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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Diesel F-150 Reaches 30 MPG Highway
Article thanks to Links provided:
April, 2018  The 2018 Ford F-150 fitted with its first 3.0L Power Stroke diesel engine will deliver EPA-estimated ratings of 30 mpg on the highway, 22 mpg in the city, and 25 mpg combined, according to the automaker. These are the highest EPA-estimated ratings available in a full-size pickup truck.
These benchmark figures are the result of more than a decade of work developing a lightweight high-strength, military-grade, aluminum-alloy body, a 10-speed SelectShift transmission, and robust engine construction of aluminum and compacted graphite iron to deliver durability, reduced weight, and torque, according to Ford.
"Even a few years ago, customers wouldn’t have imagined an EPA-estimated rating of 30 mpg highway would be possible in a full-size pickup, but our team of crazy-smart engineers rose to the challenge," said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's executive vice president of product development and purchasing.
In addition to its leading fuel economy ratings, the F-150 Power Stroke diesel will make 250 hp and 440 lb.-ft. of torque. The truck can tow up to 11,400 pounds and haul payload of 2,020 pounds for XL and XLT fleet applications, and 1,940 pounds for retail applications.
F-150 Power Stroke diesel shares its technology with F-Series Super Duty’s 6.7L Power Stroke. It will begin shipping to dealers in May.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

28% of Drivers Call Car Data a Myth
Article thanks to Links provided:

4/2/2018  Many drivers are unaware that their cars are capturing data and revealing everything from driving patterns to roads traveled to music selections, according to a new insurance-industry report. In fact, 28% of respondents said it was "a myth" that their car data was being collected, even though they did not give permission for it.

The new report from Esurance — "Fact or Fiction: Do you know what data your car is sharing about you?" — explores the topic of data privacy as it relates to new car technology. Through a series of consumer interviews, the company compiled driver beliefs about the subject and uncovered a good deal of confusion. To set the record straight, Esurance invited a panel of car technology experts to address key misunderstandings and concerns.
Privacy issues were a significant area of concern for survey respondents. Presently, there are no specific laws that govern the use of car data, so drivers may be forfeiting their privacy rights when they sign a contract on a new car.
Those surveyed cited apprehension about their data being sold to third parties, the ability of manufacturers to access any personal devices connected to Bluetooth, and how hard braking or speed data could affect insurance premiums.
The report also explores how data can be used to impact on road safety. While 45% of respondents said they do not believe connected cars will make roads better and safer, experts say it's a fact. After all, connected cars will soon communicate with roadside infrastructure, sending data about issues like potholes, weather and accidents, which will be relayed through in-car alerts.
The report notes that data collected from connected cars is far from trivial and could be worth $1.5 trillion a year by 2030.
Currently, the biggest hurdle in gathering data to improve roads and cars is bandwidth. But new technologies and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) wireless communication in many new cars will allow cars to communicate with each other quickly and reliably. 
Ultimately, the data gathered and shared by connected cars will improve road safety, say experts. Creating smart infrastructure will bring the greatest benefits of connectivity. That includes digital road signs that adapt to changing traffic patterns and a new web of communication between cars on the road. But the first step is building infrastructure to transmit all the data. Later, it can be analyzed and used effectively to improve roads.
Read the full report here.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Tesla Semi Is Dead

Article thanks to John Engle and Links provided:



Tesla unveiled the prototype of its Semi to much fanfare in November 2017.
Successive press events and public test drives built the perception that the Semi would enter production in the near term; numerous large companies made preorders.
Yet, during the Q1 2018 earnings call, the Semi received no mention except in response to questions; CEO Elon Musk essentially admitted the project had been put on hold.
Lack of capital to build a manufacturing plant and apparent technological challenges have raised eyebrows since the unveiling; the financing situation has only gotten worse since then.
It appears increasingly certain that the Tesla Semi will never see commercial production.
Six months ago, the Tesla (TSLA) buzz was all about the Semi. This electric truck, which CEO Elon Musk unveiled to much fanfare in November 2017, was supposed to be a mind-blowing “beast.” Indeed, Musk promised that the Semi would redefine the trucking industry.
The glitzy reveal event had the desired effect, boosting Tesla’s share price and providing a welcome distraction from the painfully slow production ramp of the mass-market Model 3 sedan. Musk promised to begin production in 2019, a pledge that was swiftly followed by a raft of announcements from numerous big companies that had placed orders.
The Tesla Semi was lauded as a massively valuable game-changer by the company’s various boosters. With hundreds of preorders on the books, as well as promises that the Semi would be more cost-effective than current big rigs, it looked like Tesla might have a big winner on its hands.
Thus, it should perhaps come as a surprise that the Tesla Semi received no mention whatsoever in the company’s Q1 2018 update letter. Why would this potentially revolutionary vehicle get no love at all?

Wheels Come Off The Semi Project

The answer was provided during the Q&A portion of the Q1 earnings call. Here is an enlightening exchange between CNBC’s Phil LeBeau and Musk:
Phil LeBeau - CNBC LLC
With the Tesla Semi, how many reservations do you guys now have approximately? And where are you in the process as far as the development and the rollout of the first model in terms of timeline, when you guys expect that to happen, et cetera?
Elon Reeve Musk - Tesla, Inc.
I actually don't know how many reservations we have for the Semi. About 2,000? Okay. I mean, we haven't really tried to sell the Semi. It's not like there's like an ongoing sales effort, so sales – orders for Semi are like opportunistic, really companies approaching us. Yeah, it's not something we really think about much.
 This is a fascinating acknowledgment from an individual who mere months ago had been planning to disrupt the massive trucking industry, and to start doing so in 2019. Yet, for some reason, the Semi is “not something we really think about much.”
Here’s the rub: If the Semi looked like it could claim a significant market, then Tesla would be moving forward with it. That would not necessarily require massive capital outlays toward building a production facility – not at first, anyway. But one would expect the company to at least tout the market opportunity and continue to promise that development would be coming soon. Instead, investors have been left with a rather peculiar silence.
Musk tried to brush off the mere 2,000 or so preorders as unimportant, since Tesla has not been advertising the Semi at all. Yet that is a tiny number of orders, especially considering the hundreds of orders that went on the books in the first couple of months after the unveiling. Evidently, orders have stalled out. This will be unsurprising to anyone who has studied the trucking industry in more than cursory detail. When we discussed the prospects of the Tesla Semi back in January, we pointed out the real reasons companies were ordering Teslas, and why the mass demand Tesla predicted would never materialize:
Early preorders by big-name companies can give the impression that the Tesla Semi will be in hot demand. PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch, Sysco, and UPS have collectively placed orders for 315, with numerous other companies placing orders as well. With only a single bespoke-built model to judge from, those orders sound like a big vote of confidence and a sign of demand waiting to be tapped. But is it really?
Big rig trucking is an extremely conservative business, and understandably so. These are vehicles that need to travel tremendous distances reliably, and for many years. Repairs have to be simple and easy, with easily navigable maintenance and fueling infrastructure. The preference for simplicity is a major reason diesel is the fuel of choice for Semi truck engines. They are simpler and less prone to fault than are gasoline engines. An EV Semi presents far more serious problems than a gasoline engine…
The hundreds of preorders, which represent an experimental dipping of toes into the EV trucking waters, are likely never going to go much further than experimentation. In fact, some of the preorders may well have been made simply to bask in Tesla’s reflected PR glow. There can be no doubt that the companies that have made preorders have won a fair amount of press attention and been lauded for their forward-thinking attitudes. Many of them may not expect to ever see a Tesla Semi delivered to them; the preorder expense for most of them is probably worth the good publicity. However, even that cost is not likely to be permanent, since Tesla has promised to refund deposits.
 The dearth of orders admitted to by Musk on the latest earnings call bears out our original reservations about the project. It now seems evident that Tesla has abandoned the Semi project – or at least put it way back on the backburner.
That conclusion is borne out by more than just the anemic preorders and the company’s caginess. Tesla’s capital expenditure plans also support the conclusion. Specifically, the company announced it was cutting capex projections for 2018, from $3.4 billion to less than $3 billion. Apparently, the company has "significantly cut back on its capex projections by focusing on the critical near-term needs."
In other words, it is cutting costs and pushing back growth projects to conserve cash during the still agonizingly slow Model 3 ramp. With Tesla’s net working capital deficit having reached a record level, the urge to pull back from expensive adventures makes sense from a financial perspective. But it takes the sheen off of the story of endless growth that Tesla has relied upon to justify its massive market capitalization.

Investor’s Eye View

Taking all this information together, we can conclude that the Tesla Semi project has been stalled, if not canceled entirely. The cost of building and equipping a manufacturing facility could easily exceed $1 billion, and this would be necessary if the Semi was ever going to leave the prototype stage. Certainly, there is no room at the Fremont facility, as Musk also pointed out on the latest earnings call. The company already has to build or buy a facility to produce the promised Model Y, which Musk admits will not be happening until 2020. The promise of 2019 production always looked fanciful. Now, it has been abandoned in all but name.
Worse still for Tesla is the fact that its corporate clients do not have the seemingly infinite patience of its retail flock. With no sign of production happening, and no timeline for even starting on the horizon, many preorders will likely be canceled, which will require the return of millions of dollars Tesla can ill afford to lose in its current straitened state.
There is also the looming specter of competition, including Thor Trucking, which intends to launch its own all-electric big rig in 2019, ahead of Tesla’s original promised launch date. Nikola Motor Company, another EV startup, is also swiftly developing its own electric semi, and is suing Tesla for $2 billion on design patent violation grounds for good measure.
The most likely result will be that the Tesla Semi never sees the light of day. That is probably good for Tesla’s cash position, since building a facility would likely end up an expensive albatross, but it will come at the cost of a decent slice of the Tesla growth story.
Disclosure: I am/we are short TSLA.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The British Car Market Is Flushing Itself Down the Loo; Industry to Follow?
Article thanks to Matt Posky and Links provided:

After four years of consecutive growth, the United Kingdom’s automotive market has tanked for 12 months straight. The culprit is, of course, dwindling diesel sales.
Thanks to European governments latching onto the fuel as the cleaner alternative to “petrol” throughout the 1990s (subsequently incentivizing the fuel as a way to meet aggressive CO2-reduction targets), diesel-powered autos accounted for roughly half of all new auto sales between 2009 and 2017 . But diesel is now “evil” and everyone in Europe has started avoiding it.

In March, diesel sales declined by 37.2 percent — leaving the once dominant fuel with just 32 percent of the new car market. Unsurprising, as the new trend in Europe is the widespread (future) banning of the fuel in city centers. April’s sales are expected to be even lower, as the British government’s new taxes on diesel vehicles come into effect. Those fees and a weakened pound, which practically everyone has attributed to Brexit, forced new car sales in the UK down by 16 percent. 
While February fared slightly worse, seeing a 17 percent decline, the general consensus was that March would perform much better. However, that was not to be the case. It’s not just the country’s market that’s taking a beating, either. Production matched the sales shortfall in the same month — down 17 points. In fact, the U.K.’s auto production volume has shrunk for almost eight months now. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) cited British year-to-date production for the home market as down by almost 12 percent through February.
With environmental pressures and consumer confusion on the rise throughout Europe, it’s unlikely to see diesel cars making a comeback. Politicians are extremely focused on air quality issues and have taken to vilifying diesel — the same fuel governments unilaterally endorsed a decade earlier. Consumers are now worried about diesel bans and how strict emissions regulations might affect their next purchase. There are even proposals that the European government should employ a federal vehicle scrapping scheme to get diesels off the road and encourage the public to buy new vehicles.
“The decline in demand for diesel cars continues to be of concern and the latest tax changes announced by the government do nothing to encourage consumers to exchange their older diesel vehicles for new lower emission models,” Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT told the Financial Times this week. “All technologies, regardless of fuel type, have a role to play in helping improve air quality whilst meeting our climate change targets, so government must do more to encourage consumers to buy new vehicles rather than hang onto their older, more polluting vehicles.”
Hold on there, Mike. Unless someone is buying a vehicle that gets vastly superior gas mileage (or sources its electric energy from renewable resources), it’s usually better for the environment to hold onto that beater. We know the SMMT is honor-bound to promote new car purchases, but let’s at least get the facts straight.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

What Drivers Need to Know About Taking Care of Truck Tires
Article thanks to Jim Park and Links provided:

Getting drivers to inspect and care for their tires might seem like pushing a rope up a hill, but even if only a few get involved, it can save some serious dough.

March, 2018  Round and black. Sometimes that’s the extent of what drivers know — or want to know — about tires. Unfortunately, drivers need to know more about their tires, and they really need to be proactive when it comes to inspecting and maintaining them. But it’s never easy convincing drivers to get up close and personal with those round black things.

An 18-wheel pressure check can easily eat up half an hour; more if the tires need to be topped up. With mandatory electronic logs now putting even more pressure on their time, drivers are even less likely give up driving time to a probably unpaid task. It may help to remind them that investing 30 minutes once a week to closely inspect their tires could help prevent an on-road failure that could cost them several hours of downtime… but probably not.
Getting a little cooperation from drivers might be achieved by providing a lesson in how tires work and some of the perils of poor maintenance.
“It’s one thing to tell a driver that if they do this or don’t do that, something unpleasant might happen,” says Joe Puff, vice president of truck technology and maintenance at Downers Grove, Illinois-based NationaLease. “But when they can understand the consequences of their actions, or inactions, they might be more predisposed to look after those assets. Or at least not intentionally do anything that might compromise tire life or safety.”
For example, Puff says drivers should be taught the dangers of reinflating a tire that has been run 20% or more under-inflated.
“We remind them all the time to check their inflation pressure, but we send a possibly conflicting message to those that do it regularly if they aren’t made aware of the dangers of under-inflated tires,” he says.
The problem here is the potential for a zipper rupture, caused by metal fatigue in the sidewall from excessive flexing while running under load. If the driver simply re-inflates a tire found in a low-pressure condition, he or she risks personal injury or a blowout on the road.
“If a tire is run 20% low, casing degradation is a real risk,” cautions Puff. “It’s going to fail at some point. It should be pulled from service. In these cases, drivers really need to alert a supervisor to the problem rather than just topping up the pressure and moving on.”

Teaching drivers about inflation

Tire inflation pressure is a big issue, of course, and once again there are no easy solutions to getting drivers to check it. While it might be useful to know a tire isn’t nearly completely flat, there’s little use in encouraging them to thump or kick their tires on a walk-around. For several years now, the Tire Retread Information Bureau and the Tire Industry Association have sponsored a Guess the Pressure contest at various truck shows, and famously, no driver has ever guessed the pressure within 5 psi over or under the actual inflated pressure.
Mike Elliott, safety and maintenance director at Nashville, Tennessee-based MS Logistics, makes a bit of a joke about checking inflation pressure during his orientation sessions. He presents the drivers with a tuning fork, saying it’s a new way of checking oil level in the engine. He tells them they no longer need to pull the dipstick.
“I tell them to strike the engine block with the tuning fork, and if it sounds right, the oil level is fine,” he says. “I get some odd looks, and then I announce it’s just the same as when you hit your tires with a thumper — and just about as useful. If nothing else, it’s a good way to open the discussion on tire inflation.”
Elliott runs a lot of retreads, and some drivers have strong opinions on retreads, many of them inaccurate. He tries to deal with all that up front, and then has regular meetings where the subject comes up repeatedly.
“I show them the DOT studies on tire debris and remind them that half the tires studied back then were not retreads,” Elliott says. “From there we get into a discussion on the importance of inflation pressure and its effect on tires, both new and retreads. Then I tell them that all I expect them to do is check the pressure regularly and top it up when necessary. I finish by reminding them that downtime hurts them, too. If they are stuck on the side of the road for several hours waiting for tire service because they didn’t check their tires, they have nobody but themselves to blame in most cases.”
Kevin Tomlinson, director of maintenance at Milan, Ohio’s South Shore Transportation, has added automatic tire inflation systems to his trailing equipment and tire pressure monitoring systems to some of his power units. But he still relies on drivers to visually inspect the tires whenever they get out of the truck.
“It’s funny, we hardly ever have problems with steer tires or wide-base tires,” he says. “Needless to say, when we bring the trucks in for service we check all the tires and tread depth and inspect for issues. The best we can do is encourage the driver to keep an eye on their tires and hope it becomes a habit. Once they realize that vigilance will keep them on the road longer without problems, the better we’ll all be.”