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Spark extends Cat-M1 IoT network across New Zealand

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Spark’s Cat-M1 IoT coverage


(Image: Spark)

Spark has extended its Cat-M1 Internet of Things (IoT) network to 98 percent of the New Zealand population.

The Cat-M1 network is deployed across 96 percent of Spark’s 4G sites, with the carrier expecting to add more than 2,000 new IoT devices every week.

“On top of being an IoT network and mobile service provider, Spark will also expand its suite of IoT services, a move that will see us work with best-in-class partners to enable startups to enterprises to solve problems,” Spark’s Digital Services head Michael Stribling added.

Spark said its first major Cat-M1 IoT customer is smart metering provider IntelliHub, which previously had to use 2G networks for its services.

“We are using Spark’s new Cat-M1 network to service our current nationwide deployment as we accelerate the installation of 150,000 smart meters to a large portion of [wholesale internet, gas, and electricity provider] Trustpower’s customer base,” IntelliHub CEO Adrian Clark said.

“This is a business-first technology rollout and we are … starting in Tauranga for Trustpower with the help of Spark.”

Clark said IntelliHub will also use the Spark Cat-M1 network to expand into the IoT services of smart gas metering, solar monitoring, and “demand response applications”.

Spark is expecting its Cat-M1 network to provide for use cases across smart city infrastructure, horticulture machinery tracking, video surveillance, biometrics, outpatient monitoring, telematics, and smart wearables.

The carrier had lit up the network in September last year, saying it would run on the 700MHz and 1800MHz spectrum bands. At the time, the network provided coverage to parts of Auckland, Hamilton, Dunedin, Christchurch, Tauranga, and Wellington, but it was aiming to cover 95 percent of places in New Zealand within six months.

“M1 is a secure, high-quality network, ideal where sensors and devices are transferring data regularly and near real-time access to that data is critical,” Stribling said last year.

“We’re working with customers on a broad range of use cases for M1, driven by its nationwide coverage and high performance. Great examples include vehicle telematics, smart metering, smart health devices, and smart cities applications such as lighting and environmental monitoring.”

Last March, Spark also launched its LoRaWAN IoT network in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Shannon, Blenheim, Nelson, and Dunedin.

The LoRa IoT network consists of gateways and antennas installed atop Spark’s 4G cell sites, with the telco using Actility’s ThingPark Wireless platform, Kerlink’s gateways, and Kordia to build and maintain the network, which it said could be used for smart cities applications.

“Councils will be able to use the smart lighting technology to manage streetlights remotely, applying bespoke dimming profiles, monitoring maintenance, and turning them on or off as needed,” Spark NZ said.

“This will enable them to respond faster to community requests, events, and changes in daylight to keep streets safer for people, save power and reduce carbon emissions.”

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Mercedes-Benz unveils T-Class and EQT all-electric concept based on new Renault Kangoo

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We weren’t expecting Mercedes-Benz to unveil an MPV or small van, much less an all-electric microvan, but here it is. First off, the Mercedes EQT concept looks fantastic. It mends the styling attributes of a practical people carrier and a small luxury conveyance. Mercedes-Benz will debut two versions of the T-Class: Internal combustion (gasoline and diesel) and the EQT all-electric version.

“We are expanding our portfolio in the small van segment with the forthcoming T-Class,” said Marcus Breitschwerdt, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “It will appeal to families and all those private customers, whatever their age, who enjoy leisure activities and need a lot of space and maximum variability without forgoing comfort and style.”

Let’s start with the Mercedes T-Class, the one arriving with a slew of gasoline and diesel engines in Europe. Based on the all-new, third-gen Renault Kangoo, the T-Class is riding on Renault’s CMF-B platform, capable of supporting internal combustion and all-electric powertrains.

Measuring 4,945 mm in length, 1,863 mm wide, and 1,866 mm high, the T-Class has seven seats, two sliding doors, and second-row seats that can accommodate up to three child seats. The concept is wearing premium white Nappa leather upholstery, but we’re expecting the production version to get wear-resistant nylon materials in lower-trim models.

Of course, MBUX infotainment will come standard, and Mercedes promises the dashboard and control layouts of the concept will make it to production. It will arrive with a slew of advanced safety features and driving aids like automatic emergency braking, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, trailer stability control, and crosswind assist, to name a few.

Meanwhile, the EQT all-electric version is a hardware clone of the Renault Kangoo E-Tech Electric model, and it’s the ninth member of Mercedes-Benz’s all-electric EQ family. The concept bears tasty exterior bits like a black panel grille with 3D star-effect lighting, futuristic LED taillights, and a full-width LED light bar in the rear. It also has 21-inch aero wheels wrapped in low-profile tires and a unique bottle-shaped panoramic glass roof.

Admittedly, the production EQT will be a toned-down version of the concept seen here. Then again, Mercedes-Benz claims the packaging, body style, and practical features will remain unchanged, and that’s good news. Powertrain options for the EQT remain unannounced, but we have an idea.

Most likely, the EQT will have a single electric motor pumping out 101 horsepower, drawing juice from a 45 kWh battery pack as the Renault Kangoo E-Tech Electric. The driving range is around 165 miles using the WLTP cycle.

The Mercedes-Benz T-Class and EQT will make their official debut later this year. Production is at Renault’s MCA factory in Maubeuge, France, where both the T-Class and EQT are built alongside the Renault Kangoo and Kangoo E-Tech Electric.

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Porsche makes a huge promise for its most important EV

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The Porsche Taycan showed the German sports car company was taking EVs seriously, but it’ll be the arrival of the new Macan EV which really tips the scales toward electrification. Porsche isn’t quite ready to unveil the all-electric Macan quite yet, but it’s already making some big promises about the EV version of its best-seller.

It’s fair to say the Macan has been a huge deal for Porsche. Though the automaker may be best known for its 911 sports car, available as a coupe, a convertible, and a Targa, it’s crossovers and SUVs which have padded the bottom line for some time now.

In Q1 2021, for example, Macan led Porsche sales in North America, closely followed by its bigger Cayenne sibling. Indeed, Porsche sold more examples of the Macan in those three quarters than it did 911 and 718 models combined. In short, if you’re going to make an all-electric version of your most popular nameplate, you need to get it absolutely right.

Porsche’s answer to that challenge is built on the Premium Platform Electric (PPE), an electric-only architecture the automaker co-developed with VW Group stablemate Audi. Indeed, the Macan EV will be the first Porsche product to use PPE. Focused on luxury performance electric vehicles – rather than mainstream EVs as VW Group’s MEB is focused on – there’s plenty of flexibility in how PPE can be configured.

For example, Porsche and Audi have already talked about the capability of rear-wheel drive single motor setups, and all-wheel drive dual motor versions. Body styles, too, can be configured in multiple ways, with up to a 100 kW battery pack nestled into the wheelbase. In the case of the Audi A6 e-tron – a barely-disguised nod to the upcoming luxury electric car the automaker has planned for a few years out – that means a sedan, but PPE can just as easily be adapted for crossovers, SUVs, and other designs. Audi, for example, will use the platform for its Q6 all-electric SUV that’s expected to be unveiled at the end of 2022.

The all-electric Porsche Macan, meanwhile, is being planned for 2023, the automaker says. It’ll use 800-volt architecture – like the Taycan and Taycan Cross Turismo – for faster charging times along with greater performance. Indeed, Porsche isn’t holding back on its speed commitment, promising “the all-electric Macan will be the sportiest model in its segment.”

For the moment, physical prototype Macan EV models are just headed out to the road. Porsche’s development so far has been virtual, using simulations to model the design of the crossover EV more effectively. That includes the aerodynamic work which is so important for electric vehicles, to cut drag and improve range.

In parallel, however, there’ll also be another conventionally-powered version of the Macan – using gas engines still – that will be on sale alongside the Macan EV.

“Demand for electric vehicles continues to rise, but the pace of change varies considerably across the world,” Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board at Porsche, explains. “That’s why we’re going to launch another conventionally powered evolution of the current Macan in the course of 2021.”

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Subaru Solterra electric SUV confirmed as brand’s first AWD EV

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Subaru has revealed details on its new, first all-electric model, and if you were worried there wouldn’t be enough EV SUVs around to choose between, the Subaru Solterra should settle those concerns. The new name is a combination of the Latin words for “Sun” and “Earth,” the automaker says, in a nod to its “commitment to deliver traditional SUV capabilities in an environmentally responsible package.”

That is, of course, pretty much what every automaker says about their new electric vehicle. What could make the Subaru Solterra special is the e-SUBARU Global Platform it debuts.

It’s the handiwork of a collaboration between Subaru and Toyota. Subaru contributed its experience with all-wheel drive, while Toyota brought the electrification part to the recipe. We should see the Solterra launch in 2022, across the US, Canada, China, Europe, and Japan.

The automaker is tight-lipped on just what to expect from e-SUBARU, though we do have some prior knowledge. On Toyota’s side, the architecture is known as e-TNGA, and it’s designed from the outset to be especially flexible. Toyota, for example, is talking about using it for front-, rear-, and all-wheel drive configurations.

Only a handful of dimensions are fixed: the length and width of the motors, for example, and the battery pack which is mounted under the cabin. Everywhere else – including front and rear overhangs, overall vehicle width, and wheelbase – there’s flexibility to adjust size, depending on the requirements of segment, cabin space, and room for cargo.

Toyota plans to tap that flexibility for a whole series of EVs, not just the C-segment SUVs that both it and Subaru have already confirmed are on the roadmap. For Subaru, so far only the Solterra has been announced. It also seems likely that – given the brand’s reputation for AWD – it’ll skip any front- or rear-wheel drive versions.

What isn’t uncertain is that Subaru is onboard with the idea that electrification is the future. Back in January 2020, the automaker predicted that by mid-2030 it would be building electric vehicles only.

Still to be confirmed about this first example of Subaru’s EV strategy are details like power and range, not to mention pricing. In the US, Subaru is still at the start of its federal tax credits for EVs, relatively speaking, given currently it only offers PHEVs not full-electric models in its range. That could help take some of the sting out of any price premium that the new electric platform might demand. We’ll know more as the Solterra gets closer to launch.

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