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Mercedes-Benz shows off the first fully electric heavy urban transport truck (techcrunch.com)
268 points by felixbraun on July 27, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 198 comments



The "externality" most discussed is generally carbon emissions, for obvious reasons. It used to be particulates, for local health reasons. Noise rarely gets a mention.

But, if someone from an all electric future was dropped off in 2016 i think they'd really notice noise above everything else. Traffic noise in cities is a massive "silent" irritant. Even outside of cities, it's amazing how far you need to be from a road to hear unadulterated wilderness. Off-road, dirt bikes, quads, water craft and such can really impact enjoyment of outdoor recreational places.

I don't think the psychological impacts of this are fully understood, but it is understood that they aren't trivial. The whole world will get so much more peaceful with combustion engines out of the picture.

Air travel is the one area where reducing noise would carry an obvious economic benefit to airlines. Unfortunately it's the one of hardest ones to solve.


Unfortunately electric cars won't solve the noise problem. The graph on http://www.leiserstrassenverkehr.bayern.de/laerm/entstehung/ (a German government website) compares the engine noise ("Antriebsgeräusch") with the tire noise ("Rollgeräusch") for different speeds ("Gesamtgeräusch" means "total noise"). The yellow line is for trucks, the blue lines for cars.

As you can see at a speed of 40 kph (25 mph) a car's tire noise is already higher than the engine noise and at even higher speed the engine noise doesn't really matter anymore. So even if your electric car engine is absolute silent, the total noise at speeds above 30 mph won't be all that different.

The only real solution is electric cars plus significantly reduced speed limits.


That must only be comparing standard passenger sedans. I live at the intersection of a busy street and your typical motorized car is barely audible through the window. Cars are not the problem.

The vehicles that shake the apartment are pickup trucks (low rumble), sport cars (high pitched tear), transport trucks (big rumble), and motorcycles (little explosions that set off car alarms). Electric container trucks would be a huge win for ambient noise.


I also live close to a very busy intersection and I have to agree with you. I'll add though that when you leave your window open then general car noise definitely becomes a problem, and also wanted to add that I for myself would ban honking, it's one of the worst feelings in the world to be woken up at 8 in the morning by guys or ladies honking their car for 5 seconds or more.


Honking in non-emergency situations is already banned in most countries. The laws just aren't enforced.


I'm also living at such a busy street. It's a big difference compared to a house in a quiet street without any traffic.

Keeping the window open during night is a huge problem now. In my old home I did that always, now I have to fight against the heat in the rooms or the noise.

Also looking a movie with open windows is not much fun. The cars stop at the traffic lights, the engines start crying when the light turns green and I missed part of a dialog...

That beeing said, choose your home carefully. Especially when you lived before in a quiet neighborhood.


I lived in an intersection like you and now I have lots of health issues and I'm extra sensitive to smog..it makes life much harder and shortens life-span. All I can say is that it's not worth to live in a place like that...move somewhere else if you can


Yellow lines are trucks and blue lines are cars. The graph actually shows that until around 60 km/h it's mostly the motor noise that's a problem with trucks.


That analysis is missing a important factors. Engine output varies greatly, and they get a lot louder when the vehicle is accelerating hard or going up a hill. And average noise is not very important, peak noise is far more so.

I don't doubt that tire noise dominates on average, but engine noise from big trucks is far louder at peak. At least for the roads near my house, typical traffic is a steady ignorable hum, but when big trucks go by uphill or start moving from a stoplight, they make so much noise I can barely hear myself think.

Cars are similar, usually much smaller in magnitude. Every so often you get some silly person who thinks a bad muffler makes his car fast and compete with the big trucks.

Electrification may not bring down average noise levels much, but it'll still make it a lot more pleasant to be near a busy road.


Engines have a different sound profile that makes comparing the sounds produced a little more complex. Further, on a highway the worst offenders have much worse engine noise than average.

Also, you can do a lot to reduce tire noise with things like low-noise asphalt, but it's rather pointless when your also using an IC engine. http://www.roadtraffic-technology.com/features/feature126199...


Concrete is the worst, you can hear the roar from concrete road miles away. Porous tarmac is much quieter and much safer, in S Wales UK I remember vividly a trial many years ago on a section of the M4. In very heavy rain, on the normal tarmac - much standing water, aquaplaning risk, low visibility, huge spray, then onto the porous section - zero spray, no standing water, was amazing like night and day. They never implemented though, double the cost, so not worth the many lives it would save!


Almost all roads in the Netherlands are made with the porous tarmac, it solves many problems, but it will not last as long as the non porous variant and is indeed more expensive...


Thanks for sharing this graph! I've often wondered about tire vs. engine noise, and this answers all my questions in one succinct graph.

From my point of view, this data makes me optimistic, because I'm most bothered by noise when I'm walking beside the road on city streets, which are below 50km/h, and the graph promises a noticeable improvement in that area.


Doesn't the graph on that site show that electric trucks would be a huge win for lower noise in the city? I would be interested in the standard deviations of these line plots, because I would guess that the engine noise varies much more depending on the acceleration of the truck. I am not that much annoyed by a truck driving with constant speed, but much more annoyed by a truck which is heavily accelerating. And maybe 9 out of 10 trucks passing by are just driving with constant speed but the 10th will be the one which is annoying because it is accelerating.


Electric scooters are almost completely silent (at 40km/h). So I'd say there's a lot of potential for lower noise tires. I guess at the moment there's just no optimization towards low noise profile. And I assume it'll be with trade-offs.

On wet streets the noise from the tires is also a lot louder. Another thing we're completely used to. But once you pay attention to this, you realize just how much louder it actually is.


Electric scooters have a much smaller tire surface area, which is probably a big part of it. Wet roads, too, caused by that -- more area to slap water.

I don't even hear the tires on the little Google Pods they're driving around Mountain View these days, which seems to have little bitty tires like a smart (wise for efficiency), but the drive is quite audible. As an aside, it's oddly futuristic, though; I think they did that on purpose because when it goes by I get confused and think I'm in Star Trek for a minute. It genuinely sounds like background foley in Hollywood future movies, and I'm not sure I really mind it.

I'd laugh if Google put all this money and time into self-driving cars, a big executive-involved project at a behemoth, and in the end the engineers gave it the Star Trek background-whirr noise on purpose.


This is very true.

I live in the country and my house is about 100-feet off a rural highway with a 65-mph speed limit. Being Texas, most folks are going a bit faster.

One of my neighbors has a Tesla. It's no quieter at these speeds than the numerous diesel pickups that inhabit these parts -- the tire noise is amazingly loud. Luckily this road isn't very heavily traveled or I'd be tempted to build a berm or other noise abatement obstruction.


Or better engineering for the tires, emphasizing also their sound profiles. Tire tech has advanced a lot in the past 20 years, I imagine that adding another coordinate for optimization would be doable, albeit hard.


>>The only real solution is electric cars plus significantly reduced speed limits.

Which isn't a solution as it would be like saying "the only real solution is no automobile (cars/vehicles)", because people will want ever more speeds.

So I guess, we must look for other better solutions. Somewhere I read that some chemistry researchers (AFAIK at Purdue university) are trying to improve the road building material/tyre surface material such that the noise caused by the impact of tyres on the roads is reduced. They claim that the noise caused by the impact of the speeding tyres on the road-surface is a very large noise cause.

Sorry for not being able to provide link.



Interesting graph, but I don't think we can say cutting tire noise won't help. While tire noise is significant, so is engine noise.

If electric cars are "half" the noise problem of ICE ones, that's still a huge win.


actually, another solution is the roads.

there were some experiments years ago that don't seem to have gone anywhere because of costs, where old tires were ground up and added into the asphalt for new roads - at a HUGE difference.

I think no one has really been making an effort in this area lately, but doesn't make it impossible.


> significantly reduced speed limits.

Booo... Booo skrause. Boooo.

I don't know german, does that account for road type? I know the tire noise in my car is freaking horrible on the lousy plain concrete highway, but drops off nicely as soon as I hit any nicer material.


Why boo? Reduced speed maps to vastly reduced pedestrian death and injury, encourages increased bicycle road share, and allows reduced lane sizes which increases the usable land in urban environments.

All good things IMO.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXag4HcSfdc

If we are talking about reducing speeds below 40 we are probably talking about highways as more urban areas are typically lower already.


The speeds in the article are in km/h, not miles/h. Residential zones in Germany are 30 km/h, larger inner-city roads are usually 50 km/h, so this very much applies to cities too.


ah derp. Proper units.

Too much time in the states with silly freedom units.


So what was that thing about wanting to add artificial noise to electric cars for safety reasons because you normally can't hear them coming? Was that just bogus stuff from someone?


> The only real solution is electric cars plus significantly reduced speed limits.

No, hover cars; no road noise if you don't touch the road.


Wind noise.


No tire noise.

Just a million angry hornets from the ducted fans.


Please use the standard km/h instead of kph.


This - after leaving the city to live by the sea I hugely notice all traffic noise when I come back to London - it's just never ending. Much of London is blighted by aircraft noise too - again I never gave it much thought and believed my London garden was tranquil and calm, but in my new place I can easily go hours without being disturbed. And when a plane does fly over it's so much higher - I can't believe West London puts up with it.

That said - I now really notice the diesel smell and the fumes in central London. I used to cycle through it every day and couldn't see what the problem was, but as soon as I get off the tube I can smell the stink of smoke lorries and buses.


> And when a plane does fly over it's so much higher - I can't believe West London puts up with it.

I lived at various times in Fulham, Putney and Richmond, and worked directly under the flight path.

What choice do most people have? All the MPs in the area are against adding a runway at Heathrow, as are all past and current mayors of London, but expanding the airport still hasn't been ruled out.

Anyone unfamiliar could look here, and see the trail of planes approaching LHR over London: https://www.flightradar24.com/51.51,-0.19/11 (flights are restricted at night, which will be about 2200-0400 UTC)


I lived in Fulham for 2 years and on the one or two days that Heathrow was shut down there was a strange unsettling silence. It would usually take a good 15 minutes to realize there wasn't a plane flying overhead every 90 seconds.


Wow... plane noise flying above you (how high?) every 90 seconds? all day!?

How can you live with that amount of noise? isn't it like way too much?

And of course I don't mean you you but in general people living there.


In Fulham, they're just under 3000ft.

In Richmond, about 1800ft.

In Hounslow, around 1000ft to under 200ft as they cross the perimeter of the airport.

Many of these planes are large jets, 747s and similar. You can usually see the next plane before the first has disappeared from view, and hear both. Between 270,000 and 700,000 people are affected by the noise, depending who you believe.

After renting a house directly under the flight path as a student, I tried never to do so again. Places under the flightpath are slightly cheaper, although anyone new to the area probably doesn't realise the extent of the problem until it's too late.

I didn't think about it for my employer though, and worked for several years directly on the approach path. On some days it wasn't possible to hold a conversation outside. I felt it led to constant stress. On a rare day with no noise (e.g. after the volcanic eruption in Iceland) everyone seemed so happy and relaxed ­— as if it were the first day of nice weather in spring after a month of rain.

The airport publish this map: http://myneighbourhood.bksv.com/lhr/ which shows that in many areas, there is noise (by some definition) for more than half of the day. (Make sure to tick landing approaches at the bottom.)


I used to live under the approach/departure paths to one of the runways at MSP.

Landings are for all intents and purposes silent. I could sit on the deck and watch airliners landing all day long because they are completely throttled back at that point.

Takeoff, OTOH is a whole other issue. By the time they got over my house in south Minneapolis, they were already turning away (noise abatement procedures I guess), and you got used to it after a while but it was still grating. I learned pretty quick which days to keep the windows closed :-(


> Landings are for all intents and purposes silent

What altitude were the planes?

Over Fulham (in London), it's about 3000ft and they're audible as a background rumble. They're so frequent the noise never really stops.

By Richmond at 1800ft it's not possible to have a British-volume conversation outside (Americans might be OK…). By Hounslow (down to ~200ft as they cross the airport boundary) it's uncomfortable.

Heathrow's own numbers say 700,000 Londoners have >55dBA noise from flights. (This is mostly landings, as prevailing winds mean take-off is usually away from London.)

[PDF!] http://www.heathrow.com/file_source/HeathrowNoise/Static/a_q...


I went to a college which was a five minute car ride from an airport. An airport which is used for mixed civilian/military use. So we had fighter jets flying over campus almost every day along with the regular coterie of commercial jetliners.

It was really bothersome at first but eventually your mind can block it out. Now I live next to a rail track and the train noises don't bother me at all (although they are definitely much less severe).

YMMV though. It probably helped my brain was younger then.


I remember noticing it when I first moved there but you get used to it very quickly. I was always amused at how much my family commented on it when they came to visit because I didn't really register it anymore.


Maybe Heathrow Airport could follow the example of John Wayne Airport, which is in the middle of Orange County, California. Airplanes have to land in a corkscrew pattern and take off at very sharp angles in order to minimize the noise disturbance in the surrounding suburbs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corkscrew_landing


At John Wayne the sharp turn is to avoid directly overflying built-up areas. That's not really possible at Heathrow, London is everywhere.


True - we don't have a lot of choice sadly (other than to live east) but the blight it adds to some stunning areas in London and to the south west is insane. We wouldn't put up with trains being that noisy!


If you are a bright young thing then the air in Central London matters not, neither does the noise or the ever present danger of getting run over. But, once you have seen the bright lights and spent some time working somewhere 'trendy', then the things like air quality, local community, noise, access to green space and less overcrowding really does matter, even if you are not with a family.

However, some people are more sensitive to noise (and pollution) than others. Peace and quiet is actually a nightmare to some, not something to be cherished. I would prefer to hear the wind breezing through the trees and bird song, most people would prefer to blot this out with music or TV. It does concern me that I share this planet with so many people that care so little about such things!!! What hope is there for a better world? How does anyone concentrate at the top of their faculties when their senses are just polluted with noise?

Regarding West London, this is the sweet spot for London. There is better air around Bushey Park, Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common and the bits of green in between. At the top of somewhere like Kingston Hill the air is not the same as down in the West End.

Due to prevailing wind directions, East London is not as good as the West. The transport links are not as good either, whether that be road or public transport.

Back to the plot of the article, I don't see why a hybrid variant can't be done with trucks to take them from the town centre to the ring road. In that way the engine can operate at peak efficiency on trunk roads and motorways and the electric drive train can deliver efficiencies in the city or town.

I am sure that the likes of Mercedes have considered this but there must be some economic reasons why this has not happened. I am amazed that basic stop-start technology has taken so long to happen. This is a no-brainer with no technical difficulties and an obvious saving to all. But we waited decades for that, probably phased out by lead in petrol...


> I now really notice the diesel smell and the fumes in central London.

Completely agree, the noise is pretty bad, that said you can tune it out or sound insulate your home. I find the fumes from traffic the real pain point of city living.

From what I understand ozone and particles with sizes of 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5) are a key part of it and are damaging to our bodies. Some of these particles are small enough to cross the air/blood barrier in our lungs and disrupt cell function. At a minimum you'll have increased inflammation of the respiratory passages which makes things like pollen and pet allergies wrose.

I'd recommend anyone living in a city to invest in a good air purifier from BlueAir or IQAir (if you can afford it).

It's amazing how bad particulate counts (which inflame our respiratory passages) get on certain days of the year.

Few great sites to track pollution in your area are:

London specific: http://www.londonair.org.uk

International: http://aqicn.org/city/london/


When I flew into Heathrow last year, I was amazed by how visible the pollution was- over central London, there were no clouds (there were clouds around the outskirts) but this vague, blue haze was quite noticeable.

Although compared to Shanghai, London is really clean, if you live in Shanghai you keep your windows permanently shut and run an air purifier 24/7: http://aqicn.org/city/shanghai/

> I'd recommend anyone living in a city to invest in a good air purifier from BlueAir or IQAir (if you can afford it).

Another, more environmentally friendly option: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmn7tjSNyAA

Also basil plants are a natural mosquito repellent, might not be an issue in the UK though.


Good info. I have a Peace Lily in pretty much every room except the kids which has an Areca Palm (non-toxic).

They do sod all for my pollen allergies - only an air purifier has brought it under control (anti-histamine free now).

One thing which did dismay me is just how baffled IQAir/BlueAir were when I asked if I can recycle the filter media or if they are biodegradeable.

If you are in China checkout SmartAir, clever startup which is blowing up the air purifier market (in a good way): http://smartairfilters.com/en/


I'm on a balcony right up against national forest land as I'm typing this. My typing is the loudest thing I hear. If I stop typing, I don't just hear birds and wind, I hear insects. Lots of them. When I lived in NYC, it was incredibly loud, I was very aware of this, there's nothing at all silent about it. I think after a number of years people aren't merely used to it being noisy, they have some amount of permanent hearing damage, they're just not phased by delivery trucks banging around, sirens blaring, wheels on tracks squealing. There is certainly a lot of room for improvement when it comes to noise.


This will help reduce engine noise, as well as stink and heat from the truck's exhaust, both of which will be nice. Buses are also loud in city streets and both trucks and buses use braking systems that are fairly loud. I don't know what braking systems these will use but I'm guessing it still needs to be pretty heavy duty and could still be loud.


For context, the unique sound of heavy truck braking is when they use their engine to save pads.

There are places where engine compression braking is specifically prohibited due to noise concerns.

See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compression_release_engine_b... (also called Jake brake by truckers)


Had to Google it, since I've never heard it in Europe:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPRLOyWKxmk


I'm not sure if engine brakes cause the city braking noise though. I tend to notice more of the air brake sounds when the air pressure get released.


> I don't know what braking systems these will use

Er… regenerative? Short of emergency braking which should almost never be necessary in city traffic.


Regenerative brakes typically can't handle hard braking braking. In Teslas for example it's paired with regular disc brakes, but those brakes are rated for 100,000 miles because of the reduced wear. I would expect this truck to have regular (loud) air brakes installed, but they might be used less often if the driver brakes early & gently enough for regen to do the whole job.


Regenerative brakes can handle hard braking, but you need some place to dump the energy. Locomotives use big resistive iron grids and fans for this. Those are in the "ears" seen on the sides of modern Diesel-electric locomotives. Electric cars usually don't have that.

A heavy truck, though, probably should. Dynamic braking is great for going down long grades, because the motors and resistors can handle the load continuously without overheating. Some power can go back into the battery, but the battery may not be able to take it all, due to charging rate limitations.


> Regenerative brakes typically can't handle hard braking braking.

Which I very specifically noted…


But if you're driving a 20-ton truck, even routine braking will probably be "hard" braking.


Presumably if the motors are beefy enough to accelerate that 20-ton truck, they're beefy-enough to regeneratively brake it as well, right? I mean, still not as quickly as friction brakes can, but at a comparable level to passenger car regenerative braking.


Most road noise is from the tyres though, modern IC engines are pretty quiet.


Having daily driven a dual-motor electric car, two turbodiesel cars (both modern and classic), and a modern Honda V6, I can tell you that the electric car is significantly quieter, especially at lower speeds and when accelerating, both inside and outside the car.

You're right that tire noise is significant, though, and that electric cars (and trucks and buses!) are not completely silent. They are definitely MUCH quieter than the drum-drum-drum of an accelerating diesel truck engine, though!

Now, if only they could get rid of that annoying beep-beep-beep a reversing truck makes...


The reversing beep-beep ain't going to go any time soon -- it's a audio warning to prevent workers being crushed under reversing trucks.

(It might go if and when reversing cameras, which are now standard on automobiles, become standard on trucks ... but there are headaches implicit in adding them to articulated lorries: what about side blind-spots? What about the trailer, as opposed to the tractor? What if a trailer-camera isn't hooked up -- should it be impossible to reverse an electric tractor if it has a trailer hook-up but no signal from the camera on the trailer?)


Not necessarily. It's being changed in some places because studies show that there are safer (and less annoying) noises that can be utilized:

Tom Scott - Why Do Reversing Trucks Not Beep Any More?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa28lIGuxq8

As someone with construction taking place next door to me I really wish they would start getting rid of the beeping in more places. I'm pessimistic that it will happen in my area anytime soon though.


Maybe automated trucks won't need that beep, once they can be trusted to stop before crushing anyone behind them?


You'd still want something shouting "get out of the way, we're working here" because you don't want to have to stop.


We'll know automated cars have truly arrived when they start using the horn against humans.


The beep-beep could be a lot quieter in general, just needs to have something so it's adaptive to the current ambient noise level. At the moment it has to be loud enough for any situation.


Well look I'm a big Tesla fan, too. When it comes for those _outside_ the vehicle the OP is right. Where I live I get engaged by Model Ss all the time in city traffic, either on bike or on foot. For me, there is no noticeable difference between a _modern_ car and a Tesla when it comes to the noise level. Perhaps it's bias as I might expect the Tesla to be more quiet than it is, but anyway that's my perception.


Here's my experience outside the vehicle - I live about two miles from Tesla HQ in an area where electric vehicles of all types are common, and bike frequently in close proximity to motor vehicles.

You're right that there is still noise, particularly from the tires, and that they are actually surprisingly loud if you are expecting silence (mostly tire noise, particularly when turning, plus a little high-pitched whine).

But when accelerating from a stop, compared to a gas car or especially a truck, the difference is noticeable. No 'vroom' or 'rattle' or 'rumble.' Trucks in particular can be window-shakingly loud. Priuses are also nice and quiet...


All true. Also important to note that it would be dangerous if the car was completely silent. Even if the car is autonomous and has a crazy smart AI, there can be accidents if people outside don't notice the car. Also, any car will spin up dust from the road that people outside breath up. I think, the only way to truly increase quality of life for pedestrian and bikers is to have zones and streets which are banned for cars, like many European city centers.

Relevant illustration: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/24948/to-a-pedestri...


I'm surprised that many areas in Seattle don't ban cars during business hours.

There are many places in Europe that do that, except that they make just enough exceptions for this or that car that it still makes it hard to be a pedestrian.


At low speeds, it's not sedan cars that are a problem: even at idle, trucks and large SUVs are very loud, and accelerating from e.g. traffic lights they really roar. For busy city centers, quieting the trucks and buses (and goddam noisy-on-purpose motorcycles!) will make a big difference.


By my experience, IC engines are only quiet when the car is coasting, but not when it is accelerating or has to go uphill. Having compared the driving noises of electrical and ICE cars driving past me, the noise reduction is quite significant. Even more, when accelerating at traffic lights, or when cranking the car.


Dirt bikes and quads have pretty loud exhausts. And people with 4wd trucks like to put aftermarket exhaust on them because they think they get better performance.


Dirt bikes aren't "traffic". 4WD trucks are a regional thing, and that market will probably never be replaced by electric vehicles!


Dirt bikes, or their barely civilized moped cousins, are a significant component of traffic in some countries.

Many small island communities are plagued by these nasty little things. It's two-strokes buzzing by all day long, and each one of them is louder than twenty cars.


This sounds like a startup challenge!


Why not?


One reason: It's much easier to carry a five gallon jerry-can of gas or diesel with you when you head out into the boondocks, just in case, as opposed to spare battery packs sufficient to get you back out to civilization.


However: plug-in hybrids would be an option. (Diesel pack and fuel tank for off-grid use, electric motor and battery good for ~20-50km as well for use on short trips about town/daily commutes.)


Most of a second drivetrain, system to make them work together, a bunch of batteries and the associated weight makes a lot of sense in a harsh environment, not to mention the increased cost for something that will get the crap beaten out of it.

There's a reason oil field trucks tend to be the most minimal trim available. More stuff -> more stuff to break -> more complicated service -> waste of money. Automatic windows are a convenient but hard to justify when they cost more up front and cause more downtime over the life of the vehicle. Ditto for most other luxury features.

You know what sucks, having a Prius that won't use its electric powertrain because the software is trying to protect the integrated A/C compressor from damage because a rock kicked up by another vehicle was the straw that broke the camels back and causes the condenser to leak out refrigerant. Now imagine not being able to use half the powertrain of a pickup you're trying to do work in. See the problem? Sure you could do a different A/c system but you're probably giving up some other important performance metric (like fuel economy) or you could let it ruin the compressor (but then the customer will complain or you'll waste money replacing compressors under warranty)

GMC made a hybrid pickup. It was cool because it could be used as a power source to run tools at a jobsite. It didn't sell. They canned it.


  I'm on the waiting list for a Model 3 and plan on getting and e-bike some day http://www.ktm.com/gb/e-ride/  I own a loud KTM 300 2 stroke and a diesel truck. Tho I'll probably never sell my Harley evo, loud pipe save lives ;-)


The tires noise probably has to do with the road and tire quality. I remember walking on a quiet street in the suburbs and being very surprised by a seeing a Prius driving past me as I didnt hear it coming at all.


Truck engines?

Probably depends on the speed as well.


You can't rev an electric car when impatient. You don't have to shift gears. When using engine braking it's quietly absorbing energy, not letting out an angry BRAAPPPPP.

If you're deaf, sure, combustion engines are quiet. Otherwise they're often quite loud.


Except when they choose not to be.


Noise is the main reason I'd like to leave the city to live in the country. To me it just feels insane how little of a concern this is to most people. Cities could be really nice places to live if they didn't allow cars in them, but instead they're ruined by pollution (noise and emissions).


> But, if someone from an all electric future was dropped off in 2016 i think they'd really notice noise above everything else.

Given the move to regulate hybrid and electric vehicles so that they make as much noise as traditional ICE vehicles (notionally, as a safety measure of visually-handicapped pedestrians), I'm not sure that that's the case.


Given that the noise from electric vehicles is intentionally generated, it can be much more pleasant than ICE noise while still being audible.


This. The mandatory noisemaker is annoying. Not sure what it accomplishes either, as the driver is supposed to be avoiding pedestrians.


So true, the only time I ever experienced true silence, was off piste skiing in St Anton, Austria. Stopping for a rest in a deserted valley, it was so beautiful and the silence was so peaceful, I was mesmerised until the silence was broken by a bird singing a few miles away. An incredible experience I'll never forget.


> Noise rarely gets a mention.

Today I was gifted with hearing a weed-whacker running continuously for a couple of hours outside my window.

I am now a more morally resilient critter, according to Friedrich "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger" Nietzsche.

(He wrote that the year before going totally bonkers, so it might not work as advertised, like much else.)


apparently, such noise also affect the biosphere. Birds and animals change behavior based on this noise. Its one reason why traveling in developing/under-developed countries feels so different. The noise levels are very different.


Particulates and stuff that forms ozone are both still a big deal. The reason that the SF Bay area air-quality district funds free electricity at public car chargers is to reduce smog in the Bay area.


Indeed. For example, the VW emissions scandal was entirely about particulates and similar. The fix will likely increase CO2 emissions. Local pollution and CO2 emissions are somewhat at odds with each other, especially for diesels.


I think this could be a big deal depending on future politics. I would not be surprised if Manhattan in 10 years or so only allows etrucks over the bridge (with certain exemptions of course).

If that happens there could be some interesting but boring (oxymoron intended) business opportunities like transfer stations at the borders of urban areas (switch engines).

This could also dramatically improve the safety of trucks as there are still an enormous amount of trucks that are not automatic and do not have antilock breaks (or whatever the analogous tech is these days).

By mandating electric engines the safety improvements could be had at the same time.

I like the name: eTruck.


If the mayor of NYC has his way, that could happen. But unfortunately Albany (the capital of NY) will override it.

See the attempts by NYC to set up congestion pricing but Albany won't allow it happen.[1]

Personally I think other cities will start this first such as London, LA, Paris, etc.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congestion_pricing_in_New_York...


Stockholm has congestion pricing since since 2007.

Prices are between $0 and $5 depending on the time and day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congestion_pricing#Stockholm


Sorry I meant in terms of requiring only eTrucks in business districts of major cities, not congestion pricing.

Just saying that NYC tried to have congestion pricing only to be overruled. And I'm sure they'll aim for eTrucks only requirement but will be overruled by Albany because that's what Albany does.

And that other cities (Stockholm I'm sure) will be at the forefront of the new eTruck revolution as soon as it's commercially viable.


You say that like you're unaware that NYC basically runs NY from the perspective of anyone living anywhere but the NYC are in NY.

Same for CA and SV, MA and Boston, IL and Chicago. In states with one dominant city that city runs the show for the most part. If the dominant city can't get something done it's either because it's BS and shouldn't get done in the first place, would screw most of the rest of the state or because they need to wait to politically recharge after ramming something that fell into one of the former two categories down everyone's throat.



Why are Albany and NYC in constant tension then, if NYC runs NY?

You speak like someone who doesn't follow NY politics.


Does LA really have credible public transit alternatives such that people don't actually need personal cars? Doesn't seem like it.


London has had the Congestion Charge since 2003: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_congestion_charge


Trucks seem to be the perfect candidate for electric propulsion. The high torque of electric motors just make sense for urban acceleration/deceleration. As a pedestrian, one of the things I hate the most is the the dense, black smoke from heavy trucks.


Agreed, particularly in an urban setting. In NYC the streets are quite literally with small to medium trucks, which are all almost certainly in violation of noise and pollution requirements. A fleet-type electric medium duty truck with swappable batteries would be awesome and I think governments should be bending over backwards to incentivize them.


Do you mean small vans like this one [1]?

That's a significant electric delivery vehicle fleet, though from almost 10 years ago -- I don't know what happened since.

[1] http://www.j-sainsbury.co.uk/responsibility/case-studies/arc...


You reminded me that electric home grocery deliveries have a longer history in the UK than people might think - growing up in the 1980s in the UK daily milk deliveries via an electric milkfloat were absolutely ubiquitous, and had been since the 1940s. The distinctive whining sound of a milk float pulling away, milk bottles chinking, was the definitive sound of a town waking up in the morning - diesel-motored vans chugging around first thing would have been incredibly annoying.


Those are everywhere here nowadays. UPS, DHL, etc also almost exclusively use electric vehicles in and around Hamburg, which is really amazing.


They are still used in the utility fleet space. However, they did not perform that well (range, reliability, high cost etc). It really was a natural fit for a Utility industry because of their access to the cheap electric power.


Oh that's cool, I'd never heard of it. I'm surprised there doesn't see much momentum in the area, although maybe there is a good practical reason for it.


Unfortunately the range is becoming a problem on big electric trucks. The batteries cannot store as much energy per weight unit as the chemical fuel. This can be circumvented by using electric wiring overhead.

Sweden is prototyping an electric highway for trucks. It'll make transport cheaper and less damaging to the environment.


> Unfortunately the range is becoming a problem on big electric trucks.

This specific effort is urban deliveries, 120 miles should be way more than enough.

> This can be circumvented by using electric wiring overhead.

You'd need much denser pantograph networks than any I know of for debatable benefits since the vehicles would still need the ability to go "off-network" (to enter private premises for instance). And for longer ranges, you might as well just use trains.


It's not as simple - with current charging speeds, 120 mile charge is not enough even if you're doing 10 mile deliveries; you need to figure out some solution that can keep that truck running for e.g. a 12 hour shift with limited downtime.

A gas tank with barely enough gas for 120 miles would work, but a battery for 120 miles can work only if you can quickly, easily and safely swap the batteries in your depot.


A fast (level 3) charger can recharge a 120 mile truck battery in 1-2hrs today and potentially less than an hour in the future.

A Tesla Model X (5000lbs/2500kg) pulling a 5000lbs trailer uses about 700Wh/mi. If you assume 1kWh/mi for a small delivery truck, you'll need a 120KWh battery.

ChaDeMo chargers are ~62.5KW, Tesla Superchargers are ~135KW and future level 3 chargers could go up to 300KW.


> 1-2hrs

So 12.5-25% of an 8hr shift. I would guess that would be unacceptably long for a large number of transport operators.


Trucks do not work 24 hour shifts, they sit parked while their drivers are clocked out. Truck drivers are limited to 11 hour shifts and must take a 30 minute break after the first 8 hours. So an electric truck that can be recharged in 30 minutes only needs to last for 8 hours to be a drop-in replacement for a diesel truck. And nobody said they have to be a drop-in replacement — it is entirely possible that savings on fuel will make up for whatever productivity is lost stopping to charge.

All that said, I don't think electric semis make much sense for long-haul trucking. That market would be much better served by electric trains. What does make sense is using smaller electric trucks and vans for local deliveries and waste pickup.


> That market would be much better served by electric trains

It would be, except for how difficult (right of way) and expensive it is to expand the rail network, and the extra work in moving between modes (since the last mile will be truck anyway).

Adding pantographs or inductive or something to for trucks to use on existing highways would be a lot cheaper and quicker to scale up than expanding rail.


> only needs to last for 8 hours

I'm sure plenty of trucks drive more than 120 miles in 8hrs.


Trucks in general, sure. Urban delivery trucks, probably much less frequently, since they are traveling pretty slowly and making frequent stops. If you were driving around Manhattan non-stop for an entire 8 hour shift at the average speed for vehicles in Manhattan, you would only make it 68 miles.


I'm sure there are scenarios where the limited range would be ok, just as I'm sure there are those where it would be unacceptable. I don't know enough about supply logistics to say what percentage of trips taken by different size classes of trucks have a range that would fit the capability. I just wanted to suggest that overall the limited range also limits the value proposition of the vehicle, just like for electric passenger cars. Diesel semis get around 6 miles per gallon, versus around 30 for cars, this suggests to me that the trucking application is even more sensitive to limited ranges than passenger cars.


Aren't these mostly for domestic (or at least local) deliveries? I suspect they are currently delivering in only 1-2 8-hr shifts.


How much range do they need for a 12-hour shift? Once you hit that you're good for most uses, since trucks usually sit idle overnight, plenty of time to recharge back to full.


Looks like the average for delivery trucks is 13,116 miles per year[1], which is 65 miles a day if it only runs 200 days, or 44 miles per day if it runs 300 days per year (6 days a week minus a few holidays.)

1: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/data/10309


Oh wow, that's substantially less than I imagined. Thanks for the hard data!


You're welcome. I can't claim much credit for 15 seconds of Googling; it's very distressing how most discussions related to electric vehicles on HN are fact-free.


I know what you mean. Somehow it didn't even occur to me that this information would be available. I've been using the web for 20 years and I'm still not 100% used to having the world's information at my fingertips.


No kidding.

Particularly when major energy consumption patterns, and transport especially, have been studied to death. There's exceedingly good data out there.

Thanks from me as well for turning that up.


Okay, actually for city deliveries with low speed limits and lots of stops plus traffic lights (regenerative braking instead of wasted gas while idling!) 120 miles is not as limiting.

I could realistically assume that you're driving only 2/3 of the time at average speed of 30 mph... and that comes out at just 240 miles per a full day, and you could get a partial charge during e.g. lunch break, so if the battery was just a bit larger, then it's actually feasible.


That sounds about right. My experience with a Tesla is that city driving is somewhat more efficient than highway driving, typically. The constant starts and stops still cost you, but not as much, and the lower speeds make up for that loss. I don't know how how true that would be of trucks, but I'd guess it would be similar.

With good DC charging, you should be able to count on adding 50% of your battery over a 30-minute lunch break, so if you do 240 miles in a day, your battery pack would need to be able to handle 160 city miles. Less if your truck is idle more or if it could charge more.


It's less of a problem in dense urban areas, where distances are short and there are many opportunities for regenerative braking.


>> Unfortunately the range is becoming a problem on big electric trucks.

Right, there's only a 126 mile maximum range on that truck. So you'd have to stop and get a new battery every 2 hours, minimum on the interstate.


The point of an urban transport truck is to transport goods within dense urban areas so that we don't have to suck down exhaust fumes all damn day. Your objection is absolutely irrelevant. You could have realized that by reading the entire title of the article!


An "urban transport truck" would do poorly on the interstate? How unexpected!


I'm just adding to the post I replied to, I realize it is an urban truck


well I would think school buses and even metro transit buses would make better options. School buses because they travel fixed routes, have specific points they will sit awhile (schools/depots/etc) and the fuel price fluctuations clobber systems.


There are plenty of hybrid buses in Europe, in some cities the entire fleet, though only a few places are using full battery-electric ones. (Example in Gothenburg [1]). Even hybrid buses are a big improvement — the batteries can be used to accelerate away from stops, so you don't get exhaust in your face after alighting.

In Eastern Europe there are some trollybus systems, for example in Bratislava [2]. I like this -- no pollution in the city, and lighter vehicles with good acceleration and no rumbling engine.

[1] http://www.goteborgelectricity.se/en/node/19505/about-electr...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_transport_in_Bratislava...


Trolleybuses exist in the US too in a couple of cities. SF and Seattle both really like them because they have all their torque available from a standstill, unlike ICE buses, so they are great on our absurd hills.

Seattle's new ones also have batteries so that they can run off-wire if they need to detour.


Trucks seem to be the perfect candidate for hybrid engines. Electric motors and batteries for the power needed to accelerate and climb hills, and gasoline for the energy density needed to actually get very far.

Trucks only need 200 hp to cruise so a 100 hp engine would extend the battery range a lot. I bet you could even take one of these 100 mile EV trucks, put a Prius engine in there, and make it go all day and double or triple the miles per gallon over a normal truck with 600+ hp engine.


Trucks usually need long range which isn't very good with electric since that adds weight. Weight is a huge issue with trucks as well since they have load limits (some countries factor in the truck not just the haul). As trucks burn fuel they also become lighter, the effect isn't as huge as airplanes but it's still there.


The effect is pretty much insignificant compared to airplanes or rockets. The fact that the fuel being burned makes the truck (slightly) lighter has a negligible effect on fuel economy.


This is where it'd make sense for the battery to be removable. A truck company could keep a bunch of charged batteries at their warehouse and swap batteries out every time a truck comes back for a new delivery.


If manufacturers were smart, they would make them easily moveable by forklift.


When I worked in plants, I remember gangs of battery charging stations that had a crane to swap batteries out on the forklifts. I can't imagine distribution centers not installing something like that for these trucks (eventually). Even if swapping isn't a feature in all electric trucks to start, there's almost certainly going to be some sort of conversion kit to make it possible in the future.


Battery powered forklifts swapping batteries on trucks. It's a nice image of the future. Perhaps there's even infrastructure commonalities to reduce costs.


I think it's much more likely that a) it's not that easy; and/or b) the economic incentive just isn't there rather than people whose livelihood depends on it not being smart enough to figure out that forklifts exist.


Why does this make particularly more sense for trucks than cars? Just because trucks don't need to have a down time for sleeping like a car with a single owner does?


Trucks often have associated warehouses or depots that could support centralized battery charging facilities. For cars you are lucky if the owner has a garage that can fit a car.


You just argued that it would make more sense for cars to have replaceable batteries than trucks (which I agree with, and contrary to castratikron): we can count on trucks to have specialized charging facilities, but there are car owners who can only park on city streets or other places, who would be well-served by having battery-swap stations (a la gas stations) rather than home-charging.


Battery swapping with your self is a lot easier. You don't have to account for wear and tear other than just replacing batteries when they bust.

But if I go to a "battery swap" location I'm giving up my new battery and might get a dud. You can set up a business model that solves the problem. For example, use the propane tank model, where you put a deposit down to get the first one, and the customer is always entitled to a swap. And the company always owns the tanks/batteries. But that's an expensive business. These battery packs are big assets currently.

It's easier to just have two or three owned by a truck company who can swap themselves.


> Just because trucks don't need to have a down time for sleeping like a car with a single owner does?

That, and trucks generally go back to depots regularly to load/unload/etc… Even more so if you're swapping tractors around cities, you'd have swapping depots for that purpose.


Because it's far easier to keep all batteries in one location and have short haul trucks do a round trip, dropping off a flat battery in exchange for a fresh one. Very little logistics involved in keeping a bunch of stations stocked.


It's a perception win, as their diesels produce a lot of soot (not so much anymore, with the DPF and urea injection, but .. perception).

They need a lot of torque to accelerate (err, "gain momentum") away from lights, and the instant torque of an electric motor is especially well suited for this.

The downside is that the heavy battery pack takes away cargo carrying capacity. Trucks are weight-limited to reduce damage to roads.


Regulations on larger trucks still aren't nearly as strict as they are for smaller (pickup) trucks. I'd be surprised if many of the big trucks are running DPF or urea injection. Although maybe that's just because I see more of the older ones around.


The OTR (over the road) trucks are built on multi-million mile chassis, so they get driven until they can't be repaired any more. I wouldn't doubt that some owner-operators are bypassing the emissions systems, even though those trucks tend to get better mileage. A few years ago, 6 mpg was considered good. Now 8.5 mpg is not uncommon.


> A few years ago, 6 mpg was considered good. Now 8.5 mpg is not uncommon.

Are you serious? That's horrific...


If you think that is bad, you should reconsider your car. A big truck is 3x more efficient than a Prius. Take a look at the numbers and analysis presented by "Why are cars unable to match the efficiency of the 18 wheeler?"

http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?t=41085


On a pounds per mpg basis, the truck is moving 9400 pounds (8.5mpg truck, 80,000 pounds), while a Prius is moving about 67 pounds (60 mpg, 4,000 pounds). If you look at the weight of cargo being moved, the ratios are even more in the truck's favor because it can carry 40,000 pounds, or about half it's weight (the Prius can't even come close).


Most trucks can haul about 48,000 - 50,000 pounds, since typical weight for truck and trailer is about 30,000 - 32,000 pounds. Some lightweight OTR trucks weigh less, and day cabs even less than that. Definitely more fuel efficient than any car. Trains win the grand prize, but they can only run where the rails are obviously.


All new trucks use DEF and burn low-sulfur diesel since California requires it. That has been the case for at least 10 years, if not more. The only trucks on the road that do not are older trucks and some "gliders" (new chassis and body with an overhauled engine that is older and doesn't have to meet the regulations). The vast majority of big trucks run cleaner than cars or pickups. By the way, trucking is one of the most highly regulated industries.


For some local fleet jobs you can probably put batteries in the trailers (if the cargo is consistently not super heavy).


That requires special trailers and tractors rather than just electrical tractors able to handle any standard trailer.

It also requires much heavier and "non-standard" coupling between tractor and trailer since the trailer now needs to power the tractor rather than the reverse (and needs send significantly more power over the link)


I'm no truck expert but that shouldn't be that big of a problem. There are already power cables between trucks and trailers [1]. Thing is to just make a thicker one.

Weight is also no problem as 500kg of batteries is nothing compared to 20 tones of a trailer.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_standards_for_trailer_conn...


> There are already power cables between trucks and trailers [1].

There are power cables but they're used to power the trailer from the tractor rather than the other way around, they're mostly controlling trailer devices (lamps, brakes, etc…) and the general power ones are small potatoes to power cooling (refrigerated trailers) or lifts, not full-blown truck engines.

> Thing is to just make a thicker one.

Well yeah as I noted with that "solution" you need much heavier coupling than the standard ones (and reversed power), so you get to throw all existing tractors and trailers in the trash, rather than just replacing the tractors and keeping all existing trailers.


And? Note that I didn't propose it as the likely universal future, just as a potential way to do battery swaps.


> And?

And that means much larger upfront costs for debatable benefits.


Electric trucks were common in cities a century ago. The truck museum at "The World's Largest Truck Stop" has a couple of well-preserved examples.

https://iowa80truckstop.com/inews/iowa-80-trucking-museum-to...

http://earlyelectric.com/carcompanies.html


Daimler says in a press release that it anticipates prices for its batteries to have dropped by a factor of 2.5 between 1997 and 2025, while battery performance will have increased in the same proportion.

Why are they "anticipating" a price drop starting in 1997?


They are anticipating a price drop from 1997 to 2025. Some of the price drop has already occurred, but from now til 2025 is an estimation.


In the fleet space Smith Electric worked on this since 2005 and it seems like their trucks are in the perpetual prototype mode. The battery energy density vs cost still seem to be the major factor. Interestingly enough even regular gasoline engines are pretty reare and diesel dominates the field. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_Electric_Vehicles


It is great to see that Mercedes is working at electrical trucks. Electrical cars are just the start, the real emission saving will be electrical trucks. Though one has to note that as stated in the article: 'a “conceivable” launch window of “the beginning of the next decade” for wide-scale production and real-world use.'

So it is an early prototype - it will be interesting to see which timeline Tesla has for their offering.


Tempted to say this is a market that will be heavily stacked in Merc's favour. Taking a gamble on a sports car is one thing, but if you're replacing your 100 Merc diesel trucks...what are you likely to go for?


I would probably take the Mercedes, if they offer the same performance and features. But thats a big "if". Currently for example, Mercedes offers no car that can compete with a Tesla S/X. So with the electrical trucks, one needs to compare first their specs.


> Anyone who’s ever been near a large truck...knows the absolute pain of hearing that huge chugging internal combustion engine wrestling with getting up to a pacing speed.

IMHO the noise from semi trucks is nothing compared to cruiser-style motorcycles.


As an aside I'd love a small to mid size electric pick up. I don't do much driving and we share a volt at home. But a lot of things I don't want to put into a car with a hatchback. Mulch, compost, gas cans, leaky bags of ice melt, plants from a nursery, etc.


DISCLAIMER - I work for GM, any opinions are my own.

Agreed, it's great that companies have electric and hybrid cars, but I want to see BEV/hybrid sports cars (besides the $150k BMW i8) and BEV/hybrid trucks.

GM is sponsoring the EcoCar 3 [1] competition, which uses a Camaro for the base vehicle - a hybrid Camaro, with real performance and efficiency, would be the best of both worlds.

GM previously produced 300V hybrid trucks[2], but apparently they didn't sell very well.

1. http://ecocar3.org/

2. http://www.gmfleet.com/chevrolet/silverado-1500-hybrid-truck... http://www.edmunds.com/cadillac/escalade-hybrid/


Is $crossover + weathertech is not an acceptable solution for your problem?


Most crossovers can't handle a sheet of plywood and 10 foot 2x4s


Okay, but I need to ask the important question here: when is this coming out on Euro Truck Simulator?


100 years from now, our cities will be much quieter.


I hope it doesn't take that long.


Can't wait!


Nice step. As they say, there's a couple of big advantages to electric for trucks: low noise and emissions are advantages for everyone around them, and the high torque of electric motors at low speed is convenient for the driver.


Someone needs to write a program called "dedazzeler" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dazzle_camouflage, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedazzler) that can identify and remove the camouflage from vehicles that automakers so often like to use.


Wonder what the typical daily mileage is on a local urban tractor/trailer? 120 miles doesn't seem to me like near enough. Maybe eventually charging stations will become commonplace at most freight terminals so trucks can charge as they are being unloaded (though the unload may only take a few minutes if it's just a pallet or two).


Concrete camouflage paint for prototypes. Very savvy. I wonder if our heavy industry (GM, Ford, Boeing, Lockheed, General Dynamics, etc) benefit from NRO intelligence of what's going on in European and Asian industrial sites.


That swirly black and white pattern is fairly common for vehicle prototypes. It lets you drive around without the stupid "tent" on the vehicle while still making it difficult for people to turn spy photos into renderings of the final product.


Its just a prototype. Production not for another bazillion years or so.

Also the range is low as mtgx pointed out.

> That’s in part due to its max range of 200 kilometres (about 124 miles).

"If that's NEDC, then it's more like 85 miles EPA."


That is what I thought.

Annoucing the new electric semi truck, but not plans to build it. That seems to be a pretty thing way to claim the first "electric semi truck".


Fwiw, Daimler is an investor in Tesla


Yes, that's left over from an earlier alliance that appears to be pretty defunct. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_Motors#Daimler_AG


Given that most of the truckers I know are trading in their newer, more heavily computerized trucks for their old models that were simpler and more mechanical (in a staggering number of cases, for the exact machines that they traded up from), I'm not sure how this is going to go.


I hope that color is just a prank. It hurts my eyes just looking at it. Can car makers stop making "quirky" EV designs? Nobody is asking for them.

> That’s in part due to its max range of 200 kilometres (about 124 miles).

If that's NEDC, then it's more like 85 miles EPA.


That's a special coating they put on to keep people from being able to see the car's design before it's being officially presented. Plenty of test cars driving around on my city's streets with these coatings on.


It's actually done to make it harder to see anything:

http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2012/04/spy-photo-camera-...

It makes it harder to see any details when the company wants to stay secretive about their new car.


https://www.google.com/search?q=dazzle+camouflage

I think it is kind of hilarious to try to camo a truck, like I can't quite tell what it is... is it a sports car? is it a SUV? The SUV wars are heating up!

Also kinda funny that a truck would be differentiated based on sheet metal styling.


It's not for someone looking at it. It's for everyone whose eye you don't want to catch. And consider that Ford or Boeing could easily ask NRO to downlink images of opportunity whenever untasked Keyhole assets overfly known industrial sites. Timesharing isn't just for computers and condos.


That pattern is typical of disguised prototypes, as it makes it a lot harder to make out details from photos.




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