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Labor commits to kicking in AU$5m for Sunshine Coast JGA cable landing

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(Image: Sunshine Coast Council)

Should a Shorten government come to power in Australia this year, the Labor party will commit to spending AU$5 million on the 550km Japan-Guam-Australia (JGA) cable extension landing at Maroochydore, situated around 100km north of Brisbane.

The opposition party reiterated the numbers produced when the extension was announced in September, and how it would contribute to 864 new jobs and AU$927 million in new investment for Queensland.

The Sunshine Coast Council will fork out AU$35 million for the extension, while the state government will kick in AU$15 million.

Pointing to former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s support for the extension, Labor called on current Prime Minister Scott Morrison to support it.

In November, Sunshine Coast Council announced Vertiv would build the AU$6.6 million cable landing station

The 9,500km JGA cable is being developed in two parts, with AARNet, Google, and RCI Connectivity handling the southern part from Australia to Guam, with RCI being the sole developer of the northern part between Japan and Guam. The cable is being built by NEC and Alcatel Submarine Networks, and is due to be completed by the first half of 2020.

Meanwhile, Telstra has said it has begun deploying Infinera’s Infinite Capacity Engine 4 on its Asia Pacific subsea cables. Australia’s incumbent telco said the move will increase its fibre capacity by 160 percent, port density by 140 percent, and reduce power consumption.

The deployment will be completed “in the coming months”, Telstra said.

Last week, the telco launched its rapid restoration service for subsea cable outages on three of its intra-Asia routes, which could see times reduced to minutes.

Telstra is using Ericsson equipment with Ciena’s GeoMesh Extreme to boost the virtualisation and automation of its subsea cable network.

“The Asian region presents one of the most challenging environments for subsea cable systems. Busy and shallow shipping ports in Hong Kong and Singapore, high-levels of fishing activity and an ecosystem prone to natural disasters, all threaten to disrupt or damage underwater infrastructure,” Telstra’s Head of Connectivity and Platforms Nadya Melic said.

“Damage to a subsea cable can take weeks or even months to fix. But with our new continuous connection service, we are able to reroute customers impacted by potential damage to another subsea cable path on our three path network in less than 30 minutes.”

Melic added the under half-hour period was “almost seamless restoration”.

Subsea cables across the globe

  • Vocus’ Australia-Singapore Cable (ASC)
  • Vocus’ North West Cable System (NWCS) between Darwin and Port Hedland, and the new Tiwi Islands spur being added
  • The Australian government’s Coral Sea subsea cable, being constructed by Vocus to connect Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands and funded through the foreign aid budget
  • Google’s Dunant transatlantic subsea cable between Virginia Beach in the United States to the French Atlantic coast
  • The Indian government’s Chennai-Andaman and Nicobar islands subsea cable, being built by NEC
  • Southern Cross Cables’ NEXT subsea cable system between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, being built by SubPartners
  • The Trident subsea cable system connecting Perth with Singapore via Indonesia
  • The Jupiter subsea cable connecting the US, Japan, and the Philippines and being built by a consortium including Facebook, Amazon, SoftBank, NTT Com, PLDT, and PCCW
  • The Hawaiki subsea cable between Australia, New Zealand, and the US
  • Superloop’s Hong Kong cable
  • Telstra’s Hong Kong Americas (HKA) cable between Hong Kong and the US
  • Telstra’s Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) between Hong Kong and the US
  • Google’s Japan-Guam-Australia (JGA) cable system
  • The Asia-Pacific Gateway (APG) subsea cable connecting China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore, owned by a consortium including China Telecom, China Unicom, China Mobile, NTT Communications, KT Corporation, LG Uplus, StarHub, Chunghwa Telecom, CAT, Global Transit Communications, Viettel, and VNPT, and being constructed by NEC
  • The Southeast Asia Japan 2 cable (SJC2), which will have 11 landing stations in Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, being built by NEC and funded by a consortium including China Mobile International, Chunghwa Telecom, Chuan Wei, Facebook, KDDI, Singtel, SK Broadband, and VNPT
  • The Bay to Bay Express Cable System (BtoBE), connecting Singapore and Hong Kong with the US, being funded by consortium including Facebook, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and China Mobile International, and being built by NEC

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GM and LG reveal second $2.3bn Ultium EV battery plant

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GM and LG will build a new electric car battery plant together, the two companies have confirmed today, settling rumors of an expansion of the joint Ultium Cells venture as the automaker tries to maximize production of cheaper EV power packs. The new facility will be in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and see General Motors and LG Energy Solution pump in a further $2.3 billion in investment.

It follows an existing $2.3 billion investment by the pair in a battery production facility in Lordstown, Ohio. Construction there is currently underway, as GM prepares for a rapid uptick in demand across its various brands for batteries.

GM Ultium, announced in 2019, is the automaker’s new platform for all-electric vehicles. It’ll underpin models from Cadillac, GMC, Buick, Chevrolet, and other nameplates in General Motors’ portfolio, with the potential for 450+ miles of range and a variety of drivetrain configurations. However, it’ll also be expensive, at least to begin with, and no small part of that is the cost of the battery cells themselves.

It’s leading to a split in GM’s EV portfolio, of sorts, as Ultium is reserved for the electric vehicles that can command the highest sticker prices. That means models like the six-figure GMC Hummer EV and the Hummer EV SUV, along with the Cadillac Lyriq. In contrast, more affordable – and more mainstream – models like Chevrolet’s Bolt EV and new Bolt EV electric crossover will continue using the automaker’s existing, less advanced but much cheaper, platform.

Looking ahead, though, GM is counting on Ultium coming down in price and making affordable batteries at-scale more of a possibility. The roadmap calls for pack sizes from 50 to 200 kilowatt hours, made up of large-format, pouch-style cells which can be stacked either vertically or horizontally for maximum flexibility. There’ll also be support for either 400-volt packs with 200 kW DC fast charging, or 800-volt packs with 350 kW DC fast charging, depending on model and target audience.

Getting that all to a cost-effective point is vital if planned vehicles like the all-electric Chevrolet Silverado are to be competitive.

The new Spring Hill Ultium plant will be built by Ultium Cells on land leased from GM to the joint venture. Eventually it’s expected to span approximately 2.8 million-square-feet, with construction beginning immediately. However it’s not going to be open until late 2023, GM warns.

At that point, it’ll be supplying batteries to GM’s Spring Hill assembly plant nearby. That’ll be the location where Cadillac builds the upcoming Lyriq luxury electric crossover, alongside the existing gas-powered XT6 and XT5 SUVs.

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Samsung’s new smart headlamp tech just leaves me angrier

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You might not associate Samsung with car parts, but the company has revealed new smart LED headlamp clusters that could bring active lights to a much broader range of vehicles – though for the moment it looks like American drivers will miss out. The Samsung PixCell LEDs aren’t just one light source but in fact a whole cluster of more than 100 ultra-small segments, built into a single LED chip.

Those segments can be individually controlled, such as by an adaptive driving beam (ADB) system. For instance, if the system spots an oncoming vehicle at night, while you have your high-beams switched on, it could selectively occlude the parts of the headlamps which are directed at that vehicle.

The result would be avoiding glare for that car, but continued visibility around it for you. Alternatively, headlamps using the PixCell LEDs could focus light according to ambient conditions, such as when driving in fog or heavy rain, to maximize how much of the road can be seen.

Samsung isn’t the first company to offer smart headlamp LEDs like this, but its method is a little different. The PixCell system combines 100+ tiny segments – each separated by a silicon wall – with each acting like a pixel. The light-emitting area is only 1/16th of the size of a conventional discrete LED module used in current ADB systems, Samsung says. That means the overall light assembly could be as much as 50-percent smaller without impairing functionality.

That’s great, assuming you live in a country where these sort of headlamps are actually permitted. It’s a problem US drivers find themselves facing, where automakers have been forced to disable the smart lighting features on cars for sale in America. Currently, regulations in the US don’t allow this sort of selective lighting on vehicles, and while car companies and safety organizations have pushed for changes, there’s no telling when – or if – that will happen.

It’s frustrating, because it leaves American drivers missing out on some of the biggest advances in tech we’ve seen in automotive recently. Audi’s digital matrix LED system, for example, is offered elsewhere in the world on vehicles like the e-tron SUV; the same EV in the US, however, doesn’t offer that feature. Mercedes’ Digital Light – as featured on the new flagship EQS all-electric luxury sedan – is similarly blocked by out-of-date rules. Both systems, when functional, can even do things like project graphics on the road to better communicate vehicle behaviors with pedestrians and other road users; in the US, about the smartest thing they can manage is automatically flip between high- and low-beam settings.

Polestar found itself in the same situation with the recently-launched Polestar 2. The EV has Pixel LED headlamps, made up of 84 individual LEDs within each light, and which can do things like selectively shade the brightness in patches so as not to dazzle oncoming traffic.

While US-spec cars are fitted with the Pixel LED hardware, the advanced ADB features aren’t enabled. Polestar has said that it could do that with an OTA software update in future, should the local regulations change, though again it can’t say when that might happen, if it ever does. In fact, owners of the Polestar 2 could have the EV and never get to use the full extent of the features it’s capable of.

Samsung says there are still good reasons to use the PixCell LED system, even if ADB isn’t legally allowed in every region. For a start, it supports different configuration of the same hardware to suit varying light regulations and requirements. “Based on a single standard headlamp design,” the company points out, “lamp makers can customize light output to suit varying design needs and enjoy reduced lead time for development, production, supply and time-to-market.”

With some software architecture foresight by automakers, then, smart LED lights like these could one day be upgraded with a firmware patch to enable the more advanced functionality that the hardware is capable of. For that to happen, though, we’ll need US road safety regulators to get up to speed with the cutting-edge of vehicle tech, and that’s a process which is frustratingly slow in comparison.

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Alpha Wolf+ EV has an extra pair of suicide rear doors

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California-based startup Alpha Motor Corporation is expanding its electric vehicle portfolio with the Wolf+ (Wolf Plus), an extended-cab version of the brand’s Wolf electric pickup unveiled last month. Whereas a standard Wolf EV pickup truck has only two doors, Wolf+ has dual rear-hinged half-doors to make the rear seats more accessible, similar to what you get in the 2022 Mazda MX-30 EV.

Despite its extended-cab body style, Alpha Wolf+ has the same 5.5-feet bed as the non-plus version. It also gets a bevy of off-road accessories like standard fog lights, a roof basket, and a set of solar panels in the bed cover.

Like the first Alpha Wolf, the Wolf+ you see on this page are just renderings of an incoming pre-production prototype model. We have no word yet of an official launch date, but Alpha is on track to make its first customer deliveries beginning as early as 2023. The company also revealed the JAX (Junior All-Terrain Crossover) SUV earlier this year, a four-passenger off-road vehicle with retro styling cues similar to Wolf and Wolf+.

Alpha claims a range of 250 to 275+ miles from a still-unspecified battery pack. If the Alpha JAX is any indication, we reckon Wolf+ might come with a 75 kWh lithium-ion battery. Additionally, Wolf+ is available in a single motor RWD or dual-motor AWD powertrain. We find this surprising since a standard Wolf with a single motor is a front-wheel-drive unit.

We also found the performance numbers a bit surprising. Alpha claims Wolf+ accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 5.9-seconds versus 6.2-seconds for a front-drive Wolf. It also has a maximum towing capacity of 6274 pounds (3050 kg). In contrast, a standard Wolf can tow 3000 pounds (1,360 kg). Indeed, you can haul more stuff with Wolf+.

Inside, Alpha Wolf+ has a digital instrument cluster, a large center touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, and a premium audio system. Base models get 16-inch wheels, while larger 17 to 18-inch alloys are available. And yes, Alpha Wolf+ has a roomy frunk or front trunk.

Alpha has yet to unveil definite launch dates for its all-electric vehicles, but the reservation books are open for both the Wolf and Wolf+ models. The Wolf has base prices starting at $36,000 to $46,000, while pricing for Wolf+ will follow soon.

Alpha Wolf+ Gallery

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