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Second cut found in Tonga Cable as Digical connectivity returns

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(Image: SES Networks)

The subsea cable that provides Tonga with broadband, and connects to the Southern Cross Cable via Fiji, has suffered a pair of cuts.

Both were in shallow water, with satellite connectivity provider SES Networks stating the cause could have been anchors.

The island has been without its cable connection since January 20, with its Digicel mobile network returning thanks to SES satellites.

“We have worked closely together with Digicel in the past in the Asia Pacific region, and now we’re able to implement together our Signature Telecom Solution in a record time in Tonga,” SES Networks vice president Imran Malik Khan said.

“We are especially pleased to help Tongan people get back online while efforts to repair the Tonga Cable System cable are taking place.”

Local media reported on Monday that access to social media from Tonga had been filtered out to free up bandwidth.

Soon after the outage happened, Kacific used a Ku-band satellite to provide local ISP Ezinet with internet and voice capacity for priority communications.

The 827km cable between Tonga and Fiji that connects to the Southern Cross Cable went live in August 2013, and was funded jointly by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. It was later extended out to the Ha’apai and Vava’u islands in April last year.

The 60Tbps Southern Cross NEXT cable was originally going to traverse Tonga waters, but was changed to go through Wallis and Fortuna waters instead.

Fiji, Tokelau, and Kiribati have signed onto the $350 million NEXT cable due to go live later this year.

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 islandssubsea 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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Chevrolet Bolt recall: EV production resumes as GM details battery fix

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Chevrolet is resuming Bolt EV and Bolt EUV production, promising to have fixed the battery pack problem that saw multiple cars burst into flame. The automaker also has an update for existing Bolt owners on when they can expect their EV’s battery to be replaced, having warned them recently to park at least 50 feet from other cars and any buildings.

It was an embarrassing – and, in many cases, fairly impractical – escalation of what’s been a nightmare situation for Chevrolet and owner General Motors. Having initially insisted that the burning Bolt issue was an outlier not a persistent flaw, the automaker was forced to concede that the battery manufacturing problem was far more widespread.

Production of the Bolt EV and the Bolt EUV – the crossover-styled version which only launched this year – ceased as Chevrolet attempted to figure out a fix. Now, that solution has apparently been settled. In a statement today, the automaker thanked owners and dealers for their patience, promising new batteries and new software to monitor the packs for safety.

Battery production at supplier LG’s plants in Holland and Hazel Park, Michigan, has resumed, Chevrolet confirmed. LG is also adding capacity so as to be able to provide more cells. Thanks to that, the automaker says to expects to be able to begin shipping replacement battery modules to dealers from mid-October.

Who gets a new Bolt battery first

As for when you might expect to get that replacement battery, GM says it’s basing its scheduling on specific battery build timeframes. It’ll prioritize those Bolt EV and Bolt EUV owners who have vehicles with battery packs manufactured during the specific time periods where it seems defects are most clustered.

New batteries will get an extended limited warranty covering the pack, for 8-years or 100,000 miles. That will be 8-years/160,000 km in Canada.

All Bolt EV and Bolt EUV owners, meanwhile, will get new software, an “advanced diagnostic” package which GM says “will increase the available battery charging parameters over existing guidance.” It’s designed to better spot any of the abnormalities which might suggest the battery is damaged.

It can also better notify signs of those anomalies and prioritize damaged batty modules for replacement. The software will require dealer installation, rather than being pushed out as an over-the-air (OTA) update. GM says it expects that process to begin in around 60 days.

“It is GM’s intent that further diagnostic software will allow customers to return to a 100 percent state of charge once all diagnostic processes are complete,” the automaker says. For the moment, though, there are some straightforward guidelines that Chevrolet owners should follow.

Target Charge Level should be set to 90-percent, limiting the maximum that the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV can be recharged to. There are instructions on how to do that at GM’s Bolt recall site. At the other extreme, owners should avoid running the battery down to under approximately 70 miles (113 km) of range, if possible.

The EVs should be parked outside immediately after charging. Owners shouldn’t leave them charging indoors overnight, either.

Assuming you’re following those guidelines, GM says, the strict 50 foot limit has been dropped. Instead, the automaker suggests, generally leaving more space is wise. ” In an abundance of caution, GM recommends customers leave ample space around their vehicle wherever they choose to park,” the company explains. “GM is not aware of any fires that have occurred where customers followed this safety guidance, in parking decks or otherwise.”

The cause of GM’s Bolt EV battery problems

As for what caused all this headache, GM has given a few more details. Turns out, it’s a combination of two issues, in fact, which trigger a problem when they coincide.

“The root cause of the rare circumstances that could cause a battery fire is two manufacturing defects known as a torn anode and a folded separator,” GM says, “both of which need to be present in the same battery cell.”

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Hey Toyota, where’s the new Tundra BEV?

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It’s not unfair to say we’ve been waiting for quite some time for the new 2022 Toyota Tundra. The full-sized pickup may have become a familiar sight on US roads since it first launched in 2000, but with the second-generation truck debuting all the way back in 2007 it’s a reasonable observation that Toyota’s upgrade cycle hasn’t exactly been rapid.

That sales had been so strong up even as the Tundra aged – comfortably above 100k per year in the US for the past eight years – was a reminder that, even if the Ford F-150 gets more attention, Toyota’s pickup still had plenty of fans. They’ve been waiting eagerly to see what the 2022 Tundra would bring in its third generation.

The answer is a brash new design with a grille that’s already proving to be controversial. A new cabin that’s first to introduce Toyota’s brand new – and much-needed – infotainment system. And a twin-turbocharged V6 gas engine that will be offered as an i-FORCE MAX hybrid.

In short, a mixture of the familiar and the new. That could be a problem, not least when it comes to what’s under the hood.

On paper, the i-FORCE MAX V6 is a competitive drivetrain. Toyota combines the twin-turbo gas engine – that in the standard Tundra is good for 389 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque – with a clutch-driven motor-generator, sandwiched in-between it and the 10-speed automatic transmission. A 288V nickel-metal hydride battery pack provides the juice, and the result is a total of 437 horsepower and 583 lb-ft of torque.

Toyota is, clearly, no stranger to hybrids. Its efforts with the Prius helped push gas-electric into the mainstream, and it has been steadily adding the drivetrain tech to the rest of its range since. The latest Toyota Sienna minivan, for example, is only available as a hybrid now.

Five years ago, then, the Tundra Hybrid would’ve legitimately been a big deal. At this point, however, it’s tough to give Toyota too much credit here, given how the rest of the pickup segment has been moving. What might once have been considered a fairly conservative category has evolved into one of the most ambitious.

Ford, for example, already has a hybrid version of the F-150 on the market. Its 3.5-liter PowerBoost V6 manages 430 hp and 570 lb-ft of torque – in the same ballpark, then, as the Tundra’s – but Ford also uses it to help turn the truck into a mobile generator. With the Pro Power Onboard option, you get up to 7.2 kW of power in the bed to run worksite equipment, a campsite, or even key home appliances during power outages.

Toyota’s big bed tech boast, meanwhile, is a button on the key fob to open the tailgate.

More pressing, though, is the absence of any talk of full electrification for the Tundra. There it’s instantly playing catch-up with rivals: Ford has the F-150 Lightning on track for a launch in fall 2022, for example. Over 150,000 people have already put down reservations for the all-electric pickup, which promises up to around 300 miles of range on a charge.

Chevrolet and Ram are working on their own pickup EVs, with special battery-electric versions of the Silverado and 1500 respectively. Rivian’s R1T may be a less familiar name, but the startup hasn’t been short on hype as it begins deliveries of the quad-motor truck. Tesla’s Cybertruck and plenty of others are working their way to market too, taking advantage of an apparent awakening among pickup buyers to the potential advantages of EVs.

Toyota may well have a Tundra BEV on the roadmap too. Problem is, the automaker isn’t talking about it publicly yet, and while playing your cards close to your chest is good advice in poker, right now it means it’s hard to take the truck seriously at a time of great upheaval in work transportation. That’s doubly the case when, like Toyota, you don’t exactly have the strongest reputation for embracing BEVs in the first place.

There is, at least, a fully-electric Toyota platform coming. e-TNGA will underpin a range of vehicles from the company, including a new SUV. Toyota has also promised two BEVs for North America this year, though hasn’t said exactly what form they’ll take.

In short, though the 2022 Tundra may feel reasonably competitive right now, there’s every chance that the situation will change in relatively short order. Toyota, like Honda, may be reluctant to over-promise and then run the risk of under-delivering, but by remaining coy on EVs it’s doing nothing to upend perceptions that it lacks momentum in the transition to electrification.

There’s a lot to like about the new Tundra. If this third-generation version is to deliver the same longevity as its predecessor, however, Toyota could start with doing a better job at pitching it for the future. After all, the days of a truck being judged solely on torque, payload, and towing power are behind us.

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Honda’s 2024 Prologue EV targets are difficult to believe

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Honda is setting aggressive sales goals for its upcoming all-electric Prologue SUV, though limited availability and concerns around EV subsidies could hamper those ambitions. A collaboration with GM, the Honda Prologue will be based on the Ultium battery-electric platform, though isn’t expected to go on sale until 2024.

Honda has been fairly miserly with details about the SUV, though the general promise is a distinctly Honda-esque vehicle that distinguishes itself from GM models based on the EV platform. An Acura version will follow shortly after that. Beyond Prologue, meanwhile, the automaker plans more EVs using its own e-Architecture platform.

That’s still in development, but Honda needs to get it right. The automaker is aiming for 70,000 annual sales of the Prologue when it arrives in 2024; by 2030, though, it’s anticipating BEV sales of 500,000 each year. Come 2040, Honda insists, it should only be selling electric vehicles. That’s a huge jump from where Honda is today, without a single all-electric model on sale in the US.

Demand for electrified vehicles, Honda insists, has been solid. Vehicles like the CR-V Hybrid and Accord Hybrid have helped make the first half of 2021 its best so far for electrified models, the automaker claims.

Still, it’s fair to say that Honda’s electric transition hasn’t been a straightforward one. Expectations were high for the Clarity series, a broad range of electrified vehicles that included pure-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell models. All have since been discontinued, however, with questions in each case about the market competitiveness of each model.

In contrast, Honda has pushed ahead with regular hybrids: vehicles that combine combustion engines with battery-electric drive that is charged via excess ICE engine power or when the vehicle is braking. These can have a positive impact on fuel economy – the 2022 Insight, for example, is rated for up to 55 mpg in the city – but are far from zero-emissions.

Honda’s argument is that such hybrids offer drivers a reassuring taste of electrification. “We know customers who have a good experience with a hybrid vehicle are more likely to buy a battery electric vehicle in the future,” Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations at American Honda Motor Co., Inc, points out. “Our strategy is focused on introducing a higher percentage of hybrids in core models in the near term, making a committed effort to achieve higher volume leading to the introduction of our Honda Prologue.”

The 2024 Prologue, though, won’t be a golden bullet to Honda’s EV problem. For a start, it’s going to be limited in availability, at least to begin with: just California and the ZEV states. The automaker argues that those regions would comprise the bulk of sales anyway, and that a broader release will follow later on.

Honda’s stance that the buying public needs that sort of convincing is at odds with many of its rivals. GM itself has been pushing ahead with Ultium, with the Cadillac Lyriq already opening for reservations, the GMC Hummer EV over-subscribed, and the promise of a Chevrolet Silverado EV in the relatively near future. Ford, meanwhile, has been even more aggressive, with the Mustang Mach-E proving a hit in the electric crossover segment, and the F-150 Lightning bringing an all-EV version of the best-selling pickup to market in spring 2022.

Even Honda management has conceded that its roadmap may not be as forceful as is required. The European Green Deal, revealed in July, paves the way for zero-emissions-only sales of vehicles in the EU by 2035; that’s five years ahead of the transition on Honda’s all-electric timeline. In the US, it also sees worrying implications around the proposed changes for EV subsidies.

Where the current federal incentive for electric vehicles promises up to $7,500, new proposals could increase that to as much as $12,500. However, in order to qualify for the full amount, automakers would need to not only produce their EVs in the US, but in unionized factories. Honda ticks the first of those boxes, but not the second.

“As with other automakers, Honda’s initial zero emission vehicle sales goals of 40 percent by 2030 are contingent upon fair and equitable access to state and federal EV incentives intended to encourage American consumers to purchase electric vehicles,” the automaker said today. “Honda has urged Congress to ensure that all vehicles made in America are treated equally.”

Tesla – which also operates US factories, but without a union workforce – has also been critical about the possible update to the incentives system. Final changes for the US EV tax credits have not been confirmed at this point.

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