The State Of Play In Solid State Batteries

Electric vehicles are slowly but surely snatching market share from their combustion-engined forbearers. However, range and charging speed remain major sticking points for customers, and are a prime selling point for any modern EV. Battery technology is front and center when it comes to improving these numbers.

Solid-state batteries could mark a step-change in performance in these areas, and the race to get them to market is starting to heat up. Let’s take a look at the current state of play.

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New Cars Will Nickel-and-Dime You – It’s Automotive As A Service

Every few years, someone pushing a startup to investors comes up with an acronym or buzzword which rapidly becomes the new hotness in those circles. One of the most pernicious is “as a Service,” which takes regular things and finds a way to charge you a regular fee to use them.

Automotive companies just absolutely loved the sound of this, and the industry is rapidly moving to implement subscription services across the board. Even if there’s hardware in your car for a given feature, you might find you now need to pay a monthly fee to use it. Let’s explore how this came about, and talk about which cars are affected. You might be surprised to find yours already on the list.
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Empty Parking Lot

Pandemic Chip Shortages Are Shutting Down Automotive Production

Once upon a time, the automobile was a mostly mechanical beast, but no longer. Advanced electronics have weaved their way into the modern car, from engine to infotainment and climate control to the buttons now sprinkled throughout the passenger cabin. The gains in amenity and efficiency can’t be sniffed at, but it leaves manufacturers reliant on semiconductor suppliers to get cars out the door. Over the past year, it’s become much more complicated — with many automakers having to slow production in the face of integrated circuit shortages that can be traced back to Spring of 2020. Continue reading “Pandemic Chip Shortages Are Shutting Down Automotive Production”

Using Super-Efficient Solar Cells To Keep Your Electric Car’s Battery Topped Up

Who hasn’t thought of sticking a couple of solar panels onto an electric car’s roof to keep its battery at 100% charge while it’s parked out in the sun? While usually deemed impossible due to the large number and weight of PV solar cells required to get the necessary amount of energy, this hasn’t kept Toyota’s engineers from covering one of their Prius cars with 34+% efficient solar cells.

Some may remember the solar roof option which Toyota previously offered years ago. That system produced a mere 50 W and was only used for things like running the AC fans, indirectly extending the battery charge. In 2016 Toyota brought back this system, in a much improved version. This upped the power output to 180 W, allowing it to power all secondary electronics in the Prius, even allowing it to add a few extra kilometers (roughly 6.1 km/day) to the Prius’ range if one were so inclined.

This newest prototype pretty much goes for broke, reminding us of the cars used in the World Solar Challenge, such as the Dutch Stella and Stella Lux positive-energy solar cars by the team at the University of Eindhoven. Who coincidentally have done a spin-off, setting up a company to produce the Lightyear One, which at least on paper sounds amazing, and potentially may never have to plug it in.

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Wireless Charger Truck Mod Keeps Juice Flowing On The Move

Wireless charging is great tech, but its relative novelty means it may not be everywhere you want it. When one of those places is your vehicle, well, you make like [Braxen McConnell] and crack it open to install a wireless charger!

After dismantling the centre console, [McConnell] had to make a few cuts behind the scenes to make room for the wireless charger — as well as cutting down the charger itself. He also took apart the charger and flipped the board and charging coil around inside its case; the reason for this is the closer the coil is to the phone, the better. The charger will already be hidden behind the plastic of the centre console, so it’s no good to be fighting through the extra distance of the charger’s internals. The charger was mounted with double-sided tape, since it’s relatively light and won’t be knocked about.

[McConnell] tapped into the accessory circuit on his truck so it would only be drawing current when the truck is on — nobody likes coming back to a dead battery! Power comes from a cigarette outlet connected to a USB car charger, which then powers the wireless charger — it’s a little hacky, but it works! Once the wireless charger is plugged in and the centre console is reinstalled, [McConnell] was set! Check out the build video after the break.

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Camping In A…. Corolla?

A weekend away camping in the wilds can do wonders for one’s sanity, and the joy of spending it in a recently converted camping vehicle adds to the delight. In a twist on the conventional camper, redditor [Gongfucius] and his wife have converted their 2005 Toyota Corolla into the perfect getaway vehicle for two.

To make enough room, the rear seating had to go, and removing it was deceptively easy. [Gongfucius] was able to build and fit a platform peppered with storage hatches that could snap into place and cover the trunk and backseat — covering it with felt for added comfort. A mattress was cut to size out of five inch memory foam and his wife sewed fitted coverings to them. More storage nooks in the trunk keep necessities at hand.

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Toyota’s Code Didn’t Meet Standards And Might Have Led To Death

We were initially skeptical of this article by [Aleksey Statsenko] as it read a bit conspiratorially. However, he proved the rule by citing his sources and we could easily check for ourselves and reach our own conclusions. There were fatal crashes in Toyota cars due to a sudden unexpected acceleration. The court thought that the code might be to blame, two engineers spent a long time looking at the code, and it did not meet common industry standards. Past that there’s not a definite public conclusion.

[Aleksey] has a tendency to imply that normal legal proceedings and recalls for design defects are a sign of a sinister and collaborative darker undercurrent in the world. However, this article does shine a light on an actual dark undercurrent. More and more things rely on software than ever before. Now, especially for safety critical code, there are some standards. NASA has one and in the pertinent case of cars, there is the Motor Industry Software Reliability Association C Standard (MISRA C). Are these standards any good? Are they realistic? If they are, can they even be met?

When two engineers sat down, rather dramatically in a secret hotel room, they looked through Toyota’s code and found that it didn’t even come close to meeting these standards. Toyota insisted that it met their internal standards, and further that the incidents were to be blamed on user error, not the car.

So the questions remain. If they didn’t meet the standard why didn’t Toyota get VW’d out of the market? Adherence to the MIRSA C standard entirely voluntary, but should common rules to ensure code quality be made mandatory? Is it a sign that people still don’t take software seriously? What does the future look like? Either way, browsing through [Aleksey]’s article and sources puts a fresh and very real perspective on the problem. When it’s NASA’s bajillion dollar firework exploding a satellite it’s one thing, when it’s a car any of us can own it becomes very real.