Transport Evolved’s Biggest Stories of 2015: Hyperloop, Gigafactory, Tesla Announcements, Fiat 500e

We know you’re just as surprised as we are to think that yet another year has passed here at Transport Evolved. But as the time rapidly approaches midnight at the Greenwich Meridian in London — the place we’re going to use to mark the ‘official’ start of 2016 — we’ve delved deep into our server logs to find out the biggest and most influential stories we’ve covered in 2015.

Despite the hype, the Tesla Model X didn't feature in our top stories of the year.

Despite the hype, the Tesla Model X didn’t feature in our top stories of the year.

In the past year, we’ve published just shy of 850 stories, covering everything from new electric car technology through to autonomous vehicles, safety assistance technologies and future forms of transportation not even available yet. But of the more than one million unique visitors we’ve amassed in the past twelve months, there’s one thing we’ve discovered for sure: any story involving Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] or its CEO Elon Musk has registered some incredibly high page views.

And unlike our friends over at GreenCarReports, whose top five stories of 2015 included some perennially popular articles written in 2012 and 2013, every one of our top five stories this year was written in 2015. Moreover, all but one had some connection to one very important individual in the future transportation world: Mr. Elon Musk.

To keep the suspense going, we’re going to reveal our biggest stories of 2015 in reverse order, starting with number five and working our way back to the top story.

5: Crazy $82.75 per Month Californian Lease Deal on Fiat 500e Spikes Interest in Italian Electric Car

The Fiat 500e has the power to get you to dump the pump -- and the sub-$100 lease deal did just that this year.

The Fiat 500e has the power to get you to dump the pump — and the sub-$100 lease deal did just that this year.

Fiat’s tiny 500e electric car is only available in select markets throughout the U.S., making it one of a number of  ‘compliance cars’ sold by automakers in order to satisfy zero emission mandates in states like California.  And indeed, while Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has been a vocal critic of the Fiat 500e, claiming the automaker loses a massive amount of money on each one it makes, the automaker nevertheless found itself offering a crazy $82.75 per month lease deal at California dealerships on a brand-new Fiat 500e in order to ensure it sold enough cars to meet Californian ZEV mandates.

Other stories this year — including ones covering the insanely good deals for Colorado residents on new Nissan LEAFs and BMW i3 electric cars — have also done drawn a large audience.

4: Liveblog Coverage of Tesla’s “Super-Secret Surprise” Ludicrous Anouncement

This year, we’ve covered several major Tesla announcements by live-blogging Tesla press conferences and live streams. As in past years, they’ve proven very popular with readers, even if we’re prone to making the occasional spelling mistake while typing the coverage into the live blog window.

While some presented a particularly difficult technical challenge — one live blog event took place just days after we relocated from Bristol, England to Portland, Oregon, USA — the live blog from July 17 was the second-most popular of all our live blogs of the year.

Which one was that? The announcement of the Tesla Model S 90D battery upgrade pack, complete with ‘Ludicrous’ mode 0-60 mph acceleration times of just 2.7 seconds. Heavily laden with SpaceBall references, the event not only gave Tesla fans a more powerful Tesla Model S to lust after, but promised a new upgrade for the Tesla Roadster with ‘maximum plaid’ at some point in the near future.

3: Liveblog Coverage of Tesla’s OTA Software Update to Eliminate Range Anxiety

Eliminating range anxiety? Tesla did it in 2015 -- at least in many ways.

Eliminating range anxiety? Tesla did it in 2015 — at least in many ways.

Range anxiety in electric cars is a real problem for inexperienced and first-time electric car drivers, and this live blog coverage from March 19 detailed the new software update which Tesla Motors rolled out to each and every Model S to help drivers better manage their driving and charging behavior.

The update included a new Supercharger-aware route planning software, which prioritises charging availability and speed over the most direct route, speeding up total travel time and also avoiding long queues for charging stations in most situations. It also included functionality designed to ensure that owners were never out of range of a suitable charging station, meaning that customers were warned if their car was about to travel somewhere beyond the range of their car — and a nearby place to plug in.

2: First Drone Video Lets You Explore Tesla Motors’ Gigafactory in Glorious 4k

While radio-controlled drones have been around for years, 2015 was the year in which drone videos came into their own — and videos covering the massive Gigafactory site being built by Tesla Motors in Reno, Nevada was a common subject.

But this post from May 18th was the most popular of our drone-related posts this year by a long way, partly because it was shot in high-definition 4k video and partly because it was retweeted by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who told us that the construction shown in the video was only one quarter of the finished Gigafactory size.

We’re not sure if it was the social media love or the glorious video photography — but either way, this was our second most popular story of the year.

1: Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Becomes Reality As Agreements Secured for 5-Mile Track in California

Yes, that’s right. Our number one story of 2015 wasn’t about the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X or indeed any other high-tech electric car, hydrogen fuel cell car, or self-driving vehicle. It was about the highly-anticipated Hyperloop, an entirely new form of transport hypothesised by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a technical white paper several years ago and now the subject of massive research and development by academic institutions and commercial entities.

Hyperloop stories were huge this year -- nabbing the top spot and plenty in the top 50 stories of the year.

Hyperloop stories were huge this year — nabbing the top spot and plenty in the top 50 stories of the year.

What’s the hyperloop? Simply put, it’s a partially-evacuated tube in which aerodynamic capsules are propelled along using powerful electromagnets at speeds faster than that possible by today’s commercial jets. Powered entirely by solar power, the Hyperloop promises a future where hyperloop tracks run alongside our major freeways and motorways, making it possible to travel across the continental United States in under an hour.

This article, from June 8, covered the news that Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, one of two companies trying to make Hyperloop a commercial reality, had received the planning permission it needed to build a five-mile hyperloop test track near the town of Quay Valley, California.

Responsible for a massive twelve percent of all of our traffic this year, we think this story — and other popular Hyperloop stories we’ve written — show how favorably readers view this new and exciting technology. And given our editorial byline is “Cleaner, Greener, Safer, Smarter,” we think this story being number one is particularly apapro.

Honorable mentions

Honorable mentions go to our staff car update on April 14, in which we documented the loss of the second capacity bar on Hiro, our 2011 Nissan LEAF staff car. While we sold Hiro in August 2015 and purchased a used 2013 Nissan LEAF when moving to the U.S.,  Hiro’s new owner has been keeping us up-to-date with Hiro’s adventures — along with the news that our trusty former ride has now lost its third capacity bar. (We’re hoping another update is on its way covering this particular piece of news).

Also worthy of a mention is a story we penned back in 2014, in which we told Gizmodo that Mini Wind-Turbines Won’t Power Your Electric Car for Free. While it was written nearly two years ago, it’s still a popular story for readers.

Making some waves

Aside from the great stories we’ve enjoyed bringing you this year, 2015 has been a pivotal role for Transport Evolved and its editorial team. In addition to not one but two members of the Transport Evolved editorial team emigrating to the U.S. — this author to Portland, Oregon and our regular contributor Kate Walton Elliott to Puget Sound, Washington State — we’ve also made some major changes to how we fund ourselves.

In August, Transport Evolved became its own independent business, breaking ties with its founding UK company and becoming its own entity in the U.S. At the same time, we ceased using advertising as our principal method of fund-raising and switched to ad-free content, supported by our readers through an ongoing Patreon campaign. As well as improve our site load times, we felt dumping the ad-driven revenue model allowed us to become more independent and impartial in our coverage, and allowed us to turn our backs on the hordes of badly-written advertorials we were being pitched on a regular basis. Given we care as much about education as news, the transition has been a positive one for us and we’re now super-close to hitting our second Patreon goal.

We turned our back on ads for good this year -- and welcomed Patreon.

We turned our back on ads for good this year — and welcomed Patreon.

If you’d like to help us hit the $700/month target before midnight, we’d love you to consider making a monthly donation. And of course, we’re eternally grateful for the 51 patrons who already make monthly donations to help us bring you impartial, informative and entertaining content.

Want to see us grow in 2016? We’ve done some calculations, and we think that if everyone who visited our site donated just $1 per month (less than one takeaway meal per year) we’d not only be able to offer our contributors paid, full-time jobs but also increase our content volume and produce some great new YouTube shows we’ve been wanting to make for the past year. If you’re a regular visitor, we’d love you to consider donating.

As the final story of the year, there’s little else for us to say — other than we hope you have a wonderful, peaceful and enjoyable New Year — and we’ll be back next week with some exciting live-event coverage from CES 2016. With any luck, we’ll be at the live event premieres of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the Faraday Future electric car, and Volkswagen’s expected plug-in minivan.

On behalf of the entire Transport Evolved team, here’s to 2016!


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