Electric vehicle startup Nio lays off 141 employees at its North American headquarters

Electric vehicle startup Nio is laying off 141 people at its North American headquarters. According to a filing from Employment Development Department of California, the employees at its San Jose office received notice on December 6.

Nio, whose global headquarters are in Shanghai, announced last month that it is partnering with Intel’s Mobileye to develop autonomous vehicles for consumers. Under the agreement, Nio will engineer and produce a self-driving system designed by Mobileye.

The Intel partnership was a spot of bright news after a difficult year for Nio. Nio’s third quarter saw an uptick in sales, thanks in part to competitive pricing, but its share prices have fallen about 78% since the end of February.

The company reported losses in the first and second quarters of the year and in June, voluntarily recalled 5,000 of its ES8 electric SUVs after battery fires in China, impacting its production and delivery. CEO William Li said during the company’s earnings report in September that it would implement cost-cutting measures, including reducing its workforce from 9,900 people down to 7,800 by the end of the third quarter. Nio has offices in 11 cities, including Beijing, London and Munich.

Review: Driving the track-ready, race-banned McLaren Senna GTR

The McLaren Senna GTR shouldn’t exist.

This feat of engineering and design isn’t allowed on public roads. It’s built for the track, but prohibited from competing in motorsports. And yet, the GTR is no outlier at McLaren. It’s part of their Ultimate Series, a portfolio of extreme and distinct hypercars that now serve as the foundation of the company’s identity and an integral part of their business model.

The P1, introduced in 2012, was McLaren Automotive’s opening act on the hypercar stage and was an instant success for both the brand and its business. McLaren followed it up with the P1 GTR, then went on to chart a course toward the Ultimate Series of today and beyond.

Since 2017, the automaker has added the Senna, Speedtail, Senna GTR and now the open-cockpit Elva to the Ultimate Series portfolio. While the GTR is certainly the most extreme and limited in how and where it can be used, it follows a larger pattern of the Ultimate Series as being provocatively designed with obsessive intent.

Automotive takes the wheel

Purpose-built race cars that call on every modern tool of engineering and design have historically been produced for one purpose: winning. This objective, nourished by billions of dollars of investment from the motorsports industry, has led to technological and performance breakthroughs that have eventually trickled down to automotive.

The pipeline that has produced a century of motorsports-driven innovation is narrowing as racing regulations become more restrictive. Now, a new dynamic is taking shape. Automotive is taking the technological lead.

mclaren-car-stats-final

Take the McLaren Senna road car, the predecessor to the GTR. McLaren had to constrain the design of the Senna to make it road legal. But the automaker loaded it with active aerodynamics and chassis control systems that racing engineers could only dream about.

McLaren wasn’t finished. It pushed the bounds further and produced a strictly track-focused and unconstrained race car that expands upon the Senna’s lack of conformity. The Senna GTR might be too advanced and too fast for any racing championship, but McLaren said to hell with it and made the vehicle anyway.

The bet paid off. All 75 Senna GTR hypercars, which start at $1.65 million, sold before the first one was even produced.

The Senna GTR is the symbol of a new reality — a hypercar market that thrives on the ever-more-extreme, homologation standards be damned.

Two weeks ago, I had a chance to get behind the wheel of the Senna GTR at the Snetterton Circuit in the U.K. to find out how McLaren went about developing this wholly unconstrained machine.

Behind the wheel

Rr-rr-rr-kra-PAH! The deafening backfire of the GTR’s 814-horsepower 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine snapped me to attention and instantly transported me to the moment earlier in the day that provided the first hints of what my drive might be like.

Rob Bell, the McLaren factory driver who did track development for the GTR, was on hand to get the car warmed up. Shortly after he set out, the car ripped down the front-straight, climbing through RPMs with an ear-protection-worthy scream that reverberated off every nearby surface, an audible reminder of how unshackled it is.

As Bell approached Turn 1, the rear wing quickly dropped back to its standard setting from the straightaway DRS (drag reduction system) position, then to an even more aggressive airbrake as he went hard to the brakes from 6th gear down to 5th to 4th. The vehicle responded with the signature kra-PAH! kra-PAH! and then promptly discharged huge flames out the exhaust as the anti-lag settings keep a bit of fuel flowing off-throttle.

I thought to myself, ‘Holy sh*t! This thing is no joke!’

McLaren Senna GTR driver

Sliding into the driver’s seat, I feel at home. The cockpit is purposeful. The track was cold with some damp spots, and the GTR is a stiff, lightweight race car with immense power on giant slick tires. Conventional wisdom would suggest the driver — me in this case — should slowly work up to speed in these otherwise treacherous conditions. However, the best way to get the car to work is to get temperature in the tires by leaning on it a bit right away. Bell sent me out in full “Race” settings for both the engine and electronic traction and stability controls. Within a few corners — and before the end of the lap — I had a good feel for the tuning of the ABS, TC and ESC, which were all intuitive and minimally invasive.

As a racing driver, it’s rare to feel a tinge of excitement just to go for a drive. As professionals, driving is a clinical exercise. But the GTR triggered that feeling.

I started by pushing hard in slower corners and before long worked my way up the ladder to the fast, high-commitment sections. The car violently accelerated up through the gears, leaving streaks of rubber at the exit of every corner.

Once the car is straight, drivers can push the DRS button to reduce drag and increase speed for an extra haptic kick. The DRS button is now a manual function on the upper left of the steering wheel to give the driver more control over when it’s deployed. After hitting the DRS, the car dares you to keep your right foot planted on the throttle, then instantly hunkers down under braking with a stability I’ve rarely experienced.McLaren Senna GTR drive

The active rear wing adds angle while the active front flaps take it out to counterbalance the effect of the car’s weight shifting forward onto the front axle, letting you drive deeper and deeper into each corner. It’s sharply reactive; the GTR stuck to the road, but still required a bit of driving with my fingertips out at the limit on that cold day. I soon discovered that the faster I went, the more downforce the car generated, and the more speed I was able to extract from it.

Tip to tail

In almost any other environment, the Senna road car is the most shocking car you’ve ever seen. Its cockpit shape is reminiscent of a sci-fi spaceship capsule. The enormous swan neck-mounted rear wing is one highlight in a long list of standout features. The Senna road car looks downright pedestrian next to the GTR.

McLaren Senna GTR doors

The rear wing stretches off the back of the car with sculpted carbon fiber endplates and seamlessly connects to the rear fender bodywork. The diffuser that emerges from the car’s underbody — creating low pressure by accelerating the airflow under the car for added downforce — is massive. The giant 325/705-19 Pirelli slicks are slightly exposed from behind, giving you the full sense of just how much rubber is on the ground, and the sharp edges of the center exit exhaust tips are already a bluish-purple tint.

The cockpit shape and dihedral doors are instantly recognizable from the road car. But inside, the GTR is all business. The steering wheel is derived from McLaren’s 720S GT3 racing wheel, a butterfly shape with buttons and rotary switches aplenty. The dash is an electronic display straight out of a race car; six-point belts and proper racing seats complete the aesthetic.

McLaren Senna GTR cockpit

Arriving at the front of the car, the active front wing-flaps are as prominent as ever, while the splitter extends several inches farther out in front of the car and is profiled with a raised area in the center to reduce pitch sensitivity given the car’s much lower dynamic ride-height. In fact, nearly the entire front end of the car has been tweaked; there are additional dive-planes, the forward facing bodywork at the sides of the car have been squared-off and reshaped, and an array of vortex generators have been carved into the outer edge of the wider, bigger splitter surface.

All of these design choices in the front point to the primary area of development from the Senna road-car to the GTR: maximizing its l/d or ratio of lift (in this case the inverse of lift, downforce) to drag.

McLaren pulled two of its F1 aerodynamicists into the GTR project to take the car’s aero to a new level. The upshot: a 20% increase in the car’s total downforce compared to the Senna road car, while increasing aero efficiency — the ratio of downforce to drag — by an incredible 50%. The car is wider, lower and longer than its road-going counterpart, and somehow looks more properly proportioned with its road-legal restrictions stripped away to take full advantage of its design freedom.

McLaren Senna GTR back

This was the car the Senna always wanted to be.

The development process of the GTR was short and to the point. When you have F1 aerodynamicists and a GT3 motorsport program in-house attacking what is already the most high-performing production track car in the industry, it can be. There were areas they could instantly improve by freeing themselves of road-car constraints — the interior of the car could be more spartan; the overall vehicle dimensions and track width could increase; the car would no longer need electronically variable ride heights for different road surfaces so the suspension system could be more purposeful for track use; the car would have larger, slick tires.

All this provided a cohesive mechanical platform upon which to release the aerodynamic assault of guided simulation and CFD.

Senna GTR CFD1 aero side

The GTR benefits from the work of talented humans and amazing computer programs working together with a holistic design approach. What was once a sort of invisible magic, aerodynamics has become a well-understood means of generating performance. But you still have to know what you’re seeking to accomplish; the priorities for a car racing at Pikes Peak are much different than those of a streamliner at Bonneville.

The development team for the GTR sought to maximize the total level of downforce that the tires could sustain, then really kicked their efforts into gear to clean up airflow around the car as much as possible. Many of the aggressive-looking design elements that differentiate the GTR from the Senna are not just for additional downforce but to move air around the car with less turbulence — less turbulent air means less drag. You can’t see it or feel it, but it certainly shows up on the stopwatch, and is often the difference between a car that just looks fast and one that actually is.

I hadn’t asked how fast the car was relative to other GT race cars before I drove it. I think a part of me was fearful that despite its appearance and specs it might be wholly tuned down to be sure it was approachable for an amateur on a track day. And that would make sense, as that’s the likely use-case this car will have. After driving the GTR, I didn’t hesitate for a second to ask, to which they humbly said that it’s seconds faster than their own McLaren 720S GT3 car, and still had some headroom.The Senna GTR is another exercise in exploring the limits of technology, engineering and performance for McLaren, enabled by a market of enthusiasts with the means to support it. And this trend is likely to continue unless motorsports changes the rules to allow hypercars.

McLaren’s next move

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest, organizers of the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has been working for years to develop regulations that could include them. While these discussions are gaining momentum, it remains to be seen whether motorsport can provide a legitimate platform for the hypercar in the modern era.

The last time this kind of exercise was embarked on was more than 20 years ago during the incredible but short-lived GT1-era at Le Mans that spanned from 1995 to 1998. It saw McLaren, Porsche, Mercedes and others pull out all the stops to create the original hypercars — in most cases comically unroadworthy homologation specials like the Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion (literally “street version”) and Mercedes CLK GTR — for the sole purpose of becoming the underpinnings of a winning race car on the world’s stage.

At that time, the race cars made sense to people; the streetcars were misfits of which only the necessary minimum of 25 units were produced in most cases, and the whole thing collapsed due to loopholes, cost, politics and the lack of any real endgame.

Today, the ACO benefits from a road-going hypercar market that McLaren played a key role in developing. Considering McLaren’s success with hyper-specific specialized vehicles in recent years, I’d bet the automaker could produce a vehicle custom-tailored to a worthy set of hypercar regulations. Even if not, McLaren will continue to develop and sell vehicles under its Ultimate Series banner.

And there’s already evidence that McLaren is doubling down. 

McLaren Elva

McLaren shows off the open cockpit Elva.

McLaren’s Track 25 business plan targets $1.6 billion in investment toward 18 new vehicles between 2018 and 2025. The company’s entire portfolio will use performance-focused hybrid powertrains by 2025.

The paint had barely dried on the Senna GTR before McLaren introduced another new vehicle, the Elva. And more are coming. McLaren is already promising a successor to the mighty P1. I, for one, am looking forward to what else they have in store.

Review: Driving the track-ready, race-banned McLaren Senna GTR

The McLaren Senna GTR shouldn’t exist.

This feat of engineering and design isn’t allowed on public roads. It’s built for the track, but prohibited from competing in motorsports. And yet, the GTR is no outlier at McLaren. It’s part of their Ultimate Series, a portfolio of extreme and distinct hypercars that now serve as the foundation of the company’s identity and an integral part of their business model.

The P1, introduced in 2012, was McLaren Automotive’s opening act on the hypercar stage and was an instant success for both the brand and its business. McLaren followed it up with the P1 GTR, then went on to chart a course toward the Ultimate Series of today and beyond.

Since 2017, the automaker has added the Senna, Speedtail, Senna GTR and now the open-cockpit Elva to the Ultimate Series portfolio. While the GTR is certainly the most extreme and limited in how and where it can be used, it follows a larger pattern of the Ultimate Series as being provocatively designed with obsessive intent.

Automotive takes the wheel

Purpose-built race cars that call on every modern tool of engineering and design have historically been produced for one purpose: winning. This objective, nourished by billions of dollars of investment from the motorsports industry, has led to technological and performance breakthroughs that have eventually trickled down to automotive.

The pipeline that has produced a century of motorsports-driven innovation is narrowing as racing regulations become more restrictive. Now, a new dynamic is taking shape. Automotive is taking the technological lead.

mclaren-car-stats-final

Take the McLaren Senna road car, the predecessor to the GTR. McLaren had to constrain the design of the Senna to make it road legal. But the automaker loaded it with active aerodynamics and chassis control systems that racing engineers could only dream about.

McLaren wasn’t finished. It pushed the bounds further and produced a strictly track-focused and unconstrained race car that expands upon the Senna’s lack of conformity. The Senna GTR might be too advanced and too fast for any racing championship, but McLaren said to hell with it and made the vehicle anyway.

The bet paid off. All 75 Senna GTR hypercars, which start at $1.65 million, sold before the first one was even produced.

The Senna GTR is the symbol of a new reality — a hypercar market that thrives on the ever-more-extreme, homologation standards be damned.

Two weeks ago, I had a chance to get behind the wheel of the Senna GTR at the Snetterton Circuit in the U.K. to find out how McLaren went about developing this wholly unconstrained machine.

Behind the wheel

Rr-rr-rr-kra-PAH! The deafening backfire of the GTR’s 814-horsepower 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine snapped me to attention and instantly transported me to the moment earlier in the day that provided the first hints of what my drive might be like.

Rob Bell, the McLaren factory driver who did track development for the GTR, was on hand to get the car warmed up. Shortly after he set out, the car ripped down the front-straight, climbing through RPMs with an ear-protection-worthy scream that reverberated off every nearby surface, an audible reminder of how unshackled it is.

As Bell approached Turn 1, the rear wing quickly dropped back to its standard setting from the straightaway DRS (drag reduction system) position, then to an even more aggressive airbrake as he went hard to the brakes from 6th gear down to 5th to 4th. The vehicle responded with the signature kra-PAH! kra-PAH! and then promptly discharged huge flames out the exhaust as the anti-lag settings keep a bit of fuel flowing off-throttle.

I thought to myself, ‘Holy sh*t! This thing is no joke!’

McLaren Senna GTR driver

Sliding into the driver’s seat, I feel at home. The cockpit is purposeful. The track was cold with some damp spots, and the GTR is a stiff, lightweight race car with immense power on giant slick tires. Conventional wisdom would suggest the driver — me in this case — should slowly work up to speed in these otherwise treacherous conditions. However, the best way to get the car to work is to get temperature in the tires by leaning on it a bit right away. Bell sent me out in full “Race” settings for both the engine and electronic traction and stability controls. Within a few corners — and before the end of the lap — I had a good feel for the tuning of the ABS, TC and ESC, which were all intuitive and minimally invasive.

As a racing driver, it’s rare to feel a tinge of excitement just to go for a drive. As professionals, driving is a clinical exercise. But the GTR triggered that feeling.

I started by pushing hard in slower corners and before long worked my way up the ladder to the fast, high-commitment sections. The car violently accelerated up through the gears, leaving streaks of rubber at the exit of every corner.

Once the car is straight, drivers can push the DRS button to reduce drag and increase speed for an extra haptic kick. The DRS button is now a manual function on the upper left of the steering wheel to give the driver more control over when it’s deployed. After hitting the DRS, the car dares you to keep your right foot planted on the throttle, then instantly hunkers down under braking with a stability I’ve rarely experienced.McLaren Senna GTR drive

The active rear wing adds angle while the active front flaps take it out to counterbalance the effect of the car’s weight shifting forward onto the front axle, letting you drive deeper and deeper into each corner. It’s sharply reactive; the GTR stuck to the road, but still required a bit of driving with my fingertips out at the limit on that cold day. I soon discovered that the faster I went, the more downforce the car generated, and the more speed I was able to extract from it.

Tip to tail

In almost any other environment, the Senna road car is the most shocking car you’ve ever seen. Its cockpit shape is reminiscent of a sci-fi spaceship capsule. The enormous swan neck-mounted rear wing is one highlight in a long list of standout features. The Senna road car looks downright pedestrian next to the GTR.

McLaren Senna GTR doors

The rear wing stretches off the back of the car with sculpted carbon fiber endplates and seamlessly connects to the rear fender bodywork. The diffuser that emerges from the car’s underbody — creating low pressure by accelerating the airflow under the car for added downforce — is massive. The giant 325/705-19 Pirelli slicks are slightly exposed from behind, giving you the full sense of just how much rubber is on the ground, and the sharp edges of the center exit exhaust tips are already a bluish-purple tint.

The cockpit shape and dihedral doors are instantly recognizable from the road car. But inside, the GTR is all business. The steering wheel is derived from McLaren’s 720S GT3 racing wheel, a butterfly shape with buttons and rotary switches aplenty. The dash is an electronic display straight out of a race car; six-point belts and proper racing seats complete the aesthetic.

McLaren Senna GTR cockpit

Arriving at the front of the car, the active front wing-flaps are as prominent as ever, while the splitter extends several inches farther out in front of the car and is profiled with a raised area in the center to reduce pitch sensitivity given the car’s much lower dynamic ride-height. In fact, nearly the entire front end of the car has been tweaked; there are additional dive-planes, the forward facing bodywork at the sides of the car have been squared-off and reshaped, and an array of vortex generators have been carved into the outer edge of the wider, bigger splitter surface.

All of these design choices in the front point to the primary area of development from the Senna road-car to the GTR: maximizing its l/d or ratio of lift (in this case the inverse of lift, downforce) to drag.

McLaren pulled two of its F1 aerodynamicists into the GTR project to take the car’s aero to a new level. The upshot: a 20% increase in the car’s total downforce compared to the Senna road car, while increasing aero efficiency — the ratio of downforce to drag — by an incredible 50%. The car is wider, lower and longer than its road-going counterpart, and somehow looks more properly proportioned with its road-legal restrictions stripped away to take full advantage of its design freedom.

McLaren Senna GTR back

This was the car the Senna always wanted to be.

The development process of the GTR was short and to the point. When you have F1 aerodynamicists and a GT3 motorsport program in-house attacking what is already the most high-performing production track car in the industry, it can be. There were areas they could instantly improve by freeing themselves of road-car constraints — the interior of the car could be more spartan; the overall vehicle dimensions and track width could increase; the car would no longer need electronically variable ride heights for different road surfaces so the suspension system could be more purposeful for track use; the car would have larger, slick tires.

All this provided a cohesive mechanical platform upon which to release the aerodynamic assault of guided simulation and CFD.

Senna GTR CFD1 aero side

The GTR benefits from the work of talented humans and amazing computer programs working together with a holistic design approach. What was once a sort of invisible magic, aerodynamics has become a well-understood means of generating performance. But you still have to know what you’re seeking to accomplish; the priorities for a car racing at Pikes Peak are much different than those of a streamliner at Bonneville.

The development team for the GTR sought to maximize the total level of downforce that the tires could sustain, then really kicked their efforts into gear to clean up airflow around the car as much as possible. Many of the aggressive-looking design elements that differentiate the GTR from the Senna are not just for additional downforce but to move air around the car with less turbulence — less turbulent air means less drag. You can’t see it or feel it, but it certainly shows up on the stopwatch, and is often the difference between a car that just looks fast and one that actually is.

I hadn’t asked how fast the car was relative to other GT race cars before I drove it. I think a part of me was fearful that despite its appearance and specs it might be wholly tuned down to be sure it was approachable for an amateur on a track day. And that would make sense, as that’s the likely use-case this car will have. After driving the GTR, I didn’t hesitate for a second to ask, to which they humbly said that it’s seconds faster than their own McLaren 720S GT3 car, and still had some headroom.The Senna GTR is another exercise in exploring the limits of technology, engineering and performance for McLaren, enabled by a market of enthusiasts with the means to support it. And this trend is likely to continue unless motorsports changes the rules to allow hypercars.

McLaren’s next move

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest, organizers of the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has been working for years to develop regulations that could include them. While these discussions are gaining momentum, it remains to be seen whether motorsport can provide a legitimate platform for the hypercar in the modern era.

The last time this kind of exercise was embarked on was more than 20 years ago during the incredible but short-lived GT1-era at Le Mans that spanned from 1995 to 1998. It saw McLaren, Porsche, Mercedes and others pull out all the stops to create the original hypercars — in most cases comically unroadworthy homologation specials like the Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion (literally “street version”) and Mercedes CLK GTR — for the sole purpose of becoming the underpinnings of a winning race car on the world’s stage.

At that time, the race cars made sense to people; the streetcars were misfits of which only the necessary minimum of 25 units were produced in most cases, and the whole thing collapsed due to loopholes, cost, politics and the lack of any real endgame.

Today, the ACO benefits from a road-going hypercar market that McLaren played a key role in developing. Considering McLaren’s success with hyper-specific specialized vehicles in recent years, I’d bet the automaker could produce a vehicle custom-tailored to a worthy set of hypercar regulations. Even if not, McLaren will continue to develop and sell vehicles under its Ultimate Series banner.

And there’s already evidence that McLaren is doubling down. 

McLaren Elva

McLaren shows off the open cockpit Elva.

McLaren’s Track 25 business plan targets $1.6 billion in investment toward 18 new vehicles between 2018 and 2025. The company’s entire portfolio will use performance-focused hybrid powertrains by 2025.

The paint had barely dried on the Senna GTR before McLaren introduced another new vehicle, the Elva. And more are coming. McLaren is already promising a successor to the mighty P1. I, for one, am looking forward to what else they have in store.

Qualcomm launches the XR2 platform for 5G-connected AR and VR devices

At its Snapdragon Boondoggle Summit in sunny Maui, Hawaii, Qualcomm today announced the launch of its XR2 platform, which it describes as the “world’s first 5G-supported extended reality (XR) platform.” The company’s older XR1 platform, which already powers a number of VR and AR devices, will remain in the market and is now branded as Qualcomm’s XR platform for mainstream users, while XR2 is meant to show off “next-level features for never before experiences.”

XR2 brings together the company’s 5G modem and AI advances to, for example, support up to seven cameras for pass-through HoloLens-style mixed reality and smoother standalone VR experiences. Using this setup, the XR2 features 26-point skeletal hand tracking and, of course, accurate environmental mapping.

The XR2 supports display panels with a 3K by 3K resolution at 90 frames per second and supports up to 8K 360-degree videos at 60 frames per second, all using custom silicon to keep the latency of these panels very low.

While I think the value of AR/VR still remains somewhat debatable, Qualcomm believes that AR and VR had a good 2019 and started breaking out of the consumer gaming space. “I think when the hype started back in 2014/15, it was a lot about these consumer gaming experiences, but we see more and more enterprise applications coming to market. […] I think 2019 was a key year where we saw this transformation take place, with many, many proof points in both consumer and in enterprise,” said Hugo Swart, the company’s VP and Head of XR.

For the longest time now, we’ve heard how important 5G will be for this market, because it will allow you to stream high-quality video at the kind of low latencies that make AR/VR immersive. “5G is going to be crucial for XR. We’ve spoken about this in the past, that XRS video is the killer use case for 5G,” said Hiren Bhinde, director of product Management at Qualcomm. “Next year […], given that this is the world’s first 5G access platform, we are excited to see how different content developers, as well as different video streaming services with high-resolution videos, may be able to provide their high-bandwidth content on devices built on XR2.”

Mercedes prices its all-electric EQC SUV at $67,900

The Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4MATIC, the German automaker’s first all-electric vehicle under its new EQ brand, will start at $67,900 when it arrives in the U.S. early next year.

Mercedes-Benz announced the price of the EQC 400 Wednesday at the LA Auto Show. The price, which doesn’t account for the $7,500 federal tax credit, is notable because it’s below competitors like the Jaguar I-Pace, Audi e-tron and Tesla Model X.

It’s been a year since Mercedes-Benz unveiled the EQC, an all-electric SUV that kicked off the automaker’s plans to invest more than $12 billion to produce a line of battery-powered models under its new EQ brand. And in March, TechCrunch got a brief ride in the SUV in Austin during SXSW. In short, information about the vehicle has been out there. But the price has not.

The Mercedes EQC has a new drive system with compact dual electric drivetrains at each axle, which together generate 402 horsepower and 561 pound-feet of torque. The EQC can travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds.

Mercedes has configured the vehicle motors to handle different aspects of the driving. The front electric motor is optimized for efficiency in the low to medium load range, while the rear motor is designed to create a sporty driving experience.

The vehicle’s 80 kilowatt-hour battery has an estimated range of around 200 miles, Mercedes-Benz has said in the past. The company didn’t provide updated numbers. The battery has standard DC fast-charging that can reach an 80% charge in 40 minutes.

The EQC will come standard with the company’s new MBUX infotainment system, which is already in the A-Class. The infotainment system has put an emphasis on voice assistant technology and navigation, which will be critical for new EV converts worried about locating charging stations. EQ-optimized navigation, driving modes, charging current and departure time also can be controlled and set via MBUX, the company said.

MBUX will recommend the shortest amount of time needed to get to a destination and uses online services to find available DC fast charging stations to use if the operating range is insufficient. Mercedes-Benz customers can also find charging stations via the Mercedes me Charge card, the Mercedes me App or directly from the car.

The onboard charger makes the most from available external power, with the battery able to recharge from 10% to 80% in just 40 minutes.

The EQC will be available in three tiers at launch: progressive, premium and advanced. The progressive and premium tiers will offer two curated paint and upholstery options, while three selections will be available for the more expensive advanced tier.

The entry-level progressive trim will come standard with MBUX, two 10.25-inch digital displays with touchscreen, advanced driver assistance system features like active brake assist with autonomous emergency braking and LED headlamps with adaptive high-beam assist.

Production of the EQC started this year at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Bremen.

Volkswagen’s new all-electric concept wagon could be coming to the U.S. by 2022

Volkswagen revealed Tuesday evening a new concept vehicle called the ID Space Vizzion, and despite the crazy Frank Zappaesque name, this one might actually make it into production in Europe and North America.

The ID Space Vizzion is the seventh concept that VW has introduced since 2016 that uses its MEB platform, a flexible modular system — really a matrix of common parts — for producing electric vehicles that VW says make it more efficient and cost-effective.

The first vehicles to use this MEB platform will be under the ID brand, although this platform can and will be used for electric vehicles under other VW Group brands such as Skoda and Seat. The ID.3 is the first model in its new all-electric ID brand and the beginning of the automaker’s ambitious plan to sell 1 million EVs annually by 2025. A production version of the ID. 3 was unveiled in September.

The ID Space Vizzion is equipped with a rear-mounted 275-horsepower motor and a 82 kilowatt-hour battery pack with a range of up to 300 miles under the EU’s WLTP cycle. A second motor can be added to give it all-wheel drive capability and a total output of 355 horsepower.

This concept will likely be described in a number of ways — and during the event at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles it was — but this is a wagon through and through.

What the ID. Space Vizzion will ultimately look like is unclear although much of the shape and overall stance shown Tuesday evening. But Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen of America, did say in his closing remarks that something like the concept shown tonight will come to the U.S.

[gallery ids="1914304,1914306,1914307,1914308,1914309,1914310"]

Audi’s next all-electric vehicle, the e-tron Sportback, is a “coupé” SUV

Audi revealed Tuesday evening in Los Angeles the e-tron Sportback as the German automaker begins to chip away at its plan to launch more than 30 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids by 2025.

The e-tron Sportback reveal ahead of the LA Auto Show follows the launch earlier this year of Audi’s first all-electric vehicle, the 2019 e-tron.

Audi has delivered 18,500 of its all-electric e-tron SUVs globally since March 2019 when the vehicle first came to market. And the company is hoping to grab more, and different, customers with the Sportback.

Audi plans to offer two variants of the vehicle, a Sportback 50 and Sportback 55. The Sportback will come to Europe first in spring 2020. The Sportback 55 will come to the U.S. in fall 2020.

Audi calls this e-tron Sportback a SUV coupé, the latest evidence that automakers are comfortable pushing the boundaries of traditional automotive terminology. This is not a two-door car with a fixed roof and a sloping rear, although there are “coupé” elements in the design.

This is in fact a SUV with a roof that extend flat over the body and then drops steeply to the rear — that’s where the coupé name comes in — and into the D pillar of the vehicle. Then there’s the classic “Sportback” feature in the body where the lower edge of the side window rises toward the rear.

There are design details repeated throughout the exterior, specifically the four-bar pattern in the headlamps, front grille and wheels. And of course there are special interior and exterior finishes – 13 paint colors in all — and a first edition version customers can buy. The base price of the Sportback is 71,350 ($79,000).

But importantly, besides some styling and design changes, this vehicle boasts longer range and for everyone outside the U.S., futuristic looking side mirrors and new lighting tech.

The 2020 Audi e-tron Sportback has a 86.4 kilowatt-hour battery pack that has a range of up to 446 kilometers (277.1 miles) in the EU’s WLTP cycle. The EPA estimates aren’t out yet, but expect the range numbers to be slightly lower.

The company is targeting an EPA range of about 220 miles over the 204 miles of range that the regular e-tron gets.

Audi was able to improve the range by increasing the net battery capacity. It also decoupled the front motor and improved the thermal management.

Lighting and mirrors

Audi is known for its lighting and the company has made this a key feature in the Sportback. The vehicle has a new digital matrix headlights that breaks down light into tiny pixels. The result is precise lighting that has high resolution.

Inside the headlight is a digital micromirror device that acts like a video projector. Inside the DMD is a small chip from Texas Instruments that contains one million micromirrors. These micromirrors can be tilted up to 5,000 times per second.

The upshot: The headlights can project specific patterns on the road or illuminate certain areas more brightly. And for fun, animations like the e-tron or Audi logos can be projected on a wall when the vehicle is stopped.

Check out this video to see it in action.

The safety piece of this is the most interesting. For instance, on a freeway the light might creates a carpet of light that illuminates the driver’s own lane brightly and adjusts dynamically when he or she changes lane.

Then there are the virtual exterior mirrors. This wing-shaped side mirror doesn’t have an exterior mirror. Instead, it supports integrate small cameras. The captured images appear on high-contrast OLED displays inside the car between the instrument panel and the door.

If the driver moves their finger toward the surface of the touch display, symbols are activated with which the driver can reposition the image. The mirrors can be adjust automatically to three driving situations for highway driving, turning and parking.

Neither the mirrors of the digital matrix LED lighting is available in the U.S. and won’t be until the government changes its Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, or FMVSS, which are the regulations that dictate the design, construction, performance, and durability requirements for motor vehicles.

Four must-haves for the Tesla ‘Cybertruck’ all-electric pickup truck

Tesla is set to unveil its pickup this week and it needs to be widely different from its current lineup. The current line of Tesla vehicles share a lot of parts, and, logically, the Tesla pickup will do the same. However, a truck has different demands than a passenger car or sport utility vehicle. It has to be more robust and able to stand up to more abuse. It has to tow and haul and scale more than a mall flowerbed.

The Tesla pickup is launching as Rivian’s electric pickup is nearing launch. The Rivian R1T looks and feels like an electric pickup. It’s also built off of a purpose-built platform designed to haul and tow. Tesla does not have a similar platform as the Model X SUV is more car than a truck.

Eventually, more automakers will offer electric trucks. Ford has confirmed it’s building an electric F-150 and recently showed it off pulling a train. The upsides are profound. An electric truck will, in theory, offer improved toque (better towing), high payload capacity (due to better weight distribution), and improved performance numbers (electric motors are quick). A truck platform is also, by nature, larger and stronger allowing automakers to stuff more batteries into the frame.

Here’s what we want to see in a pickup from Tesla:

Twice the towing capacity of the Model X

The Tesla Model X is incredible and by most measures, the fastest production SUV available. But it cannot tow much. That’s not because of the powertrain but rather the vehicle platform. A Tesla pickup needs to be able to tow and haul.

According to the Model X owners manual, the vehicle can tow 5,000 pounds. That’s good enough for a couple of jet skis or a tiny trailer, but not much else. For comparison, most Ford F-150 models can tow over 10,000 pounds with some models topping off at 13,000 lbs. Rivian projects its electric pickup can tow over 11,000 pounds. The difference comes from the frame design and vehicle length.

The design of the vehicle often limits towing. The rear suspension needs to be able to support the weight, and the vehicle needs to be long enough to reduce trailer sway. Short vehicles have a hard time towing trailers, and the Model X, built on a version of the Model S, is a compact vehicle. There’s nothing worse than looking out the driver-side window and seeing your trailer racing you down the hill.

In the name of safety alone, a Tesla pickup must have improved towing capacity over the Model X. It should have an integrated trailer brake controller, too — something missing from the Model X.

The Model X platform is not built for hauling either. According to the owner’s manual, when two passengers are in the vehicle, it can only hold an additional 654 lbs. That’s just eight bags of Quickrete cement. To make matters worse, the rear deck of the Model X can only support 285 lbs somewhat saying the rear axle cannot hold that much weight, and the additional weight needs to be spread between the two axles.

A pickup needs to be able to take a load of wood mulch or a couple of major appliances, and Tesla’s current platforms are not designed for such.

Most light-duty pickups, from the Honda Ridgeline to the F-150, can support from 1,500 lbs to 2,000 lbs in the bed. And it’s easy to exceed that rating, too. An open truck bed is an invitation to load it up, but unless you’re using a heavy-duty pickup, don’t get a pallet of landscaping bricks.

Robust Serviceable Parts

Even if a pickup is only used for monthly Home Depot runs, it sustains more abuse than passenger vehicles due to its size. Brakes wear out quicker, and tires need more attention. If it has a light-duty suspension, bushings and joints wear out faster than in cars or SUVs.

Tesla makes it difficult for owners to repair the vehicles they purchased. I don’t expect that to be any different with the Tesla pickup. Tesla is not going to want owners wrenching on the truck. Since that’s the case, the pickup must come with improved parts.

The serviceable parts (brakes, suspension, and tires) that come on the Tesla pickup needs to be more robust and reliable than that used on the Tesla passenger vehicles.

Electric vehicles feature much fewer parts that can go wrong than internal combustion vehicles. It’s great. Owners do not have to change a timing belt or engine oil. But there are still items that will wear out, and most pickup buyers need assurances that they can go the distance.

Off-roading capabilities (or the ability to add off-roading capabilities)

The electric Rivian R1T is currently racing across South America to demonstrate its off-roading chops. Here’s the company’s blog post about it. This excites the truck guy in me. Now that’s a truck, I yell!

I don’t have the data, but I suspect most light-duty pickups are hardly used to their potential. I have a well-equipped F-150 that is used to tow a trailer twice a year.

Trucks are often aspirational purchases where buyers shop for potential lifestyles. Sure, you must have a truck, because one day, you’re going to buy that travel trailer and drive through Yellowstone. To fulfill this dream, a pickup should be able to run the desert or climb rocks.

The Rivian R1T gets a lot of things right, and I hope Tesla is following Rivian’s lead. It’s longer than a Ford Ranger and exceeds the Toyota Tacoma’s bed capacity rating. The wheel wells are large, seemingly saying it can support larger tires than the original from the factory. The R1T has an imposing stance. It looks the part, and the Tesla pickup needs to look the part, too.

Even if the Tesla looks like a weak truck, it’s essential to be able to modify the truck. Add-ons are a big part of the truck culture. My F-150 has become a money pit as I’ve thrown cash into buying accessories. Rivian knows this and has shown off its pickup with a handful of adds-on from tents to kitchens.

Power output

A Tesla pickup could have a unique selling point by allowing owners to use it as a high-output generator.

Right now, a lot of trucks have plenty of power ports, both 12v and 110v. They’re found throughout the cab and bed but cannot power serious tools. The 12v system used in internal combustion vehicles will not power much more than a drill or small saw, let alone a house by acting as a whole house generator.

The functionality would be well received. Homeowners would appreciate the ability to power parts of their homes during blackouts. Campers could use it when taking the pickup on an adventure. Construction works could use it to power and recharge tools.

Right now, there isn’t a way to output the full power of a Tesla vehicle. Owners can use an inverter, but that’s also limited and requires extra parts. Tesla would need to build safeguards and regional power ports into the battery platform to ensure safety and compatibility.

A word about the price.

There’s no way around this. A Tesla pickup will be more expensive than its internal combustion counterparts. It will be an upscale pickup, aimed at those that wear Arc’teryx instead of Carhart.

Rivian is pricing its pickup with a starting price of $69,000 and a Tesla pickup will likely start in the same range. If it’s a new platform built for hauling or towing, Tesla will have a lot of engineering and manufacturing hours to recuperate, which will drive the price north. Until more are available, Tesla and Rivian will be able to set the market price.

It’s a lot for a truck. That’s the price of a fully-spec’d out Ford F-150 that’s more comfortable or capable than it has any right to be. It’s also the same price as a beefy F-350 with Ford’s most potent engine and a towing capacity of 37,000 lbs.

Check back later this week as TechCrunch will be on hand later when Tesla unveils its pickup.

Ford Mustang Mach-E: 5 Tech and Design Details That Stood Out

Ford finally showed the world its highly anticipated all-electric crossover, the Mustang Mach-E. The vehicle, which was unveiled Sunday at the Hawthorne Airport and in Tesla’s backyard, marks a series of firsts for Ford and the Mustang badge.

It’s the first vehicle to come out of Team Edison, the automaker’s dedicated electric vehicle organization. It’s not only the first electric Mustang, it’s also an SUV. 

TechCrunch has had an up close look and ride in the Mach-E, the first variant of which will become available in fall 2020. While there’s a lot to highlight, here are some of the details that stood out.

Door handles

Ford went an entirely new direction with the door handles on the Mustang Mach-E. You won’t find any Tesla lookalike door handles here. The doors seem to be lacking handles at all. A closer look though reveals illuminated buttons on the B and C pillars. The front doors also have a small, protruding handle located just under the button to grab onto.

Pressing the button for the backdoor immediately pops it open just slightly. Then the passenger reaches into the ajar door to hit the latch. This might sound dangerous and apt for a crushed finger. Except there’s an immediate safety in place that doesn’t allow the door to close. TechCrunch tested it out.

Owners will be able to also use their smartphone to unlock the Mustang Mach-E. This phone as a key technology is new to Ford.

Tech tray

It’s a seemingly small detail, but so many automakers ignore that their customers have smartphones and want to put these devices somewhere other than a cup holder. Behold the tech tray, which has wireless charging pad.

The cup holders, located just below the tech tray, can be used to hold actual cups.

Infotainment system

The 15.5-inch screen will get a lot of attention, perhaps because its location and vertical placement is reminiscent of the Tesla Model S. But then there’s the physical dial placed on the bottom of the screen to control the volume.

Ford Mustang Mach-E screen

While not everyone will love this feature, it’s interesting how this dial came to be. Team Edison was assembled in 2017 to do more than create a new electric vehicle. It was created to do it differently and much faster than a typical vehicle program.

How the look and functionality of the infotainment system was developed is an example of this newfound nimbleness. A group of just over a dozen people with minimal oversight started with a research trip to China. Further customer research revealed that people wanted native apps in their car’s infotainment system and they didn’t want to learn anything new, Philip Mason, who is on Team Edison’s user experience, said during a backgrounder event prior to unveiling.

A prototype of physical dial was put together quickly — no fancy prototypes — and research groups responded positively.

The infotainment system is also cloud connected, allowing it to show traffic in real-time in navigation feature, has natural language, activated by one of four “wake words” like OK, Ford, and allows users to create personal profiles. The system learns the behavior and likes of the user over time.

And the entire system will be updated and improved via over-the-air software updates.

Vegan interior

Ford is hardly the first to move away from leather for its interior. Tesla has dropped leather and the Porsche Taycan is also vegan. Now the interior of the Mustang Mach-E also qualifies.

The synthetic material is among the better faux leather materials TechCrunch has come across. Even the steering wheel, a challenging area for synthetics, feels good.

Ford Mustang Mach-E interior

Frunk

A front trunk in an all-electric vehicle is nothing new. The Mustang Mach-E doesn’t have the biggest frunk on the market; it’s not the smallest either.

But there is something interesting about this 4.8-cubic-inch frunk. It’s drainable and plastic lined. Josh Greiner, senior interior designer on the Mach-E, was quick to note during a backgrounder prior to the unveiling that the frunk could be packed with ice and used while tailgating.

One more bonus item

Right above the steering wheel is a driver monitoring system. This might come in handy for the automaker’s eventual plans to offer a hands-free driver assist system in Mach-E.

Ford unveils the Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric crossover with muscle car roots

Ford unveiled Sunday ahead of the LA Auto Show the Mustang Mach-E, the highly anticipated all-electric crossover and the first vehicle to come out of Team Edison, the automaker’s dedicated electric vehicle organization.

In short: the Mustang Mach-E is different from any other Ford vehicle without ignoring its roots. It’s undeniably a Mustang with its short nose and front overhang, headlights and muscular stance. But it also has a design suited for an electric vehicle as well as an all-new infotainment system and connected vehicle technology, plus a few other interesting and new details.

The moment is an important one for Ford, which has historically backed hybrid technology. It not only represents the biggest change for the Mustang in its 55 year history, it’s the first product to come out of Ford’s $11 billion commitment to add 16 all-electric vehicles within its global portfolio of 40 electrified vehicles through 2022.

“We knew we had to do something different and something exciting and something only Ford could do,” Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford North America said at a press event prior to the Sunday unveiling.

This is not meant to be a compliance car — the types of vehicles produced only to meet stricter emissions rules in some states such as California, a key market for automakers. It’s meant to be a vehicle that people get excited about; it must be fun to drive and have the performance that Mustang diehards expect. It’s no small task and one some within the company viewed as a risk.

“I’ve driven it and it’s a rocket ship,” Ford Chairman Bill Ford said during the event Sunday. “This is a Mustang for a new generation, but I also think long-time Mustang fans like me will love it as well.”

And while there have been months of teasers and even one big leak, the unveiling Sunday provided fresh details of the vehicle.

Ford will offer five variants of the Mustang Mach-E, including a standard version called Select, a Premium trim, First Edition, California Route 1 and a GT Performance edition that is targeting a 0 to 60 miles per hour acceleration in the mid 3-second range and an estimated 342 kW (459 horsepower) and 830 Nm (612 pound-feet) of torque.

Starting at $43,895

The most affordable version of the Mach-E will be the “Select” trim with rear-wheel drive that starts at $43,895. However, “select” won’t be available until early 2021. The select rear-wheel view trim has 75.7 kwh battery with a target range of 230 miles. For another $2,700, the select trim is also available in all-wheel drive.

The limited First Edition will start at $59,900 and be available in extended-range all-wheel drive, with red painted brake calipers, metallic pedal covers, contrasting seat stitching and a scuff plate marked “First Edition.” The First Edition, , which is targeting 0-60 in the mid five-second range, has a 98.8 kwh battery that can travel 270 miles on a single charge.

The first edition and the premium trims will be the initial Mustang Mach-E vehicles available in fall 2020. The Premium version will start at $50,600.

The GT performance, which starts at $60,500, will be available in Spring 2021. The GT performance comes with a 98.8 kwh battery pack with targeted EPA estimate of 250 miles.

Ford has opened up a reservations page, where customers can put a $500 deposit down for any of the versions. A configurator that allows customers to design the version is also live.