How the Audi e-tron compares to the Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-Pace

Audi just announced its first production electric vehicle. Called the e-tron, the EV is a mid-size SUV loaded with technology with an unofficial range of over 300 miles. It’s nicely equipped, and with a starting price of $74,800, it sits between the Jaguar I-Pace and the Tesla Model X.

The e-tron is most similar to the Jaguar I-Pace though the Audi is slightly better equipped. The e-tron packs a 95 kWh battery over the Jaguar’s 90 kWh battery. It’s also slightly larger and rated to tow 4,000 lbs.

Comparing the e-tron to the Model X gets messy. Tesla sells the Model X in three flavors: mild, hot, and on fire. The mild version starts at $72,100 and packs a 75 kWh battery good for 237 miles. Spend $88,600 to get the 100D and its 100 kWh battery that’s rated for 295 miles. And for $125,800, buyers can get the P100D that’s good for 298 miles and a 0-60 time of 2.9 seconds.

Autonomous driving modes are available for purchase on each version of the Model X. Audi and Jaguar do not offer autonomous driving on the e-tron or I-Pace.

Spec for spec, the e-tron, I-Pace and Model X offer advantages over each other. Here are the most important technical specifications for each vehicle along with the Toyota RAV4, the top selling SUV in the United States.

Here’s how I see each vehicle’s advantage:

Audi e-tron

  • Best price-to-battery ratio: Buyers get a 95 kWh battery on the base model. For the money, the Audi is the best value when it comes to the range it can travel.
  • Competent controls: Audi installed the same dual-touchscreen system found in its high-end A8 luxury sedan. The top screen handles infotainment while the bottom screen handles climate control and text input. Both screens offer tactile and audio response when touched.
  • It looks and feels like an Audi: The e-tron does not stand out, which could be a good thing for some buyers. It looks and feels like an Audi SUV.
  • Audi is not releasing the range yet: The EPA must certify the e-tron before Audi can advertise the range of the e-tron. Without those numbers, it’s hard to place where the e-tron sits in the landscape. But today at the e-tron launch event, the company hinted at a range that’s superior to that of the Tesla Model X.

Jaguar I-Pace

  • Early reviews of the I-Pace praise the driving: The I-Pace is a crossover and it drives like one. It’s sporty and confident and it has the lowest stance of the three EVs listed here.
  • The I-Pace is a Jag: The I-Pace has the quickest time to 60 mph out of the bunch and is capable of hitting the mark in 4.5 seconds. That’s the same as a 2016 Audi TTS Coupe. However, the more expensive Tesla P100D is much, much quicker with a 0-60 time of 2.9 seconds.
  • Well equipped yet the cheapest: Starting at $69,500, the I-Pace is the least expensive of the bunch. And at that price, it’s well equipped

Tesla Model X P75

  • It’s a Tesla: The Model X looks like nothing else on the road inside and out. To some, it’s a big draw while others shy away from the attention-getting design.
  • The Model X is deceptively large: The Model X comes with five seats, but two jump seats can be added to the rear area. With all the seats down, the Model X has an available storage volume of 88 cubic feet — that’s just 6 cubic feet smaller than a Chevy Tahoe.
  • The Model X can drive itself: The Model X can be equipped with Autopilot, Tesla’s self-driving system that can pilot the SUV on its own.
  • More options: The Model X P100 offers more range and the Model X P100D offers more range and insane performance.

The e-tron hits the US market in the middle of 2019, and by then, there will be additional competitors to compare.

Audi partners with Amazon and Electrify America to help kickstart its EV ecosystem

Audi is partnering with e-commerce giant Amazon and VW Group unit Electrify America as the automaker prepares to deliver its first all-electric SUV to U.S. dealerships next year.

The Audi e-tron, which was unveiled Monday night in San Francisco, kicks off the German automaker’s electric vehicle ambitions. The e-tron is the first of three battery-electric vehicles that Audi plans to debut by 2020.

The e-tron SUV joins a growing list of luxury electric vehicles trying to take aim at Tesla. The partnerships with Amazon, Electrify America and utility service Arcadia Power are meant gird Audi’s bet on EVs.

These days, it’s not enough to produce an all-electric vehicle, even a nice-looking one. Customers considering a switch from gas-powered to electric-powered vehicles or from their Tesla to, say an e-tron, will want access to a network of fast chargers and other conveniences. These partnerships are supposed to making owning an e-tron easier from setting up a home charger and to “fueling up” the electric vehicle when it’s on the road.

The partnership with Amazon will give e-tron owners the option to use Amazon Home Services to prepare their homes for an installation of a home charger. This is Amazon Home Service’s first ever collaboration with an automaker to deliver turn-key in-home charging, according to Amazon.

Amazon Home Services will provide Audi e-tron owners with a place (meaning online) to learn about EV home charging installation and equipment, pricing for electrical services and the ability to schedule an electrician to install an EV charger.

Audi is also offering 1,000 kilowatt-hours of power  to e-tron owners over four years through Electrify America’s chargers. By July 2019, this network will include 500 fast-charging sites (completed or under development) the 40 states and 17 metro areas, according to Audi.

That’s still behind Tesla, which has 1,342 fast-charging stations with 11,013 superchargers. But it’s an important start for Audi if it hopes to compete.

In a third partnership announced with Arcadia Power, the digital utility service will allow Audi e-tron owners offset their home electricity consumption with renewable energy. E-tron owners can connect their electricity bill to Arcadia Power and select a renewable energy project to support. Subscribers then receive savings their monthly electricity costs, depending on the project’s energy production, according to Audi.

Go-Jek plans to raise $2B more for Southeast Asia ride-hailing battle

Indonesia’s Go-Jek is planning to raise $2 billion from investors to fuel its ride-hailing battle with Grab in Southeast Asia.

Go-Jek raised $1.5 billion earlier this year from investors that include Chinese trio Tencent, Meituan and JD.com, as well as Google, Allianz and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek. Now it is planning to raise a further $2 billion, two sources with knowledge of details told TechCrunch, as it seeks to expand on numerous fronts.

Those plans include both extending the scope of its services in Indonesia — where beyond rides it offers services on demand and financial products — and moving into new markets. The company recently went live in Vietnam, its first expansion, and it has plans to enter Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore this year.

Bloomberg first reported the fundraising plans, although a source told TechCrunch that the deal is far from being done. Existing investors — which also include KKR and Warburg Pincus — are likely to provide the new capital.

Word of Go-Jek’s financing plan comes after Grab raised $2 billion this summer, including a $1 billion contribution from Toyota. The Singapore-based company — which bought out Uber’s business earlier this yearrecently said it plans to raise a further $1 billion before 2018 is out.

That money is likely to be spent on Grab’s ongoing strategy to broaden into services. That’s seen Grab follow Go-Jek’s lead and move into groceries, on-demand services and fintech as part of a desire to be Southeast Asia ‘super app’ for a broad range of local services.

Grab is also doubling down on Indonesia, where it recently announced plans to invest $250 million in local startups. While Go-Jek is largely seen as the dominant player in Indonesia, which is Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the world’s fourth most populous country, Grab claims to handle 65 percent of all rides and transactions in the country.

Go-Jek’s most recent valuation was $5 billion. Investors valued Grab at $11 billion when its recent round closed in August.

ChargePoint is adding 2.5M electric vehicle chargers over the next 7 years

Electric vehicles still make up just a fraction of the cars, trucks and SUVs on the road today. But that’s changing: The number of electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the world’s roads exceeded 3 million in 2017. By 2025, there are expected to be 20 million electric vehicles in just North America and Europe.

And that means the world is going to need a lot more chargers.

ChargePoint, the California startup that provides infrastructure for electric vehicles, said Friday it will expand its network of chargers nearly 50-fold over the next seven years. The company, which has more than 53,000 chargers in operation today, has committed to a global network of 2.5 million charging spots by 2025.

The majority of these new EV chargers will be evenly split between Europe and North America, with smaller percentages in Australia and New Zealand, the company said Friday at the Global Climate Action Summit.

ChargePoint has raised more than $292 million since its founding in 2007. It’s used the funds to add chargers to its network, including an expansion last year into Europe. The company secured an $82 million funding round, led by automaker Daimler in May 2017. A month later the company announced another $43 million in funding from German engineering giant Siemens to bolster its European expansion.

The network expansion comes at an auspicious time for automakers, a number of which are planning to roll out electric vehicles in the next several years. Tesla has its own network of chargers that it calls superchargers. The automaker has invested heavily to build out the network, which is now 1,342 stations with 11,013 superchargers globally.

Only Tesla vehicles can use that network, which aims to promote long-distance travel. Other automakers that are beginning to sell EVs will rely heavily on third-party EV providers like ChargePoint. It’s estimated that at least 40 new electric vehicle models will be introduced in the next five years. Jaguar will start delivering its first EV, the i-Pace crossover, to customers in the U.S. this fall. Audi plans to introduce its first electric vehicle, the e-tron, on Monday.

A Tesla investor says he was recently questioned by US regulators about that infamous ‘funding secured’ tweet

Last week, onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt, regulator Jina Choi, who heads the SEC’s wide-reaching San Francisco unit, declined to confirm or deny that the SEC is investigating Tesla CEO Elon Musk for possible fraud.

Said Choi, “I can’t tell you about any particular investigation in our office. And I can’t confirm or deny the existence of investigations that are in our office. I can say that we are very diligent about covering the issuers in our region and some of the more high-profile issuers in our region. We try to stay on top of that, but that’s about all I can say.”

Now, investor James Anderson of the global asset manager Baillie Gifford tells Reuters that, as a shareholder, he was recently questioned by U.S. securities regulators about Musk’s famous — and possibly fateful — early August tweet that he was thinking of taking Tesla private and that he had “funding secured.”

Said Anderson to Reuters, “I don’t know what they’ll do with [Musk], but there’s no implication that we’ve done anything wrong . . . I think quite naturally they wanted to know whether major shareholders had any lead indication or knowledge of the tweet about ‘funding secured.’”

Because it isn’t talking, it’s impossible to know how seriously the SEC is looking into the chain of events that led to the tweet or what followed. As industry watchers likely know, days after making his surprising announcement, Musk elaborated on why he made it, writing in a post that he’d left a late July meeting with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund that gave him the impression that a deal to take Tesla private could close.

tick-tock account by the WSJ of what happened behind the scenes during this period —  it was published shortly after Musk abandoned his take-private idea — said officials in the kingdom were “rankled” by the suggestion that the Saudis, who have quietly acquired up to 5 percent of Tesla’s shares this year, had made any kind of formal proposal.

Bruised feelings aside, Musk, it’s now plain, may be dealing with regulatory fall-out, too. And interestingly, much of what happens next may center not just on interviews with shareholders and Musk’s other communications, but on plain-old psychology.

Onstage, we asked Choi if, typically speaking, false statements are enough to prove fraud or whether there needs to be an accompanying scheme. “When you talk about fraud,” she answered, “you’re talking about a state of mind, you’re talking about mens rea. We call it scienter. You have to do something with intentionality. The idea of just making a misstatement doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of fraud. I think that’s what makes our investigations so challenging. I think the idea of trying to understand what’s in people’s heads can be very difficult.”

Misstatements can “be the first step to fraud,” Choi had added. “But generally, when we talk about fraud the F word, I think we are talking about a state of mind that’s a little bit higher than that.”

Discover Sono Motors’ vision of the electric car at Disrupt Berlin

New car makers have been popping up left and right. But instead of creating yet another Tesla-like company, German company Sono Motors is working on something completely new — a solar-powered car. That’s why I’m excited to announce that the company’s co-founder and CEO Laurin Hahn will join us at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin.

Sono Motors has been working for years on its first car — the Sion. The company now has a handful of prototypes on the road and is refining its manufacturing process to ship those cars to customers who preordered.

The company is focusing on compact cars at first with the Sion. The car looks more like a Volkswagen Golf than a Mercedes E-Class. And it makes a ton of sense given that a solar car isn’t your average car.

People in the automotive industry will tell you that cars remain parked for 90 percent or 95 percent of the time. While it’s hard to find the exact figure, it’s true that you don’t go on a road trip every day.

Many people drive to work. It’s usually a quick ride and you just need your car in the morning and in the evening. The Sion is perfect for this. With a range of 250 kilometers (155 miles), you can usually drive back and forth quite a lot.

And every day, you get an additional 30 kilometers of range using the solar panels. It might be just enough so that you never have to charge your car. But if you’re running low, you can still plug your car just like any other electric car.

Many people already have a big car for weekend trips and longer getaways. In that case, the Sion can be a good second car for your errands and day-to-day drives. It could be useful for medium cities with few public transportation options.

Sono Motors knows from day one that a car manufacturer needs to be a service company as well. You’ll be able to share your car with other users and get paid for it.

There are many other ambitious features that I haven’t listed here. It’s clear that Hahn will have an interesting story to tell on stage at Disrupt Berlin. Building a car manufacturer from scratch sounds like an insane idea as well.

TechCrunch is coming back to Berlin to talk with the best and brightest people in tech from Europe and the rest of the world. In addition to fireside chats and panels, new startups will participate in the Startup Battlefield Europe to win the coveted cup.

Grab your ticket to Disrupt Berlin to listen to Sono Motors’ story. The conference will take place on November 29-30.

Google Street View cars will be roaming around the planet to check our air quality with these sensors

Aclima, a San Francisco-based startup building Internet-connected air quality sensors has announced plans to integrate its mobile sensing platform into Google’s global fleet of Street View vehicles.

Google uses the Street View cars to map the land for Google Maps. Starting with 50 cars in Houston, Mexico City and Sydney, Aclima will capture air quality data by generating snapshots of carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), and particulate matter (PM2.5)while the Google cars roam the streets. The idea is to ascertain where there may be too much pollution and other breathing issues on a hyper local level in each metropolitan area. The data will then be made available as a public dataset on Google BigQuery.

Aclima has had a close relationship with Google for the past few years and this is not its first ride in Street View cars. The startup deployed its sensors in London earlier this year using Google’s vehicles and three years ago started working with the tech giant to ascertain air health within Google’s own campus as well as around the Bay Area.

“All that work culminated in a major scientific study,”Aclima founder Davida Herzl told TechCrunch, referring to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology revealing air pollution levels varied in difference five to eight times along a city street. “We found you can have the best air quality and the worst air quality all on the same street…Understanding that can help with everything from urban planning to understanding your personal exposure

That initial research now enables Aclima to scale up with Google’s Street View cars in the hopes of gathering even more data on a global basis. Google Street View cars cover the roads on all seven continents and have driven over 100,000 miles in just the state of California collecting over one billion data points since the initial project began with Aclima in 2015.

The first Street View cars with the updated Aclima sensors will hit the road this fall in the western United States, as well as in Europe, according to the company.

“These measurements can provide cities with new neighborhood-level insights to help cities accelerate efforts in their transition to smarter, healthier cities,” Karin Tuxen-Bettman, Program Manager for Google Earth Outreach said in a statement. 

Introducing Rapide E, Aston Martin’s first electric sports car

Aston Martin is finally sharing some specs and a couple of teaser photos of the upcoming Rapide E, the British automaker’s first all-electric sports car.  The upshot: It’ll be fast and rare.

The company will only make 155 of the Rapide E, which will be powered by an 800-volt battery system  with 65 kilowatt-hour capacity. (Pretty sure that makes Aston Martin the first luxury car company to launch a 800-volt system.)

The battery, which will use more than 5,600 lithium-ion 18650 format cylindrical cells, is expected to have a range of more than 200 miles. The battery system will have a charging rate of a 185 miles per hour using a 400V outlet with 50kW charger.  The car’s battery system does enable faster charging of 310 miles of range per hour for those using a 800V outlet delivering 100kW. CEO Andy Palmer told TechCrunch recently that translates to about 15 minutes to charge the battery 80%.

The big objective of this project—one that has been years in the making—is to build an electric vehicle that can deliver those V12-engined Rapide S feels. The company said engineers paid particular attention to the development and tuning of the electric powertrain, which Williams Advanced Engineering worked on, the chassis and software integration.

Aston Martin Rapide E.

The Rapide E is expected to have a top speed of 155 miles per hour and be able to travel from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds and from 50 to 70 mph in 1.5 seconds. The battery system powers two rear-mounted electric motors that produce a combined target output of just over 600 horsepower) and 700 pound-feet of torque.

Aston Martin emphasized that drivers will be able to hit these performance targets regardless of how much “full” the battery. The aim, the company said, is for the Rapide E to drive a full lap of the famous Nürburgring “with absolutely no derating of the battery and the ability to cope with the daily demands of repeated hard acceleration and braking.”

Customer deliveries are set for the fourth quarter of 2019.

The Rapide E is a bridge of sorts to Aston Martin’s electric future. The Rapide E and the resurrected Lagonda brand will be built in the upcoming St. Athan production facility in the UK. Lagonda will be Aston Martin’s electric brand with production beginning in 2021.

The Rapide E will help us understand the technology and the customer,” Palmer told TechCrunch during Monterey Car Week in August. Customers have agreed to work with the company to provide data and their experience of driving and owning an electric vehicle, Palmer said adding that information will impact the upcoming Lagonda brand.

Aston Martin doesn’t advertise the price of the Rapide E, saying pricing is available once customers have applied. The company previously said it would be priced around $255,000.

Apple’s autonomous vehicle fleet swells 27% in four months

Apple keeps adding autonomous vehicles to its test fleet in California, boosting its ranks 27 percent since May, according to records from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

The company now has 70 autonomous vehicles permitted to test on public roads, Mac Reports first reported. The permits, which are issued by CA DMV, require a safety driver to be behind the wheel.

Over the past 18 months, Apple has gone from just three autonomous vehicles to 27 by January, 55 by May and now 70. GM Cruise has the most permitted autonomous test vehicles at 175, followed by Waymo with 88. Apple has the third-largest fleet.

The number of permitted test vehicles is one of the only ways to track what Apple is up to. The company doesn’t talk about its self-driving vehicle program.

The tech company’s permit with the CA DMV, the agency responsible for monitoring AVs in the state, is the only official acknowledgment that it even has a program. Apple’s self-driving program has been considered an open secret in Silicon Valley. CEO Tim Cook  has more recently made references to the company’s interest in autonomous systems.

Last month, the company disclosed its first accident, according to a report filed with the CA DMV. The low-speed accident occurred August 24. The number of accidents involving autonomous vehicles have become more common as companies put more of these self-driving cars on public roads. The vast majority are minor, low-speed incidents.

There was just one accident involving a self-driving vehicle (that one was owned by Delphi) reported to the DMV in 2014. So far this year, there have been more than 40 accidents involving self-driving cars reported to CA DMV.

Chipmaker Renesas goes deeper into autonomous vehicles with $6.7B acquisition

Japan-based semiconductor firm Renesas — one of the world’s largest supplier of chips for the automotive industry — is scooping up U.S. chip company IDT in a $6.7 billion deal that increases its focus on self-driving technology.

Renesas produces microprocessor and circuits that power devices, and automotive is its core focus. It is second only to NXP on supply, and more than half of its revenue comes from automotive. IDT, meanwhile, includes power management and memory among its products, which focus on wireless networks and the converting and storing of data. Those are two areas that are increasingly important with the growth of connected devices and particularly vehicles which demand high levels of data streaming and interaction.

The acquisition of IDT — which is being made at a 29.5 percent on its share price — is set to expand Renesas’ expertise on autonomous vehicles. The firm said it would also broaden its business into the “data economy” space, such as robotics, data centers and other types of connected devices.

Renesas has already demoed self-driving car tech, which puts it into direct competition with the likes of Intel . Last year, the firm paid $3.2 billion to buy up Intersil, which develops technology for controlling battery voltage in hybrid and electric vehicles, and IDT deal pushes it further in that direction.

“There’s little overlap between their product portfolios, so it’s a strategically sound move for Renesas. But it does seem like the price is a little high,” said Bloomberg analyst Masahiro Wakasugi.

The IDT deal has been on the table for a couple of weeks after Renesas first revealed its interest in an acquisition last month. It is expected to close in the first half of 2019 following relevant approvals.