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March 15, 2018 News of the Day: Audi Expands Traffic Light Information System to Washington DC, TOMTOM'S Real-Time Electric Vehicle Service Arrives in North America

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【Summary】March 15, 2018 News of the Day: Audi expands Traffic Light Information system to the nation's capital, Ford to replace 75% of its lineup within two years, Panasonic Begins EV Battery Production in China, and more.

Eric Walz    Mar 15, 2018 5:48 PM PT
March 15, 2018 News of the Day: Audi Expands Traffic Light Information System to Washington DC, TOMTOM'S Real-Time Electric Vehicle Service Arrives in North America

Audi Expands Traffic Light Information System to Washington DC

Imagine sitting at a traffic light, and when it turns green and the car in front of you remains stopped. This is a common occurrence today, as driver's are often distracted by a car's telematics system or their cell phone and not paying attention to the status of the traffic light. German automaker Audi devised a solution to this problem, with an on-board vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) system that communicates directly with traffic lights.

Audi is expanding its Traffic Light Information (TLI) technology to another new city, the nation's capital—Washington DC. The system first launched in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Audi vehicles in Washington DC will be able to communicate with 600 smart intersections, that will relay the amount of time before a traffic signal turns from red to green. The vehicle receives real-time information from the traffic signal controller via the car's onboard 4G LTE connection, which produces a countdown timer in the gauge cluster or head-up display if equipped. Audi believes it reduces stress and anxiety for drivers as they sit in traffic.

In the future smart cities will be able to use this technology to better understand traffic patterns and could adapt traffic signal behavior to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow. San Jose, California is conducting a similar pilot to study traffic flow with the company Connected Signals.  

The auto industry is moving towards connected cars (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology (V2I), which are necessary steps toward fully connected, autonomous cars. Audi rival BMW offers a similar solution via the integration of the EnLighten app in its cars.

TOMTOM'S Real-Time EV Service Arrives in North America

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Dutch mapping and navigation company TomTom announced that its electric vehicle (EV) service, designed to help drivers make informed decisions about when and where to charge their vehicles, is now available in North America.

The TomTom EV Service is a live service available to automakers and their suppliers, and includes almost 11,000 charging locations across the USA and Canada at launch, with more locations to come.

The TomTom EV Service provides real-time availability for charging points, including hours of operation and pricing, payment options, and connector types,reducing ‘range anxiety' for drivers about how far they can travel on their current charge.

Olaf Gietelink, VP Product Marketing, TomTom Automotive, commented: "For the electric car market to grow, it's important that we reduce the barriers to entry, one of which is range anxiety. We're excited to launch the TomTom EV Service in North America, increasing driver peace of mind and as a result making ownership of electric vehicles even more attractive."

At the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month, TomTom announced that Hyundai and Kia drivers in Europe would be among the first to benefit from the TomTom EV Service, starting in the second half of 2018.

The service, which first launched in Europe in September 2017, now covers more than 45,000 charging stations with real-time availability information, globally.

A short video about the TomTom EV Service can be found below:

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Panasonic Begins EV Battery Production in China

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The market for more environmentally friendly vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles, is growing every year. To respond to the market demand, Panasonic is opening a battery factory in Dalian, China. The factory will be the first production site for prismatic-type automotive lithium-ion batteries in China.

Prismatic batteries, first introduced in the 1990's, make optimal use of space by using a layered approach to construction and are thinner than cylindrical batteries. Larger sizes of these batteries deliver capacities of 20–50Ah and are primarily used for electric powertrains in hybrid and electric vehicles.

The facility, a joint venture with local firm Dalian Levear Electric, manufactures prismatic-type automotive lithium-ion batteries for the Chinese and North American markets. Panasonic expects shipments and the number of destinations to increase in line with rising demand for EVs.

The move comes as part of a global expansion of Panasonic's lithium-ion battery business. The company announced in September last year that it had installed technology to allow it to produce lithium-ion batteries at a factory in Himeji, Japan, that manufactures LCD display panels. Battery production on the site is expected to begin in 2020.

Panasonic already operates a battery cell production facility at electric automaker Tesla's Gigafactory site near Reno, Nevada. However, the Dalian site is not affiliated with Tesla and will focus on supplying batteries to the growing Chinese EV market.

Panasonic is not the only company looking to capitalise on growing Asia-Pacific demand for EVs. German automaker Daimler said today that its Mercedes-Benz division will begin lithium-ion battery production in Thailand in collaboration with local partner Thonburi Automotive Assembly Plant (TAAP).

Amidst expectations of expanding demand for automotive lithium-ion batteries, Panasonic manufactures the high-capacity and high-safety prismatic-type batteries at this factory and ships them to the North American and Chinese markets. Shipments will be expanded in the future to reach more destinations, helping to drive the spread of eco-conscious vehicles.

With the beginning of mass production shipments of automobile lithium-ion batteries from this factory, Panasonic now has a production system covering Japan, the United States, and China—three key global locations. By strengthening the global competitiveness of its automotive batteries with these sites, Panasonic will further expand its automotive battery business in the future.

Panasonic is aiming to achieve 2 trillion yen in sales for the overall automotive business, including infotainment systems and industrial devices, in the fiscal year 2019 (ending March 31, 2019) which marks the 100th anniversary of the company's founding. Panasonic will develop the new factory into a core manufacturing site in China, and further strengthen its automotive battery business.

Ford to Replace 75% of its North American Models With New Offerings Within 2 Years

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DEARBORN, Mich., — Ford is revamping its entire model lineup, building on truck and SUV strengths while investing in new electric propulsion and standard connectivity on new vehicles, paving the way for over-the-air updates and the Transportation Mobility Cloud, an open platform that will empower tomorrow's mobility systems.

By 2020, Ford will offer North America's freshest lineup among all full-line automakers, with its average showroom age dropping from 5.7 to 3.3 years as it replaces three-quarters of its lineup and adds four new trucks and SUVs.Ford is going all-in on plug-in hybrids, offering customers more performance and capability yet serving as a hedge against higher gas prices.

In addition, all new Ford vehicles will have built in 4G LTE connectivity by the end of 2019. Ford is also introducing Ford Co-Pilot360, a new driver-assist technology with standard automatic emergency braking and cross traffic monitor.

"Our passion for great vehicles is stronger than ever," said Jim Hackett, Ford president and CEO. "This showroom transformation will thrill customers, drive profitable growth and further build toward our future of smart vehicles in a smart world."

Ford to Remain Focused on Trucks and SUVs

Ford is strengthening its position in the following segments: trucks, SUVs (including off-road and performance versions), hybrids, battery electric vehicles and commercial vehicles.

Since 2014 Ford has gained 1.3 percentage points of share in the full-size pickup segment. Trucks are a highly profitable segment for Ford. Ford's F-Series pickup revenues alone are higher than revenues of major companies including Facebook, Coca-Cola and Nike.

By 2020, Ford estimates SUV sales could account for 50 percent of all U.S. industry retail sales. For this reason, Ford is reallocating $7 billion in capital from cars to SUVs.

Also by 2020, Ford plans a lineup of eight SUVs— five of which will offer hybrid powertrains. Ford SUV sales are estimated to grow 20 percent, to more than 950,000 units by 2020, and surpass 1 million by 2021.

Ford's next push is in the highest volume SUV segments. Ford will introduce entirely new versions of the Escape and Explorer next year. These two models make up a combined 70 percent of Ford's SUV volume.

Ford also plans to drive growth with two all-new off-road models: the new Bronco and a yet-to-be-named off-road small utility – both designed to win a growing number of people who love getting away and spending time outdoors.

"Ford helped start the off-road phenomenon and has majored in off-road capability for decades—from the Bronco to the Raptor," said Jim Farley, Ford president, Global Markets. "Now, we're ready to reclaim our rightful place as the off-road vehicle leader."

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Ford is also planning to introduce hybrid versions of the F-150 pickup, Mustang, Explorer, Escape and Bronco—to serve as a hedge for customers against rising gas prices.

"Hybrids for years have been mostly niche products but are now on the cusp of a mainstream breakout," Farley said. "The valuable capability they offer – plus fuel efficiency – is why we're going to offer hybrid variants of our most popular and high-volume vehicles, allowing our loyal, passionate customers to become advocates for the technology."

Ford's new hybrid system is designed to be more efficient and less expensive than previous generations. These lower costs – achieved through supply base relationships, using common cell and component design and by manufacturing motors, transmissions and battery packs – with the intention of lowering cost of ownership for customers.

Ford's future strategy includes rethinking the ownership experience for electric vehicles.

"Throwing a charger in the trunk of a vehicle and sending customers on their way isn't enough to help promote the viability of electric vehicles," said Sherif Marakby, vice president, Autonomous and Electric Vehicles.

"In addition to expanding our electric vehicle lineup, we are redesigning the ownership experience to ensure it addresses customer pain points that currently hold back broad adoption today."

Ford's new performance battery electric utility is scheduled to arrive in 2020. It is the first of six electric vehicles coming by 2022 as part of the company's $11 billion global electric vehicle investment.

Ford also is moving to flexible vehicle architectures and more common parts across models, cutting new product development time by 20 percent. The company intends to have the most efficient Product Development organization among full-line automakers within five years.

Ford's five flexible vehicle architectures will be paired with module "families" that address the power pack, electrical pack and vehicle configurations. Seventy percent of each vehicle's engineering will be shared with Ford's new flexible architecture approach.

As more vehicles become connected, new data analytics tools will show which vehicle technologies customers use most often. This new data-driven insight will help determine which features to grow and which to eliminate.

"We're looking at every part of our business, making it more fit and ensuring that every action we take is driven by what will serve our customers in a way that supports our fitness and performance goals," said Joe Hinrichs, president, Global Operations.

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