T.E.N. EV and Future Car News 1 August, 2014: Tesla Gigafactory Confirmation, Crash Tests, and Robotic Cars

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 green and future car news stories of the week.

Weekly show about plug-in and electric vehicles. This week news about: Tesla’s confirmed Reno, NV Gigafactory location, Tesla’s deal with Panasonic for the Gigafactory, BMW’s 24 kW DC quick charging station, Elon Musk to appear on the Simpsons, Toyota’s name for its Fuel Cell Sedan, Chevrolet Volt, Nissan LEAF crash tests, Outstanding Outlander PHEV sales and Robotic cars in the UK.

Just ten minutes in length, T.E.N. delivers the green and future car 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! 

Reno, NV Confirmed

It’s official: the  site we told you about last week in Reno, NV is indeed one of several sites being developed by Tesla Motors as a potential location for its Gigafactory battery reprocessing and manufacturing facility.

The rumour was confirmed yesterday evening by Tesla in its official Q2 shareholder letter, released to coincide with the end of the financial quarter.  In it, Tesla confirmed that Reno, NV was the first potential Gigafactory site to break ground, but was careful to reiterate that it may not be the final, chosen location.  Other sites, warned Tesla, were also being developed and would be developed to avoid any delays in the building of the Gigafactory and subsequent Model 3 Sedan which relies on Gigafactory-built batteries for its low-price.

Also worthy of note in the official Q2 earnings report was the news that Tesla’s recent factory closure in Fremont should enable the company to exceed its 35,000 Model S manufacturing goal for twenty fourteen, as well as the news that Tesla earnings per share are up to 11 cents per share using the non-GAAP accounting method.

We’ll be talking about the Gigafactory and earnings results later today on TransportEvolved, so be sure to tune in!

Tesla and Panasonic…

We might not know for sure where Tesla plans on siting its first Gigafactory lithium-ion battery manufacturing and reprocessing facility, but we do now know for sure that its current battery supplier Panasonic will be its main business partner in the endeavour.

Announced yesterday morning ahead of Tesla’s Q2 earnings call, Tesla Motors and Panasonic confirmed their collaboration on the Gigafactory in a joint press release. As predicted earlier this week, Tesla plans to fund the purchase of land, the building of the factory itself and any utilities needed, while Panasonic is going to fund the equipment needed to actually make the cylindrical battery cells.

Interestingly however, Tesla says the Gigafactory won’t be just taken up by Panasonic and its production lines. Instead, about one half of the space will be taken up by Panasonic, with the rest of the space utilised by other companies used to turn the Panasonic-made lithium-ion cells into the finished battery packs that will be used in Tesla’s cars, most noticeably the twenty seventeen Tesla Model 3 the factory is built specifically to supply.

DC i?

DC quick charging stations are traditionally very expensive, very large and frankly not all that reliable. As well as requiring a substantial power source nearby, the physical dimensions of your average DC quick charging station — about the size of an average U.S. refrigerator —  are too large to mount somewhere convenient like a wall.

But that all changed this week with the unveiling of a brand new 24 kW DC quick charging station by Bosch. Produced in collaboration with BMW to offer an affordable CCS quick charging solution to BMW’s official partners, the wall-mounted DC quick charger weighs just one hundred pounds and is small enough to wall mount. And it costs just $6,548.

While it’s a little less powerful than the standard 50kW used on most DC quick charging stations, users shouldn’t notice too much difference between this reduced-power unit and the more-powerful, more expensive 50kW charging stations out there. That’s because the more powerful 50kW DC charging stations only actually provide fifty kilowatts of power for the first few minutes of a quick charging cycle.

Although the units will still likely be too powerful for your average home installation, BMW also announced a new free-to-charge program being rolled out across California this year with partner provider NRG eVgo. Like the free-to-charge program offered by Nissan, you’ll be able to charge your car up for free in California — provided you have the right BMW i3 access card, of course.

The Musk Who Fell To Earth

In the world of showbiz, nothing says you’ve made it big in the world than a guest appearance on The Simpsons. If the Simpsons creators name an episode after you AND invite you to play yourself in it, the chances are you really are someone special.

So if I was to tell you that California’s number one electric car-making, space-exploring entrepreneur Elon Musk will appear in a Musk-centric Episode of The Simpsons this fall, you should be suitably impressed.

Announced last weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con, Simpsons executive producer Al Jean said Musk would star as himself in an episode entitled The Musk Who Fell To Earth, in which Musk will end up locking horns with everyone’s favourite evil Nuclear Power plant Owner C Montgomery Burns.

I wonder if the Simpsons Team will give Mr. Musk his own cartoon version of a Model S to drive, too.

Meet the Future?

It’s official… or sort of… Toyota’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell sedan will be called the Toyota Mirai when it goes on sale next year.

Although Toyota hasn’t officially confirmed the name yet, Bloomberg confirmed this week via a source close to the company that the hydrogen fuel cell car would take on the Mirai name very soon. For those who are curious, Mirai in Japanese means “The Future”.

Aside from being a rather pretentious name which seems to fit Toyota’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell car, the rumor gets our seal of approval because as several commentators have noted this week, Toyota has trademarked the Mirai name with the U.S. patent office, leading us to think that this new name is almost certainly the name we’ll have to start using for the H2 car.

What do you think of the name? Is it accurate, apt, or do you have another one you’d like to use? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

Top of the Class

The 2014 Chevrolet Volt, General Motor’s popular range-extended electric hatchback, has been awarded a 2014 Top Safety Pick + by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The organisation, which crash tests every car on sale in the U.S. to see just how safe they are, introduced an all-new crash test back in 2012 called the small offset frontal impact test. Designed to test the crashworthiness of a vehicle in a collision with a pole or other object where only twenty-five percent of the bumper is impacted, the small offset frontal impact test is notoriously difficult to pass — especially with flying colours.

But the Chevrolet Volt managed it in its stride, being awarded an “Acceptable” rating by the IIHS in the all-new test. While that’s not quite the ‘Good’ rating awarded it in the rest of the IIHS crash tests, it does mean the Volt is one safe plug-in.

Could do Better

Sadly however, Nissan’s popular LEAF electric hatchback didn’t fare so well in the same small offset frontal impact test as its nearest plug-in rival.

Although the LEAF retains its high scores in the rest of its IIHS tests, the all-electric family car scored poorly in the new test, with a shocking sixteen inches of intrusion into the driver’s side of the cabin and fourteen inches of intrusion into the driver footwell.

A real collision of that magnitude, said the IIHS, would likely result in some nasty lower and mid-leg injuries, perhaps even injuring the driver’s left thigh.

As many in the industry admit, the new IIHS test is kind of severe, partly because of the physics of focusing the force of an impact on such a small area of the car. Still, let’s hope Nissan improves on this particular crash test in the next-generation LEAF, eh?

Outlandish Hit

The Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid might have only been on sale in Europe for a year — less in some places — but it is already proving an instant hit with plug-in car buyers, helping Mitsubishi break the 33,000 sales total.

That’s according to Mitsubishi North America, which announced the sales milestone last week at the Plug In Twenty Fourteen Conference in San Jose, California.

Although the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid began Japanese sales more than a year ago in January 2013, manufacturing problems with the battery pack led to a significant backlog in orders and a delay in worldwide sales.

That’s now all behind the firm, with demand far outstripping supply. So far Mitsubishi says it has sold more than 18,000 Outlander plug-in hybrids in Europe alone, with another 15,000 in its home market of Japan. And that’s before it’s even gone on sale in the U.S., something that won’t happen until a revised version is launched some time next year.

RoboCar AOK

If you’re in the UK, the dream of being driven to work in your self-driving car might be a step closer to becoming reality after the UK government approved the use of self-driving and fully-autonomous vehicles on the roads of the UK from January next year.

Under the new scheme, the UK Government says it has also set aside £10 million in funding to help up to three cities around the UK host driverless car trials. Carried out in collaboration with local businesses and research organisations, the test programs will start in January next year and last between eighteen and thirty six months.

With scope in the program to research both conventional cars with self-driving or semi autonomous capabilities and a new breed of fully autonomous vehicles without any driver controls, the UK Business Secretary Vince Cable says the scheme is essential to keep the UK at the forefront of automotive technology.

Of course, paving the way for self-driving cars also means tackling some of the legislative and regulatory barriers to the technology, something the UK government says it will do in the next few months as it undertakes an extensive review of current road and insurance legislation to prepare the way for future car tech.



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