T.E.N. Electric Car News April 11, 2014. Ep 29: More GM Plugins, Tesla Business Lease, Lemon Laws, Expensive Charging Stations, Green Factories, Half-Bike

Welcome to episode twenty nine of T.E.N! Short for Transport Evolved News, T.E.N. is recorded every Friday to help your weekend get off to a flying start by making sure you haven’t missed the big EV news stories of the week.

Weekly show about plug-in and electric vehicles. This week news about: GM’s EV expansion plans, Nissan’s ENERGY STAR award, Tesla’s Business Lease plan, Teslanomics, Lemon Law claim, expensive Scottish charging stations, a plug-in Bentley, falling hybrid sales, and the half-bike Kickstarter project.

Just ten minutes in length, T.E.N. delivers the EV news in a bite-sized format, and you’ll find links to all of the stories we cover in an accompanying article here on Transport Evolved.

Enjoy the show, don’t forget to leave us feedback in the comments below, feel free to link to our video, and remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

T.E.N. Episode 29 Show Notes

Max Power, Many Cars

General Motors gave a massive boost to its electric car program this week with the news that it was investing four-hundred and forty nine million dollars in two of the factories it uses in the manufacture of its Chevy Volt extended range electric car.

While the majority of the promised funds will go into plant upgrades, new equipment and hiring 1400 new workers to start a second shift at the Detroit Hamtramck facility where the plug-in Volt, Opel Ampera and Cadillac ELR are made, an estimated sixty-five million dollars will go to GM’s brownstone lithium-ion battery facility, where GM makes the lithium-ion battery packs used in all of GM’s range-extended EVs.

At this stage, GM is keeping its future plans close to its corporate chest, but the automaker has confirmed the investment package is to ready its production lines for a second-generation Volt and two more, as-yet-unnamed plug-in models.

The two rumors we’ve heard so far point to these models being a lighter, cheaper version of the Volt without a range-extending engine, and a longer-distance ‘affordable’ car to compete directly with Tesla’s as yet-to-be announced Model E.

We’ll wait with baited breath, and bring you more news when we have it.

Green Team

With its highly-popular LEAF electric car, Nissan is already seen by many as one of the greener automakers out there, even if the fuel economy of its non plug-in cars aren’t that great.

But this week, Nissan showed just how green it really was with the announcement that it has been awarded the coveted ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year — Sustained Excellence Award — for its attention to energy saving practices at its U.S. car factories.

Focusing on the Smyrna facility in Tennessee where the LEAF is made and the Deherd plant where the car’s powertrain is assembled, Nissan’s special team of energy saving engineers have collaboratively saved Nissan a massive eleven thousand, three hundred megawatts of energy.  That’s enough energy to power a Nissan LEAF expedition around the world forty-thousand times!

Nissan’s elite team of energy-saving gurus managed this amazing feat by installing skylights to replace old fluorescent lights, installing a brand-new paint booth which is thirty percent more efficient than previous ones, and tracing air leaks on the miles and miles of compressed air tubing found in any car factory.

Good job, Nissan!

Company Cars

If you’re one of those people who happens to be in a fairly senior position at your job, the chances are you may be lucky enough to have some form of car bundled in with your remuneration package.

Depending on your job and industry, company cars tend to be either high-mileage, fuel-efficient models or large luxury german sedans — but for U.S. businesses there’s now a new choice for the company car: A Tesla Model S.

Announced this week, Tesla’s new company car lease program takes all the pain and suffering out of arranging a zero-emissions company car for your business or employees, and is set up in a way to be as tax-efficient and low-stress as possible for leasees.

It even comes with a simply-written lease contract that you digitally sign on vehicle handover by touching your new Model S’ touchscreen display.

Business leases start at just over one thousand dollars a month for the base-model, 60 kilowatt-hour Model S, but Tesla says the true net cost to your business will be just four hundred and eight dollars after you’ve taken into account all the savings you’ll stand to make….


…which leads us very nicely into the next story: Teslanomics, or the art of making something appear really cheap on paper using some clever maths.

You see, Tesla prefers to advertise its cars using the ‘net cost’ or ‘effective cost’ calculation. You can find the actual lease or finance cost you’ll have to pay if you look hard enough, but its headline figures always take into account state and federal incentives as well as the money you’ll save from not having to buy gasoline. It even takes into account any taxation benefits.

But what happens if you apply the same Teslanomics to the cost of other plug-in cars? BMW i3 reservation holder Peder Norby decided to find out this week, and did some rough back-of-the-napkin calculations.

His conclusion? A base-model BMW i3 doesn’t cost you hundreds of dollars a month: it costs just eighteen! A Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt are so financially sound that you’re essentially getting money for driving them!

It’s something we hadn’t thought about before, and it really does illustrate how cheap electric cars can be to own. But will this form of Teslanomics catch on? I’m keen to find out.

How to make Lemonade

Have you ever heard of lemon laws? They’re laws designed to protect car buyers — and other consumers — from products which consistently underperform, break down, and fail to meet expectations. Generally, lemon laws are great, because they give the buyer some protection if the thing they’ve purchased is… well… a lemon.

On Monday this week, Vince Megna, self-proclaimed “King of Lemon Laws” filed a complaint on behalf of a client against Tesla Motors for selling his client a car which is not fit for purpose.

In the strangely scripted YouTube video where Megna details his clients claim — which includes a cut-out George Clooney — don’t ask — Megna says his client is entitled to a full refund as the car has been in the shop for more 30 days in the past year with persistent fuse and door handle problems.

In its own special way, Tesla was quick to rebut, with a post made on Wednesday refuting the claims.

Tesla says it is continuing ongoing investigative work on the car, replacing major components even though it can’t replicate the problems the claimant says the car has. And in the case of blown fuses, Tesla notes that replacing the affected fuses with tamper-proof ones seems to have strangely rectified the problem.

As Cave Johnson would say… “When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade — make life take the lemons back! Get mad!”

This is going to be one to watch for a while, methinks.

How much???

Last spring, the Finance, Housing and Resources Committee of the Highland Council in Scotland announced plans to install rapid charging stations for electric cars in several locations throughout its area, courtesy of a one hundred and fifty thousand pound grant from the Scottish Government.

Yet a year later, none of the proposed rapid charging stations have materialised. Only four public charging stations have been installed so far, and, say local electric vehicle owners, they’re of the type 2, 7-kilowatt fast charge stations which while they are capable of  charging most electric cars on the market today, take far, far longer to do so. What’s more, the charging stations cost a total of eighty-two thousand pounds to install?

So what’s happened?  We did some digging this week, and it seems that the folks in charge at the Highland Council decided they couldn’t install the quick charging stations in time before the end of the financial year. Instead, they decided to install the fast ones instead.

As well as not fully understanding what electric car drivers need in a charging station, it seems the folks at the Highland Council have paid well over the odds for charging stations, although industry insiders tell us costs can soon add up in remote areas where the charging stations are a long way from communications and power.

It’s all a bit of a shambles, really, so head over to www dot transportevolved dot com to get the full lowdown…

Plug her in, Jeeves!

Talk about luxury British cars, and the chances are the name Bentley will come up in the conversation. Traditionally, Bentleys have always focused on luxury, opulence and a never-wavering ability to retain decorum even when travelling quickly. Not environmentally-responsible motoring.

But this week, Bentley unveiled its concept hybrid, a plug-in variant of the Bentley Mulsanne sedan, which is will be unveiling at the Beijing Auto Show later this month.

Rumored to feature the same 3.0-litre supercharged V-6 and  70 kilowatt motor found in the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug-in, the Bentley will supposedly manage around thirty miles per charge in all-electric mode. However, it will be about 70 percent less emissions than the current monster six point seven five litre gas-guzzling Mulsanne the luxury brand currently offers its discerning customers.

There’s no word on price either, but Bentley has hinted that it plans to make 90 percent of its cars available as a plug-in by twenty-twenty.

Better teach jeeves to plug-in, eh?

Stealing the crown

For the past ten years, hybrid cars have been the number one way for car buyers to get a greener car. As a consequence, Toyota’s Prius family of hybrids have experienced healthy sales, along with hybrids from car makers like Ford, Honda, and GM.

But sales figures from March suggest that hybrid cars — most noticably the Prius — are starting to lose their green-car sales crown to plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars.

All versions of Toyota’s iconic Prius, bar the plug-in, suffered a sales drop when compared to last year. These range from a 10% drop for the Prius C to a 30% drop for the Prius V. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid, however, had an increase of a touch over 40%.

This follows through to Ford too, with the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) increasing sales by just over 40% . This puts the regular C-Max Hybrid to shame as it experienced 53% drop in sales.

The pattern duplicates with other cars where there’s a hybrid and plug-in hybrid variant. The hybrid loses out to the plug-in.

Add this to increasing sales figures for the Nissan LEAF, and we think it’s proof that plug-ins are the new green. Do you agree?

And Finally…..

Half baked or inspirational?

Would you pay eight-hundred dollars for half a bike? No, it’s not a trick or a hypothetical question. It’s a real one.

And the half-bike — a cross between a unicycle and a skateboard — is real too.

One of the latest projects to hit kickstarter, the half-bike does away with the complexities of a bicycle and is steered by leaning. To ride it, you adopt a motion similar to running, and frankly, it looks great fun to ride.  Plus it’s completely zero emissions as you’re the power plant.

But at eight hundred dollars? I think i’ll pass.


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