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  • Writer's pictureMike V.

Weekend Reading

Bloomberg: Toyota Is Trying to Figure Out How to Make a Car Run Forever

Put together the best solar panels money can buy, super-efficient batteries and decades of car-making know-how and, theoretically, a vehicle might run forever. That’s the audacious motivation behind a project by Toyota, Sharp and New Energy/Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan, or NEDO, to test a Prius that could revolutionize transportation. “The solar car’s advantage is that — while it can’t drive for a long range — it’s really independent of charging facilities,” said Koji Makino, a project manager at Toyota. Even if fully electric cars overtake petroleum-powered vehicles in sales, they still need to be plugged in. The sun, on the other hand, shines everywhere for free, and when that energy is paired with enough battery capacity to propel automobiles at night, solar-powered cars could leapfrog all the new-energy technologies being developed, from plug-in hybrids to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, in one fell swoop. But the current forecast is only partly sunny because there’s still some work left to reach that level of efficiency. “This is not a technology we are going to see widely used in the next decades,” said Takeshi Miyao, an auto analyst at consultancy Carnorama. “It’s going to take a long time.” There have been some breakthroughs, mainly due to advancements by Sharp. The prototype’s solar panel converts sunlight at an efficiency level of more than 34%, compared with about 20% for current panels on the market. Because the solar cell being used by Toyota, Sharp and NEDO is only about 0.03 mm thick, it can be placed on more surfaces, including the curvy parts of the roof, hood and hatchback. The electrical system can charge the vehicle even when it’s on the move.

Volkswagen CEO, Chairman Charged With Market Manipulation In Emissions Scandal

Four years after the EPA blew the lid off emissionsgate by accusing Volkswagen of selling diesel cars equipped with 'defeat devices', two of the carmaker's former top executives have been hit with criminal charges in their native Germany. The revelation, which quickly erupted into a worldwide scandal. Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Herbert Diess, Chairman Hans-Dieter Pötsch, and former CEO Martin Winterkorn have been charged with misleading shareholders.

Barron’s: Oracle Founder Larry Ellison Calls Uber and WeWork ‘Almost Worthless’

Uber Technologies ’ stock has struggled since the company went public this year. And WeWork’s parent company has postponed a planned initial public offering, amid reports that it was slashing its valuation by at least half. Uber sports a market valuation of more than $57 billion, while WeWork has raised more than $12 billion in venture capital. But if you ask Oracle (ORCL) founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison, there isn’t a lot of value in either one. Ellison asserts that while he is close friends with Softbank’s Masayoshi Son, he doesn’t see the investment case for either WeWork or Uber, both large holdings in Softbank’s Vision Fund. He declared both the companies “almost worthless.” Ellison argued that while Uber raises capital to spend on gaining market share from rival Lyft (LYFT), the business they secure doesn’t necessarily stay with the company. He pointed out that Uber doesn’t own its cars and doesn’t control their drivers. And he declared that “they have an app my cat could have written.” Ellison said losing money to gain market share is “idiotic” if customers won’t stay with the firm. “They have nothing,” he said. “No technology. And no loyalty.” He mocked WeWork’s assertion that it is a technology company. “WeWork rents a building from me, and breaks it up, and then rents it,” Ellison said. “They say, ‘We’re a technology company, and we want a tech multiple.’ It’s bizarre.”

The Tesla rival NIO will lay off over 20% of its workers

The Chinese electric-vehicle startup NIO will lay off just over 20% of its workforce. The announcement came in the company's second-quarter earnings release, in which it reported a net loss of $478.6 million on revenue of $219.7 million.

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