T.E.N. Future Transport News 31st October, 2014: Tesla sells, Volt Drivetrain, LEAF Records

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: Toyota sells Tesla stock, Tesla offers new financing, Jaguar Land Rover looks at an electric Range Rover, Drivetrain details for the 2016 Chevrolet Volt, 3D printed batteries, Nissan LEAF sales record, Hydrogen from Solar Power, OK Go’s latest music video.

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.

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! 

Toyota Cashes in

At the end of last week, following hot on the heels of the news that German automaker Daimler had decided to sell its remaining Tesla stock, news reached us that Toyota — another reasonably early investor in Tesla — was also selling off at least some of its Tesla stock.

As detailed right at the end of last week, the sale — the actual percentage and price of which we don’t know — seems to be nothing more than a bearish reaction on the part of Toyota to Tesla’s severely overweight stock, which Toyota, like Daimler, acquired long before Tesla was a force to be reckoned with in the automotive world.

What isn’t clear at the moment is if Toyota sold all of its stock or just a small percentage, but given Daimler made a massive seven hundred and eighty million dollars from selling around what we believe to be is about twice the shareholding Toyota purchased back in twenty ten, Toyota likely made more money than I’ve ever seen before.

As for collaboration with Tesla? Toyota’s previous project with Tesla — the Toyota RAV4 EV — ended earlier this year, but Tesla still seems happy about working with Toyota in the future, so there’s no love lost here, even if Toyota’s stake in Tesla isn’t what it once was.

Guaranteed Happiness

As Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is only too happy to admit, Tesla Motors would generally prefer you to lease, rather than buy a Tesla electric car. As well as being cheaper than a finance package, leasing allows Tesla to ensure that your car has a guaranteed life after the lease has ended as an official Certified Used Tesla.

Now the cost of that lease has dropped thanks to a brand-new lease package for Tesla customers in the U.S. Working alongside US Bank, Tesla says some customers could find their lease payments will be as much as a twenty-five per cent less than they were previously.

In addition, Tesla has launched something called its Happiness Guarantee, a scheme which allows Tesla lessees to return their new car in the first three months of ownership and walk away from Tesla ownership with no strings attached — except the one which says you can’t take out another Tesla lease for a few months after invoking this particular scheme, that is.

Moreover, Tesla says it will now let Lessees upgrade to the latest car before their lease period is up, in exchange for an appropriate adjustment fee to make up for any difference in sticker price.

Putting the Range in Range Rover

Range Rover — Jaguar Land Rover’s luxury SUV range — is traditionally associated with high-paid sports stars, A-list celebrities and go-anywhere opulence. In almost every case, those associations and preconceptions come with a large, powerful, gas-guzzling V-6 or V-8.

Now it appears that Jaguar Land Rover might be about to change Range Rover’s gas-guzzling reputation with the rumor that it is considering the possibility of producing an all-electric Range-Rover model to cross-shop against Tesla’s Model S and Model X in the luxury car marketplace.

That’s according to AutoCar, who claims that Jaguar Land Rover group engineering director Wolfgang Ziebart hinted recently that the British-based firm was seriously considering a plug-in vehicle for the Chinese and U.S. markets.

In the past few years, we’ve Jaguar Land Rover at least flirt with plug-in vehicles, first with a plug-in hybrid Range Rover prototype and then more recently a fully-electric, go-anywhere Land Rover Defender, so the question seems when, rather than if, an all-electric Land Rover or Range Rover will make it to market.

What makes the Volt go?

In a few months’ time, General Motors will officially unveil the next-generation twenty sixteen Chevrolet Volt. Following on from the success of the first-generation Chevy Volt, the new Volt is expected to be marketed at a more mainstream audience, and bring more people than ever before to the world of range-extended electric cars.

And while we don’t know what the Volt will look like yet, we do now know what will power the Volt, courtesy of a tech briefing from GM this week.

Under the hood of the new Volt, there’s a slightly larger one point five litre, four-cylinder engine, putting to rest rumors that the second-generation Volt would have a three-banger as a range-extender. More efficient than the current one point four litre engine in the twenty fifteen Volt, this engine has been especially adapted for lower emissions and ultra-lean fuel burn, so expect range-extended mode to yield a far better gas mileage than the current car.

There’s also a completely rebuilt drivetrain — U.S. made — including two new electric motors that GM says are more efficient and use far less rare earth metals than their predecessors. Combine this with a more energy-dense, lighter battery pack, and we think an all-electric range of at least sixty miles per charge should be possible.

Watch this space for more news as we have it.

Print your battery

3D printing is great, isn’t it? As well as allowing you to create any number of cool trinkets and dodads and yes, even print food, it turns out 3D printing may soon one day be able to print super-energy dense lithium-ion battery packs for your car.

Enter Graphene 3D labs inc, a company which has just applied for a series of patents pertaining to 3D printed lithium-ion batteries.

Using Graphene as an electrode, the company says its printed 3D batteries are incredibly energy dense and simple to make. And because they’re printed, they can be built in pretty much any shape conceivable.

At the moment, the company has managed to produce a battery the same size and energy capabilities of a double A battery, but it’s hoped that with the right help, it will be able to produce printed battery packs that could even form a structural element of an electric car in the future. Now that’s neat.

Solar Hydrogen

Just like those arguments about how clean the energy really is that powers electric cars, hydrogen fuel cell cars often come under criticism because of the way in which the hydrogen fuel they use is generated in the first place.

Like electric cars then, hydrogen fuel cell cars are only as clean as the energy used to power them, so it’s no wonder that Japanese automaker Honda — one of the world’s biggest supporters of hydrogen fuel cell technology — is keen to highlight green ways of generating hydrogen for use in its upcoming fuel cell vehicles.

That’s why Honda switched on an all-new hydrogen generation plant this week at its UK manufacturing base near Swindon which is powered solely by photovoltaic solar panels.

Sadly, I don’t have the technical info yet, but the multi-megawatt solar array is used to electrolyze water, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere and capturing the hydrogen in the process.

From where I’m standing, the whole thing is still pretty energy intensive, but expect a tech primer on the whole solar-powered hydrogen next week on Transport Evolved. And if you haven’t’ already seen it, check my thoughts on driving a hydrogen fuel cell car for the first time in a very long while over on our YouTube channel.

Super Discounts

It’s super sexy, sleek and the highest-performing electric car money can buy, but the Tesla Model S also happens to be super-expensive to buy, wherever in the world you happen to be.

In the UK and U.S., generous local and national incentive programs can help bring the cost of a Tesla Model S down by a few thousand, but over in Shanghai, China, a new incentive program from the City’s municipal government means that those who can afford to buy a Tesla Model S won’t have to fork out the usual twelve thousand dollar registration fee that the city’s residents normally have to fork out to obtain license plates.

That registration fee — intentionally large to try and dissuade Chinese citizens from compounding the nation’s chronic air pollution problems by buying a new car — operates alongside a strict limit to the number of new car registrations a city can process per month. But with the Tesla Model S zero emission, more Chinese cities than ever before are bending the rules for the luxury plug-in, meaning buyers not only get the chance to own a car, but don’t have to pay through the nose to do so.

Lucky them.

LEAF Record

It’s official: after continued month-on-month sales records, the Nissan LEAF passed its U.S. sales record for twenty thirteen some time during September, more than three months before the end of twenty fourteen.

The thirty-six percent sales increase year on year means that twenty fourteen will be LEAF’s highest-selling year since it went on sale back in twenty ten, and demonstrates that plug-in cars are finally starting to get the attention and consideration of mainstream car buyers.

Among the reasons for the increased sales, Nissan says, is the so-called ‘cul-de-sac’ effect, where one person buys a Nissan LEAF then evangelises about it to friends, family and colleagues, who then go out and buy a plug-in car of their own.

Generous incentives and higher public charging provision is also sure to have helped, but we’re curious to know if you purchased a Nissan LEAF this year — and if doing so was prompted by someone else you know who already had one?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

Dancing Cubs

They’ve built incredible Rube Goldberg machines, worked with highly-trained canines and even turned a Chevrolet Sonic into a musical instrument, but for their latest music video madness, music group OK Go turned to Japanese electric vehicles for help.

Enter Honda’s ßeta Uni-Cub, a tiny segway-like self-balancing barstool that is steered by shifting your weight while seated atop its tiny frame.  Powered by a tiny lithium-ion battery, the little EVs are used in a variety of neat choreographed stunts in the official video for I Won’t Let You Down.

As well as providing the band members transport throughout the double-speed video, a whole fleet of Uni-Cubs are used for Japanese umbrella-brandishing schoolgirls, who provide some pretty unique and fun visual effects as the camera pulls way way out at the end of the song.

It’s kind of hard to explain, but you should totally watch it.


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