August 11, 2017 News of the Day: Tesla Patents Pyrotechnic EV Battery Disconnect Device, Germany's Autobahn to Get Overhead Power Lines to Charge Electric Trucks

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【Summary】August 11, 2017 News of the Day

Original Eric Walz    Aug 11, 2017 7:30 AM PT
August 11, 2017 News of the Day: Tesla Patents Pyrotechnic EV Battery Disconnect Device, Germany's Autobahn to Get Overhead Power Lines to Charge Electric Trucks
author: Eric Walz   

Tesla Patents Pyrotechnic EV Battery Disconnect Device

Although EVs are surging in popularity, many drivers have lingering fears over the safety of lithium-ion batteries after a crash. These people may find comfort in a patent filing from Tesla, which hints the company is looking to bolster battery safety with a special "pyrotechnic disconnect" device.

According to the patent, a "pyrotechnic disconnect" can quickly sever the electrical connection between a battery pack and a motor, increasing the safety of the electrical system.

In demanding situations, the disconnect must interrupt very large currents, but doing so can create electric arcs that need to be suppressed in order to avoid further hazards. It's important these electric arcs are managed properly without making the disconnect overly complex or expensive to implement, a challenge which Tesla's system hopes to overcome.

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Tesla's device includes a housing with a combustion chamber inside, in addition to a pyrotechnic charge in that combustion chamber. A busbar covers the opening of the combustion chamber and is configured to be severed by activation of the pyrotechnic charge.

Most Importantly, the pyrotechnic charge is configured so that gas cools the electric arcs. There's an exhaust port in a grating in a wall of the housing that allows gas to suppress the electric arc formed by the severing of the busbar. Arc splitter plates arranged in the housing help suppress an arc by dividing it into smaller multiple arcs, interrupting the current flow.

A disconnect isn't limited to just EV batteries, as it can also be used in stationary storage for electric energy. Tesla's system allows an electrical system to be disconnected quickly while managing arcs, and it could improve battery safety, although it's unclear how Tesla plans to use this patent filing. More detailed information about the device can be found here

Germany's AutoBahn to Get Overhead Power Lines to Charge Electric Trucks

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Charging electric trucks is an obstacle to overcome for long distances over highways. A new, somewhat controversial solution is to have overhead contact line on highways similar to how electric trains are powered. This will be a reality on the Autobahn in Germany soon.

Following initial tests on a 2 km stretch of the highway, Seimens and Germany are now moving forward on a more significant project installing overhead power lines for electric trucks on a longer stretch of the Autobahn.

Siemens has been commissioned by the German state of Hesse to build the charging system on a ten-kilometer stretch of the A5 federal autobahn between the Zeppelinheim/Cargo City Süd interchange at the Frankfurt Airport and the Darmstadt/Weiterstadt interchange.

The project called "eHighway" is being managed by Siemens, but it is financed by both the state and federal governments.

Gerd Riegelhuth, Head of Transport of Hessen Mobil, commented on the goal of the project:

"Construction of the system will demonstrate the feasibility of integrating overhead contact systems with a public highway. The system will be used for real transport networks, and prove the practicality of climate-neutral freight transport in the urban region of Frankfurt."

Similar systems have also been deployed in Sweden and California for trials and other regions are considering the highway charging solution.

However, the system has some limitations, including cost. The systems need to be installed on fairly long distances in order to supply a significant charge and that can be costly. Also, a connector and deployment system needs to be installed on the trucks using the overhead contact line, but several truck makers have shown interest in the technology.

Another limitation is the speed, but Siemens says that its solution allows the truck to travel at up to 90km/h (56 mph).

Uber Adds Messenger Feature to its App

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One of the most frustrating things for Uber Drivers is not being able to locate a pickup's exact location. Riders experience this as well when they drop a pin and their driver cannot seem to find their exact location.

Now, Uber is making the whole process a whole lot easier, by rolling out in-app messaging.

Currently, Uber anonymizes phone numbers when you send text through the app, the better to prevent riders and drivers from sending each other unwanted texts or making unwanted calls, or passing out personal information. While this works well for privacy purposes, if your driver messages or calls you and you're not expecting it, it can seem like a random, unknown number is contacting you (and vice versa), something that can get especially confusing if your ride is part of an Uber Pool.

With in-app messaging, you'll know that the message is from your Uber driver, and your Uber driver will know it's you sending a message, not other people being picked up on the same trip.

The chats are sent using the same contact button you previously used to send texts. Uber has also included read receipts, helpful you don't hear back from your driver, you'll know that he or she saw your message.

While a driver is on the road, chat messages will be read aloud to them, so they don't have to take their eyes off the road, a welcome safety improvement over them struggling to read SMS. A single tap on the app will send the rider a thumbs up emoji, acknowledging the message has been received.

The opportunity to chat with your driver ends as soon as your trip ends. According to Uber, the company is looking into potentially adding the ability to use in-app messaging to find lost items later on, but that won't be available at this launch. The new in-app messaging is rolling out to riders and drivers globally over the next few weeks.

Some Top OEM Auto Suppliers Downplay Rapid Switch to EVs


Some of the world's top auto-parts suppliers aren't buying all the enthusiasm about the electric vehicles hyped by Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk and larger carmakers trying to keep up.

Executives at five of the 25 biggest suppliers to automakers in North America have all downplayed this month expectations for EV sales. After Volvo Car Group made a splash with its pledge to put electric motors in every new car by 2019 and Musk predicted more than half of U.S. auto production would be electric in 10 years, the parts makers have issued modest forecasts and spoken in circumspect, even defiant, tones.

"There's a lot of buzz and a lot of talk about how the world's going to change to electrified vehicles overnight, and I'm here to tell you it's not going to happen overnight, and it's not going to happen for decades," David Dauch, CEO of American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc., said Tuesday at a JPMorgan conference in New York. "I'm a strong believer in the internal combustion engine. I think it's going to continue to be here for some time."

Consumers have not yet demonstrated a willingness to buy electric vehicles in droves, giving both carmakers and their suppliers reason to be conservative. At the same time, governments are beginning to demand cleaner cars to curb pollution in large cities.

Magna International Inc., the top parts supplier in North America by sales, sees EVs being between 3 percent and 6 percent of global new vehicle deliveries by 2025. Magna CEO Don Walker told an industry conference last week that automakers share his skepticism of faster market penetration, but can't say so publicly.

"They know what's going to happen, but they have to say what is going to be popular to be perceived as a progressive company," Walker said on August 2nd at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars near Traverse City, Mich.

Magna and Delphi Automotive, which both supply powertrains and electronics systems, see the way forward being paved with lots of hybrid engines. Delphi CEO Kevin Clark told investors at the JPMorgan conference this week that 95 percent of vehicles will still have combustion engines in 2025, and about 30 percent will have some form of gasoline-electric system. Just 5 percent will be purely electric, Clark projected.

Nissan Debuts its Connected Car Technology in India


Nissan India has launched the NissanConnect app in India. Available across iOS and Android platforms, the Nissan Connect app is an integrated information and communication platform that connects with the customer's smartphone to provide enhanced driving experience. The app can conduct a range of functions with 360-degree car connectivity and will be available on the Micra, Terrano and Sunny models in the company's line-up. The Nissan Connect app though will be available on certain top variants of the aforementioned cars.

Nissan Motor India, Managing Director, Arun Malhotra said, "NissanConnect embodies the best of Nissan's innovative spirit and is designed to enhance the overall driving experience for everyone. It enables better comfort, convenience, control and safety through technologies that bring people closer together. Inspired by the future, NissanConnect will benefit our customers today."

Nissan India says that Nissan Connect app has been inspired by the company's Intelligent Mobility vision of making driving more confident and efficient yet exciting. The app comes with a host of over 50 features and comes with three years of free subs and one year of Nissan warranty program.

The app connects with the car via the Telematics control unit (TCU) which is integrated in the car and has been developed by Renault Nissan Technology Business Centre India (RNTBCI). The new cars rolling out from the factory will be fitted with the new TCU system with an inbuilt SIM for every car and an in-house dedicated server.

For the owner, the Nissan Connect app allows you have set of host of alerts for improved driveability. Owners can set a speed limiter alert that automatically sends a notification when the car exceeds a prescribed speed limit.

There's also the chauffeur tracker that sends an alert when the car is driven beyond the geofenced radius. The app also has a curfew alert which detects automatically if the car is moved after a certain time.

In addition the system adds gamification, the the on-board system will give you a score on your driving, while also letting you know on the car's fuel efficiency. Nissan says that the app is in its first phase of launch, and can provide access to a host of new and complex features in the future. The app was developed by the automaker over a period of two years.

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