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It’s Tesla Model 3 Day! Join In The Fun With Our Wall-to-Wall LiveBlog Coverage

You asked for it — and we’ve listened.

Our previous Tesla event liveblog coverage has proven so popular that we’re going one step further this time with a whole day’s worth of 24LiveBlog coverage for you to enjoy, covering everything there is to know about Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] latest production electric car — the Tesla Model 3.

We know you want it -- so here it is. Wall-to-Wall Model 3 Coverage.

We know you want it — so here it is. Wall-to-Wall Model 3 Coverage.

Later on today, we’ll get to see the car for the first time — and we’ll cover the big reveal live in our very own  Transport Evolved special with guests including Robert Llewellyn and Chelsea Sexton. But for now, join us and our friends at 24liveblog as we bring you the latest from the queues, the reservation process, and of course, the fans eager to buy Tesla’s first ‘affordable’ electric car.

Since this is a liveblog, there’s no need to refresh the page: new content will be added automatically. To enjoy, just keep the page loaded in a convenient browser window, and new content will be loaded as it is published.

(Want to show your appreciation for what we’re doing? Consider making a monthly donation to keep Transport Evolved ad-free by heading over to Patreon and making your pledge today.)

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Reader Questions: Answered Should I Buy A Used Nissan LEAF — Then Replace The Battery?

With early used Nissan LEAFs now down into the $5,000 territory, we’re answering a regular question from readers: does it make sense to buy an early 2011-2012 LEAF cheap — and then replace the battery?  The answer depends on what your preferences are and what your requirements are.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Reader Rides: Is The Chevrolet Bolt A Changing Of The Guard For The Electric Car World?

Today I got my first turn behind the wheel of the Chevy Bolt EV when a friend let me take her new car for a spin. By now you’ve probably seen reviews of the Bolt, like the Transport Evolved Review from earlier this year — so I’ll keep my comments on the Bolt EV’s features short, since others have already reviewed this compact car.

My take in 2 words? “Im Pressive.” (Yes, I’m cheating a little). In 25 words? “This car is quick, sporty, and handles well. It feels solid, well built. It looks like and drives like other compact cars I have driven.”

The Chevy Bolt EV is here. It’s now. And it’s a nice car.

The Bolt EV is quicker than the compacts I’ve owned. But, the everyday look, feel, and drive of the Bolt EV could very well speed adoption of EVs by the public at large.

It’s all about range (…and price)

If you haven’t heard about the Bolt EV, two key features have everyone talking: 238 miles of EPA-rated range; and a starting price of  $37,495. In coupling long range with an affordable price General Motors has leap-frogged the competition. The Bolt EV really can’t be compared to any EV currently on the market, in this price range. Tesla has been producing 265+ mile EVs for over 4 years, but a base Model S starts at $71,000. We all know the Tesla Model 3 is around the corner, but it’s around the corner, at least for now. The Bolt EV meanwhile, is here already and has more than double the driving range of any other EV in its price range. For this reason the Chevy Bolt EV represents a changing of the guard. I won’t say that days are numbered for the 70, 80 – 100 mile EVs, but clearly the standard has changed. Other manufacturers will have to compete at this level or be left behind.

The Bolt EV has arrived with glowing reviews from new owners, some with big names. All signs point to big interest. Now it’s up to GM to promote the Bolt EV for potential buyers. To do this GM must have a vision for how this car will be used.

Automobile companies usually help customers imagine how a car will be used. For example, advertisements show pick-up trucks driving over rough terrain and hauling big payloads, or cars driving through open spaces to explore the great outdoors. These ads speak of inspiration, getting things done, driving, seeing the world. What is GM’s vision for the Bolt EV? Is it a car for daily trips to work and the grocery store? Is it a family car for running the kids around? Is it a car for long road trips and journeys?

Let’s talk about Charging

With 238 miles in the pack, the Bolt EV will easily handle day to day driving. Many folks will charge at home for their daily driving, but for longer trips the Bolt EV needs a network of fast charging stations to refuel on longer journeys.

Until now there have been roughly 2 categories of EVs: 1) The 80- mile EV that perfectly handles daily commuting, and may be capable of longer trips with decent DC fast charger (DCFC) infrastructure; and 2) the Tesla Model S and Model X.

Location of Tesla Superchargers and Destination Charging stations as of Feb 2017.

Tesla leads the way for long distance travel in an EV with their extensive Supercharger network. The Teslas have a driving range of 210 to 335 miles depending on the size of battery pack. With these cars you can drive coast to coast, east-west and north-south on the Supercharger network. The Superchargers are spaced up to 170 miles apart, and at 120 kW can provide up to 170 miles of range in 30 minutes.

The idea for long distance trips in a Tesla is to drive for ~3 hours, take a break to eat, stretch your legs, refresh your mind and get back on the road. You can also visit locations or stay in hotels that host Tesla Destination charging stations. Tesla has put thought and money into making their cars useful.

The author charging his Rav4 EV at a DCFC station in Santa Cruz, CA. Right side: Orange icons show current location of CHAdeMO and CCS DCFC charging stations. Although the network is decent, many areas remain to be served.

If you don’t drive a Tesla and plan longer trips, you will need to charge at a CHAdeMO or CCS DCFC station. In California the number of DCFC stations is growing fairly quick. But this patchwork collection of 24 – 50 kW stations has until now been funded by different agencies, parties or companies, with different goals, and little coordination. The new Chevy Bolt EV charges on these CCS DCFC stations. Many more are needed.

Here’s where GM should provide guidance and lead the way. Last year GM stated that they would not participate in establishing a nationwide network of DCFC stations. They should reconsider. There is talk that Chevy dealers might be required to install DCFC stations, but this is not the way to go for charging on the go. I’ve charged in dealer lots. Some dealers are busy charging cars they want to sell, or block access by parking cars in front of chargers, or lock the gates after hours, preventing access.

Location of Tesla Superchargers (red icons) and DCFC stations (orange icons) as of Feb 2017.

A dedicated network of  24-hour DCFC stations is needed. Nissan has worked to build out a DCFC network for the Leaf. BMW and VW have partnered with ChargePoint to begin installing DCFC stations for their electric cars. GM should partner up and help establish the DCFC charging network for the Bolt EV. Without a decent DCFC network, the Bolt EV – even with it’s impressive range – will be limited in some regions until somebody builds out the charging network. There are states with few, and several states without any DCFC stations. It is not yet possible to drive cross country using DCFC stations.

GM also needs a consistent advertising effort across the board. The very same day that Chevy announced the first delivery of Bolts to new owners in California, Chevy radio ads began airing in the San Francisco Bay area that were anti-BEV. The gist of the ad was if you want to buy an EV, you better get a tent and prepare to camp out because charging an EV takes 21 hours. To Chevy’s credit this ad was pulled soon after it began, but somebody within the organization thought this was a good idea. Better ads will help educate the public about a car that can sell itself if properly promoted.

A base model Bolt EV with DC charging is listed on Chevy’s website for $38,245. Adding typical options puts the price in the  40-41k range…. before currently available rebates. So, at this moment, in California, you can order a Bolt EV with DC charging and effectively pay around or even less than $30,000 after federal and state rebates.

Conclusion. GM has delivered on the car, the Chevy Bolt EV is a game changer. Now GM needs to deliver on establishing a fast charging network to ensure it can reach its full potential.

 

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Transport Evolved Tips: Living With a Limited-Range Electric Car (Video)

As high initial sales for the Chevrolet Bolt EV (the world’s first mass-produced electric car with a range-per charge in excess of 200 miles per charge on the EPA test cycle and an entry-level price tag of under $35,000 before incentives) show, there’s a significant demand for an affordable electric car that can travel more than 200 miles per charge.

There's plenty of life in used, limited-range EVs. You can even climb mountains with them!

There’s plenty of life in used, limited-range EVs. You can even climb mountains with them!

It’s a demand that’s substantially higher than it has ever been for an electric car with a range below 100 miles per charge, showing that many who previously did not view an electric car as viable will now consider one thanks to the reduction in range anxiety a larger-capacity battery pack offers.

But that doesn’t mean a limited-range electric car — one with a range below 70 miles per charge — can’t be a practical first electric car. Indeed, with prices of used electric cars now down to four-digit figures in some markets, it’s possible to pick up a used electric car with a real-world range of between 50 and 70 miles per charge for less than ever before.

And if you’re one of the majority of would-be electric car owners who live in suburbia (or perhaps even out of town in a more rural setting), the chances are just such a car could give you your first taste of driving electric, saving you money in the process that you can (should you choose) put toward that longer-range plug-in of your dreams.

Which is why we’ve come up with this short video explaining how to get the very best out of living with a limited-range, used electric car.

Watch the video above and let us know what you think of it in the Comments below.

 

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

In Geneva, nanoFlowcell Set To Debut 186 Mph, 48-Volt Flowcelll Prototype EV Called The QUANT 48VOLT

Today, there are two main ways to store the energy needed to power an electric car down the road: a large electrochemical battery pack which turns stored chemical energy into electrical power; or a hydrogen fuel cell system in which compressed hydrogen is combined with oxygen from the outside air inside a special fuel cell stack to produce water, heat and electricity.

But as one European automaker by the name of nanoFlowcell  will tell you, there’s a third way that combines the best of liquid refueling and battery packs in something called a redox flow battery — or as it prefers to call them, a nanoflowcell battery. And while the company itself is just four years old, the company has just announced that it will be demonstrating the latest in a line of prototype electric vehicles at this year’s Geneva Motor Show that it hopes will revolutionize the way we think about electric cars.

Last year in Geneva, the Quantino Concept was shown.

Like its predecessors, the all-new prototype boasts an impressive performance on paper, with a claimed 186 mph top speed and a 2.4-second 0-62 mph time, along with a claimed range in excess of 600 miles on the standard NEDC test cycle. Yet unlike all of the other high-powered electric sports cars and concepts we’ve seen over the years there’s something particularly unusual about the aptly named nanoFlowcell QUANT 48VOLT: it runs on 48-volts.

Flowcells operate a little like a hydrogen fuel cell.

When dealing with power electronics on modern electric cars, higher voltage systems have been preferred to lower-voltage systems for several important reasons. Firstly, since power is a product of Voltage and Current (and higher current flow increases power loss due to the electrical resistance of the conductor it is passing through), automakers today prefer to use high voltage, low current systems. Secondly, since high current flow requires the use of physically larger connectors and wires (to overcome any losses caused by resistance), it’s more practical to make electric cars using high-voltage components than it is low-voltage ones as the cables for power are more easily routed, lighter, and less bulky. Thirdly, high-voltage systems put far less strain on the car’s battery pack and result in a much less of a voltage drop toward the empty end of the pack when compared to a low-voltage battery system. And while higher-voltage systems require better electrical insulation than lower-voltage systems, the overall benefits of a high-voltage power system in an electric car tend to outweigh the disadvantages.

The nanoFlowcell’s QUANT 48VOLT doesn’t have to worry about battery voltage drop in the same way that a traditional battery electric car does, since it produces electricity by passing two oppositely-charged electrolytic solutions either side of a special catalyst-rich membrane that enables ion exchange from one side to the other, producing electricity in the process. Since the system power output is restricted by the physical area of the flowcell membrane (and the electrolyte is pumped through the membrane from the ‘charged’ tank to the ’empty’ tank), power output from the cell remains constant regardless of how ‘full’ the tank is.

Unfortunately though, there are some downsides to flow cell technology. For example, traditionally, it’s been impossible to vary the voltage or power produced by a flow cell in response to demand from the electric motor. Instead, batteries or supercapacitors have been required to buffer power produced by the flow cell to ensure that power could be buffered to ensure both high and low demand situations be catered for. Additionally, flow cell systems have been unable to match the power density of modern lithium-ion battery chemistries, making them less appealing for use in power-hungry applications like electric cars.

Previous concepts required on-board supercapacitors to buffer power.

Yet nanoFlowcell — which was founded in Liechtenstein (Europe’s fourth-smallest country) before moving its engineering division over the border to Switzerland and its business division to London — says it has solved both of those problems with its latest nanoflowcell technology, producing a flow cell stack made up of six flow cells in parallel that can produce the low voltage and high current required of them to power the QUANT 48VOLT’s quartet of 120 kilowatt electric motors. With variable power output, the company says the system is lighter and less complex than previous generation systems too, lowering overall cost.

As it’s a prototype, cost hasn’t been mentioned yet — but if we’re honest we don’t yet think we’ll see a nanoFlowcell car on the roads any time soon. As something of an unknown automaker, the various QUANT prototypes we’ve seen from nanoFlowcell (both in conjunction with its partnership with Swedish hypercar manufacturer Koenigsegg and on its own) have been impressive on paper but as yet have not resulted in a practical production model you can buy.  And while flow cell technology does have its benefits over traditional electrochemical batteries (such as negligible degradation over time and quick refuelling time) it’s essentially marred by the same problems affecting hydrogen fuel cell vehicles: refuelling infrastructure and power density.

Flowcells sound great, but there are many challenges to mass-adoption.

There’s no doubt that flow cell technology is another alternative to storing power for an electric car, but without significant support from automakers and fueling companies it’s unlikely to make an impact on the automotive world.

And unlike hydrogen — the majority of which is still produced through steam reforming of compressed natural gas — there’s less incentive for fossil fuel companies to embrace a technology they can’t have a hand in producing.

Do you think flow cell technology has a future? Is it going to replace traditional battery packs in electric cars? Or is it just too complicated and an unnecessary distraction when companies like Tesla, BMW, Audi and Daimler are working on technology that can recharge an electric car’s battery pack in as little as ten to fifteen minutes?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Audi tells Dealers to back EVs, i3 + Model S Crash tests, Mirai SuperBowl Ad: – T.E.N. Future Car News 2/3/17

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: Audi tells its dealers to get with the electric car program; Elon Musk Picks up Flak for Being on Trump’s Advisory Council; BMW i3, Tesla Miss IIHS top safety pick, but Tesla has a solution already; Waymo self-driving cars need less safety-related disengages in 2016 than 2015; Tesla Motors is Now Tesla; Bolt EV sales off to a flying start; Faraday Future Downsizing EV factory in the U.S; Honda + Gm plan new fuel cell stack factory; Tesla Motors could soon give you the right to repair; VW, Bosch agree on more payments in dieselgate scandal; Toyota Mirai Super Bowl Ad (Only in LA and San Francisco); Bluebird gets $4.4 million in federal funding to develop an electric school bus.

  • Get With The Program – Audi tells its dealers to get with the electric car program
  • Dropping Reservations – Elon Musk Picks up Flak for Being on Trump’s Advisory Council
  • Missing Out  – BMW i3, Tesla Miss IIHS top safety pick, but Tesla has a solution already
  • Less Input, Stephanie – Waymo self-driving cars need less safety-related disengages in 2016 than 2015.
  • Name Change  – Tesla Motors is Now Tesla
  • High Demand – Bolt EV sales off to a flying start
  • Shrinking Plans – Faraday Future Downsizing EV factory in the U.S.
  • Paired Together – Honda + Gm plan new fuel cell stack factory
  • Right to Repair – Tesla Motors could soon give you the right to repair
  • More Payments  -VW, Bosch agree on more payments in dieselgate scandal.
  • Targeted Viewing -Toyota Mirai Super Bowl Ad (Only in LA and San Francisco)
  • Electric Bus Ride – Bluebird gets $4.4 million in federal funding to develop an electric school bus.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Transport Evolved Tech Primer: LEAF Spy App for Android and iOS Helps You See Under The Virtual Hood of Your Nissan LEAF (Video)

A little over twenty years ago, owning an electric car meant that you had to be at least a little nerdy when it came to computers, battery packs, and basic electronics. At least, you had to be if you wanted to make sure your car had as long and as a healthy existence as possible.

That’s because before the days of production electric cars, before the days even of revolutionary vehicles like the GM EV1, Ford Ranger EV and Toyota RAV4 EV (to name a few) the overwhelming majority of electric cars were either produced in small volume by niche automakers or were in fact conversions of gasoline cars carried out by individuals or dedicated EV conversion shops. As well as make sure your car’s batteries (usually lead acid) were healthy, owners needed to be comfortable reading a voltmeter, understand how to calculate range from rudimentary gauges, and (when necessary) carry out regular checks on each battery to make sure it was in peak condition. With lead acid batteries having a useful lifespan of anything from two to four years, many owners even learned how to carry out regular battery replacement as part of their ownership experience.

The LEAF Spy app is a very useful tool for any LEAF owner.

Today with modern battery chemistry and modern battery management systems, there’s thankfully no technical prerequisite to owning an electric car. Indeed, just as internal combustion engine vehicles have become easier to own and require much less owner maintenance than they once did, today’s modern electric car is far easier to own than its ancestors were. Add to this the fact that most electric cars on the market today clearly display predicted range and charging information in an easy-to-understand way, and there’s really no need to get technical with your electric car unless you want to.

Which is where LEAF Spy comes in, an app for Android and iOS devices that allows you to connect your smartphone to your Nissan LEAF electric car (with the help of an affordable OBDII bluetooth or wifi adaptor) to see far more information than Nissan’s stock on-board displays can display. And while it’s perfectly fine to rely on Nissan’s in-car displays to help you figure out how far you can travel before your car needs a recharge, LEAF Spy adds a whole new level of granularity that gives you far more information about what’s really going on in your electric car’s battery pack.

The LEAF Spy App is very useful for any LEAF owner who wants to know more about what’s going on ‘under the hood’.

In addition to screens that allow you to track energy consumption, charging cycles and even individual module battery voltages, LEAF Spy (and its associated apps LEAF Spy Lite and LEAF Spy Pro) also let you calculate how many miles your car has until empty using a user-selectable distance-per-kilowatt hour (or watt-hours per unit distance) energy efficiency.

Then there’s a whole host of other features that go beyond simply helping you drive more efficiently: buy the Leaf Spy or Leaf Spy Pro app, and you can do a whole lot more than just check on your car’s state of charge to the nearest one tenth of a percent. There’s journey logging (using the GPS built into your smartphone), as well as tools to let you read tire pressure, pair new tire pressure monitors (useful if you have a set of summer and winter tires) and read diagnostic troubleshooting codes.

While not every LEAF owner will even want such functionality, the latter — as well as capability to change door-lock behavior, interior light behavior and headlight operation — means that you should visit your dealership far less frequently. Even if you’re not technically minded, the way the app is put together — combined with this comprehensive guide on its use — should make it a must for anyone who wants to ensure their Nissan LEAF is used to its fullest potential.

You can find LEAF Spy in the Google Play store or the Apple App Store

Disclaimer: This primer discusses a commercially-available app that the author has been a long-time beta tester for. We should clarify however that the author has no ulterior motive in writing this primer, other than sharing details of an app she has found useful for many years. 

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

GM, Honda Announce Plans for Joint Hydrogen Fuel Cell Factory Inside GM’s Brownstone Battery Facility

Four years after General Motors and Honda signed a partnership agreement in which they would work together to research and design affordable hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems for use in future production vehicles, the two automakers have announced a new joint manufacturing venture that will bring those researched fuel cell systems to commercial reality.

Called Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, LLC, the new manufacturing company will establish its own hydrogen fuel cell production line inside General Motor’s battery manufacturing facility in Brownstown, Michigan, with commercial mass-production of hydrogen fuel cell stacks due to begin some time around 2020.

GM and Honda will begin producing fuel cells at the Brownstone facility in 2020.

The perennial Achilles heel of hydrogen fuel cell cars, hydrogen fuel cell stacks (where oxygen and hydrogen combine to produce water, heat and electricity) have traditionally been very expensive and complex to produce. This is because they not only require delicate assembly (often by hand) but also use large amounts of rarer, more expensive  elements (like Platinum) as the catalyst that encourages the chemical reduction of O² inside the fuel cell so it can combine with H² to become H²O.

Because of this, hydrogen fuel cells have to date been very expensive to produce. Although there’s been a great improvement in the past twenty years in energy density, power density and cost per kilowatt of hydrogen fuel cell stacks (for example, the $50,000 hydrogen fuel cell stack in the 2017 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Sedan costs about one twentieth of the fuel cell stack in Toyota’s previous generation hydrogen fuel cell car) the cost of producing hydrogen fuel cell stacks is still prohibitively expensive for any automaker looking to make a profit on the technology.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Stacks have traditionally been expensive to produce.

By working together however, Honda and GM hope that they can reach that profitability, using what they’ve learned thus far to produce more affordable fuel cell stacks that not only use less expensive materials but can be more easily mass produced. And as any production expert can tell you, as soon as something is produced in significant enough volumes, the price-per-unit drops dramatically.

“Over the past three years, engineers from Honda and GM have been working as one team with each company providing know-how from its unique expertise to create a compact and low-cost next-gen fuel cell system,” said Toshiaki Mikoshiba, chief operating officer of the North American Region for Honda Motor Co., Ltd. and president of Honda North America, Inc. in an official statement accompanying the announcement. “This foundation of outstanding teamwork will now take us to the stage of joint mass production of a fuel cell system that will help each company create new value for our customers in fuel cell vehicles of the future.”

Together the two automakers have a total of 2,200 patents pertaining to hydrogen fuel cell technology, ranking GM first and Honda third in the number of hydrogen fuel cell patents filed between 2002 and 2015. While this may come as a shock to readers who are unaware of GM’s involvement in hydrogen fuel cell technology (GM does not make a production hydrogen fuel cell car at the present moment in time) its hydrogen fuel cell program is decades old. Importantly too, it has worked alongside the U.S. military for a number of years to develop, test and build hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, resulting in the ZH2, a hydrogen-powered military-spec pickup truck currently in service with the U.S. Army. Honda meanwhile, recently began U.S. sales of its Honda Clarity fuel cell sedan, the company’s first production fuel cell vehicle.

The Chevy ZH2 is a specially-designed military-spec Hydrogen pickup currently being tested in active service.

Combined, the two companies have each ponied up $42.5 million each, giving Fuel Cell System Manufacturing, LLC a total investment of $85 million to be spent between now and the planned 2020 start of hydrogen fuel cell production. As part of that investment, GM says a total of just under 100 new jobs will be created at the Brownstone facility.

$85 million may seem like a lot of money (it is), but it’s worth noting too that GM’s $42.5 million investment in the new joint venture is less than the $65 million it invested into the Brownstone facility back in 2014 as part of preparations for the second-generation Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car, which in turn was part of a larger $449 million investment in future electric vehicle technology.

It’s also far less than the $500 million invested last year in ride-sharing platform Lyft, which GM has been working alongside to explore the future of the automotive industry and on-demand mobility.

It also pails into insignificance when compared to the $10 billion investment announced earlier this month by thirteen different companies including BMW, Daimler and Toyota as part of an attempt to accelerate the deployment of hydrogen filling infrastructure and the production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles around the world.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Just For Cities? Acciona Proves Electric Car Stereotypes Wrong By Completing Dakar Rally — The World’s Most Demanding Race

If you own an electric car and venture too far out of the urban jungle (even in the age of the Tesla Model S and its fantastic Supercharger network) you’ll encounter a large number of people willing to scorn at your vehicle choice.

Without pulling on too many stereotypes, those critiquing your zero tailpipe emission ride will likely scoff at its physical form, make some judgement about ‘limited range’ and tell you that you need a real car, like a V-8 SUV or pickup truck. Even if you just managed to pass them on a snow-covered mountain road, your electric car, in their eyes, is no match for the real world.

Entered for the past two years, 2017 is the first year that Acciona’s electric race car has finished Dakar.

Luckily, the increasing visibility of electric vehicles in motor sport thanks to Formula E, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and Electric GT — not to mention advocacy of well-known race car drivers like Lellani Munter — has helped change the opinion of many oil-blooded motorheads. But still, some hold out, arguing that electric vehicles are still aways from successfully completing long-distance endurance races.

Except they’d be wrong.

That’s because earlier this week an electric rally vehicle successfully crossed the final finish line of the world-famous Dakar rally, becoming the first electric vehicle and the first zero-emissions car in history to complete the grueling race. Sponsored by Spanish energy company Acciona and named ‘100% EcoPowered,’ the custom-built rally car has proven its critics wrong once and for all, showing that electric vehicles have what it takes to perform alongside their fossil fuel-guzzling cousins.

The race is grueling, and charges have to happen as quickly as possible to avoid running out of time.

Unquestionably the most extreme of endurance races, this year’s Dakar rally took place in South America, covering more than 5,800 miles through Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. But don’t think that gaining entry to the race means you’ll finish it. In its long (and infamous) history, the Dakar Rally has not only claimed the lives of 28 competitors but 42 spectators, support crew and journalists covering the event. Then there are the numerous race retirements every year which (due to either vehicle problems or health problems) claim between a quarter to a third of the starting field.

In other words, finishing is quite a feat, regardless of the type of vehicle, be it car, truck or motorcycle.

And that’s exactly what the El Acciona 100% EcoPowered did, crossing the line to finish 57th overall (last in its class). Having attempted the rally in both 2015 and 2016 only to pull out due to technical difficulties (retiring in one of the final stages last year), this year’s finish is a big achievement for Acciona and its drivers Ariel Jatón and Tito Rolón.

“The odyssey is over,” Jatón said after safely completing the race. “This year’s Dakar was very tough, with some very intense stages complicated by the weather, and the altitude in Bolivia. It was the most grueling race in South America, so we are thrilled to have reached the finish line, particularly in an electric car.”

Entered into the NRJ Openclass, the El Acciona 100% EcoPowered race car was designed from the ground up to ensure that it could tackle the toughest terrain, with a four-wheel drive system powered by a 250 kilowatt electric motor producing 590 pound-feet of torque. Weighing just shy of 4,630 pounds (2,100 kilograms), the race car packs in a total of 150 kilowatt-hours of on-board energy storage, split between six high-performance battery modules. Combined with an on-board charger that can accommodate 220-volts AC through to 400-volts three-phase power, as well as 50 kilowatts off-board DC fast charging, the modular battery system apparently makes stops a little quicker. There’s also a 100-watt, 12-volt solar panel built into the carbon-fiber body panel which is meant to help power the various on-board communications and navigation hardware usually found in a Dakar vehicle, although we note that with the usual dirt and grime associated with such a race we’re not entirely sure how effective it is.

Congratulations to all involved!

That said, we still feel congratulations are in order for the Acciona team. Yes, it may have managed the slowest time of its class, but finishing is certainly not something to be sniffed at. And if we’re right, we’ll see the Acciona team right back next year with a more powerful, more capable race car.

We can’t wait.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Toyota, BMW, Daimler, Honda, and Hyundai Join 8 Other Fuel, Infrastructure Companies In Hydrogen Fuel Cell Push

Despite being “just around the corner” for the past thirty years or more, there’s been a real push in recent years by automakers like Toyota, Honda and Hyundai to promote hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as being a more practical alternative to battery electric vehicles. Aided by a number of different filling station companies, these automakers have pushed the idea that electric vehicles aren’t capable of traveling as far as a comparable hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, are more expensive to own, and take far longer to refuel.

Toyota really wants hydrogen to succeed…

The reality however has been somewhat different: even though the fastest charging electric car charging standard used today (Tesla’s Supercharger network) takes longer to refuel from empty to full than a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, battery electric vehicles are winning the fight to for supremacy in the zero tailpipe emission vehicle world. For example, not only is the the range of a high-end Tesla Model S P100 a little higher than the range of the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedan, but it’s possible to travel from coast to coast by electric car without a spot of range anxiety.

The Hydrogen Council includes Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Daimler and BMW.

Travelling by hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is, by contrast, all but impossible outside of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a handful of cities around the world where a few hydrogen filling stations already exist. Add in the costs associated with installing and maintaining that infrastructure — not to mention the cost of producing the (currently hand-made) hydrogen fuel cell stacks that form the heart of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle — and even hardened hydrgoen fuel cell advocates like Toyota and Honda have changed their tune of late. Indeed, in recent months, we’ve seen Toyota, Honda and Hyundai switch from a future product plan that ignores battery electric vehicles in favor of hydrogen fuel cells to one in which both technologies are either produced side by side or with a slight bias towards battery electric vehicles.

But as Automotive News (subscription required) details, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai — alongside Daimler and BMW — haven’t given up on hydrogen fuel cell technology completely. Instead, these five major automakers have just joined eight other companies to form a so-called hydrogen council that will lobby and consult with policy makers around the world to further the case for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Alongside the named automakers, other partners in newly-formed group include Royal Dutch Shell, Total SA, Air Liquide, Linde AG, Anglo American PLC, Engie SA, Alstom SA and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. Together, they represent everything from the oil and gas industry to utility companies, mining firms and heavy equipment manufacturing. Announced during the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the lobbying and advocacy group will oversee more than $10.7 million billion in investment from its partner companies to bring various hydrogen-related products to market in the next five years.

Despite its hard work and investment into electric cars, BMW still supports hydrogen.

“The world of energy is transforming very, very fast,” said Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden during the World Economic Forum. “Hydrogen has massive potential.” It’s a view shared by Toyota Chairman and Hydrogen Council Co-Chair Takeshi Uchiyamada, who reiterated Toyota’s own commitment to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in a statement issued earlier today.

“In addition to transportation, hydrogen has the potential to support our transition to a low-carbon society across multiple industries and the entire value chain,” he said.

But while the newly-founded Hydrogen Council has the support of some big players in both the automotive and industrial world, it does seem a little like a last-ditch attempt to try and promote hydrogen fuel cell technology in a world where plug-in vehicles appear to have the upper hand. Indeed, with cars like the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, and Chevrolet Bolt EV all offering ranges in excess of 200 miles per charge, the claim that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are far superior to battery electric vehicles has little ground for most drivers.

Add in the benefits battery electric vehicles have over hydrogen fuel cell vehicles — like improved interior load bay space and a higher power to weight ratio — and the Hydrogen Council may face an uphill struggle to convince governments or car buyers that hydrogen is the fuel of the future.

Insted, we’d politely suggest (albeit with our battery-electric bias) that the Hydrogen Council focuses on the applications where hydrogen fuel cell vehicles may have the upper hand over battery electric vehicles: heavy freight haulage.

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Ahead of Launch for Next-Generation Nissan LEAF, Nissan to Test Autonomous LEAFs on London’s Busy Streets

Back at the start of the month, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn gave a keynote presentation at CES 2017 during which he previewed Nissan’s latest autonomous vehicle technology — Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM). Developed in collaboration with NASA, SAM is designed to accelerate the mass market adoptability of autonomous vehicles by integrating advanced artificial intelligence with a remote system that allows specially-trained ‘mobility managers’ to diagnose and assist autonomous vehicles that have come across a real-world situation they cannot deal with on their own.

Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn rode in a fully-autonomous Infiniti sedan earlier this month.

At the same time, Ghosn promised that the next-generation Nissan LEAF, a car he said would be “coming very soon”, will feature the latest production-ready version of Nissan’s Pro Pilot software. This particular iteration of Pro Pilot, designed for suburban and extra-urban highway use, will be similar in functionality to the Pro Pilot system debuted in Nissan’s Japanese-market Serena Minivan last year, and is a precursor to a multi-lane Pro-Pilot system Nissan will bring to market in 2018.

Both systems are designed for highway use, with full autonomous city-center capabilities not due to arrive on Nissan vehicles until sometime around 2023.

Nissan already has thousands of miles logged on the streets in and around Sunnyvale, California

Despite this however, Nissan announced on Friday last week that it would be bringing prototype autonomous Nissan LEAFs to London, England to demonstrate and test its autonomous vehicle technology in the UK’s capital city.

It would be easy then to conclude that Nissan is bringing a prototype of its fully-autonomous vehicle technology to one of the world’s most congested capital cities in order to fully put it through its paces, especially since during his keynote presentation earlier this month Ghosn said that Nissan already has fully-autonomous prototypes ready for road testing on the roads in and around Renault-Nissan’s Silicon Valley Technical Center. But while the streets of London would certainly provide Nissan with a baptism of fire for its city-center ProPilot autonomous vehicle technology, we’re reading into something a little different in Nissan’s press release: it’s bringing its autonomous LEAF prototypes to London as part of a demonstration program designed to make it easier for autonomous vehicles to gain approval for public use.

This includes demonstrating Nissan’s autonomous vehicle technology to private and public stakeholders, including Governmental officials and politicians charged with ensuring any autonomous vehicle legislation is appropriately constructed and implemented, technical and safety experts, and representatives from the insurance industry — who will have to provide appropriate insurance products for their customers to use.

In other words, Nissan’s plan to begin what it calls “on-road demonstrations” next month in London is primarily for lobbying and educational purposes. While we’re sure the self-driving LEAFs Nissan is planning to put on the streets of London will also collect countless terabytes of data that Nissan will be able to use to help refine its autonomous vehicle technology, it won’t be Nissan’s primary concern.

Nissan’s demonstrations in London will be primarily for members of the insurance industry, engineers, and politicians to experience autonomous cars first-hand.

Don’t feel though that Nissan’s London-based autonomous demonstration project will be the only autonomous cars from Nissan we’ll see driving on the UK’s roads, as the UK has already invested more than £100 million over the past few years to fund and execute a series of autonomous vehicle trails across the UK, with technical pilot projects in Greenwich, Milton Keynes, Coventry and Bristol to name but a few of the many involved cities.

Indeed, one of Nissan’s biggest technical centers is located a short drive from Milton Keynes, adjacent to the famous Cranfield University technical institution known for its excellent automotive engineering faculty. It’s likely then (although not certain) that following Nissan’s London demonstration of autonomous LEAFs, we can expect larger-scale autonomous vehicle testing from the Japanese automaker across the UK.

While this is the first time Nissan has brought its autonomous vehicle technology to Europe, Nissan has of course several years of fully-autonomous vehicle test programs under its belt in both the U.S. and Japan. And as announced at CES, Nissan is about to start a new autonomous commercial vehicle pilot project in Japan in collaboration with Japanese Internet company DeNA .

Do you look forward to owning a fully-autonomous car? And how do you think Nissan’s autonomous LEAF prototypes will cope with the hustle and bustle of busy London streets?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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As Volkswagen Finally Pleads Guilty In Dieselgate Scandal, FCA Now in EPA’s Crosshairs For The Same Crime

Yesterday, German automaker Volkswagen finally plead guilty of trying to cheat in U.S. Federal emissions tests by building and selling certain model-year diesel-engined vehicles with a so-called ‘defeat devices’ fitted in them, a please which will see it pay the U.S. Federal Government more than $4.3 billion in penalties.

Less than 24 hours later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — just one Governmental agency which worked hard to prove Volkswagen was acting illegally — has filed a new Notice of Violation against an automaker who it says is using similar test-beating technology on its own diesel-engined vehicles. This time, the offender is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

The EPA has a new target for Dieselgate: FCA.

In its official paperwork detailing the allegations, the EPA says it believes FCA used illegal software emission control systems on nearly 104,000 U.S. market diesel vehicles fitted with FCA’s 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine, including 2014-2016 model year Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs. And while the EPA didn’t use the term ‘defeat device’ in its official paperwork, it claims to have found eight auxiliary emissions control devices (AECD) that appear to be acting in such a way as to circumvent Federal emissions standards in specific circumstances.

These eight AECD, so far only found in the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine, are essentially software subroutines that appear to have been designed to allow the vehicles in question to pass emissions tests and meet federal standards for Nitrogen Oxides. Not telling the EPA of their existence is illegal, and the EPA wants FCA to explain them and what they do immediately.

Dodge RAM 1500 trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokees are affected.

In the case of Volkswagen, the ‘defeat devices’, essentially the same thing (software algorithms) were programmed to detect if the car was being driven on a dynamometer (as it might be if its emissions were being examined). If it detected such a situation, these defeat devices set the car’s emissions control system to ensure it met U.S. Federal safety standards for tailpipe emissions at the expense of power and fuel economy. The rest of the time however, the emissions control system was programmed to ignore those standards, emitting more than 400 times the legal limit in order to squeeze a few extra miles per gallon or brake horsepower out.

Despite initially denying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s assertions that such a device even existed, Volkswagen eventually admitted that its engineers had purposely programmed the system to behave illegally. Naturally, lower management took most of the flack for doing, claiming that those at a higher level had pushed engineers to come up with an affordable solution to what seemed like an impossible problem — and thus cheating was the only option.

It’s not clear if FCA will take the same approach, but if it does, it’s likely that the EPA will act swiftly to make an example out of FCA as it did Volkswagen.

Since the EPA is waiting on FCA’s responses to various pressing questions on the purpose of the AECDs it detected, it has chosen not to disclose that much information on what i believes is going on in the heart of the 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V-6 engines. It did however confirm that even with the AECDs operational, the engines tested at its facilities failed to meet limits set under the Clean Air Act for Nitrogen Oxides.

In response to the official notice of Violation, FCA’s official response was almost defiant in nature, berating the EPA for issuing the notice in the first place.

FCA now has to explain itself to the EPA.

“FCA US is disappointed that the EPA has chosen to issue a notice of violation with respect to the emissions control technology employed in the company’s 2014-16 model year light duty 3.0-liter diesel engines,” the statement reads. “FCA US diesel engines are equipped with state-of-the-art emission control systems hardware, including selective catalytic reduction (SCR).  Every auto manufacturer must employ various strategies to control tailpipe emissions in order to balance EPA’s regulatory requirements for low nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and requirements for engine durability and performance, safety and fuel efficiency. FCA US believes that its emission control systems meet the applicable requirements.”

But perhaps the most distressing part of the statement indicates that FCA believes the impending change in administration will perhaps give it an advantage over Volkswagen and the hefty fines it has faced in the past eighteen months.

“FCA US intends to work with the incoming administration to present its case and resolve this matter fairly and equitably and to assure the EPA and FCA US customers that the company’s diesel-powered vehicles meet all applicable regulatory requirements.”

Given the fact the incoming administration has already talked about easing EPA restrictions (and the incoming administration is heavy on climate-change skeptics and oil-industry executives) we’ll leave you to decide just what that statement means — implicit or explicit.

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Want Unlimited, Free Supercharging From Tesla? Buy a Used Model S, Model X Made Before 1/14/17

From the moment Tesla launched the Model S electric car back in 2012 to the present time, anyone buying a (Supercharger-equipped) Tesla Model S or Model X has been able to look forward to free, unlimited charging at Tesla’s global network of Supercharger stations.

After January 15, all new Tesla cars will have limits placed on their free supercharging.

Crisscrossing North America, Europe and most of Asia, Tesla’s Supercharger network has finally made long-distance electric car travel practical and affordable, but come January 14, Tesla will end its free, unlimited Supercharger policy for all new Model S and Model X cars. As we detailed recently, anyone purchasing a new Tesla Model S or Model X after that point will find themselves restricted to just 400 kilowatt-hours of free Supercharger use per year (equivalent to 1,000 miles of free travel). And while Tesla customers who fall under the new rules will be able to purchase additional Supercharger credits in order to continue to use the Supercharger network at an as-yet unannounced cost, only those who already own their Tesla will be able to make take advantage of Tesla’s free, unlimited Supercharging.

If you want to make use of free, unlimited Superchargers, buy a used Tesla.

Except, it appears, those who purchase a certified pre-owned Tesla Model S or Tesla Model X originally delivered before January 14, 2017.

That’s according to Tesla’s President of Sales, Jon McNeill, who confirmed yesterday on Twitter that anyone buying a certified pre-owned Tesla, since Tesla has chosen to attach the Supercharging privilege to the car rather than the customer. McNeill, who isn’t quite as vocal on Twitter about Tesla products as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, was responding to a report from the Tesla Model 3 Owner’s Club forum, which incorrectly claimed that Certified Pre Owned Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X cars purchased after December 31, 2016 would fall under the same Supercharger usage restrictions as new models.

McNeill, responding to the erroneous tweet, clarified that Tesla would continue to offer unlimited free supercharging to all used Model S and Model X cars.

“not [sic] correct. CPO’s [sic] carry lifetime Supercharging with the car,” he tweeted at @Model3Owners, adding in a subsequent tweet asking for a “firm answer” on the topic that “All Teslas purchased with Supercharging for life carry that benefit for the life of the car.”

Telsa says Supercharger privilege follows the car for its life.

While this has upset some Tesla fans — who say that Supercharging privileges should follow owners rather than cars and feel that Tesla will effectively penalize existing loyal customers who upgrade to a newer model — the policy should help keep the value of certified pre-owned and privately-sold Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X cars from falling in value too dramatically.

Yet while Tesla is continuing to honor Supercharger access for older Model S and Model X even after they change hands, it’s worth noting that certified pre-owned Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X cars are still well beyond the affordability price point for many electric car fans.

At the time of writing, the cheapest CPO Tesla Model S available (a 2013 Tesla Model S 85 with nearly 26,000 miles on the clock) is being sold for $55,000. The cheapest private-sale Model S we’ve encountered is about $10,000 cheaper, putting even a used Model S above the price of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV.

Still, if you’re someone who makes regular long-distance trips — and you don’t mind about having an older Model S without the more advanced features of newer models — it’s possible that you might be able to secure yourself a truly long-distance capable car.

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Thought of the Day: Does Tesla Have a Reliability Problem?

Welcome to Thought of the Day! Join Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield as she poses a question for you all to think about and answer.

Today, we’re asking if (following the long list of problems that some Tesla customers are having with their cars) Tesla has a quality control problem that will need to be addressed before Tesla can become a mainstream automaker.

Moreover, we’re asking if regular car customers will put up with Tesla’s current queues for authorized repairs or if they will be as understanding of the problems that arise from being on the bleeding edge of the plug-in world.

Watch the video above and leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

No, Nissan Has Not Unveiled A New Nissan LEAF — But Here’s What We Know About It So Far

Last Thursday during CES 2017, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn took to the stage at the Westgate Theatre in Las Vegas, Nevada to give Nissan’s first ever CES keynote presentation. During it, a media presentation before the keynote, and a media Q&A session which occurred afterwards, he detailed some of Nissan’s future plans, which included advancements in its autonomous driving technology, connected car technology, and zero emission vehicle strategy.

Aided by colleagues from the Renault-Nissan Silicon Valley Research Center, Ghosn unveiled Nissan’s brand-new Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM) system, as well as detail a new autonomous vehicle partnership for commercial vehicle between Nissan and Japanese Internet Company DeNA, a working relationship between Microsoft and Renault-Nissan to bring Microsoft’s personal assistant technology Cortana to future vehicles, and a partnership with 100 Resilient Cities — a global non-profit pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation to help cities build resilience to physical, social, and economic challenges of the future.

We haven’t see Nissan’s next-generation LEAF yet — but here’s Nissan’s latest Autonomous prototype

And with the current Nissan LEAF now in its seventh year, the world’s best-selling electric car is undoubtedly looking a little long in the tooth, especially when it comes to range per charge. As such, Nissan has been expected to reveal the LEAF’s replacement some time this year, with a market launch date of late 2017 or early 2018 — just in time to cross shop against the upcoming Tesla Model 3 and recently-released Chevrolet Bolt EV.

Despite what you may have read elsewhere — including news sites which should have known much better — while Ghosn promised us the next-generation Nissan LEAF electric car would be coming in the “very near future,” (cementing everyone’s expectations that the next-generation LEAF will debut as a 2018 model year car) Nissan stopped short of giving us a full reveal, a fact that has upset plenty of Nissan LEAF fans and electric vehicle advocates alike.

The current generation Nissan LEAF looks very old.

But although Nissan hasn’t yet shared what a next-generation LEAF will look like, there were plenty of juicy hints dropped during Ghosn’s keynote presentation that, when added to what we already know about the next-generation LEAF, allow us to build a pretty decent picture of what we can expect from the next-generation car.

200-mile range: confirmed

If you’ve been following the development of the Nissan LEAF in any detail, this piece of news won’t be a surprise. Indeed, as far back as the end of 2014, Nissan has been openly demonstrating larger-capacity 60 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery packs that it has promised will end up in the next-generation LEAF.

In the press Q&A session earlier in the day ahead of Ghosn’s Keynote, Nissan’s senior vice president of research and advanced engineering Takao Asami confirmed that was still the case, commenting that while Nissan was debating different capacity battery packs and ranges for cars in different markets across North America, Europe and Asia, the next-generation LEAF would have a range “at or above 200 miles” per charge.

Given a Nissan LEAF prototype we saw on the CES show floor had what appeared to be louvered wheels — which would dramatically lower drag and improve efficiency — we suspect Nissan engineers are pulling all kinds of interesting tricks to eek out as much range from the 60 kWh LEAF pack as possible, suggesting that energy efficiency is as important to Nissan as overall vehicle range.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says the next-generation LEAF is coming ‘soon’.

Talking of the requirements for other electric vehicle customers, Asami suggested larger battery packs could be used for higher-duty vehicles, such as taxi cabs or corporate fleet vehicles. He also noted — as other Nissan executives have — that for the highest mileage, larger fleet vehicles (presumably commercial vehicles rather than passenger cars), a range-extended drivetrain may be more cost effective to produce and more affordable for fleet operators too.

Autonomous technology: confirmed

Also confirmed for the next-generation Nissan LEAF is an implementation of Nissan’s ProPilot semi-autonomous vehicle technology. Although Ghosn did not go into specifics, we predict that while Nissan’s fully-autonomous Level 5 vehicle technology is now being tested around the world (Ghosn himself rode in a fully-autonomous car the day before the Keynote at Nissan’s Silicon Valley Research Center) the version we’ll see in the next-generation LEAF will likely be a next-generation incremental improvement on the ProPilot lane-keep assist technology debuted on the Nissan Serena Minivan late last year in Japan.

Referencing Nissan’s own oft-published timeline for autonomous vehicle technology,we think that translates to Level 2 or Level 3 multi-lane highway autonomous driving, where the car will be capable of merging onto and pulling off highways and freeways under supervision. Since this technology is expected to hit the market by 2018, we think this level of autonomy is most likely, at least initially.

As this photograph shows, Nissan has even been experimenting with rear-view cameras.

While Ghosn didn’t promise over-the-air updates for the LEAF specifically, the subject was touched on when discussing the future of Nissan’s vehicle lineup. Indeed, SAM — Nissan’s new autonomous vehicle solution developed in collaboration with NASA — relies on an always-on Internet connection to make it possible for Nissan’s “Mobility Managers” to assist autonomous cars that have come across an unexpected situation, not to mention passing on information about road works and unexpected weather conditions to the rest of Nissan’s autonomous vehicle fleet.

Given that fact, we predict that Nissan’s next-generation LEAF will, like the Tesla Model S and Model X, ship with basic autonomous vehicle technology and then learn new feature as time goes on via over-the-air updates.

Faster charging, intelligent power transfer: confirmed

While Nissan didn’t detail specifics during its Keynote presentation, engineers present at CES confirmed to several news outlets that higher-power on-board charging technology will be coming with the next-generation Nissan LEAF, making it possible for Nissan’s new plug-in car to charge at 150 kilowatts of power versus the 50 kilowatts found in current generation LEAFs.

Why only 150 kilowatts when rival companies like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, and GM are eying power levels of 300 kilowatts or more? To answer that, there’s two specific details worth noting.

This Nissan LEAF SAM prototype shows louvered wheels too.

Firstly, 150 kilowatts is the current power limit of the CHAdeMO DC quick charge power preferred by Japanese automakers like Nissan, suggesting that unlike the rest of the automotive industry (which seems to be switching to CCS) Nissan will likely keep with an evolved variant of the CHAdeMO connector found on current Nissan LEAFs. Not only does this mean backward compatibility with existing CHAdeMO DC quick charge stations (the most widely-available DC quick charging standard in the world) but it also means that Nissan isn’t about to give up on the two-way power transfer capabilities of CHAdeMO in preference for charging speed.

Indeed, Nissan’s so-called “Intelligent Power” and “Intelligent Integration” goals — where electric vehicles become part of our home backup power and keep buildings running during major blackouts or natural disasters — paints a future where electric vehicle owners could even earn themselves money by selling power stored in their LEAF’s battery pack back to the electricity grid during peak hours in order to ease demand.

But there’s another very important reason Nissan may be looking to stay with a lower-power charging protocol: cost. With a 200-mile range, Asami hinted during one press Q&A session that faster charging really isn’t needed for the average customer, as most won’t want to travel more than 200 miles without a significant break anyway.

That might be true in the UK or Japan, where anything over 200 miles is considered a ‘long distance trip’. In North America or Continental Europe, where travelling 200 miles to visit family in the next big city is considered normal, that might not be the case.

Will it be worth waiting for?

During his Q&A with press after the keynote presentation, Carlos Ghosn said Nissan wasn’t willing yet to publicly state a timeline for the rollout of a next-generation LEAF. Doing so, he suggested, would hurt current sales (something Chevrolet found out to its peril when it announced the next-generation 2017 Chevrolet Volt months ahead of its official launch). Yet while the things we know about the next-generation LEAF sound promising, we can’t help but wonder if Nissan is hurting itself by not bringing the next-generation LEAF to market sooner.

Will it be too little too late? It might be.

In an electric vehicle market where price and range are prized above all else, Nissan risks losing out to longer-range cars from BMW, Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Hyundai and of course Tesla. Indeed, in the past week alone, we’ve heard of three Nissan LEAF owners who have traded in their car for the new benchmark in affordable electric vehicle range: the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV.

All we can say is that the next-generation Nissan LEAF — whenever it arrives — had better be worth the wait — or Nissan will lose the electric vehicle lead it has worked so hard to cultivate over the past six years.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Thought of the Day: Do We Really Need Cars That Know Everything About Us?

Welcome to Thought of the Day! Join Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield as she poses a question for you all to think about and answer.

Today, following the first two days of CES, we’re asking if automakers should really be focusing on cars that are fully customizable and know everything about us — or if they should be focusing on more important things like cleaner, greener, drivetrains?

Do millennials really want a car that can connect them with social media, or do they just want an affordable car that’s cheap to own and kind to the environment?

Watch the video above and leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

With The Air Of A Trump Campaign Event, Faraday Future Reveals FF91 “Tesla Beater” Four-Seat Electric Car in Las Vegas

This time last year at CES 2016, California startup Faraday Future held its inaugural reveal event inside an erected marquee on an empty lot a stone’s throw from the main show floor. Amidst great pomp and circumstance — and after a 90-minute presentation in which Faraday Future executives managed to tell us little about the company’s market strategy or goals for the future or what made it different from the rest of the automotive world — Faraday Future unveiled the FF-Zero, an undrivable concept car that would never make it to production.

The FF91 is Faraday Future’s first “production” car.

Last night, tucked away in a nondescript pavilion the size of a small aircraft hangar a half-hour drive from the main CES exhibition space, Faraday Future held a second gala event. But this time, it had a lot more to show us: a full-sized electric SUV packed to the brim with autonomous driving and connected technologies, a massive 130 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, and an official 0-60 mph time of 2.39 seconds.

With erected grandstand seating area packed dignitaries, electric car fans, investors and Faraday Future staff, Faraday Future Executive Vice President of Engineering Nick Sampson opened the 90 minute presentation in which the senior Faraday Future team laid out their vision for the company’s first car: the FF91.

The FF91 is full of high-end technology.

Designed around Faraday Future’s modular platform technology, the FF91’s specifications on paper read like those of a car gunning to beat Tesla in both the plug-in marketplace and the luxury vehicle segment. There’s a 130 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery to best the 100 kWh range-topping battery found in the Tesla Model S P100D and Tesla Model X P100D. There’s a trio of electric motors providing a total of 783 kilowatts of power, a claimed “EPA adjusted” range of 378 miles, and an official 0-60 mph time of 2.39 seconds.

Add in ten different cameras at front and rear and thirteen different long and short range sensors — not to mention a retractable hood-mounted LIDAR stalk reminiscent of an Amazon Echo — and on paper, the FF91 certainly seems to have everything it needs to be successful. Described by Sampson as “the smartest car you’ll ever drive,” the FF91 has a plethora of on-board computer technology and includes twin data modems and WiFi hotspots as well as a keyless entry system that relies on identifying a driver via their mobile telephone.

There were plenty of buzz words thrown in too. “Social Media Connectivity,” “Personalization,” “Internet of Things,” “Machine Learning” and “Future Proof” all made their way into the presentation at least once.

 

The FF91 hasn’t got a factory to be built at yet — but Faraday Future says it will happen.

So far, so good. And to prove to skeptical press that it was a real, working prototype that would be transitioning to a full production car in the next year or so, Faraday Future was ready with some live demonstrations.

First up, we were given an example of the car’s autonomous driving capabilities, with live video of former EV1 engineer and Faraday Future VP of Propulsion Engineering Peter Savagian demonstrating how the FF91 can drop off its driver and then find a place to park on its own. Reversing into the parking space rather than pulling in forwards, the FF91 prototype (Beta 01PERF) accomplished the job with ease.

Later on in the presentation, FF brought out the same cars (plus a Tesla Model S P100D) that it had raced against the FF91 a few weeks earlier, sending each up the make shift drag strip in turn to show how fast the FF91 was.

Sadly, there was no way for us to gauge official 0-60 mph times, but we can attest that the car used for the acceleration demonstration (wearing a black and white body wrap and a “Beta” designation on its rear door sill) was indeed quick. Given that it’s impossible to tell the difference in tenths of a second without some time of timing apparatus, we’re willing at this time to attest that it was as quick as the other cars on display.

Faraday Futures says the FF91 will be able to charge from any power source and be standard agnostic.

Interestingly however — and this is something we’ve only realized by reviewing video of the reveal event from last night and comparing it to our own photographs taken at the reveal — the car which demonstrated the acceleration capabilities of the FF91 was a different car to the one used to demonstrate parking, wearing the designation ‘Beta02PERF’.

The final demonstration came when Faraday Future yet again attempted to demonstrate the FF91’s autonomous parking capabilities, this time on stage.

Driven on to the stage by Yueting Jia, founder and CEO of Chinese firm LeEco (Faraday Future’s main source of income and surrogate parent company) a third FF91 prototype pulled up. Parked close to the rear stage wall over the top of a foot-wide white line running across the central twenty feet or so of the stage, Yueting Jia (or JT Jia as he was introduced) exited the vehicle and, when instructed by Sampson to tell the car to go and park, pressed a touch screen embedded into the car’s A-pillar.

But rather than move, the car stayed put, something Sampson joked as the car having some “stage fright”.

Despite having three cars at the event, one managed to fail during a parking demonstration.

There the car stayed during Yueting Jia’s speech, delivered in broken english, before finally receiving a minute or so of attention from a Faraday Future engineer when he had finished speaking. With the car presumably reset, the vehicle then moved forward twenty feet or so on its own, apparently following the white line, with the LIDAR system fully retracted.

Later, Faraday Future told journalists that the demonstration failed because of the structures of the building the event was held in, but we’ve got to admit to being a little suspicious of the explanation. Having talked about the on-board Lidar system earlier (and how it was integral to mapping new places) it seems that the demonstration failed for another reason.

Although the live stream was broadcast in its entirety with the parking malfunction included, FF would later remove the offending incident, delisting the live stream and replacing it with a heavily-edited version.

And this brings us to our overall impression of the event — and the reason for our choice of headline. Yesterday’s reveal event was certainly streets ahead of the event we attended a year ago. The three prototypes we saw did indeed move and, from a distance, seemed commensurate with a beta-stage prototype vehicle. The interior, visible for a few seconds when the FF91’s coach doors opened, seems spacious enough, with seating for four and fully-reclining rear seats that have clearly been designed with the Chinese upper middle class in mind. Touches like all-round smart glass (which dims at the touch of a button), adaptable rear view mirrors (which will start with glass but transition to cameras when regulatory approval is given) and 200 kW “standard agnostic” DC quick charging (which FF incorrectly identified as the most powerful charging system of any car in the world) make the FF91 feel enticing.

The closest we got to the FF was a real-world version of this chassis — which was clearly hand-made.

But despite all this, something was terribly wrong with the FF91 and the reveal event itself. Journalists and VIP guests were segregated from one another, and we witnesses several members of the press being given a hard time by the hired security staff for trying to get a clear, unobstructed view of the vehicle to take a short video or few photographs. Indeed, we found ourselves arguing several times with security over colleagues who simply wanted to stand in a particular place for a few seconds to get a clearer shot of the stage in front of us.

We’d love to get excited, but it feels like this car won’t make it to production.

Then there was the unashamed, overexhubarant cheering and wolf-whistles from attendees standing trackside. Applauding, cheering, shouting and whistling at every opportunity, the reaction from the front row gave the whole event the air of a Donald Trump rally. Genuine applause is one thing, but cheering in a way that made Apple or Tesla fanboys look timid at each and every detail of the FF91 — especially when they were not ground-breaking or Industry firsts — reminded us that this event was put on as much for investors in China as it was for those in attendance at CES.

That’s before we mention the glossing over of the financial problems that Faraday Future has suffered of late, including the halting of work at the North Las Vegas site where the company is building its massive production facility. Rather than address some of the challenges it has faced to this point, Faraday Future presented a montage of various heavy machinery moving around the construction site before announcing that “phase one” of the construction process (ground work) had been completed. This flies in the face of reports that say work has stopped at the facility due to a string of unpaid bills and lawsuits.

Let’s not forget too the failure of FF or its executives to publicly detail pricing for the FF91. The first production model, one of a limited-production of 300 “Alliance Edition” models, will be auctioned off in March next year. Customers can reserve a car from today with a $5,000 deposit, and production will start (says FF) in 2018. But there was no mention of price. Several sources told us that pricing will lay somewhere in the $90,000 to $150,000 price range and that final pricing will be “upwards of a Tesla,” but officially, FF remains quiet.

But perhaps the biggest thing that made us think we were at a Trump rally was the fact that off stage, answers were vague and not forthcoming. Only a few, carefully-selected guests were offered a ride in the beta prototypes. There was none of the usual auto industry media mobbing of the prototype after the presentation, and there were strictly no up-close-and-personal photographs possible of the car.  And when we asked, staff looked uneasy and apologized, clearly conflicted between what they knew was expected and what was being offered.

The LIDAR on the nose of the FF91 looks like an Amazon Echo.

In the end, the closest we got to an FF91 all night was the chassis left out in the lobby area ahead of the presentation. Obviously hand-made (the inner wheel arches were shaped rather than pressed metal) there was little to see save for the riveted construction and tubular chassis rails protruding from either end of the car, its triple-motor setup, and a windowed battery pack in the car’s floor.

Will Faraday Future bring the FF91 to market?

“This is a car which may not even be a car,” Sampson said in his closing comments, meaning that Faraday Future hopes the FF91 will be more than just a car, becoming a third space for customers, integrating with the Internet of things, and becoming an extension of both our living spaces and our online existence.

But based on what we’ve seen — or not seen — we think his words may herald a far more likely outcome. We’d love Faraday Future to succeed, but given the company’s already turbulent history and its unwillingness to address some major concerns over its financial stability, we’re doubtful that the FF91 will be anything other than stillborn.

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Tesla Motors Produces 83,992 Electric Cars In 2016 – But Misses Yearly Delivery Target By 3,770 Units

At one point during 2016, it was looking extremely unlikely that California automaker Tesla Motors would manage to meet the lofty 80-90,000 vehicle production and delivery goal for 2016 set by Tesla CEO Elon Musk at the start of 2016. Teething problems associated with initial production of the Tesla Model X electric SUV slowed Tesla’s planned production ram during the first half of the year, resulting in production figures of less than 30,000 cars for the first half of the year.

As usual, Model X production and delivery was lower than Model S.

Yet despite a rocky start to 2016, Tesla managed to dramatically increase production during Q3, totalling 25,185 vehicles during the quarter and leaving hope for the end of the year. And as preliminary figures just released by Tesla show, the California automaker managed to produce 24,882 cars during Q4 2106, pushing the 2016 annual production figure to 83,992 units — firmly within its revised 80-90,000 vehicle guidance.

Due to production weighting toward the end of the month, more than 7,762 cars that were produced did not get delivered.

But while Tesla met its production goals for the year, it didn’t manage to meet its 80,000 vehicle delivery target, managing to deliver an estimated 22,000 vehicles during Q4. When combined with previous quarters, this gives an annual delivery figure of 76,230 cars, 3,770 vehicles under its target.

Of course, it’s worth noting here that Tesla’s quoted Q4 figures are still estimates at this time (the actual figures will be released at the start of next month when Tesla releases its official Q4 and year end earnings) and should be treated as such. But given past trends, it’s likely that official figures will be a few units higher than Tesla’s (usually conservative) estimates.

Why did Tesla manage to produce 83,992 cars but ship nearly 8,000 less? Usually, there are a few thousand cars at the end of any quarter that are in transit to customers, explaining why there’s sometimes a disparity between production and delivery figures. But this time, Tesla says part of the blame comes from a production schedule that was heavily weighted towards the end of the quarter.

Cars produced by not delivered by the end of Q4 will be deliverd in Q1

That, says Tesla in its official press release announcing production and delivery estimates, was caused by a planned change in production to switch from Autopilot V 1.0 hardware and Autopilot V 2.0 hardware. The switch over, which took place from late October through early December, dramatically lowered Tesla’s weekly vehicle output. While Tesla was able to recover from this toward the end of Q4, thus reaching its planned vehicle production goals the large disparity between production and sales is due to Tesla missing its quarterly shipping dates.

That fact could also explain why Tesla has decided to delay its planned UK price increase as well as changes to its Supercharger access policy, although Tesla does not specifically say so in its press release.

Any cars not delivered by the end of Q4 will of course help Tesla receive a boost in deliveries for Q1 2017, something which Tesla says will happen to some 6,450 of the 7,762 cars produced but not delivered last quarter.

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Ford Announces 13 ‘Electrified’ Models, Inc. Hybrid Mustang, Hybrid F150 Pickup, 300-Mile Electric SUV

Since vocal climate change skeptic and friend of the oil industry Donald J Trump won the 2016 U.S. Presidential election back in November, there’s been something of a grey cloud hanging over much of the electric vehicle world. With similar-minded individuals appointed to control the EPA and DoE — two of the government agencies we can thank for the progress electric vehicles have made in recent years — the fear that all support for electric vehicles will be withdrawn come post-inauguration is a very real one.

There’s a hybrid F150 on the way by 2020, says Ford

Indeed, with the overwhelming majority of the auto industry signing a letter to Trump back in December asking him to ease new fuel economy and emissions standards, electric vehicle advocates have been gearing up for a fight the likes of which have not been seen since the repeal of California’s ZEV mandate at the turn of the century.

Yet Ford, who was one of the consignees asking for the Federal Government to ease its fuel economy and emissions standards, has just stunned the auto world with the announcement of a raft of new electrified models it plans to build over the next three years, including a 300-mile all-electric SUV, hybrid police vehicles, a plug-in hybrid variant of the Ford Transit Connect light commercial vehicle in Europe…and hybrid versions of the iconic Ford Mustang and high-volume Ford F150 Pickup Truck.

No plug yet — but Ford says a hybrid Mustang is on the way.

The announcement, made just before the doors opened on the first press day for CES 2017, is part of a $4.5 billion investment that Ford is making in developing electrified and autonomous vehicles, and will include a raft of new jobs at its Flat Rock production facility in Michigan. The facility, which recently received a $700 million investment to expand production capabilities, will become home to several of Ford’s planned new models, including the as-yet-unnamed 300-mile electric SUV and the promised hybrid Ford Mustang.

It’s easy of course to view Ford’s investment as another way to build more compliance cars in order to satisfy zero emission vehicle mandates in states like California as well as allow Ford to meet the ever-increasingly tough Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards it has been railing against for decades.  But in its press release, Ford CEO Mark Fields seems committed to a future where suck, squeeze, bang and blow isn’t the primary source of income for the company.

“As more and more consumers around the world become interested in electrified vehicles, Ford is committed to being a leader in providing consumers with a broad range of electrified vehicles, services and solutions that make people’s lives better,” he said. “Our investments and expanding lineup reflect our view that global offerings of electrified vehicles will exceed gasoline-powered vehicles within the next 15 years.”

While Ford has reiterated its commitment to electrified vehicles and reducing emissions however, we should note that of the thirteen new models promised before 2020, only a few will be purely electric. The rest will be either hybrid or plug-in hybrid models, with limited (if any) electric vehicle capabilities. Nevertheless, Ford’s move is one in the right direction. Given Ford’s massive market share, especially in the SUV and Pickup segment, increasing gas mileage and reducing emissions of its vehicles by introducing a hybrid drivetrain will have a sizeable impact on overall emissions across the fleet.

But of course, Ford has been here before. It once made an all-electric pickup. It made a very capable Hybrid SUV. Both were killed. And if we’re brutally honest, Ford could choose to do the same again with these new vehicles it promises.

Let’s not forget Ford once made a fully-electric pickup…

This time however, like other automakers of late, it seems that Ford is more serious. It has also opted to focus on electric and electrified vehicles in preference to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, a move that is great news for anyone who likes their car to come with a plug (although Ford is also working on its own wireless inductive charging technology to eliminate the plug for good).

With any announcement like this, the proof is always in the pudding, but it’s certainly good news to see Ford continue towards a more electrified fleet given the massive change in policy we’re going to see coming from the White House. As a global automaker, Ford has to respond to global trends as one as more local ones, and we suspect the trend toward electric vehicles outside of the U.S. is helping it push for more electric vehicles at home too.

Do you agree? Do you think Ford’s announcement carries some weight? Or is it simply a smoke and mirror show full of empty promises given how little attention Ford has paid to electric vehicles thus far?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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As The New Year Rolls In, Tesla Delays Changes To Supercharger Policy And Price Increases For UK Customers

It may only be the second day of 2017 (and the last day of the Holiday season thanks to the fact that New Year fell on a weekend), but that hasn’t stopped California automaker Tesla Motors from surprising its fans and customers by delaying two changes that were due to come into effect at the close of last year.

Tesla is delaying the change to its Supercharger access policy by two weeks.

The first, a change to Tesla’s Supercharger access policy, was due to come into effect at the end of 2016. It would have ended free, unlimited Supercharger access to all customers who ordered a new Tesla Model S or Tesla Model X electric car after December 31, 2016. As we explained back in November when the policy change was announced, Tesla had originally intended to replace the unlimited, free Supercharger access with a 400 kilowatt-hour per-year free allocation for every new Model S and Model X purchased after January 1, 2017. Once a customer had used up their free 400 kWh allocation for the year (enough for approximately 1,000 miles of travel), they would then have to purchase “Supercharger Credits” from Tesla in order to continue using the network.

Customers now have until January 14 to sneak their orders in before the policy change.

But as Electrek reported yesterday, Tesla has decided to delay the start of its new Supercharger policy by two weeks, meaning that anyone ordering a new Tesla Model S or Model X between now and January 14 will benefit from the same free-for-life, unlimited Supercharger access as existing customers. Those who order their new Tesla Model S or Tesla Model X from January 15 will find themselves constrained by Tesla’s 400 kWh free Supercharger quota policy.

It’s not sure why Tesla made the decision to shift the Supercharger policy change back by two weeks, but if we had to guess it’s designed to give Tesla a sales boost early on in Q1 2017 — a quarter where Tesla’s funds are expected to be thinly spread after the successful merger between SolarCity and Tesla last quarter.

That said, the delay could also be caused by a delay to pricing policy for Tesla Supercharger access. So far, Tesla has not disclosed how much it intends to charge customers per unit of Supercharger credits, which may either be based on per unit energy (kilowatt-hour) or unit time (minute) at a Supercharger station. Either way, the delay is good news for those who have yet to order a new car before the change in policy actually takes place.

Tesla has also delayed planned UK price increases by two weeks.

The second New Year surprise from Tesla comes in the form of delaying a publicised price increase for UK customers after the fall of the Pound Sterling against the U.S. Dollar during the latter half of 2016. The value of the Pound — which plummeted more than fifteen percent in value against the dollar after the UK’s voted to leave the European Union — meant that Tesla was essentially selling its cars to UK consumers at a far lower price than it was in other markets. Consequently, Tesla had planned to increase the price of all its UK-market cars by five percent on January first.

However, just like its surprise delay to the rollout of its new Supercharger policy, Tesla decided to delay its planned UK price increase by two weeks, giving customers who did not have time to finish their purchase before the end of 2016 a few extra days to finalize everything before the planned price hike.

Tesla says it made the decision to delay its price increase in order to accommodate high demand in the UK, but as with the delay to Supercharger policy change, we think it’s also likely designed to give Tesla a healthy spark to its early Q1 sales figures.

Regardless of the motivation behind it however, if you’re someone who is in the market for a new Tesla Model S or Model X, you’ve got an extra two weeks to finalize your purchase before owning a Tesla becomes a little more expensive.

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Tesla’s Latest Gift To Model X Customers Is A Cute Christmas Easter-Egg Automotive Dance Routine (VIDEO)

If you live in pretty much any suburban setting across the U.S., you’ll know it’s that time of year when neighbors try and outdo one another with Holiday-themed light displays on their homes.

Sometimes, those light shows involve putting thousands of light bulbs on the outside of the house itself. Sometimes it involves hiding speakers that play holiday music at full blast as they go past. Some people even put giant inflatable Santas on their lawn or roof, complete with reindeer.

The Model X has a new trick — and it’s very Christmassy.

But if you happen to own a Tesla Model X you can do away with all of that thanks to a neat software holiday-themed easter-egg hidden in Tesla’s latest version of its vehicle operating system that turns the $100,000+ electric SUV into a sound and light display on its own.

As Tesla owner-cum hacker Jason Hughes discovered a while ago, Tesla’s 2.50.15 firmware for Model X has a hidden program within the codebase which, when activated, causes the Model X to put on its own Holiday-themed performance. This consists of a rendition of “Wizards in Winter” by the Trans Siberian Orchestra through its sound system at full volume while simultaneously flashing its various lights in time to the music, opening and closing both its Falcon Wing and Front doors and even wiggling its mirrors too.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Tesla put on a similar show last year for the Holiday season, publishing a video online showing not one but three Model X cars ‘dancing’ to that very same piece. It seems for this year, since there are more Model X cars in the wild than last year, Tesla decided to teach the trick to all of the Model X cars in the wild.

Activating the Easter Egg is pretty simple: with the car in park, press and hold the Tesla logo in the top center of the car’s touch-screen display until the car prompts you for a passcode. Then, enter “modelxmas” and the car will do the rest.

Aside from being a sweet, mesmerising holiday treat for Model X owners, the special subroutine shows just how much of the Tesla Model X can be controlled by the car’s onboard computer. What’s more, with the various lights and doors operating independently in time to the music, we think Tesla may have just discovered a new art form: automotive choreography.

Which got us thinking: will Tesla let customers program their own dance routines to their favorite songs for fun and entertainment? Or perhaps that extra special marriage proposal? Or perhaps a birthday surprise?

The possibilities are endless. And as a music graduate with an interest in electronic music (and MIDI control systems) this author can’t wait to have a go for herself.

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Following 350+ kW Charging Push From Rival Automakers, Elon Musk Hints V3.0 Tesla Superchargers Will Get A Whole Lot Faster

There’s nothing like a bit of friendly competition between rival companies for encouraging technological advancement.

Especially when it involves Tesla CEO Elon Musk and some form of electric vehicle technology.

Tesla’s 350kW Supercharger upgrade is in the works…

Just under a month ago, Daimler, Ford, Volkswagen and BMW announced that they had joined forces to push a new super-fast electric car charging standard to market, funding a new cross-Europe charging network that will include 400+ next-generation charging stations by 2020.

Essentially a super-fast, more powerful version of the SEA-developed CCS standard already favored by the majority of European and U.S. automakers, the new charging standard can operate at power levels of up to 350 kilowatts to charge a 90 kilowatt-hour battery from empty to 80 percent full in as little as fifteen minutes, far faster than the maximum 145 kilowatts offered by Tesla’s Supercharger network.

It’s not clear how soon the upgrade will happen.

At the time it was announced, we speculated that it would be reasonably easy and logical for Tesla to follow suit and upgrade its own Supercharger standard, since it owns and operates its entire Supercharger network and has gradually upgraded Supercharger capabilities since the network’s launch in 2012.

True to our predictions, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to twitter over the Holiday weekend to confirm that Tesla has indeed been working on evolving its Supercharger network, complete with photovoltaic solar panels, battery storage and super-fast 350 kW charging speeds.

The exchange happened on Christmas eve, when Electrek’s Fred Lambert asked Musk via Twitter if there was any update on Tesla’s plans to install photovoltaic solar arrays at Tesla Supercharger sites around the world. A goal Musk has held from day one of the Supercharger network, only a handful of Supercharger sites around the world currently have on-site photovoltaic solar panel arrays. But that’s about to change, Musk suggested, thanks to the recent merger between Tesla and SolarCity.

Supercharger V3, Musk explained in a subsequent tweet, would be capable of transferring at least 350 kilowatts of power and, when paired with Tesla photovoltaic panels and Tesla PowerBanks, would mean that Tesla’s Superchargers could operate completely off-grid. This means that even if there was a local power outage, Tesla could still provide customers with power and charging, no matter what — not to mention making it possible to install Supercharger sites at more remote locations where it’s currently impractical to install a Supercharger.

Tesla’s Supercharger V3.0 will be close to offering a full-charge in 15 minutes.

There’s another bonus too: if future Supercharger sites offer completely off-grid, Tesla will no-longer have to choose sites for Superchargers based on the available power on site (or the practicalities of bringing high-power grid electricity to the site). And that, we’d guess, should help lower the costs associated with Tesla Supercharger installation.

When will Tesla roll out a Tesla Supercharger upgrade? That’s a hard one to tie down right now, but Musk certainly seemed to imply in his brief Twitter exchange that it was something we’d see in the near future. If we had to guess, we’ll see Tesla push the first high-powered Superchargers by the end of 2017, with the most popular sites getting priority over less popular ones.

As to existing cars? Without significant upgrades, we’re guessing these vehicles will be stuck charging at a slower speed, although it’s possible that Tesla is already rolling out such an upgrade on the vehicle end without telling anyone. After all, Tesla has done something similar in the past with autopilot hardware.

When do you think we can look forward to faster Tesla charging? And will Tesla be able to bring ultra-fast Supercharging (Hypercharging, anyone?) to market before the competition’s 350-kW CCS?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Thought of the Day: Advertising Electric Vehicles Fairly

Welcome to Thought of the Day! Join Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield as she poses a question for you all to think about and answer.

Today, we’re asking why mainstream automakers are rather obviously leaving their plug-in vehicles out of mainstream brand-wide advertisements for their vehicles?

Are they purposely trying not to sell electric cars? Are they focusing on cars they think will bring in more money? And why are dealers following suit?

Watch the video above and leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Is The Chevrolet Bolt EV Really A Compliance Car To Help GM Continue To Sell Gas-Guzzlers?

The first mass-produced electric car to go on sale with a price tag of less than $40,000 and a range in excess of 200 miles per charge, the Chevrolet Bolt EV is now available to buy in its launch markets of California and Oregon.

Developed in double-quick time by General Motors working in collaboration with South-Korean electronics specialist LG (which made many of the car’s components, including its 60 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, 150-kilowatt electric motor, countless in-car displays and power electronics system), the Chevrolet Bolt EV may appear to be GM’s biggest statement on electric vehicles since the much-missed EV1 20 years earlier.

Is the Chevrolet Bolt EV just a compliance car?

But despite the fanfare with which GM unveiled the Chevrolet Bolt EV concept car at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show and the enthusiasm demonstrated by GM CEO Mary Barra when the production Chevrolet Bolt EV was presented at CES 2016 in Las Vegas back in January, it seems that GM’s attitude toward electric cars may not be what it seems.

In fact, GM’s attitude toward electric cars may not have shifted far from the attitude it had back in 2003 when it official shut down the EV1 program and slowly, inexorably, started to take back perfectly functioning EV1 at the end of their leases and crushing them.

The new 60kWh battery pack seems like a lot for a ‘compliance car’

At least, that’s according to JP Morgan analyst Rick Brinkman, who (reports Electrek) published a note to clients last week hintingthat GM was building the Bolt EV at a loss in order to ensure it receives the zero emission vehicle credits it needs to continue producing its internal combustion engine vehicles. Internal combustion engine vehicles which not only have a far larger profit margin than either the Bolt EV or Volt range-extended EV but are easier to sell to customers who don’t want to give up their large SUVs and pickup trucks and view global climate change as someone else’s problem.

Brinkman, who met with Stevens last week, advised investors in his note that the Bolt EV is part of an “improving array of electric vehicles from automakers which are pricing such vehicles with the aim not to turn a profit but rather to sell in sufficient volume to subsidize the rest of their more lucrative portfolios of internal combustion engine vehicles from a regulatory compliance perspective.” Avoiding specific details about the conversation he had with GM’s CFO, there’s much reading between the lines here and, to be honest, a little speculation coming from our friends at Electrek over the specifics.

Translated, Brinkman’s note suggests that the Bolt EV is little more than a compliance car. For those unfamiliar with the term, that’s a car designed and sold by automakers (under duress) so they can meet zero emission mandates in the ten states across the U.S. where automakers must sell a specific proportion of zero emission vehicles or face fines: California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. But while the note suggests these things, it doesn’t claim them, leaving us (and anyone reporting it) in a grey area.

GM is certainly following a compliance car launch pattern.

Under ZEV regulations, the more cars an automaker sells, the more zero emission vehicles they must produce. Small volume automakers can often make do by buying excess ZEV credits from automakers like Tesla which, under current ZEV rules, can sell its excess credits for money. For a large automaker like GM however, it’s often more cost effective to produce limited numbers of compliance cars.

The possibility that GM is selling the Bolt EV as simply another compliance car is certainly disheartening, especially if true, but is hardly surprising given GM’s past attitude towards electric vehicle and its name beside those of other major automakers on a recent letter to the incoming Trump administration to block the EPA’s new fuel consumption standards for cars.

Taking everything into consideration, we think it is indeed possible that GM, like other automakers, is using its electric vehicle portfolio to help ease the increasing pressure it finds itself under from both ZEV states like California and wider governmental bodies like the the DoT and EPA, who are responsible for respectively setting the Corporate Average Fuel Economy and Air Pollution targets which new cars must meet. And while the EPA’s air pollution regulations are harder to game, the CAFE standards are, by their very name, only an average. Therefore, if an automaker produces large numbers of electric vehicles, it can produce equally large numbers of heavy duty pickup trucks with terrible gas mileage, since the average fuel economy across the fleet still meets guidelines.

It’s true too that gasoline vehicles do have a far higher profit margin than electric vehicles, if only because of the economies of scale in play and the high cost of lithium-ion battery technology.  Over time, these economies of scale will inevitably shift but for now, internal combustion engined vehicles are still cheaper to produce and as such, have a higher profit margin.

We’re hoping this particular suggestion is not true…

But at the same time, this suggestion doesn’t make sense. For a start, GM seems to have gone through an inordinate amount of work to produce a long-range, ground-up electric car simply for compliance purposes, leading us to suggest that the note issued by Brinkman is missing important context.

Had GM truly wanted just a compliance car, it would have likely spent far less time and energy bringing the Bolt EV to market. Granted, it recently changed its launch plans from a simultaneous nationwide launch to one in which ZEV states were given first dibs on the new car, but based on what we know of the Bolt EV, a full roll out is still expected.

Does this mean we should ignore the report? No. As anyone who has been in the electric vehicle world for any length of time will attest, electric vehicles still have plenty of opponents, including the oil and gas industry and many ‘old guard’ within the automotive world.

But at the end of the day, there’s something we want readers to remember: in the past decade, we’ve seen a major increase in interest and sales of plug-in vehicles. And as we approach the end of 2016, there are more electric and plug-in vehicles on the world’s roads than ever before. What’s more, with competition from the likes of Tesla, automakers will make whatever they need to ensure they don’t lose market share or relevance.

And that, simply put, means it’s down to customers to demand more plug-in cars. When faced with the buying power of their customers, change will come.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Thought of the Day: Why Ya Gotta Be So Rude?

Welcome to Thought of the Day! Join Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield as she poses a question for you all to think about and answer.

Today, we’re asking a really simple question — and it’s got nothing to do with our usual topics of discussion.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen more and more negative comments pop up on our YouTube channel, most noticeably aimed at other viewers and commenters.

So we’ve got to ask: why are you all being so rude to each other?

Watch the video above, and leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

Thought of the Day: BMW 530e iPerformance — Good or Bad?

Welcome to Thought of the Day! Join Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield as she poses a question for you all to think about and answer.

Today, following BMW’s announcement of the BMW 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid, we’re asking if cars like the BMW 530e iPerformance should be treated as valid plug-in hybrids or the red-headed stepchild of plug-in cars (no disrespect to our favourite redheads, of course!)?

Watch the video above, and leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

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