California-based electric car startup Faraday Future might have a strange new ally in its roiling fight with main investor Evergrande: the Trump administration. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issued an update on Wednesday to its “Section 301” investigation into China’s alleged practices of intellectual property theft and technology transfer, and Faraday Future was listed among the many examples cited in the refreshed report.
The USTR says in the report that Evergrande’s $2 billion pledge to Faraday Future is an “illustrative example” of how the Chinese government “directs and unfairly facilitates the systematic investment in, and acquisition of, US companies and assets by Chinese companies to obtain cutting-edge technologies and intellectual property.” News of the inclusion of Faraday Future was first reported by the South China Morning Post.
Faraday Future has made similar claims across the last month, arguing that Evergrande shut off funding to push the EV startup into bankruptcy, making it possible to walk away with the IP, which includes some 400 patents. Access to Faraday Future’s patents, as The Verge first reported in April, was a major component of the investment.
China’s government has pushed the country’s domestic car industry to heavily invest in “new energy vehicles” in recent years, and so deals like the one with Faraday Future were encouraged, even as overseas investments trended downward, according to the report. The report also highlights Evergrande chairman Hui Ka Yan’s close connections with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as evidence that the Chinese government may have influenced the deal, including a speech where he said that “everything that Evergrande and I have, it is all given by the Party, given by the State, given by society.”
“The US government has now taken notice of Evergrande’s conduct toward Faraday,” Brian Timmons, a partner with Quinn Emanuel, who represents Faraday in the dispute with Evergrande, said in a statement. “Faraday is on the brink of producing a revolutionary electric vehicle, and Evergrande’s actions are jeopardizing both the introduction of this new technology in the U.S. and the jobs of more than a thousand American workers.” Representatives for Faraday Future, Evergrande, and the USTR did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Evergrande invested in Faraday Future at the end of 2017, during a time when the EV startup was facing the real threat of running out of cash. The Chinese real estate conglomerate committed $2 billion to Faraday Future, which was to be doled out over the course of three years. The EV startup received the first installment of $800 million by early spring.
But by July, basically all of that money was gone. More than $400 million went to getting the company’s California factory ready for production of its luxury SUV by the end of 2018, as well as hiring between 300 and 400 new employees, while $130 million was earmarked for paying back suppliers, recent court documents showed. About $200 million was also directed at bringing production online in China.
Facing another cash shortage, Faraday Future CEO and founder Jia Yueting — who has been blacklisted in China because of massive debts he racked up at another company he founded, LeEco — asked Evergrande for an advance on the $1.2 billion remaining on the contract. Evergrande initially agreed to let $700 million loose in small installments through the end of the year, and in return was promised that Jia would distance himself from the company, according to recently revealed court documents.
But Evergrande never made those new payments, claiming that Jia had not truly divested himself from the company, and that he was still operating as a “shadow director.”
While the two sides argued back and forth in private over this, Faraday Future once again started to miss payments to suppliers. In an October filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Evergrande outed Jia’s plan to break the investment deal, and accused him of “manipulating” the board of directors set up after the investment.
The companies continued to trade blows in public, and Faraday Future was awarded some relief: a Hong Kong arbitrator decided in October that the startup could seek new funding. But in the meantime, Faraday Future had to resort to salary cuts, layoffs, and eventually a furlough for hundreds of employees that is still in effect. A co-founder and a number of other significant executives all resigned, and while the startup says it is drawing interest from investors, it only has enough cash in the bank to last through mid-December, The Verge previously reported.
China’s cavalier treatment of intellectual property rights has been a touchy subject in the auto industry for years. The government long mandated that any foreign automaker who wanted to make cars inside the country had to partner with a Chinese manufacturer, and could not own more than 50 percent of the joint venture. This helped the government quickly build up knowledge and skill at big state-owned automakers as China transformed from a primarily agrarian society to an industrial one. But foreign car companies — and, now, the Trump administration — often complained about these close relationships and the risk they presented for protecting assets like patents and trade secrets.
China recently announced plans to relax some of those joint venture rules. But the new USTR report claims that the CCP is already establishing roadblocks that will incentivize foreign automakers to stay close to Chinese automakers, regardless of the rule change. In the meantime, China’s domestic car industry has boomed in recent years, especially for electric and hybrid vehicles. The country leads the world in EV sales, and nearly 500 new EV startups have cropped up, according to a recent report.
Dishing out Asset Light IT Strategies
I have to commend Ahead, Experts in Enterprise Cloud, and based in Chicago for the AWS courses they are conducting and dishing out. And I do mean dishing out. I attended last weeks presentation at Gibson’s Steakhouse in Oak Brook and aside from the rich lab content on IaaS, virtual cloud (VPC), Storage (S3), and Cloud Compute (EC2) that only an IT connoisseur can appreciate, the lunch included portions of Gibson’s famous prime rib. Well done Bryan and Jaime.
While large enterprises (Netflix, Siemens, GoDaddy, etc. ) understand fully the benefits of an asset light IT strategy that the AWS pay-as-you-use business model offers… the barriers for mid-to-small enterprise organizations on making the leap still exist. These barriers manifest themselves in…fear of change or losing IT control, lack of competitive urgency, redesigning and re-learning IT frameworks, indifference to lower-cost advantages…and others. With MS Azure giving AWS a run for its money, this increased competition adds to the complexity of weighing an outsource strategy. Nevertheless, these asset light strategies offer excellent opportunities for instructors, SME’s, and IT consultants to drive the message on game-changing reduced CAPEX/OPEX that brings music to the ears that only C-Levels can appreciate.
GM made a fun surprise announcement at this past week’s Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show: an all-electric Chevrolet Camaro concept with 700 horsepower meant to bust out a quarter mile run in about nine seconds. And unlike EV performance cars like the NIO EP9 or the upcoming second-generation Tesla Roadster, which are purpose-built, the Camaro concept appears to be a beautiful, cobbled-together Frankenstein’s monster of a car.
The car, dubbed the eCOPO Concept (after the original COPO Camaro special order performance models from the late 1960s) looks like any other modern Camaro from the outside, even in electric blue paint. Inside is much different. For instance, the eCOPO is powered by a combination of BorgWarner electric motors, which are the same ones used in these Daimler electric trucks.
The motors draw power from an 800-volt battery pack, which is twice as much as you’d find in a Chevy Bolt. But the eCOPO doesn’t use a “skateboard” style battery pack that takes up the whole floor of the car, which is pretty much the standard for EVs these days. Instead, the pack is split into four 200-volt modules that are tucked into different spots around the car’s frame: two sit in the rear-seat area, and two are in the trunk, with one over the rear axle and one taking up the spot where the spare tire usually goes.
GM says distributing the mass of the batteries like this helps improve performance on a drag strip, as it gives the car a 56 percent rear weight bias, which helps on launch. But it also shows how much of a sort of clever workaround effort this was on the part of Hancock and Lane, an electric drag racing team that helped Chevy build the car.
“This project exemplifies Chevrolet and General Motors’ commitment to engaging young minds in STEM education,” Russ O’Blenes, the director of performance variants, parts, and motorsports at GM, said in a statement. “It also represents our goal of a world with zero emissions, with the next generation of engineers and scientists who will help us get there.”
GM’s brands aren’t involved in any of the current EV racing series like Formula E, but the eCOPO might be a sign that they’re thinking about it as the company moves its fleet toward hybrid and electric power. And they’re approaching it in an interesting way that might make electric racing a bit more accessible.
“I like that they’re using proven off-the-shelf components and that they’re pushing electric vehicles into motorsports,” automotive journalist Bozi Tatarevic tells The Verge. “The motor that they are using is obviously stout since Daimler chose the same one for the eCanter. The inverters they are using are widely available and match up with their claims of running 800 volts.”
Perhaps most important, Tatarevic says, is that the housing for the electric motors matches that of GM’s combustion LS motors, which are supremely popular. This “offers an opportunity for other race cars to adapt the same system if they decide to offer it as a crate package,” Tatarevic says, theoretically making it easier for people to explore EV drag racing beyond just bringing their Tesla to the track.
O’Blenes admitted as much in the official press release. “The possibilities are intriguing and suggest a whole new world for racers,” he said. “Chevrolet pioneered the concept of the high-performance crate engine right around the time the original COPO Camaro models were created, and the eCOPO project points to a future that could include electric crate motors for racing, or even your street rod. We’re not there yet, but it’s something we’re exploring.”
The eCOPO is far from the first muscle car that’s been retrofitted with electric power. Three years ago we met a man who turned his 1968 Ford Mustang into an 800-horsepower electric monster. A Maryland-based company called Genovation recently transformed a modern Chevy Corvette into a similarly powerful EV. Seeing a company support the effort to make a car like this, though, signals that there’s interest in electric racing beyond purpose-built solutions like Formula E’s cars.
In fact, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) praised the concept this week. “Chevrolet’s dedication to innovation and performance is evident in this new concept vehicle,” NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a statement. “NHRA has been discussing and exploring how electric cars are evolving to determine how they will shape the future of drag racing. The new COPO Camaro is an exciting development in that process.”
‘Collective works’ is a production process which is just fully functioning when people pay attention to the producing machine. Reacting to its audience, the process translates the flow of people into an object.
The ReBioGeneSys can simulate conditions on any planet in the universe, and given enough time, create new life from them. At the University of Michigan, conceptual artist Adam W. Brown has assembled an installation of glass beakers, hot plates, and rubber tubes.
If you have always wondered how animals see the world, you can soon experience it for yourself with these fun and quirky “meta-perceptual” helmets.
We sometimes come across gigantic 3D printing projects that send your imagination racing, but these generally involve an equally large 3D printer. Just this week we’ve seen an actual lawnmower being printed with a garage-filling machine.
Many think that the next big step in 3D printing is when we’ll be able to print in metal, well, at an affordable rate. But what about printing in metal and plastic at the same time? The thing is, most electronics are typically two-dimensional.
Tesla has announced a new mid-range version of the Model 3, one that’s cheaper than the long-range version that Tesla’s exclusively sold up until this point. It’s still not the $35,000 base model that’s been delayed until 2019. But the new mid-level option offers 260 miles of range and starts at $45,000.
The new option, which CEO Elon Musk tweeted about this afternoon, is built with the same battery pack as the 310-mile long-range Model 3, but uses fewer cells, which accounts for the lower price and shorter range. Now, instead of a top range of 310 miles on a single charge with a top speed of 145 mph and a 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, the new model gets you 260 miles on a charge with a top speed of 125 mph and a 0-60 mph of 5.6 seconds.
Adding advanced Autopilot features adds an additional $5,000, as is the case with other Tesla models. Also, the dual-motor all-wheel drive option is now restricted to the long range option, with the mid-range option getting rear-wheel drive only.
“As Model 3 production and sales continue to grow rapidly, we’ve achieved a steady volume in manufacturing capacity, allowing us to diversify our product offering to even more customers,” a spokesperson for Tesla said in a statement. “Our new mid-range battery is being introduced this week in the US and Canada to better meet the varying range needs of the many customers eager to own Model 3, and our delivery estimate for customers who have ordered the Standard Battery is 4-6 months.”
That means reservation holders who are waiting for the cheapest version of Tesla’s first mass market car will still have to wait until at least February before those Model 3s start to ship. They also won’t be eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit given out to buyers of electric cars, because Tesla recently triggered a phase out of the incentive after passing 200,000 vehicles sold in the US. Instead, the credit will dip to $3,750 starting on January 1st, 2019, and drop again to $1,875 on July 1st of next year, before completely vanishing.
The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones being sold by Verizon will not support SIM cards from other carriers unless they are first activated on Verizon’s network. A Verizon spokesperson confirmed this to The Verge, pointing to a new policy that the carrier implemented earlier this year to dissuade thieves from targeting its own retail stores and those of authorized resellers.
Once a Pixel 3 (or any of Verizon’s other current phones) is activated, the carrier will automatically unlock the device “overnight” that same day, according to the company. So there’s not much of a wait to get around this, but there is a wait all the same. Remember that Verizon is the exclusive carrier partner in the United States. So your only alternative — and the one folks on other carriers should definitely take — is buying direct from Google. Google seems to have a good handle on stock (with most storage and color options available within a week), but shipping isn’t immediate.
This policy presents a hurdle for anyone who was hoping to walk into say, a Best Buy, and try to buy a Pixel 3 outright at full price to use on their own carrier. (Most Best Buy stores probably wouldn’t even allow this, for the record.) But it’s also something to be aware of if you buy a new-in-box, unactivated Verizon Pixel 3 from someone online.
You’ll have to find some way of briefly activating it on Verizon before it can be used elsewhere. I’ve asked if popping in a friend or family member’s Verizon SIM card for a minute or two would be enough to tell Verizon’s systems to trigger the unlock.
The original Pixel and Pixel 2 were released before this policy took effect, so they were immediately unlocked and compatible with most major networks.
There’s a new version of Tweetbot for iOS today, and this release will be especially appreciated by iPhone X, XS, and XS Max users. It comes with an optimized version of dark mode that’ll take advantage of OLED panels’ high contrast levels. (Apple previously listed 16 apps that offer “pure black mode,” so maybe Tweetbot wants to make it onto the second version of that list.) The app already featured a dark mode, but this new version should be slightly nicer on the eyes.
The update also includes GIF support in the compose view; redesigned profiles; redesigned tweet status details; new iconography and app icon; haptic feedback support; auto video playback (that you can turn on or off); and the ability to add descriptions to images. Basically, Tweetbot has been totally refreshed and now takes advantage of all the new iPhone hardware features to come out in the past year.