Watts Up: EV News of the Week January 6, 2023
Happy New Year, TTAC! We’re less than a full week into 2023 and there’s already a ton of EV and EV-adjacent news to cover that I was struggling to figure out where to start — that is until Stellantis took the wraps off the new Ram Revolution BEV concept truck at CES last night!
The Ram Revolution is, it should be noted, only a concept, and the brand is well behind its rivals at Ford and GM who have full-size electric pickup platforms already in customer's hands. That said, it’s interesting to see Ram take a page from GM’s playbook by seemingly building a truck-ish body and dropping it onto a dedicated EV “skateboard” chassis instead of electrifying an existing version of their Ram truck chassis, the way Ford did — and it’s doubly interesting, now that Chevrolet has officially posted images of their Silverado electric Work Truck rolling down the assembly line!
Notable Revolution features include a full-length cargo pass-through that extends into the “frunk” of the vehicle, allowing contractors to haul 18’ wooden beams inside their more-or-less enclosed EVs, as well as third-row “jump seats” behind the rear (middle?) bench.
And, because the vehicle made its debut at CES, it is full of sky-high “concepts” that include an AI-powered personal assistant, complete with, “a 3D Ram avatar acts as the vehicle's face, responding to various voice commands from users. Additionally, voice control enables the Ram 1500 Revolution BEV Concept to follow commands from the owner while they’re outside the vehicle, such as close the windows, play music, take a picture, and ‘follow me’ with Shadow Mode.”
That self-driving “Shadow Mode” will supposedly allow a Ram truck to automatically follow a person walking ahead of the vehicle, which Stellantis can be useful for when the driver needs to move a short distance and doesn't want to get back in the truck, and I say can be useful for generating YouTube “ fail” videos where some poor idiot gets run over by his own, self-driving car.
SPEAKING OF SELF-DRIVING CARS
Tesla fans are still reeling from the passage of a new California law that went into effect January 1st, which prohibits carmakers from advertising their cars as being capable of driving themselves when, you know, they can’t.
That new law, officially called Senate Bill (SB) No. 1398, was sponsored by Democratic state senator Lena Gonzalez and states that “A manufacturer or dealer shall not name any partial driving automation feature, or describe any partial driving automation feature in marketing materials, using language that implies or would otherwise lead a reasonable person to believe, that the feature allows the vehicle to function as an autonomous vehicle, as defined in Section 38750, or otherwise has functionality not actually included in the feature.”
In theory, that covers a broad swath of implementation and prevents all auto manufacturers from “deceptively naming or marketing” autonomous vehicle technology. In practice, however, the new law kicks Tesla square in the nuts.
The company has already sold many, many thousands of electric vehicles equipped with its “Autopilot” and “Full Self Driving” features in the state of California, where Tesla was already facing a class action lawsuit from customers filed back in September.
The lawsuit, filed by Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, argues that Tesla has been misleading buyers about claims surrounding the capabilities of its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Package, and argues that the company knowingly delivered, “a faulty product.”
In the initial press release announcing the lawsuit, the firm argued that “Tesla has yet to produce a fully self-driving car,” despite numerous claims and promises dating back to 2016. “Tesla owners receiving the latest ‘updates’ to Tesla’s Autopilot software and FSD beta software have reported myriad problems, such as cars having difficulty making routine turns, running red lights, and steering into oncoming traffic. There have also been numerous collisions involving Tesla’s purportedly cutting-edge software, including vehicles crashing at high speeds into large stationary objects, such as emergency vehicles and an overturned box truck.”
As if adding insult to injury, YouTuber Detroit Tesla (a longtime Tesla supporter) published a video of his own Tesla attempting to drive itself around snowy city roads. Within seconds, the Tesla is accelerating more quickly than the driver (passenger?) feels is safe, “loses” sight of the road and attempts to steer itself into a curb, then slides up to a stoplight under braking. “I can’t even get my sentences out without the car going nuts,” says Detroit Tesla, about two minutes into the video.
If you think that’s an exaggeration, you can watch the video for yourself, below.
INFINITE DEMAND AND NEAR INFINITE MASS
It’s hard not to talk about Tesla when you’re talking about EVs, and two more of the biggest stories of the last week involve the disruptive US car brand that has touted a “quasi-infinite” demand for its EV and energy storage products since at least 2014. That demand seems to have waned in recent months, and the brand dropped prices twice in China and reinstated free Supercharging in the US in order to goose Q4 deliveries. It wasn’t enough for Tesla to meet the goals set by Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, who predicted that the company could hit 60 percent growth in deliveries over 2021 in April of ‘22. By July, that number had been walked back to 50 percent, before the brand ended with “just” 40 percent growth … but that, in and of itself, isn’t a “huge” EV news story.
What is a huge EV story is that Tesla is no longer the #1 plug-in carmaker, globally. Warren Buffet-backed Chinese EV brand BYD just reported record December sales – 235,197 units in December, alone – finishing off 2022 with 1.83 million global EV deliveries, beating Tesla’s 1.31 million deliveries figure by several hundred thousand units.
Over on the more ridiculous side of things (which, when it comes to Tesla, is really saying something), everyone suddenly realized that the official Tesla product page for the perpetually delayed Cybertruck reads, “With the ability to pull near infinite mass and a towing capability of over 14,000 pounds, Cybertruck can perform in almost any extreme situation with ease."
The brand has been soundly ridiculed for the claim in recent days, but until the people involved feel near-infinite embarrassment at having ever been associated with that copy I think we can keep piling on.
NOT FEELING IT
I’ll close off this week’s EV news roundup with Afeela. And, no, that’s not the name of a discount antidepressant — that’s the name that both Sony and Honda agreed would be the one to adorn their upcoming electric JV.
Sony first showed their Vision-S electric sedan at CES in 2020, claiming at the time that it was just a technology demonstrator for the brand’s automotive sensor and camera division, but nobody bought that. Especially not when, just one year later, the company had a 536 HP example of the Vision S driving around Europe.
I had high hopes for the project, and even higher hopes when news broke that Honda would be manufacturing the car with Sony in a dedicated JV to target Tesla, Lucid, and *checks notes* Faraday Future … but, Afeela?
Afeela reads like the kiss of death to me, but I’m nobody. You? You guys are the Best and Brightest, so let us know what you think of all this EV news, and whether or not you’re feeling Afeela, in the comments.
[Images: Ram, Tesla, Tesla, Sony Honda Mobility]
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- Jeff S The Cybertruck is one of the most hyped vehicles in decades.
- Nrd515 This is all I could think of seeing this. I saw it in the theater with my dad about 59 years or so ago:https://www.popcorncinemashow.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Mr-Sardonicus-1961-01.jpg
- Art Vandelay I have no illusions tha my Challenger was going to be a car I wanted to own 10 seconds out of warranty. Fun, sure. Fun in 8 years? Hard pass based on the 2 years I had it
- ToolGuy Weren't some of the most powerful engines in the M4 Sherman air-cooled? (And supercharged.)
- ToolGuy "I installed oil temp and cylinder head temp gauges on various vehicles I was driving, so I could monitor how the engine was doing. I switched from my normal 20W50 and dropped to 15W40 oil and put down thousands of miles. Within that time, I saw a noticeable decrease in oil temps and even cylinder head temps while driving in different situations."ToolGuy has great admiration for your use of the scientific method in conducting original research.