Transport Evolved Episode 189: Giga Means Big

On today’s Transport Evolved: Gigafactories, leaving BMW, controlling your car form a wrist-watch, and why people buy plug-in cars. 

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

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 see what Scott is up to on Facebook, or Google Plus.

Part 1

Tesla reveals more about its Gigafactory, Panasonic considers putting its own money up for cheaper batteries, Honda Fit EV lease program to leave buyers disappointed, and Toyota starts a wireless charging test-fleet of Prii


This week, Tesla finally announced more solid details concerning its massive Gigafactory battery facility. Due to be located somewhere in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas, this mammoth facility will produce up to 50 Gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery packs every year by 2020, enough to make 500,000 Teslas.

We discuss the details and explain what the Gigafactory will mean for EVs and the electronics industry as a whole.


Meanwhile, reports from Japan suggest that electronics giant Panasonic — currently a Tesla supplier — is trying to raise $1 billion in capital to invest in Tesla’s Gigafactory, combining with Tesla’s own $2 billion to claim a sizable stake in the plant. Who else will step up to help Tesla raise the $5 billion it needs to build and run the factory between now and 2020, and what will they get in return?


Staying in Japan, Japanese automaker Honda reiterated its plans this week to end production of its Fit EV for the U.S. market as soon as the 1,100 cars it was required to produce under law had been made. This is despite massive customer demand for the fun, funky plug-in.  Why is Honda so against making the Fit EV, and what’s the future for electrified Hondas now that Honda is killing the Fit EV alongside the Honda Insight and CR-Z hybrids in Europe and the U.S.?


The Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid might have the shortest range of any plug-in car on the market today and Toyota might be known for its luke-warm attitude towards plug-in cars in general, but that hasn’t stopped it from starting a test fleet of wirelessly-charging Toyota Prii.

Using a natural evolution of the ‘Intelligent Parking Assist’ feature that’s been available on Toyota’s hybrid car since 2007, the wirelessly-charging Prii can reverse themselves into a parking space to ensure they’re parked for optimum power transfer and efficiency.

But will wireless charging catch on?

Ad Break: 

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Part 2

Many BMW ActiveE drivers turn their back on the i3, saying it’s just too expensive or too compromised, Californian EV buyers share why they made the switch to electric, A New Zealander wants us to love the Tango, Nissan asks Tesla drivers for help, and what happens if you try and set a LEAF battery pack on fire.


BMW’s all-electric i3 and range-extended i3 REx might have just started deliveries in the UK and Europe, but over in the U.S. many of the people who helped BMW develop its all-electric drivetrain through the MINI E and ActiveE test fleets are turning their back on the i3, saying it is either too expensive, too compromised, or just doesn’t meet their needs.

We ask if BMW really did listen to its ActiveE test fleet drivers, or if it has lost touch with what drivers really want.


Do you own an EV? Why did you buy it?

There are plenty of reasons for going electric and it makes sense to assume that everyone will have a slightly different reason. But it turns out that the reasons you decided to dump the pump might influence the car you end up buying. According to a recent study of Californian plug-in owners,  LEAF drivers tend to cite environmental concerns as their number one reason for going electric, while Volt drivers just want to save money on gas. Prius Plug-in Hybrid owners it seems don’t want either: they just want the HOV-lane access.

We ask if this study is truly representative, or if it just reinforces stereotypes.


The tiny Tango EV as made by Washington-based Commuter Cars is one of the longest-running plug-in cars on the market today. Long before the LEAF, the Volt and even the Tesla Roadster, you could — if you had several hundred thousand spare — own this pocket rocket. It’s not surprising then that its list of former owners includes George Clooney and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Now a New Zealander wants Auckland to invest large sums of money in a lower-powered Tango EV in an attempt to combat massive congestion and pollution problems. We ask if he’ll succeed.


With its Leaf Advisory Board and regular customer-feedback questionnaires, Nissan is really trying to listen — at least in part — to what its current and future LEAF EV drivers want in an electric car.

But it turns out that Nissan went one step further recently, asking Tesla Model S owners to help out with a little cross-brand market research and focus sessions.

What could Nissan learn from Tesla, and does this mean it is really going to make a longer-distance LEAF?


Seeing electric cars catching fire and being destroyed in the subsequent massive fireball of death is something of a favorite wish for those who aren’t fond of EVs.  But how difficult is it really to destroy an EV’s battery pack?

This week, a rather intriguing video popped up online of a Nissan LEAF battery cell being tortured by screwdriver and propane flame. And in both tests, the cell continued to work after a fashion, demonstrating just how difficult it is to make a LEAF’s battery pack burn.

What’s Nissan’s secret — and should this be required viewing for all EV skeptics?

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

Israel could be soon a Better Place for electric car fans, Range Anxiety is all in the mind, why buying a ‘compliance’ EV might cause servicing problems in the future, how to control a Tesla Model S from your wrist watch, and we look at what’s possibly the world’s smallest practical EV.


After battery swap firm Better Place declared bankruptcy nine months or so ago, Israeli plug-in car owners really haven’t had much in the way of EV infrastructure. Moreover, thanks to a total lack of DC and AC quick charge stations (they were previously all just battery swap stations) cars like the Nissan LEAF and Renault Zoe weren’t popular. With Better Place gone, rapid charging is finally making its way to Israel. Will it revolutionize EV adoption there at last?


Range anxiety is a real and present threat to many EV drivers every day, causing them to worry that their car won’t make it to their chosen destination without running out of juice. But it turns out that range anxiety is really all just in the mind.

We discuss what we can do to eliminate or reduce range anxiety effects, and ask if automakers can do anything to help.

Compliance cars like the Toyota RAV4 EV, Honda Fit EV and Fiat 500e are all fantastically made, look great and offer performance that equals — if not beats — that of many more readily-available plugins. But could you be getting yourself into a world of hurt by buying a so-called ‘compliance’ car — especially if you live a long way from an official dealer?


Here at Transport Evolved, we love the intersect of gadgets and electric cars. So what could be more fun than a wrist-watch that lets you control your brand new Tesla Model S?

Meet the new (unofficial) Tesla app for the Pebble smart watch. We think you’ll like it.


And finally…

We’re often told that electric cars are just too expensive to be truly revolutionary, especially when it comes to our daily transportation needs.  So what about an all-electric two-wheeler you can fold up and take on the train with you? 


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