Dryve explains the six levels of automation in autonomous cars. Which level are you driving? There is also an infographic on the future of this technology here.

Wired gives us its Guide to Self Driving Cars.

California tech company, Udelv, claims it made the world’s first delivery of goods by a self-driving car on public roads. (See photo above) Last week its electric cargo truck carried groceries from a grocery store in San Mateo to two nearby locations. Udelv plans to use its single automated vehicle (which requires a backup driver under state law) to start regular deliveries to customers of the store later this month. The company’s plan is to have 1,500 of these vehicles on the road by 2021 and it wants to work with major firms involved in delivery such as large chains like Amazon, UPS, pharmacies and hardware stores. The company says cost savings will not be realized until regulations allow for fully autonomous vehicles on public roads with no backup drivers. It is still unclear when the US federal and state governments may permit that. To make deliveries more complicated, the customer must meet the vehicle at the curb, where they use a mobile app to open the compartment holding their groceries. That means someone has to be home when the delivery occurs. See First-ever self-driving delivery on public roads sees groceries dropped off in Bay Area.

Toyota Motor Corporation sold more than 1.52 million electrified vehicles (hybrids and battery electrics) worldwide in 2017. The Japanese automaker did not expect to reach the 1.5 million plateau until 2020. The Japanese automaker wants annual electrified vehicle sales of 5.5 million units by 2030. It expects to have a fully electric version for all of its models by 2025.

Germany’s electric utilities and researchers are worried that the country’s power grid will not be able to cope with electric cars. They warn that major investments and upgrades will be needed to avoid power shortages when drivers finally start embracing e-mobility. At present, purely battery-powered EVs make up less than 1% of the 46 million cars on German roads but by 2035, one in three cars in Germany may be electric. According to Handelsblat Global, charging one EV requires a similar amount of power as a typical German household uses in three days. Networks could be damaged even if relatively small numbers of e-cars are being charged within one neighborhood at the same time. The spike in power demand would be especially pronounced with the advent of “superchargers” that consume large amounts of electricity to load batteries in just half an hour. “If everyone wants to charge up their car at the same time at 8 p.m., the grid will go bang,” warned Thomas Fritz, an energy analyst at Oliver Wyman. Indeed, the charging of EVs poses a blackout concern  – first in the affluent suburbs of cities like Munich, Frankfurt or Berlin and then later nationwide. Consultancy firm Oliver Wyman estimates that Germany will have to invest up to €11 billion (US$13.45 billion) in the next 15 years to prepare its grid for e-mobility. Think tank Aurora Energy Research advises the German power system would have to hold 5 gigawatts of power available to handle demand spikes from electric cars.

Germany is not alone in being concerned about the impact of electric cars on a nation’s grid. A study by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) said an influx of plug-in electric vehicles charging without coordination could prove challenging to that country. Dr. Matteo Muratori found uncoordinated EV charging could significantly alter the residential demand curve for electricity with impacts for electricity infrastructure, even at low EV adoption levels. This would be intensified if there was local clustering of charging demand on the electric grid, the concern Germany raised for large suburbs. Clustering will significantly increase the peak demand on local distribution transformers, thereby potentially requiring upgrades to handle the new load. As more EVs are added to a neighborhood, and a higher charging power is adopted (eg. superchargers) the distribution infrastructure might no longer reliably support the local electricity demand. In addition, the higher demand could shorten the expected life of a transformer. John Farrell, NREL’s laboratory program manager for vehicle technologies, commented:

“Dr. Matteo’s work raises important issues for a world with increasing electrification of the vehicle fleet, and leaves us with clear avenues for additional research. We need to continue looking at the synergies between electric vehicles and buildings, especially to make sure the grid remains safe and resilient.”

In Off-peak charging vital for electric car power supply, experts say, The Guardian reports similar concerns about the impact of EVs on the UK grid. Aurora Energy Research predicts the number of battery electric cars on Britain’s roads will grow quickly from around 120,000 today to 10 million by 2035 and pass the 17 million mark by 2040. If all those cars charged at home at the same time (eg. 4-6 pm) that would add 3 gigawatts (GW) of electricity demand to the grid (the size of a large nuclear plant). To address this prospect, Aurora recommends “smart” charging, where car owners are encouraged to use cheaper rates at off-peak times or relinquish control of their charging to an energy firm. That scenario would add just 0.5 GW of peak demand. Aurora expects smart charging technology to be available within the next three years. Richard Howard, head of research at Aurora stated:

“Our research suggests that, provided EV charging is smart, the country’s power system can easily accommodate 15 million-plus electric cars. You need to have the technology in place and suppliers offering tariffs and behavioural change. There is also a role for government to play. When you get to millions of electric cars you have to get it right, and normalise it from the very start.”



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