Transport Evolved Episode 176. Rabid Enthusiasm

On today’s Transport Evolved: BMW i3 and Outlander PHEV Crash Tests, Volvo’s new plug-in car, new LEAF ownership deals, and rabid fanboys.  These, and many other stories, on this week’s Transport Evolved, with Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, Mark Chatterley, Martin Messer Thomsen and Robert Llewellyn.

You can watch on the Live page, or listen live with Mixlr.

Click beyond the break to see our full show notes, including timings of each story in the show.


Please note: 
Time stamps are given below in this font in the format [hh:mm:ss]

Welcome to the show! Today, Nikki and Mark are joined by EV consultant Martin Messer Thomsen and actor, author and EV advocate Robert Llewellyn.

Martin Messer Thomsen has spent 10+ years working with ground support vehicles at Copenhagen airport before running his own company for the past three years. an EV advocate and driver, he’s currently involved in forming his own European E-mobility consultancy as well as a Scandinavian EV toursit project. More recently, he became the first person to document how fast a Tesla Model S can really drive on the Autobahn, as well as prove that the Tesla Model S can travel from Berlin to Copenhagen on a single charge. 

Robert Llewellyn is known by many for his portrayal of Kryten on the classic space comedy Red Dwarf. Others will know him for his many years as a host of Scrapheap Challenge/Jukyard Wars but here at Transport Evolved we love Robert for his continued work as an EV advocate and clean energy nut. Also an accomplished author and tech-head, Robert recently released News from the Squares, his sequel to News from Gardenia He also recently tried out some Google Glasses, and had a WindMeal in Dorset.

You can find Martin Messer Thomsen on Facebook, and read more from him at his blog. Meanwhile, Robert is often found on Twitter and Google Plus, while you can read his latest thoughts on his blog. Robert’s YouTube channel Fully Charged is also about to start its new season, so be sure to subscribe!

Part 1

Just which cars burst into flames? BMW i3 and Outlander PHEV Crash Tests, and Will the BMW i3 REX Cause problems for new EV drivers?


This week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk reiterated his belief that the NHTSA would clear the Model S of any safety flaws in its official investigation into two fires started after Model S sedans hit debris on different freeways in different parts of the U.S. Talking with the Associated Press this week, Musk said that Tesla is so confident there isn’t a design flaw that its engineers aren’t even working on fix, because there isn’t one needed. It comes in the same week that a video from last year made the rounds on Twitter — retweeted by Musk — in which a driver of a gasoline car had a piece of metal debris puncture the underside of his car.


Musk also couldn’t help tweeting this week about an official recall of the Honda Fit, where an electrical fault with the window mechanism could cause the gasoline version of the car to catch fire. In the interim, Honda tells customers to park their cars outside…  In addition, the Ford Escape was recalled again this week for potential fuel leaks which have lead to car fires. To use the common Internet meme, the car is #notatesla… 😉 Which begs the question: when are we going to hear sensationalist reporting about these fires?


The Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid was given 5 stars in its EURO NCAP ratings this week, as well as receiving its official economy figures for the UK, and exemption from the Congestion Charge Zone. Will this be the ultimate Chelsea Tractor of the future?


The BMW i3 also got its crash-test rating: 4 out of 5 stars in Euro NCAP. While it fared better than many of its competitors in passenger safety, it lost huge amounts of marks for its pedestrian safety and lack of ‘standard’ assistive safety features. Essentially, while the CFRP passenger cell may be safe for occupants, it seems the car is just too rigid to protect pedestrians.


In related news, a review of the i3 REX  from The Telegraph this week prompted some outcry when the reviewer discovered the i3 REX lost power on a hill after he had run its battery flat before engaging the range-extending engine. BMW says customers wanting to go beyond the range of the car’s battery pack need to engage the REX earlier in the trip to avoid loss of performance. But will consumers understand this?

Ad Break: Audible


This week, we’re recommending Rip-Off! , a multi-author book in which writers are challenged to take the opening of their favourite book and then write a completely new story from that original opening. By heading to and signing up for the service, you can get this book for free, and support Transport Evolved at the same time. We thank you for your support of the show.

Part 2

Nissan offers LEAF owners in the UK a new ownership package and launches a large-scale test-fleet with the help of British Gas, EV sales rise in both the UK and in France, Nissan says more robust LEAF battery tech is on the way, are fanboys spoiling EVs for everyone? — and Volvo promises to launch the XC90 PHEV worldwide by late 2014.


In order to encourage more people to buy the all-electric Nissan LEAF in the UK, Nissan GB has launched the CARE-EV LEAF package. Essentially a set of five promises for new and would-be LEAF drivers, the package offers some interesting perks, like a guaranteed 24-hour test drive if customers want it, 14-days of free ICE car rental, and nationwide charging. But after reading the small print, is there really anything new here, or is it just old perks dressed up in a new way?


In related news, Nissan started what it claims is the UK’s largest ever electric commercial vehicle pilot project, with help from British Gas. The utility company, which helped Nissan test early prototypes of the e-NV200, is now testing a fleet of 28 e-NV200 vans for a six-month winter test in the North East of England, close to the Sunderland factory where the Nissan LEAF is made.


After a slow start, it seems that EVs are finally taking off in both the UK and France, with both the UK government and Renault reporting sales rises. In the UK during Q3 of this year, 1,149 EVs qualified for the £5,000 government plug-in grant, far higher than the 106 cars qualifying in Q3, 2012.  Meanwhile, Renault has said that its EV sales are up over 100% in the first 10 months of 2013, showing a dramatic increase in EV sales. The biggest reason for the spike, says Renault, is the Zoe, which went on sale during the middle of this year.


Owners of the Nissan LEAF who live in really hot parts of the world should rejoice with the news that Nissan is planning on making a switch some time during the first quarter of 2014 from current battery technology to a more heat-resistant battery technology. Designed to better withstand extreme heat, the new chemistry — if it passes final testing — will reduce the effect of premature battery ageing currently experienced by LEAF owners in Arizona, and other hot states in the U.S.


Are early adopters and fanboys — who are rabid supporters of the i3 just as they were previous cars until something new came along — putting off would-be buyers from converting to a plug? 


Swedish automaker Volvo announced this week that it is planning to launch a plug-in hybrid version of its XC90 crossover SUV worldwide during late 2014. Based on the through-the-road drivetrain found in the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid, the XC90 should have a similar 30-mile all-electric range, as well as an all-wheel drive mode, charge sustain and hybrid mode operation. We also think it’ll be popular in the U.S. What do you think?  

Ad Break: Chronovirus


It was supposed to be just another cargo run, but for Ken Mallory and the three-person crew of the Raven, an anomaly in deep space changes everything. An unexplained turbulence shakes the small ship like never before, allowing a deadly virus aboard. One by one the infected crew is thrown back in time to relive a near-death experience, only this time death may be closer than they remember. Be sure to check out this excellent and chilling short story by Aaron Croccoalso available as an audiobook from InEar Entertainment.

Part 3

Nissan’s autonomous LEAF goes on the highway for the first time, the Volkswagen e-UP gets priced, we find out what consumers want of an EV, Hyundai offers free Hydrogen in an attempt to copy Tesla, and your Thanksgiving messages.


Not to slow down on its development of a self-driving LEAF, Nissan took its autonomous LEAf on the roads of Kanagawa, Japan this week in its first ever highway test. Will it really be six years before we see self-driving LEAFs? Or will it be much less?


Volkswagen has announced the pricing of its pint-sized e-Up city car this week for UK consumers. Starting at £19,250 after plug-in grants, the e-Up is slightly cheaper than the Nissan LEAF. But it’s nowhere as big. Will people buy it?


A new consumer survey has revealed that more U.S. consumers would by an EV if they could buy a small sedan with an all-electric range of 100+ miles for under $25,000. It also revealed that consumers want charging to be cheap, or free. Do you agree?

(Robert has to leave due to other commitments)


Hyundai’s sister company Kia may be offering the Kia Soul EV for sale very soon. But Hyundai is really all about Hydrogen. And in order to get customers making the switch, it’s offering free Hydrogen to its customers, a little like Tesla’s Supercharger network. But will it really sell ?


And finally… It’s been Thanksgiving this week (in case you hadn’t noticed) and we’ve asked you what you’re thankful for this year. Here are some of your responses. Claus C Becker writes “I am thankful that I can drive to NYC and not worry about range” — Volt owner. Rick Covert, writes “I’m thankful that the EV has truly arrived. Tesla has established and demonstrated the market for pure BEVs with 260 miles of range and phenomenal pickup. Now the loony outer edges of the media universe can attack it without any hope of discrediting EVs to their captive equally lunatic fringe.” Guy Gooch writes “I’m thankful for Transport Evolved. Nikki and Mark ROCK!” Cara Naden says “I’m thankful for you guys and all other EV lovers, movers and shakers!” Denis Pascual says “I’m thankful for the ARB (as we Californians call it) enabling our varied EV choices.” He also wrote this amazing blog post in response to our request for thanksgiving messages. 🙂 Johnathan Tracey says “I would have to say I am thankful for Ecotricity, not only a great provider of energy who invests its profits in renewable generation but the provider of the electric highway fast charge network, something everyone else seems to have failed to get up and running.” What about you? It’s not too late to leave your Comments below! 😉


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  • CDspeed

    I will not be buying my i3 with the REx option, it’s a crutch and a pretty useless one at that. It doesn’t add that much range, and it has a negative effect on driving performance. Plus here in the US the heat pump will be standard on the pure electric model, with the REx fitted the heat pump doesn’t fit.

    • Michael Thwaite

      I thought that was a very good point that Mark made about the engine in the hybrid model being a crutch, I’d not considered that but, I could even see myself falling not that. There have been few times that I’ve charged my Roadster in range mode, pushing the batteries to the limit and reducing their life when there turned out to be absolutely no need.

      • CDspeed

        I think they made a great point about how confusing it will be if you need to switch the range extender on before starting a long journey. Rather then having it kick on just as the electric mode is used up. I was agreeing with Mark’s point about the REx being a crutch, and for that I don’t like it. It seems from what I’ve read that it only provides a little bit more range, and adds weight, cuts the performance, and cancels out the heat pump. It seems to have more drawbacks then benefits, and as soon as the level 3 CCS increase in number you’ll be able to extend your trip by rapid charging.

        • Michael Thwaite

          Well, IMO, the biggest drawback is the price as far as I know at this point and, that’s not a lot but it’s say goodbye federal and state incentives, hello sales tax.

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