T.E.N. Future News 18 July, 2014: Tesla Model ≣, Autonomous Driving, Flying EVs

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 future transport news stories of the week.


Weekly show about future transport. This week news about: White House response to Tesla petition, BMW’s latest battery order, Toyota’s slow Nurburgring lap, The Tesla Model ≣ official naming, Roadster battery pack upgrades, cars thinking like humans, Nissan’s change in autonomous driving plans, H2 distance record, Tesla hacking, and all-electric planes.

Just ten minutes in length, T.E.N. delivers the evolved transport 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! 

You’re on your own, Tesla

The current U.S. administration might want more Americans to dump the pump for good in exchange for a plug, but that doesn’t mean it’s about to step into the battle between Tesla Motors and auto dealer associations across the U.S.

Responding this week to an official online petition calling for the White House to legislate in favor of Tesla’s direct-to-customer sales model in every single state —  and signed by more than one hundred and thirty eight thousand people — the a White House spokesperson basically told the petitioners that they were ‘on their own.’

“As you know, laws regulating auto sales are issues that have traditionally sat with lawmakers at the state level,” the spokesperson said. “However, we understand that pre-empting current state laws on direct-to-customer auto sales would require an act of Congress,”

And that, said the White House, is something it’s not prepared to do for Tesla right now, essentially telling Tesla, its fans, and legal team that they’re on their own.

BMW’s Big Score

BMW announced a new deal with battery supplier Samsung SDI this week which will see the number of batteries purchased for BMW’s plug-in car programs increase by between 20 and 30 percent in the next two years.

Samsung SDI, which currently produces lithium-ion battery packs for consumer electronics giant Apple as well as the battery packs used in BMW’s i3 and i8 plug-in cars, will stand to make several billion euros from the new deal. BMW meanwhile, will stand to gain a steady supply of lithium-ion battery cells to expand its electrified car lineup.

While BMW says some of the expanded battery pack order will be used to increase production volumes on both the i3 EV and i8 plug-in hybrid, the rest of the battery cells will be used to bring BMW’s upcoming X5 e-Drive plug-in hybrid crossover SUV to market.

Slowest Publicity Stunt, Ever

The Nürburgring Nordschleife — or green hell — as it’s called by locals — is one of the world’s most famous race tracks. And at nearly thirteen miles in length, the Nordschleife is a true Mecca for petrol-heads from around the world seeking to tame its one hundred and fifty four turns in as quick a time as possible.

This week however, Toyota set what it claimed was a new world record on the Nordschleife in a Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid. A fuel efficiency record.

Sadly, the spectacle of a Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid taking nearly twenty minutes to go around the circuit isn’t all that exciting, nor is the claimed 698 UK mpg fuel economy of the trip, using just five teaspoons full of gasoline and the energy stored in its four kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.

Unfortunately for Toyota however, the whole thing was really just a clever publicity stunt, which some of our clever readers tell us, worked out to a real-world 98 MPGe if you add on the electricity used during the lap.

Model ≣

Its official: Tesla’s third-generation electric car — the one previously called the Tesla Model E until Ford threatened legal action — has a new name. The Tesla Model Three.

Announced this week in an exclusive interview with British-based Auto Express, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the third-generation car — which we’ve been jokingly calling the Tesla Model Three for several weeks — would be represented by three bars, giving the Model Three an unmistakable name.

The thing we’re not sure about yet, is how those three bars will be represented. Auto Express implies the three bars will be written vertically like the roman numeral III. We however think that Tesla will opt to use the mathematical symbol used to denote ‘strictly equal to’.  Or if you didn’t take further maths, this: ≣.

It’s like an E, but not quite, and it also matches the way Tesla writes its name. We like.

Miles more miles

In the same interview with Auto Express, Elon Musk went on to disclose that Tesla’s very first customers — those with the iconic, limited-edition Tesla Roadster — would soon be getting a special upgrade option for their ageing sports cars: a brand new battery pack.

Unlike the original battery pack, which offered an EPA approved two hundred and forty four miles of range per charge, Musk said the new pack — which uses Tesla’s latest battery pack chemistry — would offer up to four hundred miles of range per charge.

What isn’t clear yet is how much the pack will cost, or if it will also add Supercharger capability to Tesla’s first generation car. We’re hoping the answer is yet — and the cost around the twelve-thousand dollar mark, because that’s how much Tesla was charging Roadster owners back in the day for pre-buying a replacement battery pack for their car.

Think like a human

The key to automotive driving success isn’t developing computer systems that can outthink a human, but developing computer systems that think like a human.

That’s according to Maarten Sierhuis, director of Nissan’s Silicon Valley research centre in Sunnyvale, California, who told Automotive News this week that automakers need to stop thinking of cars as pieces of hardware and start thinking of them as software.

“What the auto industry has to come to is a shift from thinking about the car as a physical, mechanical system,” Sierhuis explained. “Autonomy, autonomous systems, is about understanding how humans do that, and then replicating it with software.”

But would you be keen on riding in a car that thought like you did? Let us know in the Comments below.

Shifting Plans

Staying with Nissan for a second, its CEO Carlos Ghosn gave an update this week on Nissan’s roadmap to fully autonomous vehicles.

Unlike last year, when Ghosn promised we’d be seeing autonomous cars by twenty twenty, Ghosn now appears to be promising a more measured rollout of autonomous driving technology in the coming years, starting first with autonomous parking and low-speed self-driving tech in the next two years.

Then, Ghosn says, we should expect to see lane-changing capabilities and eventually intersection-navigation autonomy by the end of the decade. It might not be the fully autonomous driving experience we dream about, but it’s pretty darned close. And if it makes our roads safer, I’m all for it.

Further than expected

Hyundai’s first mass-produced Tucson Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car — with an EPA-approved range of two hundred and sixty five miles per fill — has just successfully driven four hundred and thirty five miles without needing a top up.

Driven by pro fuel-cell advocates Marius Bornstein and Arnt G. Hartvig, the Hyundai Tucson was driven from Oslo, Norway through to Malmö, Sweden, passing through Gothenburg in Sweden and Copenhagen in Denmark along the way.

Initially, the duo had planned on stopping in Copenhagen, but upon arrival there they realised the car had plenty of range left, so carried on until the car ran dry.

While it’s nice to see that the team squeezed all that extra range out of the FCV, it’s worth noting that their techniques — extreme hypermiling we’d guess — would extend the range of any car by a similar proportionate amount, so this is more about the importance of eco driving techniques than a particular vehicle’s range.


Just like any other Internet-connected device, any car with built-in two-way remote communication between it and the outside world has the potential to the victim of an unauthorised hacking attempt.

That’s a fact that has been reiterated this week very clearly with the news that Tesla’s flagship Model S sedan — which comes with fully Internet connected capabilities as standard — has been successfully hacked by Security researchers at Qihoo 360.

The Chinese security firm — also a co organiser of the SyScan +360 conference we told you about last week, says its researchers discovered the flaw ahead of this week’s conference — and $10,000 dollar hack-a-tesla competition being held during the event.

Qihoo hasn’t given any specifics of what exactly the flaw is, but Tesla Motors is reportedly very interested in working with the security company to ensure that no-one can gain access to your nice expensive electric car without your say-so.

Taking Flight

It doesn’t matter if you drive an electric car, bicycle or use public transport on a day to day basis, your personal carbon footprint always soars when you get in an airplane.

At this week’s Farnborough International Airshow in the UK however, Airbus — better known for its long-haul A380 double-deck, wide body, four-engine jet airliner — has been demonstrating its greener side with a plane that produces no tailpipe emissions whatsoever.

Enter the E-Fan, an all-electric prototype airplane which can fly for between 45 minutes and an hour on a single charge of its 10 kilowatt-hour lithium polymer battery pack. What’s more, the small, personal all-electric airplane is set to enter into production in twenty seventeen, and it’s bigger brother — a kind of plug-in hybrid airplane called the E-Thrust — could be flying certain commercial routes within ten years.

It just goes to show that you don’t have to stay on the ground to plug in.


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