2022 Toyota Tundra, Briefly

There hasn’t been an all-new Tundra since 2007. So given that they’ve been working on it for a while. . .

By Gary S. Vasilash

The specs speak for themselves. Especially for the 2022 Toyota Tundra with the i-FORCE MAX powertrain, which takes the standard 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 (389 hp; 479 lb-ft of torque) and hybridizes it so that it produces 437 hp and 583 lb-ft of torque.

Yes, another full-size pickup truck with a hybrid.

But what is different about this approach being taken by Toyota is, explains Mike Sweers, senior vice president, Product Development Office and F1 Platform (i.e., what the new Tundra is based on) engineer, is that rather than trying to boost the fuel efficiency of the truck, the objective is to provide what he says most serious truck users are looking for, which is more power. (There is a 10-speed automatic for both engines.)

While the Tundra can certainly tow–as in up to 12,000 pounds–the vehicle is meant more for those who do recreational towing than commercial–which is more about the nature of the Toyota brand than anything having to do with the capability of the truck, because it is engineered to be fully capable–and then some. (Image: Toyota)

Framed

The thing about the ’22 Tundra is that there is a focus on overall robustness. They went from C-channel frame cross members to boxed, for example. While that improved stiffness, there was consideration taken for those who ride on a regular basis—loaded or unloaded—so there is a multilink rear suspension with the shocks mounted outside the frame rails to help improve the handling and ride comfort. (Even more comfort is provided by the available air suspension system that provides both manual and automatic leveling.)

The new Tundra can tow up to 12,000 pounds—which is an increase of 17.6% compared with the previous generation—and the load in the bed, which is based on sheet molding compound, which has been used on the Toyota Tacoma with excellent results, is 1,940 pounds, or an 11% increase.

Tugged

While on the subject of towing, it is worth knowing that there are two Tow/Haul modes. Activate the standard mode and the throttle response in increased. Activate the Tow/Haul+ mode and that response is amped up even more—and speaking of amps, the trucks with the hybrid powertrains have the electric motor constantly in operation during Tow/Haul+ and the engine Stop-Start function is deactivated.

And there is another towing-related aspect to the ’22 Tundra: Its design.

According to Adam Rabinowitz, chief designer at Calty who led the exterior design team for the truck, “We wanted to make it look like a premium towing machine.”

Toughened

Rabinowitz explained that the truck design is meant to deliver on it being more recreational than commercial—as in people with boats and trailers rather than people with tool trailers or earth movers.

And while they worked to show that it is tough enough to take it (e.g., there is a beam shape on the body side that is meant to convey the image of the truck’s frame), they also worked to assure that it looked sufficiently high-tech, such as through the use of the slim, high-mounted headlights.

Locked In

Benjamin Jimenez, studio chief designer at Calty, who led the interior design, echoed that “this is more of a recreational truck, so our approach was different than that of our competitors,” said that unlike the competitors, who generally use a vertical layout to the elements of the interior, they opted to go horizontal with all elements of the interior interlocking (e.g., doors with IP and trim) to provide a strong look: “We didn’t want this to feel weak in any way,” Jimenez sad.

Another way of indicating that the ’22 Tundra is more for adventure than work: upon startup, there is an image of one of five national parks indicated on the gauge cluster.

How Hyundai Is Becoming a Mobility Company, Explained

Explained with a remarkable level of enthusiasm by Olabisi Boyle

By Gary S. Vasilash

Without question, Hyundai is one of the most innovative companies in the automotive industry right now. The company has on offer vehicles with traditional engines, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electrics, and even fuel-cells. It has a joint venture with autonomous tech supplier Aptiv that’s called “Motional” that is developing self-driving vehicle tech. It has an urban air mobility operation that is developing that mode of transport.

If it is just a consideration of what it has on the road in terms of its cars and utilities, the level of design exceeds that of most any other automaker that isn’t providing vehicles that start at six-figure levels.

And while it once was that its quality was cringe—worthy, in the 2021 J.D. Power U.D. Vehicle Dependability Study Hyundai ranks seventh and is well above average.

Hyundai’s Boyle: Helping make the transformation to mobility. (Image: Hyundai)

To learn more about the company, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” we talk with Olabisi Boyle, vice president of Product Planning and Mobility Strategy for Hyundai Motor North America.

Her duties range from short-term planning to pricing, from analytics to strategy.

Boyle joined HMNA from Visa, where she had been the vice president of Connected Commerce.

As she explains to freelance writer Nicole Wakelin, Jeff Gilbert of WWJ 950, and me, she was recruited by Visa because they were interested in her background—which includes some 20 years at both Ford and what was then Fiat Chrysler. (She had been the chief engineer of the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan.)

Notable for anyone in any industry, Boyle has a B.S. in industrial engineering from Columbia University, a M.S. in mechanical engineering from Columbia, and a B.S. in physics from Fordham University.

Just looking at her resume gives you the clear notion that this is someone who is really about achievement.

And the level of enthusiasm that she has is absolutely refreshing, as you clearly get the sense that she not only enjoys what she is doing, but that she recognizes that what she is doing is beneficial, not only for Hyundai, but for society at large (e.g., there are big efforts being made in the arena of using hydrogen for not only vehicles, but for other energy applications; this is a means by which there can be a significant reduction in carbon emissions).

You can see the interview with Boyle—as well as a discussion afterwards on a variety of topics, from EVs to the J.D. Power APEAL study—right here.

These Thai Cabbies Are Clever

When you can’t drive. . .garden

Two taxi cooperatives in Thailand—the Ratchapruk and Bovorn Taxi co-ops—have 500 cabs rolling in the streets of Bangkok, which means that there are some 2,500 vehicles sitting in lots, so a number of these static vehicles have become gardens, according to The Associated Press.

There are bamboo frames on the roofs of the vehicles and black plastic garbage bags stretched across the frames. The plastic is covered with dirt and veg including tomatos and string beans are planted.

Thapakorn Assawalertkul, an executive with the co-ops, told AP reporter Jerry Harmer, “The vegetable garden is both an act of protest and a way to feed my staff during this tough time.”

The tough time, of course, is the covid pandemic that has had a major impact on Thailand, with a reported 1.4-million cases and in excess of 14,000 deaths. The protest goes to the government, which apparently isn’t providing direct financial assistance to the cabbies.

Clearly the people there are resourceful. Here’s hoping that the drivers soon get back behind the wheels of more cabs and that the vegetables they eat sourced from markets once again, not from the roofs of Camrys.

Ford Lightning Pre-Production Underway

The first versions of the F-150 model are being built at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan

By Gary S. Vasilash

Ford is increasing its investment—to the tune of $250-million—at its operations at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center and Rawsonville Components Plant.

The reason?

The F-150 Lightning.

It also means 450 more jobs spread across the plants, all of which are in Michigan (Dearborn, Sterling Heights and Ypsilanti).

“We knew the F-150 Lightning was special,” said Ford executive chair Bill Ford, “but the interest from the public has surpassed our highest expectations and changed the conversation around electric vehicles.

“So we are doubling down, adding jobs and investment to increase production,” Ford added.

“This truck and the Ford-UAW workers who are assembling it in Michigan have a chance to make history and lead the electric vehicle movement in America.”

Pre-production underway for the all-electric F-150 Lightning. (Image: Ford)

Ford has taken more than 150,000 reservations for the full-size electric pickup that has an estimated range of 300 miles and a starting MSRP of $40,000. (It is worth noting that the reservations require $100—which is refundable.)

The Lightning is another in the F-150 offerings, which has been the best-seller in the U.S. for 44 years running.

Pre-production is underway for the Lightning, with consumer vehicles planned for availability in the spring of 2022.

How Autonomy Will Really Start

Why Ford, Argo AI and Walmart are going to be making a difference in the implementation of the tech

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although many people think—or imagine—that autonomous driving is going to occur from a company like Tesla, which will allow people to do whatever while their vehicle chauffeurs them to wherever, in point of fact, that is not going to be the case for a variety of reasons, not the least of which that sensors and processors are expensive, and even though there are some people who are willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money for something that claims to be “full” but is really more than half empty, OEMs are going to need to have assurance that there are going to be many more than a few who are willing to buy the tech.

But while consumers might not opt to spend the money, commercial carriers are likely to if they can determine that the tech is going to provide them with an economic advantage.

Ford, Argo AI and Walmart are driving autonomous tech forward. (Image: Ford)

Which makes the announcement by Ford, Argo AI and Walmart about the retailer using vehicles from Ford (Escape Hybrids) and self-driving technology from Argo AI to launch an autonomous delivery service for the “last-mile” in Miami, Austin, and Washington, DC, all the more significant.

These are mass-manufactured vehicles that are going to be put work by the world’s largest retailer in urban settings doing driving that will conceivably provide an ROI to Walmart, if not immediately, then at some point in the future.

Tom Ward, senior vice president of last mile delivery at Walmart U.S., said, “This collaboration will further our mission to get product to the homes of our customers with unparalleled speed and ease, and in turn, will continue to pave the way for autonomous delivery.”

The way this will work is that the Walmart online ordering platform will send information to the Argo AI cloud-based infrastructure, which will then calculate the necessary scheduling and routing.

The point is that this is all predicated on business processes.

And that’s what is going to make actual autonomy a real thing long before something shows up in your driveway that will take you from somewhere to somewhere else while you sit in the back seat eating a hot dog and watching Netflix.

Know that this is something of a journey as Ford and Argo AI have been testing their tech on city streets since 2018, the same year that Ford and Walmart ran a test in Miami. It takes time, effort and consistency of purpose.

The technology needs to be developed, tested, validated and verified.

It is not the consequence of an over-the-air update that follows a tweet.

Aurora and Volvo

Commercial trucks on the way to autonomy

By Gary S. Vasilash

If you read the sentence, “Sally drove her HEMI-powered Charger down Woodward” you probably know that the vehicle, the Charger, has a massive engine under its hood, a HEMI. (The “Woodward” part is just for color: M1 is a street in greater Detroit upon which countless HEMIs traveling one-quarter-mile at a time.)

When you read the line “the Aurora-powered Volvo VNL” and know that the VNL is Volvo Trucks’ big rig, Class 8 truck, you might wonder what kind of powertrain the “Aurora” is.

Volvo VNL being equipped with the Aurora Driver. (Image: Aurora)

But of course it isn’t.

Rather, Aurora, as in the self-driving technology development company, has integrated its “Aurora Driver,” its sensor suite for Level 4 autonomous driving, into the Volvo VNL.

The truck is actually being powered—in the Sally sense—by the Volvo D13 Turbo Compound engine that can produce up to 455 hp.

As for the Aurora implementation, the company is working to assure that the Aurora hardware and software are fully integrated into the architecture of the VNL so that Volvo will be able to produce the L4-capable trucks in its plant in Dublin, Virginia.

Oktobertfest 2021 Was Canceled. The Auto Show Wasn’t

An inside look at IAA Mobility. Yes, the German auto show

By Gary S. Vasilash

The event formerly—for almost 70 years—known as “the Frankfurt Motor Show” is no more, as this year the event is officially titled “IAA Mobility,” and it moved about four hours southeast by car to Munich.

According to the organizers, the thesis of the event is “Mobility is the foundation for freedom, prosperity, and encounters. We face new challenges daily, such as urbanization, climate change, and digitization. But instead of borders, we recognize the call for action. It is up to us to go new ways, ask questions, and find answers.”

Which doesn’t sound like, well, an auto show as they have long existed.

Concept Mercedes-Maybach EQS: Do the 1% like garish grilles on EVs? (Image: Mercedes)

So to get some insights on the event, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” “Autoline’s” John McElroy and Chris Paukert of Roadshow by CNET, both of whom were at the media days of IAA Mobility, talk with me about what they saw, the vehicles that they found to be of interest. (I wasn’t there.)

One interesting observation that they make is that while there were certainly plenty of introductions by the German car companies—like the Concept Mercedes-Maybach EQS, an electric vehicle that is for, well, the Maybach set; the BMW i Vision Circular, which McElroy points out has a clever approach to the traditional kidney grille, as it basically fills the front end in tasteful matter, not something garishly slapped on the nose; and the Volkswagen ID.Life, a small city car that Paukert notes is unlikely to be able to ever come to the U.S. due to the homologation requirements—the footprint of the show was far different than that of the Frankfurt venue.

In addition to which, we talk about the speed with which Tesla makes changes to its systems (e.g., electrical architecture) and whether traditional OEMs have the capability to catching up, whether those traditional OEMs should combine their mainstream powertrain operations into an independent standalone company and take the savings from the elimination of the cost of their individual ops to spend on things like electrification, and more.

All of which you can see here.

Conti Goes Renewable for Tire Concept

Yes, even reused water bottles make the mixture

By Gary S. Vasilash

Tires are made of lots of materials. Yes, there is natural rubber. And synthetic rubber.

There are carbon black and silica.

There are cables, both metal and textile.

And there are various chemicals added for good measure.

Continental has developed what is says is a considerably more sustainable tire, one that has more than 50% of its materials being traceable, renewable and recycled.

There are lots of organic materials, including the natural rubber from dandelions (not necessarily the ones you have in your lawn, but similar), silicate from rice husks, and vegetable oils from, well, vegetables rather than petroleum products from prehistoric plant matter and sea creatures.

Conti’s clever “green” tire. (Image: Continental)

Thirty-five percent of the Conti GreenConcept tire (yes, this is still conceptual; you can’t get one—yet) consists of renewable raw materials.

Then there are recycled materials, which account for about 17% of the tire. Things like the polyester recovered from PET bottles—bottles that are used for soda and water.

Another clever aspect of the tire is that it is lighter than a comparable conventional one. This helps lower the rolling resistance, and that means that less energy is necessary to turn the tires. This can mean as much of an improvement of 6% in the range of an electric vehicle.

(It knows a little more than a little about EVs as it has its tires on EVs from companies ranging from Audi to Vinfast—and, yes, Tesla.)

According to Continental CEO Nikolai Setzer, “Continental will completely convert its global tire production to the use of sustainable materials by 2050 at the latest.”

While that might seem like a long time, they’ve been making tires for some 150 years, so it is relative.

BMW Goes Circular

No, not the roundel logo. The way it is conceiving and building its vehicles

By Gary S. Vasilash

When people think/talk about environmentally appropriate vehicles, the tendency is to talk about the tailpipe—or the lack thereof.

That is, an electric car (no tailpipe) or a fuel-cell-powered car (which has an exhaust to let the water vapor escape) is seen to be good because it is an electric car or a fuel-cell-powered car. (Trucks and SUVs can be used in place of “car.”)

But what somehow gets overlooked is the fact that there is a heck of a lot more to a motor vehicle than the type of propulsion system that it uses.

There is all of that other “stuff” that goes into making a vehicle.

BMW i Vision Circular (Image: BMW)

Things like the chassis and the body panels. The steering wheel and the seats. The carpet on the floor and the headliner on the ceiling.

And so on.

The production of these things has an effect on the lifecycle emissions of a given vehicle.

Sure, the use of the vehicle has a huge impact on the vehicle’s effect on the environment.

So while it is not exactly a leader in the electric vehicle space, which is leading some people to raise an eyebrow, credit to BMW for introducing a concept vehicle at the IAA Mobility 2021 event (what used to be known as “the Frankfurt show” until it was moved, this year, to Munich) that has an absolute basis in sustainability.

It is called the “BMW I Vision Circular.”

“Vision,” I suppose, because this is something that is for 2040.

“Circular” because the vehicle is entirely developed and built using principles of the circular economy, as in it is built with 100% recycled materials and 100% of those materials can be recycled again.

Even the battery for this electric vehicle, a solid-state battery (of course, although BMW is working on this technology, it is still a ways off for production vehicles, but works quite well in a one-off concept) is designed to be recycled.

While recycled materials have generally thought of as having a premium price, BMW chief Oliver Zipse made an interesting observation: “the current trend in commodity prices clearly shows the financial consequences in store for any industry that is reliant on finite resources.”

Driving Done Remotely

Imagine being driven in an autonomous vehicle that’s being controlled by someone who is remote

By Gary S. Vasilash

Most companies that are developing autonomous driving technology for vehicles—companies like Waymo and Argo AI and Cruise—are doing so such that the autonomous vehicle is. . .autonomous.

The sensors and the processors and the actuators necessary to making a given vehicle drive without human input are all embedded in said vehicle.

Teleoperation in Berlin. (Image: Vay)

Sure, the vehicle may access the cloud every now and then for an update of some sort (e.g., perhaps for some information regarding location), but otherwise autonomous is as autonomous does.

But then there’s a company out of Berlin named Vay.

Vay’s approach to autonomy is different.

Vay has developed a “teledriving” system.

This means that there is a “teledriver.” Someone who is not in the vehicle but who is in control of the vehicle.

Think of it, perhaps, like an air traffic controller combined with someone who is playing some version of Forza.

Vay co-founder and CEO Thomas von der Ohe: “As our system does not rely on expensive 360-degree lidar sensors, and is therefore comparatively inexpensive, our way of rolling out driverless vehicles will not only enable consumers to experience driverless mobility sooner, but also provide a highly scalable solution that can be integrated into every car.”

It seems that the plan is learn from the teleoperation so that they will be able to roll out autonomous features gradually.

Vay has vehicles operating in Berlin right now, but there are safety drivers on board. The company believes that they will be able to operate fully teledriven next year.