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Pandora’s new CEO faces uphill battle to turn company around

Pandora today appointed Roger Lynch, founder and CEO of Sling TV, as its new CEO and a member of its board. The news prompted Pandora shares to rise 2.85 percent in after-hours trading.

Lynch will replace interim CEO Naveen Chopra, who will continue to serve as CFO. Pandora also named Michael Lynton, former CEO of Sony Entertainment, to its board. Lynton also serves as Chairman of Snap’s board. In late June, founder and CEO Tim Westergren departed, along with the company’s president and chief marketing officer.

While the news is welcome for Pandora, Lynch faces an uphill battle in turning around the music-streaming pioneer. Pandora’s stock has fallen 57 percent in the past two years as the company faces rising competition from Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and others.

In addition, SiriusXM, which owns 19 percent of the Pandora, and has been pressuring the company to trim back its ambitions. Pandora recently sold off its TicketFly business and pulled out of New Zealand and Australia.

Those moves, along with the shift in emphasis away from subscribers and toward ad-supported listeners, are aimed at improving the company’s financials. The company has posted net losses for years and warned in late July that it would fall short of revenue projections this year because of the impact of its recent changes.

Pandora also said active listeners fell 2.7 percent last quarter to 76 million, following a 3.3 percent drop in its audience in the first quarter. By comparison, Spotify claims 140 million active users, with 40 percent of those being paid subscribers.

Under Lynch, Sling TV grew to become the largest provider of so-called skinny bundles, with 2 million U.S. homes using its service. Before Sling, Lynch held executive positions at DISH Network, EchoStar Corporations, and Video Networks.

“I cannot imagine a more important and exciting time to join Pandora,” Lynch said in a statement. “I look forward to working with this great team, having a lot of fun, and leading Pandora through its next exciting phase.”

Separately, Spotify today deepened its integration with Facebook’s messenger app. Messenger’s intelligent assistant “M” now supplies Spotify recommendations when music is mentioned in a conversation. Last month, Pandora started using machine learning to improve its own recommendations.

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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