Transport Evolved News Panel Talk Show 216: Changing the Rules

On today’s Transport Evolved: Michigan closes the door on Tesla Stores, the mid-priced electric car market gets more competitive, and Audi sends a self-driving car around the Hokenhiemring really fast.

These stories and more on Today’s Transport Evolved, with Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, John Voelcker and Chelsea Sexton.

Welcome to the show! Today, Nikki is joined by editor of GreenCarReports, Classic Car aficionado and all-round nice guy John Voelcker, and teller of truths in the electric car industry, EV advocate and expert Chelsea Sexton.

A Stanford graduate, John has spend many years writing about and enjoying everything automotive. Currently a Senior Editor at HighGearMedia –– the company behind GreenCarReportsMotor Authority and The Car Connection – John can also be found contributing on Fox News, Tech Review, IEEE Spectrum, HybridCars.com and Portfolio.com. He’s also an avid classic car fan, having authored and contributed to several books on classic british cars, and can often be found working on his own classic car collection and drooling over the Bring-a-Trailer listings.

One of the sales people for the original EV1 electric car, Chelsea rose to fame for her role in the Don’t Crush campaign back in the early noughties, which was captured in the film Who Killed the Electric Car? and of course its more triumphant sequel Revenge of the Electric Car, on which she was a consultant producer.

A tireless EV advocate and known for her direct approach and unwavering candor, Chelsea has worked more recently as an industry advisor, helping automakers like GM and Nissan with their electric car programs. She currently assists Nissan with its LEAF advisory board, but has no direct contact to the company’s day-to-day EV operations.

You can find John on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, and read his daily posts on GreenCarReports.  You can find Chelsea on Twitter or Facebook.

Part One

Before we start the show today, we’d like to remember yet another member of the plug-in world who tragically died this month in a motorcycle accident. 

Pitt Moos, one of the team who worked on the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive at Daimler, tragically lost his life earlier this month in a motorcycle accident. Pitt was always a welcome conversationalist in the plug-in world, being one of the few electric car engineers who publicly engaged in interesting and informative plug-in car debate. As always, it is terribly sad when we lose one of our own, and we’d like to wish his family our deepest condolences at this difficult time. 


We chat to both John and Chelsea to find out what they’ve been up to lately, including finding out the latest on John’s new Garage project, his  recent article on 10 Questions on Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars to Ask Toyota, Honda & Hyundai, and Chelsea’s day-long stint listening to Friday’s CARB hearing on changing the rules for ZEV mandates and Intermediate Volume Manufacturers.

(You can find an excellent primer over at GreenCarReportsor read our own take on the proposed changes here.)

In doing so, we ask if Friday’s CARB meeting is history repeating itself, who is to blame, and if there will be any positive outcomes from it? We also explain why any chances to CARB’s policies could have wider implications for plug-in car sales and production outside of the Golden state.

Also in Part One:

The e-Golf is smaller than the Nissan LEAF, but competes well in terms of spec, trim and range.

The e-Golf is smaller than the Nissan LEAF, but competes well in terms of spec, trim and range.

The 2014 Volkswagen e-Golf is rated by the EPA for 83 miles of range per charge at 116 MPGe, while there’s a rumour that the 2015 Ford Focus Electric is about to get a price cut. With the Nissan LEAF, Ford Focus Electric and Volkswagen e-Golf all now in the same price range, does this mean there’s never a better time to go shopping for subcompact and compact electric hatchbacks?

Finally for the segment, we visit a location in Dorno, Italy, which we think has to be one of the best-equipped charging sites for plug-in cars in the world, with Tesla Supercharger, CHAdeMo and CCS all in one place!

Part two

We open part two by covering last week’s proceedings in the state of Michigan, where new legislation was passed into law which banned Tesla from selling direct to its customers there. We examine how Tesla tried to plea its case in the 11th hour with help from its suppliers, examine how the deletion of a possessive pronoun closed any possible loopholes for Tesla, and examine the blatant protectionism and vested interests which came into play to ensure the bill made it into law.

We also ask what about Tesla scares General Motors so much, and why it asked the state of Michigan to back the anti-Tesla law.

Staying with Tesla for a second, we explain how German automaker Daimler managed to make a cool $780 million this week from Tesla, by selling off its remaining stock in the company.

Despite still relying on Tesla for drivetrains for its Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED and Smart ForTwo ED, Daimler no-longer owns Tesla stock.

Despite still relying on Tesla for drivetrains for its Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED and Smart ForTwo ED, Daimler no-longer owns Tesla stock.

We ask if Daimler knows something we don’t about Tesla, or if it was just taking advantage of Tesla’s overweight stock before the price fell to its ‘true’ value? And with Japanese automaker Toyota following suit, we wonder why Tesla isn’t such an interesting investment for either company any more — and ask if Daimler and Toyota’s sale of stock will open up the door for BMW to jump in?

Staying with Tesla, we ask if a recent prediction that the Tesla Model X launch has a ‘reasonable risk’ of being shifted to late 2015 has any foundation in fact. We examine the financial commitments facing Tesla over the coming few months, and ask if Tesla will be able to keep up with its own seemingly-impossible time-frame.

Finally for the segment, we talk about a new petition being organised by Tesla Model S owners who fell left out in the cold by Tesla’s recent “D” announcement. Calling on Tesla to offer a retrofit self-driving package to the Model S, a small group of Tesla Model S owners say Tesla needs to prove it isn’t like the rest of the auto industry and remember its early adopters. We examine just what they’re wanting — and explain why it’s both impractical and unrealistic to expect Tesla to meet these demands.

Part Three

Audi sent a self-driving RS7 around the Hoceknheimring this week in Germany, setting a new speed record for a self-driving car in the process. We examine the technology behind the attempt, look at the biggest players in the self-driving and piloted-driving technology sphere, and ask how long it will be before we see autonomous driving technology this good on the roads of the U.S. and Europe.

California’s Air Resources Board published the ZEV credit balances for 2013/2014 this week, detailing which manufacturers sold credits and which ones purchased them. We ask how the proposed changes to CARB regulation could change this moving forward, and discover that it was Nissan — not Tesla — who sold the most credits last year.

After three very slow years of plug-in sales, the UK’s plug-in grant scheme recorded 5,000 plug-in grant applications during Q3 of this year. With applications in Q3 accounting for almost a third of all applications received since the scheme statrted in 2010, we ask if the dramatic change is down to particular car models like the BMW i3, Tesla Model S and Mitsubishi outlander PHEV, the appearance of Nissan’s all-electric e-NV200 commercial van, or something else.

Outlander PHEV hed

Following on from its launch of the Tucson Hydrogen Fuel Cell SUV earlier this year in the U.S., South Korean automaker Hyundai has officially imported the first six production iX35 Hydrogen Fuel Cell SUVs into the UK. Essentially a rebadged version of the Tucson FCV for the European Market, the iX35 will be leased in the UK for an as-yet undisclosed amount. But with a range of around 265 miles per fill and only a handful of active Hydrogen filling stations, we ask how practical it will be in everyday life — even if it price-matches popular plug-in cars.

And finally…

While we were tempted to leave you with an appropriate Halloween Holiday video of a porcupine eating pumpkin for the first time, we just can’t think how that would connect with the world of future cars and future car technology.

So, in its place (yes, the link is above) we’re finishing today with the ultimate Winter sport for 2014/15: Renault Twizy ice racing. Go on, you know you want to have a go!


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  • Re Part 3: Audi calls it a ‘piloted car’; to me, that sounds like there is a person behind the wheel. If they want to refer to a computer controlled car, I like the terms autonomous, self-driving, or autopilot. Although Tesla specifically uses the term autopilot to mean computer assisted and NOT full autonomous. This is a new tech and the colloquial terms still need to be worked out.

  • Re Part 2: nHaha, it says “Reinventing Michigan” in the upper righthand corner; while everything he says in the video is clearly “Status Quo Michigan”. nnTo sum up what he said, “I’m doing the wrong thing, and I wrote a note that says I could do the right thing, *if* you call me out on this, but it’s OK to do the wrong thing, because it got the most votes!”

  • LogicDesigner

    I’m new to Transport Evolved and wanted to say I enjoyed the show, Nikki. I’m one of the comments section rabble-rousers over at Green Car Reports so this video caught my attention when I stopped by your homepage.nnnI don’t know if you take questions, but something I would be curious to hear about next time Chelsea is on is how much influence the non-California CARB states have on CARB decisions. Based on my Wikipedia-level understanding, it seems that the other states that submit to CARB standards don’t get a vote on the board. Also, if a state decided to be a “CARB state”, do they do so completely or can they pick and choose which parts of the CARB program they want to participate in? Also (this it the last “also”, I promise), do all the states participate in one large ZEV credit pool or does each state have their own credit pool?

  • Kenneth_Brown

    Nikki, Get Chelsea to raise her camera (laptop?) up to eye level and look at her straight on. We’re spending the show looking up her nose and the 300-400 ft of space between the top of her head and the top of the frame. She’s also a bit on the green side.

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