T.E.N. Future Transport News 30th January 2015: Volt, BMW i3 Ads, CCS Rollout

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 and VW CCS partnership in the U.S; Nissan CHAdeMO U.S. Expansion; Volvo’s reticence to produce an electric car; retirement plans for electric car battery packs; the delay to the next-generation Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid; the 2016 Chevrolet Volt’s new TV ad; Toyota’s lobbying of Congress; autonomous driving comes to the Autobahn; BMW i3 Super Bowl TV ad.

On this week’s show : Retirement plans for batteries, the new Chevy Volt ad, and Katie Couric’s Twerking abilities. These stories and more, coming up next on TEN.

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It’s Friday January 30, I’m Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, and let’s get going with this week’s show!

East and West, CCS

Sometimes, news stories slip into the gap between us recording a show and uploading it to the Internet, and this story did just that last week.

We’d barely finished our editing when BMW and Volkswagen announced a brand new partnership with U.S. charging provider ChargePoint to bring CCS quick charging to the east and west coast of the US.

Copying what Nissan started and Tesla has pretty much completed, BMW and Volkswagen say they’ve jointly invested into a new charging network of more than one hundred CCS-compatible charging stations which will link the west coast from San Diego to Portland and the east coast from Boston to Washington, DC.

Interestingly too, the networks won’t be exclusively for Volkswagen or BMW owners, meaning those with other electric cars can use the network too, with charging stations along major routes even getting CHAdeMo provision too. So it’s smiles all round.

Anything they can do

Following on from that announcement, it didn’t’ take Nissan all that long to announce its own expansion to electric car quick charging in the U.S., with the promise that it intends to fund a total of eleven hundred new quick chargers by April next year.

If it success, this will total a massive seventeen hundred CHAdeMO DC quick charge stations across the U.S. by easter next year, with more routes than ever before open to short and medium-range electric cars for the first time.

Not yet

When it comes to electric car development and automakers there are two camps: those who don’t want to build them and those who do. And usually, those who don’t have the technology are the ones who don’t want to build them.

But this week, Swedish automaker Volvo upset the metaphorical apple cart by saying that while it has electric cars ready to enter production, it doesn’t want to until the market is ready for them.

Instead, it says it will focus on plug-in hybrids instead, which are arguably easier to market to the masses than fully-electric cars, especially in super-cold climates like Norway and Sweden.

But with sales in the U.S. and Europe truly rocketing for electric cars last year, we’ve got to admit to being a little confused. No market? Maybe Volvo has been in a winter-long slumber and hasn’t realised that we’re not in nineteen eighty four any more.

Retirement Plan

So you’ve just purchased a brand new electric car. It’s all shiny, and its battery pack helps you drive everywhere you want without a single drop of gasoline or range anxiety. But what happens when your car’s battery pack is old and decrepit and can no-longer serve a useful function in an electric car?

Behold the retirement plan for EV batteries: the Second Life Batteries Alliance.

Announced this week, the project aims to ensure that lithium-ion battery packs from electric cars are appropriately recycled and reused at the end of their useful life and is the result of a joint collaboration between BMW, Bosch and Vattenfall.

For now, the scheme is a pilot project and will help build a massive two megawatt-hour grid-storage facility in Hamburg, but eventually it could help BMW find a new life for its own and other automaker’s electric car battery packs at off-grid backup and smoothing storage sites across the world, reducing carbon emissions and the strain on our hard-worked electricity grid to boot. Nice idea.

Pushed back

It’s europe’s most popular plug-in car, selling nearly twenty thousand units last year and putting other plug-in models like the Nissan LEAF, BMW i3 and even Tesla Model S to shame. But while everyone and their dog seems to like the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid, Mitsubishi North America confirmed this week that we won’t see a U.S. version of this lovable, versatile SUV until Q2 next year.

At the moment, there are no firm reasons given, but we can tell you that a refreshed gasoline outlander is due to hit the U.S. market this spring, paving the way we hope for interest in the plug-in hybrid.

The only plug-in hybrid on sale in the world to date with DC quick charging technology as standard, the current Mitsubishi outlander plug-in hybrid might not match cars like the Chevy Volt for overall fuel economy, but its quick charging capabilities makes it easy and cheap to extend its all-electric 30-mile range when you need to.

And if my own experience are anything to go by — I see three every day on the school run — this car needs to get to the U.S. sooner rather than later.

Just another ad

It’s been just two weeks since the twenty sixteen Chevy volt made its debut in Detroit, but we’re already seeing the first TV ads for the GM’s second-generation range-extended EV.

Published this week on YouTube, the latest unnamed Volt ad is pretty much like every other car ad we’ve seen, focusing on the car’s new sweeping lines, road-holding capabilities and interior comfort with a series of wide chase shots and swooping closeups.

Watch it a few times however, and you’ll see the subtle undertones telling you that this car does indeed have an electric heart as well as a gasoline one, while the soothing technobeat with obligatory string synth pads, simple drum track and arpeggiated chords creates an upbeat and modern feel.

We’ll whack a link to the video in the shownotes, so be sure to watch it and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Intense lobbying

On December 31 last year, the U.S. federal government ended an eight thousand dollar tax credit program for people purchasing a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Similar to the seven and a half thousand dollar federal tax credit for electric cars, its purpose was to encourage more people behind the wheel of a cleaner, greener car.

But as you may or may not know at the time the incentive was allowed to expire, there weren’t’ any hydrogen fuel cell cars you could actually buy in the U.S., and only limited numbers of Hyundai hydrogen fuel cell SUVs and Honda Clarity FCX cars on lease .

Now Toyota, whose hydrogen fuel cell Mirai Sedan is due to go on sale this fall in California, is keen to get the U.S. Government to reinstate that expired tax credit, putting in some serious hours on capitol hill with its best lobbyists.

What’s more, despite a sticker price of fifty seven thousand five hundred dollars, Toyota’s top executives are still advertising and talking about the Mirai as if it costs far less. It makes me wonder if they know something we don’t. Watch this space.

Auto AutoBahn?

Germany became the latest country to properly embrace autonomous and semi-autonomous driving technology this week by announcing its A9 autobahn between Munich and Berlin would become home to Germany’s first public test track for autonomous vehicles.

Part of Germany’s famous Autobahn network, there are parts of the A9 with no official speed limit, making it a must-visit destination for many a speed-obsessed petrol head. But while we won’t know if the section chosen for the autonomous driving project will be unrestricted, we can tell you that the project calls for communication between the cars themselves and the road, allowing we’d presume for some pretty impressive high-speed capabilities.

Of course, the news can’t come soon enough for German automakers Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, all of whom have been testing their own autonomous driving prototypes in the U.S. rather than their home country.

Will it lead to self-driving cars hitting 300 kph on the autobahn some time soon? We don’t know, but we’re keen to find out.

Can you Twerk?

And finally, with the Big game just days away, we’re starting to see some of the new Super Bowl ads that will air this Sunday as the New England Patriots play off against the Seattle Seahawks.

And while we’re not great sports fans, we’re pleased to see that BMW is using its ad money on the i3 electric car this year with a sixty-second spot comparing the i3 to the rise of the Internet.

Starring TV anchors Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel, the funny, quirky ad makes fun of how we all used to react to the Internet twenty years ago, how silly and strange it seems today, and then essentially tells us we’ll laugh in another twenty to our reaction today to the weird and wonderful world of the electric car.

It’s fun ad and certainly a breath of welcome, fresh air after years of polar bears, aliens and weird dances. But it does perhaps go a little further than some of us might like in asking if Katie Couric can twerk. *shudder*.


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