AD #1945 – Carbon Fiber Production Costs Cut in Half, Top Ten Brands in China, Lidar Prices Falling Fast
September 15th, 2016 at 11:15am
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- Ford Autonomous Car to Get Unique Body
- Lidar Prices Falling Fast
- Carbon Fiber Costs Cut in Half
- Designing Trucks for Platooning
- Top Ten Brands in China
On today’s show…Ford’s autonomous car is going to get its own body style….the cost of carbon fiber could get cut in half….and GM’s Baojun brand in China already outsells Chevrolet. All that and more coming right up on Autoline Daily.
This is Autoline Daily for September 15th, 2016.
FORD AUTONOMOUS CAR TO GET UNIQUE BODY
The Ford Motor Company is already working on the production version of the autonomous car it will unveil in 2021 for ride hailing services. People involved in the program tell Autoline the car will be a hybrid based on an existing platform. That suggests it could be a Ford Fusion or C-Max or Lincoln MKZ, since those are the hybrids that Ford sells. Even so, the autonomous version will have its own unique body style, or to use the industry jargon, it’s own top hat. Ford is also working on an autonomous dynamic shuttle service. While the people on the program would not say which vehicle would be used, they admitted that a Transit van would be perfect for that application. When introducing new technology on a new vehicle Ford typically uses two separate teams, one to develop the technology, the other to develop the vehicle. But for its autonomous car project Ford is using one co-located team in Dearborn, Michigan to ensure the autonomous technology is fully integrated into the car for Job One in 2021.
LIDAR PRICES FALLING FAST
One reason why automakers are so bullish on autonomy is that the cost is coming down fast, especially for lidar. You know what lidar is, that’s the spinning do-hickey you see on the roofs of so many autonomous cars. It’s a combination of lasers and radar that gives these cars impressive visibility of their environment. A decade ago lidar cost $80,000 for each unit. In 2010 the cost dropped to $40,000. Two years ago Velodyne, one of the major manufacturers of lidar systems, introduced a unit that costs $8,000. But the next generation will cost about $250 and be about the size of a fat hockey puck. The cost of the sensors and processors needed for autonomous cars are also coming down fast. Give it another decade. Autonomous technology is going to turn out to be very affordable.
What if carbon fiber became cheap enough to use in middle market cars? That’s coming up next.
CARBON FIBER COSTS CUT IN HALF
Carbon fiber in cars is nothing new but up to now it’s only been used in higher end models like the Dodge Viper or the BMW i3. It’s perfect for lightweighting cars to make them more fuel efficient, but it’s expensive. However that could all change. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed a new process that cuts production costs by more than half. Not only that, it needs 60% less energy to make. Recently the ORNL teamed up with LeMond Composites to make the carbon fiber. LeMond Composites is owned by three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond. He says his company is already negotiating with several automakers to use the new composite. They plan to have it commercially available by 2018.
DESIGNING TRUCKS FOR PLATOONING
Passenger cars get a lot of the focus when it comes to improving fuel economy but the commercial side of the business also needs to contribute. That’s why the Exa Corporation teamed with OEMs to use its simulation software to research the benefits of truck platooning. Earlier this year a European study found that a 50-foot distance between trucks improved fuel economy by 10%. But Exa’s simulations show that the optimum distance between platooning trucks is 30 feet. If they get any closer that blocks air to the radiators, which triggers the cooling fans to come on, and that hurts fuel efficiency. Platooning could play a significant role in reducing emissions and fuel consumption with big commercial trucks.
Still to come….the Chinese government forced General Motors to create a new car brand for China. They did such a good job it’s now outselling Chevrolet.
TOP TEN BRANDS IN CHINA
Are you familiar with the top 10 selling brands in China? The data house LMC compiled this very interesting list, with Volkswagen being the most popular brand by a wide margin. It’s also fascinating to see Buick outselling powerhouses like Toyota and Honda. And take a look at number five on the list, Changan. It is the best selling Chinese brand. By the way, Changan is Ford’s manufacturing partner in China. You’ll note that Haval is also on the list. That’s the brand name used by the Great Wall Motor Company, which is China’s largest SUV manufacturer, and as you all know, SUVs are selling red hot in China. Also notice Baojun at the bottom of the list. That’s the all-China brand that General Motors launched a couple of years ago. It’s been so successful that it knocked the Chevrolet brand off the top 10 list.
|TOP TEN BRANDS IN CHINA, JAN-AUG 2016|
I know that a lot of you out there are very interested in Elio Motors. Well on Autoline After Hours later this afternoon our guest is Jeff Johnston, the vice president of Engineering for Elio. I’ll be travelling later today so I won’t be there, but be sure to join Gary Vasilash for some of the best insights into the automotive industry.
With that we wrap up today’s report. Thanks for watching and please join us again tomorrow.
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