The Electric Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen Will Get A Breakthrough In Battery Tech

Mercedes-Benz Concept Eqg Mercedes Benz Concept Eqg

Mercedes-Benz taps a breakthrough in battery tech, stricter IIHS side-impact test results are in, BMW changes the 3-Series for the sake of change. All this and more on today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Mercedes-Benz And Sila Think There’s Still Plenty Of Life In Lithium

Mercedes-Benz Concept Eqg Mercedes Benz Concept Eqg
Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz

I won’t lie, electric cars are pretty awesome. Clean, quiet, fast, and efficient in stop-and-go cycles, they make killer commuter vehicles. The trouble is that electric cars are heavy because traditional lithium-ion battery tech has rather poor energy density. A typical lithium nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) cell used in most electric cars has an energy density of 0.74 megajoules per kilogram. For context, gasoline has an energy density of around 46 megajoules per kilogram. See why we can’t seem to get enough dino juice? Thankfully, it looks like advancements in battery tech are just around the corner for Mercedes-Benz.

California-based Sila Nanotechnologies was founded by Gene Berdichevsky, an early Tesla employee who left the electric car startup to develop advanced batteries for future electric cars. Thanks to some clever engineering and working with Mercedes-Benz and BMW, these batteries could be closer to production that we think. So how does Sila’s battery work? Well, a large part of it is in the name. Instead of a graphite anode, Sila’s batteries use silicon anodes which have improved energy density over current NCM battery tech and a significantly higher volumetric capacity than graphite anodes. Higher volumetric capacity means faster charging speeds and higher discharge rates. The downside to silicon anodes? Swelling. However, Sila Nanotechnologies claims to be solving silicon’s swelling issue, starting with partial silicon anodes and developing full silicon anodes. This opens the door to cells with 20 to 40 percent greater energy density than traditional NCM cells and a significantly longer lifespan. Mercedes-Benz said in a press release Tuesday to expect high-silicon anodes to make their way into production cars like the upcoming electric G-Class mid-decade. Assuming 2026 at the latest, we’re just four years away from a huge breakthrough in battery tech finding its way into consumer hands. Rich consumer hands given the market positioning of Mercedes-Benz, but still.

Midsize SUVs Do Fairly Well In Tougher IIHS Side-Impact Tests


It’s no secret that the average new vehicle keeps getting bigger, heavier and faster. As such, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has toughened up its side-impact testing procedures with a new sled and new speeds. According to the IIHS, the sled that hits tested vehicles now clocks in at 4,200 pounds, some 900 pounds heavier than the old sled. What’s more, that sled is now traveling 37 mph rather than 31 mph, far more indicative of real-world speeds.

As the new sled is designed to mimic a midsize SUV, it only seems fitting that the IIHS has run 18 midsize SUVs through this new test. How did these SUVs perform? Come on, it’s 2022, of course the majority of them performed well. Let’s run through the IIHS’ results score by score. Scoring a top grade of good, the Ford Explorer, Infiniti QX60, Lincoln Aviator, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Atlas, Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, and Volkswagen ID.4 all sailed through the new test without any issues. But wait, if 10 SUVs did well, eight SUVs must’ve done not so well. Scoring a grade of Acceptable are the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse, a score fully on-brand for those GM crossovers’ mid vibes. On academic probation with a score of marginal are the Honda Passport, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Wrangler four-door, Kia Telluride, and Nissan Murano. Hey, if everything achieves great scores, the test likely isn’t tough enough.

Despite Not Needing A Facelift, The BMW 3-Series Is Getting One Anyway

2023 Bmw 330i 1
Photo credit: BMW

Change for the sake of change is rarely a good thing, but at least BMW’s managed to not completely ruin the 2023 3-Series compact luxury sedan. Honestly, the current car is really good. It’s not offensive to look at, it handles well, the engine lineup is superb, the cockpit is fitting of a compact luxury car, and all models are surprisingly good on fuel. The Cadillac CT4 may drive better but the 3-Series remains an archetype, the Toyota Camry of every dental conference’s parking lot. Still, after four model years on the market, it’s time for the 3-Series to get a facelift.

Now, BMW’s only released images of the M Sport model, but that still gives us something to work with on styling. The new front bumper features a taller lower grille and L-shaped air curtain/trim piece combination elements that honestly look pretty decent. Not as shapely as respective elements on the outgoing car but the minimalist linework seems quite good. The new headlamps are also good, featuring arc-shaped daytime running lights instead of the old car’s U-shaped daytime running lights. Think X3 for the bumper and 5-Series for the headlights, not a massive alteration. Finishing things off is a squared-off set of kidney grilles that actually look to be a reasonable size. What a nice surprise. Out back, things get messier. The new rear bumper would’ve been really great if not for the weird vertical black plastic wings coming off the outer edges of the lower valence, but these wings are no weirder than the NACA duct-inspired trim pieces on the current base rear bumper.

2023 Bmw 330i 2
Photo credit: BMW

On the inside, the new 3-Series gets iDrive 8 with a 14.9-inch infotainment screen and a significantly more legible 12.3-inch digital cluster than on the old car. As ever, there’s a little give and take going on with tech. Standard three-zone climate control is really nice, but no hard buttons for climate control outside of a windshield defrost button isn’t so nice. Likewise, the new knobless shifter will take some getting used to, but standard paddle shifters are a welcome addition. Other than the aforementioned updates and a few new trim options, the 2023 3-Series is completely unchanged. Same great engines, same decent suspension tuning, same comfortable available sport seats. As such, we’d be surprised if pricing changes too much come the 2023 3-Series’ on-sale date this July. I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out.

America’s Road Safety Trends Continue Their Downward Spiral

Miami Traffic Jam, I 95 North Rush Hour
Photo credit: B137 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48998674

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released early data on 2021 road fatalities and man, there’s a smidgen of good news and a whole lot of bad news. The good news is that the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled has dropped slightly to 1.33 from 2020’s 1.34. The bad news? Americans drove 325 billion more miles in 2021 than they did in 2020. Yeah, that means road deaths are up overall to 42,915, some 4,091 fewer people who got to go home over 2020’s figure of 38,824. I’m beginning to think the infamous 2011 Chrysler tweet, “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive” was a sign of things to come across the country.

Now, overall figures and dramatic percentages so commonly presented as news rarely paint a vivid picture, so let’s take the NHTSA’s full report and break things down board by board to see how and where Americans are dying on the roadways. Of the 4,091 new fatalities, only 522 of them were related to speeding. Honestly, that’s not terrible. What is terrible is the pedestrian death count. Crashes killed 7,342 pedestrians last year, up 826 over last year and more than in any year since 1981 according to NHTSA statistics. That means the most vulnerable road users make up 20.19 percent of new fatalities. Now I’m no data scientist, but pedestrian deaths increasing at a faster rate than speeding-related deaths seems to imply that something other than speed is behind the shocking deaths. Gee, I wonder if it has something to do with car buyers’ insatiable thirst for SUVs and IIHS-observed higher pedestrian death rates from SUV impacts. Beyond vehicle choices and road design, the takeaway message is to be an alert and considerate driver. The best active safety system is driver skill and awareness, plain and simple.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on this edition of The Morning Dump. Happy Wednesday everyone, we made it to the middle of the week. While mid-cycle updates, otherwise known as facelifts, are a long-running affair in the auto industry, I’m beginning to wonder if they’re still necessary. Updates to technology are usually a welcome thing, but why spend all the money on revising styling and molding new bumpers, grilles, and brackets, when the funds could be better spent on features that car buyers desire? I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

Lead photo credit: Mercedes-Benz

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34 Responses

  1. Mid cyle refreshes are welcomed in some cases. Ford’s Escape and Explorer both need it, badly. at least the Escape’s is coming, its most needed (the Explorer just looks too flat up front). Hoping Ford does something different for our Explorer vs the revision already released in China.

    1. Now I don’t mean to imply there should be an open season on pedestrians but at what point do we at least look at required rules on the pedestrians side? I mean in the boating world the larger vessel has the right of way. Makes sense the larger the vessel the longer it takes to turn or slow down. In the railroad world it’s also clear the train has the right of way it takes over 1/4 mile to stop a train going like 30mph, so stay off the tracks and look both ways before crossing them. But roads and pedestrians are totally different. It used to be look both ways before crossing the street but now pedestrians cross without looking, not in every case, they no longer even stick to the crosswalk they pop out from between parked cars. And their not even looking they have their noses buried in their phones. They’re mostly hey I got the right of way so I don’t need to look or pay attention everyone has to defer to me. Frankly as an avid walker I always stop look listen and wait for the walk sign when available at an intersection. That being said if you are a pedestrian and you get hit on the sidewalk or someone’s yard or while sitting inside a Starbucks it is 100% not your fault.

      1. Stop trying to victim blame. Drivers by law have to be responsible for their vehicles. As with any mixed-use system, it is entirely the responsibility of the largest and most dangerous user to be the most conscientious of more vulnerable users. It literally doesn’t matter if some pedestrians or cyclists or motorcyclists or equestrians or whatever other strawmen aren’t perfectly law abiding in all cases. Slow down and drive smaller cars for fewer miles if you dont like it.

        1. Stop creating a culture of victimhood. I agree with your statement that the largest and most dangerous user need be most conscientious, but let’s not pretend that there’s no responsibility on the part of the pedestrian. Status as a pedestrian does not automatically make a person innocent or devoid of all responsibility. There’s no amount of safe driving that can stop a pedestrian from being killed if that pedestrian behaves in an irredeemably irresponsible way–now the “victim” is the driver if s/he is made responsible. Therefore, it’s imperative that there be laws that protect the pedestrians from themselves, and pedestrians who ignore it do so with their own lives at stake. Empowering them to think they are legally invulnerable is not a good way to protect citizens.

          I thought the OP did a good job of illustrating the inconsistency of laws on the road versus other right of way issues, but it seems you didn’t take notice.

          1. No, it’s a serious problem that drivers think they’re first among equals when roads are a shared multimodal space, and that real or imagined concepts of right-of-way outweigh due consideration that basically every other road user is going to lose against a two ton+ steel missile regardless of who initiated the conflict on paper. Trains and watercraft are not reasonable analogies because their lanes of travel are not designed to be multimodal like public roads are. If you ride an ebike on a multiuse path and run down a pedestrian on their phone who jumps out at you, you’re still responsible as the faster, more dangerous vehicle. This is also true of cars outside of motor vehicle only signed highways and even true within them as regards small cars and especially motorcycles.

            Acknowledging relative vulnerability of different types of road user isn’t “creating a culture of victimhood,” but declaring drivers are absolved of responsibility for what the vehicles they pilot do because jaywalking sure is.

            This is all to say nothing of distracted or impaired drivers, coal rollers, illegal modifiers, or other drivers in violation of road use law. If the simple fact of their existence doesn’t paint self-reported good drivers with collective guilt as the OP is doing with non-motorized road users, then there must be a different root cause to the increasing pedestrian death stats. Perhaps the increase in miles driven and concurrent increase in size, weight, and power of new vehicles is itself the problem, as indicated by other comments. Yes everyone should pay more attention and behave more safely, but if you won’t take the responsibility inherent in the vehicle you are operating, take the damn bus.

            1. You do realize since the invention of the automobile streets were designed for vehicular transport. But recently people decide a freeway or highway or some other heavy volume roadway should be open go scooters, Segway, bicycles,and pedestrians. The roads were not designed for all this and stupid politicians passing ignorant laws doesn’t make it so. I believe everyone should have access intheir desired mode of transport but passing a law that a 80 000 pound semi coming down a road at even 25mph needs to stop on a dime for a pedestrian who thinks they ha e a right a way is just plain stupid.

        2. Try reading I went out of my way to not be victim blaming bur yeah liberals are ignorant. If you had the very least amount of intelligence you’d think about the situation which of course liberals don’t. It is a matter of physics. You have a 300 ton train coming down a railroad track and a bus load of babies attempting to cross the tracks. Yeah the babies are the most sacred and tops to protect. But sorry I don’t care what law you pass that train will take 5 miles to stop. Liberals just don’t seem to get no matter what law you pass sometimes physics won’t make it possible. Also let’s talk economics. Yeah Bidens spending billions to help people and I’m all for helping them. But everything he’s doing is causing inflation so saving people a dime on gas but causing the price of gas to increase by 25 cents so he’s hurting them not helping them I just wish more people were educated enough to know what really helps the people who need help instead of just being ignorant.

      2. > in the boating world the larger vessel has the right of way. Makes sense the larger the vessel the longer it takes to turn or slow down.

        My understanding is that in the boating world, the unpowered vessel has right of way over the powered vessel. So, if we’re to compare boating to driving, given a car and a pedestrian, which corresponds to the motorboat, and which to the canoe?

    2. If you think running over a pedestrian is ever consequence free you’re very wrong.

      We need to stop incentivizing the creation and purchase of vehicles that are less safe for pedestrians. Consequences only help if you’re trying to prevent intentionally hitting a pedestrian. And thankfully that is still exceedingly rare.

  2. “According to the IIHS, the sled that hits tested vehicles now clocks in at 4,200 pounds, some 900 pounds heavier than the old sled. What’s more, that sled is now traveling 37 mph rather than 31 mph, far more indicative of real-world speeds.”

    The result is predictable. Manufacturers will change their vehicles to score better on the test by making them bigger and heavier. Test results will improve, but real-world safety will not, as larger vehicles will mean the tests no longer reflect real world conditions. This madness will continue until SUVs reach infinite mass, or the tests vehicle safety rating includes a component for how much damage they inflict rather than just how well they protect the occupants.

    1. This has been going on for a very, very long time, too.
      Did you know the all steel and cast iron behemoth of a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air weighs about the same as a 2022 Porsche 911 GT3? Yep. About 3250lbs.
      “The test is harder!” -> “Fuck it, adding steel is cheap.” -> “Now the sled is heavier because the average went up.” -> “Fuck it, adding steel is cheap.”

      Real world safety is not at all improved, as you correctly point out, and often it’s worse. Roads degrade faster because they were figuring 10,000 cars weighing 3500lbs average, not 5000lbs average. Bridges fail faster for the same reason. Manufacturing costs go up slightly because of the increased materials. Owners get worse performance and worse gas mileage.

      Literally nobody is winning with this shit. Assigning a score based on damage the vehicle does won’t ever, ever happen, because of regulatory capture. Fuck’s sake, we don’t even have an actual pedestrian safety program in this country.
      “Wait, what? But they have all that stuff about Pedestrian Detection Systems!”
      Yeah. None of it’s actual regulations. They’re still testing the test for PDS + AEB and there’s no actual rulemaking going on. There’s also no actual testing for pedestrian collisions, so they borrow EuroNCAP for research. And were genuinely surprised that huge pickups and non-EU models scored atrociously for pedestrian safety when they tested a very small sample set of US model cars (9 in total.) The only ones that even remotely did well were the ones that were mechanically identical to the EU model front ends.
      And you know why we never will? Because they’d have to include things that cost money like active hoods, moldings that cost a couple pennies more, and a few dollars of foam (which is why the US Focus is basically illegal in Europe.)

      https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.gov/files/documents/sae2018bsuntay.pdf
      https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-20-419

  3. I think Porsche does facelifts the best by assigning an updated internal code to make the LCI changes easy to follow ( Porsche 992.1 vs 992.2 for example), rather than having to be an encyclopedia of model years.

    As for the BMW 3 series, it’s good to see they’re keeping the space saver spare tire option – far too rare these days!

  4. I think usage of the huge A-pillars in new cars also has something to do with increased pedestrian deaths. There are times things pop out from the A-pillars of my 2018-vintage car and frankly it’s pretty scary. I never have that problem in my ’88-vintage car.

    1. I also wonder how much driver distraction has to do with pedestrian fatalities. Cars with screen-based menus are not exactly conducive to watching where the hell you’re going (and every new car now comes with one or more screens).

  5. Small gripe about these articles: You semi-regularly reference things that are not pictured and sometimes there isn’t even an external link to go look at for context. For example:

    “Likewise, the new knobless shifter will take some getting used to”

    With no pictures of said shifter and no links at all in that section. Would be nice if there was a link to their press release (or just include the picture here) so we can go see for ourselves without having to search for it.

  6. Mid cycle refreshes aren’t to benefit the consumer. They exist to limit the status associated with driving a newish car to those who purchased in the last few years. They make the older, mostly identical car seem out of date sooner driving sales.

  7. Vehicle choice and road design aside, pedestrian deaths will increase. Road design is what will best reduce deaths. Changing the regulatory carve outs to either make vehicles with big enough approach and departure angles still be less deadly or changing the definition of when those regulatory reliefs apply so commuter vehicles can’t loophole in with actual work trucks would help too.

    1. Instead of making roads worse for drivers so that idiots driving big, lumbering, pedestrian killing vehicles are less able to accidentally hit pedestrians, how about we stop driving people towards the types of vehicles that are most prone to being involved in these accidents.

      The point of roads should be efficient transit. Traffic enraging (er… calming?) is counter to that. Making a thing worse for its intended purpose shouldn’t be the go-to solution to solving a problem.

  8. First, I’ll start by saying you do a great job with this feature. Things are normally upbeat and there isn’t a sense of hatred towards automobiles. Having said that, of course miles and deaths were up in 2021. People were going back to work, going on road trips and generally doing all the things they did pre-pandemic. How do the numbers for 2021 compare to 2019? That might be a more fair comparison. With all of that I agree that roadways are worse. Many have commented on the increase of aggressive driving since the pandemic started and I see it almost every day. In the end I think comparisons with driving between 2020 and 2021 aren’t going to mean a whole lot.

  9. The whole system of car related death stats is broken in my country.About 10-15 years ago police started putting speed as the major factor is ALMOST ALL accidents, and no one in authority called them out on it. This -and government greed- led to incredibly harsh ‘speeding’ fines while road deaths continue to increase.
    The truth is driving standards are appalling and getting worse 🙁

    1. Oops, posted too soon – gasoline has about 46 MJ/kg, while the current Li+ NMC cathode, graphite anode 2170 cells used by Tesla in the 3 & Y are about 0.9 MJ/kg for just the 2170 cell itself, which drops down to the 0.7-0.8 MJ/kg once you consider the whole pack structure etc

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