Predicting EV “Tsunami,” Volvo Invests in Mobile Electric Vehicle Charging Company FreeWire

Photo of Volvo vehicles with Freewire charging.Volvo announced this week an investment in FreeWire Technologies, a company specializing in mobile electric vehicle (EV) charging units. Other investors in FreeWire’s $15 million Series A include the integrated energy giant BP, manufacturing powerhouse Stanley Black & Decker, and the United Kingdom’s Innovate UK.

FreeWire was founded about five years ago by Arcady Sosinov, who was born just outside of Chernobyl in the year of the nuclear catastrophe. His family emigrated to the U.S. when Arcady was young, but the life-altering experience of growing up in a disaster zone influenced his decision to pursue a career in cleantech. Arcady identified electric vehicle charging infrastructure as a pain point, and today the goal of minimizing EV charging infrastructure guides his company’s direction.

 

The move into charging makes sense for Volvo, which is aggressively embracing transportation electrification.

“Volvo Cars’ future is electric, as reflected by our industry-leading commitment to electrify our entire product range,” said Zaki Fasihuddin, CEO of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. “To support wider consumer adoption of electric cars, society needs to make charging an electric car as simple as filling up your tank. Our investment in FreeWire is a firm endorsement of the company’s ambitions in this area.”

Earlier this year Volvo committed that every new car launched from 2019 will be electrified, with plans for half of all sales by 2025 to be fully electric. Describing itself as “a human-centric car company,” Volvo’s Fasihuddin explains that one of the company’s goals is to make customers’ lives easier. This explains the fit with FreeWire, which offers mobile “infrastructure light” chargers that can be installed quickly without major construction, along with portable batteries that the company is marketing to workplaces and multifamily communities that lack electrical infrastructure. Lastly, FreeWire can deliver truck-based mobile batteries that pull up to an EV and provide a charge wherever the customer’s vehicle happens to be.

To deliver on its promise to investors, FreeWire has entered into partnerships with contract manufacturers here in the U.S. as it lays the groundwork for scaling up manufacturing capabilities from dozens of systems to hundreds. Within about a year, says founder and CEO Sosinov, FreeWire expects to have a full production line shipping hundreds of units per month to customers around the world. To get to that point, the company has hired staff including a COO and VP of Operations to bulk up its supply chain expertise, documentation, and testing to maintain consistency and reliability.

Volvo’s electrification strategy does not envision direct ownership of charging or service stations, but the investment in FreeWire reinforces the company’s overall commitment to supporting a widespread transition to electric mobility together with other partners.

In an interview with Automotive News Europe about EVs and EV charging, Volvo’s Fasihuddin said “There are so many issues to think about and we want to get out ahead of that because we think there is a tsunami coming. And we’re part of creating that.”

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Audi to Introduce Solar Roofs, Improve Fuel Efficiency and EV Range

Thin-film solar cells in panoramic glass roofs of Audi models: Audi and Alta Devices, a subsidiary of the Chinese solar-cell specialist, Hanergy, are working together on this development project. With this cooperation, the partners aim to generate solar energy to increase the range of electric vehicles.
Photo courtesy Audi AG.

Audi today announced a plan to increase the range of the company’s electric vehicles by generating onboard solar energy using thin-film solar cells. Audi and its partner, California-based Alta Devices, a subsidiary of the Chinese solar-cell specialist Hanergy, are taking an incremental approach and will first integrate Alta’s efficient, thin, and flexible mobile power technology into panoramic glass roofs. A prototype is expected by the end of this year.

Recognizing that drivers demand maximum range from their electric vehicles, and also responding to ever more stringent fuel economy requirements around the globe, Audi and other vehicle manufacturers are going to great lengths to maximize every opportunity to increase overall efficiency as well as replace liquid fuels with electricity. Consistent with this effort, Audi’s next step after integrating solar into glass panels will be to cover almost the entire roof with solar cells.

By generating onboard and clean renewable power for systems such as air-conditioning and seat heaters, the solar cells will reduce the demand on an all-electric vehicle’s main battery, thereby providing a longer range for driving. But solar cells also can improve fuel efficiency in mild-hybrid vehicles by making the gasoline or diesel engine’s output more fully available for moving the vehicle instead of producing electricity for in-cabin use. Eventually, Audi and Alta envision solar energy directly charging a fully-electric vehicle’s main battery. “That would be a milestone along the way to achieving sustainable, emission-free mobility,” said Bernd Martens, Audi’s Board of Management Member for Procurement.

The partnership with premier automaker Audi is a high-profile opportunity for Alta, holder of multiple world records for energy conversion efficiency. “This partnership with Audi is Alta Devices’ first cooperation with a high-end auto brand. By combining Alta’s continuing breakthroughs in solar technology and Audi’s drive toward a sustainable mobility of the future, we will shape the solar car of the future,” said Alta CEO Ding Jian.

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Advanced Transportation Projects Receive Federal Investment

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office this week announced $13.4 million in investments to support five new cost-shared, community-based projects focused on energy efficient mobility systems. Funding will go to support research and development related to connected and autonomous vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, and infrastructure including natural gas, propane, biofuels, hydrogen, and electricity.

The specific winners are:

  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, New York), which will receive $2 million to evaluate changes in freight demand patterns that reduce energy use, incorporate energy efficient technologies and practices into freight logistics, and publish lessons learned.
  • Pecan Street Inc. (Austin, Texas), which will receive $1 million to pilot “last mile” electric bus services. The project includes a feasibility assessment of new technologies such as autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles and dynamic app-driven re-routing.
  • City of Seattle Department of Transportation (Seattle, Washington), which will receive $1.9 million to accelerate the use of EVs in shared mobility applications in four major U.S. markets and establish best practices for all U.S. metro regions.

In addition, two community partner projects focusing on alternative fuels will also receive funding:

  • Center for Transportation and the Environment (Atlanta, Georgia) and its partners will receive $4.6 million to accelerate the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure throughout the southeastern United States.
  • Metropolitan Energy Center, Inc. (Kansas City, Missouri) and its partners will receive $3.8 million to accelerate the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles, as well as supporting infrastructure, through community-based partnerships throughout Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado.

One of the Vehicle Technologies Office’s areas of focus is energy efficient mobility systems. Energy efficient mobility systems includes efforts to identify and support technologies and innovations that “encourage a maximum-mobility, minimum-energy future in which transportation systems may be automated, connected, electric, and/or shared (ACES).”

According to independent third-party evaluations of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s R&D portfolio that has been evaluated to date, taxpayer investment of $12 billion has yielded an estimated net economic benefit of more than $230 billion, with an overall annual return on investment of more than 20 percent.

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California Energy Regulator to Federal Climate Experts: “You’re Hired!”

Photo of CPUC President Michael Picker in front of United States EPA.
CPUC President Michael Picker inviting federal energy and climate employees to work in California.

In response to the White House budget that would decimate the ranks of federal employees working to mitigate climate change, the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael Picker, this week greeted workers arriving at the headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy announcing that California welcomes their talents.

“On climate action, there’s a dark cloud hanging over Washington right now,” said CPUC President Picker. “If climate scientists and experts want the opportunity to continue doing important work for the good of our planet, my message is simple: Come West, California is hiring.”

The CPUC, the California Air Resources Board, and the California Energy Commission are currently hiring dozens of new staff for positions working on climate change, renewable energy, air quality, and clean energy research and development – among many other opportunities.

The budget released this week by the White House proposes to eliminate 50 programs and $2.6 billion from the EPA’s budget, a 31 percent reduction. The cuts would be achieved in large part by eliminating efforts related to climate change, such as the Clean Power Plan, and trimming initiatives to related to air and water quality. If enacted, 19 percent of the EPA’s workforce would be eliminated. The total loss at the EPA alone would be approximately 3,200 jobs.

“Literally and figuratively, this is a scorched earth budget that represents an all out assault on clean air, water, and land,” said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator during the final years of the Obama administration. “You can’t put ‘America First’ when you put the health of its people and its country last.”

The Department of Energy’s cuts, which under any other administration would be considered draconian, are relatively tame at $1.7 billion, or 5.6 percent. DOE programs on the chopping block include:

  • Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
  • Office of Nuclear Energy
  • Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability
  • Fossil Energy Research and Development Program
  • Weatherization Assistance Program and State Energy Program
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) plus guarantee programs, greenhouse gas reducing technologies, and advanced vehicle programs

Meanwhile, California continues to advance aggressive efforts to decarbonize. For example, the state is on track for its regulated electric utilities to obtain 50 percent of their energy sales from renewable resources by 2030. Legislation signed into law just a few months ago requires statewide greenhouse gas emissions to be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Other state initiatives include aggressive requirements and goals related to distributed energy resources (including renewable energy), electric vehicles, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Picker’s visit to the federal agencies in Washington this week is a reminder of California Governor Jerry Brown’s comment on the occasion of signing the “50 by ’30” legislation into law: “Climate skeptics don’t quite get it. They are in political Pluto, and we have to bring them back to Earth, where the rest of us live.”

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Audi Introduces Q8 Sport Concept, a Stylish and Powerful “Mild Hybrid”

Audi this week introduced the Q8 sport concept, a stylish SUV featuring a super fuel-efficient “mild hybrid” drive system. Mild hybrids are a class of vehicles distinct from traditional hybrids and all-electrics such as the Prius or the Tesla.

The distinguishing feature of mild hybrids is a 48-volt electrical system with a relatively small battery that provides electricity to heavy loads such as the air conditioner compressor. By relieving the gasoline engine of powering heavy electrical loads, the vehicle achieves better fuel economy because all of the gasoline is directed only at moving the vehicle. The battery is charged through regenerative braking.

Another benefit of the 48-volt system is that it can power an electric traction motor to supplement the internal combustion engine, producing additional horsepower without consuming more gasoline. In the case of the Q8 sport concept, the combination of the 3.0 liter turbo-charged six-cylinder gasoline engine with a 20 kW electric motor produces a total of 469 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque (which is 25 more gasoline-free horsepower than without the electric motor). Acceleration is 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62.1 mph) in 4.7 seconds with a top speed of 170.9 mph.

Graphic showing Audi Q8 sport concept mild hybrid 48-volt drivetrain

In addition to the electric motor’s contribution to horsepower, the Q8 sport concept’s 48-volt system enables delay-free turbo acceleration in a V6 for the first time, according to Audi. Six-cylinder engines typically do not produce enough exhaust gas for instant turbo power, but the Q8 sport concept’s 48-volt electric system can accelerate an electric compressor from 0 to 70,000 RPM in less than 250 milliseconds to instantly provide the air that the turbocharger requires. The result is faster acceleration than typical for an SUV, and 8-cylinder performance with 4-cylinder fuel consumption. Total range based on the vehicle’s 22.5 gallon fuel tank is 745.6 miles, for an average fuel economy of more than 33 miles per gallon.

Finally, the Q8 sport concept’s 0.9 kWh battery makes it possible to keep moving slowly in stop-start traffic with the combustion engine switched off, as well as allowing for maneuvering and parking under electric power alone.

“The drive system of the Audi Q8 sport concept is a major step towards optimizing efficiency and sustainability in large-volume series production. The combination of mild hybrid technology and a [turbocharged fuel stratified injection] engine sets a new benchmark for the synthesis of electromobility and combustion engines. In the future, this combination will be used in many Audi models,” says Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management at Audi AG.Photo of Audi Q8 sport concept.By providing power for the many high-energy systems, 48-volt mild-hybrids are a relatively low-cost stepping-stone in the march toward greater electrification and, if incorporated into millions of vehicles, do represent a meaningful (yet modest) increase in fuel economy and decrease in tailpipe emissions. While the benefits of these otherwise-traditional vehicles fall short of the game-changing advances in fully-electric vehicles, incorporating a 48-volt system nonetheless improves fuel economy at a relatively low cost per unit of efficiency.

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More Customers to Benefit from Florida Power & Light’s Commitment to Solar

Florida Power & Light Company, the third-largest electric utility in America and the largest generator of solar energy in Florida, this week announced an accelerated timetable to build nearly 600 megawatts of solar capacity across eight locations. The energy these projects will produce, which will be enough to fully support approximately 120,000 homes, will diversify the source of electricity for all customers on the grid and efficiently provide a little more green energy to the entire customer base.

Utility-scale solar is a cost-effective way of delivering renewable energy to everyone, and for customers who rent their homes or whose roofs are not suitable for solar panels, the type of projects FPL is undertaking may represent the only way of obtaining renewable energy. “We have been working hard to drive down the costs of adding solar so we can deliver even more zero-emissions energy to all of our customers. As the first company to build solar power generation cost effectively in Florida, we are proud to continue leading the advancement of affordable clean energy infrastructure. We have proven that it’s possible to cut emissions and deliver reliable service while keeping electric bills low for our customers,” said Eric Silagy, FPL president and CEO. Construction is expected to commence this spring. During peak construction, an estimated 200 to 250 people will be working at each site.

The company expects the new installations will be cost-effective over their operational lifetimes, which is consistent with other reported metrics. For example, FPL reports that its carbon emissions today are lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan’s goals for 2030, while the company’s typical residential customer’s 1,000-kWh bill is approximately 25 percent lower than the latest national average. Last year, according to the company, FPL’s residential bills were the lowest in Florida among reporting utilities for the seventh year in a row. In addition to the grid-scale projects announced this week, FPL has installed small-scale solar arrays for more than 100 Florida schools and other educational facilities.

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Faraday Future Unveils All-Electric “FF 91” Supercar

Photo of Faraday Future FF 91.Faraday Future yesterday unveiled its first production vehicle, the all-electric “FF 91” (referred to as the “FF nine-one”). With 1050 horsepower produced by a 783 kW motor, this pre-production supercar accelerates from 0 to 60 in an eye-popping 2.39 seconds. More important to most drivers, though, is that the FF 91 carries a massive 130 kWh battery. With more electric energy storage capacity than any other vehicle, Faraday states that the FF 91 achieves an EPA-estimated range of 378 miles.

The battery technology Faraday is developing with LG Chem is doubtlessly impressive, but EV drivers should expect a horserace between leading OEMs in battery capacity. As an example of this fierce competition, Tesla’s P100D’s range today is 337 miles. By the time the FF 91 enters production, Tesla (or another EV manufacturer such as NextEV’s NIO or Lucid Motors) could well match or surpass that benchmark.ff91_detail_vpaWith such a large battery, charging speeds have to increase from most of today’s charging technology, which is generally designed to serve vehicles with batteries less than half the size Faraday plans. For this reason, the FF 91 can accept a 200 kW charge (think of this as charging at a peak rate of 500 miles in an hour). For comparison, most DC fast chargers today top out at 50 kW (comparable to 200 miles in an hour). A notable exception is Tesla, whose superchargers are 145 kW. Meanwhile, Porsche is working on 350 kW charging, so high speed charging is a technology sure to see significant change.

The FF 91 also features autonomous driving technology, as impressively demonstrated at the unveiling when an unmanned vehicle drove through a parking lot looking for an empty space, then perfectly backed in and notified the person who had been driving where to find it. While at first a vehicle’s ability to park itself may seem rather insignificant, think how nice it would be to be dropped off at a building’s entrance while your car parks itself.

Based at least in part on Faraday Future’s relationship with Chinese infotainment giant LeEco, Faraday vehicles will possess technology capable of learning driver and passenger preferences over time. Examples include seating positions, favorite music and movies, ideal temperatures, and driving style settings. Faraday Future is also introducing advanced facial recognition technology – called Arrival Interface – allowing drivers and passengers to unlock the car without a key. Photo of FF 91's "Arrival Interface."A camera installed in the B-pillar between the front and back seats can accurately identify the user’s face to grant vehicle entry. Similarly, interior cameras use this technology to recognize users and automatically adjust interior settings to their preferences.

Faraday is now accepting reservations for the FF 91. A $5,000 deposit the company states is refundable guarantees a priority position once production begins; potential customers unwilling to put up a lot of cash without knowing key factors such as what the interior will look like or the ultimate price of the vehicle can register an “intent to reserve” at no cost. The company announced plans to begin production in 2018.

The FF 91’s unveiling is a much-needed bright spot for Faraday, which in recent months has suffered from an exodus of prominent personnel, troubled financing, and construction delays. Nonetheless, said Nick Sampson, the company’s SVP of research and development and a former Tesla engineer, “Despite all the naysayers, the skeptics, we will persist, we will carry on, to make the impossible possible.”

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With 300-Mile EV, Mercedes-Benz Flips the Switch on Electric Mobility and Launches “Generation EQ”

Mercedes-Benz today unveiled an aggressive plan to electrify its fleet. Dubbed “Generation EQ” (EQ stands for Electric Intelligence), the first glimpse of the future is an all-wheel drive sport SUV coupe concept (shown above) having an output of approximately 400 horsepower (with 0 to 60 mph in under 5 seconds) and an all-electric range of more than 300 miles.

Speaking at the Paris Auto Show, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche explained that:

The mobility of the future at Mercedes-Benz will stand on four pillars: Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric. Generation EQ is the logical fusion of all four pillars.

Elaborating on the particular subject of electrification, Zetsche announced that “the emission-free automobile is the future.” Recognizing the consumer interest and regulatory imperative to reduce tailpipe emissions, Generation EQ is the clearest signal to date that Mercedes is committed to the transition from gasoline to electric transportation.

Mercedes’ new generation of electric vehicles will be based on an architecture developed specifically for battery-electric models, and which the company says is scalable in every respect and is usable across all models. For example, all system components, especially the batteries (which can be configured to exceed 70 kWh of storage), are variable thanks to a modular building-block system. Vehicle weight is an important consideration with regard to safety, fuel efficiency, and cost, and Mercedes’ new vehicle architecture builds on an intelligent multi-material mix of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber already incorporated in the company’s latest models.

Customization, Touch-Based Controls, and No Knobs

Mercedes Benz Generation EQ Concept Car InteriorThe focus of the driver-oriented cockpit is on simple, touch-based controls. The innovative digital user experience differentiates Generation EQ from the familiar controls in today’s vehicles, while giving a peek into the future of user interaction at Mercedes-Benz.

Unlike traditional dashboards containing a predetermined (and typically mechanical or physical) set of controls and displays, the Generation EQ concept features a massive and customizable 24-inch TFT high-definition wide-screen display presenting as much, or as little, information as the driver desires. In a nod to the fact that the vehicles will be all-electric, a clever and convenient feature is that the navigation display will inform the driver about their driving style and how to achieve the best possible range, while also showing all the destinations that can be reached based on the battery’s current state of charge and other relevant factors such as outside temperature and vehicle speed.

Features such as climate control and infotainment systems are controlled via touch controls on the digital display rather than physical buttons. Generation EQ also does away with conventional exterior mirrors; instead, cameras project an image of the traffic behind onto integrated displays in the doors.

Charging and Energy Technology

In keeping with Daimler’s commitment to the complete driving experience, Generation EQ offers a comprehensive electric mobility ecosystem with products, services, technologies, and innovations. The spectrum ranges from electric vehicles to wall-mounted chargers to charging services to home energy storage units. Mercedes-Benz will market future battery-electric vehicles under the brand name EQ.

Mercedes Benz Generation EQ Concept Car ExteriorWith regard to charging, Generation EQ brings together the latest technologies. The vehicle is ready for Level 2 wired and wireless charging, as well as for rapid charging at direct current (DC) fast chargers. Mercedes is adopting the Combined Charging System (CCS) protocol that is also generally being used by all of the European and American OEMs (other than Tesla). Today’s CCS chargers typically top out at 50 kW, though output up to 150 kW is possible. In the medium to long term, a charging capacity of up to 300 kW is planned. This would enable sufficient power for 60 locally emission-free miles to be recharged within five minutes.

Many EV drivers like the ability to charge their vehicles using solar power but this is not always possible, for example when the vehicle is not home during the day when the sun is shining. To serve this market, Mercedes will be offering battery systems so that solar energy produced but not consumed by other electrical devices in the home can be stored for later use. Policies relating to home solar production vary greatly by utility and by jurisdiction, so before investing in stationary batteries customers should explore the economics of storing excess energy vs selling it back to the grid.

Autonomy

Mercedes Benz Generation EQ Concept Car ExteriorNo major announcement would be complete without a discussion of autonomous driving technology, and Generation EQ checks that box. Using highly accurate maps, the vehicle’s systems know millions of data points, including for complex scenarios such as traffic circles. By intelligently combining a massive amount of information from many difference sensors and data sources, a process Mercedes calls “sensor fusion,” the vehicle can automatically adjust the speed and driving dynamics to assist the driver in a wide range of situations.

Anticipating a future in which cars will talk to each other as well as to surrounding infrastructure, Mercedes is incorporating “Vehicle-to-X” technology. This will be important for services such as safe autonomous driving, notice of relevant information (including but not limited to safety), enhanced navigation, and route options to maximize mileage based on the battery’s state of charge and information about charging stations when necessary.

The concept vehicle unveiled today is described as “close to production,” and will be the foundation for battery-electric vehicles across all models, from the compact to the luxury class.

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On-Demand Mobility Gets Greener: Uber Tests Electric Vehicle Leasing Program in United Kingdom

Photo of Jo Bertram, regional general manager of Uber in the UK.
Jo Bertram, regional general manager of Uber in the UK (photo courtesy Uber).

Uber, in partnership with Nissan and BYD, today launched a three-month electric vehicle (EV) leasing program in the United Kingdom. To encourage the company’s on-demand drivers to make the switch to all-electric mobility and lease directly from Uber, lease payments for the EVs will reportedly be competitive with comparable gasoline-powered vehicles. (Uber already facilitates leases for drivers through a number of third-party companies). Operating costs for the EVs will also be lower due to the relatively inexpensive cost of fueling a vehicle with electricity and the near absence of maintenance.

The service now being tested not only makes Uber a player in the clean mobility space, it also benefits drivers by offering an economical vehicle (helping drivers’ margins) and provides the Uber with a new revenue stream by getting the company into the potentially lucrative leasing business.

Uber is starting with 50 vehicles in London, and is partnering with the UK-based Energy Saving Trust to study the pilot and advise on next steps. If the pilot is successful, Uber says that hundreds of EVs could be on the roads next year.

Adding leased EVs to Uber’s portfolio follows similar pilot programs in Lisbon and Porto, Portugal, and Johannesburg, South Africa. Those pilots, launched under the “uberGREEN” moniker, did not entail leasing but did enable customers to request an EV for their ride (the BMW i3 was used for the 6-12 week programs). The cost of summoning an EV was at the uberX rate.

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Apple’s Autonomous Electric Car Project Gets New Leader

Ford SYNC3 with Apple CarPlay; photo (C) Ford Motor Co.
Ford SYNC3 with Apple CarPlay; photo (C) Ford Motor Co.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Bob Mansfield, a highly regarded senior executive at Apple whose portfolio has included the MacBook Air, iMac, iPad, and Apple Watch, will now oversee the company’s autonomous electric vehicle initiative. Although Apple has not yet publicly acknowledged that it is developing a vehicle, electric or otherwise, the company reportedly has hundreds of employees working on what is rumored to be called “Project Titan.”

Apple is already dipping its toes into the automotive world with CarPlay, which is technology that helps drivers safely and conveniently use their iPhones in the car. According to Apple’s website, every major automobile manufacturer has partnered with the company to support CarPlay, and as of today there are more than 100 models from which to choose (CarPlay is also available as an aftermarket add-on).

But CarPlay may turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg for the company with perhaps the world’s most enviable balance sheet and market capitalization. Apple CEO Tim Cook last year predicted “massive change” in the automotive industry, said he wants customers to have “an iPhone experience in their car” and observed that “software [will become] an increasingly important component of the car of the future.” To achieve the new paradigm Cook envisions, he explains that “software becomes an increasingly important component of the car of the future.” Cook also anticipates a shift from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, along with “autonomous driving [becoming] much more important in a huge way.”

Certainly building a car from scratch is a task not for the faint-of-heart, but Mansfield’s assignment brings a leader with a record of delivering challenging technical products to market. Commenting on Apple’s vehicle-related efforts, Elon Musk commented last month that “I think it’s great [Apple is] doing this, and I hope it works out.”

Notwithstanding the hype, the Wall Street Journal also cites one person familiar with Mansfield who cautioned that Mansfield has killed projects in the past, and that his involvement isn’t necessarily a sign that the car project is ready to move forward at an accelerated rate. Given Mansfield’s broad experience, though, his appointment to head up this massive undertaking indicates the company intends to continue full-speed ahead.

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