Ford Motor Company’s Classic F-150 Gets Luxury/Tech Upgrades

It seems that as Ford Motor Company reworks of its best money maker, the F-150, the reworkings are mostly changes to the interior. The changes are luxury oriented including recliner sleeper seats and hands-free technology.

Believe it or not, sleep was a demand of many truck buyers. These buyers purchased almost 900k F-Series trucks last year. This was worth about $42 billion to Ford Motor Company. Perhaps in opposition to many people’s assumptions Ford F-Series customers want something more like a first-class experience in a truck cabin. They don’t want a no-frills work vehicle.

With many competitors from General Motors Company or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles offering modern creature comfort in trucks Ford felt the pressure and decided to upgrade the F-150.

The new F-150, available later this year, will provide a 12-inch touchscreen infotainment center matching what its Dodge Ram competitor offers. Additionally, the new F-150 will be available as a hybrid or an EV in about two years according to Ford. The hybrid will include a generator feature that Ford says could power a worksite or home. The F-150 will also become the first Ford to offer over-air software updates just like Tesla has offered for years. The hands-free driving feature is coming from the electric Mustang Mach-E (available later this year).

Jaguar Gets Back to Sports Sedans w/ Techy New XE

Even though your typical Jag showroom today is going to be a hoard of up-scale SUVs, the British car maker isn’t abandoning its roots. As evidenced by the XE sport sedan shown at the NYC international Auto Show.

The 2020 XE is all traditional Jag. Literally the only thing some diehards may miss is the “Leaper” hood decoration—the namesake cat now lives in the middle of the XE’s big grille. Despite this change, the XE hasn’t changed all that much in basic line and shape. It has drawn some inspiration, of course, from the F-Pace SUV. In particular the front end is wider, lower and has more “muscle” with J-shape running lights.

Also, all lighting, to no great surprise, has gone LED. The bumper and taillights get a revision as well.

The major upgrades are all tech, like the video mirror system that helps with the limited view caused by the roofline. A flip-switch gives the driver a view captured by outside camera. However, the view is wider than a regular mirror display, taking some getting used to. Other tech updates also include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the wireless cell charging system Qi.

These New Roads Are Electrifying, Literally

You’ve heard of hybrid cars, you’ve heard of electric cars, but have you heard of electric roads? Well, the world’s first electrified road that will charge electric cars and trucks as they drive over is no open outside of Stockholm, Sweden. While this initial stretch comes in at only just over 2 miles, the government has plans for a 12,500-mile project.

How does it work? Unsurprisingly to some, it works via an embedded electric rail. This will work, somewhat, like some electric mass transit already does. To take advantage vehicles will have to install a special arm that makes contact with the rail as the vehicle drives, thus charging the battery. While this new kind of road coasts a seemingly undoable $1.2 million per kilometer, that still makes it 50 times cheaper (if you can believe it) than an urban tram line.

The developers of the road say the technology helps eliminate the need for roadside vehicle charging stations, which can delay travelers while they wait for their vehicles to charge. It also means car batteries can be smaller since they wouldn’t have to store as much charge, which would help cut battery and manufacturing costs.

Developers of the new road report that the new technology will help reduce the need for roadside vehicle charging stations. These stations can delay travelers and have stopped the world from viewing electric cars as viable, long distance options. They also noted if these roads were installed all over, it could reduce the cost of cars themselves as batteries could be smaller.

Finally, the developers noted that the roads are built in such a way one could walk barefoot over them at no consequence to one’s health.

Can Tesla Make Good on New Promises?

Tesla’s November 16 introduction of both the new Tesla Semi and the Tesla Roadster managed to impress even observers used to the electric carmaker’s lofty ambitions. When they come to market, the Roadster will be the fastest-accelerating production car in the world, and the Semi will deliver more range, for a lower price, than almost anybody expected.

Those and other promises would be difficult or impossible to fulfill with batteries on the market today. At current battery prices, Bloomberg estimates the battery for a freight truck with 500 miles of range would cost more than $100,000, but Tesla estimates that the entire truck will only cost $180,000.

Similarly, the power and range Tesla is promising for the Roadster will take a battery more than twice as big as anything in a current Model X or Model S.

Tesla says the Semi will be able to suck up 400 miles worth of juice in 30 minutes, but that would mean charging more than 10 times faster than Tesla’s current best chargers.

The Semi isn’t set to hit the road until late 2019, and the new Roadster isn’t due until 2020. Battery prices and sizes have dropped dramatically in the last five years, and many projections have them dropping by another half by then. The same goes for power density, meaning that by the time the Roadster and Semi go into full-scale production, batteries may well be good enough to do what Elon Musk is promising. A Carnegie Mellon battery expert speaking to Jalopnik agreed that the Roadster’s performance benchmarks were at least theoretically plausible, though they might also require advances in tire technology.

Announcing products years before perfecting the technology needed to make them work is certainly an unorthodox approach. It’s unlikely to appease critics of Tesla’s rapid spending, who tend to see displays like the Roadster reveal as media stunts aimed at raising badly-needed cash.

Volkswagen will defrost your windshield – with silver!

Autoweek reported that German automaker Volkswagen is rolling out a brand new windshield defrosting. This is just another iteration of the old “tiny wires in the glass” trick. Volkswagen has discovered a way to add a super-thin, conductive layer of invisible silver within glass used for windshields. The invisible silver layer can take between 400-500 watts of electricity, which is enough to improve defrost time. They are also offering customers an option that will keep their windshield wipers deiced as well. The technology is available for the following models: Golf, Golf Sportsvan, Tiguan, Sharan, Passat and its European variants.

This new invisible silver technology isn’t just for winter driving, however. The silver will also act as a passive heat shield to keep cars cooler in the summer. The silver, according to Volkswagen, will reflect up to 60 percent of summer heat. That is about 15 degrees more protection than conventional tinted windshields.

Prices for the new tech option will start at around $360.

Joe Victor

Mercedes-Benz’s New All-Electric Heavy-Duty Truck

The German automaker just revealed a heavy electric truck, which features technology that could go into production by the beginning of the next decade.The Mercedes-Benz Urban eTruck is the first fully electric truck intended for heavy distribution operations, according to the automaker, and it’s capable of hauling 26 metric tons.

The truck is intended for short, local trips, as it only has a range of up to 124 miles. Three lithium-ion battery modules supply power to the truck and are housed in a crash-proof location inside the frame. Electric motors sit adjacent to the wheel hubs. Mercedes tested autonomous heavy-duty trucks on the roads of Europe this year.

Even before introducing the Urban eTruck, Daimler had already debuted other zero-emissions trucks. Daimler, which owns a nearly-90-percent stake in Mitsubishi‘s spin-off truck brand Fuso, has been testing the Fuso Canter E-Cell light distribution truck in consumer trials since 2014. Its hydrogen fuel cell trucks traveled over 31,000 miles in just one year of testing, despite the fact that the truck also offers a limited range. Mercedes says it gets over 62 miles of range.

Earlier this month, Tesla announced it wanted to move into the heavy-duty and commercial transportation space with an electric semi-truck. It says a heavy-duty truck will be ready to unveil next year.

Instead of smart cars, let’s look at smart highways

My Dad, Jody, came across an interesting concept while surfing the web:

As technologies advance, so will driving capabilities advance. We have heard of “smart” cars. How about “smart” highways?

This is what Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde has been imagining. Charging electric cars as they pass over them, painting snowflakes digitally over ice patches to warn you, illuminating priority lanes and reducing energy usage by putting sensors on streetlights.

Later this year, a 150-meter stretch of highway in Brabant, Netherlands will have the earliest version of this.

You can read more about it here.

~ Joe Victor