T.E.N. Electric Car News June 13, 2014: Tesla News, XL1 Delivery, More LEAF Recalls

Welcome to Episode 38 of T.E.N, for the week beginning June 9, 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: Tesla releases all of its patents as open source, UK deliveries of Model S start, California becomes a potential Gigafactory location, who buys the BMW i-range, first VW VX1 delivery, new way to gain energy from acceleration, more faulty LEAFS and possible active battery temperature management for Nissan.


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! 

All My Patents Are Belong To You

It’s been hinted at for the past couple of weeks but yesterday Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors confirmed that they will be releasing their patents to the world. The title of the statement, made in Tesla’s usual way of a blog post on their site, made a geeky reference to the gaming phrase ‘All your base are belong to us’. And it’s the ‘all’ there that has got people very excited.

Speculation was that maybe Tesla was going to release some information about their supercharging technology, maybe the protocol it uses allowing other manufacturers to support it. But the ‘all’ suggests that every single one of Tesla’s patents, from the supercharging protocol, to the system itself, to the drivetrain information, to the heating and cooling systems to the operating system that the car uses.

Quite frankly this is huge.

This doesn’t just mean that anyone can do anything with the information. Open Source means that anyone can see the patent and how to implement it but Tesla is still able to impose conditions on use. Say, a manufacturer can only use SuperCharger technology if their car has at least 150 miles of range and active cooling.

What happens now is anybodies guess. But we can hope for the best outcome.

Model S in the Hands of UK People

It has taken a long long time to get here, but last weekend the keys to the first five UK Model S owners were handed over. By Elon Musk himself!

These five cars mark the start of the UK roll out and we expect many orders to be fulfilled over the coming weeks as the backlog of orders is cleared as quickly as possible. The handover was held at the London supercharger location in Royal Victoria Docks.

One of the first owners of the Model S is E L James. You may be thinking you know that name from somewhere. Well, I’ll give you some clues. They’re a novelist. They started off writing fanfiction for a popular novel series. Their book went straight to the top of the best sellers list. And their book was known for being a little saucey!

Get it? They’re the author of 50 Shades of Grey!

They’ve almost had their car for a week now and I hope they are enjoying it as much as people enjoyed their novel.

Gigafactory location

The ongoing Tesla mystery of where it is going to build its gigafactory took an unexpected turn this week when it emmerged that California is doing its best to tempt Tesla into building it in their state.

Origionally California was not on the list of possible locations due to the fact that Tesla needs this factory up and running as fast as possible. The regulations and red tape in place in California, to ensure that new factories are energy efficient and not too poluting, would mean that Tesla would never be able to just through all the hoops in time.

But now it appears Tesla might be able to build the Gigafactory in California thanks to a bipartisan bill rapidly making its way through state Senate.

Senate Bill SB-one three oh nine, introduced earlier this year to the Senate as one which required urgent attention, sought to enact legislation “to expedite groundbreaking and construction in California of a large-scale battery factory to manufacture batteries for both electric-vehicle and stationary uses.”

Read for the second time on Wednesday last week, SB-one three oh nine has been re-referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and is expected to pass very soon.

So soon the possible Gigafactory sites may be: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada and California!

What kind of person buys a BMW i?

Talking with Automotive News this week, BMW executive Ian Robertson, who fronts BMW’s brand sales and marketing and group retail operations, said that an overwhelming majority of BMW i3 customers are new to the brand, with around 80 per cent of i3 customers buying a BMW for the first time.

This mirrors the sales figures from rival automakers like Nissan and Chevrolet who report a similar conquest effect from electric vehicle sales. But perhaps more interesting is the fact that many i3 customers are first-time car buyers.

With European i3 sales now totalling more than three thousand cars since BMW officially launched the car last November, Robertson says i3 production at BMW’s German factory is now around one hundred cars a day.

i8 adopters seem to be buying the car in line with other premium cars in the range with some – what I guess are very wealthy customers – buying more than one car. One for each house they own, you see.

Well… If you have the money, why not?

1st XL1 delivered

This week Volkswagen delivered the first XL1 to its new driver, Dr Christian Malorny who picked up the car, with his family, from Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory in Dresden. He was handed the keys to his new car by Thomas Zahn, Director of Sales and Marketing Germany Volkswagen Passenger Cars.

We’ve talked a few times about this vehicle. It’s Volkswagen’s limited production, hyper efficient plug-in diesel hybrid. With its sleek design, upward swinging doors and cameras for wing mirrors the car certainly cuts an impressive silhouette — it wouldn’t look out of place on a science fiction movie set. Volkswagen are making just two hundred and fifty of these cars and at over one hundred thousand euro a pop, these cars aren’t going to be commonplace.

The XL1 has some impressive stats when it comes to efficiency: It boasts an average fuel consumption of naught point nine litres per one hundred kilometers and has a drag coefficient of just naught point one eight nine.. This allows the car to travel for more than a kilometre while only using naught point one kWh of power from its battery pack giving it a claimed electric only range of up to 50km.

Nikki got a ride in one last year. Why not check out her thoughts on the car on our website. I’ll put the link in the description.

New energy recapture system

Porsche is entering this year’s Le Mans race with their nine one nine Hybrid – their self-titled most complex Porsche race car ever created. But what makes this car special? Their new hybrid drivetrain that recovers energy lost in exhaust gasses and uses it to make the car more efficient.

Now I know this isn’t a plug in hybrid so is a little outside our normal scope, but stay with me. The technology on display here is actually quite clever even if it is lacking a plug.

Basically the car uses an extra turbine generator unit instead of what is called the wastegate. This valve normally allows excess energy from exhaust gasses, that are not required to drive the compressor, to escape into the atmosphere.

Porsche uses this excess energy from exhaust gases to drive a second turbine, which in turn drives a generator that produces electrical energy. This makes the Porsche nine one nine Hybrid the only car on the racetrack, and anywhere else I know of, that recuperates energy not only when it brakes but also when it accelerates.

Both systems direct kinetic and thermal energy converted into electrical energy back to a liquid cooled lithium ion battery.

I wish Porsche all the luck at Le Mans.

Faulty LEAFs

Following on from last month’s official recall of a total of two hundred and seventy six U.S.-made Nissan LEAFs to check for missing structural welds, the Japanese automaker has recalled an even smaller number of U.S.-made LEAFs for power inverter replacement.

All built during a ten-day period in April this year, the cars are being recalled to check for an ‘out-of-specification’ circuit board inside the car’s high-power inverter.

Nissan isn’t the only manufacturer to have issues with the inverter in their electric cars. Last month Fiat Chrysler recalled four thousand one hundred and forty one Fiat five hundred e electric cars to fix a potential leak in the car’s coolant system which could result in an internal short circuit in the car’s power inverter module.

Nissan says the fault with the circuit board in the one hundred and ninety six recalled LEAFs could result in a sudden loss of power to the LEAF’s eighty kilowatt electric motor, although it isn’t aware of any instances where the fault has caused this to happen.

If this affects your car, you will have heard from Nissan already or be hearing from them very soon.

Set Cruise Control to Cool

Do you ever just set your cruise control and relax with a good audiobook on a journey? Or maybe a good album? It’s a great way to drive. Far more relaxing than slipping in and out of lanes and weaving around cars to try and get just that little bit ahead.

But it’s not so good for range.

Those sections where instinctively a driver would allow a car to slow down or gain speed, conserving energy, just don’t happen as the car tries to maintain a set speed. Using cruise control can cost you range.

But maybe not for too much longer.

Professor Hermann Koch-Groeber and graduate student Jue Wang from the University of Heilbronn think they’ve manage to model the driving techniques of hypermilers in such a way that a cruise control system could use it to save fuel.

Koch-Groeber says he started his research by learning manual hypermiling techniques, applying what he knew of behind the wheel of a 2012 Ford Focus with manual transmission.

Koch-Groeber says he expects to have a prototype system in place by March next year to see if the system would work in the real world. But, he hints, other people in the auto industry — including his former employer, Bosch — are already working on similar technologies for use by mainstream automakers.

Active battery temp management for Nissan?

At the international launch event for the Nissan e-NV two hundred electric van this week — a vehicle which shares the same drivetrain found in the Nissan LEAF — Nikki noticed something rather interesting which makes us think Nissan might be rethinking its policy on battery heating and cooling.

The e-NV two hundred has a small air conditioner built into its battery pack.

Despite using the same capacity battery pack and identical battery cells to the LEAF, the e-NV two hundred′s battery pack is more tightly packed together under the floor than it is in the LEAF.

As with the LEAF, cells are stacked, one on top of another, in an under-floor, sealed battery box — but at the front of the battery compartment just ahead of the first row of cells is a small radiator and large electric fan. And entering the battery pack from the front is a coolant feed from the van’s air conditioning system.

Nissan wouldn’t go into too many details, but it looks as if the e-NV two hundred can send warm or cold coolant from the van’s main HVAC system to the small integral radiator within the battery box. Air is then drawn over the radiator from outside and is then cooled or heated as needed to keep the battery pack and battery box at optimum temperature.

No one we spoke to at Nissan would confirm or deny the possibility that Nissan is considering active battery cooling or heating for future electric vehicles, nor could we get any indication of the feature making its way into the next generation LEAF.

But by using this more compressed battery layout with temperature management it would leave some space in the LEAF… For say… extra batteries. Or somewhere to store junk food… both are important to me!


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