T.E.N. Electric Car News May 30, 2014: BMW i3 news, New Plug-Ins and Formula E

Welcome to Episode 36 of T.E.N, for the week beginning May 19, 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: Top Gear’s James May buys an i3 REx, BMW gets i3 REx sales tax wrong in New Jersey, a new Mini concept that looks stunning, a plug-in VW Passat, the e-Golf advert says goodbye to petrol stations, Iran drops import tax on EVs and hybrids, Formula E secures a Chinese TV partner, a new way to charge rapid charging vehicles from three-phase power and Google plans to build 100 prototype self-driving 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! 

Captain Slow Gets an i3

The British Top Gear show has never been particularly fond of electric cars. It all started with the G-Wiz where they played up its slow top speed and slightly poor construction. Then they moved on to the Tesla Roadster where they filmed it running out of batteries while on a test track. Only it hadn’t run out of batteries. It was fine. It was all just to show ‘what happens when batteries run out’.

Since then they have reviewed various electric cars with a ‘look at these strange cars’ attitude. Taking the LEAF and iMiEV to the only council in the UK that didn’t have a charging infrastructre and then driving them around and around until they ran out of power.

So to say they are skeptic about the technology is an understatement. Which is why we were surprised this week when we found out one of the trio, James May – otherwise known as Captain Slow – has bought a BMW i3.

He didn’t quite go all electric, opting for the Range Extended engine, or as he says it should be called ‘pure cowardice’.

I can’t say how happy this makes me. Maybe this is the beginning of the Top Gear team not being so down on electric cars and they can be shown in their true light. But then, I may be being over optimistic.

BMW Oopsie!

BMW seems to be having some issues again when it comes to their range extended model. It seems that no one else wants to see it in the same way they do. From what I can tell, they want the REx to be seen as a pure electric vehicle that just so happens to carry around some petrol that every now and then kicks in but really doesn’t make it emit anything bad.

The way everyone else seems to see it is as a car that has the potential to not be zero emissions.

This discrepancy has caused BMW some issues. Earlier on this year BMW had to accept the fact that against what they had been saying all along, the i3 REx wouldn’t be eligible for the unlimited Californian White Sticker program. It did later get approved for the limited-number Green Sticker program, albeit just as they ran out.

The latest thing they got wrong? Well in New Jersey there is no sales tax on zero emissions cars. BMW believed that this would apply to the i3 REx too. They have even sold some cars on this basis, not collecting the sales tax they didn’t think was owed. But it now turns out they were wrong, as the REx means the car isn’t zero emissions, all future buyers will need to pay sales tax. As for the people who have bought it already… well, no one is sure. They do technically owe the money.

This change means that in New Jersey, adding the REx option to your i3 doesn’t just up the price by the three thousand odd of the engine itself but also ups the whole price of the cay by 7 per cent.

it’s a big mistake to make. Eeep!

BMW i-something?

There is a lot of confusion at BMW about their electric car i program. In April we were told that the i3 and i8 were it until they had a better grasp of how much demand there was for plug in vehicles. But this week we have heard that BMW is already testing their next car in the i range.

According to an online report by Automobil Produktion, an online German news site, BMW boss,Norbert Reithofer, has confirmed that BMW is currently testing the next car in their i-Range line up. It is hinted to be a mid-sized van, similar to 2 Series Active Tourer.

Could this be the fabled i5? Possibly. We’ll let you know more when we do.

Must have that Mini

The classic MINI, there aren’t many people who don’t like it. The small nippy city car is an icon of British design that is recognised around the world. So what happens with its designers team up with Italian company Touring Superleggera? Something beautiful, that’s what.

There are no further details available about the drivetrain of the car other than it is electrically powered so we can’t give you any idea of top speed, charging speed, 0-62 time or so on. But when a car looks this stunning, who really needs any of that?

The coolest feature of this car? In my opinion anyway… The rear lights are made out of a Union Jack flag that has been split in two. Amazing!

Some VW news for you now:

Plug in Passat

It was confirmed this week that the eighth generation of the volkswagen Passat will be offered as a plug-in hybrid, adding to VW’s rapidly growing plug in range.

The plug-in hybrid version that aims to allow drivers up to 31 miles of all electric range and a combined electric and standard fuel range of over 600 miles.

It will come with a petrol direct-injection turbocharged engine coupled to a eighty kilowatt electric motor. This is connected to a nine point nine kilowatt hour liquid cooled lithium ion battery. It will have a top speed of over one hundred and thirty miles per hour (that’s over two hundred and ten kilometers per hour) and will do naught to sixty two in less than eight seconds.

Further details are scarce at the moment with more expected when the car gets it official launch at the Paris Motor Show in October this year.

Bye Bye Petrol

Here at Transport Evolved we love to see what kind of adverts companies can come up with to sell their plug in cars. More often than not, the companies end up with something that just screams they don’t quite understand who they are marketing to.

But it seems that VW has got it right with their first attempt at an advert for the electric Golf.

It follows a man as he makes one final trip to the petrol station to say goodbye to it. He gets all teary as he sees all the junk food he’s going to miss and even hugs the man behind the counter. It seems the one thing he won’t miss — other than the cost of the petrol, we presume — is the terrible tasting coffee.

And now for some more general news…

Importing EVs

Many countries provide incentives for purchasing electric or plug-in vehicles over others, from the various Government and State level incentives in the US, to the UK Government grant all the way to Norway and New Jersey not charging purchase tax on the purchase of an zero emissions vehicle – hear that BMW, zero emissions… not ‘almost zero emissions’.

And now it seems Iran needs to be added to this list. As reported in an article from the Tehran Times website, Iran has scrapped import tax on all electric and hybrid cars that have less than a two point five litre engine.

The move is to “to boost domestic production and make the auto industry competitive” after the administration of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad increased car import duties to as much as 90 per cent in 2013. This resulted in, various people believe, in a deterioration of quality in the Iranian and allowed three major car manufacturers form an effective monopoly between them.

Could this lead to more electric and hybrid cars driving around Iran? We can only hope so.

Free to Watch Formula E

Formula E is well and truly on its way. Last week we reported on the cars having been delivered to the team and this week we can let you know that at the official launch of the race in China, Formula E has signed a deal with CCTV-5 for them to show all the races.

As with in many other locations, this is a free-to-watch channel meaning that anyone who wants to be able to watch Formula E will be able to. Other broadcasters worldwide include FOX Sports (covering all of the US and eighty eight additional territories around the world), Asahi, covering Japan, and ITV, covering the UK.

Tickets for pre-registration go on sale soon priced from four hundred and eighty eight to six hundred and eight eight Renminbi.

Are you as excited about the races as we are?

Easier Charging

If you live in Europe and own an electric car with a CHAdeMo or CCS rapid charging connector you will probably have experienced the situation where you are looking for the closest working charging station while all around you, three-phase 32A posts taunt you with their simple and working power.

You may have wondered why there isn’t a small box that you can just plug in to the three-phase power one side and then have it convert it to the lovely DC you need on the other. Well now there is.

Designwerk, a hardware and software engineering company, has created ChargeBox that does just this. Coming in three versions, CHAdeMO, CCS and a combined box with both, their ChargeBox will allow cars with lower powered onboard chargers to gain a charging speed boost.

The ChargeBox starts at fifteen thousand Euro (That’s about twelve thousand pound or twenty thousand dollars) for the single connector version and goes up to sixteen and a half thousand euro for the multi-connector version.

At this price point, I admit, it is unlikely to be a consumer product however it is feasible that a company with a fleet of cars may buy one or a charging location that just has multiple 22kW posts could get one to cater to more cars.

Go Go Google

And finally…

Google’s self driving car is something we have been following closely for a while now. Well it looks like Google is now ready to take it to the next step. They are in the process of building one hundred prototype cars to see how the technology will work in the real world with real people.

To begin with, the cars will have manual controls to allow the occupants to take over driving in case anything untoward happens, however the ultimate aim is to have cars without any sort of user control devices.

The first cars will also be capped at twenty five miles per hour. From the video on their blog the cars look amazing! Just jump in, select where you want to go and press the ‘Go’ button. Could Google be the first company to get self-driving car to market or will they be beaten there by one of the many other companies looking into it? We’ll just have to wait and see.


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