T.E.N. Episode 10: Self-driving Leafs, Crash Tests, New cars and Surveys

Welcome to episode ten 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: The self-driving, now on major roads; Elon Musk defending the Model S; Honda and Fords recalls due to fires, why isn’t this getting more attention? New Volvo plug-in; i3 and Outlander Plug-in crash reports; new batteries for the Nissan Leaf and an extra care package.

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.

As always, if you like your news delivered with a little more discussion and opinion thrown in, don’t forget to watch the original Transport Evolved show — live every Sunday at 7pm London time.

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 10 Show Notes

Clicking on each story below will open up a new browser window to take you to the original story.

Robotic Commute

For most kids, learning to drive is a long and arduous right of passage. But if you’re Nissan’s precocious all-electric LEAF, learning to drive is a doddle.

Following on from its outing with the Japanese Prime Minister two weeks ago, Nissan’s autonomous LEAF prototype took to the highways this week with its first public high-speed test on the Sagami Expressway, southwest of Yokohama.

On board for the ride was Nissan’s Vice Chairman Toshiuki Skiga, along with the Governor of the Kanagawa prefecture. Both men were impressed with the technology, although admitted that it still had some ways to go before everyone was letting their car take the strain of the morning commute.

At speeds of between forty killometers per hour and eighty kilometers per hour however, (That’s twenty five to fifty miles per hour) the autonomous LEAF was able to merge safely into traffic, overtake slower moving vehicles, and pull off the highway by itself. A few weeks ago, it also highlighted its ability to handle crosswalks and stop lights, so expect it to be sitting its driving test some time very soon.

There is just one thing we can’t work out though. Why is it Nissan can develop a car that can deal with the mass of information needed to drive itself from point A to point B without an accident, but it still can’t figure out how to predict the remaining range in car’s battery pack?

Driving, it seems, is easier than range prediction.

If it ain’t broke…

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been busy again this week fiercely defending the Tesla brand after news of the NHTSA’s official safety investigation made its way into the mainstream media.

The investigation — prompted after two Model S sedans hit debris on different freeways in different parts of the U.S. and then caught fire — has prompted some pretty sensationalist reporting, both in the U.S. and around the world.

But Musk, stalking with the Associated Press this week, said that the incidents — in which large pieces of metal punctured the underside of the Model S, where its large battery pack is kept — could happen to literally any car.

In addition, he added, Tesla doesn’t feel its Model S Sedan needs any design revision in the light of the accidents, and isn’t actively working on a fix for the Model S as there is not an issue with it.

Musk has a point — as his twitter retweet of an accident last year shows — literally any car’s underside can be impaled by a metal spike.

…Honda and Ford should fix it

But Musk couldn’t resist having a pop at Honda earlier this week, after it was forced to recall its Fit hatchback — some 700,000 cars — for an electrical fault which could result in the car catching fire. Ford also had to recall its 2013 Escapes for the fourth and fifth time this week. One of the recalls was for fuel leaks and yup… you’ve guessed it… fires.

The best bit? Honda’s advice to its customers: “Park your car outside…”

Swedish Muscle

Here at Transport Evolved, we’ve got to admit to having a soft spot for Swedish automaker Volvo, if only because their engineers are wonderfully open and honest at press launches about their cars.

So we have to admit to cheering a little this week when Volvo announced its plans to offer the XC90 SUV as a plug-in hybrid model from late 2014.

Built around the same through-the-road hybrid configuration as the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid I spent a week with earlier this year, the XC90 will combine seating for seven, towing capabilities, an all-electric range of around 30 miles around town, and some serious muscle for longer-distance trips.
It might not be the best when it comes to range, but for anyone living within 15 miles of their office, this car could offer the perfect balance of go-anywhere SUV-ness and zero-emissions daily commting.

Plus it’s a Volvo, which means oodles of safety features and a luxury interior, which brings me onto price.

It’s way too early for Volvo to comment on how much this monster plug-in will cost, but given its V60 Plug-in Hybrid is almost as expensive as a base spec Tesla Model S, we’re not so sure we really want to know.

Can’t wait to drive it, though…

Must try harder. See me.

The much anticipated BMW i3 had its official Euro NCAP crash test rating this week… And only got four out of five stars. This comes two weeks after BMW executives boasted at a press event that the i3 was so strong that one of its cars used for official crash testing was unusually reused in another crash test.

The car lost points for marginal protection of the driver’s left leg and rear-impact whiplash injuries as well as weak side-impact pole protection. However it should be noted that the i3 tested better for child and occupant safety than the Chevrolet Volt and Mitsubishi i-Miev.

The BMW i3 and i3 REX have yet to receive their official U.S. N H T S A crash test ratings, or ratings from the I I H S, so it will be interesting to see how they fare in these two important tests compared to EuroNCAP.

Teacher’s pet

In Related news, the EuroNCAP rating for the ever cursed Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In hybrid were also released this week… And they were good. It received the ill five out of give stars from the testing agency.

Could this be the first sign of this car’s luck changing? Could this me the car to send EVs mainstream… Errr, probably not. But way to go Mitsubishi for this great score.

New improved recipe

If you’ve been following the course of the Nissan Leaf for any time you will know of the Arizona Leafs… The group of cars that have suffered from premature range reduction.

It seems that Nissan’s current battery chemistry doesn’t like the extreme heat it is subjected to in that locations, but Nissan is on the case and has stated that they are working on a new battery chemistry that should be a lot better in warmer climates.

The chemistry, which won’t improve the LEAF’s all-electric range, is designed primarily to improve the longevity of the LEAF’s 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Unlike most electric cars on the market today which use active liquid cooling to ensure the battery pack stays at an optimum operating temperature, the Nissan LEAF’s battery pack uses forced-air cooling to keep itself cool. This makes it more susceptible to heat-related premature ageing if subjected to prolonged spells of ambient temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius.)

The new chemistry, while similar to the existing LEAF lithium-ion battery technology, can withstand higher ambient temperatures without suffering premature battery ageing, Nissan says.

We don’t have any details of the new chemistry yet, but do wonder if this will totally replace the existing one or just in warmer climates. Only time will tell.


This week, Nissan launched CARE-EV LEAF, a new ownership package for new LEAF drivers in the UK designed to make EV ownership more appealing to first-time buyers.

On the face of it, they look pretty good, but go a little deeper, and there are some big caveats listed in the small print you’ll need to be aware of.

For example, Nissan says LEAF customers can now charge at any of 60 LEAF dealers equipped with CHAdeMO quick chargers, or any of 50 Ecotricity Electric Highway points throughout the country. The caveat? Most dealers don’t give access to their rapid charger outside of office hours, and the electric highway requires you to sign up for a free RFID card first.

Nissan also says it’ll give owners up to 14 days of free ICE car use per year, making it idea for those who need to make those occasional longer-distance trips to see family and friends. But with a limit of 2,000 miles — that’s just 143 miles per day — we’re not sure it’ll be that much use, especially given how many rapid chargers there now are in the UK.

There are some other goodies in Nissan’s new CARE-EV LEAF plan — so head to w w w dot transport evolved dot com to read the rest.

What Consumers Want

Market research is a must for anyone wanting to bring a new product to market, be it a laptop computer, kitchen appliance or car.

So when someone else does the research for you, it has to be a good thing. Enter a new survey published by Navigant Research, which says that more people would buy an EV if it cost under twenty-five thousand dollars, was a small sedan instead of a hatchback, and did at least 100 miles on a charge.

The Survey, which Navigant Research said covered a wide representation of the U.S. population, also highlighted that consumers aren’t so keen on battery rentals as they are with just buying the car outright, and all expect to have cheap or free access to EV charging while out and about.

Given the preference in the U.S. for sedans over hatchbacks, we’re not that surprised. But we are shocked to see is the fact that most consumers would prefer to buy an EV from someone Toyota or Ford instead of Nissan, Chevy or Tesla.

Since Toyota doesn’t make any EVs — other than the limited-run RAV4EV — we’ve got to assume that most consumers still think of the Prius hybrid as an EV, which makes us wonder just how much respondents understood about EVs when they completed the survey.

What do you think?

What’s the story morning…windy?

Question: When is a Nissan LEAF NOT a Nissan LEAF?

Answer: When it’s the Venucia Morning Woo…eeer…wind…

Thanks to Nissan’s partnership with the Dong Feng Motor Group — no, I’m not being rude — the Enucia Morning Wind is essentially a Nissan LEAF, just with a new fbumper and charge port door. And a really… bizzare… name…

The Morning Wind — which Venucia says most english-speakers will call the e30 — will have the same automatic transmission as the LEAF, but lack some of the toys that the LEAF ships with elsewhere in the world, like that lovely touch-screen interface and we assume… carwings.

But Morning Wind… Seriously? Although, on the day after Thanksgiving, that may be an appropriate thing to call it.


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