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First model from new Geely brand for premium EVs revealed

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2021 Zeekr 001

Geely in March announced plans for a new brand specializing in premium electric vehicles.

Called Zeekr (Ji Ke in China), the brand has now revealed its first model, a svelte hot hatch simply called the 001.

Wait, isn’t this just a new addition to fellow Geely brand Lynk & Co.’s lineup? After all, the Zeekr 001 was badged as a Lynk & Co. when it was previewed as a concept last December. It appears Zeekr will be an electric sister brand to Lynk & Co., similar to the relationship between fellow Geely brands Volvo and Polestar.

2021 Zeekr 001

The 001, which goes on sale in China this fall, is based on the Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) modular EV platform unveiled by Geely last year. The flexible platform, which enables a range of over 400 miles, will eventually be used by most Geely brands.

The 001 measures close to 191 inches in length and in range-topping guise packs a dual-motor powertrain good for 536 hp and 566 lb-ft of torque, or enough for 0-60 mph acceleration in under four seconds and a top speed of 124 mph. The biggest battery is a 110-kilowatt-hour unit that should deliver a range approaching 400 miles. Other specs include an 800-volt electrical system, air suspension, and a head-up display.

More models from Zeekr will follow in quick succession. Geely said there will be at least one new Zeekr launched every year over the next five years. Zeekr won’t have any of its own plants but will outsource production to Geely which is getting into the contract manufacturing game.

Geely SEA (Sustainable Experience Architecture) modular EV platform

Geely SEA (Sustainable Experience Architecture) modular EV platform

Like Lynk & Co., Zeekr will initially operate in China but eventually expand to global markets, including potentially the United States.

To stand out, Zeekr will be positioned as an EV technology company similar to Tesla. As such, it will develop its own core systems like batteries and battery management systems, as well as electric motors. It will also establish its own value chain eventually.

Unlike some of Geely’s other brands, Zeekr will be fully owned by Geely and related entities. Its ownership will be split 51:49 between Geely Holding and the Geely car brand. Geely Holding Chairman and founder Li Shufu serves as chairman of Zeekr while An Conghui serves as CEO.

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Autos

NASCAR Next Gen race car debuts, brings the sport into the 21st century

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Chevrolet NASCAR Next Gen Camaro ZL1 race car

The top NASCAR Cup Series has just taken a massive leap out of the dark ages.

On Wednesday, the NASCAR Next Gen race car debuted as a clean-sheet rethink of what the stock car is. The structure, design, suspension, materials, wheels, and transmission are all new.

The clean-sheet design has a lower greenhouse, a shortened decklid, and a wider track, though the current car’s 110-inch wheelbase carries over. NASCAR gave automakers the latitude to stylize the greenhouse to look like the production cars upon which these race cars are based, be it the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, or Toyota Camry.

“From an engineering standpoint, this is a seismic shift. It’s a completely new car that brings with it a lot of opportunity from a technical standpoint,” said Eric Warren, Chevrolet director of NASCAR Programs.

Chevrolet NASCAR Next Gen Camaro ZL1 race car

Up front, the side air intakes are now functional and they, along with the front center intake, now feed the engine as well as the brakes. There’s no longer an intake at the cowl near the base of the windshield, which feeds the engine on the current car. NASCAR has also mandated a symmetrical design of the composite body, which will remove the current aero advantage achieved by using different shapes for the left and right sides of the current cars. NASCAR says that will put the emphasis back on the car’s setup and driver’s skill.

Another important visual change is the new center-locking 18×12-inch forged aluminum wheels that will be wrapped in Goodyear Eagle rubber. The current car runs on 15-inch wheels. The larger wheels with smaller tire sidewalls will dramatically change the handling of the Next Gen car, but Toyota TRD Racing Development’s team noted that automakers really wanted the larger wheels to help make the style appear closer to production cars.

The larger wheels allow NASCAR to require larger brakes with 15-inch rotors and 6-piston monoblock calipers up front and 14-inch rotors and 4-piston monobloc calipers in the rear.

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

Toyota TRD Camry Next Gen NASCAR race car

What can’t be seen is the modular structure. While the current car’s steel tube chassis carries over, the Next Gen car features a modular construction (like a modern production car) with bolt-on front and rear subframes that should make repairs after a crash easier and less expensive. The underside of the car features a full carbon-fiber undertray with a stepped center splitter and a new rear diffuser, which is all modular and can be replaced in the event of a crash.

New independent front and rear suspensions use a double-wishbone configuration, billet aluminum control arms, and adjustable coil-over shock absorbers. The previous car had a 2-link live rear axle. The steering system is now a modern rack and pinion design instead of recirculating ball.

President of TRD Toyota Racing Development David Wilson told Motor Authority, “The significance of the Next Gen for Toyota TRD would be difficult to explain given that over the course of a year, or year-over-year, the car raced will see more change than the NASCAR race car has seen in over the last 50 years.”

The 358 cubic-inch naturally aspirated V-8 carries over with 670 hp or 550 hp depending on the track. The engine continues with fuel injection, a dry sump oiling system, and split-side exit exhaust. The transmission, however, is new. It’s a 5-speed sequential transaxle with a gearshift but not a clutch. The setup will still require drivers to remove one hand from the steering wheel and match revs to shift.

NASCAR Next Gen race car

NASCAR Next Gen race car

New rules state that each team can have a maximum of seven cars rather than the unlimited number previously allowed. Wilson noted that additional cost savings will arise from the car being standardized as teams will no longer need large fabrication operations. “There’s nothing stock about a stock car,” executive engineer for TRD Toyota Racing Development Andy Graves joked, but there are now about 30 suppliers that teams can buying parts from, and those parts can’t be modified or touched once bought.

While the driver seat and roof flaps are carried over, the Next Gen car has improved safety gear. Additional roll bars have been designed along with form-fitted foam inserts between the chassis and nose and tail like what is found in production cars. The driver seat has been moved closer to the center of the car to move drivers away from the source of impacts.

NASCAR didn’t go into specifics but noted the Next Gen car has been upgraded to allow for in-car cameras in every vehicle so fans can see more real-time data.

While development of the Next Gen race car was completed in February, it won’t make its racing debut until the start of the 2022 season in February at the Daytona International Speedway.

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Adorable Citroen Ami coming to US

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2020 Citroen Ami

Free2Move, a global mobility company owned by Stellantis, is bringing the adorable Citroen Ami to its car-sharing fleet in the United States.

Before you get too excited, note that only five of the electric minicars are being brought over to be used in a trial in Washington, D.C., where Free2Move currently operates a fleet of Chevrolets. The company plans to expand its U.S. fleet to Portland, Oregon, but hasn’t confirmed a date.

Free2Move is committed to electrifying its fleet and will use the Citroen Ami trial to gather feedback on usability and drivability for such a tiny car on U.S. roads, the company said on Monday. In case you’ve forgotten, the Ami measures just 7.9 feet in length, tops out at 28 mph, and has a 5.5-kilowatt-hour battery good for only about 43 miles of range.

2020 Citroen Ami

Free2Move customers book cars via a dedicated app. Parking, gas, and insurance are included in the cost of each vehicle rental. Rental rates are based on how long a customer has a vehicle, on a per minute, per hour, or per day basis.

Confirmation of the Ami’s arrival in the U.S. coincides with the reveal of a commercial version of the Ami. Called the Ami Cargo, the vehicle matches most of the specs of the standard Ami but has a storage area instead of a passenger seat. The maximum payload rating is 308 pounds and there’s over 14 cubic feet when you include the standard storage area in the rear.

The Ami Cargo starts sales in Europe this June with a price tag of 6,490 (approximately $7,800), or 410 euros less than the standard Ami.

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Self-driving technology company Argo AI makes lidar breakthrough

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Argo AI lidar technology

Argo AI, the self-driving technology company backed by Ford and Volkswagen Group, claims to have overcome one of the main challenges holding back the deployment of driverless cars: accurately seeing and identifying objects at long distances.

The company on Tuesday announced its own lidar sensor, aptly named Argo Lidar, which it says can accurately spot and identify objects more than 1,300 feet away, or about 300 feet more than current lidar sensors—something that’s vital for highway driving. Argo Lidar is said to be so accurate that it can even correctly identify graffiti on a wall or spot small moving objects such as animals among vegetation and static objects.

Most players in this space rely on a combination of sensors to guide self-driving cars, with the primary ones being cameras and lidar. While cameras work well at long distances, they don’t work well in poor light, for example during night driving or inclement weather. While lidar doesn’t suffer the same light issues as cameras, the technology until now was limited by its range and accuracy.

Argo AI lidar technology

The key breakthrough in the case of Argo Lidar is a technology referred to as Geiger-mode, which Argo AI acquired in 2017 via its acquisition of lidar technology company Princeton Lightwave. Geiger-mode lidar is able to detect the smallest particle of light—a single photon—and as a result is able to detect the darkest of objects. Argo Lidar also operates at a relatively high wavelength of 1,400 nanometers, which also helps accuracy.

Argo AI already has prototypes fitted with Argo Lidar testing on public roads. The testing is taking place at six U.S. cities, with more locations, including the first in Europe, to be added this year.

Argo AI is developing a full self-driving system comprising both software and hardware. Ford is expected to be the first company to offer a commercial service using Argo AI’s self-driving system. The service was originally due to be deployed in 2021 but has been pushed back to 2022 due to the pandemic. VW Group has said it will offer a driverless taxi service powered by Argo AI’s self-driving system in 2025.

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