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Startups, old-line automakers aim to take bite out of Tesla

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PLYMOUTH TOWNSHIP, Mich. — In a renovated old cash register factory in suburban Detroit, 300 engineers are toiling away on an all-electric pickup truck and an SUV that they hope can take on Tesla.

All of them work for Rivian, which on Monday will unveil the two vehicles ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show. It is among a growing line of startups and established automakers looking to enter the fully electric vehicle market.

The influx of vehicles that run solely on batteries almost certainly will pull buyers from the current leader, Tesla, which likely will deliver over 300,000 vehicles worldwide this year.

Established automakers such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar-Land Rover, Volkswagen, Hyundai, General Motors, Ford and even vacuum cleaner maker Dyson have promised to roll out new electrics in the next few years. The luxury automakers compete directly with Tesla’s higher-margin vehicles, the Models X and S.

There also are electric car brands in China. The two biggest brands by sales — BYD Auto, a unit of BYD Corp. in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, and state-owned BAIC Group in Beijing — are making inroads into foreign markets.

BYD sells battery-powered buses in the U.S., Japan and Europe. BAIC announced plans in April to manufacture electrics in South Africa. Its EC series, starting at 150,000 yuan ($22,000), is China’s top-selling electric car.

Sweden’s Volvo Cars, owned by China’s Geely Holding, says it plans to make an electric vehicle in China starting next year for sale worldwide.

Michael Ramsey, senior analyst for Gartner, says Tesla “will unquestionably lose market share as more competitors come in.”

What is unknown, though, is whether the demand for electric vehicles will rise enough so that there’s room for everybody. Currently the market is tiny. In the U.S., electric vehicles only amounted to 0.8 percent of new vehicle registrations through August this year, according to data from IHS Markit. But that’s substantially more than the 0.5 percent at the same time in 2017. Automakers in the U.S. sold just over 155,000 fully electric vehicles through October, about 1 percent of total sales, Edmunds.com says.

Yet globally, Navigant Research predicts huge growth in the next seven years, from just over 1 million sales this year to 6.5 million by 2025.

As competition ramps up, prices are gradually coming down, edging closer to cars with internal combustion engines. At the same time, electric range is on the rise.

For instance, Rivian is promising that the top version of its R1T pickup will have more than 400 miles (644 kilometers) of battery range per charge when it goes on sale in late 2020. The five-seat pickup is aimed at a market Tesla is not yet in, an off-road capable truck with outdoorsy features.

Rivian, headquartered in Plymouth Township, Michigan, says the R1T can go fast on pavement, with one electric motor per wheel taking it from zero-to-60 mph (97 kilometers per hour) in three seconds. It also has a retractable bed cover, and storage space running across the width of the truck behind the rear seats that can carry surfboards, snowboards or skis. It has a unique white horizontal light bar across the front with oval headlamps.

CEO R.J. Scaringe, 35, who has a Ph.D in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said exact pricing will be announced later, but a basic truck with smaller 230-mile (370 kilometers) battery pack will start under $70,000. A truck with the longer-range battery will be around $90,000, he said.

The small startup still has a long way to go to sell vehicles, even though it says it has $500 million in funding. It has to develop a sales and service network, announce a battery cell supplier and start producing vehicles in a former Mitsubishi Motors plant it owns in Normal, Illinois.

IHS analyst Stephanie Brinley says Tesla may lose sales for a time as competitors bite into a slow-growing market. But eventually she thinks electric vehicle sales will take off and Tesla sales will rise.

At least publicly, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said many times the competition is good, fostering the company’s goal of sustainable transportation.

“It is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis,” Musk wrote in a 2014 blog. “Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.”

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Diesel Laptops launches virtual diesel technician program

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Clients that utilize this program have full, unlimited access to Diesel Laptops’ certified, in-house diesel technicians who are available via phone and live chat and can both remote access the client’s diagnostic tools, and video stream through the end user’s mobile device. (Courtesy: DIESEL LAPTOPS)

GILBERT, S.C. — Diesel Laptops, a distributor of commercial truck diesel diagnostic software, hardware and services, has launched a Virtual Diesel Technician Program.

This program is a first in the commercial truck and off highway industry and is a real solution to the current diesel technician shortage that exists, according to according to Tyler Robertson, CEO of Diesel Laptops.

Clients that utilize this program have full, unlimited access to Diesel Laptops’ certified, in-house diesel technicians who are available via phone and live chat and can both remote access the client’s diagnostic tools, and video stream through the end user’s mobile device.

The program also grants clients access to the wide array of repair information that Diesel Laptops has created.

This repair information includes VIN decoders, labor time guides, repair information on over 70,000 diagnostic fault codes, wiring diagrams, component locators, torque specifications, parts cross referencing, step-by-step repair information, and much more Robertson said.

These applications are provided through traditional desktop applications, along with websites and mobile applications.

“We all know that it is difficult to find qualified technicians,” Robertson said. “We also know it’s difficult for most shops to acquire the resources they need to properly diagnose and repair commercial trucks. The Virtual Diesel Technician Program gives repair shops access to both live, real world diesel technicians and repair information.”

Diesel Laptops is staffed with certified diesel technicians from a variety of industries, and currently handles more than 50,000 customer repair, software, and diagnostic questions every year, Robertson said.

“These are all documented and organized in the company’s database, allowing Diesel Laptops to build the world’s largest database of solutions for known symptoms and diagnostic codes,” he said.

To learn more about the Virtual Diesel Technician Program, including watching an explainer video, visit www.DieselLaptops.com

Diesel Laptops, founded in 2014, provides specialized diesel diagnostic equipment for the commercial truck, construction, automobile, agriculture, marine, and off-highway markets. Diesel Laptops is the industry leader in diesel diagnostic tools.

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Schneider rolls out tablets to improve driver experience, efficiency

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Since Schneider assigns the driver and not the truck, every Schneider driver has everything needed — from apps to news to delivery information and bonus pay statements — at their fingertips. (Courtesy: SCHNEIDER)

GREEN BAY, Wis.  — Schneider isn’t just one of the largest trucking carriers in North America.

It is a leader in utilizing new technology to improve driver experiences.

Since it became the first company to incorporate two-way satellite communication systems in cabs in 1988, Schneider has been an early adopter of many technology developments.

Most recently, the company began rolling out Samsung Galaxy tablet devices to its drivers to make their lives easier both in and out of the truck, according to Mark Rourke, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Schneider.

Since the tablet is assigned to the driver and not the truck, every Schneider driver has everything he or she needs — from apps to news to delivery information and bonus pay statements — at their fingertips.

“I like that I don’t have to write everything down — like pick up numbers and customer info. It’s all right there for me, so I don’t have to go to a truck stop to do that paperwork,” said Schneider driver Shawn Calloway. “I’ll admit, I was hesitant at first, but it’s been a great portable tool that lets me streamline my work so I can get back on the road.”

Tablets also lay the foundation for future capabilities such as electronic signatures and transfer of documents, Rourke said, adding that as the technology evolves, Schneider is committed to the enhancement of the driver experience and will quickly accommodate additions and changes to the suite of new system tools.

“We have upgraded the in-cab communication system and provided new capabilities outside of the truck for drivers,” Rourke said. “We’ve listened and heard from drivers on how tablets are difference makers in making their lives easier. Putting technology in the palm of a driver’s hand is one of many ways we’re enhancing their experience.”

Testing of tablet-based solutions began in early 2015 with a pilot group of Schneider drivers who trialed the tablets alongside the current in-cab system. The resulting feedback noted their improved experience and elimination of the irritants of the previous processes, namely paperwork.

“It’s like an electronic Swiss army knife,” Rourke said. “All the tools and apps like MyPilot, Weigh My Truck, and Schneider’s Compass are in one easy-to-use place for drivers.”

Drivers are also using the tablets to:

  • Track work
  • Get customer information
  • Complete training without a facility stop
  • Look up bonus info
  • Weather and road conditions
  • Turn-by-turn GPS directions
  • Read news, messages, videos and more

Those interested in learning more about Schneider’s easy-to-use tablets and finding jobs with a company focused on improving the driver experience can visit schneiderjobs.com.

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Bendix rolling out new advanced technology training courses for 2019

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ELYRIA, Ohio — To help fleets, technicians and owner-operators keep pace with today’s ever-advancing truck technologies, Bendix (Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems and Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake) has doubled its technical training force and enhanced its long-running in-person training programs for 2019.

A new two-day Advanced Technology Training program is now available, in addition to the established three-day Air Brake Training class that has set the industry training standard for decades. Registration is open for the complete schedule of both courses, shown on the last page of this news release.

The 2019 edition of the in-person Air Brake Training class, which will visit more cities and states than last year, is tailored to both new and experienced technicians. It covers the description, operation, and service elements for the total range of components found within dual air brake systems. Topics include:

  • Fundamentals of compressed air
  • Tactics for air system failure mode diagnosis and troubleshooting
  • Air brake system and foundation brake components (air compressors, valves, foundation drum brakes, and air disc brakes)

“The Advanced Technology Training class is an exciting new addition to our training curriculum; it picks up where the Air Brake Training course ends, covering the operation and troubleshooting of higher-level driver assistance and safety systems, as well as diagnostic software,” said Lance Hansen, Bendix North America regional vice president – fleet/trailer sales and service engineering. “As adoption of these complex technologies increases, it’s more important than ever to make sure the teams responsible for keeping North America’s commercial vehicles operating safely are equipped with the knowledge they need. Our new Advanced Technology Training is a real must for the advanced technician.”

Some of the systems addressed in the Advanced Technology Training course are:

  • AutoVue Lane Departure Warning System from Bendix CVS
  • Bendix ACom diagnostic software
  • Bendix ESP Electronic Stability Program
  • Bendix Wingman Advanced and Bendix Wingman Fusion driver assistance systems
  • SafetyDirect by Bendix CVS
  • SmarTire and SmarTire Trailer-Link TPMS by Bendix CVS

Hansen noted that class time in the Advanced Technology Training session includes in-depth, hands-on maintenance for Bendix air disc brakes and electrical diagnostics.

To help address the increasing demand for service training, Bendix has doubled its technical training force.

In addition, 29 Air Brake Training sessions – each conducted by a member of the ASE-certified veteran Bendix Service Engineering Team – are scheduled in 25 locations across the U.S. from February to November.

The nine Advanced Technology Training courses will be held from March to December, split between Sparks, Nevada, and the Bendix headquarters in Elyria, Ohio.

Per-person enrollment costs are $400 USD for Air Brake Training and $350 USD for Advanced Technology Training.

Because of the quantity and complexity of the products covered, Bendix highly recommends that each student completes the Bendix Air Brake Training (three-day) class, or at minimum, the online brake school at brake-school.com, before taking the Advanced Technology Training class.

“Both classes include hands-on exercises as well as classroom training and extensive visual demonstration aids. At most locations, the Bendix team will also be able to utilize operational demonstration boards that essentially put a fully operational air system right at the students’ fingertips,” Hansen said. “This training is another way in which Bendix is working with the industry to shape tomorrow’s transportation together.”

Registration is free for the Bendix On-Line Brake School, which offers an extensive, regularly updated curriculum covering all aspects of electronics and air brake maintenance. Since its launch in March 2013, the training portal (www.brake-school.com) has registered nearly 70,000 users from more than two dozen countries.

Class size for the 2019 in-person Bendix training courses is limited, and enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Registration may be completed online at www.bendix.com or www.foundationbrakes.com; by phone at 1-800-AIR-BRAKE, option 3; by email at BendixTrainingSchool@hkm.dcgcentral.com; or via fax (216-651-3261).

For a full listing of locations and dates, click here.

 

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