McLaren taps the brakes on new car launches this year – CNET

The Elva is still on track for a launch this year.

McLaren

We'll see McLaren slow its roll this year as the company responds to the coronavirus pandemic. The British sports carmaker plans to dial back its ambitious plans to introduce 18 new models or derivatives by 2025, though its most recent cars are still on schedule for a launch later this year.

McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt delivered the news during the Automotive News Daily Drive podcast. "Working out the business plan" for 2021 will prove challenging as the company deals with the curveball the pandemic threw the entire auto industry, he said. For McLaren, which sells pricey machines, the automaker will work to forecast the market to understand what kind of "appetite" will exist.

Flewitt added the pandemic probably pushed new cars scheduled for 2021 and beyond back by two years and warned 2020 will be a dry year when it comes to launches. The 765LT and Elva roadster are absolutely on track, though, even if it's more challenging than previously imagined. Next year will likely serve as a recovery year to regroup and regain lost momentum, the CEO also said.

McLaren has continuously dropped new vehicles in metronomic fashion since 2018 under the "Track 25" business plan, and it's brought us cars like the 600LT and the GT. We'll just need to get used to the fact we probably won't get a couple new British supercars every year for now.

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Tulsa mayor wants Tesla Cybertruck police vehicles, if automaker builds Gigafactory – CNET

Tesla Cybertruck Tulsa PD livery
Mayor G.T. Bynum/Twitter

Mayor of Tulsa G.T. Bynum has a simple proposition: If Tesla builds its future Cybertruck Gigafactory in the Oklahoma city, he wants Cybertruck police vehicles.

Mayor Bynum on Sunday tweeted a rendering of a Cybertruck decked out in local police livery, following reports his city is a finalist among Tesla's choices. As in previous renderings, the Cybertruck actually looks pretty boss as a police car. Mayor Bynum's tweet added it would "only be right to buy local," referring to purchasing the electric trucks if they're built in the city.

The mayor did not speak to reports of the city's alleged finalist status, but told Roadshow in a statement, "While I can not comment on potential projects, it is clear that Tesla and Tulsa were forged in the same spirit. Both founded by pioneers who dreamt big and made it happen. Both trying to change the world with a new kind of energy. Both investing big in what matters most: people. Tulsa is a city that doesn't stifle entrepreneurs -- we revere them. And as Tesla continues to rapidly change transportation all around the world, I can't imagine a better place for them to further that important work than Green Country."

The Cybertruck will supposedly be built at a new US Gigafactory located in the central part of the country. Tesla CEO Elon Musk previously said as much this past March but the process has been quiet, at least until a new report that named Tulsa as a finalist. Another city Tesla's reportedly interested in is Austin, Texas. We've also seen the state of Missouri actively court Tesla to build the new plant, while Nashville, Tennessee, was also a rumored candidate at one point.

Although it's hard to say how many workers the new Gigafactory will employ, Tesla has roughly 10,000 workers at its plant in Fremont, California. The facility builds the Tesla Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Model Y. Musk previously said this new proposed plant somewhere in the central US will also build the Model Y. The chance for a city and state to employ thousands of workers is, of course, a major positive.

Tesla's electric pickup truck will begin production in 2021, according to the company, with the most powerful versions built first. In 2022, the company plans to add less expensive, and less powerful, versions to the production mix. 

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Nissan Kicks gets some new duds in Asia – CNET

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It seems like a no-brainer these looks will come to the US soon.
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Nissan Kicks revealed in Asia with far better looks – CNET

That's much better.

Nissan

The Nissan Kicks is a surprise favorite small crossover among many Roadshow staffers, but if there's one area we can all agree needs improvement, it's the design. It seems Nissan perhaps knew that as well, and on Friday, the new Nissan Kicks bowed in Thailand.

We have to underscore that it's not clear if these updates will reflect changes for the US model, but it seems highly likely. Nissan declined to comment on the changes readied for Thailand. Nevertheless, it's probably a very safe bet we'll see these looks soon, and look at the improvements on display here.

The rear is largely the same, but there's less plastic cladding, which helps a lot.

Nissan

The design updates basically erase the budget looks of the current Kicks with a more attractive fascia and the latest take on the company's V-Motion grille. It looks a lot like the handsome Nissan Altima -- a good thing. The rear sees fewer changes, but the lower portion of the bumper adds the body color to it, which nixes some of the plastic cladding that looks a tad cheap on the current model. Overall, they're little things that make a really big difference.

Inside, it looks like designers took the time to give the cabin a more upscale vibe, too. We've seen major improvements in Nissan interiors recently -- take a look at the 2020 Sentra -- and it appears the Kicks will follow this trend. New switches and knobs look far more fresh, but the main infotainment screen looks to be the same.

What's almost certainly not coming to the US is the e-power powertrain launched in Thailand with the new Kicks. It combines a gasoline engine, a power generator, an inverter lithium-ion battery and an electric motor, but the engine never directly powers the wheels. Instead, the engine and generator make electricity for the battery. And when the driver decelerates, the e-power setup sends all extra energy back to the battery to make it more efficient. 

Instead, it seems reasonable the US Kicks will stick with a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter inline-four engine and a CVT.

This year could be a busy one with at least one major Nissan confirmed to debut despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We'll see the next-generation Rogue and perhaps the Kicks will show up, too. All of it comes amid major restructuring plans brewing within Nissan that could see it scale back focus on a number of world markets.

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The Boring Company completes Las Vegas tunnels ahead of 2021 opening – CNET

Boring Company Vegas tunnel complete

Done!

LVCVA

With all the coronavirus cancellations and postponements, how about some a project that's still on schedule for a change? The Boring Company, Elon Musk's firm dedicated to tunneling and developing a new kind of transportation, has reportedly completed its Las Vegas tunnels.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority confirmed both tunnels to complete the loop are complete on Thursday. The Boring Company finished the first tunnel this past February and started work on the final tunnel shortly after. When complete, the loop will shuttle passengers between different parts of the Las Vegas Convention Center to an expanded west hall. The campus covers 200 acres, so the authority sought an efficient way to move guests around and spent over $50 million for Musk's company to make the loop a reality.

Work will now pivot to three above-ground stations for riders to enter the loop. Two stations will be at either end of the convention center with a third in the middle of the loop. Overall, the project is 80% complete, according to LVCVA.

The tunnel's vehicles will be based on a Tesla Model 3 or Model X and carry passengers at speeds up to 155 mph 40 feet underground. A modified Model 3 will form the basis of a larger shuttle as well. Walking the distance takes roughly 15 minutes, but a ride on the Boring Company's loop should cut that down to about two minutes.

The hope is to have the service totally operational for CES 2021, but the coronavirus pandemic has made the thought of trade shows almost impossible. Should the technology expo drift later into 2021, LVCVA CEO Steve Hill told the Verge it'll wait to open the service. When it does open, it'll be totally free to use for conference-goers.

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First published May 14.
Update, May 15: Adds confirmation from LVCVA.

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New BMW 5 Series debut is just weeks away – CNET

2021 BMW 5 Series teaser

Sleeker headlights, bigger grille.

BMW

The BMW 5 Series is in for a refresh and the sedan is set to take on a sleeker look, judging by the first image the German automaker showed.

Our first look at the tweaked luxury sedan comes from BMW's General Meeting on Thursday and the automaker confirmed we'll see the full thing in under two weeks. Aside from the debut, the company also shared we're in for electrified versions as well with 48-volt mild-hybrid technology.

Don't expect any massive design changes since the internet appeared to spoil the final changes late last month, but the 2021 model year will bring some slimmer headlights and a reworked grille. The teaser photos shows both elements off, and the headlights are looking quite good. The rear takes a few elements from the latest 3 Series as well, especially in the taillights. An even more powerful plug-in hybrid model might be part of the portfolio this time around, too.

Eventually, the more efficient models will give way to the fun stuff. We'll see an updated M5 and hotter M5 Competition will come further down the line, but the German marque will surely parade the standard models and their added efficiency first.

While the 5 Series was the highlight of the presentation, BMW also said things will be changing at the automaker. The company used the meeting to underscore how the coronavirus pandemic will shape the automaker moving forward. Specifically, all future products are under review and postponements and cancellations aren't off the table. It's already rumored the pandemic shelved a BMW i8 successor.

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Tesla Supercharger use down 70% since coronavirus outbreak – CNET

This was a rare sight the past couple months.

Tesla

Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed on Thursday the automaker's network of Superchargers has seen a major drop in usage since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the US and Europe.

On a seven-day-rolling average, Tesla Supercharger sessions dropped by 70% since the start of January 2020. Usage bottomed out around April before Tesla owners started heading back to the stations at the end of last month and through May.

A nearly identical drop occurred in China through February when the country grappled with the worst of its outbreak, but charging sessions returned to normal in March before dipping again slightly in April and then rising once more. The company offered free Supercharging for Chinese owners during the pandemic, though the government kept the majority of residents from going anywhere with strict lockdown measures in place.

The only area that remained more or less normal were parts of the Asia-Pacific region outside of China. While a drop in Supercharger sessions took place, it wasn't nearly as dramatic, though there are likely far more Teslas and Supercharger stations in the chart's other regions.

We'll likely see Supercharger stations once again return to near-normal levels as Europe and the US begin to ease their way out of stay-at-home orders. Musk openly defied orders when the local government in California didn't give Tesla the OK to resume car production at its plant in Fremont. That led to the company returning to work regardless, a lawsuit and the potential for Tesla to relocate its company headquarters.

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Nvidia wants to power today’s car tech and tomorrow’s robotaxi – CNET

Nvidia Orin chip for ADAS

Nvidia's new Orin system-on-a-chip can handle today's driver assistance and tomorrow's autonomy.

Nvidia

Self-driving cars aren't coming as quickly as most technology companies and automakers wanted. That's the cold, hard truth.

While the world waits for a breakthrough moment, chipmaker Nvidia is working to play both sides of the segment and unveiled a new architecture that suits automakers' needs today, and should serve them tomorrow. It's called the Ampere Architecture and it works with the company's new Orin system-on-a-chip platform, Nvidia said Thursday. The single architecture will handle anything from advanced driver-assistance systems to full, Level 5 autonomous driving, Nvidia said.

The on-paper advantages are immediately evident. If automakers can save on engineering and implement a single platform and chip for multiple functions, it should be a win-win. Today, there are typically two systems that automakers engineer around: basic ADAS and advanced partial autonomous systems. The single architecture should even help the more basic ADAS become smarter, according to the company.

While the promise of robotaxi fleets continues to move further away, automakers are focused on bringing more driver-assist systems to more vehicles. At the same time, a handful of automakers have pushed back timelines on self-driving cars, including Ford and General Motors. Full autonomy remains a holy grail for so many companies, however, that it's highly unlikely investment slows down for the foreseeable future.

Nvidia's new tech will enter sampling periods next year with production scheduled for 2022.

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Tesla poised to reveal ‘million-mile’ battery as soon as this year, report says – CNET

Are we about to see a big change in Tesla battery tech?

James Martin/CNET

Tesla may have something big up its sleeve to show off as early as this year: an affordable, long-lasting battery to allow its electric cars to reach cost parity with gasoline-powered cars.

Reuters on Thursday published a report citing sources close to the company's battery program, and it largely falls in line with past evidence we've heard about this so-called "million-mile" battery -- that's a million miles of total use, not range on a single charge. The publication's sources said the battery comes from a joint-development project with Chinese company Contemporary Amperex Technology and various battery experts. We've heard both of these nuggets of information in the past. In fact, Dalhousie University in Canada published a research paper detailing this type of battery last September. The university happens to have an exclusive agreement with Tesla.

CATL's contribution comes in the form of battery chemistry that does without expensive cobalt, or minimal amounts of the resource. Nixing the most expensive part of a battery, while adding new materials and additives to give it the ability to store more energy for longer periods of time, could be a massive breakthrough for lithium-ion units. It's not the holy grail of solid-state batteries -- a radically different and thus far overly expensive tech -- but nevertheless, it could be big.

Along with this new battery, Reuters' sources mentioned a new battery production process that will scale back labor costs and let Tesla increase production within "terafactories" with the potential to take up 30 times the space Gigafactory 1 in Nevada does.

Where this all starts to come together is the ability to bind these batteries into the electrical grid at large. We've heard whispers about Tesla's goals to compete with utility companies, specifically in the UK, with its Autobidder program. The system promotes sharing energy and siphons off electricity from participating battery farms, solar panels or whatever it may be. The person sharing receives a payday as they may not need the energy currently, but someone else might. Tesla has also long been keen on "second life" applications for its vehicle batteries -- when they're no longer useful for a vehicle, they can still function as a storage unit.

According to the publication's sources, Tesla CEO Elon Musk plans to reveal this battery breakthrough as early as this year, perhaps at the planned Battery Day event later this month. When the unit's ready for its launch, it will supposedly arrive in China first and tweaked versions are on the table for other countries, including the US. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the rumors.

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Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada reopens – CNET

Back to work at Gigafactory 1.

Tesla

Tesla's two crucial manufacturing plants in the US are reopen. Following public confirmation Tesla production had restarted this Monday from CEO Elon Musk, the Verge reported Tuesday the company's Gigafactory in Nevada is also back online.

The information comes from Tesla's North American human resources head, Valerie Workman. In an email the website viewed, Workman explained the furlough period is over and workers are headed back. Employees who do not feel comfortable returning to work yet will need to do so on unpaid leave, the email said. Since the furlough is over, workers may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the plant's reopening.

Workman also mentioned a few steps Tesla is taking to put workers back on the job, including more shuttles to the worksite with some sort of personal protective equipment provided. In the automaker's return-to-work game plan, the company did not require personal protective gear inside its plant in Fremont, California. Fewer workers will be aboard each of the increased number of shuttles as well.

Each worker should receive word from their manager on their specific return-to-work date, the emailed added, and "in most cases" there shouldn't be any change to pay or hours.

The Gigafactory's reopening comes as Tesla and Alameda County, where the automaker's Fremont production plant calls home, appear to have reached a deal over reopening. While Tesla openly defied the county's stay-at-home order and started work on Monday, the two parties agreed to lift restrictions partially this week, and the county will allow the automaker to officially restart production next week.

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