T.E.N. Future Transport News 24th October, 2014: Self-driving Race Cars, Tesla Bans, Cashing Out

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 cars and future car technology. This week news about: Audi’s self-driving race car; 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf EPA ratings; slashed Ford Focus Electric MSRP; Michigan’s recent ban on Tesla direct-to-customer sales; the rise in UK plug-in car sales; Model S owner calls to upgrade the Tesla Model S for autodriving technology; Hyundai’s UK launch of the iX35 FCV; Daimler sells Tesla stock; Renault Twizy Ice racing in the French Alps.

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! 

Scary Fast

Being driven around a race track in a fully race-prepared car is one thing if the person behind the wheel happens to be a fully-certified race car driver, but how would you feel about being driven around a race course at speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour if there wasn’t anyone at all behind the wheel?

That’s the question we’re asking ourselves after seeing Audi send its RS 7 autonomous driving concept car around the world-famous Hokenheim ring in Germany without a single human on board.

Prepared specifically for the stunt, the car used its on-board memory of the track alongside sophisticated cameras and ultra-sensitive GPS to accurately figure out its position on the track at all times, putting in a total lap time of just over two minutes for the entire Formula One course.

As well as making for some pretty impressive video, it just shows what autonomous driving technology is really capable of. That said, I’m not sure I’m ready to tackle the morning commute that quickly yet.

2015 Volkswagen e-Golf Rated

The 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf, the first all-electric plug-in from Volkswagen to go on sale in the U.S., has received its official fuel economy and range ratings from the EPA.

With a range of 83 miles per charge from its twenty four point two kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack, the e-Golf is ideally suited to do battle directly with the popular Nissan LEAF electric hatchback in the plug-in marketplace. And with a fuel economy of one hundred and sixteen miles per gallon equivalent, the two cars really are equally matched.

Which brings us on to price. Starting at $36,265 before incentives, the e-Golf doesn’t just match the Nissan LEAF in performance and range.

Let the fight begin.

Slashed Prices

It’s no secret that Ford’s all-electric Focus hatchback is something of a compliance car, produced by Ford and sold in limited enough numbers to satisfy zero emission mandates in states like California. Often dismissed by its Detroit parent in favor of its more mainstream plug-in hybrid models, the Focus Electric is probably the most unloved Ford plug-in on sale today.

But this week, a rumor via LeftLaneNews suggests Ford is about to drop a massive six thousand dollars of the price of the 2015  Ford Focus Electric, making it sit well within Nissan LEAF territory.

Rumored to go on sale for $29,995 before incentives, the twenty fifteen Ford Focus Electric is finally truly competitive in a market that’s just gained a new similarly-priced player… the aforementioned 2015 VW e-Golf.

In short, if you’re in the market for a new plug-in hatch, you’ve finally got a great range to choose from, at least if you live in a plug-in friendly market.


It could be said that Michigan, home to Motor City which is itself home to America’s biggest and most well-known automakers, has a lot to benefit from trying to help the auto industry keep the same status quo that it has enjoyed for the past few decades.

So when given the chance to ban Californian electric automaker Tesla Motors from going against the status quo and selling its luxury electric cars direct to customers, the Michigan legislature — no doubt helped by some enthusiastic lobbying from pro auto-dealer entities — has succeed in changing Michigan auto dealer law to make sure Tesla can’t sell its cars direct to customers there.

By removing one single word — the possessive pronoun its — from the books, SB 6505 closed a loophole that Tesla used earlier this year in Massachusetts to overturn that state’s ban on Tesla direct sales.

Despite last-minute pleas from Tesla fans and its suppliers in Michigan, State Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill into law yesterday, saying he would be open to future discussion of the issue. For now however, the home state of the U.S. auto industry has closed its doors to the U.S’s most innovative automaker.

Brits plug-in, Switch on

It might have taken Brits a little while to get the message about plug-in cars, but figures released this week suggest that after several years of lacklustre sales, plug-in cars are finally taking off in the island nation.

So much so, that the 5,000 plug-in car grants awarded in the third quarter of this year account for one third of all plug-in car grants issued by the British government since its electric car incentive program started back in twenty ten.

Helped by the launch of the Tesla Model S and BMW i3 in the UK this year plus the appearance of the e-Golf, e-Up and Mitsubishi outlander PHEV, the British plug-in car market is far more mature than it was this time last year. And with more plug-in charging stations than ever before on the UK’s motorways thanks to companies like Eoctiricty, plug-in car ownership is finally starting to make sense.

Well done, UK. What took you so long?

Upgrade Us!

In the world of consumer electronics, finding out that your computer, smartphone or gadget its incompatible with the latest software update and headlining all-new functionality is frustrating, especially if you’ve recently purchased the said device.

In the automotive world, it’s pretty much taken that once you’ve purchased a car, it will stay that way until the day you sell it. No upgrades and no extra features.

But now a core of Tesla Model S owners are petitioning Tesla Motors to offer the autonomous drive features it announced two weeks ago as retrofit options for those who are willing to pay for them. Their primary argument? That Tesla isn’t just any other automaker.

Tesla had initially said upgrades wouldn’t be possible due to the complexity of the changes involved, but those who have signed the petition — nearly one thousand Tesla owners — seem convinced Tesla will figure out a way.

I remain to be convinced.

Hi to hydrogen

Following on from its first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle deliveries in the U.S. back in May this year, South-Korean automaker Hyundai has brought hydrogen fuel cell technology to the UK with the official arrival of the first six Hyundai iX35 FCV SUVs to come into the UK.

Essentially a European rebadged version of the Hyundai Tucson FCV we’ve seen on the roads of California, the Hyundai iX35 is powered by a one hundred kilowatt proton exchange membrane hydrogen fuel cell and one hundred  kilowatt electric motor, delivering a nought to sixty two time of around twelve and a half seconds and an estimated range of around two hundred and sixty five miles from twelve point four pounds of pressurised hydrogen.

But while the UK is committed to spending more than eleven million pounds in funding to help support the growth of a hydrogen economy, there are currently only a handful of refuelling stations in the UK at the moment — and most are in the London area. And unlike electric cars, you can’t just refuel at home if you can’t find a place to fill up.

So as long as you only need to drive around London, you should be fine. Urm. Yeah.

Cashing Out

Here’s a question for you: how does German automaker Daimler make a cool $780 million from the electric car revolution without selling hundreds of thousands of electric cars in the process?

Answer: rescue Californian automaker Tesla Motors from a near certain death in 2009 by acquiring nearly 10 percent of the company, wait for it to become successful, then cash in to the tune of $780 million.

That’s exactly what German automaker Daimler has done this week, after selling off the final four percent of nearly ten percent original investment in Tesla back in 2009. Initially purchased for around fifty million dollars, the automaker decided to take advantage of Tesla’s overweight stock and get out while the going was good, making more than the GDP of Saint Kitts and Nevis in a few seconds.

Despite cashing in on the Tesla stock however, Daimler said its relationship with Tesla is still strong — and it will continue to use the plug-in expert for drivetrains for its Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive for many years to come.

Icy Fun

As the nights draw in across the northern hemisphere, the chances are your attention is starting to shift from warm summer evenings to warm log-fires, snow-filled lanes and perhaps a ski-trip to your local resort.

But if you’re a plug-in loving skiier who has yet to book your holiday this winter, may I present the latest fun off-piste activity for you: ice racing in electric cars.

Yes folks, thanks to Renault’s diminutive Twizy and some studded ice tyres you’ll be able to race Twizy electric quadricycles on the snow and ice at the La Clusaz ski resort in the French Alps this winter.

With tiny wheelbase, powerful electric motor and rear-wheel drive goodness, the Twizy is the perfect car for ice racing. And because it doesn’t have windows, you’ll feel like you’re outside and having fun even if you’re sat at the wheel of a crazy-fun electric car.

I want to go.


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