BMW i3 Class Action, Tesla Stock Sale, Autopilot Retrofit T.E.N. Future Car News 20th May 2016

BMW i3 Class Action, Tesla Stock Sale, Autopilot Retrofit T.E.N. Future Car News 20th May 2016


On this week’s show : BMW i3 owners take
the German automaker to court, Tesla sells stock to raise money for building the Model
3, and a clever engineer who gives a pre-autopilot Tesla Model S an autopilot makeover These stories and more, coming up next, on
TEN. Enjoying today’s show on Youtube and want
to read the stories we’re referring to today? Just head to our website at Transport Evolved
dot com forward slash TEN, where you’ll find today’s show notes — as well as links
to the latest future car news, buying guides, tech primers, and car reviews. It’s Friday, May 20th twenty sixteen, I’m
Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, and as always, this show is being brought to you ad-free today
thanks to our wonderful supporters over at Patreon dot com. Fancy joining them? You can
make a pledge to support our show from as little as just one dollar per month…. And
f you rise that to five bucks per month, you’ll get access to our brand-new slack channel
where you can chat with the team and other fans of the site. We start today’s show with news of a Class
Action lawsuit filed this week in Los Angeles against BMW on behalf of owners of the BMW
i3 REx range-extended electric car. According to papers filed with the U.S. District
Court on Tuesday, the Class Action centers around operation of the two-cylinder 500cc
range-extending engine which owners say is simply not powerful enough to sustain highway
speeds, posing a dangerous safety hazard. Unlike European versions of the BMW i3 REx,
where owners can actually switch on the REx long before the battery pack is empty, essentially
slowing down the rate of discharge rather than providing the majority of motive power,
U.S. market i3 REx models will not turn their range-extending engines on until their battery
packs are almost empty, dramatically reducing performance. The reason behind the difference is to do
with EPA and CARB regulations for plug-in cars, but if cars are pushed too hard during
this mode there’s a substantial change in vehicle performance. That’s because while
the BMW i3 REx has a 130 kilowatt electric motor, the range-extending engine can only
put out 25 kilowatts of power. And if the battery is near or at empty, it doesn’t
take a genius to know there will be some major performance issues. We’ll keep an eye on the case and as always,
let you know of its outcome in a future show. From one automaker facing owner ire now to
perhaps another one in the form of Japanese automaker Mitsubishi, which admitted this
week that it had used ‘desktop calculations’ to determine the fuel economy of some of its
models, including its highly-popular Outlander plug-in hybrid. The disclosure comes after weeks of investigation
into the company and its fuel economy ratings and demonstrates that in a world post-dieselgate,
openly cheating — or failing to do proper fuel economy testing — will not be tolerated. In Mitsubishi’s case, these so-called desktop
calculations — a process that’s actually illegal — is believed to have led to test
results that were as much as 2.3 percent better than actual real-world figures, meaning that
Outlander Plug-in Hybrid you just purchased doesn’t get quite the incredible fuel economy
the figures suggest. Mitsubishi has already lost its President
Tetsuro Aikawa as a consequence of the scandal as well as agreed to a $2.2 billion majority
shareholding from Nissan as an attempt to save the brand. But at this point — and I’m
not condoning the behavior — I’d like to remind you all that it’s not just automakers
at fault here: the official test organizations and agencies responsible for approving these
faulty figures — including the EPA and EU– need to take some responsibility for the rampant
fakery and vagueness of some automaker fuel economy tests. So here’s hoping everyone
involved gets their just deserts. We’re off to Wall Street now with the news
this week that California automaker Tesla Motors is selling off $2 billion of common
stock to help it fund the acceleration of Model 3 development and production and pay
taxes on stock options exercised by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. According to documents submitted to the SEC,
the majority of funds raised from the secondary offering — around 1.4 billion dollars — will
go towards accelerating Model 3 development, while the remaining money will be used to
pay taxes associated with the stock already held by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. As part of the sale, Tesla carried out an
audit for Model 3 reservations, taking into account organic customer cancellations (around
8,000 reservations) and cancellations by Tesla of orders placed by speculators trying to
get around the 2-car limit Tesla had placed on Model 3 reservations. A smaller number
of previously-counted reservations — essentially duplicates on Tesla’s system — were also
removed, reducing the total number of Tesla pre-reservations from 400,000 down to around
373,000. That might be lower than previously quoted,
but it’s still one hell of an achievement for a car that won’t even go on sale for
another eighteen months. Staying with Tesla and the Model 3 for a second,
it’s worth noting that this week we also heard the news that Tesla has been in talks
with both LG Chem SK Innovation and Samsung SDI this week over securing additional lithium-ion
battery cells for early Model 3 production. While Tesla’s massive Gigafactory near Reno,
Nevada — due to begin cell production later this year but not reach full capacity until
2020 — may be Tesla’s endgame for Model 3 battery producement, the massive amount
of pre-orders was far larger than Tesla or many analysts predicted. And that means that
while Tesla’s Gigafactory will be churning out high-capacity lithium-ion cells by the
time Model 3 goes into production in late twenty seventeen, it won’t be producing
cells in high-enough volumes to supply Tesla with all of the cells it needs to fulfill
all those Model 3 orders. It also means, we’d guess, that until the
Tesla Gigafactory is running at full capacity, we’re going to see demand for lithium-ion
cells go up, not down. And while that may be great news for the firms
making those cells, it may not be good news for other automakers looking for their own
source of battery cells for future models. After all, if Tesla snaps up cell supplies,
it’s going to have a knock-on effect for other automakers — and gadget manufacturers
— too. Moving away from Tesla, we’re off to the
beautiful Rockies next with the news that Colorado has just revised its renowned electric
car incentive program in an effort to make it easier to understand. The measure, House Bill 16 dash 1332, does
away with forcing residents to wait until the end of the year to claim their tax rebate,
instead allowing car buyers the chance to transfer their tax credit — now $5,000 instead
of the old $6,000 — to finance or leasing companies, effectively knocking down purchase
prices for plug-in cars at the point of sale. Sadly however, the new bill does away with
the state’s previous used car tax credit program, which allowed residents to make use
of the incentive on eligible used electric cars being imported into the state for the
first time. Now passed, it’s just waiting for Governor
John Hickenlooper’s signature before it can become law. Shifting gears now, it’s time to take a
look at an all-new, very exciting pair of concept cars unveiled by Swedish automaker
Volvo this week. As we explained on Wednesday, the two new
concept cars — the Volvo Concept 40 point one and forty point two — are a preview of
Volvo’s brand new Compact Modular Architecture platform (CMA for short) and a preview of
the upcoming refresh to Volvo’s entire 40-series family of vehicles. Why are we featuring it here? Well, CMA has
been designed from the ground up to accommodate a variety of different drivetrains, including
a three-cylinder plug-in hybrid design that will combine zero emission capabilities with
a frugal gasoline engine — as well as an all-electric variant that will offer a claimed
two hundred and fifteen miles of range per charge. Aside from looking stunning, the two concept
cars and their all-electric drivetrain hint at a future where Volvo is very much engaged
in not only self-driving cars but zero-emission long-range vehicles that will certainly cross
shop against offerings from much larger automakers. Given my soft spot for Volvo, I can’t wait. When the Nissan LEAF electric car launched
back in late twenty ten, it was initially produced in Japan and then shipped around
the world to various key markets. But in late twenty twelve for the twenty-thirteen LEAF
model year, Nissan changed that practice by launching LEAF production at two additional
facilities — Smyrna, Tennessee and Sunderland, England. Since then, both U.S. and European factories
have been producing locally-made LEAFs for their respective parts of the world, with
Nissan’s Smyrna facility churning out the family-friendly electric hatchback for North
America and South American customers. But this week, we learned that Nissan’s
UK LEAF plant has just celebrated building its fifty thousandth LEAF for the European
market, a substantial milestone for both the brand and the facility. Having toured the factory floor there myself,
I can say without doubt that Nissan’s Sunderland staff should be rightly proud of their achievement!
Here’s to the next 50,000 LEAFs off the line! Of course, the future of transportation isn’t
just about cars that are cleaner, greener, safer and smarter. It’s about other forms
of transport too. And this week, California company Proterra announced the unveiling of
a new, higher-capacity lithium-ion battery pack for its range of battery-electric busses
— as well as a new EV simulator designed to help fleet managers envisage how much fuel
they’ll save by switching to electric busses. While we can’t really tell you much about
the latter — it’s essentially a piece of software designed for fleet managers — the
new 330 kilowatt-hour battery is the same physical size as its predecessor but packs
in 28 percent more energy. And interestingly, Proterra is offering a free — yes — a free
— battery upgrade to all of its current bus customers who own a bus with the previous-generation
Catalyst XR battery pack inside. More energy storage means longer range and
higher savings for fleet operators, so expect to see Proterra gain far more interest as
public transit operators make the switch now that electric busses have come of age. We’re finishing today’s show with a duet
of autonomous vehicle stories, the first of which involves a self-driving truck made by
a startup called Otto. The company — which has been operating in
stealth for some time — says it began life to develop tools to help truck drivers improve
their safety on the road, not to mention improving fuel economy and safety for other road users
too. But now, it says it’s ready to be a little more public about its exciting technology. So far, Otto has demonstrated its autonomous
truck in the real world just once, but it’s clear from the names associated with it — plenty
of former Google employees for example — that Otto has a bright future ahead of it. And finally… Back in twenty fourteen, Tesla CEO Elon Musk
announced Tesla’s Autopilot hardware and software solution for its Model S electric
car. At the time, many Tesla owners were excited that their existing models might be able to
drive themselves, until of course Tesla confirmed that only cars made after October twenty fourteen
— essentially ones with the required hardware fitted at the factory — would be able to
drive themselves. But this week, we heard from renowned Tesla
hacker Jason Hughes — yes, the same guy who discovered a hint that Tesla was readying
a 100 kilowatt-hour battery pack while noodling inside the operating system of his car. Anyway — Jason, who happens to own a Tesla
Model S with autonomous drive capabilities — has just successfully completed a wild
but totally admirable retrofit of autopilot hardware to his Wife’s pre 2014 Tesla Model
S. Buying the parts himself, something he estimates
cost him around $9,000, Hughes replaced all the key components in his wife’s Model S
with autopilot-ready ones, and now her car can drive itself too. It’s super-cool to know it’s technically
possible and well done to Jason for undertaking this project. But I don’t think it’s something
your average Model S driver will want to do. Unless of course, you’re as skilled as he
is… in which case… maybe… Well, that’s it for today. We managed another
ten stories in this week, so hope you enjoyed them all. All being well, I’ll be back next week at
the usual time with another episode of TEN. In the meantime you can find all the news
that’s fit to print at our website at transport evolved dot com, catch up with us on twitter
at transport Evolve, or check out our latest shows on our usual YouTube channel. And if you liked what you saw today, please
consider keeping us independent and impartial by supporting our Patreon crowdfunding campaign
over at Patreon dot com forward slash transport evolved. Funds are still pretty tight and
we can’t expand much more until we hit our two thousand dollar mark, so please do consider
helping us get there by making your pledge. Every little counts. As always, there lots of stories we didn’t
manage to fit into today’s show, including Tesla’s response to allegations that underpaid
foreign nationals were employed by a subcontractor at its Fremont facility on inappropriate visas,
our staff RAV4 EV and her sickly battery finally dies, we chat to Matt “Chevy Jolt EV”
Teske about marketing electric cars, and the car theif who got the EV grin when he stole
BMW i3 in London. So when we’re done, be sure to head to our
site to read them all. Thanks for watching, I’m Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, have a great
weekend, and until next time, keep evolving!