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Starting next week, Tesla Motors will pilot a battery pack swap program with invited Model S owners. The selected owners will have the opportunity to swap their car’s battery at a custom-built facility located across the street from the Tesla Superchargers at Harris Ranch, CA. Tesla intends the pilot program to test the technology and to assess demand.
The Harris Ranch Superchargers sit off the I-5, the interstate highway connecting Los Angeles (and San Diego) with the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento in the north. Harris Ranch is roughly equidistant from Sacramento (~187 miles); San Francisco (~183 miles); and LA (~199 miles).
(Harris Ranch is the largest beef producer and the largest ranch on the West Coast, producing in excess of 150 million pounds (68 million kg) of beef per year. The Harris feedlot, where cattle are taken for finishing with grain feeding after being in pastures, is alongside the 5 at its intersection with California State Route 198 east of Coalinga, and encompasses nearly 800 acres. The feedlot has the capacity to produce 250,000 head of fed cattle per year. The smell, especially during the summer months, is … distinctive. A rapid battery swap would be an olfactory boon.)
Initially, battery swap will be available by appointment and, according to Tesla, “will cost slightly less than a full tank of gasoline for a premium sedan”. (Given the recent drop in the price of premium, that comparison may be a bit off.) Because more time is now needed to remove the titanium and hardened aluminum ballistic plates that shield the battery pack (earlier post), the swap process takes approximately three minutes.
With further automation and refinements on the vehicle side, Tesla thinks that the swap time could be reduced to less than one minute, even with shields.
Tesla will evaluate relative demand from customers for paid pack swap versus free charging to assess whether it merits the engineering resources and investment necessary for that upgrade.
In June 2013, Tesla demonstrated a battery swap option for the Model S. The swap, which, similar to the Better Place approach, has the target vehicle drive over a pit for removal of the old and insertion of a new pack, then took about 90 seconds. (Earlier post.)
In addition to giving customers a rapid refueling option, battery swapping—if shown as based on real-world use—could ultimately result in Tesla maintaining its awards of a higher level of ZEV credits by the California Air Resources Board than if such a “fast refueling” option is not available or validated. Tesla sells those ZEV credits to other automakers.
In a pre-Christmas media event, Ford president and CEO Mark Fields said while 2014 was a good year for the company, 2015 has the potential to be a “breakthrough year”. Fields said that Ford’s investments in products, people, plants and technology, combined with industry growth, are not only delivering a year of growth in terms of revenue, pricing power, operating margins and profitability in 2014, but are setting the stage for growth in and beyond 2015.
The global automotive industry is staged to experience $1 trillion of revenue growth over the next five years, Field said: from about $2 trillion today to about $3 trillion by the end of the decade. “That’s a tremendous amount of growth. We want to get our fair share of that growth.” In moving forward on that, Fields said, Ford will focus on five key areas of innovation: mobility, autonomy, connectivity, customer experience and performance.
If you think about mobility, that’s what we’ve been doing since Henry Ford started the company. It was all about opening the highways to all of mankind … and we are going to continue to do that, both in the physical world, and the digital world.
Our vision for connectivity, it’s all about helping people stay connected. We are going to help enable that with our next generation sync system. Autonomy. Today we have the broadest portfolio of driver assisted features. We are going to build on that those provide the building blocks for full autonomy down the road. Our approach for that is to make it available for all, and not just for a chosen few.
Customer experience. Our vision for the customer experience is that every time someone touches Ford Motor Company … a smile comes on their face. We want to make it easy for the customer to interact with our company. We want to be known as the trusted steward of the customer data.
Performance. Our company was based on performance. The winnings that Henry Ford won from that race back in 1901, he used those funds to start Ford. We are transforming our approach to performance. We will continue to bring to market those products that people really crave .—Mark Fields
[In 1901, Henry Ford won the Sweepstakes Race against Alexander Winton, then America’s greatest racer. The upset win also gained the entrepreneur backing for starting Ford Motor.]
Ford has made a number of recent announcements reflecting the focus on those areas. The evolution of mobility has long been a hot button for Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who urges that Ford think of itself as a mobility company rather than just an auto company. (Earlier post.)
In conjunction with the media event, Ford announced that it, Magna International Inc. and Verizon Telematics, were supporting the launch of “Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit”—a startup business accelerator program sited in downtown Detroit. Together, the companies are committing $2 million in funding plus mentors and other resources to support participating startups. (Earlier post.)
The tech incubator is aiming to deliver innovative mobility and transportation solutions that help alleviate growing global challenges such as traffic congestion, parking availability and pollution. The mobility scope is “broader than automotive,” noted Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “The space really can comprise a lot of different [types] of companies.”
On the connectivity side, Ford launched the third generation Sync 3 system. (Earlier post.)
Ford Performance. Ford also announced that it will introduced more than 12 new performance vehicles through 2020, including an all-new Focus RS, to be available globally. Ford is also uniting regional performance engineering and racing teams as one global team under “Ford Performance”, delivering more new vehicles and parts, more quickly.
Ford remains committed to innovation through performance. Our new global Ford Performance team ties together racing, performance vehicles and parts. It will allow us to more quickly introduce products and accessories that meet the needs of customers around the world on-road and on the track.—Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development
Focus RS, which builds on a pedigree of driving excellence dating to the first Ford RS in 1968, was last introduced in 2009. Focus RS will join Ford’s existing performance lineup, including Fiesta ST, Focus ST, Shelby GT350 Mustang and F-150 Raptor.
In addition to pleasing enthusiasts, these vehicles help deliver the company’s One Ford plan for profitable growth, product excellence and innovation in every part of its business. Performance vehicle sales are growing around the world—sales are up 70% in the United States and 14% in Europe since 2009.
In the United States, more than 65% of ST customers come from outside the Ford brand, and more than 50% of Ford performance vehicle owners’ next vehicle purchase is a Ford. Millennials are purchasing ST vehicles at a rate twice that of other Ford-branded vehicles.
Powering performance vehicles such as Fiesta ST and Focus ST is Ford’s EcoBoost engine range. Since the introduction of the EcoBoost engine in 2009, Ford has produced more than 2 million EcoBoost engines globally.
The new Ford Performance organization unifies Ford SVT, Team RS and Ford Racing globally, serving as an innovation laboratory and test bed to create unique performance vehicles, parts, accessories and experiences for customers.
This includes developing innovations and technologies in aerodynamics, light-weighting, electronics, powertrain performance and fuel efficiency that can be applied more broadly to Ford’s product portfolio.
In addition to using racetracks around the world, the team will develop new vehicles and technologies at Ford’s engineering centers globally and at the new technical center in Charlotte, North Carolina. This facility will help the team deliver racing innovations, as well as advance tools for use in performance vehicles and daily drivers alike.
The Ford Performance organization is led by Dave Pericak, who has been appointed director, Global Ford Performance.
Data analytics. Ford has also appointed data science and analytics expert Paul Ballew as executive director and chief data and analytics officer, further building its team of experts to help better understand consumer behavior and help speed development of mobility, connectivity and autonomous driving innovations.
Ballew most recently was global chief data, insights and analytics officer at Dun and Bradstreet. Previously, he spent 20 years in business and the auto industry in various senior executive positions researching and analyzing consumer behavior, including at the Federal Reserve, J.D. Power and General Motors. While at Nationwide Insurance, Ballew built the first analytics organization in financial services, transforming the way the company interacted with customers across the entire organization.
Ford is accelerating its investment and research into data science and analytics as the foundation of its focus on innovation. The goal is to better anticipate customers’ wants and needs as Ford implements its Blueprint for Mobility and its One Ford plan for profitable growth.
In the new role, Ballew will lead the company’s data and analytic efforts globally, establishing an enterprise-wide vision for analytics and integrating all of Ford’s research, analytics, processes, standards, tools and partner engagement. He will report to Bob Shanks, executive vice president and chief financial officer. The appointment is effective 5 Jan 2015.
Ford already has an award-winning analytics team. Last year, Ford was awarded the prestigious INFORMS Prize from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences for using data science and predictive analytics to improve overall operations and performance.
Ford uses analytics widely, including in its research, product development, manufacturing, supply chain, marketing and sales, finance, purchasing, information technology and human resources functions.
Volvo Cars, protective gravity sports gear manufacturer POC and Ericsson will present an innovative safety technology connecting drivers and cyclists at the International CES in Las Vegas next month. The technology consists of a connected car and helmet prototype that will establish 2-way communication, offering proximity alerts to Volvo drivers and cyclists with the goal of avoiding accidents.
Using a popular smartphone app for bicyclists, such as Strava, the cyclist’s position can be shared through the Volvo cloud to the car, and vice versa. If an imminent collision is calculated, both road users will be warned—and enabled to take the necessary action to avoid a potential accident. The Volvo driver will be alerted to a cyclist nearby through a head-up display alert, even if he or she happens to be in a blind spot, e.g. behind a bend or another vehicle or hardly visible during night time. The cyclist will be warned via a helmet-mounted alert light.
The partnership between Volvo Cars, POC and Ericsson is an important milestone in investigating the next steps towards Volvo Cars’ vision to build cars that will not crash. But now, by exploring cloud-based safety systems, we are getting ever closer to eliminating the remaining blind spots between cars and cyclists and by that avoid collisions.—Klas Bendrik, VP and Group CIO at Volvo Cars
Some select cycling statistics:
Globally, 132.3 million bicycles were sold in 2013 (source: NPD Group 2013)
Beijing government hopes, 25% of people will use cycling to commute in 2015 (source: The Guardian, November 2013)
In the Swedish city of Gothenburg alone, the number of bikers increased by 30% in 2013 (source: Göteborgs Posten, November 2014)
4,533 cyclists were injured in Berlin only in 2012 (source: The Guardian, November 2013)
55% of cyclist fatalities in EU-23 countries occur in urban areas (source: CARE Database, European Commission 2012). In US 69% of all cyclist deaths in 2012 occurred in urban areas (source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration/Traffic Safety Facts April 2014)
(On the road) serious injuries for UK cyclists in 2013 were 31% higher than in 2009 (source: Department for Transport, Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2013 Annual Report)
In the US, 726 cyclists were killed in 2012, an increase in 6.5% compared to 2011. 49,000 were injured, +2.1% vs. 2011 (source: NHTSA/Traffic Safety Facts, November 2013)
The total cost of bicyclist injuries and deaths is over $4 billion per year in the US (source: National Safety Council 2012)
In Germany, The Netherlands and Poland more than 85% of cyclist fatalities occurred at crossroads (source: CARE Database, European Commission 2012)
In some countries, pedestrians and cyclists constitute more than 75% of road deaths (source: WHO Fact Sheet # 358, March 2013)
Since spring 2013, all new Volvo cars are equipped with Auto brake for cyclists. Volvo Cars’ system uses radar and camera to detect cyclists and based on advanced sensor technology can apply full automatic braking should the car come close to a collision.