T.E.N. Future Transport News 9th January 2015: CES Roundup, Volt Reveal, SmartScooter

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: 2014 plug-in car sales records; 2016 Chevrolet Volt early reveal; Toyota H2 Patents; BMW i3 return-on-investment; BMW’s smarter home charging; BMW Autonomous driving; Volkswagen autonomous driving; Audi Autonomous driving; Volkswagen wireless charging; Gogoro SmartScooter.

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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100,000 and rising

It’s official: twenty fourteen’s plug-in car sales in the U.S. broke all previous records, with more than 120,000 all-electric cars, range-extended electric and plug-in hybrids being sold.

In fact, twenty fourteen was the first year in which total plug-in vehicle sales rose above the 100,000 car mark, thanks to more than twenty different plug-in cars on sale in the country.

As you might expect, the majority of sales were recorded by a few popular cars, including the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, BMW i3 and of course Tesla Model S. But the sales crown goes to the humble Nissan LEAF, which accounted for a massive 30,200 of the total cars sold in the U.S. last year.

Breaking Cover

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt might not be due to officially step into the limelight until next week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but at the start of this week parent company General Motors gave the Volt an unexpected exterior reveal at the twenty fifteen CES show in Las Vegas.

Leaner and meaner, the all-new Volt has new wheels, a much more angular front end and what looks to be more conventional side lines, sweeping upwards slightly towards the rear of the car.

For now, we’ll have to be content with this frontal and three-quarters reveal and a promised better range and fuel economy. By this time next week however, we’ll be able to give you a price and specification too, so stay tuned for more information as we have it.

Open for all

Last year when Tesla Motors announced its plans to make all of its electric car patents open source to help drive the adoption and development of plug-in cars worldwide, many in the automotive industry guffawed loudly. Because while openly sharing car-based patents isn’t unheard of — it happened with some of the catalytic converter patents back in the eighties — the exchange of technologies and ideas in the car world generally happens with a dollar sign in front.

But this week, Japanese automaker Toyota stunned the world at the twenty fifteen Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas by announcing it too would be following Tesla’s lead and opening up its patents to help accelerate the adoption of clean, zero-emission vehicles.

This time of course, the patents aren’t related to plug-in cars but to hydrogen fuel cell cars,, and Toyota says it will make some 5,680 of its closely-guarded patents — some stretching back twenty years or more — available to any automakers, parts providers and infrastructure companies who will use them to help the hydrogen revolution take place.

We’ll be paying close attention to see just who snaps Toyota  up on its offer.

As Revolutionary as the Model T

One of the common criticisms of modern cars is that they’re too much like each other, with very little in the way of distinguishing features or unique technology, but one plug-in car — the twenty fifteen BMW i3 electric car — has been hailed this week as being so groundbreaking and revolutionary that it’s being compared to the Model T Ford.

That’s according to Munro & Associates, a Michigan-based engineering company which specialises in reverse-engineering — or carefully dismantling — production cars to help rival automakers figure out just how they’re made.

And the BMW i3, with its unique carbon-fibre reinforced plastic chassis, lightweight construction and segmented battery pack has been so carefully engineered and designed says the firm, that it believes it is the most important and revolutionary car in production today.

What’s more, the firm says, the i3 will be making BMW money after just twenty thousand cars have been built — an insanely quick return on investment unheard of in the automotive industry.  Let’s hope other automakers follow suit soon, because that could help drop prices to truly affordable levels for everyone.

Save you money, be greener

In related news, BMW unveiled a new suite of owner services this week at the 2015 consumer electronics show which could help plug-in BMW i3 and i8 owners save money and be more environmentally friendly.

Called the Intelligent i Home Charging Services, the system communicates with BMW’s i Wallbox Pro charging station and the various cloud-based services to ensure that BMW drivers only charge their car when electricity is at its cheapest or greenest. It can even interface with your own solar panels to ensure that you’re only charging your car up when the solar panel is generating electricity.

And drive you too.

At the same even BMW also unveiled its prototype Active Assist technology, which it demonstrated by blindfolding attendees and then asking them to drive straight at temporary walls.

And if that wasn’t enough, the company also demonstrated its autonomous Remote Valet Parking Assistant, a system which allows you to get out of your car and have it park itself — all controlled from your smartphone. Combined with inductive charging, it could finally mean never worrying about finding a parking or charging space ever again.

The future is truly here.

Volkswagen’s Future

If you thought that BMW were the only automakers talking about self-driving, self-parking  cars at CES this year then think again. There were really too many automakers to detail here that were all offering the same thing, including Volkswagen, which celebrated its first time at CES by detailing a whole suite of future car technology designed to make cars cooler and easier to use.

Alongside a new app-based system and in-car connectivity with popular smartphones and tablets, VW said it’s readying a solution called Trained Parking, which enables a car to learn and then execute regularly performed parking manoeuvres. Moving on from that technology — which itself is an evolution of the parking technology currently in all VWs — comes a wireless charging technology which enables future e-Golf models to park and charge themselves wirelessly without ever going near a socket.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Volkswagen, like BMW, says it’s working on ‘gesture-based’ technology which could give you control of your car’s entertainment and infotainment system without ever requiring you to physically press a button.

Train your Jedi skills, people.

Audi’s too

And because we don’t want to mention Volkswagen without Audi, we’re going to also give an honourable mention to Volkswagen’s luxury brand, which successfully sent its self-driving A7 prototype all the way from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas — some 560 miles — on what is the longest autonomous test-drive ever conducted on public roads with a member of the public on board.

In addition to much celebrations on its arrival Audi — whose tech base is shared with Volkswagen — celebrated by releasing this cute video of a collie parking an Audi A3 e-tron, all thanks to his master’s self-driving car. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a collie to teach to park my Nissan LEAF…


Here’s a question for you. What happens if you combine the dream of fast-battery swapping for electric vehicles with the freedom of a motorcycle and the tech smart of a smartphone-connected gadget?

Answer? The Gogoro, a brand-new urban two-wheeled electric smartscooter that’s been in development since twenty eleven but broke cover for the first time this week at CES. Founded by some really smart folks previous from companies like Microsoft and HTC, the Gogoro is designed to bring electric scooters to massive mega cities across the world where charging isn’t always available on the street.

Fitted out with two panasonic-brand modular battery packs the size of a small thermos flask, it’s possible to swap the gogoro’s battery pack in around six seconds for a brand new, fully-charged one at a simple kiosk-based charging station. While performance isn’t great, they’ll manage a top speed of 60 miles per hour and travel around sixty miles before you’ll need to swap those two battery packs out.

Full of Interconnected smarts, the gogoro SmartScooter can be ridden all day without ever needing a wall outlet, and its creators hope it’ll be capable of ridding cities around the world of those smelly two-stroke scooters that currently dominate city centres worldwide.  


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