T.E.N. Electric Car News May 16, 2014: BMW i3 Range Test, Tesla/Toyota Partnership, Cadillac ELR, Oatmeal Comic

Welcome to Episode 29 of T.E.N, for the week beginning May 5, 2014. 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 efficiency, Fiat 500e Recall, Tesla and Toyota’s partnership ends, Lexus apologises, Intel invests in self-driving tech, Cadillac gives massive ELR incentives, Michelin invests in H2, the Oatmeal renames the Model S, Slovakia launches a quick charge network, and why Cadillac doesn’t want tree huggers buying its 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.

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!

What follows, as always, is our raw script for the show today. (It’s why things are sometimes written out in words rather than numbers — and why we sometimes make some errors!) You’ll find it isn’t always quite identical to the video above, but we know some of you like to follow through and click on the stories as we discuss them. Enjoy! 


New (efficient) hotness

Last week, we told you that deliveries of the BMW i3 had officially started in the U.S., with our very own Michael Thwaite being one of the first people to pick up an all-electric i3.

But does the new i3 stand up to the outgoing ActiveE, the car BMW leased to members of the public as a test-bed for its first mass-produced car?  To find out, Michael pitted his new ride against well-known EV advocate Tom Mologuhney’s Active E.

The results were pretty conclusive. While the outgoing Active E can travel further per charge due to a larger-capacity battery pack, the i3 winds hands down in the efficiency stakes, acheiving a massive five point four miles per kilowatt-hour.

To read the report in full, head over to www dot transport evolved dot com!

Seeping thru

Fiat’s first and probably last plug-in car, the diminutive Fiat 500e, was officially recalled this week for a problem with its power inverter module which could result in loss of power.

The issue stems from something Fiat called “coolant seepage” inside the unit, in which cooling fluid designed to keep the PIM cool was leaking onto sensitive electronics, leading to short circuits and ultimately the car powering itself off for safety.

Fiat says it will replace the offending units free of charge under warranty, and owners will be contacted in due course.

Sayōnara, Tesla

It was once a deal made in heaven: a young, energetic and amazingly brilliant startup electric automaker from California and a wealthy, traditional automaker from Japan in need of an electric car to call its own. And so the relationship between Tesla and Toyota was born.

But now Tesla has confirmed that relationship is coming to a natural end as it meets the quota of 2,600 Toyota RAV4 EVs it agreed to produce battery packs and drivetrains for.

Toyota is less forthcoming about the end of its ‘compliance car’ relationship with Tesla, but given it’s promising to launch a Hydrogen Fuel Cell car for 2015 that would satisfy the very same Californian Zero Emissions Mandate the RAV4 EV was commissioned to meet, it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing another plug-in Toyota for a while.


Staying with Toyota — or rather its luxury brand Lexus — there’s some more news on those anti-EV, pro-hybrid and pro-hydrogen ads we told you about last week.

Plug In America, the U.S-based electric vehicle advocacy group, took the gloves off this week in response to the factually-incorrect, fear-mongering Lexus ads, telling Toyota that nineteen ninety called and wanted their ad back.

And Lexus actually apologized!

Okay, it’s only a start, but Lexus says it will review all of its ads, and adjust them as necessary to ensure they at least contain factually correct information.

Don’t hold your breath on the being nice to EVs thing though.

Intel Behind the Wheel

As we barrel headlong into the twenty first century, there isn’t a tech or car company out there who hasn’t explored some form of autonomous driving technology, from Nissan and Tesla to Google and IBM.

But now chip manufacturer Intel has stepped up to take part in the self-driving revolution with an investment of undisclosed amount in Japanese firm ZMP.

ZMP, who made its name in 2006 with a humanoid robot called ‘nuvo’, is currently working on a self-driving car based on a low-speed Japanese electric vehicle. While it may not be quite as stylish to look at as other self-driving prototypes and concepts we’ve seen, it’s likely that Intel’s investment — made from its Capital Connected Car Fund — will be Intel’s way into this rapidly growing industry.

$5,000 Carrots

We go to car dealerships to buy cars — but before we buy them, we generally like to give them a little test-drive first. So you’d expect auto dealers to actually designate at least one of each car they sell to the duty of being a ‘test drive car’

Except that doesn’t always happen because test-drive cars can’t be sold on as new vehicles — and the less popular the car is in the first place, the less likely dealers are going to be to classify one of their stock as an ‘official test-drive car.”

At seventy-five thousand dollars, the Cadillac ELR extended-range luxury coupe is one such car, but GM has such a high stock of cars waiting to be sold that it has started to offer dealerships and customers alike massive incentives for giving the ELR a go.

Dealers get five thousand dollars for turning an ELR into a test-drive vehicle, while buyers can now get up to three thousand dollars off list price.

So if you’re tempted to buy one… now’s the time.

Hydrogen Man

We’re pretty sure you’ve heard of the Michelin man before — but have you heard of Hydrogen Man?

No, it’s not a new song by They Might Be Giants: It’s what you get when tyre manufacturer Michelin invests an undisclosed but ‘significant’ amount of money in fuel cell manufacturer Symbio.

Announced this week, the investment partnership will allow Symbio to continue trials currently underway with the French Post office where small hydrogen fuel cells are being used as range-extending engines for specially modified Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric vans.

It may even herald a future where range extended EVs are made up of traditional electric drivetrains married with hydrogen fuel cell range extenders. What do you think?

Intergalactic Spaceboats

There are few online webcomics as well known as The Oatmeal. Quirky, fun and insightful, its artist Matthew Inman can make you laugh and make you think in ways you didn’t think were possible.

Oh, and he’s a Tesla fan — both the original inventor and the electric car company which shares Tesla’s name. Consequentially, it’s no surprise that Inman owns — and loves  — a Tesla Model S.

To try and express what it’s like to own a Tesla, Inman made his own personal Model S the subject of a fantastic Oatmeal post this week covering everything from the EV basics through to the driving experience.

Oh, and a few new names because the name “Model S” just doesn’t cut it.  Our favorite?

  • Intergalactic SpaceBoat of Light and Wonder.

If you haven’t read it yet, go to the oatmeal and read it now — or rather, at the end of this show.

Slovakia, Quickly

If you live in Slovakia or happen to be wanting to go there in an electric car, a brand new, slovak-wide rapid charging network opened this week — and I was there to see it.

Owned and operated by GreenWay — the Slovak battery swap company which leases out large commercial vans with battery-swap capabilities — the rapid charging network extends from Bratislava in the west to Kosice in the east.

The launch of the new network was heralded by a ten-strong Nissan LEAF convoy across the country, visiting each and every rapid charger along the way.

Unfortunately, there were a few hiccups on the day, with the notoriously unreliable DBT rapid chargers doing what they do best — breaking down — but at least Slovkia now has a charging infrastructure that matches that found in other European countries…. Say no more.

Treehuggers Need Not Apply

Do you have long, flowing hair? Do you like wearing sandals? Do you like hugging trees?

If the answer is yes, then the chances are you quite like the idea of buying and driving an electric car — but here’s a bit of friendly advice for you in choosing a car that suits your needs: don’t buy a Cadillac ELR.

That’s because, in the words of one Cadillac executive this week, the luxury seventy-five thousand dollar luxury plug-in sedan isn’t designed for “Treehuggers” because, well… treehuggers supposedly don’t buy plug-in luxury cars.

So do yourself a favour: if you can afford a Cadillac ELR and you want a plug-in car, go with a Tesla instead.


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