T.E.N. Future Transport News 19th December, 2014: Wild Claims, Regen Braking, Backwards Compatibility.

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 Hydrogen concept; Audi Q7 Plug-in diesel hybrid; Chevrolet Volt turns four; Chevy Volt’s new regen functionality; understanding scientific studies; Toyota’s carbon footprint claims for the Mirai fuel cell sedan; Renault ZOE upgrades; Tesla backward compatibility.

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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Hydrogen coming

After focusing on electric car technology for the past decade, German automaker BMW is set to unveil a prototype hydrogen fuel cell vehicle at the twenty fifteen North American International Auto Show in Detroit this coming January.

As it detailed in a press release earlier this week, the prototype vehicle will demonstrate what it calls a ‘drive module prototype’ which could be used in a possible hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Given previous rumors, we’re betting this prototype vehicle will be based on the highly-popular i3 electric car, with the fuel cell stack itself coming from BMW’s long-standing collaboration with fuel-cell fan Toyota.

It’s worth noting however, that BMW isn’t about to turn its back on electrics, and will be using the same auto show to announce a whole new range of ownership benefits for its plug-in car customers, including an expansion of its ChargeNow and DriveNow services, as well as plans to roll out its very own network of DC fast charging stations based on its previously-announced iDC wall-mounted quick charger.

Plug-in Q7

Hot on the heels of the LA Auto Show unveil of its A7 h-tron quattro, Volkswagen’s luxury brand Audi has confirmed that its upcoming 2015 Audi Q7 full-size SUV will be offered with a range-topping plug-in hybrid option.

Like the Volvo XC 90 T8, the Q7 e-tron Quattro will offer the best performance of the Q7 family as well as the best fuel economy with a total power output of 373 bhp and 516 pound feet of torque.

Where it differs from the Volvo XC90 T8 however is the choice of engine. While Volvo’s luxury plug-in SUV will be powered by a plug-in gasoline drivetrain, the Q7 e-tron will feature a three-litre, V-6 diesel engine, something which Audi says makes it the first V-6 diesel plug-in hybrid on the market.

Prices, final specs and efficiency ratings haven’t been released yet, but rest assured we’ll bring you them as soon as we have them.

Volt turns four

Last week, the all-electric Nissan LEAF celebrated its fourth birthday — and on monday this week, its plug-in nemesis — the Chevrolet Volt — also turned four.

And while sales of the Volt have petered out in recent months — no doubt driven by the impending launch of the all-new 2016 model — the humble Volt is still one of America’s favourite plug ins, with the average Volt owner managing an average fuel economy of more than 104 miles per gallon equivalent and travelling more than 970 miles between fill ups.

Over at Transport Evolved dot com, we celebrated four unique and unusual Volts to have hit the headlines in the past four years, so be sure to head over and check out our celebratory article for yourself.

Volt regen

With the Volt turning four this week, and the new Chevrolet Volt official reveal happening in just over three weeks’ time, there’s a great deal of hype surrounding  just what the new 2016 Volt will come with as standard.

We already know about the all-new, more efficient 1.5-litre gasoline engine, the larger battery pack, improved range and better fuel economy — but mid-week Chevrolet treated us to another snippet of information: the new Volt will get user-selectable regenerative braking based on the user-selectable regenerative braking option from the current Cadillac ELR, which is in turn based on the current generation Volt.

Using a steering-wheel mounted paddle shifter system, the new Volt will allow owners a far greater degree of control over their car’s regenerative braking on accelerator lift off, improving fuel efficiency and driving pleasure.  And, according to GM product chief Mark Reuss, it’s more refined that the steering wheel-mounted user-selectable regenerative braking found in the current Cadillac ELR.

It looks like that three-week wait is going to be well worth it.

Beware the headlines

Every few months or so, we hear about some newspaper headline or another which claims that electric cars are far from friendly to the environment. And this week, we heard a headline from the AP which proclaimed that electric cars may be worse for the planet than gasoline cars.

It sounded fishy, so we did some digging, found the actual scientific study from which the headline was referring, and got the shock of our lives.  You see, while the study — which we’ve linked to on our site — does indeed say that electric cars charged from the US’s current energy mix are worse for the planet than gasoline vehicles, it also said that electric cars charged from wind, water and solar power are by far the greenest transportation option available.

The reports’ authors are keen to point out that they don’t want to pick a winner for the transportation mix of the future, but said instead that they hoped their investigation encourages policy makers and planners to think long and hard on the consequences of their choices moving forward. It just goes to show however, that headlines dont’ always communicate the real message of an in-depth study and if in doubt, read the academic paper for yourself.

Smaller or Not?

In related news — sort of — Japanese automaker Toyota hit the headlines again this week for appearing to claim that its Miria hydrogen fuel cell sedan — which will launch next year — has a carbon footprint smaller than an electric car.

The claim came as part of a new infomercial from Toyota in which the automaker detailed its journey from gasoline through hybrid drivetrains and plug-in cars to hydrogen fuel cell cars.  And while Toyota says it didn’t claim electric cars had a large carbon footprint than hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the narration in its infomercial certainly seemed to allude to that claim.

As you’d expect, Toyota is already coming under some significant attack for this claim, and is now furiously back-pedalling to try and smooth out any ruffled feathers. But while a Toyota spokeswoman maintains that electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can have a similar carbon footprint in certain circumstances, the maths — and the majority of the people figuring that maths out — disagrees.

ZOE Upgrades

French automaker Renault may have just celebrated passing the two-hundred thousand electric vehicle sales milestone with alliance partner Nissan, but while its LEAF gets most of the  headlines and most of the sales, Renault’s electric ZOE hatchback and Kangoo Z.E. are about to get a mile refresh for the 2015 model year.

As we covered on Tuesday, the twenty fifteen Renault ZOE and Kangoo Z.E.  will be offered with a brand-new, more efficient electric motor and power electronics system which could increase range by as much as ten percent. But while the new, cheaper, more efficient power system and motor will help increase the ZOE’s range, it will also do away with the 43 kilowatt rapid charge capabilities of the original ZOE in preference for more efficient home charging.

That, says Renault, is because most of its ZOE customers charge at between seven and eleven kilowatts, only using super-fast AC quick charging occasionally. As a consequence, it’s reducing the ZOE’s highest-power charging to twenty-two kilowatts, enough to recharge from empty to eighty-percent full in an hour rather than half an hour.  You’ll still be able to get the older charger and motor if you wish, but we think most will choose the more convenient range extension over quick charging.

Three Point Five Inches?

And finally… if you’re frustrated by the number of different charging station options and standards in the electric car world, you can rest easy at last knowing that the Tesla Model S — which itself uses a special proprietary charging standard — will work with your old three point five inch floppy disk drives.

As we reported on Thursday, Tesla Model S owner Michael Cermak figured — since the Tesla Model S’ large touchscreen centre console runs linux — that the two USB sockets included as standard with every Tesla Model S might just let him do things other than plug in smartphone chargers and music memory sticks into his car.

So, in the spirit of what the heck, he tried various USB devices — including a USB keyboard, USB mouse, CD-rom drive and yes, even a three-point five inch floppy disk drive. While the Keyboard and CD-Rom were a no-go, Cermak was able to use a USB mouse to control an on-screen pointer, and even managed to play an MP3 file from a floppy disk drive he prepared especially for the stunt.

Pointless, but totally geeky. We approve.


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