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Ford wants to trick your body into thinking it’s warm to maximize EV range

How Different Colours Could Help You Drive Further

Winter doesn’t officially start until December 22, but for many of us it began weeks ago when the temperature began to dip, and turning on the heater became more of a necessity than a luxury. Ford is cleverly using ambient lighting to trick motorists into thinking they’re warmer than they really are in the winter, and cooler in the summer. It sounds deceitful, but the company is developing this new technology in a bid to quell the range concerns associated with electric cars.

Ford points to research carried out by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that finds using the climate control system in an electric car reduces driving range by up to 50 percent. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running the heater or the air conditioning; the end result is that the climate control system draws a tremendous amount of electricity. In the 2021 Mustang Mach-E, that means maximum amount of range drops from 270 to 135 miles. That’s not great.

Asking motorists to freeze during their commute isn’t an option; neither is handing out a free parka with every purchase. Instead, researchers realized blue light subconsciously makes people feel cooler, and red lights have the opposite effect. Adapting the color of the ambient lighting to the cabin temperature is a way reduce the amount of power drawn by the climate control system. Ford noticed a 3.3% reduction in power use when the lights are red, and a 2.5-percent reduction when they’re blue. This is significant in bigger vehicles that require more energy to cool or heat.

 Transit Smart Energy
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Ford’s German division packed this technology into a concept named Transit Smart Energy based, as its name implies, on a Transit van. The 10-seater is equipped with a roof-mounted solar panel that charges a 12-volt battery which in turn powers the ambient lighting, the heated seats, and the on-board electrical systems. The team in charge of developing the concept also fitted more insulation, double-glazed windows, a divider between the front and rear compartments, as well as a heat recovery system that captures the warmth generated by the drivetrain (even EVs get hot) and channels it to the cabin.

The coolest part of this concept, if you’ll pardon our pun, is the power sliding door which only opens halfway to prevent hot air from entering an air-conditioned cabin, or cold air from invading a cozy, heated space. All of these features sound promising, but they remain at the prototype stage, and they’re not available in a production car or van yet. Ford plans to begin testing these technologies in real-world conditions before the end of 2019, and it will begin putting them in its upcoming electric cars (including, shockingly, an F-150) during the early 2020s if it decides they’re worth using.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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A 2024 GMC Sierra EV towing an Airstream trailer.

The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks are twins, and that will continue to be the case when they go electric.
Chevy unveiled its Silverado EV at CES 2022, and now it’s GMC’s turn. The 2024 GMC Sierra EV borrows some key features from its Chevy sibling, as well GMC’s first electric truck — the Hummer EV. Some of those features were actually pioneered by General Motors two decades ago on non-electric trucks, and are now making a comeback.
You can reserve a Sierra EV now, but deliveries aren’t scheduled to start until early calendar-year 2024. Production starts with a high-end Denali Edition 1 model, with other versions arriving for the 2025 model year.

Design
The Sierra EV updates the design language of the internal-combustion GMC Sierra for the electric age. A big grille is no longer needed for cooling, but it’s still an important styling element that designers didn’t want to break away from, Sharon Gauci, GMC executive director of global design, explained to Digital Trends and other media in an online briefing ahead of the truck’s reveal. The grille shape is now outlined in lights, with an illuminated GMC logo.
Like the Hummer EV and Silverado EV, the Sierra EV uses GM’s Ultium modular battery architecture which, among other things, means the battery pack is an integral part of the structure. So unlike most other trucks — including the rival Ford F-150 Lightning — the Sierra EV doesn’t have a separate frame. The cab and bed are one piece as well, all of which helps increase structural rigidity.
The Sierra EV also borrows the Midgate setup from the Silverado EV. First seen on the Chevy Avalanche and Cadillac Escalade EXT in the early 2000s, it allows the bulkhead and glass behind the cab to be removed, effectively extending the bed. Combined with the fold-out MultiPro tailgate from the internal-combustion Sierra, it can expand the default 5.0-foot, 11-inch bed length to 10 feet, 10 inches. A frunk (GMC calls it the “eTrunk”) provides covered storage space as well.
Because it’s pitched as a premium vehicle, the Sierra EV gets upscale interior materials like open-pore wood trim and stainless steel speaker grilles for its Bose audio system. But the design itself, with a freestanding portrait touchscreen and rectangular instrument cluster, looks suspiciously similar to the Ford Mustang Mach-E cabin. The touchscreen even has the same big volume knob as the Ford. We hope GMC’s lawyers are ready.

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Nissan wants the 2023 Ariya to be its comeback EV, but the bar has been raised
Front view of the 2023 Nissan Ariya.

Nissan played an understated role in the modern era of electric cars. While Tesla gets most of the attention, the Nissan Leaf became the first modern mass-market EV when it launched in December 2010. But Nissan has squandered that early lead. The Leaf remains a decent car, but Nissan needed to follow it up with another model, specifically an SUV, that would appeal to more car shoppers. That’s where the 2023 Nissan Ariya comes in.
The Ariya is the long-awaited sequel to the Leaf, boosting updated tech, better performance, and an SUV body style to match current trends. But during the Ariya’s long gestation (it was originally supposed to launch in 2021), other automakers have come up with electric SUVs of their own. So while it was once a leader, Nissan must now follow the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5, and Kia EV6, among others.
Pricing starts at $44,485 (with destination) for the base Ariya Engage trim level with front-wheel drive and the smaller 65-kilowatt-hour (63-kWh usable capacity) battery pack. Pricing rises to $61,485 for the top Platinum+ model with all-wheel drive and a 91-kWh (87-kWh usable capacity) pack, but all-wheel drive models won’t arrive until after the front-wheel drive models. Nissan hasn’t discussed plans to assemble the Ariya in the U.S., so it likely won’t qualify for the revised federal EV tax credit.

Design and interior
If it had launched even two years ago, the Ariya would have looked cutting-edge. Its rounded exterior surfaces make a nod to aerodynamics while still preserving the SUV look buyers love. It’s a nice-looking vehicle too, but so are the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5, and Kia EV6, all of which have gone on sale since the Ariya was announced in 2020. Nissan is no longer a trendsetter, but the Ariya can at least claim a more SUV-like feel than those other EVs, in both its tall profile and high-and-mighty driving position.
More significant than the styling, though, is that the Ariya rides on a new EV-specific platform. In contrast to the Leaf, which shares some of its structure with gasoline cars, engineers could take full advantage of the efficiencies of an electric powertrain and maximize interior space. Like certain other automakers, Nissan also opted out of a frunk in order to maximize passenger space, moving components like the air conditioner under the hood to make more room in the cabin.
Rounded surfaces nod to aerodynamics while still preserving the SUV look buyers love.

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Front three quarter view of the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge electric car.

Cost is a major consideration no matter what kind of car you're buying. Electric vehicles are great options for helping to save the environment, but what use is that if they're outside of your budget? Let's take a look at the factors that go into pricing electric vehicles and see how they stack up against traditional cars.

Do electric vehicles cost more than traditional cars?
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