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The Mobilist
The future of batteries, electric cars, and driverless vehicles. A new blog from Medium.

Elon Musk

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Just as with “student driver” signs, pedestrians should know when an AI is at the wheel

When you’re a student driver, you’re a little dangerous behind the wheel. You don’t quite know how to control the vehicle.

Society has a vested interest in helping you learn to drive. So that means letting you take the wheel on city streets.

Risky, but over the years, US states have figured out some reasonable compromises. In places like New York State, driving schools have to outfit their cars with a dual-control brake, so the instructor can stop the car. And — crucially — the cars must sport a “student driver” sign, so everyone who sees it knows: Hey, be…


Why even Elon Musk has been forced to admit that navigating streets is hard

“MINI Cooper” by Rodrigo Canisella Fávero

A car is a just a slow-moving bullet with a stereo system.

When we drive a car, we typically think our main task is navigating from point A to point B. But mostly what we’re doing is trying to keep from killing someone. That is Job One. Everything else is secondary. If you were to get into a car and fail to get from point A to point B, that would suck. But if you were to kill someone, that would be orders of magnitude worse.

So 99% of what you’re doing when you’re behind the wheel of a car…


Volkswagen’s looks, Tesla’s quality problems, Elon Musk on SNL

Photo: Spencer Grant/Getty

Each Wednesday, The Mobilist highlights reader articles on Medium, comments, and updates.

A mandate for style: Last week, I wrote about a week’s test drive of Volkswagen’s electric crossover SUV ID.4. The car is mechanically outstanding. Physically, it is meh. Why are this vehicle’s looks so important given the industry’s overall penchant for frumpiness? Because of the very specific interregnum in which it finds itself. …


The Tesla CEO made it even harder for rivals to sell their electric cars

As Wario. Photo: Courtesy SNL

With his aw-shucks, confessional, good-sport, loves-his-mom, boyishly eager-to-please star turn on Saturday Night Live, Tesla’s Elon Musk did what the CEOs of Volkswagen, Ford, GM and everyone else in the electric vehicle race know they cannot: yuk it up as an equal alongside pop culture celebrities, and then hog the conversation on TV, Twitter, and in the tech press for two days afterward.

And with that, Musk accomplished what he must have intended all along as guest host of the iconic comedy show last weekend: Widening the already forbidding moat separating Tesla from the rest of the fast-growing EV pack.


Questions are raised about price, including whether it’s important

What if the Tesla Model 3 cost $25,000? Photo: Courtesy Tesla.

For a little over half a year, the battery and electric vehicle communities have been in ferment: Companies that no one thought twice about have gone Spac and are worth hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars. New gigafactories have been announced by the week. Legacy automakers have torn up and remade their five-year plans, only to do so again within weeks or months. In total, they have announced hundreds of new EV models.

But no episode amid the general mayhem has generated more whiplash than the discovery this week of the industry’s sudden, wholly unannounced recalculation of the…


$60/kWh batteries, Elon on SNL, Gaming and batteries

Photo: Mansell/LIFE/Getty

The astonishing $60/kWh battery: I exchanged tweets with Eyvind Aven about yesterday’s piece on the U.S. Energy Department’s startling update of its target for lithium-ion battery costs. Until now, the industry — and Energy Department — Holy Grail has been to reach $100 per kWh, thought to be the inflection point for sticker-price parity with internal combustion. But the goal posts have moved: Tesla, Volkswagen and now the standard-creating Energy Department are all looking to $60/kWh as the new parity point.

For the automakers, $60/kWh is not a mere number, but a metaphorical bomb: Tesla and VW appear determined to…


Until Elon Musk’s Battery Day, the stretch goal was $100/kWh

Tesla Roadster, 2009. Almost the only commercial EV for sale at the time. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

Just last summer, the much-watched lithium-ion industry finally reached sight of a long-sought super-stretch goal — a battery pack costing $100 per kWh, allowing the price of electric vehicles to drop to that of conventional combustion. But in September, Tesla CEO Elon Musk held “Battery Day,” at which he declared that, to penetrate the mass market, EVs needed a crash diet, and proposed a roadmap to bring down battery prices another 40%, to about $56 per kWh. In March, Volkswagen, too, seemed to promise a battery costing around $60/kWh.

Now, the Energy Department — which tends to define standards across…


A 24th Tesla investigation, 1884 EV design, dry batteries

Photo: Terry Eiler/Library of Congress/Creative Commons

The Tesla safety and quality problem: Last weekend, two Houston men took the family Tesla S out for a spin, failed to turn in a cul-de-sac, sped into some woods, and crashed into a tree. No one was at the wheel at the time, police said, and both men were killed. Confusing the situation, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that Autopilot wasn’t engaged at the time.

It’s the latest of 24 Tesla crashes under investigation by the NHTSA, the U.S. auto safety agency, many involving Autopilot. At the cusp of a new era for electric vehicles, in which EVs seem…


Blood feud, gigafactory chronology, useless batteries and new podcast

Photo: MJ Kim/Getty

Each Wednesday, The Mobilist highlights reader articles on Medium, comments, and updates.

The South Korean battery blood feud: This week, I wrote about the coming deadline Saturday for President Biden to decide whether to side with LG Chem and stop SK Innovation from supplying lithium-ion batteries from a new plant in Georgia. The batteries would be for Ford’s coming electric F-150 pickup and VW’s SUV crossover ID.4. The International Trade Commission ruled that SKI stole trade secrets from LG in order to invent its battery, a position that SKI vehemently denies…


They are ignoring the most likely winner, suggests a top expert — China Inc.

Xpeng P7 at the Beijing Auto Show last September. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty

For two weeks, Volkswagen has held auto industry analysts and reporters in unusual thrall: This 84-year-old German automaker, these opinion-makers have said, has managed a miraculous pivot from a legacy industrialist to a front-runner in the race to be the world’s number one producer of electric vehicles. Weighing in, Wall Street sent up VW shares by 20% in the last half of March, while cutting 13% from the stock price of Tesla, the current industry leader.

“The end of Tesla’s dominance may be closer than it appears,” reported Bloomberg. …

The Mobilist

The future of batteries, electric cars, and driverless vehicles. A new blog from Medium.

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