If you’re thinking of buying an electric car, you’re about to get a lot more choices. 2018 is the year conceptions start hitting the market as real vehicles.

There are still issues around power supply. EVs could destroy the grid, or fix it.

But don’t rule out gas engines just yet–engineers are determined to attain them more and more efficient.

In 2021, this Ford won’t have a steering wheel or pedals

Ford Fusion Hybrid self-driving test vehicle .
Image: Ford Motor Company

If you thought Google’s steering wheel-less Prototype automobiles were a vision of a far-off future, you’re in for a astound. That’s because Ford Motor Company announced Tuesday that in the year 2021, it will have a high-volume, fully autonomous vehicle for ride sharing available not just to luxury customers but to everyone.

What’s more, the vehicle won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedals: it will be fully autonomous.

Ford’s fully autonomous car will fall under Level 4 autonomy on the Society of Automotive Engineers( SAE) international standard for automated driving. For comparison, Tesla’s Autopilot and Mercedes’ Drive Pilot are Level 2 autonomy.

Generally, Level 4 has been defined by an autonomous car’s ability to drive itself in some environments, like on freeway onramps or during low-speed traffic jams. Instead, Ford is defining Level 4 a bit differently for its yet-unnamed 2021 vehicle autonomous vehicle.

The fully autonomous Ford will be able to handle all driving duties in a predetermined area an area that’s already been mapped with high-definition 3D technology.

The Ford won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedals

That means you won’t be allowed to hail a ride from one of these cars and run anywhere merely in the areas the Ford has been programmed to run. However, where it does take you, it’ll be able to handle anything the world can throw at it. Or, at least, it better. Because you can’t intervene in the driving at all.

This leads us to the second part of Ford’s announcement: its further investment in four companies championing technologies key to fully automated driving.

Ford announced earlier Tuesday that it has invested in Velodyne, a light detecting and ranging( LiDAR) sensor producer based in Silicon Valley. LiDAR has long been seen as a key component in a fully autonomous vehicle. Ford also acquired SAIPS, an Israeli company working with AI and deep computer learn, which, too, will help its automobiles handle any situation they may encounter.

An exclusive licensing agreement has also been announced between Ford and Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC, which will help Ford’s autonomous cars identify objects on the road. Lastly, Ford has invested in Civil Maps, a Berkeley-based company pioneering 3D mapping tech the tech that will be the key to the vehicle’s Level 4 independence rating.

Ford Fusion Hybrid self-driving test vehicle.

Image: Ford Motor Company

Although five years seems far off, for Ford, it’s a blink of an eye. That’s OK because the carmaker has been working on autonomous driving for more than 10 years and it has a lot more to accomplish in the next five.

By the end of this year, for example, Ford will have the largest autonomous test vehicle fleet of any automaker. In fact, it will have around 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans on the roads in California, Arizona and Michigan.

In conjunction with that expansion of its autonomous driving fleet and its tech investments, Ford is also doubling the size of its Palo Alto campus.

Of course, since the promised vehicle is five years off, Ford has not chose what platform the fully autonomous auto will ride on. Nor has it determined whether it will be a sedan, hatchback or SUV. Moreover, Ford isn’t sure whether its fully autonomous vehicle is likely to be powered by a gasoline, hybrid or fully electric powertrain.

Intriguingly, those aren’t the only unknowns with this project. Ford isn’t sure how it will offer the ride-sharing vehicle to customers, be it through the FordPass app or with another ride-sharing platform. Clearly, there’s a lot of details to be worked out in the next half decade.

While the fully autonomous Ford will start off as a ride-share-only vehicle, as the costs of the technology comes down, it’s plausible that you might be able to buy one for yourself. The tech begs the issues to, though: Would you even require or want to own a self-driving automobile?

No matter, though, in just five years, you’ll probably be able to hail a ride in one whether you own it or not.

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Faraday Future might be in even bigger difficulty than we supposed

Can the automaker deliver in the midst of disagreement ?
Image: Lance Ulanoff/ mashable

At CES 2017, Faraday Futurewas one of the biggest draws.

The upstart automaker devoted the first buzzy( if not a bit nauseating) presentation of the demonstrate when it unveiled the FF 91, complete with a record violating 0 to 60 mph acceleration down a test track.

It was an exciting moment up until the event, the public had never seen anything close to a working production vehicle. While the autonomous system reached a few snags during its own demo, this was the first proof the automaker might be able to fulfill its initial promise to challenge Tesla’s reign as the preeminent name in the all-electric car space.

But if a report published today by Business Insider must therefore be believed, it was all a charade “ve been meaning to” distract from the company’s impending implosion. Representatives for Faraday Future and its partner/ backer LeEco, the Chinese electronics company, called the report “speculation” and dedicated no further comment.

According to the report, which quotes eight “executives” said to have intimate knowledge of Faraday Future’s business, the company is apparently “in shamblings, ” being abandoned by executive-level the workers and facing a shortage of cash in the face of mounting debts.

Faraday’s executive and fiscal woes aren’t exactly news but the scope of the company’s problems, especially after the FF91 debut, could be.

BI claims that many of Faraday’s issues stem from the disconnect between Chinese investor Jia Yueting’s LeEco team and its US-based executives. According to one of the sources, the style the automaker is being treated by Yueting induces it more of “a subsidiary” than a standalone priority.

The one surefire route the company could stay afloat “wouldve been” success of the its FF91 car.

“If they can’t figure out a route to get the money out of China in the next 60 days, the suppliers would basically force them into bankruptcy, ” one of the sources told BI .

The one surefire way the company could stay afloat “wouldve been” success of the its FF91 car. However, the company says it won’t ship until 2018.

One source told BI even that timeline was highly unlikely, calling the demo of the car “a bunch of bulls-.”

Still, the FF91 turned a lot of heads at CES, so and things seemed even better when Faraday announced it received more than 64, 000 preoders for the car following the show.

But the company didn’t disclose the breakdown of those reservations anyone preordering could do so without putting any fund down, although Faraday offered a “priority” sign-up that required a $5,000 deposit. Faraday has not disclosed how many priority orders it received, but research reports claims that real number is comically low: Merely 60 people submitted a paid reservation.

When reached for comment by Mashable about the reservation numbers and BI ‘s other claims, a Faraday Future rep had nothing to share. “We are unable to provide specific details with regards to reservation type, ” he said via email. “The specific number mentioned in the BI article came from an anonymous source and therefore we cannot comment onspeculation.”

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Brilliant New Headlights Use a Million Pixels to Talk to the World

For the most part, digital technology is all about dumping things that move. Complex engines are giving way to simpler computer-controlled electric motors. Mirrorless cameras no longer “re going to have to” flip mirrors out of the way to take photos, the style DSLR’s do. In the burgeoning lidar laser-sensor business, developers are espousing solid state systems that do away with all that spinning. CD players pulling music tracks from spinning disc? Adios.

So it’s perhaps astounding that one of the flashier automotive innovations that debuted at CES this week centres not just on moving parts but on millions of the things. In Las Vegas, Texas Instruments( which builds style more than those big calculators) unveiled a headlight system that adapts the company’s digital lighting processing technology to produce rays that can be precisely controlled via more than a million addressable pixels.

This system, so far deployed mostly in cinema and showing projectors, runs thanks to tiny moveable “micromirrors” that flip as many as 10,000 hours a second, to either reflect light through a projection lens, generating a white pixel, or onto a black absorption surface in order to create a black pixel. It’s like turning each pixel on or off. The result is a new, smarter kind of headlight, one you can program to show the way without blinding oncoming drivers, or even project text, graphics, or animations onto the road ahead.( The company employed CES to hawk the chipset that allows for this programming, known as DLP5 531 -Q1, to automakers and their lighting suppliers .)

Texas Instruments doesn’t have a monopoly on digitally programmable headlight technology–Audi unveiled a similar laser-based system last year–but it promises the highest resolution offering so far. Plus, its system works with any light source, so you don’t “re going to have to” dump more common LED illuminates for the fancier laser tech.

The clearest immediate use case here is the opportunity to keep the high-beams shining even as other vehicles approach from the opposite direction. The system will track the oncoming car’s headlights via an onboard camera, and dim the bit of its own lightings aiming that way, following the car as it gets closer. This tech could also work in conjunction with vehicle sensors to spotlight things that demand the driver’s attention, like roadside signs or animals about to dash into the road.

Eventually, these headlights could become essential for autonomous automobiles. “The chipset was developed to support adaptive driving ray headlight systems, but is capable of being programed to project information on the road, ” says Brian Ballard, TI’s exterior lighting director. A driverless automobile won’t have hands to tell that human awaiting at the curb that it’s safe to cross the street. Headlights that can project a crosswalk, or even write out “Go for it !, ” could fill the communication gap and encourage the public to accept these crash-preventing vehicles onto their streets.

TI says its( in so far unnamed) automotive clients are already integrating the tech into their headlights, but don’t expect to see it on US roads anytime soon. These adaptive driving ray systems aren’t legal in the United States, because a very dusty regulation demands automobiles have separate light sources for high and low beams–TI’s system combines them( same for Audi’s laser setup ). As with most bureaucracy, the path to updating or killing that rule is arduous, necessitating manufacturers prove this is essential security technology for new cars.

So while we’re thrilled by the prospect of broadcasting the words “Get out of the left lane! ” onto the road ahead for slow-moving automobiles to find( reversed so it’s legible in mirrors, of course ), the best instance will likely be the improved visibility that doesn’t have to be compromised just because someone else is on the road. We’ll take that too.

Car Talk

Mazda’s idea to induce driving more fun could keep us all safe GM will launch self-driving cars without steering wheels or pedals in 2019 Tesla’s latest Chinese competitor takes screens to the extreme

An Open Source Startup Dies as Mapping Gets Hotter Than Ever

For at least one startup, 2018 opened with a thud. On Tuesday, the open source mapping company Mapzen announced it would shut down at the end of the month, with its hosted APIs and support services running darknes on February 1.

That’s a real pain for Mapzen users, whose ranks include civic tech organisations like Code for America, app developers, and government agencies like the Portland-area transportation agency TriMet. And it’s a bummer for those who contributed to Mapzen’s wide-ranging data sets, which included detailed info on public transport.

While Mapzen’s products building on openly licensed data from OpenStreetMap, it adds valuable software tools to the mixture for those who don’t know how to build their own or don’t have the time.


The good news is that, in some way, Mapzen’s founders constructed it to fail. “Part of the rules with Mapzen is that everything is open source and we only deal with open data, ” says CEO Randy Meech. “Luckily, we’re staffed to help people stand things up on their own.” Users now have T minus 28 days to grab the info there is a requirement to( or get Mapzen’s help to do it) and upload it to their own data portals, maintaining it free and accessible.

In a statement, TriMet spokesperson Tia York said the company’s close would have “no negative impact” on its ongoing, federally-funded project that used Mapzen’s Pelias Geocoder to help convert postal address to a phase on the Earth’s map. “The Pelias Geocoder is open source software, with a significant community; therefore worldwide utilize of, improvements to, and maintenance of Pelias is expected to flourish as an open source project, ” York said.

At this point, the company’s coroner’s report is thin. Meech would not comment on the reason for the shuttering. The company is owned by a Samsung subsidiary focused on the investigations and is funded by the South Korean company’s incubator. We do know that running a mapping company ain’t cheap. While Mapzen’s products building on openly licensed data from OpenStreetMap, it adds valuable software tools to the mix for those who don’t know how to build their own or don’t have the time. Its tools help developers build aesthetically pleasing maps and equip them with search and routing services, while its staff curates, publishes, and makes data. It’s possible Samsung simply decided it didn’t have the money to compete or that it wasn’t worth the price tag.

Don’t, however, expect Mapzen to be the cartographic canary. Mapping continues to be very hot space. Observe: a alliance of German carmakers’ 2015 acquisition of the Nokia mapping company HERE for a reported $2.7 billion. And Uber’s reported $500 million investment in technology that could free it from Google’s services. And the $164 million Softbank-led funding round for fellow open source mapping company Mapbox, which closed in October. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the number of cartography jobs in the US will balloon by nearly 20 percent between 2016 and 2026.

“This is certainly the hottest mapping has ever been, ” says Mapzen CEO Randy Meech.


These services are lucrative because many, many kinds of companies and governments need locational data and ways to organize it. Your favorite restaurant’s website probably has an embedded map on its website. Your favorite researcher may have integrated a specially-built maps into their latest paper. Your favorite car company definitely has( or should have) maps and routing services in its in-car navigation systems.( An entire unit of Mapzen that services Tesla’s in-car routing system has picked up and endeavoured to Mapbox, where its handful of employees will work on similar projects. Tesla did not respond to a request for remark .)

Burgeoning augmented-reality tech requires locational services to operate. And your self-driving automobile company leans heavily on unbelievably detailed digital maps to guide vehicles without drivers.

No wonder it’s an expensive sector to break into. “You only have to build a really serious and deep team to pull it off, ” says Alex Barth, Mapbox’s vice president of business development. Here, open sourcers compete with established players like TomTom, Here, and Google, which all use their own fleets of sensor-studded vehicles to map and remap roads all over the world with precision.

“This is certainly the hottest mapping has ever been, ” Meech says. He’s confident his soon to be ex-employees will do just fine, working on similar projects for other attires. “Just the sheer volume of recruiting from different companies and outreach from people, it’s mind-boggling.” In the meantime, keep your eye on where you are. It’s worth a lot of money.

Road Maps

Google’s new Street View cameras will help algorithm index the world Cartography stages a comeback Your next gig? Map the street for self-driving autoes

Chevrolet cuts 4G LTE data plan pricing for its vehicles in half

The 2015 GMC Canyon with an eight-inch-diagonal color touch screen radio that’s standard on SLE and SLT and GMC IntelliLink infotainment system.
Image: General Motors

Chevrolet was the first automaker to add 4G LTE connectivity to every model in its lineup. And now, just in time for the Fourth of July, the American automaker is cutting its data plan pricing virtually in half.

The Wi-Fi hotspot generated from the vehicle’s 4G data connection can support up to seven devices at once. Chevrolet brags it has sold more than 2.1 million vehicles with LTE connectivity since June 2014.

The brand now offers four distinct data plans. At the low end, buyers can choose 1 gigabyte per month for $10 per month down from $20 per month. At the top end, customers can step up from 10 GB for 12 months plan to 20 GB, for the same price of $150.

Although 4G data acceptance has been successful, in fact a majority of the brand’s large SUV drivers use their in-vehicle hotspots, Chevy is keen to make the data plans more accessible and usage wider spread.

Personally, I wish every car had 4G LTE. I can’t recall how many times I’ve been riding shotgun in a friend’s car, trying to get some work done and wishing I had some Wi-Fi. Shoot, maybe I should just breakdown and buy a Chevy after all.

BONUS: Testing out the 2016 Chevy Cruze’s 4G LTE Wi-Fi

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

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Volkswagen I.D. electric car to have a 373 -mile range when it arrives in 2020

After it was discovered in September 2015 that Volkswagen doctored its cars’ diesel engines to give false reads in emissions tests a costly mistake known as the Dieselgate scandal the company had no choice but to thoroughly change its strategy.

And change it it did: The company simply unveiled its an all-new, fully electric car, the Volkswagen I.D.

The car was teased with a few promo pictures a few weeks ago, and the company presented a prototype at the Paris Motor Show on Wednesday and exposed a few key facts. It’s a roughly Golf-sized hatchback with a 125 kW electric motor with zero emissions. It’s Volkswagen’s first automobile to be based on the company’s Modular Electric Drive( MEB) architecture, which should make better employ of space than the company’s current hybrid models. It will have an impressive, but currently quite vague range; Volkswagen says it’ll be “up to 600 kilometers”( 373 miles ).

It’s no wonder, however, that Volkswagen doesn’t are extremely exact numbers at this phase, as the I.D. is slated to hit the roads in 2020. Volkswagen has plans for the I.D. even further down the road: the company claims the car will be fully autonomous in “I.D. Pilot” mode in 2025.

As for the cost, Volkswagen says it will have a price on the level of today’s Golf Diesel with comparable power. That’s less than $30,000 in the U.S ., though we don’t know whether that’s before or after tax credit.

Although 2020 seems far away, there aren’t that many affordable electric cars with a 200+ mile scope around. In fact, I can only think of one, the recently announced Chevy Bolt, which expenses $37,450( before tax credit) and will arrive at Chevy dealership later this year. Tesla’s Model 3, which is expected to have a 215 -mile range and a $35,000 cost( before tax credit ), should start shipping in late 2017. Whether Volkswagen is able to back up its bold asserts about pricing and range is another matter; it certainly has time to work on the I.D ., but by then, it’s likely that Tesla, Chevrolet and others will already be depicting second or third iterations of their fully electric, affordable household cars.

In its press release from the Paris Motor Show, Volkswagen also mentioned a automobile that’s far closer to production, a new generation of its e-Golf. It will have a 300 km( 186 miles) zero-emission range and gesture control when it launchings in November.

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Apple co-founder is flinging his Tesla for the Chevy Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Image: Chevrolet

If you think the Tesla Model S is the only EV good enough for tech royalty like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, you might want to reconsider your stance.

That’s because, in agreement with the Woz’s confirmed Facebook page, he’s planning to trade in his Model S for the forthcoming Chevrolet Bolt EV.

The Woz famously bought a Model S after Elon Musk chided the Apple co-founder in an email for buying a gas-powered vehicle. And although the Woz made the passed over to pure electric with his $100,000 -plus Tesla, he’s not inevitably one for luxury.

In fact, the keen eyes at Electrek highlighted Woz’s explain for his plan to switch over to the mass-market Bolt EV from the decidedly upmarket Model S 😛 TAGEND

Knowing myself, it may replace the Tesla. A plenty of complaints about the Tesla that my wife and I have are solved in this vehicle. It’s not just some name where you have to take a side. The user conveniences are well thought out and the functionality is great. I tell everyone that the most valuable, useful auto of my life was the Prius that I drove for 10 years. I don’t need top-of-the-line luxury. We have a Tesla but there is no other EV choice that’s good for road trips. The Bolt will need some personal testing by Janet and myself to find out how it is on road journeys. Otherwise, it’s what we want. Extra features aren’t the big picture, or we’d have skipped the Tesla for a Mercedes.

This should prove a great instance for those waiting patiently( for who knows how long) for Tesla’s mass-market Model 3. Not only will Chevy’s Bolt EV have a 200 -plus mile range, it solves grievances owneds have with Teslas at least in agreement with the Woz.

So, if you want a great, affordable long-range EV and don’t want to suffer the unknown wait for the Model 3, Bolt EVs reached showrooms afterwards this year.

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This Electric Truck Will Probably Beat Teslas to Market

On the evening of Nov. 16, Elon Musk unveiled the most recent prop in his Tony Stark cosplay. Tesla Inc .‘s all-electric semi rig met all the classic Musk product launch criteria: It appeared stunning, had unprecedented performance numbers, included features straight out of science fiction, and would arrive at some unknown date at a too-good-to-be-true price from a still-to-be-built assembly line.

Ten miles from the cramped Los Angeles airport hangar where thousands of Muskovites were swooning, a 25 -year-old named Dakota Semler watched the performance on his telephone, flung a piece of sushi into his mouth, and shrugged. Semler, you ensure, has an all-electric semi of his own, a matte-black curvaceous truck known for now as the ET1. It’s the first vehicle from his startup, Thor Trucks, which hopes to grab a tiny slice of the 940,000 -unit-a-year market for semis and go after short-haul trucks, delivery vans, and work vehicles. Like Tesla’s rig, the ET1 is meant to bring cleaner-running transportation to heavy industry without sacrificing performance. And like Tesla’s, it’s a head-turner.” Everyone thinks we’ve built a Transformer ,” says Semler, Thor’s chief executive officer.

Semler and his 17 employees must contend with extremely long odds, but dramatic advances in battery technology, electric motors, and control software have attained electric trucks more practical. While electric trucks will cost more upfront than diesel guzzlers, Tesla, Thor, and a handful of others suddenly have the range and horsepower to argue that customers will come out ahead in the long term, thanks to lower gasoline and upkeep expenses. Electric vehicles, of course, also pollute less, a serious consideration as cities and states prepare legislation aimed at phasing out dirtier diesel.

Working at his family’s businesses, a military-electronics supplier and a vineyard, helped result Semler to electric trucks.

Photographer: Angie Smith for Bloomberg Businessweek

As Semler drives the ET1 around Hollywood, gawkers whip out their telephones to take photos. The heavy-duty semi, which has a 22 -inch touchscreen on its dashboard and a winged black logo splashed across its grille, uses a beach-ball-size electric motor and a couple of big battery packs to carry as much as 80,000 pounds of shipment, the industry standard for the highest class of truck. When it starts shipping in 2019, the ET1 will have a $150,000 starting price tag and a 300 -mile range, meaning it’ll compete with medium-duty delivery trucks.

With a looking straight out of spoiled-Malibu-kid central casting, Semler doesn’t scream trucking magnate. He grew up in the family business: one, a supplier of military electronics; the other, the Malibu Wines vineyard.” When I was 7, I’d work in shipping and pack boxes at the electronics factory, and then over the summers I’d shovel manure at the vineyard ,” he says. By the time he was a teen, he’d overseen the development of a line of decorative wine barrels and converted the vineyard’s diesel trucks to run on garbage vegetable oil. At 21, Semler began operating safari tours at Malibu Wines, offering people a chance to sip wine while driving next to zebras, giraffes, and water buffaloes obtained from sanctuaries and private collections.

Managing the dozens of vehicles at the vineyard resulted Semler to electric trucks. He’d dealt with California’s exacting regulations for diesel emissions and could see more kerbs coming, earlier today last year he started retrofitting a diesel semi rig in the back of his family’s 30,000 -square-foot North Hollywood warehouse for electronics equipment. Not far away from pilings of Vietnam War-era radios and antennae, there’s now a large open space where the Thor team works.

The small team is working to customize clients’ fleets according to their specifications.

Photographer: Angie Smith for Bloomberg Businessweek

For the moment, the startup is more of a vehicle customizer than a true manufacturer. It rends the diesel motor and pertained innards out of an existing vehicle and replaces them with an electric motor and batteries. Thor has focused on doing its own battery-pack the investigations and manufacturing to cram hundreds of small lithium ion batteries into a tight, safe receptacle, and its software engineers write applications that maximize the packs’ charging abilities and life spans. Look around the Thor warehouse, and you’ll assure UPS-style trucks and extended-body pickups awaiting adjustment. The goal, according to Semler, is to work on a one-off basis, customizing clients’ fleets per their specifications.

Semler’s enthusiasm is infectious. He’s funded Thor with his own fund( he won’t say how much) and hired technologists from places such as Boeing Co ., electric-car maker Faraday& Future Inc ., and Chinese electrics leader BYD Auto Co . But Thor is trying to become a bespoke electric-vehicle maker at a time when the biggest names and fattest billfolds in trucking are pouring fund into the market. And bearing in mind the fact that neither Semler nor his co-founder, Giordano Sordoni, has an engineering background, it seems less like a company than a dreaming.” There’s a propensity to simplify the truck market and think there will be one winner here ,” Semler says.” The reality is that there are all kinds of run trucks, and we’re designing a type of transportation lab be adapted to all of these .”

A small team working speedily stands a decent opportunity of carving out a niche, says Mike Britt, who expended 30 years at United Parcel Service Inc . handling the maintenance of its trucking fleets and working on alternative-fuel vehicles.” The big trucking companies only aren’t quite as nimble ,” says Britt, who now operates MG Britt Consulting Inc.” UPS utilized many small startups to construct 200 to 2,000 alternative-fuel vehicles. It’s when you start to ramp above those numbers, and need real production expertise and facilities, that things could get trickier for Thor .”

More Tesla Batteries Plug Into Hurricane-Wrecked Puerto Rico

Two months after Puerto Rico’s governor took to Twitter and challenged Tesla Inc . Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk to” show the world the power and scalability” of his batteries, the U.S. province announced that six of the company’s energy storage systems have been installed on the islands of Vieques and Culebra.

The Powerwall divisions have been paired with solar to supply energy to homes and business that were plunged into darkness after Hurricane Maria tore through the region nearly three months ago, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said in an emailed statement Tuesday. Virtually the entire island lost service after the blizzard devastated its electricity grid. Tesla, which now has seven Powerwall systems in the territory, installed the latest packs as” a humanitarian effort ,” the governor’s office said.