Public electric vehicles chargers need to be better than they are, Elon Musk is walking back the Tesla job cuts he announced Friday and Mercedes-Benz has a big recall on its hands. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Monday, June 6, 2022.
Roughly 23 percent of 657 DC fast-charging public EV charging stations around the San Francisco Bay Area were deemed nonfunctional, according to a recent study carried out by University of California, Berkeley researchers. That works out to 151 terminals. From Automotive News:
The study, conducted between Feb. 12 and March 7, examined charging stations in and around San Francisco. The researchers deemed a charging point was functioning if it was able to charge for two minutes, or if a station was occupied by an EV that was being actively charged.
According to the researchers, 73 percent of DC fast charging points were considered functional, while 23 percent were deemed “not functional.” Almost 5 percent were considered to have a “station design failure” because the charging cable could not reach the vehicle’s charging port.
Common problems included failures with the station’s payment system, a failure to begin charging, error messages displayed on screen and blank or unresponsive screens, according to the researchers.
Rempel said Berkeley’s findings corroborate other recent surveys that showed reliability to be a concern for many DC fast charger users.
This comes as the U.S. Government has pledged to invest $5 billion in building out a national EV charging network by 2027, starting with $600 million in 2022. As part of that process, the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation — a new department minted following the passage of last year’s big infrastructure bill — will issue minimum requirements for EV chargers. States will have to submit their plans and ensure those standards are met if they want to receive funding.
States have until Aug. 1 to submit EV infrastructure plans to the office, which will begin approving plans by Sept. 30 and start to distribute funds, according to a government website.
“The next few months are really critical for the whole process of building a reliable EV infrastructure,” Rempel said. “The auto OEMs should be very aware of this process and ensure that reliability is high, and know that there is a system there to ensure that happens.”
It is not yet clear what standards the joint office, created by the U.S. Energy and Transportation departments following the passage of last year’s infrastructure bill, will adopt.
According to the California Air Resources Board, four EV charging station operators have claimed national uptime averaging between 95 and 98 percent. The numbers could indeed work out differently in the Bay Area, where there are proportionally more EVs than there might be in, say, Chicago. At the same time, providers’ own criteria and methodology for determining uptime isn’t clear, and station design failures were not accounted for. These are all considerations that will have to be addressed if we’re ever going to reach whatever this week’s projection is for the percentage of EVs we’ll all supposedly be driving by 2030.
Look, it’s a big job running the world’s most popular EV maker and ejecting random, unsubstantiated shit into the ether, so please forgive Tesla CEO Elon Musk for stating in an internal email that he was planning on cutting 10 percent of jobs over a “bad feeling” about the economy on Friday. Rather, “total headcount will increase” over the next year as “salaried should be fairly flat,” per a tweet by Musk on Saturday:
Tesla’s share price slid by 9 percent on Friday amid that leaked email and Musk’s proclamation that all Tesla employees will need to be in a physical office for at least 40 hours a week, because companies that don’t require that sort of presence haven’t “shipped a great new product” in “a while.” Personally I’m curious which companies Musk was specifically referencing there; I’m going to assume one was Apple.
One million Mercedes-Benz vehicles — specifically the ML-, GL- and R-Class (remember the R-Class?) — have been recalled globally for brake booster issues, the manufacturer quietly announced over the weekend. All of the cars were manufactured between 2004 and 2015. From Reuters:
“We have found that in some of those vehicles, the function of the brake booster could be affected by advanced corrosion in the joint area of the housing,” Mercedes-Benz said in a statement.
This could result in an increase in the brake pedal force needed to decelerate the vehicle and/or to a potentially increased stopping distance, it added.
Mercedes-Benz is starting the recall immediately.
This would be especially concerning in an R63 AMG — a car whose existence is unimaginable coming from any brand other than Mercedes-Benz.
Startup Solid Power Inc. is now pumping out prototype solid-state batteries for BMW and Ford from its Louisville plant, per a profile on the company published by Automotive News. These sorts of articles always seem premature, but Solid Power at least has the support of two established automakers, and counts wider tech industry players like Samsung as backers.
Solid Power reached another milepost Monday, unveiling a fully operational production line that’s now producing sulfide-based battery cells at the company’s headquarters outside of Boulder, Colo.
Solid Power says the cells will initially be used for internal testing and that it is capable of producing 300 cells per week. Prototypes are expected to be delivered to Ford and BMW by the end of the year. While it’s too early for set plans, Solid Power says it is targeting the start of mass production in 2026 for battery cells that would support vehicles in 2027.
Starting production represents a concrete step in eventually reaching that scale with solid-state batteries that automakers hope can deliver extended range – as much as 50 percent higher than what’s available from conventional lithium-ion batteries today – for car buyers who are buying EVs in greater quantity than ever before.
As that snippet says, we’re still quite a ways out from solid-state batteries being produced at scale for passenger cars. When they can be, though, they’ll supposedly bring us greater energy density, faster charging, improved thermal stability and a longer overall life for the pack.
On average 38 children die from being left in hot cars annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2021, 58 pets died for the same reason. Toyota is developing a system to change that trend, using radars mounted under the headliner. From Automotive News:
Unlike rear-seat occupant systems that employ sensors embedded into the seats or rear-facing cameras, Cabin Awareness uses a single radar emitter embedded under the headliner. The emitter can detect an infant breathing under a blanket or even an occupant on the floor or in the rear cargo area.
If the system detects life when the driver is not present, it begins an increasingly aggressive series of alerts: first flashing lights, then the vehicle horn and then texts to the owner’s cellphone. If the situation continues, Cabin Awareness pushes notifications to the owner’s smart home devices and can turn on the vehicle, start the HVAC system and open the windows to prevent suffocation. It will also automatically notify first responders.
Cabin Awareness was developed by Toyota Connected North America. It’s not offered in a vehicle yet, but remains in “active testing,” according to the division’s CEO, Zack Hicks, via a partnership with autonomous taxi startup May Mobility. Hopefully a consumer launch isn’t too far out.
On this day 89 years ago...
Not to be a downer, but I’ve been suffering from dry eye syndrome since last fall and I spent last night doom-scrolling through the relevant subreddit, reading the accounts of people who have been dealing with this issue way longer than I have, experience it way more severely and have lost hope. It sounds like a nothing disease but it is debilitating, especially if you like to drive! I hope you’re happy, healthy and your eyes are sufficiently moist.