Tesla Model 3 regains safety endorsements from Consumer Reports, IIHS

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CNBC 29 June, 2021 - 03:34pm 40 views

Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on Tuesday restored top safety endorsements for the Tesla Model 3, the company's lower-priced electric sedan.

Tesla said in May it was removing radar sensors from its Model 3 sedans and Model Y crossover vehicles made for customers in North America built on or after April 27. These would rely on a vision-based driver assistance system (using cameras) instead.

At the time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web pages referencing Tesla 2021 Model 3s stopped displaying check marks indicating the agency had verified the efficacy of safety features in the modified cars.

Of particular concern was whether the radar-omitted Teslas' forward collision warning, lane departure warning, crash imminent braking and dynamic brake support would work as well as they did before the modification.

Checkmarks are still missing on the government web page for some of those features.

An IIHS spokesperson said in an e-mail to CNBC: "With the new ratings, the 2021 IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award now applies to all 2021 Tesla Model 3 vehicles, regardless of which front crash prevention system is equipped on a given vehicle."

IIHS hasn't evaluated the Tesla Model Y, but it plans to complete full ratings for that vehicle later this summer. Their report will include an evaluation of the Model Y's crashworthiness, front crash prevention and headlights.

Consumer Reports said in a statement Tuesday that the independent tests by IIHS "proved the effectiveness" of Tesla's camera-based automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning systems, and that was enough to designate the 2021 Model 3, once again, a Consumer Reports Top Pick.

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Approved by both the IIHS and Consumer Reports

The IIHS was able to show that the Model 3 with Tesla Vision cameras featured effective automatic emergency breaking (AEB) and forward collision warning systems (FCW), two criteria for Consumer Reports’ Top Pick decision-making. Combined with the IIHS awarding the Model 3 its own “Top Safety Pick” title, Consumer Reports decided to once again recommend the EV.

The publication maintains a contemptuous relationship with Tesla. It last revoked its recommendation earlier this May when Tesla began shipping the Model 3 and Y without radar sensors and warned some safety features weren’t yet rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Consumer Reports has also been critical of Tesla’s Autopilot system and its ability to be triggered without someone in the driver’s seat.

Tesla Vision passing the test adds some weight to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s claim that cameras can be an adequate substitute for radar and lidar sensors in self-driving cars. Musk has gone as far as describing modern car companies’ focus on lidar as a “fool’s errand,” and the announcement that new Model 3s and Model Ys would favor cameras was essentially the company forcing the issue.

Recently, Tesla test cars were spotted sporting lidar sensors, which seems to suggest the company might be reconsidering its stance, but for now the IIHS and Consumer Reports are satisfied with what Tesla Vision is able to achieve.

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Tesla Model 3 regains safety endorsements from Consumer Reports and IIHS

CNBC 29 June, 2021 - 01:47pm

Consumer Reports and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on Tuesday restored top safety endorsements for the Tesla Model 3, the company's lower-priced electric sedan.

Tesla said in May it was removing radar sensors from its Model 3 sedans and Model Y crossover vehicles made for customers in North America built on or after April 27. These would rely on a vision-based driver assistance system (using cameras) instead.

At the time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web pages referencing Tesla 2021 Model 3s stopped displaying check marks indicating the agency had verified the efficacy of safety features in the modified cars.

Of particular concern was whether the radar-omitted Teslas' forward collision warning, lane departure warning, crash imminent braking and dynamic brake support would work as well as they did before the modification.

Checkmarks are still missing on the government web page for some of those features.

An IIHS spokesperson said in an e-mail to CNBC: "With the new ratings, the 2021 IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award now applies to all 2021 Tesla Model 3 vehicles, regardless of which front crash prevention system is equipped on a given vehicle."

IIHS hasn't evaluated the Tesla Model Y, but it plans to complete full ratings for that vehicle later this summer. Their report will include an evaluation of the Model Y's crashworthiness, front crash prevention and headlights.

Consumer Reports said in a statement Tuesday that the independent tests by IIHS "proved the effectiveness" of Tesla's camera-based automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning systems, and that was enough to designate the 2021 Model 3, once again, a Consumer Reports Top Pick.

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Tesla releases new update for vehicles with its new 'Tesla Vision' system to restore Autopilot features - Electrek

Electrek.co 29 June, 2021 - 11:38am

Tesla has started pushing a new software update for Model 3 and Model Y vehicles equipped with its new “Tesla Vision” computer vision system in order to restore some Autopilot functionality.

Last month, Tesla announced the transition to its “Tesla Vision” Autopilot without radar, and it warned that it would result in limitations of some Autopilot features at first.

New Model 3 and Model Y vehicles delivered didn’t have emergency lane departure avoidance or smart summon, and the Autopilot system (Autosteer and traffic-aware cruise control) was limited to 75 mph.

The idea is that Tesla needed some time to make sure those features would be safe with only its computer vision system without the radar sensor.

At the time, CEO Elon Musk told Electrek that he believes Autopilot features with Tesla Vision will soon surpass what is possible with the radar sensor:

It didn’t take two weeks, but the improvements are now coming.

Yesterday, Musk confirmed that an update is coming to remove some of those restrictions:

“Production release update coming this week, which includes raising max speed to 80 mph. Sorry, 75 mph limit was done as precautionary measure. Turned out to be unnecessary.”

Now, those changes are starting to be pushed to new vehicles.

Tesla has started releasing a new software update (2021.4.18.10) that is bringing back emergency lane departure avoidance and smart summon, and it is increasing the Autopilot speed limit from 75 mph to 80 mph.

Now that the new system is catching up, Tesla is expected to release it to even vehicles with radar sensors since the vision-only system is expected to improve faster.

It is now expected to come with Tesla’s FSD beta v9, which is expected to come within the next week.

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Factbox: Lifetime carbon emissions of electric vehicles vs gasoline cars

Reuters 28 June, 2021 - 11:00pm

June 29 (Reuters) - Reuters analyzed data generated by an Argonne National Laboratory model to determine at what point a typical electric vehicle (EV) becomes cleaner than an equivalent gasoline car in terms of its lifetime carbon footprint.

Based on a series of assumptions, the data showed that a Tesla Model 3 in the United States, for example, would need to be driven for 13,500 miles (21,725 km) before it does less harm to the environment than a Toyota Corolla.

Following are the assumptions Reuters plugged into the Argonne model to produce different break-even scenarios, depending on how the power used to charge an EV is generated.

Tesla Model 3 (EV) vs Toyota Corolla (gasoline)

Fuel economy (gasoline): 33 miles per gallon (U.S.)

Curb weight: Model 3 - 3,582 lbs (1,625 kg), Corolla - 2,955 lbs

EV battery size: 54 kilowatt-hours (kWh)

EV battery cathode material: nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA)

Power scenario 2: U.S. average energy mix (23% coal-fired, plus other fossil fuels and renewables)

Tesla Model Y (EV) vs Honda CR-V (gasoline)

Fuel economy (gasoline): 30 miles per gallon (U.S.)

Curb weight: Model Y - 4,416 lbs, CR-V - 3,337 lbs

EV battery cathode material: nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA)

Power scenario 2: U.S. average energy mix (23% coal-fired, plus other fossil fuels and renewables)

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Canada will ban the sale of fuel-burning new cars and light-duty trucks from 2035 in an effort to reach net-zero emissions across the country by 2050, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government said on Tuesday.

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Analysis: When do electric vehicles become cleaner than gasoline cars?

Reuters 28 June, 2021 - 11:00pm

But keep going - you'll have to drive another 13,500 miles (21,725 km) before you're doing less harm to the environment than a gas-guzzling saloon.

That's the result of a Reuters analysis of data from a model that calculates the lifetime emissions of vehicles, a hotly debated issue that's taking center stage as governments around the world push for greener transport to meet climate targets.

The model was developed by the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago and includes thousands of parameters from the type metals in an electric vehicle (EV) battery to the amount of aluminium or plastic in a car.

Argonne's Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET) model is now being used with other tools to help shape policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board, the two main regulators of vehicle emissions in the United States.

Jarod Cory Kelly, principal energy systems analyst at Argonne, said making EVs generates more carbon than combustion engine cars, mainly due to the extraction and processing of minerals in EV batteries and production of the power cells.

But estimates as to how big that carbon gap is when a car is first sold and where the "break-even" point comes for EVs during their lifetime can vary widely, depending on the assumptions.

Kelly said the payback period then depends on factors such as the size of the EV's battery, the fuel economy of a gasoline car and how the power used to charge an EV is generated.

Reuters plugged a series of variables into the Argonne model, which had more than 43,000 users as of 2021, to come up with some answers.

The Tesla 3 scenario above was for driving in the United States, where 23% of electricity comes from coal-fired plants, with a 54 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery and a cathode made of nickel, cobalt and aluminum, among other variables.

It was up against a gasoline-fueled Toyota Corolla weighing 2,955 pounds with a fuel efficiency of 33 miles per gallon. It was assumed both vehicles would travel 173,151 miles during their lifetimes.

But if the same Tesla was being driven in Norway, which generates almost all its electricity from renewable hydropower, the break-even point would come after just 8,400 miles.

If the electricity to recharge the EV comes entirely from coal, which generates the majority of the power in countries such as China and Poland, you would have to drive 78,700 miles to reach carbon parity with the Corolla, according to the Reuters analysis of data generated by Argonne's model.

The Reuters analysis showed that the production of a mid-sized EV saloon generates 47 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile during the extraction and production process, or more than 8.1 million grams before it reaches the first customer.

By comparison, a similar gasoline vehicle generates 32 grams per mile, or more than 5.5 million grams.

Michael Wang, senior scientist and director of the Systems Assessment Center at Argonne's Energy Systems division, said EVs then generally emit far less carbon over a 12-year lifespan.

Even in the worst case scenario where an EV is charged only from a coal-fired grid, it would generate an extra 4.1 million grams of carbon a year while a comparable gasoline car would produce over 4.6 million grams, the Reuters analysis showed.

The EPA told Reuters it uses GREET to help evaluate standards for renewable fuel and vehicle greenhouse gases while the California Air Resources Board uses the model to help assess compliance with the state's low-carbon fuel standard.

The EPA said it also used Argonne's GREET to develop an online program that allows U.S. consumers to estimate the emissions from EVs based on the fuels used to generate electric power in their area.

The results of the Reuters analysis are similar to those in a life-cycle assessment of electric and combustion-engine vehicles in Europe by research group IHS Markit.

Its "well-to-wheel" study showed the typical break-even point in carbon emissions for EVs was about 15,000 to 20,000 miles, depending on the country, according to Vijay Subramanian, IHS Markit's global director of carbon dioxide (CO2) compliance.

He said using such an approach showed there were long-term benefits from shifting to electric vehicles.

Some are less positive about EVs.

University of Liege researcher Damien Ernst said in 2019 that the typical EV would have to travel nearly 700,000 km before it emitted less CO2 than a comparable gasoline vehicle. He later revised his figures down.

Now, he estimates the break-even point could be between 67,000 km and 151,000 km. Ernst told Reuters he did not plan to change those findings, which were based on a different set of data and assumptions than in Argonne's model.

Some other groups also continue to argue that EVs are not necessarily cleaner or greener than fossil-fueled cars.

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents over 600 companies in the oil industry, states on its website: "Multiple studies show that, on a life-cycle basis, different automobile powertrains result in similar greenhouse gas emissions."

Argonne National Laboratory is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and operated by the University of Chicago.

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Canada will ban the sale of fuel-burning new cars and light-duty trucks from 2035 in an effort to reach net-zero emissions across the country by 2050, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government said on Tuesday.

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BMW X7 vs. Tesla Model X - Which One Should I Buy?

BMWBLOG 28 June, 2021 - 12:04am

Well, you’ve finally made it. A good job, maybe a three car garage, and a happy – but growing – family. And the salvage title 2006 Yukon you’ve been hauling your supposedly precious cargo (pets, children, random junk, etc.) around in for years simply isn’t cutting it anymore. Again, congratulations – you’ve now entered one of the most competitive buying segments in the market – the realm of three-row SUVs. But you’re smart enough to have narrowed it down to two of the front runners in the segment – the confusingly-doored and smog conscious Tesla Model X, and the the first of BMW’s supersized grilles on equally supersized wheels, the BMW X7.

The BMW x7 and Tesla are, first and foremost, separated by a nearly $15,000 price gap when new.  The X7 undercuts the Model X, beginning from around $75,000, while the “base” Model X sits right around $90,000. For your $75K, the X7 xDrive40i makes do with 335 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque, getting from 0-60 in a respectable five and a half seconds.

And the extra $15,000 isn’t  wasted – the base “long range” Tesla makes rapid work of turning electricity into unapologetic speed. The same journey to 60 mph takes just under 4 seconds, touting a mighty 670 all-electric, plant-friendly horsepower.

The X7 M50i ups the ante and takes an even more Tesla-opposed approach by shoving a twin-turbocharged V8 under the hood, good for 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque and propelling the nearly 5500 pound SUV to 60 in just 4.5 seconds – admittedly, still slower than even the base Model X.

The Model X jumps in trim from the base “Long Range” to the “Plaid”: but we’re now talking about over $120,000, and more than $20,000 over the start price of the M50i. And while the Plaid’s 1020 hp and crazy fast launches might be worth it – I’m not sure that there’s much of a price comparison.

Of course, if you really need the top dog, you can always trade up to the ALPINA XB7 – a $150,000 version that isn’t all that much faster than the M50i, but it’s a whole lot more comfortable. You’re up to 612 hp now but that still doesn’t get you where the Model X Plaid does.

What it gets you is a whole lot of exclusivity – which you’re probably pretty on board with if you’re shopping at this price point. But if you’re looking to drag race your seven passenger SUV – and have the cash to prove it – the Tesla is the clear winner here.

The road presence commanded by the X7 is undoubtedly significant. The jumbo grills, high and narrow headlights, and 20” wheels (standard – they go up to 23s on the XB7)  certainly make a statement and the car is sure to be noticed even in a parking lot full of comparable vehicles.

The colors are good, too – an array of whites, greys, blues, and blacks all come totally free of charge. There’s some more premium “Individual” colors you can add for (a very reasonable) $1,950, and they’re worth it – they’re all super metallic blues, purples, and grays with varying shades of metallic flake in them.

The Model X, on the other hand, gets a total of five colors available. And if you don’t care for white, you’re shelling out an additional $1500 minimum – even for a black car! Heaven forbid you want red – the launch color – since it will cost you $2,500 to order! There are only a couple of wheel choices – the standard 20s, and a…$5,000 upgrade to 22” turbine wheels.

The X7’s most expensive wheel option taps out at a still significant $2,300 for the insane XB7’s ubiquitous  23”  ALPINA wheels – and all other trims only charge $1,300 for their most premium wheel selections. Wheels aside, I feel the Model X looks like every other Tesla on the road, basically resembling an egg, and have to side with the X7 in the looks department.

This is where things become even more subjective than exterior impressions. Strictly from an ease of use perspective, the Tesla multimedia interface is pretty intuitive. It took me all of 10 minutes to figure out the majority of “necessary on a daily basis” functions.

When I was first learning the iDrive7 system in the X7 it took me a bit longer than that – even coming from older versions of iDrive – but it does become second nature as soon as you know where everything is. One downside of the Tesla is the complete lack of physical buttons for simple functions – I don’t need a screen to adjust my air con, and it in fact mostly hinders the process.

Overall, I think the aesthetic and control layout on both cars is better or worse depending on how your brain works and what you need out of your interior – but for me, the X7 is a clear winner.

Another thing that will certainly sway your opinion one way or the other is how you feel about your “in-flight entertainment”, as it were. Tesla also allows you to “CARaoke” – which is a car-supplied karaoke track, as well as some included games you can play using (mostly) the steering wheel. To me, this adds nothing of value past novelty, but plenty of friends and thousands of anonymous internet strangers have tried to convince me otherwise.

Of course the usual Tesla treasure trove of Easter eggs exist here as well – such as a Mario Kart-themed Autopilot display, a Mars-themed Nav screen, and even a little “dance” you can force via the fob that makes full use of those crazy doors.

Oh, yeah, the doors. This comparison would be totally remiss without mentioning the Model X’s insane “falcon doors” – which open exactly how the name suggests. Supposedly they are “practical” by virtue of the fact that they open up instead of out, theoretically making parking garages a breeze. In reality, they seem like just another quirky Tesla gimmick that you will either love or hate based on who you are and what you expect from a car.

So which one do you buy? Well, the elephant in the room is of course the limited range of the Model X. If you live in an urban area, and/or don’t travel much in your car, it’s likely this won’t matter much to you. For the rest of us, even in the most charger-progressive areas, a limited range can present somewhat of a roadblock if you have specific ideas about where your road trip should bring you. The X7 doesn’t suffer from these limitations.

Another point against the Tesla is price. Even if you’re factoring in running costs, it takes a whole lot of gas and a whole lot of maintenance to offset the time, increased upfront cost, and occasional inconvenience of owning an electric vehicle.

So, the verdict: if the Model X is both affordable to you and fits your lifestyle, it’s probably the better call. Those that desire a longer range or a more luxurious interior (or that just can’t stand those absurd doors) might want to opt for the X7 – in any trim. Having driven both, I highly prefer the more communicative steering in the X7 M50i over the wandering steering in the Tesla – a car mostly designed with the driver being the last priority on their list.

But drive both – which do you prefer?

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