T.E.N. Episode 16: EV Cabs, Wireless Busses and Perpetual Motion

Welcome to episode sixteen 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: Renault drops the Fluence, German VW loan cars, EV black cabs, wireless busses, plug-in Volvos, Toyota backs hydrogen, 2014 Leaf, new battery tech and perpetual motion.

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 16 Show Notes

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

Renault ZE Range Shrinks

It could be argued that of all the mainstream manufacturers Renault is the one with the most commitment to electric vehicles. After all they have three separate electrically powered vehicles on the market in the EU… Or do they?

This week it was confirmed to Transport Evolved that European production of the Fluence, the all-electric sedan ended in November 2012 for good. The Fluence was the car made for battery swapping – quite literally. Renault pretty much made this car for Better Place but with the company going under, it seems Renault didn’t see a future for the car in their ZE (Zero Emissions) lineup.

However, if you are a fan of the car, it’s not all bad news. In October last year the Samsung SM3 ZE – basically a rebadged version of the car – went into production in South Korea. This version of the car even comes with the 43 kilowatt Chameleon charger that is found in the Renault ZOE.

The big upside to all of this for people in the EU is that there are some cracking deals on second hand Fluences to be had if you want a cheap EV or fancy trying some DIY upgrades.

VW ICE Loans

Following in the footsteps of many other manufacturers like Nissan, Renault and BMW to name a few, Volkswagen is offering German customers who by the upcoming e-UP 30 days of free ICE car hire.

30 days is a nice step above most other manufacturers. Nissan offers up to 14 days (or 2000 miles) while BMW has a weird points system that varies on what car you borrow and for how long.

The e-UP has a fairly short range, just 93 miles on the N E D C test cycle. This will work out to around 60 miles of real-world usage according to my back of the envelope calculations. What’s wonderful about this scheme though, is it allows people to own just one ‘city’ car and then use the free rentals for longer trips. I can see a potential market here for shorter range EVs with free rental – especially if that rental gets me one of those fuel efficient VW Blue Motion cars, or – say – a go in the 100 thousand Euro XL1.

Black Cab with no Black Fumes

London’s black cabs are known the world over. And it’s not just the cabs that are famous, so are the drivers who have to take The Knowledge (a test to make sure they know every street in London and how to come up with the quickest route from one to another). But the Black Cab never has had a very eco image, even with all the improvements of late.

So enter Nissan. From later this year the Hackney Carriages are getting a refresh, courtesy of a specially-designed variant of Nissan’s NV-200 minivan, which was officially unveiled by Nissan earlier this week. Initially, power will come courtesy of a 1.6-litre diesel engine, but from 2015, Nissan says an all-electric, zero emissions version will be on the streets too.

So in future, when you hail a cab, you’ll be driven around in a clean and quiet EV!

Wireless Busses

If you’re a bit if a geek like me, you’ll know all about Bletchley Park. It was the UK’s super top-secret code breaking base. It’s where the Enigma code was finally broken by a team under the leadership of Alan Turing – one of my personal heros.

But the nearest city next to Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, is now trying to get its name on the geek map by rolling our electric busses that charge wirelessly. The busses will operate on the number 7 route, which covers a 15 miles between the suburbs of Wolverton and Bletchley.

Travelling nearly 50 thousand miles a year, each bus will need to be able to hold its own against any traditionally powered bus. With overnight charges being supplemented by wireless opportunity charging at the beginning and end of its route, the bus shouldn’t have any problems performing.

It’s a brilliant idea and scheme. I can’t wait to see how the buses get on throughout the year.

Volvo: Step by Step

Volvo has previously said it plans to achieve a 100 percent zero emissions fleet by 2020 — but for now it has chosen to marry its all-new range of lightweight turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines with a plug-in drivetrain as an interim measure. It makes sense as it gets their customers use to a plug before going fully electric,

In a few day’s time Volvo will unveil the second of three promised plug-in concept vehicles at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Called the Volvo Concept XC Coupe SUV, this second concept vehicle continues to pave the way for Volvo’s all-new Scalable Product Architecture vehicle platform and serves as a great hint at what Volvo has planned for its next-generation XC90, due to be unveiled later this year.

Unlike the current production XC90 SUV, the Concept XC Coupe SUV is a three-door, mirroring the three-door form factor Volvo’s plug-in hybrid Concept Coupe. And it looks nice. Not my cup of tea, but I can see many people wanting one.

Volvo hasn’t yet talked specifics when it comes to engine, motor or battery pack specifications, but at this stage it is still just a concept. We look forward to finding out more as time goes on.

Toyota Loves Hydrogen

Japanese automaker Toyota chosen CES 2014 as a place to promote its commitment to hydrogen fuel cell technology by opening the show with two hydrogen fuel-celled vehicles: a FCV concept four-door sedan, and a fully-camouflaged prototype car it says has been undergoing extensive testing for more than a year.

Alongside this, Toyota is eagerly promising it will launch its first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell car for customers to buy by the end of next year along with a sponsored refueling infrastructure.

Toyota has been working hard with the University of California Irvine’s Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) to figure out the best places in California for the location of refuelling stations for the hydrogen cars. It’s assumption is that owners want to reach a refuelling station within 6 minutes.

The estimated cost for these stations is more than one and a quarter million dollars each. And Toyota has earmarked the money for 100 of these stations and plans to have them running by 2024. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Leaf Range Extension-ish

The 2014 model year Leaf was announced in the US this week with very few changes from last year. Aside from the $180 price increase across the board on last year’s models there are really only two additions. The backup camera is now a standard option and the car can now be bought in a new colour! Wooo!

One interesting change is the EPA rated range which has increased from 75 miles to 84 miles. But don’t get too excited yet. The car can’t actually go any further. Nissan have just removed the option to charge to 80% rather than 100.

As the EPA mixes the results of a standard 80% charge and 100% change on cars that support it, by removing the support the EPA only had the 100% charge figure to go on. Sneaky.

The question is: Would Nissan remove this setting just to get a better EPA mileage figure if they knew it was going to be worse on the battery? Or to put it another way, is Nissan now endorsing the idea that charging to 100% all the time is just as good for the battery as their old recommended 80% charge?

No White Sticker for i3 REX

Breaking story: It has been confirmed in a statement from BMW today that the BMW i3 with range extender will not be eligible for the Californian HOV White Sticker. This goes against the initial expectation that BMW had been able to configure the car in such a way that it would get the sticker; this would have made it the only car with a range extender to get that sticker.

The i3 REX will still qualify for the Californian tax rebate and also be able to apply for the limited number ‘green’ stickers – so if you want a i3 REX and HOV lane access, you best get in quick before all the others!

Better Batteries?

A Stanford University spinout company called Amprius has been perfecting a new type of silicon-based lithium-ion battery pack which could not only pave the way to gadgets that last longer between charges, but also plug-in cars that could go hundreds of miles between recharges.

At the heart of Amprius’ battery technology is an anode made of silicon, instead of he carbon traditionally used for anode material in lithium-ion batteries. Much higher in its potential energy density than carbon — due to its surface structure — building electrodes from silicon has always been viewed as a holy grail of battery chemistry. Because of the way that silicon expands under lithium-ion insertion however, making silicon-based lithium-ion batteries that can withstand the repeated abuse of thousands of charge and discharge cycles has historically been a challenge.

Amprius says it has the solution. By turning silicon into ultra-thin nanowires using chemical vapour deposition, it is able to produce silicon nanowire electrodes that are not only capable of storing a large amount of energy but also strong enough to withstand the stresses and strains of repeated charge/discharge cycles.

The company still has a long way to go to prove this technology can work on an industrial scale, but they have a lot of investors very interested in what they are doing. Fingers crossed for positive results!


And finally… This week Gizmodo posted a story about a 3D printed wind turbine that can be used to generate power. Very interesting, you say. And I’d agree. 3D printing is cool. But we think that maybe some of Gizmodo’s staff writers need to go back to school as they started suggesting that these turbines could be placed on the top of EVs to extend their range or even help them drive forever.

Nope. Sorry. That’s not how it works.

It seems Gizmodo is confusing wind, that’s air blowing about on its own, with air rushing past as a car propels itself down the road. Taking energy from the latter means more energy is needed to move along. More than is gained in the capture.

This comes down to two things: The Laws of Thermodynamics and the Conservation of Energy.

Anyway, thanks, Gizmodo, for giving Nikki and me a good laugh.


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