Transport Evolved Episode 181: At a Stretch

On today’s Transport Evolved: BMW i3 pricing, the stretched Vanagon with the guts of a Tesla, why Norway is a victim of its own success, and just how large an engine can a plug-in car have before it’s a gas-guzzler?

These stories an more, on today’s Transport Evolved, with Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, Mark Chatterley, Otmar Ebenhoech and Scott Cronce

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 electronics engineer and EV guru Otmar Ebenhoech and long-time EV advocate, Bay Area resident and CTO of EA games Scott Cronce

Fans of electric drag racing may not recognise Oregonian Otmar Ebenhoech’s name, but they’ll certainly know about his famous Cafe Electric Zilla controller. While it’s now produced under license by accompany in Washington State, Otmar’s Zilla controllers lie in at the heart of some of the world’s fastest electric drag racing cars, including the Current Eliminator, The Killacycle, the White Zombie, and Blackcurrent III. Oh, and Jonny Smith’s  Flux Capacitor.

These days, Otmar is still heavily involved in the EV world, and his latest project has truly captured the imagination of the EV world: the Stretchla — building an all-electric VW Vanagon Westfalia stretched bus, using his existing stretched VW Vanagon and a crashed Tesla Model S. Already an Internet sensation, Otmar will be discussing the project’s latest news, and giving us a bit of a 101 in basic EV power mechanics.

Long time EV advocate and plug-in driver Scott Cronce has been driving electric cars in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years, including a Toyota RAV4 EV and more recently, a Nissan LEAF. An active member of the Bay Area Leafs, Scott is a trained gourmet chef, also enjoys playing with gadgets and toys — and we secretly think is still a big kid. Then again, he’s also the VP of Technology at EA games, so we think that’s allowed.

(You can engage with Otmar  on Google Plus, and follow his progress with the Stretchla at his blog. Meanwhile, you can see what Scott is up to on Facebook, or Google Plus.)

Part 1

We learn about the Stretchla project, why Norway is a victim of its own EV successes, will 2014 be the start of a lithium-ion shortage, and why Ford’s solar powered concept car is a bit of an overkill.


Otmar’s Stretchla project is a frankenstien endeavour of beautiful proportions: take a crashed Tesla Model S and put it inside the body of a stretched VW vanagon. We talk to Otmar about why he’s chosen to do this, what he hopes to achieve, and just how much like a Tesla his creation will really be when it’s done.


Norway is known as the world’s capital for EVs, with more EVs there per capita than any other nation on the planet. That’s due in part to great tax incentives and perks for EV drivers, like zero sales tax, free parking and charging, and the ability to drive in the bus lanes, avoiding congested streets. But now Norway seems to have become a victim of its own success, with more cars than charging stations. What happens next?


If last year was the year of increased EV sales, 2014 could be the year of increased demand on lithium-ion battery cells thanks to increased EV production. Already, the launch of the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid from Mitsubishi has been delayed, and Nissan has also hinted its production output this year will be limited by how many battery packs it can make from limited Lithium-Ion cell output.  Will this year be the year of a Lithium-ion shortage, and will this mean that EVs will remain to be high-priced, luxury items for some time to come?


Tomorrow, at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Ford will debut a concept car fitted with solar panels. But with only 350w peak of capability, the solar panels have to work in concert with a Fresnel-lensed carport in order to properly work. Is it with it? And is CES the new place for EV goodness?

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Part 2

What makes an EV go, one company’s EV etiquette policy, BMW i3 price list gets revealed, Federal charging and e-Motorcycle incentives end, how to own an EV (even if you don’t have charging at home) and how well can EVs handle really cold temperatures?


In addition to telling us his fiendish plan to create a Frankenstein EV from a VW bus and a crashed Tesla, Otmar also understands what makes an EV go far better than most, having built what is arguably the most famous electric vehicle controller of all time. Luckily for us, Otmar is going to explain what makes an EV go in a language we can all understand.


Just before the holidays, BMW priced up the i3 electric car for U.S. buyers,. sharing with us what all those extra bits and bobs will cost you, along with which items come as standard and which ones are extra. We’ll be discussing the list, and trying to figure out if the car is good value for money or not.


At midnight on January 1, Federal tax incentives came to an end for those installing their own domestic EV charging station, and those who wanted to buy an electric motorcycle.  Will the end of these two incentives impact EV sales at all, or will sales continue to accelerate through 2014? Or will companies like Brammo come up with reduced pricing to ensure no-one loses out?


Many folks tell us that it’s impossible for them to own an electric car because they don’t have anywhere to charge. But as one woman in London demonstrates, it’s possible to own an EV if you live somewhere with charging solutions outside of your home. 


While the UK is in the midst of one of the wettest and stormiest winters we can remember, the Eastern coast of the U.S. is being beset by some pretty major winter snow storms. That may make some EV owners worry about how well their EVs operate in cold weather.

But as one Volt driver from Canada proved this week, EVs are happy in temperatures of MINUS FORTY and below. We’re cold just thinking about  it.

What tips do we have for winter driving in an EV? And what do our panel think you should do when the mercury plummets?

Ad Break: Chronovirus

Note: If you’re watching this show live, you won’t see this ad. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the book…


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

How a Tesla Supercharger is tested, the fiftieth supercharger is switched on in the U.S., EV sales in December continue to rise, Audi brings a plug-in Quattro concept to CES, is the UK government about to switch to EVs for its fleet cars, and we see how China dispenses EVs: in a Kandi machine, of course.


What does it take to commission and test a Tesla Supercharger?  We find out. 


In related news, there are now more 50 locations in the U.S. where you can supercharge a Tesla. How long before we have that number in Europe — and how long before we have double that in the U.S?


EV sales figures for the U.S. in December are finally in, and we find out that 2013 sales almost double 2012 sales figures. What will we see at the end of 2014?


Like Ford, Audi is unveiling a plug-in hybrid concept car at this year’s CES. But unlike Ford, Audi’s plug-in car has a massive V8 engine, and alludes to the Quattro’s heyday of the 1980s. Can a plug-in car really be green but have a monster engine too?


The U.K. government can sometimes seem a little apathetic to EVs, even though it offers a £5,000 government grant to help people buy them and a scheme designed to help people install charging stations at home. But now the cabinet could be going all-electric. Should Government leaders lead by EV example, and what EVs should they have?


And finally…

Meet the Kandi machine — which dispenses EVs in a kind of … well… candy machine style. 


We’ve got some reader feedback and questions: If you’ve got any, please get in touch using our contact us section of the website! 

Here’s a buying question from Keith, who writes:

 Hi ,just wanted a bit of advise on leaf specs. I have a smart 2012 cdi
passion at present but have just had a 2011 nissan leaf for 2 days.
Brilliant car, my only concern being the range in cold weather. I did
36 miles today returning the car to the dealer and had 3 bars left at
the end of a very hilly journey. I love this car but is it worth
paying the extra for the 2013 Acenta model with a greater range?
Trying to find the specs for a 2013 leaf is proving very frustrating.
2013 models are advertised at £15000 with a few thousand miles but do
these cars have some of the 101 improvements made for 2013 or do I
have to go for the name (Acenta) to be assured of the improvements ?
Love the videos on you channel by the way which have given me a lot
inspiration to check out electric cars.  I have had a charging point
installed an am now determined to go electric!! any advise would be
many thanks Keith.



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