T.E.N. Electric Car News 25 July, 2014: Tesla Gigafactory, Hydrogen Rebates, Killed Ampera

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: a potential Tesla Gigafactory in Reno, NV and its subsequent closing; LG Chem’s longer-range battery packs; NJ’s i3 REx tax exemption; Tesla factory upgrade; Audi A8 e-tron; Porsche Cayenne S-E Hybrid; Quant e-Sportlimousine; Opel Ampera death; Nissan LEAF battery replacement program costs.

Weekly show about plug-in and electric vehicles. This week news about: Chevy Volt service update, Tesla-friendly quick chargers, Toyota FCV Sedan, Audi’s Electric Car Plans, HOV-lane sticker expansion, health warnings in California for gas pumps, Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED Configurator and how it works, restarting of UK Government Incentives for domestic charging stations, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV production increase, and UK apathy towards plug-in 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! 

Top Secret Tesla

Ever since Tesla announced its plans to build a massive battery reprocessing and manufacturing facility called the Gigafactory somewhere in one of four U.S. Southwestern states, there’s been a great deal of speculation and hearsay about where and when the massive facility will be built.

Officially, Tesla hasn’t detailed where its site will be yet, but Reno local Bob Tregilus thinks he’s got enough evidence gathered to put Tesla’s first Gigafactory site on his back door.

And if you pile up the evidence he’s been collecting for a few weeks, it’s pretty hard to disagree with him: local construction workers who won’t talk about what they’re building; firemen who pretend to not know what’s going on but clearly do; and a friend of a friend who refused to talk when they realised he was writing an article on the Gigafactory. It’s not 100% concrete, but we think it’s pretty convincing.

Bob will be on today’s new panel show, so if you have further questions, be sure to tune in!


I’m sorry to interrupt this. I know it’s recorded with a poor camera but this is a breaking news story and I think it’s very important that we add this story into the edit at the last minute.

We recorded this story at 5am BST, and it’s now nearly 9am, and it appears that this story has developed a little further. Over night, we received a couple of comments on our original story from someone who claimed to have connections to people who were working at this site.

We’ve since done some digging and it does appear, at this current stage (we haven’t been able to clarify this source 100 per cent, and we’re working to clarify the source ) …but there’s a very strong suggestion that the original contractors who were working on the site have been fired.

They have apparently been told to go home. The reason we believe that has been given or that is apparent seems to be that this particular contracting team were behind schedule for the needs of the very demanding client.

We did send our correspondent Bob Tregilus back to the supposed site in the small hours of the morning and he reports that unlike a couple of days ago when the site was up and operational with flood lights and lots of people working through the night this morning when he went there were no lights on and no-body there save for one person in a security truck who turned on vehicle lights when he approached.

We haven’t been able to corroborate the story yet. We haven’t been able to clarify the sources of these stories. We’re working very  hard to do that.

Some of the suggestions are that this site has been postponed and delayed indefinitely, but with my editorial hat on I suspect that one team has been laid off and another will be instated in its place.

Talking with various people it does become apparent that the locals are convinced that this is a Tesla site, so we’ll bring more news as we have it. Sorry this has added a bit of extra length to the show today, but back to the regular show now!

Bigger Batteries

South Korean battery specialist LG Chem — which currently supplied electric car battery packs to General Motors, Renault and Hyundai among others — will be making and selling 200-mile electric car battery packs by twenty sixteen.

That’s according to the firm’s Chief Financial Officer Cho Suk-jeh, who told Reuters last Friday that LG Chem’s second-generation lithium-ion battery pack would offer a massive improvement in energy density compared to its first generation pack.

The result is a battery pack which can store far more energy per unit mass, translating to a battery capable of travelling much further per charge than current packs.

While Suk-jeh wouldn’t name which of LG-Chem’s customers would be buying the new battery pack, we’re guessing at the moment GM — who has been promising a two-hundred mile EV by 2016 for some time — is at the top of the list.

So if you’re considering buying a new EV any time soon, you may want to hold off until we know a little more about this supposed 2016 model year long-distance car.

Exempt after all

The U.S. state of New Jersey doesn’t make life easy for electric car owners. If you ignore the ongoing battle between Tesla Motors and powerful auto dealer associations for a second, BMW’s all-electric i3 has had its own problems in the state.

You see, initially, BMW said the range-extended variant of the i3 — the i3 REx — would be exempt from sales tax just like all other plug-in cars in the garden state. But then a little while later, the state of New Jersey said no, because it had an on-board, range-extending gasoline engine, the i3 REx would attract sales tax. And some people, namely the early adopters who got their cars first, duly paid sales tax.

Yet now, the state of New Jersy has changed its mind, retroactively applying the tax break on any BMW i3 REx cars which have already been sold in the state. In short, if you’ve purchased a BMW i3 REx and you paid sales tax — you should probably expect a cheque in the post any day now.

A little upgrade

For the first time since its Model S entered into production in twenty twelve, Tesla’s Fremont Factory stopped making cars this week — but for a very good reason.

You see, the planned two-week production hiatus at the facility is a necessary part of a $100 million upgrade to the Fremont plant to prepare it for the arrival of the Tesla Model X crossover SUV later this year.

While Tesla isn’t due to start selling the Model S – derived crossover until next spring, the retrofit taking place over the next two weeks will add the required 25 additional robots needed to bring the Model X production into full swing.

Between now and then, Tesla will slowly ramp up production on the new line, first testing each robot out individually and then eventually using the line to produce pre-production prototypes. We’ll then see a switch to production Model X cars some time early in twenty fifteen

V6 Oil-Burner

Think plug-in car, and you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re the antithesis of the mighty V-6 engine. In fact when it comes to plug-in hybrids, there’s an unwritten rule which almost expects it to combine a moderately-sized electric motor with a small capacity four, three, or perhaps even two cylinder engine for the perfect mix of frugality, environmental kindness and range-anxiety beating backup power.

Yet as Auto Express reported this week, Audi’s upcoming A8 e-tron plug-in hybrid will be based on the unholy marriage of three-lire v-6 diesel engine and a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Packing plenty of grunt at low rpm and the kind of frugality that diesel engines are known for, this plug-in variant of Audi’s popular luxury sedan should manage around 30 miles per charge in all-electric range, but we’re doubtful anyone who buys one will be worried about getting thirty miles per charge.

Instead, like a growing number of plug-in cars on the market, we think the Audi A8 e-tron will be a car that enables drivers to continue worshiping at the altar of fossil-fuelled mayhem while meeting ever-increasing emissions regulations and of course, the all-important London Congestion Charge Exemption.

Can’ye Plug In?

In related news, premium automaker Porsche — owned by the same Volkswagen parent company as Audi — officially set pricing for its all-new twenty fifteen Porsche Cayenne S-E plug-in hybrid this week.

At $76,400, the Cayenne S-E hybrid replaces the outgoing 2014 Cayenne S Hybrid, which didn’t plug in and managed just 25 MPG combined on the EPA test cycle.

Like the Audi we just told you about, the Cayenne matches a V-6 engine with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, but this time it’s a petrol engine not diesel engine, along with a 70 kilowatt electric motor and 10.8 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack.

If that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same drivetrain used in the Cayenne’s more expensive sibling, the Panamera S-E Hybrid.

But with the Tesla Model X due next year for similar money and more than ten times the electric range, don’t expect the Porsche Cayenne S-E to sell in large numbers.

Two Million in Incentives

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about Toyota’s first mass-production hydrogen fuel cell car, the as yet unnamed Fuel Cell Sedan. Due to launch in Japan next spring, Toyota has always been pretty frank about the car’s seven million yen price tag, suggesting that it would need some significant help from world Governments to help subsidise the cost to early adopters of buying one.

Well, it seems Toyota has been given what it wants by the Japanese government — a massive ¥2 million in incentives for each and every person who buys a fuel cell vehicle. ¥2 million, for those unfamiliar with exchange rates, equates to about$20,000.

Or to put it another way, about two point six times the incentives currently offered to people in the U.S. and UK for buying an EV.

I wonder if there are any other governments feeling that generous?

Go With The Flow (Cell?)

The Quant e-Sportlimousine, a car you may never have heard of yet, received approval this week from the German authorities to begin road testing in Europe. With super-sexy design, gull-wing doors and the kind of performance specs that give Tesla a run for its money, the all-electric, four-wheel drive EV boasts a claimed 372 mile range, yet can be recharged in the time it takes you to fill up a petrol tank.

How you ask? Well, the Quant E-Sportlimousine is the first electric car in the world as far as we know to make use of something called a FlowCell. Operating in a similar way to a battery pack, the flowcell keeps its electrolyte in two tanks stored away from where the electrochemical reaction takes place. The two fluids are pumped either side of a special membrane, where an electrochemical reaction takes place and a current is induced. When the “battery” or rather the fluid is exhausted, simply pump it out for reprocessing and fill it up with fully charged electrolyte.

If this technology proves reliable, it could revolutionise the way we think about electric cars — and refuelling — forever.

It’s dead, Jim

It’s official: the European sibling to the Chevrolet Volt, the aptly named Opel (or Vauxhall) Ampera will meet its maker next year.

That’s according to the CEO of Opel no less, who confirmed this week in a tweet that Europeans won’t be getting a second-generation Ampera alongside the second-generation Chevy Volt, which will launch next year as a twenty sixteen model year car.

Poor sales, plus tough competition from better equipped, cheaper plug-ins have left the Ampera and the Volt gasping for attention in Europe, leaving GM no choice but to withdraw both models. The Volt, which will end sales this year as part of a wider Chevy pull out from Europe, will be followed a few months later by the Ampera. And hopefully, with any luck, in its place we’ll get a new, shiny plug-in that better suits European tastes. Just don’t get too excited yet…

Making a Loss

A few weeks ago, we told you about Nissan’s all-new replacement battery plan for LEAF owners. Give Nissan $5,499 and your car’s old battery pack, and Nissan will give you a brand new battery pack for your car built with the latest battery technology.

It sounded like a deal too good to be true — and as it turns out, it is. At least, it is for Nissan, which admitted this week that it is losing money on each and every battery pack it sells under the scheme.

While that will eventually change as battery prices drop and economies of scale come into play, Nissan says it’s willing to take this particular loss on the chin just to keep its customers happy.


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