Transport Evolved News Panel Talk Show Episode 229: Shake it Up

On today’s Transport Evolved: Tesla’s Q4 loses, Nissan makes a LEAF glow, scary security problems, and Chevrolet confirms the Bolt for next year.

These stories and more coming up on today’s Transport Evolved, with Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, John Voelcker, and Joe Dugandzic

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Welcome to today’s show! Today, Nikki is joined by editor of GreenCarReports, Classic Car aficionado and all-round nice guy John Voelcker, along with all-round tech expert and lighting/home automation specialist Joe Dugandzic.

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.

Arizonan resident, Nissan LEAF Driver, Radio DJ and lighting expert Joe Dugandzic is interested in everything green, but has been working building his own home automation systems for more than twenty years. As well as being one of those unlucky LEAF drivers who lives in the sweltering heat of Phoenix, AZ, Joe is a regular EVangelist of the benefits of going green, telling anyone who will listen about the benefits of dumping the pump for good.

You can find John on Google PlusTwitter, Facebook, and read his daily posts on GreenCarReports. You can reach out to Joe on Twitterfind him on Facebook, or subscribe to his recently-launched YouTube channel.

Part One:

• We chat to John about GreenCarReports’ recent exclusive report as to why the 2016 Tesla Model X SUV is so late, including rumours that suggest that Tesla is facing some truly Herculean   engineering challenges to bring the Model X to production. Having spoken to some auto industry insiders about the topic, we ask him to try and gauge how rest of the auto industry currently views the all-electric SUV.

The Tesla Model X's falcon wing doors continue to cause headaches.

The Tesla Model X’s falcon wing doors continue to cause headaches.

• We also chat to Joe about his recent Valentines’ day special for Lighting Answers, and ask him if the intimacy of candles can really be matched by the digital lighting world?

Also in Part One:

• We talk about the 2015 Chicago Auto Show, and the promise from General Motors that the Chevrolet Bolt is indeed destined for production some time next year. Looking at the Orion production facility where the Bolt will be made and the current generation Sonic is built, we wonder how similar the next-generation 2017 Sonic and the all-new Bolt will be.

The Chevrolet Bolt will be made. It's official!

The Chevrolet Bolt will be made. It’s official!

We also try to guess how the production version will be different from the concept show version, and how exactly GM will (in its own words) ‘Shake up’ the electric car market with this new model?

More importantly, while the Bolt won’t cross-shop with the Tesla Model ≡, we wonder if the Bolt will be offered by GM in an up-market Buick or Cadillac version?

• Next, we talk about the 2015 Chicago Auto Show, and look at some of the new cars to debut there, including the Kia Trail’Ster through-the-road hybrid concept and the new Mitsubishi GC-PHEV Full-Size PHEV Concept SUV.

The Kia Trail'ster concept is a through-the road hybrid.

The Kia Trail’ster concept is a through-the road hybrid.

• Finally for the segment, we chat about some new advances in lithium-sulfur batteries which could help electric cars travel further per charge than current lithium-ion batteries at a much lower cost while overcoming the two major flaws which have plagued previous-generation lithium-sulfur batteries.

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Part Two:

• Last Sunday, 60-Minutes ran a particularly disturbing segment which showed DARPA employees successfully hacking into and controlling a Chevrolet Impala via GM’s ONSTAR system. While the hackers were able to active some non-essential systems like windscreen washers, they also managed to take control of more important safety systems like the car’s brakes, demonstrating that as cars become smarter, they also become a target for criminals seeking to either control them remotely or steal them.

Senator Ed Markey: we need better protection for modern cars.

Senator Ed Markey: we need better protection for modern cars.

This comes on the back of a new report by Senator Edward Markey from Massachusetts, who says that few automakers are even prepared for the advent of connected vehicles and do not have appropriate measures in place to ensure that customers’ cars and their data is secure at all times.

We ask what steps can be taken to ensure that cars can be kept safe from malicious attackers, and ask if there’s anything we as car owners can do to keep our cars and our families safe.

• This week, Volkswagen committed to spending a total of $10 million in the next year on developing electric car charging infrastructure in the U.S. In addition to paying for the joint venture announced with BMW and ChargePoint a few weeks ago, it will expand its DC CCS quick charging station installation program at select dealers, as well as install some Level 2 charging stations in appropriate locations throughout the country.

Last month's joint project with BMW and ChargePoint is just part of the $10 million investment, says VW.

Last month’s joint project with BMW and ChargePoint is just part of the $10 million investment, says VW.

But alongside the announcement, VW called on Capitol Hill as well as state and local governments to play their part in encouraging citizens to buy a plug-in vehicle through incentive schemes and improved charging infrastructure deployment. It also asked the EPA to extend its multiplier credit program, meaning Volkswagen doesn’t have to make quite as many low-emissions vehicles in order to satisfy tough emissions and fuel economy standards.

We ask our panelists to discuss where Volkswagen’s future plans lie, and given its recent purchase of several important fuel cell patents, we ask if it really is a fuel-agnostic automaker?

• Finally for the segment, we look at Europe where two very important new incentive programs have been announced designed to encourage zero emission vehicle adoption.

First, we look at France, where the French government is doing everything it can to rid its roads of dirty diesel cars after years of encouraging oil-burners by offering up to €10,000 discount off a new electric car for anyone who trades in an old diesel car more than 10 years old.

What do new plug-in car incentives mean in Europe?

What do new plug-in car incentives mean in Europe?

Second, we look at the UK, where a new ultra-low-emission vehicle incentive scheme will come into force on April 1. Instead of the outgoing incentive, vehicles will now receive tiered incentives based on their total zero emission range and tailpipe emissions. We ask if it’s too early to tier plug-in incentives, or if it simply rewards those who buy zero tailpipe emission vehicles?

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Part Three:

•On Wednesday, Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] held its Q4 earnings call for 2014, revealing an unexpected loss during the end of last year.

Alongside the bad news however comes the promise that the Tesla Model X will make it to market in time for Q3 this year, with Tesla nearly complete with its ‘beta model’ testing of around 30 Model X prototypes (the spy shots of which are already flooding in) and plans to produce the final ‘Release Candidate’ cars in the next few weeks.

Tesla made a loss in Q4 last year, but promises good things for 2015.

Tesla made a loss in Q4 last year, but promises good things for 2015.

Also promised by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the earnings call — although not mentioned in the shareholder letter — is a new static battery pack designed for use in the home, making it possible for Tesla owners to easily store, manage, and transfer power between their home and their car.

While details are sparse, Tesla’s Press department has confirmed Musk’s comments during the earnings call, and says we’ll find out more later this year.

We’ll discuss what this all means.

•Earlier this week, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., one of California’s biggest utility companies, applied for permission from state regulators to increase electricity prices across the region in order to pay for 25,000 new electric car charging stations across Central and Northern California.

Will autonomous cars reduce the number of cars in private ownership?

Will autonomous cars reduce the number of cars in private ownership?

We ask if customers will support the measure, and what sort of impact it could have for both electric car and non electric car owners alike.

•A new study out this week says that the number of cars in private ownership will halve as autonomous cars hit the market. While we already expect some current car owners to forgo car ownership altogether, this report suggests those who want to continue to own their own vehicle will also need less cars, since owners will be abel to send their cars ‘back home’ between morning commutes to enable them to be used by more than one family member. We ask what this will mean for road congestion, and if consumers really will behave as suggested?

•Finally, we look at the dawn of several new autonomous vehicle projects in the UK, and ask why the UK seems to be focusing on pod-based city cars than full-size road-going cars.


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