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Video: Why Boston Dynamics is Building a Super Robot Army

Changing your idea of what robots can do – that’s the slogan of Boston Dynamics. Founded in 1992 by Marc Raibert as a spin-off company from MIT, its early days were spent making training videos for the navy. Only later did the company begin delving into the world of robots – amassing a level of expertise unsurpassed throughout the industry.

In fact, Boston Dynamics’s achievements look like the opening montage from a science fiction movie. Starting with the cumbersome BigDog – a quadruped robot designed for the military – the company has seen each new generation of robots surpass the last in a relentless fashion. Sometimes their announcements leave you a little more unnerved than impressed.

What was once the realm of speculation is now being shipped from Boston Dynamics’ factories on a weekly basis. All the while, the robots move ever closer in the resemblance of their human creators.

In this video, I’ll explore the staggering rise of this revolutionary robotics company, taking an in-depth look at their growing super robot army.

Watch video at You Tube (7:34 minutes) . . . .

New Japanese Chipmaker Rapidus Joins Development and Investment Race

Yuki Yamaguchi wrote . . . . . . . . .

New Japanese chip production company Rapidus is facing daunting challenges as it tries to catch up with Asian rivals in the technology development and investment race, leaving a shaky outlook for the country as it attempts to revive its once-thriving industry.

Created by Toyota Motor, Sony Group and six other major Japanese companies with a total investment of ¥7.3 billion ($52 million), the next-generation semiconductor venture plans to mass-produce chips with state-of-the-art 2-nanometer technology in Japan in 2027. Such advanced chips can be used for 5G communications, quantum computing, data centers, self-driving vehicles and digital smart cities.

SoftBank and NTT are also among the participants in the project, along with Kioxia, Denso, NEC and MUFG Bank.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will provide ¥70 billion in subsidies as part of its semiconductor strategy compiled last year.

The government sees domestic chip production as critical to its economic security, as dependence on major supplier Taiwan poses geopolitical risks amid rising tensions between the United States and China over the self-ruled island. A potential crisis in the region could lead to Japan losing access to semiconductor supplies.

Rapidus focuses on foundry operations representing a group of private-sector entities, while the government-backed Leading-edge Semiconductor Technology Center will serve as a research and development hub in cooperation with the United States.

This latest effort follows the country’s failure to keep up in the investment race over the miniaturization of semiconductors that resulted in a yearslong development hiatus in the 2010s.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, a world leader in chipmaking, plans to mass-produce 2-nanometer chips in 2025, while Samsung Electronics succeeded in mass production of 3-nanometer semiconductors in June. In contrast, the latest technology in Japan can only produce 40-nanometer chips.

Analysts are skeptical about the immediate success of the new company amid stiff global competition. The state financial support of ¥70 billion, compared with the much larger assistance of $52.7 billion set out by the U.S. government, raises questions about how committed the Japanese government is to reviving the chip industry. The European Union and the private sector will also offer assistance of €43 billion ($45 billion).

Hideki Yasuda, a senior analyst at Toyo Securities, said the ¥70 billion is “not enough at all” for the new company to be competitive in the global market.

“Around ¥1 trillion of annual investment is necessary for the chip industry,” Yasuda said. “It’s hard to force private companies to bear such a cost. So the question is whether the Japanese government is prepared to do that.”

Rapidus Chairman Tetsuro Higashi said at a news conference last Friday he believes the industry ministry is aware that long-term financial support is necessary and hopes more support will be provided to help his company build a chip plant.

The government’s financial aid should at least match the amounts offered by other countries for Japanese companies to stay competitive, Mitsuhiro Osawa, senior analyst at Ichiyoshi Research Institute, said.

Japanese chip manufacturers were once dominant players, taking half the global share in the late 1980s. But they came under pressure when frictions over trade with the United States led to export restrictions that allowed South Korean and Taiwanese chipmakers to make deeper inroads.

Spending by Asian rivals outpaced that of flagging Japanese companies in an industry where the development and mass production of cutting-edge products determines competitive advantage.

Japan has striven to rejuvenate its semiconductor sector through government initiatives over the past decades. In 2006, Toshiba, Hitachi and Renesas Technology set up a planning company for a government-backed joint foundry, but the project fell apart six months later.

Elpida Memory, established through the merger of chip operations at Hitachi, NEC and Mitsubishi Electric, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012 despite government aid of ¥30 billion.

Rapidus President Atsuyoshi Koike, a former engineer in Hitachi’s chip division and former president at the Japan unit of Western Digital, says he has learned lessons from the past.

“In the past, Japan tried to seek solutions only in a closed world,” Koike told reporters last Friday. “We will collaborate with people and companies worldwide, including raw material companies and chipmaking equipment makers.”

Rapidus is looking for more partners, including from overseas. The company, for example, is in talks with IBM over technology cooperation on 2-nanometer chips.

The technological vacuum of the past decade has allowed talented personnel to be recruited by rivals out of the country. Rapidus may find it difficult to look for skilled engineers and plant workers anytime soon in Japan, Masahiko Ishino, chief analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute, said.

Japanese companies trying to catch up with global competitors are “like a high school student, who did not study at all in school, trying to get into the University of Tokyo,” Ichiyoshi Research’s Osawa said, referring to the most prestigious institution of higher education in Japan.

“The bar is extremely high” for Rapidus, which has no prior experience in mass-producing state-of-the-art semiconductors, to make 2-nanometer chips, Toyo Securities’ Yasuda said.

Source : Japan Times

Read more at 経済産業省

次世代半導体の設計・製造基盤確立に向けて . . . . .

Vertiport Testbed for European Urban Air Mobility Testing Inaugurated in Paris

Groupe ADP, Skyports and Volocopter commissioned Europe’s first fully integrated vertiport terminal for the urban air mobility (UAM) industry at the Groupe ADP, RATP Group and Choose Paris Region-run Re.Invent Air Mobility testbed at Pontoise-Cormeilles airfield. The launch of the terminal represents the start of a new era for urban air mobility, as the facility allows advanced testing of critical technology and passenger processes.

Urban air mobility is a new form of sustainable aviation with a multitude of use cases that will provide regions and cities with an alternative form of transport for people and goods. Introducing a new form of mobility successfully requires industry-wide collaboration and the support of regulators and government bodies. The UAM ecosystem includes manufacturers of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL), physical and digital infrastructure providers, regulators, technology supply chain, cities, governments, the public, and many others. The fully integrated testbed at Pontoise-Cormeilles enables a variety of stakeholders to test technologies and procedures in diverse configurations in a real-life environment. The opportunity to test on a live airfield is both invaluable and essential to the development of the entire industry.

The testbed at Pontoise-Cormeilles, designed by Skyports in collaboration with Groupe ADP, is aircraft agnostic and offers the entire ecosystem the chance to test and develop their technologies. Most importantly, it facilitates collaboration between the key ecosystem partners, including technology pioneers, regulators and local partners such as the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC), suppliers and airlines. It will enable the testing of:

  • Vehicle integration, ground movement procedures, and charging procedures
  • Flight scheduling, situational awareness, and information exchange
  • Passenger journey through the terminal, including security and check-in processes, biometric technologies (provided by SITA), passenger dwell time, and aircraft boarding.

The launch event provided an opportunity to demonstrate the end-to-end passenger journey, from arrival at the vertiport terminal to aircraft boarding. A model of the VoloCity, which is being developed as Volocopter’s first certified aircraft for commercial services, was featured at the launch in addition to a crewed test flight of the 2X model – the only aircraft currently authorised by DGAC for eVTOL test flights in France. The series of demonstrations by Skyports and Volocopter also featured displays of flight monitoring capabilities and digital operating systems, including Skyports’ vertiport operating systems and the VoloIQ.

The Re.Invent Air Mobility testbed at Pontoise-Cormeilles airfield is now the most extensive technology-enabled test site for UAM in Europe. The innovation consortium is formed by Groupe ADP, Choose Paris Region, and RATP Group, and made up of 30 ecosystem partners. It has propelled France to the forefront of UAM development. The consortium focuses on a wide range of topics to facilitate the development of the industry, including vehicle development, vertiport infrastructure, airspace integration and public acceptance.

Source : Volocopter

Watch video at You Tube ( 9:07 minutes) . . . .

They Made a Material that Doesn’t Exist on Earth

Paddy Hirsch wrote . . . . . . . . .

It sounds like the plot of a science fiction movie: humans are destroying the Earth, gouging huge scars in its crust, and polluting the air and the ground as they mine and refine a key element essential for technological advance. One day, scientists examining an alien meteorite discover a unique metal that negates the need for all that excavation and pollution. Best of all, the metal can be replicated, in a laboratory, using base materials. The world is saved!

OK, we amped the story a wee bit there. No aliens, for one thing (unless you know something we don’t). But the rest of it is true. Two teams of scientists — one at Northeastern University in Boston; the other at the University of Cambridge in the UK — recently announced that they managed to manufacture, in a lab, a material that does not exist naturally on Earth. It — until now — has only been found in meteorites.

We spoke to Laura Henderson Lewis, one of the professors on the Northeastern team, and she told us the material found in the meteorites is a combination of two base metals, nickel and iron, which were cooled over millions of years as meteoroids and asteroids tumbled through space. That process created a unique compound with a particular set of characteristics that make it ideal for use in the high-end permanent magnets that are an essential component of a vast range of advanced machines, from electric vehicles to space shuttle turbines.

The compound is called tetrataenite, and the fact that scientists have found a way to make it in a lab is a huge deal. If synthetic tetrataenite works in industrial applications, it could make green energy technologies significantly cheaper. It could also roil the market in rare earths, currently dominated by China, and create a seismic shift in the industrial balance between China and the West.

Earthly, yet oh, so rare

As all of our readers will doubtless remember from their high school science classes, magnets are an essential component of any piece of machinery that runs on electricity: they are the conduit that transforms electric power into mechanical action.

Most magnets, like the magnet in the battery-powered clock on your office wall, for example, are pretty cheap and easy to produce. The permanent magnets that are used in advanced machinery, on the other hand, have to be able to resist tremendous pressures and temperatures for long periods of time. And to acquire those properties, they need a special ingredient: a rare earth.

Rare earths aren’t that rare. They’re elements that can be found all over the world. The difficult part is extracting them. For one thing, you have to dig them out of the ground. That’s hard enough. Then you have to separate them out: they’re usually combined with other elements or materials. Breaking these compounds down, and refining them to get the raw elements, is an expensive and messy business.

The China syndrome

The US used to be a leader in the rare earths world, but, in the 1980s, China found a huge deposit of these elements within its borders. Jonathan Hykawy is president of Stormcrow Capital, an investment firm that tracks rare earths markets. He has a good story about this discovery.

“A few Chinese companies opened mines in inner Mongolia and they were iron ore mines, and they were producing a waste material that ended up in their tailings piles,” Hykawy says. “The Japanese were buying large quantities of this iron, and they said, ‘Can we sample the waste piles?’ And the Chinese said, ‘Sure, take all you want.’ The Japanese came back a little while later and said, ‘We’d like to buy the waste.’ And the Chinese said, ‘Well, why wouldn’t we sell it to you? I mean, it’s waste. What are we going to do with it?’ Turns out it was rich in rare earths.”

The Chinese caught on pretty quickly, and began extracting these rare elements themselves. They could do it a lot more cheaply than anyone else, because their labor costs were a lot lower, and they were willing to put up with the environmental costs, which were not insignificant. Pretty soon, Hykawy says, US production ceased, and China effectively took over the market. Today, China controls more than 71% of the world’s extraction and 87% of the world’s processing capacity of rare earths.

Two of these rare earths, neodymium and praseodymium, are key components in the manufacturing of permanent magnets, which means that China now dominates the permanent magnet market, too, making more than 80 percent of these high-end instruments. A decade ago, this didn’t seem to be a problem. China was a willing and cooperative trading partner, apparently so unthreatening that in 2004 the US actually outsourced the production of magnets used in the guidance systems for American cruise missile and precision bombs to a Chinese company.

“We had US production,” Laura Lewis says. “Magnaquench, a subsidiary of General Motors. It was in Anderson, Indiana, and it went wholesale over to China. It was a short-term view of economics; profit up front, but then we lost our capabilities down the road.”

Today, relations with China are more fraught. And the need for both rare earths and permanent magnets is increasing, as we move to a clean-energy economy.

The US has awoken to the realization that it is at a significant strategic disadvantage to China in this vital area for its economy and national security. It has restarted an idled rare earths mine in California, and it is looking at potential new mining sites in Arizona, Nevada, and Wyoming. But those mines will take more than a decade to come online.

Game changer

This is why the discovery of synthetic tetrataenite is so exciting, Jonathan Hykawy says. The compound is so tough that manufacturers could make permanent magnets out of it for all but the most demanding pieces of machinery. If that happens, the US could fill a huge part of the magnet market itself, and reduce its need for certain rare earths. And it would make for a huge shift in America’s relationship with China. No longer would the US be beholden to a competitor for these key materials or dependent on them for certain parts essential for the production of vital technology.

There is a potential downside, however. Rare earths aren’t just used in the production of permanent magnets. They’re used in fiber optics, in radiation scanners, in televisions, in personal electronics. If a big part of the rare earths market disappears because of tetrataenite, Hykawy says, the production of all of these other important rare earths could be disrupted. They could become significantly more expensive to produce, which could drive up the cost of a range of consumer and industrial goods.

Far out

But it will be a long time before tetrataenite is in a position to disrupt any existing markets, Laura Lewis says. She says there is still a lot of testing to be done to find out whether lab tetrataenite is as hardy and as useful as the outer space material. And even if it turns out to be as good, it will be five to eight years “pedal to the metal” before anyone could make permanent magnets out of it.

In the meantime, China’s competitors are working hard to source rare earths of their own. The US is investing in mines in Australia; there’s exploration ongoing in Malaysia, and the Japanese are researching ways to extract elements from mud mined from the sea bed. Jonathan Hykawy says if countries are willing to invest in rare earth extraction, and tolerate the environmental implications, there’s no reason they can’t level the playing field with China.

“If we were willing to pay enough to produce these things, you can overcome those issues and you can produce these things in an environmentally responsible manner, ” he says. “This is no worse than mining and producing aluminum, for example.”

Source : npr

Chart: U.S. Dominates Early Chip Supply Chain

Source : Wall Street Journal

Charts: 中国EV特許でBYD独走 世界展開視野、トヨタも引用

Source : Nikkei

Video: A Look at China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter Jet

The 14th International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition will kick off in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province on November 8.

More than 740 companies from 43 countries and regions will participate in the event, and over 100 aircraft will be on display.

One of them is China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet and CGTN reporter Zheng Songwu brings more about it.

Watch video at CGTN (1:43 minutes) . . . .

Do Solar-Powered EVs Make Any Sense? I Drove a Prototype To See How It Could Work

John Voelcker wrote . . . . . . . . .

When you write about electric cars, sooner or later you get that question: Why can’t we just slap a bunch of solar panels on an EV and enjoy near-unlimited range? Whither the solar cars? The flip answer is, “Because physics.” The real answer is that today’s solar cells simply can’t generate enough energy quickly enough to power a vehicle in the limited space on its surface. (Also, clouds? And dust?)

But it’s reasonable to ask when better photovoltaic technology might deliver solar cells that could partially power a car, or at least add meaningful battery range to an EV that also has a conventional charge port. That moment has now arrived; this summer, I drove a pre-production prototype of the Lightyear 0 sedan, billed as the world’s first “solar electric car” by the Dutch startup responsible for it.

The experience proved you can power a 3,500-pound passenger vehicle solely (and slowly) via sunlight—though there are still a number of kinks to work out, and the tech still has a ways to go before it can be applied to the SUVs and larger trucks that make up an ever-increasing proportion of North American sales.

Skinny Students in Pool Tables on Wheels

Solar panels have appeared on electrified cars for more than a decade, starting with the 2010 Toyota Prius and its “solar moonroof” that powered ventilation fans to pull hot air out of the cabin. But specifically, it’s the World Solar Challenge in Australia that inspired the Dutch auto startup Lightyear. Since 1987, the 15 Challenges held so far required competing teams to build wheeled vehicles to cover 3,000 km (1,864 miles) of sunny Australian outback roads, using only energy they harvest from the abundant sun for propulsion.

Early entrants often had three wheels, with more than a few resembling pool tables covered in solar cells. They were usually piloted by the team’s lightest, skinniest student member hanging underneath. In 2013, the Challenge added a “Cruiser” class to the unlimited single-seater category, with the idea being to work toward a safe, ideally road-legal, solar vehicle with multiple seats. Lightyear was founded in 2016 by five members of a Challenge team from Eindhoven University of Technology, and the four- and five-seat “Stella” cars they’ve built have won that class in all four events held thus far.

That work led directly to the Lightyear 0 I drove, which the company says will start production before the end of this year. (Until it was revealed June 9, the company called its first production car Lightyear 1. Now it’s 0, though the next one is still Lightyear 2 … got that?)

Appearing Solely on Solar Power

My first view of the final design came in the late afternoon, as the two prototype cars proceeded sedately down the long road leading up to the venue in southern Spain. Their speed, perhaps 20 mph, was chosen to keep the power they used roughly equal to the power being generated in real-time by the five square meters (54 square feet) of solar panels on the roof, hood, and liftgate. While no Lightyear can do highway speeds on solar power alone, it’s still an impressive trick to power a 3,500-pound vehicle entirely from the sun at any speed.

We drove a prototype Lightyear 0 through the sunny countryside of Spain’s Navarre region for about 20 minutes, covering 20 kilometers (12 miles). The drive had no highway time and mostly covered two-lane country roads, with a loop through a small village.

Getting into the low, sleek car required careful negotiation for this five-foot 11-inch writer to get his head past the very steeply raked windscreen pillar. Once inside, the seats proved surprisingly comfortable and perfectly bolstered for my shape. I was warned the two pre-production Lightyear 0 prototypes didn’t have final calibrations for their steering or throttle mapping.

The result was a smooth, heavy electric sedan with linear accelerator feel, which underscored its relative slowness. Lightyear execs said the zero-to-62-mph acceleration time was about 10 seconds, but that they expected final motor tuning to deliver about 10 percent more torque with the same efficiency.

More important was the solar aspect. The car’s real-time app showed solar production of 492 and 673 watts from the two cars around noontime. Its maximum solar charging rate is just over one kilowatt, Lightyear said. That can add up to 70 km (43 miles) on the sunniest day of the year, and up to 11,000 km (6,840 miles) over a full year. For a European driver averaging 35 km (22 miles) a day, the sun could extend recharging intervals to as long as two months in a cloudy environment like The Netherlands. In a sunny spot like Portugal (or Arizona, perhaps?), that interval between recharges might go as long as seven months.

From Tesla Roadster to Lightyear 0

You can think of Lightyear’s 0 as an equivalent to the original Tesla Roadster. It’s a proof of concept EV, built in low numbers by a contract manufacturer, to demonstrate that a new technology can actually work. For Tesla, the Roadster showed a high-capacity battery pack with thousands of commodity lithium-ion cells could power a remarkably high-performance electric car, at a time when EVs were largely considered glorified golf carts. Over five years, Tesla built only 2,600 Roadsters, and their final price started at $109,000.

Lightyear plans to sell only 946 0s—because 9.46 trillion km is the distance light travels in one year, e.g. one light-year—at the substantial price of 250,000 euros ($249,200 USD). They will be manufactured in Finland by Valmet, a contract manufacturer that has built, among others, both Porsche Boxsters and the original Fisker Karma range-extended electric luxury sedan. The 81 million euros ($79.3 million USD) of funding it announced in early September should allow the company to get the 0 into production.

The Lightyear 2, which the company claims will arrive in late 2024 or early 2025 at a price of 30,000 euros ($29,400), will be the company’s volume model—akin to the Tesla Model S that went into production in 2012, four years after the Tesla Roadster arrived. But even Tesla didn’t try to cut its price by a factor of 10, so Lightyear has set itself an aggressive goal.

CEO and co-founder Lex Hoefsloots said the second vehicle will be a compact crossover akin to a Model Y. He notably didn’t deny the suggestion it would likely have to be built out of stamped steel, rather than the hand-laid carbon fiber of the Lightyear 0. They’re betting on batteries likely being cheaper by 2025, and photovoltaic cells more efficient. Hoefsloots and other execs declined to say anything further about the Lightyear 2, noting the company was still studying customer requirements for such a vehicle in both Europe and North America.

Biggest of Three

Lightyear is not the only company planning to bring a solar vehicle to market, but it’s the most ambitious, simply because its vehicle is the largest: a mid-size four-door sedan.

At the other end of the scale is a reboot of a United States startup that prototyped the ultra-efficient Aptera 2e two-seat, three-wheeled electric car in 2008 and 2009. It looked like nothing so much as a Cessna cabin sans wings and attracted a huge amount of attention. Version one of Aptera shut down in December 2011 while developing a four-wheeled vehicle amidst management upheaval and the Great Recession.

Now the original founders have brought Aptera back, with a battery-electric powertrain claimed to provide up to 1,000 miles of range from the largest (100 kWh) of four battery capacities, powering two or three 50-kW (67-horsepower) wheel motors. The latest Aptera has three square meters (32 square feet) of solar cells on its non-vertical surfaces, which it says generate up to 0.7 kilowatts. It says they will add up to 4 kWh a day, depending on geographic location. The ultra-aerodynamic, very light vehicle achieves up to 10 miles per kWh, so the solar cells can add up to 40 miles a day in the right conditions.

With 26,000 reservations in hand, the company told The Drive, “It is our goal to deliver a production-ready vehicle by the end of 2022 and ramp quickly in 2023.” Its first deliveries will be of a 400-mile, front-wheel-drive version. Aptera says, perhaps optimistically, that it hopes to scale production to a rate of 10,000 vehicles a year by the end of 2022.

Between the sleek Lightyear and the startling Aptera is the Sono Sion, another European startup aiming for ultra-efficient use of every electron. Its vehicle is a small, upright hatchback of a sort you see throughout European cities, but not so much in the U.S.

Started in 2012, the company has shown several concepts and prototypes of its vehicle. A year ago, it said it would fit a 54-kWh battery to what it now calls a “solar-supplemented electric car,” with photovoltaic panels on not only its roof and hood, but also the body sides (at least in a prototype shown in 2017). In April of this year, Sono said Finnish contract manufacturer Valmet—which is also building the Lightyear 0—would assemble the Sion, starting in the second half of 2023.

Sono Motors has no plans to sell the Sion in North America, but this fall it said it had received 20,000 reservations for the car, at an announced price of 29,900 euros ($29,300). It hopes to build 250,000 of them over seven years.

Photovoltaic Cells and Battery Cells

Photovoltaic cells have been with us for many decades, starting with their use on space satellites before 1960. Their efficiency has risen steadily to the point that they’re now mass-produced (largely in China) and usable both by individual homeowners for onsite generation and at a utility scale in fields of hundreds of acres. It’s still a five-figure project to cover the roof of your house in solar cells, but that installation produces considerably more electricity than it did 10 or 20 years ago.

The technology development of photovoltaics would be its own separate article (this is a good primer), but the important point to know is that today’s silicon-based solar cells convert 19 to 23 percent of solar energy. The theoretical maximum of those cells is no more than 28 percent, due to limitations on the wavelengths they can absorb.

Getting above that requires new types of photovoltaic cells, including those made of flexible organic materials. The Lightyear solar team noted that perovskite solar cells could boost that conversion ratio to 29 or 30 percent, automatically raising the energy produced per area by a quarter or more. Given the urgency of transitioning electrical generation to renewable and non-carbon-emitting sources, we can expect generous private and public funding to produce continuous advances in solar-cell efficiency and cost reduction.

Similarly, the cost-performance of battery cells improves by seven to 10 percent each year: their energy density increases for the same cost, or equivalent energy density costs less each year. That’s what’s taken us from 74-mile Nissan Leafs in 2011 to 520-mile Lucid Airs in 2021.

The combination of the two should create a virtuous circle, in which the possibility of cars that power themselves on sunlight grows ever closer. But even if solar cars can now do meaningful battery charging in sunny climes, two challenges remain.

On the Car? Or in a Field?

First, EVs remain pricey, and adding solar cells to them only exacerbates the problem. The Lightyear’s 60-kWh battery pack may now be average for the mid-size segment, but production EVs still aren’t yet price-competitive with their combustion-engine equivalents. The solar cells and their associated electronics likely add a further four figures of cost to the vehicle.

The second problem is that solar cells on the surface of a vehicle still can’t produce enough energy to power it—and they likely won’t any time soon. So why not simply put those solar cells somewhere else: on your roof, in a field, or in a “utility-scale” solar generation field of hundreds or thousands of acres of cheap solar arrays wired together?

At scale, it will inevitably be more cost-effective to keep your solar cells stationary rather than tying them to the cars whose batteries they recharge. So is a Lightyear showing off an impractical technology that’s as much about virtue signaling as actual energy efficiency? Certainly, the high-priced, low-yield solar panels on cars like Toyota Priuses and Fisker Karmas suggest that’s the case.

But I’m going to wait for the Lightyear 2 before I try to answer that question. Because if the company can really sell a four-passenger SUV that’s as slippery, as efficient, and can power itself to the same degree from the sun as its Zero—for $40,000—that may change the equation.

Especially for those drivers who can’t plug in at home each evening.

Source : The Drive

Watch video at You Tube (8:10 minutes)

Lightyear Zero (2023): First Test Drive Video Review . . . .

Chart: The Rise and Fall of Digital Cameras

Source : Chartr

Foxconn Unveils Pickup, Crossover to Expand EV Lineup

Foxconn Technology Group took the wraps off two new electric vehicles on Tuesday, prototypes that embody the iPhone maker’s ambitions of carving out a slice of a market led by the likes of Tesla Inc.

The company, whose main listed arm is Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., unveiled the Model B crossover and Model V pickup at an event in Taipei. Foxconn founder Terry Gou, 72, introduced the Model B by driving it onto the stage. The pickup will be produced in Taiwan, Thailand and the U.S., Hon Hai Chairman Young Liu said.

Foxconn is hoping to replicate the way it muscled into electronics assembly to become the biggest manufacturing partner for Apple Inc. and other global brands. It’s aiming to build clients’ EVs from the chassis up, with no plans to sell vehicles under its own brand.

“After we announced our plans to build EVs in 2020, many people questioned whether Foxconn can build cars,” Liu said. “Then when we unveiled three models a year later, everyone thought, ‘wow, how did they manage to develop three models in just a year?’ That’s the speed we’re operating at.”

None of the cars Foxconn has unveiled so far are destined to go on sale to consumers but are reference designs, intended to show off the company’s capabilities to potential big-brand clients. The Model C prototype introduced previously is now a production vehicle that is branded as the Luxgen n7 by Taiwanese automaker Yulon Group.

Liu said Foxconn’s expertise in managing supply chains gives it an advantage in developing new models faster than rivals. Asked when Foxconn’s production volumes will surpass those of Tesla, Liu said he hoped Foxconn would one day manufacture cars for the US giant.

The Model B, which uses the same platform as the Model C, was designed with Italian house Pininfarina SpA. The crossover has a full-length glass roof and a range of 280 miles on one charge, the company said.

Foxconn also said it is developing its own solid-state batteries.

The Taiwanese company created Foxtron Vehicle Technologies in 2020 as a venture with Yulon. It then embarked on a flurry of activity, buying Lordstown Motors Corp.’s Ohio plant to create a U.S. base, launching an open EV platform and inking a manufacturing deal with startup Fisker Inc.

Demand for EVs is soaring as consumers and governments embrace the technology, spurring a worldwide shift for the tech and automotive industries. But Foxconn’s trying to get into a field already crowded by aggressive rivals from Tesla to China’s Nio Inc. and BYD Co. to Xpeng Inc. It’s also attracting new entrants including Xiaomi Corp.

One major point of uncertainty is how the Biden administration’s recently unfurled raft of restrictions on chip exports to China will shake up the global EV industry. Xpeng has warned that the curbs on chips could potentially hammer Chinese EV makers.

Source : Automotive News