Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.
For the longest time, Toyota has been forgoing fully-electric cars in favor of hybrid and hydrogen car development. Only recently has Toyota changed its tune and promised to get in on the whole EV game, and now it looks like the company is going balls-out.
Reuters cites Japanese daily newspaper Chunichi Shimbun, saying Toyota is actually working on a new type of battery that would give a future EV—scheduled for 2022—faster charging times and farther range.
Reuters reports that the new vehicle will sit on its own platform, and use “all-solid-state batteries,” which use solid electrolytes instead of liquid ones, making them potentially safer than current lithium-ion battery packs. In addition, the new technology promises to yield recharge times of “just a few minutes,” and Ars Technica also says there could be benefits in terms of battery size, weight, and low-temperature sensitivity.
According to Reuters, Kayo Doi, a Toyota spokeswoman—who wouldn’t comment about future vehicles—admitted that Toyota was indeed intending to “commercialize all-solid-state batteries” by the beginning of the 2020s.
So it appears that, even if Toyota is a little late to the EV game, the company is trying to make up for it with outright engineering brawn.
Volkswagen hopped on the struggle-bus in September, 2015, when it admitted to cheating emissions tests for millions of diesel vehicles worldwide. But even though that scandal has been costly, the automaker doesn’t appear to be down for the count.
In fact, in May, we covered a report from Reuters, which said VW was actually seeing higher operating profits thanks to improved “efficiency and productivity” as well as a focus on vehicles with higher profit margins.
Well, a few months have passed, and those improvements still seem to be paying dividends, with Reuters reporting that Volkswagen cranked up its 2017 sales forecast, and is now expecting revenue to “beat last year’s record 217 billion euros ($254 billion) by more than 4 percent.”
Even profits for the VW brand—the one that’s been hurt most by the whole diesel scandal—have gone up 12 percent to 907 million euros. This all sounds well and good, except for the fact that VW is in the middle of another scandal that will probably at some point be dubbed “Cartelgate” (because some journalists are unimaginative and just throw “gate” at the end of things). Who knows how this new scandal will affect the company, but Reuters’ NordLB analyst Frank Schwope says the fines are likely to total in the “single digit [billions].”
VW’s not out of the woods, yet.
3rd Gear: Ford Trucks Turn 100
On July 27, 1917, Ford launched its first legitimate pickup truck: the Model TT Truck, which was built right on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, Michigan.
Up until that point, pickup trucks had essentially just been modified passenger cars, but the Model TT really got Ford into the purpose-built truck segment. And now, 100 years later, those trucks—which were originally designed for farm use—have morphed into luxury machines that cost upwards of $50,000 in some cases.
But even if the definition of a pickup truck has changed, Ford’s sales have remained incredibly strong for decades to the point where the F-Series truck has been at the top of the U.S. sales charts for what seems like eternity.
You can read the full story of how Ford pickups have evolved over the last century on The Detroit Free Press.
4th Gear: Your Favorite Map App “Waze” Is Now On Android Auto
Waze—the “community-based mapping” app that uses crowdsourcing to give drivers real-time notice of speed traps, traffic, accidents and more—just launched for Android Auto.
What this means is that, instead of having to get one of those annoying suction cup mounts for your phone, you can actually use your car’s infotainment screen to operate your Waze navigation—that is, assuming you’ve got Android Auto in your car (like many new cars do).
The Verge decided to give Waze on Android Auto a try, and lauded it for its timely and accurate communication of road hazards and slowdowns—Waze’s bread and butter. On the downside, the site said the app was “finicky” with data connections, and that voice commands were inconsistent.
If you’re a taxi driver, or just someone who has to deal with congestion a lot, give it a try; it could be a godsend, especially if you’re tired of draining your phone’s battery trying to avoid police.
5th Gear: Tesla’s Got The Vegans Covered
This week, Tesla revised its premium leather bits to be entirely leather-free, The Detroit Free Press reports. The news site confirmed with Tesla that, on the Model S and X, the only seating option from here on out is a non-animal material made specifically for Tesla.
The news site does say the steering wheel remains leather, though PETA writes that a vegan option is available. So if you can’t stand to have your butt caressed by the supple skin of another mammal, Tesla is here for you.
Toyota has a good name among environmentalists, mostly because of the brand’s ubiquitous Prius hybrid. But over the last decade or so when Tesla was building its reputation, Toyota kept out of the EV market. Now Toyota has to catch up; what will it take for them to pull it off?