Monday, 30 June 2014

Beijing: 10,000 public charge points by 2017 Beijing plans to establish 10,000 public charging spots for electric cars by 2017, the municipal government announced on Friday.

The charging facilities will be installed in airports and train stations, public parking lots, mall and supermarket parking lots, highway rest areas, electric car stores and gas stations, according to an electric car promotion plan published by Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission.

Zhang Jihong, deputy head of the commission, said that a network of charging devices for electric cars will be established within the fifth ring road of the city.

According to the plan, Beijing also plans to introduce private charging facilities.

The Chinese government has been encouraging consumers to buy electric vehicles as one of the solutions to the country's pollution problems, but the plan has been hindered by a bottleneck in the country's charging infrastructure.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Climate Change: Business-As-Usual is actually radical risk taking

The Economic Threat of Climate Change: ‘Business-as-Usual Is Actually Radical Risk-Taking’

The Economic Threat of Climate Change: ‘Business-as-Usual Is Actually Radical Risk-Taking’ A landmark report written by economics and finance experts looks at the severe consequences of climate inaction.

Financially speaking, climate change risks to businesses haven't been very well understood. But a new report out this week offers one of the first true comprehensive assessments of the economic impacts of climate change on U.S. regions and industries.
The report, called Risky Business, was advised by a number of heavyweights in economics and finance, including former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, and billionaire political climate activist Tom Steyer, as well as numerous former U.S. Secretaries of Treasury, Housing, Labor, and State.
"We started from the premise that the vast majority of businesses make decisions on data, on sound analysis," explained Matthew Lewis, VP and director of communications at Next Generation, one of several partners that helped craft the Risky Business Project.
Instead of talking about whether climate change is happening and what's causing it -- "that ship has sailed," said Lewis -- this report moves on to explore what a continued business-as-usual scenario will do to various sectors' business interests.
In a webcast unveiling the report's findings, Paulson, who as Treasury Secretary witnessed the 2008 financial crisis firsthand, said that the "climate bubble" is in many ways even "more cruel and perverse" because there's no government bailout to scoop away CO2 levels. What's especially important about this report, he said, is that it uses well-understood risk management methodologies that businesses already apply.
A cautious, wait-and-see, "business-as-usual approach is actually radical risk-taking,” said Paulson.
And those climate-change risks are beyond radical. The Risky Business report calls out several specific examples.
Coastal property and infrastructure: Billions of dollars are being invested in projects today that, with climate change and rising sea levels, could end up underwater, especially on the Southeast and Atlantic coasts of the U.S.
By 2050, $66 billion to $106 billion of coastal property could be below sea level, increasing to $238 billion to $507 billion by 2100. There's a 1-in-20 chance, the report calculates, that by the end of this century $701 billion worth of coastal properties will slip below mean sea levels, with another $730 billion at risk during high tide. Average annual losses due to coastal storms and hurricanes along the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Seaboard will swell by more than $42 billion due to sea level rise alone.
Risk Management Solutions (RMS), commissioned to help build this report, does catastrophe modeling for insurance, reinsurance, and investment-management companies. The firm hadn't overlaid projected sea level rises with storm surges until now – and the new “shocking” results found far more property at risk over the next three decades than previously believed, Lewis said.
The report makes another dark analogy: the likelihood of $700 billion in coastal property risks is roughly the same 1:20 odds that an American will develop colon cancer. And it’s twice the odds for melanoma.
Value of state property below mean sea levels, by 2050 and 2100. (Credit: Risky Business Project, data from Rhodium Group.)
Agricultural production: By 2050, Americans could see 27 to 50 days with temperatures soaring beyond 95 degrees F each year, three times the frequency over the past 30 years. By 2100, that could stretch to 45 to 100 sweltering days annually.
By the end of the century, the northwestern trio of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho could see more of those days than Texas does now. Forget about just being uncomfortable; not only is that extreme heat potentially deadly for humans, it could wreak havoc on everything from work productivity to transportation as it becomes "functionally impossible to be outdoors."
More broadly, extreme heat in the Midwest could vastly reshape the strategies for planting crops, shifting grain yields northward. Overall food supply will be maintained, but farmers will have to significantly alter their crop levels and strategies, with output of key crops likely shifted northward from traditional regions that have been economically dependent on them for generations.
This is already happening. A recent exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science illustrated how rising temperatures are affecting hallmark New England industries of maple sugar production and Maine lobsters. Records displayed from a New Hampshire maple sugar operation over the course of 50 years unequivocally showed the season beginning and ending weeks later, with less favorable temperature profiles for production, and with the result that production is gradually shifting northward.
Electricity production and use: The energy industry already is already recognizing the impact that severe weather (especially heat) has on system performance, electricity availability and reliability. Higher peak demand ultimately could create the need for 95 gigawatts of new power generation capacity over the next 25 years, to ease already strained electric grids.
Lewis pointed to another worsening problem for the energy sector caused by climate change: water usage to help cool turbines, especially in areas already parched, is drastically increasing. Weeks of more severe heat weather will exacerbate what is already a worrisome problem, as illustrated by a recent Department of Energy report.
If those end-of-century targets are too distant to contemplate, consider the report's five- to 25-year time horizons:
  • Average costs of coastal storms, especially on the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, could rise by $2 billion to $3.5 billion, with a total annual price tag for storms and hurricanes topping $35 billion.
  • Some Midwestern and Southern regions could see declines in crop yields of greater than 10 percent.
  • Nearly 100 gigawatts of new power generation capacity will be needed (roughly the equivalent of 200 coal- or natural-gas-fired plants), costing ratepayers up to $12 billion annually.
In the webcast, Paulson and fellow former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul Rubin both underscored the need for companies to disclose their exposure to climate risks, much as the Securities & Exchange Commission already requires for various material items and risks. That means businesses need to better understand their various exposures, such as the costs to address carbon emissions, the value of stranded assets affected by new policies and vulnerable spots in their supply chains, especially in the most-affected regions. Given the scope of these risks, they also urged companies to form coordinated responses.
Some businesses do very much care what is happening with climate change, and have already started calculating risks, translating them to economic impacts and pursuing near-term strategies to help mitigate them. Swiss Re, for example, has been evaluating the risks of climate change for several years, and earlier this spring issued a report quantifying the impacts of weather-related disasters and how to price disaster risk.
"We want to start a broader conversation," Lewis said, extending the discussion of climate change to make connections between prolonged severe heat and rising sea levels, and areas such as labor productivity and crop production.
Companies probably don't understand their exposure to climate risk, and until a few years ago the modeling to support it didn't exist. But today "it's a knowable number, a range of probable outcomes," said Lewis. "We're on a pathway...and the science is really good [about] where that pathway leads."

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV increases output capacity to 76,000 in 2015 With a slew of production delays, not to mention the massive headache of overheating battery packs caused by poor battery manufacturing practices, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV didn’t have a great start in life.

This car comes cold weather tested in both Canada and Russia. It has also been hot weather tested in the USA.
This car comes cold weather tested in both Canada and Russia. It has also been hot weather tested in the USA.
With all of its battery pack problems rectified and sales figures soaring all over Europe and its home market of Japan however, the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV is proving an instant hit. So much so that Mitsubishi has recently committed to increasing production up to 76,000 units per year.
That’s according to Car Watch (via InsideEvs), which says that a recent expansion of production capabilities as Mitsubishi’s Okazaki manufacturing facility — where the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is made — means that production will eventually rise up to a total of 50,000 vehicles for the financial year ending March 31, 2015.
This represents a massive increase in Outlander PHEV production compared to the previous Financial Year (2013/14), when , despite setbacks, Mitsubishi managed an output of 30,000 plug-in Outlanders.
Mitsubishi says it is now on track to meet production demands for the 2014 financial year, with a goal of increasing it further — up to 76,000 vehicles — for the following year, partly, we assume, to account for the planned 2015 U.S. launch of the vehicle.
Mitsubishi is having to increase production to keep up with Outlander PHEV demand.
Mitsubishi is having to increase production to keep up with Outlander PHEV demand.
It’s hardly surprising. Priced competitively against the diesel variant of the Outlander, the Outlander PHEV is proving popular with car buyers across Europe and Japan. In certain areas,dealerships are even struggling to keep up with test-drive demand, with some dealers claiming they’re the busiest they’ve been in years thanks to the plug-in hybrid SUV.
Larger and more importantly cheaper than the Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid — its closest rival in Europe — the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid offers around 35 miles of all-electric range, is capable of all-wheel drive in both electric and hybrid modes, and is also the first plug-in hybrid on sale to include CHAdeMO quick charge capability.
That means it’s possible, with careful planning, to spend most short trips in all-electric mode, taking advantage of the increasing number of quick charging stations to top up the battery pack in under 30 minutes.
U.S. customers have to wait till 2015 to get their Outlander PHEVs.
U.S. customers have to wait till 2015 to get their Outlander PHEVs.
Add to that a continuing rise in popularity of SUVs over other vehicle styles, and we think Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV is set to challenge even some of the most established plug-ins on the market, including Nissan’s LEAF.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Harley-Davidson LiveWire

Harley-Davidson LiveWire

AC Induction Motor
74 HP / 52 LB-FT
0-60 Time:
4.0 Seconds (est.)
Top Speed:
92 MPH
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
360 LBS (est.)
60-Mile Range (est.) Days before Harley-Davidson shocked the world with news that after 111 years of building increasingly larger, gas-powered V-twins, it was going all Tesla with its plug-in electric LiveWire, I had the chance to ride it.

The country's largest and most iconic motorcycle maker had set up shop on a remote strip of SoCal asphalt, a pair of top-secret LiveWires at the ready. The trailer that had carried them was unmarked, and with the exception of two Harley employees, no one was around to notice that the motorcycle silently blazing down the runway was from Milwaukee's finest. If it weren't for the black-and-orange color scheme or bar-and-shield badge, the LiveWIre's provenance would be a wild guess. It's just that different from the cruisers Harley has cranked out for decades.

Gone is the laid-back riding position, along with the bigger-is-better profile and long-haul-touring floorboards. In their place: a compact machine with an aggressive, forward-leaning stance and sporty centered foot pegs. Even the trellis frame is more Ducati than hog, hiding, as it does, a stack of lithium ion batteries instead of proudly showcasing a hulking, 103-cubic-inch V-twin. There is no gas tank. No exhaust. Just a bobbed tail suspended on a monoshock above a rear tire driven with a belt instead of a chain.

The LiveWire ignition is keyless and, like most Harleys, works in combination with a fob, but that's where the similarities end. Turning it on is a matter of flipping a switch on the right grip – an act that isn't greeted with the nearly trademarked, and now electronically programmed, potato-potato-potato exhaust note. Instead, there is a low-grade hum as an oil pump kicks in to cool the 74-horsepower electric motor bolted to its belly and a second pump that cools its ECU.

Harley-Davidson LiveWire

Before I could take off, I was prompted to make a decision: Power or Range? On a full charge, Power allows about 30 miles of riding with an unbridled 52 pound-feet of torque. Range mode Novocaines the throttle response but nearly doubles the distance.

Before I could take off, I was prompted to make a decision: Power or Range?
I made the only logical choice. I touched my gloved finger to the screen to select Power. The throttle was live.

While its useable range is an issue, Harley got a lot of things right with its LiveWire, including its name. Twisting the grip nearly jolted me from the saddle with acceleration similar to that of a Ferrari. While the torque rating of the LiveWire is about half of a gas-powered 2014 Harley tourer, it is instantly available. Harley claims a 0-60 time of four seconds flat. I wasn't wired to corroborate the claim, but my speedometer was calculating as quickly as Stephen Hawking as I got the LiveWire to its governed top speed of 92 miles per hour, with plenty of runway to spare.

The only sound from the bike was a slight whir that increased in pitch with speed. Harley custom designed the note to replicate a jet engine, but, to my ears, it sounds like the other two electric motorcycles that are currently duking it out in the market: Zero Motorcycles and Brammo. The "Loud Pipes Save Lives" Harley brigade is likely to have a tough time with LiveWire in this regard.

Compared to the existing electric motorcycles on the market, the LiveWire is similar in its responsiveness off the line to the 2014 models from Zero and Brammo, but it offers only half the range. Its motor and battery placement, dual ride modes and regenerative braking setup were clearly benchmarked, though the way Harley has chosen to disguise its powertrain is unique and probably the most attractive of the bunch. Even though this isn't a production bike, the LiveWire's fit and finish also far surpasses its rivals.

VW Passat PHEV IN 2015 The upcoming next-generation Volkswagen Passat has been confirmed to become the vehicle that will be offered as VW’s third plug-in hybrid (VW XL1 and Golf GTE are #1 and #2).

According to Volkswagen, the Passat PHEV will feature the following:
115 kW gasoline direct-injection engine with turbocharging (1.4 TSI)
80 kW electric motor
Total system output of 155 kW
Maximum torque of 400 N·m (295 lb-ft)
9.9 kWh lithium-ion battery with liquid cooling
Top speed of 130 MPH
0 to 62 MPH in under 8 seconds
Up to 31 miles of electric range

The Passat plug-in hybrid will launch sometime in 2015. Pricing and additional details will be released closer to the launch date.

US: Mercedes vs BMW Mercedes-Benz is set to begin shipping its first mass produced pure electric vehicle B-Class electric drive in the U.S. by the end of this month or early July. With this launch, Mercedes will now compete with models such as the Nissan Leaf and the popular Tesla Model S in the fast growing U.S. plug-in electric vehicle market. This also places the Mercedes B-Class ED in direct competition with its chief rival BMW’s i3 pure-play electric car. Although PEVs presently constitute an extremely small portion of the overall U.S. automotive industry, with growing consumer attention towards electrically-powered vehicles and higher investments in this sector to improve infrastructure, the PEV segment could become a crucial growth driver for automakers going forward. In particular, Mercedes-Benz will aim for significant volume-growth in the U.S. in the long term, in order to meet its goal of becoming the largest luxury automaker by the end of the decade. The German carmaker lost the global luxury sales crown to BMW in 2005, and now ranks third behind both its compatriots BMW and Volkswagen AG‘s Audi in terms of global volumes.

The U.S. remains the largest market for Mercedes-Benz, accounting for over one-fifths of all unit sales for the brand last year. Mercedes fended-off growing competition from BMW to hold the lead in the U.S. luxury auto market last year, however, the company has since posted lower volumes compared to the latter in the first five months of the year in the country. With both BMW i3 and Mercedes B-Class ED launching almost side-by-side, the competition in the U.S. PEV market is set to heat up.

BMW i3 And Mercedes B-Class ED Go Head-To-Head
Led by a 25.5% increase in sales of light trucks, including sports utility vehicles, BMW has overtaken Mercedes in the first five months of this year, selling 127,181 units in the U.S., up 12% year-over-year. In contrast, the brand Mercedes has sold 125,118 units in the country during this period, up 6.5% from 2013 levels. BMW i3 recorded the highest sales for any PEV in its debut month, selling 336 units in May. The Mercedes B-Class ED has a base price of $41,450, around $100 more than the i3, putting it in direct competition with BMW’s electric car. While the B-Class ED is more spacious than the i3, the latter is estimated to travel further on a single charge, with a range of about 118 miles on the EU cycle. The Mercedes car has a range of around 85 miles, with up to 25-30% more travel distance given by the option of an extended range. Daimler owns a 4.3% stake in Tesla, which provides the propulsion system for the B-Class ED. Mercedes leveraged the technical know-how of Tesla for the development of its own electric car, which could possibly boost sales of the B-Class ED as consumers might be persuaded to buy a car amalgamating Tesla’s technology and Mercedes’ strong brand recognition.

U.S. PEV Market Provides Potential Growth Opportunities
How the head-to-head between the B-Class ED and the i3 unfolds in the U.S. remains to be seen. But despite possibly eating into each other’s sales, both Mercedes and BMW could add meaningful incremental volumes by penetrating the fast growing plug-in electric vehicle market. Demand for electric vehicles is rapidly rising around the world mainly due to a relatively less harmful impact on the environment and lower running costs, as compared to gasoline-powered engines. In addition, governments around the world provide various incentives to boost electric vehicle sales. Moreover, PEVs also have lower battery prices, adding to their appeal. However, sales of these vehicles haven’t picked up as previously estimated primarily due to lower ranges, and lack of infrastructure supporting battery charging.

But with more and more companies developing electric cars with higher ranges and building charging stations, plug-in sales are expected to continue growing at a fast pace. For example, Tesla, which manufactures the Model S having an unprecedented range of up to 300 miles, was recently in talks with BMW to divide costs of building charging facilities and also create a common infrastructure, thereby cutting costs for automakers and encouraging electric vehicle sales. Due to these reasons, the PEV market is expected to sell over 2.7 million units globally by 2018, a massive rise from around 180,000 unit sales in 2013. According to our estimates, this would mean that plug-in vehicles would constitute around 2.6% of the global automotive market by 2018, up from a very small 0.3% last year. As the U.S. constitutes over 45% of the global PEV market at present, both Mercedes and BMW will look for growth in this market going forward. The U.S. PEV market grew by over 85% year-over-year to 97,507 units in 2013, and has further seen volumes rise 30% through May.
U.S. Luxury Sales Lead Could Be Decided By PEV Sales

The Nissan Leaf presently leads the plug-in market in the U.S., with sales of 10,389 units through May, and could sell close to 30,000 units in the country in total this year. Although the Leaf has a much lower price (around $29,000) as compared to both the B-Class ED and i3, the established luxury brand appeal of both Mercedes and BMW could help the automakers attract consumer attention. These premium compact electric vehicles could also eat into the sales of other PEVs such as the Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Volt, and Ford Fusion Energi, heating up competition in the world’s largest plug-in electric vehicle market.

Seeing how BMW trailed Mercedes by only 3,248 unit sales in the U.S. last year, and how Mercedes trails BMW by 2,063 unit sales so far this year, the reception and sales of the new B-Class ED and the i3 could be crucial in the race for the U.S. luxury sales crown this year.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Why it's time to think seriously about EVs in the UK Much scratching of heads and talk of chicken and eggs must surely follow the publication last week of the Government survey, “Public attitudes to electric vehicles”. They might as well have called the report “Computer says no”. Because, while the Department for Transport, Chargemaster, Tesla, Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren, Cenex, the Mayor of London, politicians and a billion other organisations work their backsides off to put in charging infrastructure, improve the life of batteries, build sexy hybrids and pure-electric supercars, give discounts off the purchase price, waive taxes, install home-charging for free, pour money into low-emissions R&D and so on, the public are resolutely sticking their fingers in the ears. It’s seriously depressing.

The public reported that the most important factors putting them off buying an electric car or van were recharging (40 per cent), and the distance travelled on a battery (39 per cent) followed by cost (33 per cent) and lack of knowledge (16 per cent). Less than one per cent (0.3 per cent) of respondents already owned an electric car or van and only five per cent of respondents said that they were thinking about buying an electric car or van.

The most dispiriting finding of the DfT report though, is surely the 69 per cent of drivers, who when asked if they were thinking about buying an electric car or van, answered not “yes” or “no”, but “I haven’t really thought about it”. I find it as mystifying as agnostics: surely you’ve got to get off the fence on the big questions in life.

Dr Daniel Newman, a specialist in electric vehicles at Cardiff University’s Sustainable Places Institute, commented on the report: “These results show attitudes remain ambivalent – despite the fact that electric vehicles have been around for decades. Just one in 20 people are thinking about buying an electric car or van, and only one in 100 actually intend to do so in the immediate future. While 14 per cent of those surveyed had considered the vehicles and decided against buying into the technology, over half of the sample simply hadn’t even thought about it.

“Those who have rejected the vehicles are put off by concerns over the batteries and cost... Others baulk at the hefty prices to buy one of these vehicles, which, despite government subsidies, are still higher than the equivalent petrol and diesel options. These doubts are familiar refrains that continue to hold back electric vehicles despite the efforts of government and investment made by the automotive sector.”

You’re telling me. Problem is, government and industry can’t sit twiddling their thumbs till public appetite is whetted, because when the people hold out their hands, there will be nothing to give them. So the money continues to pour in and ideas to pour out. Cenex, a not-for-profit organisation of experts in low-carbon vehicles and fuels, has been focussing on the countryside, and low-emission vehicles for farms. Its latest report, commissioned by the Royal Agricultural Society of England (Rase), has identified three types of future farm: gas-powered, electric and hydrogen farms. Robert Evans, CEO of Cenex, said, “It is hoped that this report will stimulate awareness and debate, along with an interest to act. Cenex is keen to work with technology developers and farmers to create prototype projects that UK farmers can then learn from and implement in their own operations.

“The benefits of electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are most often portrayed in terms of the role they can play in air quality by substituting for cars running on diesel and petrol. However, these vehicle types are also part of a future based on increased energy security resulting from a lessening of our dependence on fossil fuels thanks to renewable energy sources. Questions are being asked about how low carbon energy fuels will be produced – this report highlights the role UK farms could play in this future energy ecosystem.”

Crack on, Cenex, and everyone else. More blue-sky thinking like this is needed, and those agnostics need to get their butts off the fence.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Only 3% of London mayor's target met on electric vehicles The London mayor's office says it wants to have 100,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2020.

London's mayor has only achieved 3% of his target of having 100,000 electric vehicles in the city, it has emerged.

In 2009, Boris Johnson pledged to meet the target "as soon as possible" but there are currently about 3,000 such vehicles on the road in the city.

The mayor also wanted 25,000 charging points across London by 2015 but only 1,408 are in operation today.

In response, his office said it was on target to have 100,000 electric vehicles in use in the capital by 2020.

Sunday Politics London reporter Andrew Cryan said: "London should be an ideal place for electric vehicles to pick up as they don't have to pay the congestion charge and the journeys tend to be quite short so you don't have to worry about running out of battery.

"But so far the pick-up hasn't been great."

In January 2009, there were an estimated 1,700 electric cars in London.

The mayor's Electric Vehicle Delivery Plan pledged to make London the electric car capital of Europe by improving infrastructure, having 1,000 electric vehicles in the Greater London Authority fleet by 2015 and encouraging the take-up of car clubs.

Out of its fleet of about 8,000 buses, just two are electric and the battery life means they can only be used on relatively short routes and are not strong enough to drive a double-decker.

Transport for London also says all new taxis must be zero emissions capable by 2018.

Stephen Knight, Lib Dem member of the London Assembly, said only 57% of the charging points were used in the first three months of this year.

He said the money should have been spent elsewhere.

"Investing in electric vehicles that the mayor can influence - the taxis, the minicabs, the buses - then that would provide the stimulus for everybody else to follow," he said.

Isabelle Dedring, the deputy mayor for transport, said: "We've always thought that around 2020 might be the mark when that's achievable (having 100,000 electric vehicles) and that's in line with industry expectations as well.

"Our experience has been people are not wanting to charge at trickle posts (charging points).

"Instead, what we're bringing in is support for people to charge at home but we're also putting in a rapid charging network, which is much more like going to the petrol station."

2015 Mercedes B Class online configurator now live for US market

The B-Class Electric Drive provides a neat counterpoint to those seeking an upmarket electric car, but unimpressed by the BMW i3's relative lack of space or quirky, futuristic styling.

Mercedes' option is much more down-to-earth but none the worse for it.

For a price $100 more than the four-seat i3--the Benz costs $43,375--Mercedes offers a five-seat electric hatchback with a larger luggage area, a more conventional dashboard and a proper set of four doors.

Technically, the Mercedes isn't quite as sophisticated as its rival, but it feels more luxurious, it's a little softer to drive and its electric powertrain has more conventional characteristics--idle creep and less regenerative braking force, to name but two.

MORE: 2014 BMW i3 vs 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class: Luxury Electric Car Comparison

While Mercedes' configurator is a neat way of choosing your car's ideal color and options, it does show how quickly you can start adding to the car's base price.

That's no different from other Mercedes of course, nor the BMW for that matter, but it's always worth remembering that prestige vehicles like this often cost a lot more on the road than they do advertised on the website.

A leather interior adds just under $1,700, for example, and you'll pay almost $3,000 for the Premium Package with bi-xenon headlamps, heated seats, a Harmon/Kardon sound system and more... except you can't order this without rolling in the $2,370 Multimedia Package, the sticker price now spiraling towards $49,000.

A more interesting, and slightly more affordable option is the $600 Range Package, including a 'Temporary Range Extender'--extra insulation for the doors and roof to increase climate control efficiency, and a button on the dashboard to increase the amount of charge the battery can hold, boosting range by 17 miles.

We can't see many buyers missing that off the list. Throw in metallic paint and upgraded interior trim and you're looking at $50,000--but you'll have quite a nice electric car at the end of it.

One we rather liked driving when we tested it last month, too. Is Mercedes' new electric car on your own shopping list?

Friday, 20 June 2014

UK: Donington Park will be the hub of electric racing In exactly two weeks, the Formula E teams will complete their first official pre-season test day at their home track Donington Park in the United Kingdom. For the first time the teams will get a chance to run two cars each, after they performed an all systems check with their first received car early June.

The shakedown was being held in the rain – and in ‘secrecy’ – and saw signed and new drivers behind the steering wheel. Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna were given the chance to test drive their Mahindra Formula E car, Jaime Alguersuari and Sam Bird tested for Viring Racing, while Frank Montagny drove for Andretti and Daniel Abt received the chance to test the Audi Sport ABT Formula E car while his team mate Lucas di Grassi gave advice.

Former Formula 1 racer Nick Heidfeld surprised by testing for Venturi, while it made sense that Nicolas Prost stepped into the e.DAMS car. Nicolas is the oldest son of Alain Prost, and the former Formula 1 champion is co-founder of the e.DAMS team. Super Aguri and Drayson Racing asked young talented drivers to have a run.

What to expect?
Initially Formula E promised to give all members of the Formula E Drivers’ Club a chance to test drive the car. It will be interesting to see who will drive for which team. But will all teams be present? Dragon Racing did not take part during the first shakedown, but is likely to test both electric racers during the first pre-season test days.

Jarno Trulli took over the Drayson Racing entry recently and has announced to race one of the vehicles this season. We will see him for sure test driving again.

Most importantly, the teams and drivers will familiarise themselves with the opportunities the car provides and to prepare for the first round which will be held in Beijing in September.

How to get there
Do you want to attend? Then it’s your lucky day: all you need to do is register on the Donington Park website. Read instructions

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Electric Harley Davidson

The first electric Harley Davidson.

And an electric bike for LAPD.

US: ChargePoint Logs Five Millionth Charging Session as EV Adoption Rockets Upwards It only takes one look at recent U.S. electric car sales figures to see how dramatically the electric car market has grown in the last twelve months. With cars like the Nissan LEAF breaking sales record after sales record and more cars coming to the market every month, there have never before been so many plug-in cars on the roads of the U.S.

Chargepoint has just celebrated five million EV charging sessions since its launch in 2008.

That rise in Plug-in car sales has been mirrored in the charging world, where charging providers are seeing more public charging sessions than ever before.

Take Californian-based ChargePoint for example. It took four years for the company to reach its one millionth electric car charging session, which the company recorded in August 2012. The two millionth charging session logged by the network took place in April last year, and the three millionth was recorded in September.

But it’s taken just three months to pass from the four millionth charging session milestone — which took place in February this year — to the five millionth, which the company said happened last month.

Despite the expectation that most new electric car drivers will initially charge at home, the growth in public charging sessions almost perfectly matches the growth in electric car growth, indicating that new and existing electric car drivers are using ChargePoint’s network.

This also shows that new electric car drivers are just as happy to be adventurous with their electric cars and travel beyond the range of their car — or perhaps be as cautious and charge as often as they can — as electric car ‘early adopters’ from two or three years ago.

ChargePoint’s growth in charging sessions matches the growth in electric car sales.

There is of course, one question not answered by ChargePoint’s data, something many in the industry have been struggling to answer for years: what’s the return on investment in the charging station buisness?

In ChargePoint’s case, the investment may already be paying off, although we should note that we have no knowledge of ChargePoint’s financial situation, only its buisness model.

Unlike traditional charging networks where charging stations are owned by the provider, ChargePoint sells its charging stations to its customers, who can then choose to charge electric car users for using their station or offer it free as a value-added feature. ChargePoint then maintains that charging point as part of the ChargePoint network, handling billing on behalf of the buisness owner.

For the buisness owners who own the level 2 charging stations however, charging stations are invariably a loss-leader, albeit one which helps encourage electric car drivers to use their business in the same way that free WiFi did ten years ago.

The same is true in the case of charging providers where the network is owned and maintained by the provider — and electricity is charged to users using contract-based or pay-as-you-go charging — we’d hazard the guess that the cost of installing and maintaining the network is still far higher than any income gained from charging station tariffs.

We’ll leave that particular discussion to better-qualified buisness analysts, but we can tell you that if the number of charging sessions recorded by networks like ChargePoint continue on the trend they’re currently setting, it won’t be long before millions of electric cars are plugged in each and every week in public charging stations across the world.

And that tells us one very important thing: electric cars are finally here to stay.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

EVs 'amongst the most reliable money can buy'. Electric vehicles have been found to be among the most reliable money can buy, according to a survey undertaken by Consumer Reports.

Owners and mechanics who have worked on electric cars will tell you that this reliability stems from the simplicity of the drivetrain. Electric motors, in particular, have precious few moving parts in comparison to a combustion engines and even brake components are saved from unnecessary wear and tear thanks to regenerative braking.

The survey of 1.1 million vehicles found the Nissan LEAF to be particularly trustworthy, with reliability rated at 60 percent above average. The Japanese hatchback earned near-perfect scores for the third year in a row, adding to its reputation as an excellent buy for people new to electromobility.

Tesla’s Model S sedan also scored very highly, particularly in regard to its electric hardware and, unusually for such a young and inexperienced company, the quality of its paint and trim. Among 600 Tesla’s tested, not a single problem with the electric motor, lithium-ion battery, or electronics was reported.

However, Consumer Reports was unimpressed by squeaks and rattles due to fit and finish – a known problem with the Model S – as well as mechanical glitches with the electric door handles. The sunroof, doors, and locks are exhibited problems.

Battery-electric vehicles may have fared well, but adding a gasoline engine into the mix has a detrimental impact to reliability, if only slight in most cases. Reliability for the Toyota Prius was unsurprisingly rated highly, however, with the Lexus ES300h, and Honda CR-Z sports-hybrid also taking plaudits.

Consumer Reports’ survey findings will make uncomfortable reading for Ford, particularly in light of its recent fuel economy downgrading. The plug-in hybrid C-Max Energi received the worst score in the survey, withConsumer Reports saying that the C-Max Hybrid wasn’t much better.

The survey paints an attractive picture for owners of battery-electric cars, but there seems to be considerable variability in the fortunes of hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars. Japanese brands such as Toyota and Lexus have again justified their position as leaders in reliability, however.

Nissan to join BMW to push Tesla supercharging? Nissan Wants A Threeway With Tesla and BMW

Just before Elon Musk gave away all of Tesla’s patents, the Silicon Valley automaker was in talks with BMW about sharing its Supercharger technology. Now Nissan wants in on the technology-sharing talks between Tesla and BMW, and could be on the short list to fast track Tesla technology to its own EVs.

A Nissan-Tesla-BMW alliance would cover the Japanese, American, and German markets, with the three most serious EV contenders joining forces to promote a new method of mobility. The BMW i3 and i8 are the first serious Nissan Leaf contenders since the little electric car launched in late 2010, and Tesla’s choice to offer different battery sizes appears to have affected Nissan’s future plans for the Leaf EV.

Yet it’s important to keep in mind that Nissan is also heavily involved in promoting the CHaDeMO fast chargers across Europe and Japan, where it recently joined an EV charging alliance with Toyota, Honda, and Mitsubishi. Nissan has long had its own plans, and I doubt they ever imagined Tesla would just open up its patents to the world. Nissan looks like it is stuck between a rock and a hard place at the moment.

Could we end up with two, or perhaps even three different charging standards based on region? Or will Tesla’s technologically superior (and free) Superchargers be adapted for use in BMW, Nissan, and other vehicles? That is starting to look more and more certain.

Musk takes on carbon with solar, battery bets The energy world is not keeping up with Elon Musk, so he's trying to take matters into his own hands.

Musk, chair of the solar installer SolarCity, announced Tuesday that the company would acquire a solar panel maker and build factories "an order of magnitude" bigger than the plants that currently churn out panels.

"If we don't do this, we felt there was a risk of not being able to have the solar panels we need to expand the business in the long term," Musk said Tuesday in a conference call.

Musk is also a founder and the chief executive of the electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, which is planning what it calls a "gigafactory" to supply batteries for its cars.

In both cases, Musk's goal is to make sure that the components critical to his vision of the future — electric cars and solar energy — are available and cheap enough to beat fossil fuels.

Musk's future customer could ignore traditional energy companies completely. They'd have SolarCity panels on their roof that would generate enough power to also charge up a Tesla in the garage. A Tesla battery could then power the home at night with stored solar power.

It's a far-off vision — solar power is still much more expensive than conventional power, even before the enormous cost of a battery backup. And electric cars are just a fraction of the total auto market. But Musk has made a career of thinking far into the future. He is also the chief executive of SpaceX, the rocket company with an ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

SolarCity, based in San Mateo, Calif. is one of the nation's largest installers of rooftop solar systems. It was founded and is now run by Musk's cousins, chief executive Lyndon Rive and chief technology officer Peter Rive. The company also offers financing for solar systems, and last year it bought a manufacturer of mounting systems used to hold panels in place.

The acquisition of Silevo is a risk for Musk and SolarCity because it gets the company into panel manufacturing at a time when a global glut of panels has decimated the profits of panel makers. Some, including one-time industry leader Suntech Power, were forced into bankruptcy. Others were forced into solar development and installations, the kinds of things SolarCity already excels at.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

SolarCity says it won't try to turn out more of the garden-variety panels now clogging the market. Instead, it wants to make panels that are more efficient, and make them at a low cost in huge factories to reduce the overall cost of solar electricity. Silevo's relatively complex panels generate more power per square foot than typical panels.

SolarCity said it is negotiating with the state of New York to build what would be among the biggest factories in the world in the next two years. It would manufacture enough panels each year to produce 1 gigawatt of peak power — roughly enough panels to outfit 200,000 homes with a typical-sized rooftop system.

That would be "just a start," Musk said. Future factories would produce 10 gigawatts worth of panels.

And these panels wouldn't even look like typical solar panels, he said. Just as he drew customers to electric vehicles by making sleek, fast sports cars, Musk wants to attract homeowners to solar with pretty panels.

"We want to have a cool-looking esthetically pleasing solar system on your roof," he said.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

BMW and Tesla: superchargers and batteries? Reuters reported that on Wednesday, officials from Tesla and BMW met to discuss ways to promote electric vehicles, centering on EV charging technology. Could BMW be the first automaker to gain access to Tesla’s supercharging technology?

This meeting came just one day ahead of Elon Musk’s announcement that Tesla would open-source its patents, allowing other automakers to use its technology “in good faith” to build and promote electric vehicles. BMW has been one of the few companies to embrace the idea of high-end electric vehicles, and has also been the target for the planned $35,000 Tesla sedan due in the next few years. So one would think the two companies should be rivals, but no.

Instead, as Elon Musk explained in yesterday’s patent-opening blog post, his ultimate goal is to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles by automakers all over the world. With annual automobile production approaching 100 million vehicles, there’s no way Tesla can hope to build every electric vehicle. It will take the combined efforts of the entire industry to make EVs happen.

Of course, Musk intends to benefit big time from widespread EV production, as his battery Gigafactory can produce enough batteries for as many as a half-million vehicles every year. Meanwhile, BMW has invested heavily into the i3 electric vehicles, building it from the ground up as an electric vehicle andpouring $200 million into increasing carbon fiber output. On a Thursday conference call, Elon Musk said that Tesla and BMW met to discuss promoting electric vehicles and how to make better use of the Tesla Supercharger network. Perhaps BMW will be the first automaker to take Tesla up on its open-patent offer.

The BMW i3, Supercharged by Tesla? It might happen sooner than any of us thought.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Nissan e-NV200 sales commence in October The long-anticipated Nissan e-NV200 electric van will finally go on sale in Japan this October, before an anticipated global rollout. Using the same drivetrain as the Nissan Leaf but boasting a lot more cargo room, the e-NV200 is Nissan’s first attempt at an electric commercial vehicle.

Combining the electric drivetrain of the Leaf with the utility body of the NV200 was a no brainer for Nissan, but it also wasn’t easy. Despite pulling parts from two existing vehicles, the Nissan e-NV200 still requires about 30% unique parts to make it work. This includes a unique hydraulic brake system that improves regenerative braking, and the ability to manually set the batter level to ensure that electric van has enough juice for the ride home.

This is especially handy for contractors and small businesses, as the e-NV200 comes with two 100V outlets that can power a couple of tools at once. In addition to utily body, the e-NV200 will also come in 5 and 7-passenger configurations to help it serve as a taxi in places like New York City.

Production of the e-NV200 began in May in Barcelona, and it will be priced between ¥3,880,440 to ¥4,786,560, or about $37,800 and $46,700 when it hits Japanese dealerships in October.

German OEMs (and Tesla) to collaborate on network for 400-600km range EVs? On Wednesday Tesla and BMW met, but what specifically was discussed was not published.

“Both companies are strongly committed to the success of electromobility and discussed how to further strengthen the development of electromobility on an international level,” a BMW spokesman said in a statement.

On Thursday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his company has been in talks with BMW and other automakers on the topic of promoting EVs and making better use of its German Supercharger charging stations.

Musk said that Tesla’s intent wasn’t to create a walled garden around it's supercharger network and that the company is more than happy to allow other makers to use its fast chargers.

There are number of preconditions, though. Firstly, other makers’ cars would need to be able to accept the 135kW output of the Supercharger. Secondly, rival manufacturers would have to contribute to some of the capital cost of the fast charging network.

The Germany market for long range EVs has some unique requirements. Not only is Tesla offering a special tune-up so that its Model S is capable of 130 MPH to compete against the local Porsches, BMW,s Mercedes and Audis on Germany’s unrestricted, high-speed autobahns. But the extra aerodynamic load resulting from sustained Autobahn speeds (drag is proportional to the square of speed) means that a huge network of very high powered EV charging stations is essential for the long range EV market to be viable in Germany.

With BMW, Audi, Porsche & Mercedes all having leaked plans for 400-600km BEVs there will definitely be future demand for a fast charger network in German. Establishing the Tesla fast charger standard in Germany now in partnership with BMW, the undisputed leader in EV investment, could be seen as a strategic move.

If Tesla doesn't build it, then someone else will!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Elon Musk: 'I don't think fuel cells are a viable path' Hidden among the patents announcement this week was Musk's comments on automakers' use of fuel cells, which use the reaction from combining hydrogen with oxygen to generate electricity.

"I don't think fuel cells are a viable path," he said. "Even the best theoretical fuel cell doesn't compete with batteries. It doesn't seem like the right move."

This is a weighty statement to make. Confronted with rising costs and flagging sales, major automakers have been ramping up fuel cell production while winding down their battery-powered vehicles. Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne recently implored an audience not to buy any more of the firm's battery-powered 500e car because the company loses too much money on them. Hyundai is expanding its fuel-cell fleet. And Toyota just rolled up its contract for Tesla components.

"Personally, I don't care what Elon, [Renault-Nissan CEO] Carlos [Ghosn], or [Volkswagen CEO] Jonathan [Browning] say about fuel cells," Toyota SVP Bob Carter reportedly said at the Automotive News World Congress in January. "If they want to 'plug in and tune out' other technologies, that's fine."

Indeed, on paper at least, Tesla is not the only EV holdout. Volkswagen plans to roll out an eGolf in the U.S. this fall. And Nissan is now testing its first commercial electric vehicle in Portland.

Meanwhile, Musk said Tesla had met with BMW about collaborating on EVs. BMW confirmed the meeting but declined to talk about what was discussed. BMW's i3 is, in principle, a rival to Tesla's Model S.

But both are considered luxury vehicles. And Musk's goal is to make all EVs, not simply Tesla's, cost competitive with regular gas guzzlers. With the patents announcement, he has now acted on his frustration that the market for them has not grown fast enough.

"He’d love to be the Microsoft Windows of a fast charging network," MLV & Co.'s Carter Driscoll told BI.

As Reuters' Ed Taylor points out, many major automakers long ago agreed on making a standardized EV connector on their cars. But the rollout of charging station networks has stalled. Tesla's connector does not conform to the Big 3 standard (although it's possible to buy an adapter), but its station network is now more robust. Taylor speculates that Tesla likely talked with BMW about nudging, for starters, Germany's EV market closer to Tesla technology.

Tesla's main goal is obviously to sell more vehicles. But Musk has stressed the environmental urgency of choosing what he sees as the right technology before its too late. "Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis," he said in his blog post announcing the move.

The key question is what consumers think. Right now markets for both are so small that it's difficult to find a reasonable gauge of sentiment. A report from Navigant research says that at current rates the two technologies combined will comprise less 2.5% of the market by 2035.

But the cost of lithium ion batteries is falling, and could fall even faster if and when Tesla's gigafactory, which aims to double the total amount of lithium ion batteries in the world, finally launches.

"With the cost of electrics dropping along with the cost of lithium-ion batteries, fuel-cells have a long road ahead to convince car buyers that the extended range is worth the distended price tag," the Chicago Tribune's Robert Duffer wrote recently.

The road may just become even longer.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Elon on why he freed up Tesla patented SuperCharger technology

Elon Musk blogs on patents: Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors. After Zip2, when I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.

At Tesla, however, we felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.

At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all.

Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.

We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.

Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard.

Electric vehicles: top up as you go vs full charge overnight

The The burgeoning network of electric vehicle charge points across the UK means it's easier than ever to justify a purchase, but 'range anxiety' and cost are still deterring consumers

Pitched as green, clean and cheap to run, battery-powered vehicles hold out the hope of meeting our mobility needs while weaning us off fossil fuels. So what's not to like?

Quite a lot, it turns out. Arguments against electric vehicles (EVs) range from the economic (price tags of £20,000-plus are not unusual) through to "range anxiety" (expect to recharge every 100 miles or so) and safety (batteries have been known to catch fire).

You have to give credit to EV advocates, however. Knock them down, and they keep coming back. Erik Fairbairn is one such stalwart. He and his colleagues at Pod Point, the charging services company that he founded, are today embarking on a 2,000-mile electricity-fuelled expedition around the UK.

The idea is to show the driving public that it's possible to charge EVs here, there and (almost) everywhere. Such optimism is characteristic of the industry. Back in 2011, French car manufacturer Renault predicted UK sales of EVs would hit 100,000 by 2015. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), sales for the first five months of this year were at 2,695 vehicles, so this prediction looks woefully over-ambitious. In the US, however, take-up looks reassuringly brighter, with projections that sales will exceed 514,000 annually in 2023, up from the nearly 100,000 sold in North America in 2013.

In the UK, the EV industry has come a long way.
Take charging infrastructure. Pod Point, with its network of over 10,000 chargers, is not the only provider in town. The likes of Charge Your Car, Ecotricity and Chargemaster boast their own burgeoning public networks too. Source London, Plugged In Midlands and similar government-backed schemes should see them continue to grow.

The private sector is slowly getting in on the game as well. A small but increasing number of employers now offer charging points in staff parking areas. Retailers too are dabbling with public chargers, the theory being that EV owners will park up to charge and end up buying something. Sainsbury's and Domino's Pizza are notable sponsors of Pod Point's current EV demonstration tour.

What's more, the cars themselves are getting better. The recent arrival of the super slick Tesla Model S saloon car on UK forecourts shows EVs can be cool as well as clean. Potential buyers now have at least 18 different models to choose from, with the lower end of the market now compatible in price to an average diesel-powered hatchback.

"Three years ago, I'd have been pointing perhaps at the Nissan LEAF as the only sensible plug in vehicle", says Fairbank. "Now we're at the start of a serious range of plug-in vehicles to suit a whole suite of different vehicle requirements."

Battery technology remains the industry's biggest bugbear. Alex Garland, an EV product manager at Renault, admits there is "not a miracle battery around the corner". But rapid chargers, which typically deliver between 22kW to 43kW AC power, have put pay to the idea of waiting hours for your car to charge.

For the non-purists, plug-in hybrids and range extenders (ie models equipped with a combustion engine as well as battery), mean motorists can park their fears of flat batteries. An all-electric car may be pushed to go more than 100 miles on a single charge, but low-emission hybrids are capable of six or seven times that distance.

Demand side deficit
What's chiefly stopping us all jumping into EVs is primarily ourself, the everyday motorist. British car-owners are fundamentally "hesitant", Garland argues. Which is why, the EV industry is tweaking its message. The old sales pitch used to be all about going green. That restricts the market immediately and can raise some tricky questions too. What if your energy source comes from a coal-burning power station, for instance?

So expect to be hearing less about the planet and more about cost – or "total cost of ownership", as the EV industry prefers. Exemptions on road tax, congestion charges and (very often) parking fees all appeal to our pockets. So does the £5,000 government-backed grant for all new EVs. It's fuel that's the clincher, however. You can run an EV for as little as 2p a mile, kicking petrol and diesel into the dust.

Convenience is the nascent sector's other trump card. Efforts to disabuse drivers over range anxiety have so far had little success. It doesn't matter that most drivers travel 25 miles or less per day, or that a city like London now has more charging points than petrol stations, says Garland: "Customers are almost wanting a charging point on every street corner before they can take that plunge."

So instead, drivers are now being encouraged to think about "topping up" as they go as well as ensuring a full charge overnight. Given that most cars are idle for most of the time, why not have them quietly charging as they sit there?

UK consumers are showing signs of being won over. Year-on-year sales of EVs are up 106% so far this year. Even so, low emission vehicles still comprise less than 1% of the total UK auto market, making mass adoption seem like a world away. It needn't be. Today, electric transportation is less of a pipedream than an outlying possibility in need of an outstanding propagator.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Tesla to share SuperCharger patents We reported just last week that Elon Musk might be planning a controversial new strategy for some of the patents his company, Tesla Motors. This weekend at a press conference introducing the Tesla Model S to the UK, Tesla raised the curtain on its bold new vision .

Engadget reports that Tesla will release the patents it holds on its proprietary SuperCharger technology in order to promote standardized charger designs for EV’s. CEO Musk has made it clear in the past that he wants to avoid a “walled garden” approach in which every EV manufacturer would have unique charging facilities for its model.

What does that mean for the rest of the electric vehicle world? Just that Tesla’s recharging protocols will now be open source, with other companies free to use and improve upon them. Ultimately, the thinking at Tesla is that standardized recharging systems will drive acceptance of electric vehicles forward and help put more EV’s on the road sooner. The Tesla Superchargers are far and away the fastest way to charge an EV, able to deliver a full charge of 265 miles of driving to a 85 kWh Model S in about an hour. Nobody else even comes close, and as it stands there remains debate within the automotive world over which charging standard to adopt; the Japanese-preferred CHAdeMO, or the American-developed SAE Combo charger.

But there’s a catch. The Tesla business model calls for free recharging for customers as long as they own their car. Tesla wants any manufacturer that uses its patents to agree to the same business model of free charging. They will also be expected to contribute to the cost of the SuperCharger network in exchange for access to the Tesla technology secrets.

Will other manufacturers agree to Musk’s terms? That remains to be seen. Few, if any companies are making a profit on their electric cars yet, and certainly not on the charging infrastructure. They may not want to saddle themselves with paying for the cost of electricity and a portion of the operating costs for the SuperCharger system while losing money on every electric car sold.

Musk has thrown down the gauntlet. Will any other companies pick it up?

Kia Soul EV for UK

Press Release from Kia: Volume production of Soul EV for export is a landmark in Kia's history. Soul EV goes on sale outside Korea later in 2014. Class-leading drive range of 212 km certified for Europe. 81.4 kW motor produces 285 Nm of torque.

Kia Motors has begun volume production of its new all-electric Kia Soul EV for export sales. A landmark in Kia's history, the zero-emissions Soul EV is Kia's first electric vehicle to be marketed by the company outside Korea.

The first vehicles off the production line are destined for select European countries and are scheduled to go on sale across the continent during the second half of the year. The Soul EV is manufactured at Kia's Gwangju facility in Korea, where annual output of the electric car is initially planned to reach 5,000 units.

"Now that production of export models has begun, the new Soul EV is truly at the forefront of Kia's 'Clean Mobility' program, providing environmentally-friendly transport to our customers around the world," commented Thomas Oh, Executive Vice President and COO, Kia Motors Corporation.

"Although it is Kia's first globally-sold all-electric vehicle, the Soul EV is our second-generation battery electric vehicle and benefits significantly from our in-depth experience gained from development of the Ray EV and proven daily operations of the Ray EV fleet in Korea for the past three years."

Embodying the iconic design language of the second-generation Kia Soul, that went on sale in the UK in April, the Soul EV is a uniquely designed battery electric vehicle perfectly suited for city commuters thanks to its class-leading drive range, a spacious cabin and generous cargo area.

Featuring a high-capacity 192-cell 27 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack, 212 km of the Soul EV's drive range is now certified for Europe. Key enablers for the Soul EV's outstanding drive range are industry-leading 200 Wh/kg cell energy density and a number of state-of-the art energy-saving features such as the new heat pump, smart air intake control system and a new individual ventilation system that ensure maximum driving range without losing energy for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC). The Soul EV also employs regenerative braking to capture and recycle into the battery the kinetic energy generated while the car is coasting and braking.

Power comes from an 81.4 kW (110 ps) electric motor, producing a generous and instantly available 285 Nm (29 kg/m) of torque, driving the front wheels via a single speed constant ratio gear reduction unit.

Ensuring that the Soul EV retains all the 'fun-to-drive' character of the regular Soul, rapid acceleration to 100 kph (62 mph) is predicted to take 11.2 seconds, while top speed is in the region of 145 kph (90 mph).

The battery pack is mounted beneath the cabin, ensuring a low centre of gravity and contributing to the car's accomplished ride, handling and refinement.

Charging is accomplished by plugging the Soul EV into any standard household electricity supply. Recharging times are up to five hours for a fully depleted battery using a 6.6 kW AC slow charger. An 80 per cent charge can be achieved in as little as 25 minutes with a 100 kW charger (if available) or 33 minutes using a 50 kW DC charger.

The new Soul EV has achieved the world automotive industry's first UL Environment Validation for containing 23,942 grams of bio-based plastic and 10 per cent bio-based organic carbon content. Soul EV's recyclable interior materials include Bio Plastic, Bio Foam, Bio Fabric and Bio PET Felt, together with low volatile organic compounds and newly developed antibacterial materials and paint.

The Soul EV will go on sale in the UK from late 2014. 

Norway May EV sales Norway, excluding the Tesla Model S sales spike in March, has been for several months at the 10% market share level for all-electric passenger car sales.

So it was last month, when 1,346 (or 10.9%) EVs were registered.The growth compared with the previous year is of course huge.

The big splash in May comes from VW up!, which was second best selling car in Norway after the VW Golf. The German car had 465 registrations, from which over 3/4 were electric e-up!s (about 370 according to OFV).

Tesla Model S had 374 in May and with 2,598 sold so far this year, is the second best YTD seller after the VW Golf.

Third overall after five months is the Nissan LEAF with 342 registrations last month and 2,352 YTD.

No big splash from BMW i3, as 133 registrations is way below previous months, when well over 200 were registered or even 336 in March. BMW i3 is already behind e-up! in terms of number of sales this year.

These four models represent ~90% of all new passenger EV registrations in Norway in May.

EXO geodesic electric car You’ve surely heard about geodesic dome homes by now – but what about geodesic cars? Mauro Fragiotta and Mark Beccaloni drew upon the work of Buckminster Fuller to design EXO – the world’s first all-electric geodesic vehicle. The car’s geometric external chassis features a large number of folds that add strength to the structure while reducing weight and material use. That translates to a light and fast zero-emission vehicle – and yes, in case you’re wondering it’s Hasselhoff and stormtrooper approved.

Move to electric cars now seems unstoppable In the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen (it borders Hong Kong) the city government has decreed that each new residential development must have battery-recharging units for every parking space. Otherwise, the developers will not be given permission to sell the apartments even though most of their new buyers will be driving gas-fuelled automobiles.

According to the Beijing-based Caixin news service the city government is concerned that lack of recharging facilities is holding back adoption of hybrid and electric cars. The city has only 81 fast-charging outlets, but only seven of those are for private car owners to use (the rest being for government vehicles). Slow charging outlets can involve up to a nine-hour recharging task. Hence Shenzhen (population 11 millions) has only 6,958 hybrid or electric vehicles on the road. The government expects that number to reach 25,000 by the end of next year assuming, presumably, that the recharging stations are available.

Elsewhere, though, clean energy vehicles seem to be on a roll. This will certainly be a relief to Elon Musk of Tesla with his plans to establish the first gigafactory, a huge battery-producing plant to supply 500,000 car batteries a year. The battle to get the nod for the location of this project is still raging as several states vie for Musk’s approval. Texas Governor Rick Perry has just been to Sacramento to pitch the case for his state. According to latest news reports, San Antonio and Reno are the favourites (with Arizona and New Mexico still not being ruled out).

The best evidence that the electric car is assured of a future is the fact that commercial competition has now kicked in. Tesla’s Model S is expected to be selling 31,200 units this year. Now the motoring press is enthusing over BMW’s entry to the fray with its plug-in i8 sports car retailing in the U.S. at $137,500. According to the Detroit News, the BMW model (while still trailing Tesla in sales) benefits from its state of the art electric motor and lightweight carbon fibre body; it purports to have better gas mileage than the Toyoto Prius and faster acceleration than the petrol-fueled Porsche 911 Carrera. It runs emission-free for the first 37km of a journey.

In sales, the Tesla sports car has pulled ahead of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf (the Leaf having half the Model S price tag of $63,570). So car buyers in the U.S. are prepared to pay good money to back the electric car concept. As are the Norwegians: hybrid and electric cars scored 20% of all sales in March of automobiles. In the Netherlands 35,000 such vehicles are now registered. The Tesla Model S is now being launched in the United Kingdom which, even after government subsidy, will retail for a hefty £50,000.

And opinion seems to be that even a $100,000 sticker price on the Tesla Model S in China will not prove to too great a barrier (hefty import and sales taxes swelling the price). Chinese buyers, as experience has shown, will fork out large sums if they really want the car of their choice. Then we will wait and see what reaction globally there is Tesla’s Model X SUV. The prototype was unveiled in 2012 and the production model is expected to be available in 2015. It will have two lithium-ion battery packs and will accelerate from 0 to 97 km/h in 4.4 seconds. By 2017 the Tesla compact saloon is expected to be on sale, and Musk has plans for an amphibious electric vehicle.

Last week we heard that the joint Ford-Samsung battery research program was making good progress to produce a hybrid battery technology. This will involve a lighter-weight lithium-ion batty along with a lead acid battery in each vehicle. Ford is planning to install its Auto Start-Stop technology in 70% of its vehicles. The system turns off the engine when the car stops, which saves fuel. The battery system then powers all the vehicle’s accessories and system until the drive releases the brake pedal and the engine restarts.