Nissan’s old Leaf batteries can power this smart pop-up camper for one week

Nissan has turned its old Leaf batteries into an off-grid camping companion.

The automaker’s Nissan Energy subsidiary worked with camper manufacturer Opus to create the ultimate “smart” pop-up trailer that integrates cells recovered from its first-generation electric vehicles to provide off-grid power. Add in one to two recharges of the accompanying 400W solar panel accessory and campers can listen to tunes and use their smartphones and other devices, including a microwave, for about 7 days, the companies said. The battery pack can be recharged by the solar panel in 2 to 4 hours.

The Nissan x OPUS concept camper debuted this week at the The Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show in the UK. Inside the smart camper — code for LED lighting and USB sockets for charging — is a veritable glamping wonderland. You can almost smell the pour-over coffee.

Unlike many other concepts that debut at auto shows, components of the Nissan x OPUS are actually coming to market. The Air Opus is already available with a base price of £15,995 (a bit more than $20,000). The Nissan Energy ROAM product will launch in European markets later this year. Pricing for the ROAM wasn’t immediately available.

This isn’t the first time Nissan’s ROAM unit has shown up in a concept product either. It was featured earlier this year in Nissan’s NV300 concept van designed for woodworkers. Nor is this Nissan’s first foray into the secondary battery market. In November, Nissan launched Nissan Energy to create an ecosystem for owners of its electric vehicles. The idea is for owners to be able to connect their cars with energy systems to charge their batteries, power homes and businesses or feed energy back to power grids. The company said at the time, that it will also develop new ways to reuse electric car batteries.

Nissan x AirOPUS

“The Nissan x OPUS concept is a real-world example of how Nissan Energy ROAM can integrate into our lifestyles – in this case the hugely popular leisure activity of camping,” Nissan Energy managing director Francisco Carranza said in a statement.

The concept pairs the Air Opus, a novel off-road pop-up camper that inflates in 90 seconds, with Nissan Energy’s portable power pack called ROAM. The ROAM unit is mounted in a special compartment at the front of the camper, where it can provide a power supply to both the 230-volt circuit and the 12-volt circuit. The battery pack can also be removed and recharged via a standard 230v domestic socket, or by plugging into a solar panel accessory.

The ROAM unit has a storage capacity of 700Wh and a power output for 1kW. That’s enough power to keep smartphones charged and the lights on. The Nissan x Opus camper has a 230v outlet, USB sockets, a 4G mobile WiFi hotspot for up to 10 devices; and even a digital projector with pull-up screen to watch movies. There’s also a 230v portable microwave and a two-burner gas stove and a fridge.

You can watch the marketing video here.

Tesla ‘Dog mode’ and ‘Sentry mode’ are now live to guard your car and pets

Tesla has officially released two features for its electric vehicles aimed at protecting what owners love: their car and pets, as the company looks to leverage its ability to deliver a continuous stream of new capabilities via over-the-air software updates.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been tweeting about these two features, known as Dog mode and Sentry mode for weeks. And now, they’re here for electric vehicles equipped with Enhanced Autopilot and built after August 2017.

Dog mode is meant to accomplish two things: keep dogs, or perhaps a hamster or cat, in a climate-controlled environment, if left unattended in a vehicle, and let passersby know their status.

This should be confused with Tesla’s Cabin Overheat Prevention feature, which when active, “prevents the interior temperature from exceeding 105F/40C for up to 12 hours after you exit your vehicle.”

Dog Mode does — and should — allow for owners to adjust the temperature because cabin overheat protection shouldn’t be used if anyone is in the car — kids or pets.

To enable Dog Mode, owners tap the fan icon at the bottom of the touchscreen when their car is parked. Owners push “Keep Climate On to DOG, and then make adjustments within temperature limits. “Dog Mode will stay on after you leave your car. If you your battery reaches less than 20% charge, you will receive a notification on your mobile app,” according to the software update information.

The screen display is also new. In the video below, the screen shows the interior temperature of the vehicle and a message that reads “my owner will be back soon.”

Depending on state and local laws, it doesn’t matter if a dog is sitting in an air conditioned environment. And the feature could be abused or simply misused. Leaving animals unattended in vehicles for extended periods of time, even with the temperature controlled, is never a great idea, particularly in certain environments and seasons.

Sentry mode is a bit more involved. Tesla said in a blog post Wednesday that “Sentry mode” will continuously monitor the environment around a car when it’s left unattended.

When enabled, Sentry Mode enters a “Standby” state, like many home alarm systems, which uses the car’s external cameras to detect potential threats. If a minimal threat is detected, such as someone leaning on a car, Sentry Mode switches to an “Alert” state and displays a message on the touchscreen warning that its cameras are recording.

If a more severe threat is detected, such as someone breaking a window, Sentry Mode switches to an “Alarm” state, which activates the car alarm, increases the brightness of the center display, and plays music at maximum volume from the car’s audio system.

Owners will receive an alert on their Tesla app if the car switches to “alarm state,” according to the company. And because sentry mode taps into the built-in forward-facing cameras as a dash cam, owners can download a video recording of an incident. The downloadable recording begins 10 minutes prior to the time a threat was detected, Tesla said.

Sentry mode is rolling out Wednesday to U.S. Model 3 vehicles, followed by Model S and Model X vehicles that were built after August 2017.

In October, Tesla released version 9.0 of its software, which featured a number of updates, including a new UI on the center display and the ability to use the forward-facing camera. The dash cam feature is available only in Tesla vehicles built after August 2017.

Tesla says the Model Y is coming in 2020

The Tesla Model Y — the SUV electric vehicle that CEO Elon Musk has been teasing and talking about since 2015 — will begin volume production by the end of 2020, the company said Wednesday in a letter to shareholders.

The automaker, which has yet to show a prototype of the vehicle, said it will begin tooling for the Model Y this year. And unlike Tesla’s other electric vehicles, the Model Y will most likely be produced at the company’s massive “gigafactory” in Nevada, Musk said during an earnings call.

Musk struck a bullish tone for the Model Y, predicting sales volume for the vehicle will be higher than its new Model 3.

Tesla also forecast that the cost of the Model Y production line should be substantially lower than the Model 3 line in Fremont, California because it will be built on the same platform and share about 75 percent of its components with Model 3.

The production ramp for the Model Y should also be faster, the company predicted.

Producing the Model Y at the gigafactory should reduce the company’s risk of execution as well as the cost of transferring parts from Nevada to California, where the Model 3 is assembled, Musk said.

“This year should be a truly exciting one for Tesla,” the company said in the shareholder letter. “Model 3 will become a global product, the profitability of our business should become sustainably positive, our new Gigafactory Shanghai should start producing cars, and we will start tooling for Model Y production.”

Elon Musk says Tesla vehicles will soon get a ‘Sentry Mode’

Tesla owners may soon have a way to see (and record) damage that happens to their vehicles when they’re unattended.

Tesla will roll out “Tesla Sentry Mode” for all cars with Enhanced Autopilot, CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet Tuesday. Musk didn’t provide anymore information about when this feature might be available and how it might work.

TechCrunch has reached out to Tesla for more details.

The name suggests that this feature would stand guard, so to speak by either keeping the dash cam on while parked or having it automatically turn on if the car is hit or being tampered with. It could operate similar to aftermarket product Owl security camera; although, again, details are scant except that “regulators just approved.”

In October, Tesla released version 9.0 of its software, which featured a number of updates including a new UI on the center display and the ability to the use the built-in forward-facing cameras as a dash cam. The dash cam feature is available only in Tesla vehicles built after August 2017.

The dash cam feature currently lets owners record and store video footage captured by their car’s forward-facing camera onto a USB flash drive. Owners first must configure a USB flash drive in Windows or MS-DOS file architecture and add a base-level folder in the flash drive called TeslaCam. The configured USB flash drive can then be inserted into either one of the USB ports in the front row of the vehicle. When properly configured, the Dash cam icon pops up on the status bar with a red dot indicating that it is recording.

Owners can tap the icon to save a 10-minute video clip or press and hold to pause recording. Recordings that aren’t downloaded are automatically deleted.

Tesla to recall 14,000 Model S cars in China over faulty Takata airbags

China’s top market regulator said on Friday that Tesla will recall a total of 14,123 imported Model S vehicles in the country over potentially deadly airbags.

The recall is part of an industry-wide crackdown on Takata-made front passenger airbags, which involves roughly 37 million vehicles including more mainstream brands such as Toyota and Ford, as noted by the United States Department of Transportation. These defective airbags use a propellant that might rupture the airbag and cause serious injuries, or even deaths.

Tesla has begun a worldwide recall of its sedans that use Takata airbags, the firm said on its Support blog. It noted that the airbags only become defective based on certain factors, such as age. The recall does not affect later Model S vehicles, Roadster, Model X, or its more affordable Model 3.

The China recall involves Model S cars manufactured between February 2014 to December 2016, shows a notice posted on the website of China’s State Administration for Market Regulation. TechCrunch has reached out to Tesla for comments and will update the article once more information is available.

The setback comes as Tesla is making a big push into the world’s largest auto market and tapping on Beijing’s effort to phase out fossil-fuel cars for China. The company recently reached an agreement with the Shanghai government to build its first Gigafactory outside the US, which will focus on making Model 3 cars for Chinese consumers. There is no target date for the factory to become fully operational yet.

Despite being an alluring market, China has been a major source of Tesla’s concerns over the past months due to escalating trade tensions and the rollback of government subsidies for green vehicles. Tesla responded by slashing its Model 3 price by 7.6 percent for China to neutralize heavy tariffs on imported cars.

The Palo Alto-based company previously recalled 8,898 Model S vehicles in China over corroding bolts, which it claimed at the time had not led to any accidents or injuries.

Cadillac’s first electric vehicle will be a crossover

Cadillac revealed Sunday what will likely be the first electric vehicle in the luxury brand’s portfolio. And surprise, it’s a crossover.

The images of the full-size crossover SUV, which was unveiled during a debut party for the 2020 Cadillac XT6 in Detroit, kicks off a transformation of GM’s luxury brand. On Friday, GM announced plans to turn Cadillac into its lead electric vehicle brand in a bid to compete against Tesla as well as a host of other automakers bringing EVs onto the market.

Cadillac first electric crossover

Not much is known about this crossover yet. Cadillac said the name of the electric crossover and additional details about the vehicle will be revealed closer to launch.

This vehicle will not be based on the electric architecture found on GM’s Chevrolet models, the Volt or the Bolt EV. GM is starting with a clean slate and developing a new battery electric architecture, which Cadillac will be the first to use.

The most advanced components within the platform are the drive units and battery cells, which will be used throughout GM vehicle lineups in different countries, according to the automaker. The EVs can be configured in front-, rear- or all-wheel drive, and the output of their battery systems will be adjustable based on vehicle and customer needs, GM said.

The battery system also will be adjustable, based on vehicle and customer requirements.

This appears to be the beginning of an  aggressive product acceleration for Cadillac. Fresh off of the XT6 crossover reveal, Cadillac also hinted at both a future Escalade and an upcoming performance sedan. Cadillac said it plans to introduce new models at the rate of roughly one every six months through 2021.

GM is transforming Cadillac into an electric brand

General Motors is turning Cadillac into its lead electric vehicle brand in a bid to compete against Tesla as well as a host of other automakers bringing EVs onto the market.

Plans are already underway to introduce the first model from the company’s new battery electric vehicle architecture, GM said Friday during an investor meeting.

GM said this new BEV architecture will be the foundation for an advanced family of “profitable EVs,” a word choice likely meant to express the automaker’s conviction to offer up true competition in the EV world, which has been dominated by Tesla on the luxury side and Nissan in terms of pure volume sales.

The flexible platform will provide a broad array of body styles and will be offered in front-wheel, rear-wheel and all-wheel configurations, GM said. The brand’s most critical components, including the battery cells, are being designed for maximum usability across all programs, GM said. The battery system also will be adjustable, based on vehicle and customer requirements.

The announcement made Friday at an investor meeting marks a shift in GM’s approach to making electric vehicles. In the past, GM’s electrified vehicles — namely the all-electric Bolt and the plug-in hybrid Volt — fell under its mass-market Chevrolet brand.

The Bolt appears destined to continue, at least for now. (The Bolt is also used by GM’s self-driving subsidiary GM Cruise as its testing vehicle.) Meanwhile, the Volt is slated to end. GM announced last year it would end production of the Volt and the plug-in Cadillac CT6, which had sluggish sales.

GM has been undergoing a transformation over the past four to five years, getting rid of expensive, money-losing programs like the Opel brand in Europe, and investing more into electrification and autonomous vehicle technology. It has also warned repeatedly, Friday’s investor meeting being no exception, of a coming downturn in the traditional automotive business.

In November, GM ramped up its belt-tightening measures with cuts to factory and white-collar workers, plant closures in North America and the elimination of several car models as it tries to transform into a nimble company focused on high-margin SUVs, crossovers and trucks, and investments in future products like electric and autonomous vehicles.

The actions, which are meant to safeguard the automaker from an expected downturn in the U.S. market, will increase GM’s annual free cash flow by about $6 billion, including cost reductions of $4.5 billion and lower capital expenditure annual run rate of almost $1.5 billion by 2020. Ford took similar cost-cutting measures in 2018.

Even as GM announced those cuts, it said it would double engineering resources allocated to electric and autonomous vehicle programs by 2020.

Nissan’s new Leaf e+ is packing more than just 226 miles of range

Electric vehicle competition is heating up and it’s pushing some of the first entrants to add range and other features in hopes of keeping up with automakers that are just bringing EVs to the market.

Nissan has been in this EV game for nearly nine years now. The company has sold more than 380,000 Leaf vehicles globally since the EV first went on sale in 2010. And while it debuted a refreshed version of its all-electric Leaf just 16 months ago, the automaker is back with another Leaf variant that’s packing a lot more range and power, as well as several other new features.

Nissan unveiled this week at CES 2019 the Leaf e+, a version of the Leaf all-electric hatchback with 40 percent more range. The Leaf e+ has a 62 kilowatt-hour battery pack that has a range of 226 miles. That puts the Leaf e+ just under the Chevy Bolt EV, which has a 238-mile range, the upcoming Kia Niro EV with 239 miles and the Tesla Model 3 mid-range variant with 264 miles.

Pricing for the new Leaf e+ hasn’t been announced for the North American or European markets. In Japan, it will start at ¥4,162,320, which is around $38,000.

Consumers might have trouble distinguishing the Leaf and Leaf e+. Other than a 5-millimeter increase in overall height (16-inch wheels), the car’s exterior and interior dimensions are unchanged. The Leaf e+ has a revised front fascia with blue highlights and an “e+” logo plate on the underside of the charge port lid. Inside, drivers might notice the blue contrast stitching on the steering wheels, seats and door trim.

nissan leaf e+

The Leaf e+ is also equipped with advanced driver assistance technology known as ProPILOT and a one-pedal driving mode feature that allows the driver to start, accelerate, decelerate and stop using only the accelerator pedal.

ProPILOT is an in-lane semi-autonomous driving technology that can automatically adjust the distance to the vehicle ahead (some call it adaptive cruise control), using a speed preset by the driver. The system can also help the driver steer and keep the vehicle centered in its lane. ProPILOT Park, which is available only on Japan and EU models, is a system that can provide vehicle acceleration, braking, handling, shift changing and parking brake operation to guide the car into a parking spot.

Leaf e+ models in North American and EU will have a larger full-color 8-inch display, with an updated navigation system that can be linked to a compatible smartphone. This thin film transistor display features smartphone-like operation, including swiping, scrolling and tapping. Applications, maps and firmware are updated over the air, instead of having to manually update by USB or at a Nissan dealership, the company said.

Other new features include “Door-to-Door Navigation,” which syncs the vehicle’s navigation system with a compatible smartphone for driving and walking directions.

Nissan Leaf e+ interior

The big story here, of course, is the increased range and power. The Leaf e+ has a new electric powertrain that, combined with the battery, produces 160 kw of power and 340 Nm of torque. This means the Leaf e+ will have the get up and go required for merging and passing slower-moving vehicles on the highway.

Nissan says the Leaf e+ is 13 percent quicker when accelerating from about 50 mph to roughly 74 mph. The top speed has increased by about 10 percent.

The battery pack in the Leaf e+ is almost the same size and configuration as the one in the standard Leaf despite a 25 percent increase in energy density and increase in energy storage capacity.

The Leaf e+ also has a high-speed charging package — for those who want to pay for that feature — that will let drivers charge up to 80 percent of its range in 40 minutes. Based on early testing, Nissan Leaf e+ owners can expect similar charging times when hooked up to a 100 kW charger as current Nissan Leaf owners do with a 50 kW charger, despite a 55 percent larger battery storage capacity, the company said.

The new variant is expected to hit Nissan dealerships in Japan in late January. U.S. sales are expected to begin in the spring of 2019, and European sales will start in mid-2019.

CES 2019 coverage - TechCrunch

GM is smartening up its Bolt EV smartphone app

GM is sprucing up its smartphone app for owners of the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt through a collaboration with charging network companies EVgo, ChargePoint, and Greenlots.

The idea is to take aggregate dynamic data from each of the EV charging networks so owners can have a “more seamless charging experience.” In short: GM wants to make it easier and more intuitive for Bolt EV owners to find and access charging. Removing hurdles from the charging experience can go along way in convincing more people to buy the Bolt EV, or any EV for that matter.

The partnership with EVgo, ChargePoint, and Greenlots is a notable start considering that collectively that means more than 31,000 charging ports.

“GM believes in an all-electric future, and this is a significant step to make charging easier for our customers,” said Doug Parks, General Motors vice president of Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Programs. “By collaborating with these three companies, we expect to reduce barriers to create a stronger EV infrastructure for the future. This is an important step toward achieving GM’s vision of a world with zero emissions.”

GM plans to take the aggregate charging data from EVgo, ChargePoint, and Greenlots and use it to improve the myChevrolet app. For instance, owners will be able to see if a charging station is available and compatible with the Bolt EV. It will also provide real-time data on charge station to report if a charging station is working.

GM plans to create an app interface that will streamline the enrollment process for each of these networks. The automaker wants owners to be able to activate a charging session using the app instead of a membership card, but didn’t say when that feature would be rolled out. .

GM recently made a few updates to the myChevrolet app that lets owners project the energy assist to the vehicle’s infotainment system via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for drivers with model year 2017 or newer Bolt EVs.

This means Bolt EV drivers can access information through their infotainment system like vehicle range, charging station locations and search, as well as route planning that takes into consideration charging stops along the way if the destination is out of range.

Original purchasers of new Bolt EVs will have access to these features at no additional cost for five years from the vehicle delivery date, according to GM.

GM doesn’t provide updates about the Bolt EV, and more broadly its electric vehicle program at the same pace and frequency as say Tesla. But the company is still ramping up and expanding. GM recently expanded a battery lab and a new LG Electronics plant in Michigan has come online.

The LG Electronics facility in Hazel Park started making battery packs this fall to supply GM’s Orion Assembly Plant, where the automaker builds the all-electric Chevrolet  Bolt.

GM’s plan to launch 20 new all-electric vehicles globally by 2023 and increase production of the Chevy Bolt.

China’s BYD further drives into Chile with 100 electric buses

Over the past few years, Chinese automaker giant BYD has been on a partnership spree with cities across China to electrify their public transportation systems, and now it’s extending its footprint across the globe. On Thursday, BYD announced that it has shipped 100 electric buses to Santiago, the capital city of Chile.

The step marks the Chinese firm’s further inroads into the Latin American country where a green car revolution is underway to battle smog. BYD’s first batch of vehicles arrived in Santiago last November and the Warren Buffett-backed carmaker remains as the only electric public bus provider in the country.

Chile is on the map of China’s grand Belt and Road Initiative aiming to turbocharge the world’s less developed regions with infrastructure development and investments. “With the help of ‘One Belt One Road,’ BYD has successfully entered Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Uraguay and other Latin American countries. As the region accelerates its electric revolution, BYD may be able to win more opportunities,” said BYD in a statement.

byd chile 1

President of Chile Mr. Sebastián Piñera rides the BYD electric bus. / Credit: BYD

The 100 buses embarked on a 45-day sea voyage from BYD’s factory in eastern China to land on the roads of Santiago. They sport the Chilean national colors of red and white on the exterior and provide USB charging ports inside to serve a generation who live on their electronic devices.

The fleet arrived through a partnership between BYD and Enel, a European utility juggernaut that claims to make up 40 percent of Chile’s energy sales in 2017. Enel has purchased the fleet from BYD and leased them to local transportation operator Metbus while the Chilean government set the rules and standards for the buses, a BYD spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Local passengers graded BYD’s electric vehicles at 6.3 out of 7, well above the 4.6 average of the Santiago public transportation system, according to a survey jointly produced by Chile’s Ministry of Energy as well as Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications. Respondents cited qualities such as low noise level, air conditioning and USB charging that the buses deliver.

Santiago currently has 7,000 public buses running on the road, among which 400 get replaced every year. A lot of the new ones will be diesel-free as the Chilean government said it aims to increase the total number of electric vehicles by tenfold in 2022.