T.E.N. Electric Car News April 25, 2014. Ep 31: Bigger Batteries, Dealer Knowledge, Nude Tesla Drivers

Welcome to episode twenty nine 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: Longer-range LEAFs, dealer knowledge, i3 REx specifications, RAV4 EV lease deals, Tesla’s new commercial premises, and nude Tesla Model S drivers.

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.

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!

Longer or not?

Do customers want a longer-range Nissan LEAF? And how much would they pay for it?

These are two very important questions Nissan is trying to answer as it continues planning for its next-generation LEAF electric car, Nissan’s product Chief Andy Palmer has admitted.

Talking with Green Car Reportslast week at the New York International Auto Show, Palmer spoke of an ‘internal debate’ in the company revolving around battery options for the next-generation LEAF. While careful not to set anything in stone or preempt any official statements on the matter, Palmer’s public comments on the matter give us what we think is the strongest evidence that we’ll see an increased-range option on the next-generation LEAF.

As GreenCarReport notes, it’s unusual for automotive executives to be so forthright about future drivetrains and fuel choices unless it’s already been decided on internally.

Yet Palmer describes the idea of a longer-range LEAF as being the subject of “intense internal debate” at the automaker.

Some people, he says, feel that the LEAF’s current range — eighty four miles on the EPA test cycle, one hundred and twenty miles on the overly-optimistic NEDC cycle — is more than enough for most people’s needs. But others believe that doubling — or even tripling battery packs together to expand range into three figures could have a major impact on the car’s market share.

This ties in rather well with rumors we’ve heard from other sources about a possible LEAF extended battery pack option, but we think it’s still a bit too early to say for sure if it’s coming any time soon.  We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed.

Could do better

Have you ever visited a car dealership with the intent of buying an electric car, only to find the last thing the salesperson wants to sell you is an electric car?

We’ve heard some pretty terrible horror stories over the years — and so too it appears had Consumer Reports. So much so in fact, the champion of consumer empowerment recently commissioned an undercover study into dealer attitudes, knowledge and competence in the world of electric cars.

The results make for some disturbing reading.

In its undercover study, 19 secret shoppers visited a total of 85 dealers across four different U.S. states between December 2013 and March 2014.

Their job: to find out how much each dealership knew about electric cars, the purchase incentives available, and the sort of costs associated with owning an maintaining them.

Asking a set of predetermined questions, the secret buyers tried to find out just how much each individual dealer knew about the plug in cars they were trying to sell. In addition, they tried to find out how many plug in cars had on their inventory.

While it was common to find a range of attitudes towards plug in cars in most dealerships with some individual salespeople more engaged in selling electric cars than others, Consumer Reports noted that there were clear trends among dealerships selling the same car.

For example, Chevrolet, Nissan and Ford dealerships tended to be far more likely to have well-trained, engaged sales people who were able to at least give a reasonable explanation of plug-in cars. Honda or Toyota dealerships meanwhile lagged behind, with staff more likely to actively discourage customers from buying a plug-in.

All in all however, the study showed that automakers need to work harder to train salespeople, so they’re better informed — and better equipped — to cater to the needs and questions of plug-in car customers.

Tesla Tenants

Californian electric automaker Tesla Motors might be undertaking a very public search across Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas for a suitable site for its proposed 1 million square foot, five billion dollar lithium-ion ‘Gigafactory,’ but that doesn’t mean the Gigafactory site is the only land Tesla needs.

Take a former four hundred and thirty one thousand square-foot facility just off Interstate 5 in Lathrop, California, which Tesla Motors recently started leasing. An hour or so from the Fremont factory where it makes its world-famous Model S electric car, the facility was formerly used as a parts distribution warehouse for Daimler Chrysler for many years.

Following the disillusionment of the partnership between the two companies in 2007 however, the distribution facility was closed in 2009 when Chrysler moved its parts distribution centres to Portland and Los Angeles.

As various local news outlets report, Tesla has already acquired the necessary permits it needs to carry out “manufacturing modifications,” with work already started to craft the site to meet Tesla’s requirements.

It’s not one hundred percent clear what Tesla will use the facility for, but all signs point to potential computer-numerical-control machining site — or CNC machining as it is more commonly known.

Which, in English, means this site is probably going to be used to make parts for the Tesla Model S, or Tesla Model X electric cars.

Range Extender Envy

As anyone who has driven supposedly identical cars destined for different parts of the world will tell you, there are always a few key differences between how they’re set up for different markets. Traditionally, trim, standard-fit items, entertainment systems, engine specification and even physical dimensions can vary from country to country, with customers in one market often wishing they had the features offered as standard in another.

It appears the all-electric BMW i3 and its range-extended sibling, the i3 REX (BEVx) is no exception.

As BMW MiniE then ActiveE Electronaut and i3 reservation holder Tom Moloughney posted this week on his blog, information coming out of BMW’s official training sessions seems to point to some differences between the way the i3 REx operates in the U.S. and in Europe.

In Europe, the i3 REx’s fuel tank is nine litres — one point nine eight  gallons imperial or around two point three seven U.S. gallons. But, says Moloughney, U.S. dealers who have been to the training are quoting a fuel capacity of one point nine  U.S. gallons.  That’s an equivalent drop of twenty one percent, or in other words, a range-extension of about fifty miles per tank instead of the 80eighty miles or so offered by European models.

In addition, BMW confirmed to its dealers that the i3 REX’s range-extending engine won’t kick in until the car’s battery pack reaches six point five  percent state of charge. At that point, the range-extending engine will turn on, operating purely to maintain that level of charge.

This is different to Euorpean models, which have a charge holding feature you can activate to hold the battery’s charge for later on in your trip.

That’s not really fair on the U.S. buyers now, is it?

Cash on the Hood.

There’s no arguing the fact that Toyota’s RAV4 EV is an impressive car, with a Tesla-engineered drivetrain and battery pack. But it’s also a low-volume compliance car, sold to meet tough California zero emission mandates for automakers.

Sadly for Toyota, the RAV4EV hasn’t sold as many units as it would like, overshadowed by less expensive cars like the Nissan LEAF and more capable cars like the Tesla Model S.

So now Toyota is doing the one thing it knows will sell more cars: put money on the hood.

oyota is offering a whopping sixteen thousand five hundred dollars in lease incentives to Californians who are willing to sign up for a RAV4 EV by the May 5. The specifics of the lease deal are more than a little complicated however, with the incentive being made up from various smaller incentives designed to reduce the overall cost to the customer.

These range from money off the first month of lease payment, to reduction in capital cost, registration and licensing fees. In addition, the incentives help offset California’s complicated taxation system, which varies greatly from county to county and city to city.

It’s worth noting too that the incentives are aimed at those wanting to lease — not buy — their Toyota RAV4 EV. Since Toyota offers a wide range of lease mileage options ranging from ten thousand miles per year to an ‘unlimited mileage’ option, that will likely suit most buyers.

So if you live in California and you’re in the market for a new plug-in car, you should go to your local dealer and see if the RAV4 EV meets your needs. You may be able to snag a really good deal!

Free and easy

We’ve often said here that electric cars are in general far less stressful to drive than gasoline-powered ones, resulting in electric car owners who tend to be more chilled out than their gear-jamming counterparts.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have a mental breakdown behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S, as a sad incident which happened Tuesday evening on California’s Pacific Coast Highway near Santa Monica proves.

According to Jalopnik and the local press, at around 3pm on Tuesday afternoon a middle-aged man stopped his red Tesla Model S in the middle of the road in front of Patrick’s Roundhouse on the PCH near Entrada Drive.

He then proceeded to strip naked, opened the Model S’ full-length sunroof, and climbed on top of the car, before waving his arms around madly in a quasi traffic-cop-meets-calisthenics way. He was clearly non corpis mentis, although it remains to be seen what caused him to reach that state.

Local emergency services who attended struggled for about half an hour to persuade the naked Tesla driver to get down from his vehicle, but were able to successfully get escort him to a hospital for treatment.

The man was described as having had a possible “meltdown of psychiatric episode or was on a controlled substance” by Capt. Scott of Pacific Palisades Fire Station 69, who attended the incident.

Let’s hope he’s recovered from his nude Tesla posing, and that no-one was traumastized by the sight of a nude electric car driver on the PCH on Earth Day afternoon.


Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Related News