Transport Evolved News Panel Talk Show 220: The Political Playbook

On today’s Transport Evolved: Hydrogen questions answered, Renaults with batteries included, and a secret plot to derail California’s green transport policies.

These stories and more, with Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, John Voelcker and Cat Dow.

Welcome to this week’s show. Today, Nikki is joined by editor of GreenCarReports, Classic Car aficionado and all-round nice guy John Voelcker, and freelance automotive and tech writer Cat Dow.

A Stanford graduate, John Voelcker 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, and 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.

Freelance tech and car journalist Cat Dow can be found writing for many different sites, including tech-focused Recombu and the GreenCarGuide. Happy to get her hands dirty, Cat is often found underneath some interesting car, and has big plans for an all-electric Wolseley Hornet. Happy in front or behind the camera, she’s also known for her collection of brightly-coloured high-heels, but says she always carries a set of flats to thrash a car around a track.

You can find John on Google PlusTwitter, Facebook, and read his daily posts on GreenCarReports. You can reach Cat via Twitter or Google +

Part One

We chat to John about his recent trip to the LA Auto Show, and ask him to give us an update on Green Car Report’s ongoing series of articles on 10 Questions on Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Cars to Ask Toyota, Honda & Hyundaiwhich has now received replies from all three questioned automakers.

What questions would you ask Honda about its hydrogen fuel cell cars?

What questions would you ask Honda about its hydrogen fuel cell cars?

We also ask John what he makes of a Fuel-Cell fan’s attempt to bite back, asking ten questions of his own of electric car fans.

Recapping on the coverage in last week’s show (where we talked to Cat on a rather questionable Internet connection) we recap her experiences at last weekend’s Formula E race in Putrajaya, Malaysia and ask if she thinks Formula E is here to stay. We also ask Cat about her upcoming involvement in the Rise of The UK Wildcats — a quest to put together the first UK team to enter the all-female “Rallye Des Gazelles” in Morocco.

We also ask Cat to give us an update on the rather troubling problem of the 1.2-litre Fiat 500s which just won’t go up hills.

The BMW i3 will come with CCS as standard for the 2015 Model Year.

The BMW i3 will come with CCS as standard for the 2015 Model Year.

Finally in part one, we talk about some minor changes rumoured to be heading to the 2015 BMW i3 and ask if the inclusion of CCS means we’re about to see a larger industry push of CCS rapid charging across the U.S. or if it means that BMW is finally admitting that rapid charging is preferable to the REx’s tiny gasoline engine?

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Part Two

This week, the Renault-Nissan alliance announced it has now produced and sold more than 200,000 electric vehicles since the Nissan LEAF launched in December 2010, with the majority of those vehicles (148,700) being Nissan LEAF electric hatchbacks. With the 4th anniversary of the LEAF just weeks away, we ask if Nissan will ship its 150,000th LEAF in time for the birthday celebrations.

Renault's all-electric ZOE hatchback and Kangoo Z.E. Van are now available in the UK with batteries included.

Renault’s all-electric ZOE hatchback and Kangoo Z.E. Van are now available in the UK with batteries included.

In related news, Renault announced on Thursday that it will finally offer its ZOE and Kangoo Z.E. electric vehicles in the UK with batteries included. Previously only available with a battery lease scheme, we’re asking if Renault’s change of heart is indicative of a reluctance in the marketplace for leased battery packs, a desire to capture more of the marketplace, or some other ulterior motive?

Last week, tuning house Saleen announced it would be renaming its Tesla-derived Saleen Four-Sixteen the Saleen ST after Tesla changed its flagship Tesla Model S from the P85+ to the P85D. Integrating the improvements from the all-wheel drive Tesla P85D, the Saleen ST gets an appropriate boost of power — but with Saleen almost out of money following a disastrous quarter, will the car ever be made?

There's a new Tesla-derived model from Saleen, but it may never reach production.

There’s a new Tesla-derived model from Saleen, but it may never reach production.

This week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed that Tesla and BMW were in talks that could see the two automakers collaborate on battery and carbon-fiber technology. What would the implications be of that for both companies, and could this be the start of a very fruitful relationship?

Finally for the segment, a leaked playbook has been doing the rounds, showing how the oil lobby is planning to derail California’s clean-energy legislation. We examine some of the tactics, and ask if there’s anything we can do to ensure Big Oil doesn’t win.

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Part Three

In the week after the LA Auto Show — where Toyota unveiled its 2016 Mirai Fuel Cell sedan — Toyota’s Yasuhiro Nonobe talked to Automotive News about Toyota’s plans for the next-generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Planned for launch some time around the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Nonobe said the 2020 model year FCV would have a fuel cell about one quarter to one third the cost of the current fuel cell stack in the Toyota Mirai. At around $50,000 now per fuel cell stack (about one twentieth the cost of the previous-generation fuel cell) the Mirai’s fuel cell stack is still really expensive, but will a reduction in price to just $12,500 make it any more affordable? And is Nonobe right when he says making those cost reductions is going to be super-tough?

The 2016 Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Sedan will go on sale in  California next year from $57,500. But it will cost Toyota far more to build.

The 2016 Toyota Mirai Hydrogen Fuel Cell Sedan will go on sale in California next year from $57,500. But it will cost Toyota far more to build.

In related news, Nissan Vice Chairman Toshiyuki Shiga told The Japan Times at the start of last week that Nissan is in no rush to enter into the world of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, due to the high costs associated with building and refuelling hydrogen fuel cell cars. Instead, he said, Nissan is invested in electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles for many years to come, and believes there’s plenty of room for improvement in the plug-in world. Will Nissan be alone in its desire to shun hydrogen fuel cell cars, or will others follow suit?

Could V2G help prevent brownouts by smoothing out power dips or peaks?

Could V2G help prevent brownouts by smoothing out power dips or peaks?

With utility companies around the world under increasing pressure to clean up their energy generation, utility companies are starting to examine grid storage as a way of helping even out the ebb and flow of power demand — and the natural peaks and troughs caused by renewable generation methods like wind and solar power. As a consequence, many have suggested vehicle-to-grid technology to store and then feed back large amounts of electrical energy to the grid, but many have voiced concerns that such a system would inevitably leave drivers without power when they need it. However, this week, a new study has shown that V2G technology doesn’t have to be for continuous power supply — it can be used in an innovative way to help utility companies deal with short, transitory peaks and troughs in power. Is V2G likely moving forward, or are there just too many legislative and consumer hurdles to make it a reality?

Oregon EV Charging Infrastructure, November 2014 (via PlugShare)

Oregon EV Charging Infrastructure, November 2014 (via PlugShare)

For years, we’ve come to assume that fancy purchase incentives and tax breaks are the best way of encouraging more people to use a plug-in car, citing successes in countries like Norway. But this week, we heard from the state of Oregon, where there are zero purchase incentives but plenty of other reasons to make the switch from gasoline. Is Oregon’s zero-rebate methodology far more sustainable by emphasising infrastructure and quality of ownership over simple financial benefits?

And finally…

The Lotus F1 team haven’t had a great season this year, winning just ten points between them. But hey, they recently got to put a pair of Renault Twizy electric runabouts through their paces in the world’s largest shopping mall. And we think that’s a pretty decent commiseration prize, don’t you?


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