T.E.N. Electric Car News 4 July, 2014: LEAF Battery Pack,VW XL1, CHAdeMO Leading, BMW i8, Tesla Model ‘3’

Welcome to 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: Nissan’s new replacement battery deal, CHAdeMO rollout in the U.S., Tesla patent interest, VW XL1 UK pricing, BMW i8 U.S. pricing, Third-gen Tesla construction, Toyota FMVSS exemption, H2 Fuel Cell Incentives, Self-driving LEAFs, UK CHAdeMO Leadership.

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! 

Don’t LEAF Without Your Bargain!

Yes, okay, I know this story broke last Friday — it actually broke while we were on air — but we’re including this in case you hadn’t heard the news.

Last week, after months of badgering from Nissan LEAF owners around the world, Nissan North America announced the outright purchase price of a brand new battery pack for the world’s number one electric car.

At five thousand, four hundred and ninety-nine dollars after one thousand dollar trade-in rebate, the new battery pack will breathe life into any ageing Nissan LEAF, and will be made from the latest Nissan lithium-ion battery technology. For those in hot climates, that’s particularly important, since the replacement packs will be the so-called lizard packs, capable of withstanding the extreme heat of an Arizonan summer.

The pack will fit any LEAF made from the start of production in two thousand and ten right up to present day models, although two thousand eleven to two thousand twelve model year cars will need an additional ‘adaptor’ to use the latest battery chemistry.

There’s life in that old car yet!

On Target

In related news, Nissan confirmed this week that its plans from late twenty twelve to rapidly increase the number of DC CHAdeMO quick charge stations in the U.S. is on track.

Eighteen months ago, the Japanese automaker promised it would triple the number of public DC quick chargers in the U.S. from a total of one hundred and sixty. Now, there are more than six hundred and thirty three units, representing more than three times the number there were.

Of those charging stations, about one hundred and eighty are located at Nissan dealers, while the rest are located in public spaces with easy access. That’s great news for those who don’t drive a Nissan LEAF but drive a CHAdeMO-compatible car like the Mitsubishi i-Miev because it means no-one will feel bad about turning up at a non-Nissan location for a quick top up… even if the charger says Nissan on it.

Nothing to See Here, Move Along

You remember the Great Patent Giveaway of Twenty fourteen? You know, when Tesla announced a few weeks back that it was making all of its electric car patents open source?

Back then we — and a large number of other news outlets — got stuck in our own little dream world, dreaming of the day when we could plug our generic electric car into the mighty Tesla Supercharger network. Combined with the news that Nissan and BMW had been in top secret talks with Tesla the following week, and we were convinced the automotive industry would change forever.

But that’s not apparently the case. Or at least, that’s what the rest of the automotive world wants you to think. You see, of the major automakers approached by Autobloggreen asking if they were interested in Tesla Patents, most ignored the question altogether, with only Honda and GM bothering to reply.

Their responses? Honda said it already has the best electric car technology out there, while GM said something along the lines of “yeah, we’re good.”

But then, if you were looking at something cool and didn’t want your competitors to know, that’s the kind of thing you’d say to throw them off the scent eh?

Very X(l1)Sive Club

It seats two, has a tiny electric motor and almost as tiny two-cylinder diesel engine, manages about thirty miles to the charge and has a nought to sixty time that would be better suited to nineteen eighty four rather than two thousand and fourteen.

But Volkswagen’s ultra-fuel efficient XL1 plug-in hybrid went on sale this week in the UK at an eye-watering ninety-nine thousand pounds.  In case you were wondering, that’s equivalent to a fully-specced out Tesla Model S with room for a decent night out on the town to boot.

With only two hundred and fifty due to ever be made, the Volkswagen XL1 is an example of German frugality at its best. Capable of more than two hundred and fifty miles per gallon, the XL1 really does sip fuel when its on-board battery pack has run out of juice. But with only thirty due to even enter the UK, don’t expect this futuristic ride to be a common sight on UK roads.

Instead, like XL1s elsewhere in the world, expect this ultra-exclusive car to be the preserve of design-mad car collectors, not EV nuts.

How much?

Moving on to an even more expensive car, we bring you the news that BMW North America has finally priced the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car.

At one hundred and thirty-seven thousand dollars — before a mandatory nine hundred and fifty dollar destination and handling fee — the plug-in hybrid i8 isn’t exactly cheap. In fact, it’s more expensive that that perennial plug-in luxury sedan the Tesla Model S.

Unlike the Tesla Model S however, the BMW i8 isn’t really designed to be driven in all-electric mode. Instead, it uses a three cylinder, one point five litre gasoline engine driving the rear wheels with a powerful ninety-eight kilowatt electric motor driving the front wheels.

All-electric range however is limited to about twenty three miles, and frankly from what we’ve heard, the BMW i8 really isn’t the car for EV fans. It’s the car for petrol heads who want to show they’re cool and hip by including a plug-in car in their collection.

There’s no ‘E’ in Aluminium

Tesla’s third generation electric car — the car formerly known as the Tesla Model E — won’t be based on the same all-aluminum construction as its big brothers.

That’s according to Tesla’s Vice President of Engineering, British-born Chris Porritt. Talking with AutoCar this week, Porritt said that Tesla’s truly-affordable third-generation plug-in would need to be built with ‘appropriate’ materials that were cost-effective for a mass-produced EV, hinting that the Model S all-aluminum construction would be just too expensive for the third-gen.

Talking of price, Porritt said Tesla was targeting the same kind of price range as the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. Given the price range for both cars go from between thirty-five thousand dollars (twenty thousand pounds) and fifty-five thousand dollars (thirty-two thousand pounds), we’re pretty excited that a Tesla might just be in the price range of many would-be EV drivers for the first time.

We Don’t Need No Safety Disconnects!

It doesn’t matter if it’s powered by electricity, gasoline, or unicorn poop — all cars in the U.S. which go on sale must meet a minimum set of Federal safety standards known as the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, or FVMSS.

While the FVMSS Safety standards — which cover everything from where a car’s lights need to be located to how its air bag system works — are generally mandatory, automakers can apply for specific exemptions for limited production or experimental vehicles.

This week, we learned that Toyota has done just that, filing an exemption request for FVMSS 305 — a safety standard pertaining to high voltage safety disconnects in electric vehicles. Designed to keep occupants and first responders safe in the event of a crash, FVMSS 305 mandates all high-voltage systems have an automatic safety cut-off to kill any live power circuits, but Toyota says implementing a circuit in its soon-to-be released hydrogen fuel cell sedan could leave the car inoperable

Instead, Toyota says it’s got an alternative — basically loads of high-voltage insulation and metal shielding — which it will use instead to keep everyone safe, and presumably the big hydrogen bomb from actually exploding.

Tough to Sell

In related news, a Toyota Executive this week admitted that Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell sedan is going to be a really tough sell unless governments around the world step up to the plate with bucket loads of incentives.

Worse still, Mitsuhisa Kato, executive vice president in charge of the company’s r&d department, admitted that Toyota has no idea what type of incentives governments around the world will offer to those buying its fuel cell sedan

Currently, U.S. and European hydrogen fuel cell incentives appear to be going along the same lines as existing plug-in car grants and rebates, something Toyota’s R&D chief is concerned won’t be enough to entice people to buy.

And with the Toyota Fuel Cell Sedan expected to cost around the same price as a Tesla Model S, we can’t blame them either. Can you?

Tunnel Talk

Most road opening ceremonies are pretty boring, except the ones where they have a road race before hand — but Nissan helped the Japanese Prefecture of Kanagawa celebrate the opening of a new tunnel last weekend with style, taking not one but two Nissan LEAFs fitted with autonomous drive technology along its length.

Joined by Nissan top brass and Kanagawa Governor Yuji Kuroiwa the autonomous LEAFs tackled the inaugural tunnel driving without a hitch.

While there wasn’t a whole lot to see in the video accompanying the trip, we can tell you that the guy behind the wheel — the same we’ve seen in previous videos — looks far calmer than we’ve ever seen him before.

And that has to be a good indication of how far the technology has come since we last saw it in public.

Leading by Rapid Charging

Thanks to ongoing Governmental support and some really pro-active charging providers, the UK is now officially ahead of the rest of Europe when it comes to DC CHAdeMO quick charging capability.

That’s the official word from the CHAdeMO Association, who told us this week that of the one thousand one hundred and eighty-one CHAdeMO quick charging stations in Europe, two hundred and thirty-nine are located in the UK, placing the island nation well ahead of its European Neighbors.

While the UK might have the the highest number of charging stations of any country, Norway still wins on the number of public CHAdeMO charging stations per head population.

Here’s the map detailing European CHAdeMO Charging station deployment — take a look and let us know how your country is doing.


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