T.E.N. Future Transport News 7th November, 2014: Model X Delay, Hydrogen Prize, Super-Fast Car

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’s reasons for not building plug-ins, the DoE’s new H2 Refuel H-Prize, Norway’s mainstream plug-in cars, the first e-Golf in the U.S., Model X 5-Star EuroNCAP, fuel economy penalties from the EPA, super-fast electric race cars, Tesla Model X Delay

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! 

The opinion nobody wants

When it comes to the plug-in car marketplace, there’s no denying that right now, plug-in cars account for a small proportion of the total number of cars sold worldwide every year. But unless you’ve been stuck under a rock for the past decade, you have to acknowledge that demand for plug-in car is dramatically on the increase.

Yet Japanese automaker Toyota disagrees. Either it really has been under the proverbial rock for a few years, or it’s ignoring the very simple fact that demand for plug-in cars is on the rise.

Reticent of anything with a plug — including its own limited-production RAV4 EV —  Toyota has long dismissed plug-in cars as a fad, but this week Toyota U.S. manager of Advanced Technologies Craig Scott claimed that Toyota wasn’t making an all-electric car anymore because no-one wanted it to.

Instead, he implied, consumers were falling over themselves to get behind the wheel of a hydrogen fuel cell car, which is funny because I’ve yet to see any evidence to suggest that hydrogen fuel cell cars are going to be any more popular than electric cars were at launch and plenty which suggests they’re going to be little more than compliance vehicles, at least for the first five to ten years or so.

Your move, Toyota.

Hydrogen Prize

The U.S. Department of Energy — which is charged with supporting the development of a wide range of alternative fuels — has launched a $1,000,000 competition this week which seeks to turn the expensive, carbon-intensive and inefficient business of producing, storing and transporting hydrogen into something that everyone can do at home.

Called the H2 Refuel H-Prize, the $1,000,000 prize fund takes the form of a two-year competition to find a way that consumers and businesses can make and store small-scale amounts of hydrogen, either by electrolysing water or by reforming hydrogen from natural gas.

In the first year, teams will have to prove their theoretical concepts to a team of judges who will select a set of finalists to go on to year two. In year two, the teams will have to build and demonstrate their hydrogen generation and refuelling technology in a real-life scenario, as well as prove that their system meets the necessary fiscal and technical regulations set by the competition.

As many of our readers noted this week, the current process of generating hydrogen isn’t exactly all that green, so we’re keen to see if this competition finds a revolutionary new way of making hydrogen or turns out to be nothing more than a fool’s errand.

No-longer Niche

In pretty much every industrialised nation in the world, electric cars are still considered something of a niche-market vehicle, viewed as either eco-friendly wheels for the wealthy, liberal middle classes or worse still, as a plaything for A-list celebrities.

Except that is, for the European country  of Norway, where plug-in cars now account for more than fifteen percent of the new car marketplace and owning an electric vehicle is as everyday as heading out for a summer hike or winter cross-country ski.

That massive market share is thanks to generous incentives designed to get people behind the wheel of a plug-in car, including zero percent sales tax, free parking and charging in city centres, and yes, even allowing electric cars to use the bus lanes to skip the morning queues.

Norway originally intended to reach 50,000 electric cars on its roads some time by 2017, but with that figure due to be reached some time early next year, the eyes of the world are keen to see what Norway does next.


A couple of weeks ago on this show we told you about two different green-themed charity auctions taking place in the U.S. where first-of-their-kind green vehicles were the prize.

The first —  a one-hundred dollar-a-ticket raffle for the chance to own a Toyota Hydrogen Fuel Cell Sedan — seems to have been a bit of a flop, with only 148 tickets sold before the prize draw, but the second — a straight-forward auction to become the first person in the U.S. to own a Volkswagen e-Golf — seems to have raised a nice wad of cash for VW’s chosen charity — Global Green U.S.A.

And some time before the end of this week, the winning bidder — a Mr. Bruce Oberg from Oregon — will become $41,000 for the privilege.

The e-Golf — which usually retails for $36,365 — is powered by a 24.2 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, has an EPA-approved range of 83 miles, and has a fuel economy of 116MPGe.

Here’s hoping Mr. Oberg enjoys his new car!

FIve Stars

With a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Tesla Model S has long been viewed as one of the safest electric cars on the market today.

Now, thanks to a similar test by European crash-test body EuroNCAP, the Tesla Model S is officially one of the safest electric cars on the roads of Europe, too.

That’s according to official ratings published this week by the agency, which gave the Tesla Model S high ratings for everything from its frontal and side crash test protection to its pedestrian safety and active safety technologies.

It’s worth noting too that the Model S tested by EuroNCAP was fitted with Tesla’s latest lane departure warning and speed assist technologies, which we believe makes it the first crash test rating to take these new autonomous drive features into consideration.

Well done, Tesla.


Fuel economy labels are used around the world to give us — car buyers — a better understanding of just how environmentally friendly a car is, how far it will travel on a charge or tank of fuel, and perhaps most importantly, how much it will cost to run.

But following a spate of incorrect gas mileage ratings in the U.S., Hyundai Kia has been asked to pay a fine of $300,000,000 by the U.S. EPA for misstating fuel economy figures for its cars for the past few years.

How did it happen? Contrary to popular believe, the EPA — just like the European NEDC or Japanese test agencies — doesn’t actually test each and every new car sold for fuel economy accuracy. Instead, it asks the automaker to test their own vehicles according to a strict set of test cycle requirements, then submit those results for scrutiny. And while the EPA does sometimes test submitted results for itself, it appears Hyundai Kia has been submitting overoptimistic gas mileage figures for some time now.

And those submissions have placed the South Korean automaker in violation of the Clean Air Act, prompting some pretty hefty fines. As my mum used to say “be sure your sins will find you out…” Hmmm.


Here’s a question for you. What weighs one hundred and sixty eight kilos, seats one, and can out-accelerate a Formula One car and make Tesla’s recently-announced Model S P 85 D look like a Tata Nano?

Answer? Grimsel, a tiny, purpose-built single seat race car that can accelerate from standstill to 100kph — or 62mph — in a staggering 1.785 seconds.

Yes, I did just say 1.785 seconds.

Built by a team of crazy swiss students for the Formula Student Series, Grimsel has just set a new world record for an electric race car, proving that its tiny quartet of 37 kilowatt electric motors — one in each wheel — can out-accelerate Silicon Valley’s finest automobile.

It’s also won a series of prizes in this year’s Formula Student series, and looks to be the car to beat next year… for which we’re guessing Grimsel’s creators will build an even better car to compete with.

All I want to know is this: when can I drive?



On Thursday, Californian automaker Tesla Motors announced its Q3 earnings, recording record deliveries of its now famous Model S electric sedan and a third-quarter profit of $3 million according to non-GAAP methods (and a loss of $74.7 million using GAAP methods, driven by high R&D costs during the quarter).

But amongst the good news came the bad news that Tesla is now officially delaying launch of its upcoming Model X crossover SUV from Q2 2015 to Q3 2015, prompted we presume by further engineering challenges surrounding those famous falcon wing doors.

We’d like to say we’re surprised, but frankly, given the large amount of attention Tesla has been giving to other projects of late — including the Tesla Gigafactory, self-driving software and an all-new all-wheel drive Tesla Model S, we were kind of expecting this announcement.

And, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk pointed out, Tesla would rather be late with a great product than on time with a poor one.  Let’s hope those Tesla Model X reservation holders are as equally upbeat about the whole thing.


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