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Mercedes and Bosch will test self-driving taxis in a few months

Mercedes (or rather, its parent Daimler) and Bosch aren’t far off from making their self-driving taxis a practical reality… in a manner of speaking. Bosch chief Volkmar Denner has informed Automobilwoche that the two companies will put test vehicles on the road within a few months. He didn’t supply other details, but the mention provided a more definitive timetable for their ambitions. Until now, the two had only promised to have fully autonomous vehicles ready by the start of the next decade.

The news suggests the two are acting on their promises to make up for lost time. In a sense, they don’t have much choice. When BMW plans to sell self-driving cars in 2021 and Waymo is already ordering thousands of Chrysler vans, Daimler doesn’t have the luxury of taking things slowly — it either steps up its game or risks missing out.

Daimler is mainly betting on the purpose-built nature of its taxis as an advantage. The taxis won’t just amount to a “technology-kit mounted on a serial vehicle,” according to Daimler VP Wilko Stark — they’ve been design as autonomous rides “from the beginning.” That could give them an edge if their ergonomics and performance are better than retrofitted conventional cars. The question is whether or not it’ll matter. If other companies establish enough of a footprint for self-driving taxis before the Mercedes offerings are ready, superior tech might not be enough.

Via: Reuters

Source: Automobilwoche (sub. required)

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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