T.E.N. Future Transport News 14th November, 2014: REx-Swap, Price Rises, a Cure for ED

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: BMW’s Light and Charge prototypes, Tesla Model S Price Rise, Tesla stock predictions, UK Kia Soul EV Launch, Lexus’ REx-swap scandal, Toyota FCV unveiling, the future of autonomous drive cars, Daimlers’ new naming conventions, and the fastest golf buggy out there.

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! 


It’s a question we’ve been asked time and time again by current and would-be plug-in car drivers. And if we’re honest, it’s one of those ‘well duh’ moments that make us wonder why someone didn’t do this years ago.

We’re talking about adding an electric vehicle charging station to a humble street light in order to combine two much-needed functions in one elegant piece of street furniture.

Historically, there have been a raft of reasons to make this tough — including a lack of spare power in the lighting circuit — but now thanks to LED light bulbs and energy saving tech, BMW has built two prototype Light-N-Charge lamp posts which feature a fully-integrated Charge Now public charging station in the base of the light.

The two prototypes have been installed outside BMW’s Munich headquarters, but we’re hoping we’ll see more of them in the near future.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: BMW isn’t the first to do this. After we published the original story, we were sent these nifty photographs of these charging stations tacked onto a lamp post in sofia, Bulgaria.

Model S Price Rise

Last week, Tesla Motors published its official Q3 earnings for 2014, and told us that its upcoming Model X crossover SUV was going to hit the market a little later than it promised.

But alongside the mainly good news from Tesla in the U.S. also came the warning from Tesla CEO Elon Musk that Tesla would likely put up the price of the Model S in Europe thanks to a strong dollar and a weak Euro.

As Musk mentioned in Tesla’s shareholders’ call after releasing the figures — something we didn’t get a chance to listen to until this week — the big drop in value of the Euro means that Tesla just isn’t able to continue selling the Model S at its current European price point for much longer.

Translation? If you’re in Europe, and you’re thinking about buying a Model S, be sure to order sooner rather than later — or risk paying a higher sticker price.

We’ll All Be Tesla Drivers

Staying with Tesla for a second, famed mutual fund manager Ron Baron of Baron Capital — whose company currently has between two hundred and forty and two hundred and fifty million invested in the Californian automaker — hit the headlines this week by claiming that we’ll all be driving Tesla model cars by twenty twenty five.

Writing in his own Q3 shareholders’ letter, Baron — a self-confessed Tesla fan — said that he believes his company’s investment in Tesla will pay a tenfold return within eight to ten years — and that Tesla will dominate the vehicle market in just ten.

Despite the Model X Delay, Baron says that increasing oil prices will force us to find alternative ways of getting around, and electric cars are the logical choice. What’s more he says, only Tesla and BMW get it. BMW which, by the way, he says, is planning on dumping the internal combustion engine for good in the next ten years.

I think Ron Baron has to the be the biggest, most bearish, pro-ev fund manager I’ve ever seen. Sweet.

Soulful launch

On Tuesday this week, Kia held the official UK launch of its first mass-produced electric car, the funky all-electric Soul EV. Priced at £29,995  before incentives, the five-seat compact utility vehicle features a 27 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, on-board 6.6 kilowatt charger, and CHAdeMO DC quick charge capability.

Range, as always, is a little problematic — under the EPA test, 93 miles of range is quoted, whereas the NEDC — which is what we rely on for European ratings, says 131 miles.

Other features include heated front seats, and a special heating system that can switch off all heating in the car except the drivers’ area to save power. While I haven’t had a drive yet, those who have say that the Kia’s range really is impressive around town, so this could be one to watch out for.

The down side? Early reports from dealers suggest that this car won’t be so easy to get hold of, and Kia admits that only thirteen dealers — eleven outside of London — will stock it.

Sad Hamster.

REX Swap Scandal!

When it comes to the battle between electric cars, hybrid cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars, there’s really no love lost between pro plug-in folks, Toyota, and Toyota’s luxury brand Lexus.

In fact, you may remember Lexus got its corporate knuckles rapped not so long ago when it ran a pretty obvious anti-EV ad. Well, now it’s done it again… but this time, it’s gone after one car in particular the BMW i3.

Its latest ad, called “dad-che-lor” party, features two cars of soon-to-be dads heading to Vegas for the weekend from LA. The guys in the Lexus CT200h make it to Las Vegas in double-quick time, while the guys in the BMW i3 are portrayed as basically losing their minds to the monotony of constantly needing to recharge, exhaustion, and no AC.

Pretty much every negative stereotype is played on in this “Funny or Die!” directed commercial, despite the reality that anyone with a plug-in car would never dream of making this trip — and BMW specifically offers loaner gasoline cars to i3 owners who need to make a longer-distance trip… For free.

But the funny bit comes from EV Advocate Tom Moloughney, who quietly pointed out that the BMW i3 used in the commercial is actually a BMW i3 REx — or range-extended model, a car which could have made the two hundred and eighty mile trip with ease. What’s funnier is that the post-production crew basically photoshopped the extra gas filler cap out of the finished ad in all but a few shots…

Here one second — and gone the next! It’s magic!

Japanese Launch

It’s official. Following on from the many sneak peaks and press conferences where we’ve already heard a fair amount about its upcoming fuel cell sedan, Toyota will officially unveil its twenty fifteen fuel cell sedan next Tuesday in Tokyo at a specially-convened media event.

Since we already know its price — ¥7 million — and what it looks like from the outside, we’re hoping Toyota will finally release details about the car’s interior, as well as answer some basic questions we all have about range, practicality, and performance.

Thanks to some massive governmental incentives for fuel cell vehicles in its home market of Japan, Toyota’s first fuel cell vehicle will likely sell fairly well after a few months, but outside of Japan, the former President of the European Parliament Pat Cox warned this week that Toyota risks losing its shirt over its fuel cell obsession.

Talking at the Challenge Bibendum in China this week, Mr. Cox said that he anticipates Toyota will lose between fifty and one hundred thousand euro on each and every fuel cell car it sells in Europe next year.

Taking a hit on a new model isn’t exactly unheard of, but that’s a pretty big deficit to make up. Good luck, Toyota.

Robot overlords

Here at Transport Evolved, we like to cover all sorts of autonomous drive technology, from future fuels and safety features to full-on autonomous vehicles. And while we love the idea of self-driving cars, we’re not convinced they’ll catch on any time soon, primarily due to the technical and legislative challenges that lay ahead.

Yet those clever people over at Navigant Research have a slightly different opinion. While they too agree that regulatory changes will be the biggest hurdle to our self-driving nirvana, they predict that we’ll see the first cars with autonomous-drive capabilities hit the market some time by twenty twenty, and that by twenty thirty-five, more than three-quarters of new vehicles will have self-driving tech.

At this point, we should point out that we’re not necessarily talking fully self-driving cars with no controls. Instead, says Navigant’s research arm, we’ll see vehicles that require us to help them on surface streets, but will be more than happy to do the leg work on long distance freeway trips, making everything from longer road trips to overnight cross-country truck trains really a reality.

I for one, welcome our new robotic overlords, as long as they don’t try to act like Number six did in BSG. That was nasty.

No more ED

When it comes to naming a new car, there’s always the risk that the name — which might be fine in one country — has a double-meaning somewhere else. Like the ill-fated GM Nova, the Mitsubishi Pajero, and of course, the Audi etron.

But now German automaker daimler — who has stuck to using the name ‘ED’ on all its electric models despite its unfortunate connotations to a certain phallic problem for several years — has now announced that ED will be no more.

In a press release this week, Daimler announced an entirely new way of referring to the entire Mercedes-Benz family of vehicles, designed to make the entire brand easier to decypher at the stop light. Gone is ED — and all those other long fuel type names — and in their place comes a series of single letter suffixes that will tell you what powers the vehicle.

Gasoline cars won’t have a suffix, but we’ll then get ‘c’ for natural gas, ‘d’ for diesel, ‘e’ for anything with a plug, electric or plug-in hybrid, ‘f’ for fuel cell, and ‘h’ for hybrid.

We’re glad to see the rebranding at last, but we’re a little perplexed as to why plug-in hybrids and electric models are lumped together. Aren’t you?

Anything but Slow

If you’ve been a plug-in fan for any length of time, you’ll be more than aware of that old adage that electric cars are just boring, old, slow golf carts. The chances are, you’ve had at least one person say it do you in the past month, most likely some distant relative or coworker who thinks he’s hilarious.

But what would you say if told you that there’s a golf cart out there that’s all-electric and can manage a quarter mile in twelve point two four one seconds?

Behold the PQ Golf Cart, built by Plum Quick Racing from South Carolina, which set a new world record by managing the quarter mile recently in twelve point two four one seconds at a terminal speed of one hundred and eighteen miles per hour… complete with a set of irons on the back for good measure.

For those taking note, that’s about the same speed that a stock Tesla Roadster will reach on a drag strip, and far faster than the eighteen or so seconds it took me to do a quarter mile in my stock Nissan LEAF back in twenty eleven.

Congratulations to Plum Quick Racing for the new world record and here’s to many many more surprised gas-car drivers who decide to take your little pocket rocket on.




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