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Core Inflation Ticks Up

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that prices faced by urban consumers rose by 0.1 percent over the month of October, slowing down from the

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Austin Cook fires 62 to take RSM Classic lead

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook sank a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a

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Elon Shows Us His Semi: Tesla’s Next Big Thing Is Big Indeed

Tesla Semi

Roughly 18 months have passed since we first learned about Tesla’s plan to add an electric semi-truck, of all things, to its automotive product family. At the time, it was said to be in the early stages of development and was expected to appear sometime in 2017. Lo and behold, this past April, we were crawling around a pair of Tesla Semi prototypes at the company’s Hawthorne, California, headquarters. Then in May, Musk took to Twitter and claimed that the Semi would be unveiled in September . . . sigh (at least this is a month that ends in “ember”!). More important, it seems worth the wait.

“Like a Bullet”

As with Tesla’s other product reveals, the Semi was introduced at a huge Hollywood-style party filled with Tesla owners and fans, red carpet and all. Yes, a red carpet and multiple layers of security for a semi-truck introduction—that’s a first. And Musk wasted no time producing his two prototype rigs for the adoring throng to behold, both of which circled a vast expanse of asphalt in total silence before poking their sleek, sloped noses through the open hangar doors at the Jet Center in Hawthorne, California, adjacent to Tesla’s HQ.

“We designed the trucks to be like a bullet,” said Musk, and indeed, each of these day-cab trucks look as deliciously futuristic as one could hope them to look, particularly the low-roof matte-gray version—which turned out to be carrying some very precious cargo. With the exception of the windshield wipers and the exterior rearview mirrors, everything on the front and sides of the Semi’s body has been smoothed and flush mounted, including low-set headlamps, the upper clearance lights, and the Model 3–sourced door handles. The bottom of the truck is flat. Behind the cab are extendible panels that automatically detect the size and location of the trailer’s leading edges and extend out to meet them, effectively sealing them together from an aerodynamic standpoint. The wheels have aerodynamic covers, too, with the gray example featuring full skirting over the rear wheels. The coefficient of drag is a stunning 0.36. 

Tesla Semi

Sitting in the Doghouse

Even more revolutionary, at least in contrast to the often cramped cabs of today’s big rigs, is the Semi’s interior, which we were allowed to crawl around in briefly before the official unveiling. First of all, access to the space is provided by a couple of steps mounted at a slope just inside the door, a relatively easy climb up compared to the repelling exercise most truckers endure every time they get in and out. Even in this day-cab form, the Tesla Semi’s low floor and tall ceiling allow one to stand up inside and easily walk over to the passenger seat on the other side of the cab or around to the center-mounted driver’s seat. That’s right: Without an engine protruding into the front center of the cab—its covered housing is known in trucker circles as the doghouse—the Tesla Semi places its driver front and center, affording him or her a commanding view forward and to the sides. Dual touchscreens flanking the steering wheel fully integrate all vehicle information, navigation, travel logs, and communications—say, with one’s dispatcher—without cluttering the space with ancillary components. And, yes, there’s a pull strap for the horn.

Mercy Sakes Alive! Zero to 60 in Five Seconds! 500-Mile Range! Powered by Sunlight!

The futuristic styling and captain-of-the-starship driving environment are nice, but what matters most to Tesla, insofar as Musk has the goal of proliferating electric technology across the transportation industry, lies beneath all that. Like the Model S and X, the Semi’s structure is built around its battery packs, which are located between the front and rear axles beneath the cabin, affording it an exceptionally low center of gravity. Both prototypes feature dual rear axles, with each of the four rear wheels powered by its own dedicated electric motor (borrowed from the Model 3). The lack of a transmission frees the driver from having to shift—which is a notoriously complicated process in many rigs—and reduces the amount of jostling inflicted on the cargo.

And this truck will be quick, even by passenger-car standards. Musk claims that a bobtail Tesla Semi will be able to hustle to 60 mph in five seconds, compared with 20 seconds for a typical diesel truck. Add a trailer heavy enough to bring the rig’s total weight to an 80,000-pound GVWR, and the Semi’s zero-to-60-mph time increases to a similarly remarkable 20 seconds. Up a 5 percent grade, that same trailer-totin’ Tesla Semi can maintain 65 mph, whereas, Musk claimed, “the best diesel trucks” today can maintain only 45 mph. Going fast, of course, isn’t really the point of these rigs, but as time lost is money lost to many drivers, Musk pointed out, a less sluggish truck can make a big difference to the folks who actually use these things. Interestingly, the truck can still run even if one or two of the motors fails, in which condition “it’ll still beat a diesel truck,” Musk said.

Tesla Semi

Range, of course, is perhaps the greatest consideration for customers of electric vehicles large or small. Tesla said that, thanks in part to regenerative brakes capable of returning a remarkable 98 percent of the kinetic energy to the battery, the Semi can travel 500 miles on a full charge. That’s roughly double the real-world range of Tesla’s next-largest vehicle, the Model X. And that’s at 60 mph, with maximum payload.

Moreover, the net efficiency gain of a Tesla Semi driver traveling in a convoy of more than two rigs rivals rail transport. A planned network of new solar-fed high-speed Megachargers can replenish the truck with enough juice to give it an additional 400 miles of range in 30 minutes, Musk said—incidentally, that’s the same amount of time legally required for a driver to take a break every eight hours. These Megachargers would be installed either at points of origin or along heavily trafficked routes, according to Tesla. Other helpful technology bits include anti-jackknife stability control, blind-spot monitoring, and standard Enhanced Autopilot with automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and lane-departure warning.

Cost Neutral?

While Musk didn’t provide pricing for the Semi, he claimed that operating costs will be comparable to those of current diesel trucks, thanks in part to cheaper maintenance and nonfluctuating energy costs that Musk said would be kept at $0.07 per kilowatt-hour. Citing the Semi’s ability to drive even with two of its four motors down, Musk stated, “We are guaranteeing that this truck will not break down for a million miles.”

You’re forgiven if you still haven’t yet gotten your head around the idea of electric semi-trucks. It took us a while, too. But after doing a bit of reporting on tougher emissions regulations soon to apply to big rigs, the notion is starting to make sense. And Tesla is not the only company thinking this way, with other EV semi-truck proposals appearing during the past year or so, including Nikola Motor Company’s fuel-cell-powered semi prototype and a Class 7 Cummins electric semi prototype. This regulatory environment is subject to change, of course, particularly given the current administration’s enthusiasm for rolling back environmental regulations. But don’t expect any change in the mandates to affect Tesla’s resolve. It plans to make its Semi a common sight at truck stops around the country starting in 2019—just not at the pumps.

Tesla-Semi-Reel

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Nearly 2,000 Siemens employees protest against job cuts

BERLIN (Reuters) – Siemens employees protested in various German cities on Friday against the company’s proposal to cut 6,900 jobs, which a senior Siemens official

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Can a UX Be Slow and Function Better?

The title says it all, yet not convincing much, isn’t it? But yes, it is a fact. Speed can sometimes be detrimental when we speak

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Declining New Home Size Trend Continues

After increasing and leveling off in recent years, new single-family home size continued along a general trend of decreasing size during the third quarter of 2017. This change

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Defending champ Fitzpatrick leads by 1 stroke in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour’s

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2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid: Value Priced—for a Limited Time Only?

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

The 2018 Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid is a comfy sedan that can go 47 miles solely on electric power—which is plenty for most weekday commutes—and then operates as a gasoline-electric hybrid for another 293 miles before you fill up the tank again. More than the Clarity fuel cell, which is only available in specific markets in California, and the Clarity electric, with its total range of just 89 miles, the plug-in hybrid is the member of the 2018 Honda Clarity lineup that makes the most sense for Americans. Honda has announced pricing for the plug-in hybrid, and it’s quite the deal: $34,290 in base form or $37,390 in top Touring guise, or just $26,790 (base) or $29,990 (Touring) after the $7500 federal EV tax credit. Additional incentives apply in some states.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

The bad news is that the Clarity plug-in hybrid might not be such a great value for long. The EV tax credit is on shaky ground as the current tax bill works its way through Congress. The version that the House of Representatives passed yesterday includes the repeal of the EV tax credit; the Senate plan retains it. If both bills pass, a joint committee will ultimately determine whether the credit stays or goes.

Honda has said that it will push ahead with its product plan with or without the tax credit. It aims for electrified vehicles to make up two-thirds of its global sales by 2030.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid

PHEV Rivals

The Honda’s direct rival is the Chevrolet Volt, which can achieve 53 all-electric miles before its engine starts. Honda says that the Clarity plug-in hybrid’s range of 47 miles is better than any other plug-in hybrid sedan; that’s true on a technicality, as the Volt is a hatchback. The Volt undercuts the Clarity plug-in hybrid slightly, at a base price of $34,095 (or $26,595 after the credit), and while its features aren’t all that different, the Clarity plug-in has a roomier, more upscale cabin. In an early prototype drive, we noticed one other key difference between these two models: You can’t, as in the Volt, lock out the gasoline engine when you have a full charge in the Clarity plug-in hybrid.

Congress is looking to make the tax changes effective for the 2018 tax year. That means buyers would have to take delivery by the end of December 2017, to take advantage of the current credit. PHEV buyers might want to act fast; the days of this government-abetted bargain pricing could be numbered.

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Testing with Hard Access P2

METALCON 2017 Las Vegas Best Show in Years

Exhibitors at the largest international event for the metal construction industry networked with more than 5,000 attendees at METALCON 2017.

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