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Nissan reveals next step in its electric future

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Nissan has unveiled plans around the four key pillars of its future electric ecosystem in Europe, launching of new electric vehicles, additional infrastructure investment, battery charging and home storage advances.

It also presented a revolutionary new vision to give Nissan customers free power for their EV using its unique bi-directional charging technology. The announcements were made at the third Nissan Futures event, “The Car and Beyond”, in Oslo, Norway.

“Nissan kick-started the electric vehicle revolution almost a decade ago,” said Paul Willcox, chairman of Nissan Europe.  “In that time, we’ve sold more EVs than any other manufacture on the planet. Now we’re outlining our plans for the next decade, which will see even bigger investments in infrastructure, new battery advances and will even change the way people access and pay for the power in their cars. Put simply, we’ve been doing it longer than anyone else, we’ve sold more than anyone else, and we have a more exciting plan for the future than anyone else.”

New vehicles

Headlining the Nissan Futures 3.0 event was the European premiere of the new Nissan LEAF, with a special “2.ZERO” version for Europe. As the icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the new Nissan LEAF is capable of travelling 378km on a single charge* and is packed with ingenious technology, including ProPILOT advanced driver assistance system for a safer, more comfortable drive and ProPILOT Park for fully autonomous parking. The car’s e-Pedal technology also lets motorists drive and brake seamlessly, while a sleeker design makes the world’s best-selling electric vehicle even more desirable than before.

Another new product announced at Nissan Futures was the new longer-range 100% electric van – the e-NV200. With a 280km range*, Europe’s best selling electric van, can now travel 100km further than ever before on a single charge – a 60% range improvement. And, with no increase in size or weight of the battery itself, customers do not have to compromise in either load space or payload. Crucially, it can help make 100% electric last mile delivery a reality for businesses and professional drivers everywhere.

Infrastructure commitment

Nissan announced its plan to expand its existing outdoor charging network in Europe by 20% over the next 18 months. Working with EV fast charging standard CHAdeMO, the company has already built Europe’s most comprehensive charging network, with over 4600 quick chargers across the region. Nissan now plans to invest in supporting the installation of a further 1000 chargers over the next 18 months. The company is working with its partners, business owners, municipalities and sector leaders across Europe to ensure the roll out plans are focused on providing maximum convenience to its drivers, with installations on highways, in towns, and throughout key European cities.

New battery advances

Nissan also announced its new 2018 range of home and office charging units giving more choice to owners than ever before.

The Nissan double speed 7kW home charger allows Nissan electric vehicle owners to achieve 100% charge in just 5.5 hours – a 70% reduction in charging time from the previous charging technology. The double speed charger has been designed to benefit consumer EV owners, with faster home charging than Nissan has ever offered before.

The Nissan 22kW charger goes even faster, capable of charging your Nissan EV in just two hours. Designed for fleet and business owners, the super-fast charger can also be purchased by consumers who want an even quicker charging experience.

Nissan also showcased its new home energy storage system, which follows on from the success of xStorage. Created especially for EV owners, customers can plug their electric vehicle directly into the wall box to charge. It comes with its own built in energy storage system, giving customers the ability to better manage their energy costs and even generate their own electricity from solar panels, delivering 100% renewable and zero emission power for their car.

It follows the success of Nissan’s existing xStorage solution, which was developed in partnership with Eaton and has sold more than 1,000 units across Europe in just three months, with 5,000 units expected to be sold by the end of March 2018. Nissan expects to sell 100,000 home energy units by the end of FY2020 in Europe.

The new range of home and office charging units will be available from early 2018.

Revolutionary free energy breakthrough for EV drivers

Nissan also revealed its bold mission to offer customers free power for its EVs.

Over the past year in Denmark, Nissan has been testing this revolutionary new way of driving and today, this has become an offer open to all fleet customers throughout the country. Using Nissan bi-directional charging, customers can draw energy from the grid to power their car or van and then “sell” back to the grid for others to use. This means, once a nominal charge has been paid by the business for the installation of a V2G charger there are no fuel or energy costs – just free power for your EV.

And Denmark is just the start. Nissan also announced a UK collaboration with OVO allowing customers to purchase an xStorage home energy unit at a discounted price enabling them to “sell” back energy to the grid. This helps contribute to grid stability in a world where demand for energy is increasing due to a growing, urbanizing population. It can result in an additional expected income for users averaging £350 / €400 per year.

Nissan is already exploring other regions in Europe to make free power for EVs a milestone for the future.

“Step by step, we are removing any barriers to electric vehicle adoption, from infrastructure investment to how people access the power itself,” said Willcox. “Over the coming decades, through our Nissan Intelligent Mobility vision, the electric ecosystem will transform modern life as we know it. But while the starting point for it is 100% electric vehicles like the new LEAF and e-NV200, the impact goes much further. With fewer emissions, our cities and air will be cleaner. With more intelligent safety features, car accidents would be reduced dramatically. With better connections between vehicles and their surroundings, the school run or daily commute will no longer be clogged with traffic. And by letting people charge their vehicle and their home from each other, we can use our time and energy supplies more efficiently than ever.”

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Project Bloodhound saved

The British project to break the world landspeed record at a site in the Northern Cape has been saved by a new backer, after it went into bankruptcy proceedings in October.

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Two weeks ago,  and two months after entering voluntary administration, the Bloodhound Programme Limited announced it was shutting down. This week it announced that its assets, including the Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC), had been acquired by an enthusiastic – and wealthy – supporter.

“We are absolutely delighted that on Monday 17th December, the business and assets were bought, allowing the Project to continue,” the team said in a statement.

“The acquisition was made by Yorkshire-based entrepreneur Ian Warhurst. Ian is a mechanical engineer by training, with a strong background in managing a highly successful business in the automotive engineering sector, so he will bring a lot of expertise to the Project.”

Warhurst and his family, says the team, have been enthusiastic Bloodhound supporters for many years, and this inspired his new involvement with the Project.

“I am delighted to have been able to safeguard the business and assets preventing the project breakup,” he said. “I know how important it is to inspire young people about science, technology, engineering and maths, and I want to ensure Bloodhound can continue doing that into the future.

“It’s clear how much this unique British project means to people and I have been overwhelmed by the messages of thanks I have received in the last few days.”

The record attempt was due to be made late next year at Hakskeen Pan in the Kalahari Desert, where retired pilot Andy Green planned to beat the 1228km/h land-speed record he set in the United States in 1997. The target is for Bloodhound to become the first car to reach 1000mph (1610km/h). A track 19km long and 500 metres wide has been prepared, with members of the local community hired to clear 16 000 tons of rock and stone to smooth the surface.

The team said in its announcement this week: “Although it has been a frustrating few months for Bloodhound, we are thrilled that Ian has saved Bloodhound SSC from closure for the country and the many supporters around the world who have been inspired by the Project. We now have a lot of planning to do for 2019 and beyond.”

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Motor Racing meets Machine Learning

The futuristic car technology of tomorrow is being built today in both racing cars and
toys, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The car of tomorrow, most of us imagine, is being built by the great automobile manufacturers of the world. More and more, however, we are seeing information technology companies joining the race to power the autonomous vehicle future.

Last year, chip-maker Intel paid $15.3-billion to acquire Israeli company Mobileye, a leader in computer vision for autonomous driving technology. Google’s autonomous taxi division, Waymo, has been valued at $45-billion.

Now there’s a new name to add to the roster of technology giants driving the future.

DeepRacer on the inside

Amazon Web Services, the world’s biggest cloud computing service and a subsidiary of Amazon.com,  last month unveiled a scale model autonomous racing car for developers to build new artificial intelligence applications. Almost in the same breath, at its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, it showcased the work being done with machine learning in Formula 1 racing.

AWS DeepRacer is a 1/18th scale fully autonomous race car, designed to incorporate the features and behaviour of a full-sized vehicle. It boasts all-wheel drive, monster truck tires, an HD video camera, and on-board computing power. In short, everything a kid would want of a self-driving toy car.

But then, it also adds everything a developer would need to make the car autonomous in ways that, for now, can only be imagined. It uses a new form of machine learning (ML), the technology that allows computer systems to improve their functions progressively as they receive feedback from their activities. ML is at the heart of artificial intelligence (AI), and will be core to autonomous, self-driving vehicles.

AWS has taken ML a step further, with an approach called reinforcement learning. This allows for quicker development of ML models and applications, and DeepRacer is designed to allow developers to experiment with and hone their skill in this area. It is built on top of another AWS platform, called Amazon SageMaker, which enables developers and data scientists to build, train, and deploy machine learning quickly and easily.

Along with DeepRacer, AWS also announced the DeepRacer League, the world’s first global autonomous racing league, open to anyone who orders the scale model from AWS.

DeepRacer on the outside

As if to prove that DeepRacer is not just a quirky entry into the world of motor racing, AWS also showcased the work it is doing with the Formula One Group. Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director of Motor Sports, joined AWS CEO Andy Jassy during the keynote address at the re:Invent conference, to demonstrate how motor racing meets machine learning.

“More than a million data points a second are transmitted between car and team during a Formula 1 race,” he said. “From this data, we can make predictions about what we expect to happen in a wheel-to-wheel situation, overtaking advantage, and pit stop advantage. ML can help us apply a proper analysis of a situation, and also bring it to fans.

“Formula 1 is a complete team contest. If you look at a video of tyre-changing in a pit stop – it takes 1.6 seconds to change four wheels and tyres – blink and you will miss it. Imagine the training that goes into it? It’s also a contest of innovative minds.”

AWS CEO Andy Jassy unveils DeepRacer

Formula 1 racing has more than 500 million global fans and generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2017. As a result, there are massive demands on performance, analysis and information. 

During a race, up to 120 sensors on each car generate up to 3GB of data and 1 500 data points – every second. It is impossible to analyse this data on the fly without an ML platform like Amazon SageMaker. It has a further advantage: the data scientists are able to incorporate 65 years of historical race data to compare performance, make predictions, and provide insights into the teams’ and drivers’ split-second decisions and strategies.

This means Formula 1 can pinpoint how a driver is performing and whether or not drivers have pushed themselves over the limit.

“By leveraging Amazon SageMaker and AWS’s machine-learning services, we are able to deliver these powerful insights and predictions to fans in real time,” said Pete Samara, director of innovation and digital technology at Formula 1.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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