T.E.N. Future Transport News 22 August 2014: Infinite Warranties, Exclusive Cars, Keyless Model S

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 plug-in and electric vehicles. This week news about: Tesla’s infinite mileage warranty, BMW i8 deliveries in the U.S., Saleen FourSixteen, V2V Safety Features, Ideal EV range, VW XL2, Battery Holy Grails, Keyless Model S.

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 blow.

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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! 

To Infinity And Beyond

Car review and valuation site Edmunds dot com had theirs replaced a number of times, Consumer Reports said they had some issues, and numerous private Tesla Model S owners report their going south too — but now Tesla is offering an infinite mileage warranty on all Tesla Model S drivetrains.

Announced last Friday after we’d recorded last week’s show, the infinite mileage warranty covers every eighty-five kilowatt-hour Tesla Model S made from any defects with its drivetrain from the point of manufacture until its eighth birthday, regardless of how many miles on the clock.

It’s worth noting however that those with a Tesla Model S fitted with a 60 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack won’t get an infinite mileage warranty for their cars. Instead, they’ll get an eight year, 125,000 mile warranty on the drivetrain.

From where we’re standing however, that’s still pretty darned good, and puts Tesla in line with many other mainstream automakers offering similar mileage warranties. Well done!

Concours d’exclusif

Just a few months after delivering the first BMW i3 electric cars to customers in the U.S., BMW North America used the exclusive Pebble Beach Concours d’elegance last weekend to deliver the first of its i8 plug-in hybrid sports cars to an equally exclusive list of high profile owners.

Capable of around fifteen miles in all-electric mode, the BMW i8 is definitely more of a high-performance, fuel-sipper than an outright EV, but its list of buyers — including Auto Dealer moguls Roger Penske and Rick Hendrick, CEO and Founder of Nest Tony Fadell and award-winning Chef Thomas Keller all seem happy enough with their super-sleek, high-performance rides.

The deliveries were made as part of the larger weekend-long Pebble Beach celebrations of all things automotive, and included a special invitation-only dinner at BMW’s villa in Pebble Beach, cooked by the aforementioned Chef Keller.  Then, the following day, BMW auctioned off a one-of-a-kind BMW i8 Concours d’elegance edition for charity, with the hammer falling at an astonishing final bid price of $825,000.

Still, it was for a good cause — even if that’s the kind of money most of us only ever dream about having.

More Power, Baby

Staying with the exclusive Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for a second, there were plenty of other sexy electric cars present this year, including an exclusive tweaked Tesla Model S by performance company Saleen.

Known more for their tuning prowess with Muscle Cars, Saleen took the opportunity of this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to unveil the Four Sixteen — a race-inspired Tesla Model S with tweaked power electronics cooling, a hot differential for faster acceleration, and of course, the obligatory design makeover.

Faster off the line than the standard Tesla model S, the Saleen Four Sixteen promises to be a daemon on any track day — but will set you back a cool $152,000 for the base spec car.  Tick all the option boxes and like the Tesla Model S it is built around, you’ll find the price rising ever upwards. Unlike the Tesla Model S, that upper price bracket is upwards of $200,000, so this is a car you’ll only want if you can stomach spending almost double what a standard tesla Model S P85 costs to gain less than a second in the 0-60 dash.

V2V for You And Me

Intersection crashes — namely ones involving turning across the flow of traffic and T-bone collision at four-way intersections — account for countless vehicular accidents every year.

Which is why the U.S. Department of Transport — working alongside NHTSA — is about to introduce new legislation requiring all new cars to go on sale in the U.S. to be fitted with special Vehicle-to-Vehicle technology designed to reduce the number of intersection accidents.

The technology works by sending anonymised data about every car on the road to every other car on the road, including their position and speed. As a consequence, drivers approaching a junction can be warned about impending accidents long before they happen, enabling them to slow down, stop or change direction as required to avoid hitting someone.

Like any other safety technology however, the new V2V technologies — namely Left Turn Assist and Intersection Movement Assist — will only work if the person behind the wheel pays attention to them. And that, as we’re sure you know, is a tougher problem to solve.

100-Miles and no more.

There’s a lot of confusion among would-be plug-in car owners about which cars best suit their needs — both in terms of range, capabilities and price.

The logical choice might seem to be buying the longest-range car you can afford — but a recent study from academics at the Oak Ridge National laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee suggests that the best car for the job right now might be one with a range of one hundred miles or less….at least until battery prices fall.

Looking at the economics of ownership, Optimising and Diversifying Electric Vehicle Driving Range for U.S. Drivers examined data from more than thirty six and a half thousand drivers in the U.S., and came to the conclusion that cars with ranges of over 100 miles per charge made little or no economic sense for the majority of drivers.

Essentially, if you’re within the usual bell-curve of drivers, buying a car with longer-distance range won’t be cost effective — until the price of battery packs falls to less than one hundred dollars per kilowatt hour. Right now, they’re two to three times that amount.

So if you’re in the market for a new EV, be sure to let your maths head have its fair share of the decision-making process.

2(XL1) = XL2?

It’s super sexy, sleek, and incredibly honest in its driving feedback. It’s also super, hyper efficient, returning the kind of fuel economy you’d never think was possible. Sadly, it’s also more than $100,000 to buy, and there are only ever going to be two hundred and fifty in existence.

But now Volkswagen’s limited-production, oh-so-expensive XL1 plug-in hybrid is about to get a makeover, says UK magazine AutoCar. A makeover which would give it two extra seats and become the super-efficient Volkswagen XL2.

Supposedly due to go on sale some time around twenty fifteen, the fuel-sipping XL2 would take everything that makes the XL1 so efficient — including its tiny engine and electric motor, aerodynamic shape and lightweight body panels — and make it suitable for four adults.

The goal, say sources, is to produce a car that’s efficient enough to compete with a promised super-aerodynamic car from Honda, but there are no prices yet or commitments to the kind of fuel economy and range you can expect to get.

I just hope it keeps those lovely upward-hinging doors from the XL1 — oh, and the rear view cameras… because they are totally awesome.

The Holy Grail… of Batteries

Quiet, sporty and easy to drive, electric cars are the obvious zero emissions transportation solution for the world of tomorrow. As logical as they may be, however, their one Achilles heel — the cost, weight and limited range of battery packs — is preventing them from effecting the transportation revolution they yearn for.

Now a company called Sakti3 — I’m honestly not sure how to say that name — which spun off from the University of Michigan claims to have reached the holy grail of battery technology: a battery chemistry which is lightweight, energy dense, and cheap to make.

The key to this new wonder battery is a solid-state composition in which the electrolyte isn’t liquid based as with most batteries but solid. That means you can not only get more energy stored per unit volume but it also makes them incredibly safe to use, resisting temperature and puncture impacts far better than traditional batteries. As for the energy density? Apparently these cells could be easily used in a Tesla Model S to give more than four hundred and eighty miles of range per charge.

What’s more, the company claims the new batteries can be made for just one hundred dollars per kilowatt-hour, making them sound almost too good to be true.

Now we just have to wait for them to enter production…

Look Ma! No Keys!

We carry them everywhere, use them to keep track of our busy lives, and feel positively naked without them. They’ve replaced our wallets, our diaries and our notebooks — and now the humble smartphone is about to replace our car keys too.

That’s because Tesla Motors is about to join a growing number of automakers around the world to adopt a remote control functionality for its Model S electric car that not only allows you to unlock the doors, honk the horn and flash the lights but actually turn the car on and drive it — all while your funky Tesla Model S key is back at home.

Apparently, this functionality will come with the latest OS 6.0 version of Tesla’s own car-based operating system. Like the OS of your smartphone or computer, the Tesla Model S can download the latest software remotely, adding functionality and patching problems all without visiting your local service centre.

The new feature, along with other interesting tweaks like congestion-aware sat nav and an all-new calendar app, will go live when OS 6.0 is pushed to customer’s cars later this year. And initially, if you’ve got an iPhone, the remote unlocking and car starting feature will be too.

There’s no word on quite how it works, but I’m just too excited about not having to take my keys with me to pay attention. Just let me geek out about this one for a while, eh?


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