T.E.N. Episode 13: Hot BMW Laps, High Mileage, Battle of the Plugs, and life-sized Scalextric

Welcome to episode thirteen 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: BMW i3 Hot Laps, the 100,000 mile Nissan LEAF, European Car of the Year nominations, Tesla battles Ohio Auto Dealers, and life-sized Renault Zoe Scalextric cars.

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 13 Show Notes

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

Hot hot hot!

Listen to most automakers and you’d be forgiven for thinking people choose electric cars just because they’re kind to the environment, have bucket loads of neat gadget-laden features, never have to stop for gas, and earn you hugs from polar bears and aliens.

But if you’re watching this show, we also know you really like the way EVs can give a sporty, fun-filled driving experience with unbelievable handling and 0-60 times most car geeks would pay big bucks for.

So when we found out  BMW had filmed an online ad which focuses just on the track prowess of its all-new i3 electric hatch, we had to give it some major love.

Filmed on the Monticello Raceway in Sullivan County, New York earlier this year, the 49-second ad shows the BMW i3 being put through its paces at full speed. And yes, we really do mean full speed, piloted by professional race car driver and stunt woman Erin Crocker.

Also along for the ride was Chris Neff, BMW ActiveE ‘electronaught’ and hardened EV advocate. Neff — who was on our Transport Evolved show last Sunday — said the day-long filming session gave him the ride of his life, and if you want to hear more about the experience, be sure to go back and watch sunday’s show.

Just wait until we’ve finished with this one first, okay?

Je suis autonomique

It seems like there isn’t a week which goes by these days without someone announcing a new self-driving car, and this week is no exception.

This time, it’s the turn of French automaker Renault, which has quietly announced this week that it has a semi-autonomous prototype Renault Zoe which can drive itself along designated autonomous driving routes at speeds of up to 20 mph.

But let’s be honest….. that’s far less impressive than the self-driving capabilities demonstrated by Renault’s automotive sibling Nissan, whose self-driving LEAF can take itself on the freeway, overtake slower cars and even give Japanese dignitaries a ride.

What makes Renault’s design different however is its low cost: unlike more sophisticated systems, this one relies on just one forward facing camera, a couple of sensors, and the car’s built-in GPS system. And of course, a computer to combine all that date to give the car a virtual view of the world around it.

Reduced costs are great — but at the moment the system can’t cope with animals, pedestrians or cyclists, so really is only good for urban clearways where anything living — except maybe the odd half-dead courier biker — is safely locked away inside another vehicle.

But it’s progress, right? … I mean the self-driving thing, not locking everyone in cars… That’s just wrong…

High Roller

If you added up all the all-electric miles I’ve driven since first stepping behind the wheel of my first EV back in 2006, you might just end up with a figure round about the one hundred thousand mile mark. My family’s current EVs — a Nissan LEAF and a Chevy Volt — have about sixty thousand miles between them.

But that’s nothing compared with Steve Marsh, a Nissan LEAF owner from Washington State, who this week passed the one hundred thousand mile mark in his 2011 Nissan LEAF.

Marsh, who works as a finance controller at Taylor Shellfish, drives some one hundred and thirty miles every day to and from work, and says the motivation to buying a LEAF was purely financial.

Since buying his car, he says he has saved over nine thousand dollars in fuel costs compared to his previous car — which only managed thirty miles to the gallon.

Marsh’s achievements were honoured at a specially scheduled press conference on Monday this week, where Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announced plans to expand the state’s EV charging network to the east and west — and bestowed Marsh with the title of “Washingtonian of the day”

With such a high mileage car, Marsh says he has started to notice some loss in battery capacity — and lost his car’s first capacity bar earlier this year. But thanks to DC quick charging stations on Interstate five and in other key areas, range anxiety is long gone.

Well done Steve, and here’s to your next one hundred thousand EV miles!

Happy Birthday Volt!

Last week the all-electric Nissan LEAF turned three, and this week, it’s the turn of Chevrolet’s popular plug-in, the range-extended Volt.

With global sales of it — and its European sibling, the Vauxhall slash Opel Ampera — now totalling more than fifty thousand cars, the Volt is one of the best-known plug-in cars on the market today.

With a range of between 35 and 38 miles in all-electric mode — depending on the year it was made — and a range-extending gasoline engine under the hood, the Volt offers the best of both worlds: a plug-in car for everyday commuting and a gasoline engine for longer-distance trips.

With GM already known to be working on the second generation of the Volt — which some say will increase its all-electric range to between 50 and 60 miles — we’re sure the bow-tied plug-in — and its flag-waving griffin sibling — will be around for many more years to come.

Happy birthday, Volt!

Battle of the Plugs

The European Car of the Year award — chosen by some of Europe’s biggest automotive magazines and automotive journalists — is a big deal. Running since Nineteen Sixty Four, it has chosen some really fantastic cars over the years for the title of European Car of The Year, including greats like the Rover two-thousand and S D 1, Porsche 928 and Mark Three Ford Escort.

Following in the usual tradition, the 2014 Car of the Year shortlist has been announced this week, with the winner due to be announced at next year’s Geneva Motor Show.  But alongside the usual gas-guzzling contenders for the prize this time are two greats of the plug-in world: the mighty Tesla Model S, and the recently-launched BMW i3.

This isn’t the first time a plug-in car has been in the final of Car of the Year. In fact, back in 2011, the Nissan LEAF won the competition, followed the very next year by the Chevrolet Volt.  This year, the Mark Seven Volkswagen Golf won, but we’re thinking next year’s winner has to be one of the two shortlisted plug-ins.

Which one? It’s going to be tough to say. So far, the BMW i3 hasn’t had much of a chance to win any prizes due to it just hitting the market, but over in the U.S., where the Tesla has been on sale for more than a year, it has amassed a whole array of awards for its sleek design, high-tech interior, unbelievable range and jaw-dropping performance.

Over the next few months, the judges will spend a lot of time with all the finalists before coming to a final judgement. Our two plug-in favs are also against five other cars too, so good luck to both Tesla and BMW for this important award.

Give ‘em a break

California is one of those U.S. states that has a reputation for doing things differently, and when it comes to taxing companies based there, it ordinarily levies tax on any manufacturing equipment purchased by companies based within the state.

But Californian automaker Tesla Motors has been awarded an exemption to the rule courtesy of an initiative which allows California to grant exemptions to companies who are working in the green tech sector.

The tax break — estimated at some thirty four point seven million dollars — will help Tesla buy more than four hundred and fifteen million dollars of new manufacturing equipment. That, in turn, will increase the output of Tesla’s Fremont Factory (where the Model S is currently made) from twenty one thousand cars per year to more than fifty thousand cars per year.

It will also allow Tesla to hire an additional one hundred and twelve members of staff, something the state of California says will help it bring more than twenty four point four million dollars to the state.

Of course, this news is also good for Tesla customers around the world, many of whom are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new car.

Crank up the volume, Tesla.

It’s all a technicality

In related news however, the battle between Tesla and the Ohio Dealers associations just keeps on rumbling on. A few weeks ago, we told you about some dastardly plans by pro-dealer Ohio senators determined to ban Tesla from selling cars in the state.

They  amounted to adding a page or two of anti-Tesla legislation to a completely unrelated Senate bill but after Tesla — and the rest of the Ohio Senate — successfully defeated that particular plan, Ohio auto dealers are moving to plan B.

In court papers filed last week in Ohio, Auto Dealer Associations are claiming that Tesla can’t sell cars in Ohio legally because the process of obtaining a dealer license requires proof that the automaker approves the dealer to sell its cars in the form of a signed contract between the two different parties.

Because Tesla can’t be both parties in this contract, the claimants say, its license to sell in Ohio is illegal and must be immediately revoked.

The case is likely to be heard some time early next year, although in typical court-room style, it really does depend on the judges’ verdict of this particular technicality as to whether Tesla or the auto dealers win.

Whatever the outcome, this one is likely to rumble on for some time to come.

Big Kids’ Toys

French automaker Renault is known for its rather outlandish ad campaigns, and so when we heard it was planning something to promote its Zoe electric car, we knew it had to be something a little crazy.

Meet its latest viral video campaign, in which two lucky Facebook competition winners are whisked into the London sky in a specially-chartered helicopter at the crack of dawn to race two remote-controlled Renault Zoe cars around some of London’s most famous landmarks.

Oh, and the cars are racing around on a giant Scalextic set.

In a very deadpan press release accompanying the video, Renault said both cars were specially-prepared for the event, including a metal guide pin connected directly to each car’s steering to enable them to follow the grooved track around the course.

Power, we were told wouldn’t be a problem since each car had a battery pack on board, but the cars themselves would be remote-controlled using the Renault Zoe R-Link app, specially modified for the event.


As Renault hints in its press release “all is not quite as it may seem,” — the only hint that this is actually a very carefully-planned stunt involving a large amount of imagination, some CGI special effects, and a couple of out-of-work models.

But hey, given the season we’re in, we think it’s a bit of harmless fun.  After all, who wouldn’t like to race full-size EVs around a scalextric track?

Just don’t come to us if your car goes flying off into the bookcase or needs retrieving from the thames eh?


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