Transport Evolved News Panel Talk Show 218: REx-Swap Scandal

On today’s Transport Evolved: Rex-Swap Scandals, a self-driving future, and will Toyota make a loss or not on Hydrogen? 

These stories and more, with Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, Marc Geller and Domenick Yoney

Welcome to today’s show. This week, Nikki is joined by Marc Geller and Domenick Yoney

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San Francisco resident Marc Geller has been writing, advocating, campaigning and educating on the subject of electric vehicles and sustainable living for many years. A  founder member and a director  of Plug-in America, Marc is no stranger in the arena of public and corporate policy related to electric vehicles and green energy. He’s also on the board of directors of the Electric Auto Association, and was a co-founder of its San Francisco chapter, and the San Francisco EVA, as well as one of the key people leading the fight against the crushing of the previous generation of plug-in cars by companies like Toyota and GM.

These days, Marc spends most of his time working as project manager for Adopt-a-Charger, a non-profit installing EV charging in state and and national parks, and other destination locations.

(You can follow Marc on Twitter, chat with him on Facebook, or read his blog here.)

Associate editor at Autobloggreen, Domenick Yoney is known for his hatred of fossil fuels and his love of high-performance vehicles. A seemingly eternal night-owl (he’s worked the night shift in his day job for as long as we’ve known him) Domenick works both in the automotive industry and covers it.  As a consequence, he enjoys creatively combining his love of writing and mobility technology with his environmental concerns.

Last on the show for episode 14 back in September, 2010, there’s been a lot going on since we last had Domenick on the show, including the launch of pretty much every mainstream plug-in car now on the roads today. Not to mention all those other alternative-fuelled vehicles and self-driving cars!

(You can follow Domenick on Twitter, chat with him on Facebook, or find him on Autobloggreen)

Part One

We chat to Marc and Domenick about what they’ve been up to recently, including a proposed change to the way that Californian Utilities may be able to finally install more charging stations — and Marc’s opinions about rumors of Nissan’s future design direction to the Nissan plug-in lineup, increasing the base-model LEAF capacity to 30 kilowatt-hours and neglecting to bring the e-NV200 into the U.S.

Will proposed changes to California's ZEV mandate make things worse for electric cars?

Will proposed changes to California’s ZEV mandate make things worse for electric cars?

We’ll also chat to Domenick about the large numbers of strange two-wheeled electric vehicles making it to market at the moment, and wonder out loud if the C1 Lit leaning two-wheeler carbike will ever make it into production.

Also in part one

We look at BMW’s recently announce light and charge concept, and wonder if street lights with charging stations built into them are a practical solution for a future with high numbers of electric cars on the road — or just an extra complication that we don’t need due to increased range and home-based charging?

BMW's Light and Charge does what we've all been thinking should be possible for years...

BMW’s Light and Charge does what we’ve all been thinking should be possible for years…

We also talk about Ron Baron’s recent proclamation that we’ll all be Tesla customers within 25 years, and that only BMW and Tesla understand electric cars. Is Baron correct, or simply being optimistic for his own shareholders’ sake? And is there any proof behind his insistence that BMW is just ten years away from dumping the pump for good?

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Part Two

Both Toyota and its luxury marque Lexus have been trying to distance themselves from plug-in cars for a long time, promoting hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles above plug-in cars and even claiming that no-one wants them to make a plug-in car anyway.

Back in May, Lexus ran an ad for its range of hybrid cars which was pretty derogatory about plug-in cars. Plug In America complained, and Lexus apapologised- even if it then carried on running the ad in print and online anyway.

Now, Lexus has done it again — but this time with an ad which squarely goes after one car in particular — the BMW i3 — by taking it on a road-trip it was never designed to do.

Yet the last laugh is on Lexus: the car portrayed in its now removed YouTube ad is in fact a BMW REx — and the post-production crew had given it a “REx-Swap!”

Or is the whole ad — which was produced by Comedy site Funny or Die! — really just a subversive laugh at the gasoline oil industry? You decide.

We'd be upset if the car we were driving in had a range-extender we weren't using, too.

We’d be upset if the car we were driving in had a range-extender we weren’t using, too.

Over in the UK, the Kia Soul EV has finally launched. Priced at £29.995 before incentives, it will go on sale at just thirteen specialist dealers across the UK, and features an on-board 6.6 kilowatt charger, CHAdeMO DC quick charge capability and an NEDC-approved 131 mile range (EPA=93 miles).

But with just thirteen dealers in the whole UK (just 11 outside of London) and Kia saying it only plans to sell 100-200 cars in its first year in the UK,  is the Kia Soul EV a real electric car brits should buy, or just anther compliance car doomed to poor support and sales?

Are you tempted? Or is the Kia Soul EV just too highly-priced and unsupported for your tastes?

Are you tempted? Or is the Kia Soul EV just too highly-priced and unsupported for your tastes?

We’re often told that alternative fuelled and green cars are just too expensive for the average Joe (or Jo) to afford — so what if we told you that the cheapest car you can buy in the U.S. right now is the Mitsubishi i-Miev, which you can buy for under $10,000 if your circumstances are right.

A new car for under $10,000? Only the Mitsubishi i-Miev can claim that these days.

A new car for under $10,000? Only the Mitsubishi i-Miev can claim that these days.

Does this change the notion that electric cars are for the wealthy? Or do the particular requirements mean that the only people who can actually buy one for under $10,000 could probably afford to pay more?

Next Week is the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. Kicking off with a few press days, the main show will be taking place from November  21 thru 30, but we ask if there’s anything fun and interesting to watch out for at the show? And will the official reveal of the 2016 Cadillac ELR give us a few more hints as to what the 2016 Chevrolet Volt — due at the 2015 Detroit Show — will look like?

Finally for the segment, Toyota will be holding its Hydrogen Fuel Cell Sedan official launch ceremony in Tokyo on Tuesday morning local time. We already know the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Sedan’s price (¥7 million,) its exterior appearance, and how much money the Japanese government will offer back in incentives to reduce the price.



But what don’t we know yet — and what do we expect to find out on Tuesday morning? Will hydrogen fuel cell vehicles really take off as Toyota predicts? Do they have to exist in an either-or scenario with electric cars — or could both fuel trains live together in harmony in the near future?  What’s more, is former President of the EU Pat Cox correct when he predicts that Toyota will lose 50,000-100,000 euro on each Toyota FCV sold in Europe next year? 

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Part Three:

Despite the recent semi-autonomous Tesla Model S demonstration from Tesla, a recent study from Navigant Research predicts that we’ll see the true birth of the self-driving car in the market place in just over five years’ time, with high-ticket luxury models being the first to get self-driving capabilities. Within another fifteen, it says more than three-quarters of all new vehicles will features self-driving capabilities.

What’s more, it says that self-driving technologies will be used not just in the passenger vehicle segment, but in the mainstream freight industry, where long-distance truckers will use autonomous driving capabilities to help them make long trips through the night to their destination without needing to stop for rest.

Will these predictions become a reality, or are they simply too optimistic given society’s mistrust of even basic automotive features like automatic braking, stop/start and cruise control? Or will self-driving really take off once the legislative and regulatory hurdles are out of the way?

Will everyone want self-driving by 2035?

Will everyone want self-driving cars by 2035?

This week, Daimler announced a new naming convention for its entire family of vehicles, supposedly to make it easier and quicker to identify which vehicle is which, and what powers it. In doing so, it has killed the much-joked about ED suffix for its all-electric Mercedes-Benz B Class Electric Drive and Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, as well as ending names like F-Cell and Natural Gas Drive.

Smart ForTwo ED


But are the new single letter suffixes easier for identifying a car’s fuel type — or is it just a way to make the fuel types harder to spot when both electric and plug-in hybrid cars get the same ‘e’ suffix?

Following on from a fairly positive Q3 earnings call and Tesla CEO Elon Musk admitting that he has respect for anyone who can mass-produce complicated items, we’ve heard continued calls from pundits claiming that Apple could help Tesla with its Model X production woes — and calling for Apple to buy the Californian automaker. 2012 Tesla Model S Red

We’ve already explained why we think that shouldn’t happen, but is there any logicality to this rumor? What would happen IF Tesla was acquired by Apple? And what signs do we have that this particular merger is about as likely as a Polar Bear vacationing in Barbados?

It’s a known fact that there’s little love lost between plug-in fans and hydrogen fuel cell fans, be they industry-insiders or just consumers. But at the recent Challenge Bibendum in China, Autobloggreen spotted that a few slides being used to justify the superiority of hydrogen over plug-in cars seemed to be using some pretty pessimistic, old data.

Does this mean hydrogen proponents are now really, truly scared of plug-in cars — or just misinformed?

And Finally…

Plug-in car drivers are often accused of owning ‘golf carts’ by relatives and office co-workers who think they are funny. Golf carts of course being a slur implying that all electric vehicles are as slow and boring as a golf cart.

So this week, we bring you the news that one Golf Cart in particular — an all-electric machine from South Carolina called Plum Quick — has set a new world record for the quarter mile. 

Now who’s got the slow car?


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