Electric Vehicles

NASA chooses a Tesla Model X to transport astronauts to new SpaceX mission

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted this photo on May 13 featuring the Model X at Kennedy Space Center.

Photo courtesy of Jim Bridenstine, Twitter

On May 27, crewed spaceflight will return to American soil for the first time in a decade. To get astronauts around Kennedy Space Center, where liftoff is set to take place, NASA has chosen to drive them in a Tesla Model X SUV.

On May 13, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted four photos of a Model X with a Florida license plate wearing NASA branding in front of the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Horizontal Integration Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX is an American aerospace company founded in 2002 by Tesla founder Elon Musk.

NASA's Tesla Model X Demo-2 Transporter

NASA's Tesla Model X Demo-2 Transporter

Photo courtesy of Jim Bridenstine, Twitter

Astronauts Col. Bob Behnken and Col. Doug Hurley will be aboard the Model X when it takes them to the launchpad. Behnken will serve as Joint Operation Commander and Hurley's role is Spacecraft Commander. Hurley was last in orbit in 2011 on NASA's final shuttle mission aboard Atlantis.

Atlantis is now retired and on display at Kennedy Space Center.

The Demo-2 mission will mark the first crewed launch SpaceX has ever performed. The mission is a joint operation between NASA, SpaceX, and Boeing and designed to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). For the much of the Obama and Trump administrations, NASA has relied on Russian spacecrafts for transport to and from the ISS.

Though it's the first crewed craft in the partnership, SpaceX brings a fair amount of experience to the table. The SpaceX Crew Dragon that the Demo-2 crew will be transported in is a version of the Dragon 2 capsule that SpaceX has used to successfully bring cargo to and from the ISS. The Crew Dragon can carry up to seven passengers, just like the Model X.

The Crew Dragon will not be relying solely on electric power for its flight. However, the mission is set to be more sustainable than other crewed journeys. SpaceX will attempt to land the Falcon 9 booster rocker that will propel the capsule into space on a drone ship that is stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The company has practiced and successfully achieved this task several times.

Launch coverage of the event will be streamed by NASA starting at 12:15 p.m. ET on May 27. Whether or not the Model X will play a starring role has yet to be seen.

NASA and SpaceX prepare to #LaunchAmericawww.youtube.com

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The IIHS may increase the speeds it uses to test advanced driver aids.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently announced that it is considering changing the speeds it uses to test vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention systems. The agency currently tests the systems at 12 and 25 mph, but says that the speeds don't accurately represent the types of crashes the safety tech is meant to prevent.

Front crash preventionwww.youtube.com

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is designed to notify of a possible collision and help respond with automatic application of braking. Just like a human using the brake pedal, it can stop the car, but higher speeds make it difficult to stop in time. The new tests would be conducted at 35 to 45 mph, which is the range where a large number of rear-end crashes occur. As Automotive News noted, an IIHS study showed 43 percent of rear-end crashes occur at speeds of 45 mph or less, so it's important to have a test that shows how well the tech performs at those levels.

A whopping 85 percent of 2022 vehicles earned a "Superior" rating in the current testing regime, so the IIHS will remove it from 2023 testing and Top Safety Pick award evaluations. Their view is that, since the majority of vehicles meet the criteria, it's no longer an accurate way of evaluating performance. In its place, the agency introduced a night test for automatic emergency braking systems that will begin next year.

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New luxury EV

Lexus announces all-electric RZ 450e

Lexus just announced the new RZ 450e

Lexus

Lexus and Toyota have finally jumped onto the EV train, and we’ll soon see new all-electric SUVs from both. The Lexus variant, named RZ 450e, features a reasonable range, upscale interior, and neat all-wheel drive technology. We don’t have firm pricing for the Lexus, but expect it to start in the mid-to-high $40,000 range.

2023 Lexus RZRange is expected to reach 225 miles per chage. Lexus

The RZ shares a platform and much of its underlying engineering with the Toyota bZ4X and Subaru Solterra, but will take a more upscale approach. Though its size and overall shape are similar to the others, the Lexus’ exterior styling is sharper and sportier, with functional aerodynamic bodywork. A new Lexus logo is spelled out on the rear gate, instead of the traditional “L” of previous models.

The SUV comes with a 71.4-kWh battery that should deliver a range of around 225 miles on a charge. All-wheel drive is standard, and uses the RZ’s dual electric motors to shift power between the wheels that need it most.

Inside, the RZ features a minimalist, open space with controls meant to remind drivers of a horse’s reins. Ultrasuede upholstery and woodgrain trim come standard. Lexus notes the RZ’s head-up display is controllable via steering wheel-mounted buttons that handle navigation, audio, and other functions.

2023 Lexus RZThough similar to the Toyota bZ4X inside, the Lexus IS more upscale and minimalist. Lexus

Speaking of the steering wheel, the first RZs will be available with a round wheel only, but later on, Lexus will offer a yoke-style wheel like the one seen in the Toyota bZ4X concept and Tesla’s Plaid models.

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