Jaguar, Audi, Porsche and BMW: their EV futures

Electric saloons and crossovers were big – seriously big – news at the Geneva Motor Show.

Jaguar had the big production car story with the I-Pace. Which is perhaps why Audi felt the need to send a couple of prototypes of its rival e-tron shuttling around the showground, wrapped in disguise graphics.

Porsche showed a reasonably realistic vision of its second Mission E model, and told Top Gear a lot more detail about the first Mission E, which launches next year.

VW showed a big saloon concept, the ID Vizzion, which will go into production in 2021. By which time VW will have have tacked on a steering wheel.

BMW, meanwhile, had nothing to show but announced it will put into production the i4. That’s the real-world version of last autumn’s Vision i Dynamics concept car, itself a realistic derivation of the fantastical BMW 100th anniversary concept. (OK, time to ‘fess up, we called it the i5 when we first wrote about it.)

Aston Martin unveiled the Lagonda too. While we know they’re serious about Lagonda and about EVs, this particular concept is pretty far-fetched. It’s designed around solid-state batteries, a technology that’s not even in the prototype stage yet. At least not in vehicles, only in the lab.

Hyundai had a production electric Kona, available with two battery sizes, the biggest able to store 64kWh for 300-odd miles of real-world range. There was even a SsangYong EV, a crossover due in 2019. As with the Kona, there’s a similar version with an engine, the new Korando due later this year.

Among carmakers building both electric and combustion cars, there is one striking difference. Do they scratch-design the EVs, or do they share platforms with their conventional petrol, diesel and hybrid cars?

BMW has a platform-sharing approach. The i4 uses an adapted version of the architecture that serves everything from the next-gen 3 Series to the upcoming X7, including the current 5 and 7 Series. I asked BMW boss Harald Krüger why they don’t have a dedicated electric platform, which is what Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes, Porsche – and of course Tesla – have settled on.

The reason, he said, is flexibility. “Who can predict future electric market share?” So if EVs stiff out, BMW won’t be over-committed. Not only that, but also the opposite, says Krüger. “Even if EV grows fast we can react fast and build them on the existing combustion-car production lines. If you have dedicated EVs, what do you do with the old combustion-car plants?”

OK, but what if building a dedicated EV platform results in a better EV? Krüger simply tells me to look at the i4 concept, and asks if I see any problem with the looks, performance or range.

Porsche says electric cars would be additional sales, not substitutes, like when people buy a Cayenne as well as, not instead of, a 911

But Audi’s R&D chief, Peter Mertens disagrees. “The e-tron has an architecture called PPE, or Premium Platform Electric. It’s dedicated to electric and won’t be used for combustion cars or even plug-in hybrids. We have a Chinese wall between the two. They are so different as to proportions, packaging, weight distribution.”

Which is all very well, but until 2016 Mertens had the same R&D role at Volvo. And there he was responsible for the CMA platform, which sits under the new XC40. That one was designed to accommodate a full-EV version.

Jaguar has seized the advantages of a bespoke EV platform. The I-Pace’s proportions are radically different from the other Jag SUVs. Jaguar design chief Ian Callum likens it to the shift in sports cars from front to mid engines.

Absent a bulky engine at the front, its design pushes the driver forward, allowing more cabin space, and the long wheelbase leaves room for a bigger battery. Compare that with the long-bonnet BMW Vision i Dynamics.

What about the lack of flexibility and extra risk BMW’s Krüger talks of? The Jaguar is built under contract by Magna in Austria, so to an extent Jaguar has off-loaded the risk to Magna. It’s Magna who makes the E-Pace, too, as well as two BMWs and the Mercedes G-Class, so it manages to be a pretty flexible shop.

But Audi’s Mertens acknowledges the risk that BMW’s Krüger is talking about. “Yes, it does give us less flexibility in production. We have made a bold commitment.” The e-tron is to be made in a re-fitted Audi factory in Brussels. Mertens says Audi expects 15 per cent of its cars will be full-electric by 2025.

Porsche is pretty solidly committed too. That’s an understatement. It is investing €6 billion (£5.5bn) on electric R&D and production and the world’s highest-power charger network. Those things will zap up a Mission E from zero to 80 per cent charge in an astonishing 15 minutes.

Porsche has found space in its historic Zuffenhausen plant to install a dedicated new production line for the Mission E. I asked Porsche’s Sales and Marketing chief Detlev von Platen about his sales expectation. “There have been thousands of studies into the takeup of EVs and they have got thousands of answers. But €6 billion says we will be bold.”

That Mission E production line is geared for 20,000 cars a year, including other versions like the Cross Turismo, shown as a concept in Geneva. For reference, Porsche sold 250,000 cars and crossovers last year. Von Platen says the electric cars would be additional not substitutes, like when people buy a Cayenne as well as, not instead of, a 911.

Porsche is also developing leasing schemes where an owner pays a monthly fee and can swap between several Porsche models. That means if an EV wouldn’t work for, say, a holiday to a remote place, they would swap into a Cayenne or Panamera for the occasion.

Porsche’s R&D chief Michael Steiner says the Mission E uses a dedicated Porsche platform. The battery has cut-outs in the footwells so the passengers sit lower than other electric cars, to get a low roof line and the centre of gravity right down. Odd then that they jacked it up for the Mission E Cross Turismo concept, but the first production Mission E will be low as a snake’s belly.

Steiner confirms that Porsche is additionally working on the PPE platform with Audi. That’s the one used by the Audi e-tron, and its battery is a simple sandwich shape.

So Porsche will launch a second full-electric line. There will be the Mission E family, and, later a whole other electric crossover lineup on the PPE platform. That’s another part of the €6bn then. Will it be too similar to the Audi? “No-one questions that the Macan is a Porsche, even though it is related to an Audi.”

What does Steiner think of the possibility of a flexible platform that would also allow petrol versions? “You would have to compromise. You would have to make room for the engine, and for batteries.”

Those things are very different shapes. He says with solid-state batteries it would be easier, because those batteries might be half the size and weight of lithium ion. But even so, “Porsche does not like compromise.” Tell that to BMW then…

[“Source-topgear”]

Samsung Gear Sport 2: what we want to see

We’re not sure whether we’ll get a Gear Sport 2 or a Gear S4 next from Samsung, but one of them is probably in the works, and we’re starting to hear about what it might feature.

You’ll find all that below, along with thoughts on the likely release date and price, and we’ll keep this article updated as we hear more.

But while we wait for the leaks and rumors to properly start rolling in we’ve also come up with a wish list of what we want from the Samsung Gear Sport 2, as the previous Gear Sport is a capable but overly familiar wearable, so we’re hoping for some big changes for the next model.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Samsung’s next smartwatch
  • When is it out? Probably sometime in 2018
  • What will it cost? Likely upwards of $299 / £299 / AU$499

Samsung Gear Sport 2 release date and price

There aren’t any release date rumors yet, but with the Samsung Gear Sportbeing announced in August 2017 (before hitting stores in October) there’s a fair chance we’ll see the Samsung Gear Sport 2 in or around August 2018.

Samsung also launched the Gear S3 and Gear S2 in August of previous years, so it’s very likely we’ll get some kind of smartwatch this August, though whether it will be called the Gear Sport 2, Gear S4 or something else entirely is currently unknown.

As for the price, that will probably be at least as high as the Gear Sport, which launched for $299 / £299 / AU$499.

Samsung Gear Sport 2 news and leaks

While we haven’t seen any news or rumors that mention the Gear Sport 2 by name, we have seen a handful of Samsung smartwatch patents, so it’s possible that some of their features will be included in the Gear Sport 2.

One of them talks about having a battery built into the strap, which could provide extra life to the watch or could simply replace the battery that would otherwise be built into the watch body, leaving extra room there for new features.

Another details a blood pressure monitor, which could use a light source and a light receiver to monitor your bloodstream, somewhat similarly to how heart rate monitors work.

The Gear Sport 2 might make better use of its bezel. Credit: Patently Mobile

Patently Mobile has also shared a patent (pictured above) which talks about a screen built into the bezel of the watch, which could potentially tell you things like the date and the weather, leaving the main display free for other functions.

And another patent, this time spotted by 3Dnews, shows a watch that strangely has a camera built into the middle of the screen.

The camera sports optical zoom and while it leaves you with less screen, that could be made up for by the strap, which also has a screen on it, shown in the patent as offering shortcuts to apps and functions.

Could the Gear Sport 2 have a camera in the screen? Credit: 3DNews

We wouldn’t count on any of these features making their way to the Gear Sport 2, especially as many seem ambitious or impractical, but anything’s possible.

What we want to see

We don’t know much about the Samsung Gear Sport 2 yet, but we have plenty of ideas for what we want from it.

1. Better exercise tracking

Although the Gear Sport can track some things well, we found in our review that it had real issues tracking certain exercises, such as star jumps and lunges.

Not only that, but it doesn’t provide training plans, so for example you have to manually set how many of each exercise you want to do each day, rather than the wearable gradually increasing the number over time on its own.

We want to see some serious improvements for the Gear Sport 2. At the very least we want it to accurately track all the exercises that it claims to be able to, but ideally we also want it to push us to do more.

2. More accurate heart rate monitoring

Hopefully the Gear Sport 2’s heart rate monitor will be more accurate

Although the Gear Sport has a heart rate monitor it’s really not a very good one and it gets even less accurate in cold weather, so we’d like to see some major improvements here. Given that the Gear S3 also has a poor heart rate monitor though we’re not optimistic that the Gear Sport 2’s will be much better.

3. Improved GPS

Although not as bad as the heart rate monitor, the GPS performance of the Gear Sport also isn’t always great, proving slightly erratic in our review.

Given that GPS is likely to be a key feature for many buyers it really needs to perform well. Hopefully it will do for the next model.

4. Better battery life

The Gear Sport is actually a downgrade from the Gear S3 when it comes to battery life, offering around two and a half days where its predecessor offered up to four.

That’s still not awful, but it’s disappointing, especially when the watch looks to track your sleep as well – something you won’t be able to do so much if you’re regularly having to plug it in at night, so for the Gear Sport 2 we want to at least see a return to the life of the Gear S3.

5. A slicker strap

Putting a watch on should be easier than it is with the Gear Sport

Not a big deal, perhaps, but the Gear Sport’s strap can be awkward to get through the holding loops, and what with the regular charges needed it is a watch you’ll be taking on and off quite a lot, so we hope that for the Gear Sport 2 Samsung gives the strap some thought, and makes it faster and less fiddly to put on.

6. More apps

While the Gear Sport has some apps, including notable ones like Spotify and Swim.com, there isn’t a huge selection overall, even compared to other smartwatch platforms like Android Wear and watchOS.

This is likely a side-effect of the Gear Sport using Samsung’s Tizen – an operating system which is less popular than rivals. We doubt Samsung will ditch Tizen for the Gear Sport 2, but hopefully it will convince some more big names to support the platform.

7. A bigger screen

The Samsung Gear Sport has a decent quality Super AMOLED screen, but at 1.2 inches it’s quite small, and a reduction in size from the 1.3-inch display on the Gear S3.

We don’t want a massive screen on our wrists, but a return to the 1.3-inch displays of old could be desirable, as that small difference makes it slightly easier to interact with and means you can see more on your wrist at once.

  • These are the best smartwatches available right now

Related product: Samsung Gear Sport

Our Verdict:

Samsung’s Gear Sport does seem like a limited upgrade, but new features including support for Spotify offline and swim tracking means this could be a great new watch for very particular sport lovers.

 FOR

  • Offline Spotify support
  • Great design
 AGAINST

  • Limited upgrade
  • Some strange straps

[“Source-techradar”]

Top Gear Series 25 Episode 1 review: The future finally looks bright

Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris in Top Gear

Top Gear is revving its engines as it looks to accelerate full-speed ahead into a new era after its stalled start in 2016. But if the first series without Clarkson, May and Hammond was a *cough* car crash – Chris Evans’ iteration was a disappointment with critics and audiences alike – and last year’s series was an attempt at rebuilding, then the new run looks ready to put the pedal to the metal and maybe even guide it back to its glory days.

It’s down to Matt LeBlanc, Chris Harris and Rory Reid to find their own identity while winning back long-time fans of Top Gear – and on the evidence of the first episode of series 25, they look very close to striking a winning formula that stays true to the show without becoming a cheap imitation of its past.

LeBlanc appeared comfortable at the helm in the first episode of the new season, although if truth be told, with his presenting team of Chris Harris and Rory Reid, it feels like the three petrolheads are on an equal footing, enjoying their time together.

The banter between the trio is fantastic – and it was an inspired choice to kick the series off with an episode almost entirely dedicated to a road trip across Nevada in tribute to the V8 engine.

Their cheeky humour shines through, especially with a number of impromptu tasks, including a Wild West “duel in the dirt”. After which, the loser is faced with a nail-biting challenge – the watch-between-your-fingers ‘Chain Car Figure of 8’ which really has to be seen to be believed.

It’s not all long open roads and inventive tasks, though – at one point, the trio face a race against Officer Block as they run a crate of moonshine to the state line. And we’ve also got the return of the Star In A Reasonably Priced Car segment, which is a very welcome move.

BBC's Top Gear season 25 - The Stig

This week, it’s comedian Rob Brydon in the hot seat – and it’s worth watching for his commentary on his run alone. Charming, hilarious and knowledgeable, he’s a great guest to kick off the series, even if Matt and Rory can’t resist tearing into some of his choices in cars.

He set himself a goal of beating Tinie Tempah’s time of 1:50.04 – you’ll have to check the episode this weekend to see if he was able to – but the excuses came in early as the track was absolutely drenched.

Battling the elements, Rob struggled with the gears but got enough control to put in a very good effort. Commentating on his run, he teased from the studio: “The classic Roman profile gripping the wheel with assuredness and a strange sensuality.”

Naturally, it’s not perfect – some lines and segments come across as a little awkward and too scripted, with the three stars still finding their feet and getting used to each other. Reid admitted last year that chemistry doesn’t come overnight, and while that’s definitely true, they’ve still taken great strides and now come across as much more likeable.

There was a slight disappointment that the trio couldn’t complete a challenge at Bonneville – the US’ fastest race track – because freak rain left it waterlogged, but they seem just as gutted as us. Harris admitted: “I suppose I’ve now got one of the worst Bonneville stories out of anyone I know.”

All in all, the biggest take away from the first episode is just how easy it is to watch without comparing it to what has come before, and enjoy it for what it is. Sure, The Grand Tour has Top Gear’s successful and beloved trio at the helm, but LeBlanc, Harris and Reid are in the driving seat of a new era and the road ahead looks clear. Hit the gas, boys.

[“Source-digitalspy”]

Cisco says most of 5G network gear’s ready

cisco-reuters

Cisco Systems said on Sunday it aims to disrupt the wireless radio access market led by Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia by backing challengers who make more flexible software versions of traditional mobile gear. Cisco, known for making networking gear that moves big volumes of data around the internet, wants a bigger share of the mobile market by backing these alternative providers rather than by making radio access equipment itself.

Its radio access network push is part of Cisco’s efforts to prove to mobile network operators that investing in modern infrastructure and automation tools can help them to cope with increased data demands, while lowering costs.

The Silicon Valley company made the announcement ahead of this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where hundreds of telecom operators are looking for new ways to deal with exploding customer data demands and intense pricing pressures. Cisco said it is working with more than 20 network operators to offer next-generation 5G services, which promise to deliver not just faster phones and video, but also connected cars and internet-connected industrial sensors over the next decade.
“Many of the things we enable you to do, you can do before 5G,” Yvette Kanouff, general manager of Cisco’s business unit for telecom service providers, told Reuters in an interview. Ray Mota, an industry analyst at ACG Research, said Cisco was looking to convince operators to spend more on what he called “precursors to 5G”, which solve pressing network issues but won’t need to be replaced once 5G rolls out in earnest starting around 2020. Ovum, another research firm, said Cisco’s message was that “an operator can deliver much of the functionality of 5G, with up to 85% of its features, today.”

[“Source-economictimes.indiatimes”]