About the Author

Jameson Dow

Jameson has been driving electric vehicles since 2009, and has been writing about them and about clean energy for electrek.co since 2016.

You can contact him at jamie@electrek.co

Jameson Dow's Favorite Gear

December 14

We “found a dilapidated train, restored it, and are powering it with a 4.6 billion year old power source” is how Jeremy Holmes, development director of the Byron Bay Railroad Company succinctly summarized the mission of the world’s first solar-powered train project.  The train, designed to be powered fully by solar panels and electric motors, goes into service this weekend, with a short 3km route near a resort in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia.

The railroad company has been set up as a nonprofit, and has partnered with several local companies including ELMOFO, a high-performance EV builder who made this awesome electric Radical SR8.

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December 13

Roborace, the autonomous race series hoping to debut soon as a support race for Formula E, took the opportunity at Formula E’s season opener to run their DevBots around the Hong Kong ePrix track to see how they would fare.  They’ve done this before with varying degrees of success, but this time they added a new twist – they put Nicki Shields, Formula E’s pit lane reporter, into the car’s vestigial driver’s seat to see if she could do a faster lap than the computer.

Do we have to fear our robot overlords yet, or do we still have a few more software updates left between us and armageddon?

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December 8

In advance of the January launch of the New 2018 Nissan LEAF, which just started US production this week at Nissan’s plant in Tennessee, Nissan invited us out to Napa Valley to get some seat time with the new car.

Nissan says that this car is intended to fill the “white space” between the previous generation of entry-level, compliance EVs, typically with ~100 miles of range, and newer “long-range” offerings from Tesla and Chevrolet.  In our time with the car, we found that it fills this space admirably and seems to offer great value at the right price when compared to competing vehicles.

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December 2

Last night, voting in the dead of night, offering little opportunity for bipartisan discussion and despite the public opposing the plan by nearly a 2:1 margin, the Republican party passed their bill which raises taxes on the middle class and will add $1.5 trillion to the deficit through the US Senate, paving the way for the bill to become law.

Despite initial confusion, the version of the bill passed in the Senate looks like it does keep the $7,500 EV credit intact.  Originally we weren’t sure whether the version passed did maintain the credit, given that the 479-page bill was revealed just hours before the vote, and it’s full of illegible scribbles in the margins.  But the House version of the bill eliminates the credit, and either version could prevail as the differences are worked out between the two (call your representative if you have thoughts on that).

What the bill certainly does keep intact, though, is the US’ portion of the massive ~$5 trillion yearly global subsidy which fossil fuels benefit from in the form of unpriced externalities.  There’s a solution to this, and this solution has even been proposed by many high-profile Republicans.

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The LA Auto Show has become a place for automakers to showcase their electric offerings.  There aren’t always that many brand-new concepts unveiled at LA, but production-intent electric vehicles are often front-and-center of automakers’ booths.  And given that California makes up 50% of US EV sales, and that most of those sales are in LA and the SF Bay Area, it’s the perfect spot to show off EVs.

But this year, in the sprawling urban environment of LA we saw a brand new, very different concept from a new Chinese firm called REDSPACE.  “REDSPACE” stands for “Revolutionary Electric Dream Space,” and they are an alliance between former BMW design chief Chris Bangle’s Italy-based design consultancy and a Chinese commercial manufacturer with a decidedly un-revolutionary name: “China Hi-Tech Group Corporation.”  It’s a ground-up reimagining of an efficient city vehicle for the modern age, and it certainly looks like it.

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Elon Musk says he is launching a Tesla Roadster into space. Really? (update: maybe)

In today’s installment of “is Elon Musk actually a crazy person,” he has announced on Twitter that the payload of the first SpaceX falcon heavy rocket will be his personal “midnight cherry” Tesla Roadster.

In tribute to David Bowie, the plan is for the car to be playing “Space Oddity” on its speakers during the launch.

December 1

After a few months on break and a few updates to the rules and teams, Formula E starts their fourth season this weekend with two races in Hong Kong – one on Saturday, one on Sunday.  Last year’s champion Lucas Di Grassi will see if he can defend his win from Sebastian Buemi, who was dominant all season but ended up in second place after missing two crucial races in New York City.  Buemi’s team, Renault e.dams, is back to defend their three-straight team titles – the only team to win a championship since the series began.

There are a few changes this year, but the technological changes are only slight, with max power output increasing from 170kW to 180kW.  The big shakeup will happen next year, as more manufacturers join the competition and the cars get a new chassis, new battery and 250kW of power.  Nevertheless, the racing should continue to be close and exciting as it has been since the sport’s inception in 2014.

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Sondors, the firm behind the incredibly successful affordably-priced e-bike crowdsourcing campaign, revealed their anticipated crowdsourced 3-wheeled EV in prototype form at the LA Auto Show yesterday.

The car is intended to start at just $10,000 and have options for 75, 150, and 200 mile range battery packs.  It will have three seats, quick electric performance with a 0-60 of 5-8 seconds (presumably depending on battery pack), and be sold online with direct customer delivery.  Sondors is targeting 2019 to start delivering vehicles, assuming fundraising goals are met on time.

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November 30

A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that driving an electric vehicle can save the average American $770 per year.  The study focused on the 50 largest cities in the US and found a range of annual savings between $443 and $1,077 per year, depending on local gasoline and electricity costs, with a median of $770.

Among other findings, it also showed that electricity prices are more stable than gas prices, that EV purchase prices are going down as the industry matures, and that EVs can often be cheaper to maintain than comparable gas vehicles.

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Jeep CEO Mike Manley announced at their LA Auto Show press conference that the new Jeep Wrangler will include a plug-in option in 2020.

Jeep has shown a plug-in hybrid concept before, the Yuntu SUV which they displayed at the 2017 Shanghai auto show.  And there have been rumors for some time that the Wrangler, Jeep’s most iconic vehicle, would eventually gain a hybrid powertrain.

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November 20

After seeing the new Roadster in the flesh at Thursday’s Tesla Semi unveiling, I’ve had a lot to think about.  Fred and Seth already both covered this car, but it’s so groundbreaking that I felt I needed to chime in.

And as a current Roadster 1.5 owner, which had been my dream car ever since seeing the first introductory website put up by Tesla way back in 2006, I’m writing this article as a sort of catharsis, a reliving of that night that I first saw the car I sorely wished could be mine but thought at the time I’d never have the opportunity to own.

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November 15

A stash of Model 3s with VINs as high as #1096 has been spotted in a parking garage in Playa Vista, California, just minutes away from the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, where the Tesla Semi reveal event will take place tomorrow night – but more importantly very close to Tesla’s new Marina Del Rey property, which looks like it will be a massive store + delivery hub.

There are at least 19 Model 3s in the photos we’ve seen, along with several Model S and X (~50), and 3 Tesla Service vans (though these aren’t electric – they’re Ford Transit Connects).

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November 2

Along with the announcement of the huge tax hike in the new republican tax bill, we have some other astounding ignorance coming out of the titular heads of government in the US today.  Rick Perry, who has received over $11.6 million from the fossil fuel industry in the course of his political career, soliloquizing about his recent experience in Africa, claimed that fossil fuels save lives and prevent sexual assault, at a discussion on energy policy sponsored by Axios and NBC news. Yes, really, he said that.  Full quote below.

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November 1

In Tesla’s just-released Q3 2017 earnings report, the company announced that in the same quarter that the much-antipated Model 3 was (soft-)launched, they’ve still managed to produce and deliver record numbers of the Model S and X.  This is despite Tesla’s recent focus on “anti-selling” the Model 3, for fear that the upcoming product will negatively affect current S/X sales.

Not only did deliveries grow, so did orders.  Net orders hit a record in Q3 in each of Tesla’s regions – North America, Europe and Asia, due to the addition of new stores and increased awareness of the company through Model 3 press.  Despite CEO Elon Musk’s original worries that customers would see the Model 3 as the “next version” of the Tesla and would prefer it over the S and X, it seems that the opposite effect is happening – even more people are being brought to the S/X by the buzz around the 3.  And despite that aforementioned anti-selling of the 3 and order growth for the S/X, Tesla also saw growth in the number of net Model 3 reservations – which stood at over half a million last we checked in July.

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October 20

It’s often expected for new models to receive low reliability ratings, but Chevy has bucked that trend with the Bolt.  In Consumer Reports’ new reliability ratings released yesterday, while Chevy as an overall brand scored relatively low (18th place), the Bolt came in as the most reliable car the manufacturer sells, out of 15 models (the highest number of models of any manufacturer ranked by CR).

This is great news, because the Bolt is a great car in pretty much every other way too.  It won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year and many other awards, and we really like it, even though it’s not without its quibbles.  Despite all these awards, sales initially lagged (though they’re picking up as the car is made more available nationwide), so perhaps CR’s rating will help GM sell some more Bolts – if they actually want to. We’ll see if Chevy puts the Bolt, their most reliable car, front and center in its national ad campaign about winning awards for reliability.

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October 19

Volkswagen will challenge Pike’s Peak with a purpose-built electric racecar

Volkswagen has been making a lot of noise about electric cars lately. Announcing huge investments and new concept models, trying to recover their reputation after the dieselgate scandal. Its newest electric push comes from somewhere new: racing.  While VW group has been involved in electrified racing before, with the Audi Formula E team and with several wins from Audi’s retired hybrid Le Mans car, the Volkswagen brand hasn’t yet undertaken electric racing on their own.

This changes next year, when Volkswagen will enter a car into the famous – and difficult – Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb.  Details are light on VW’s entry, all we have to go on so far is a silhouette – pictured above – and a promise of all-wheel-drive. But it’s clear that VW are going after the electric prototype record – 8:57.118 by Rhys Millen in the Drive eO PP03.  That car had over a megawatt of power available (1367hp), so expect VW’s entry to have similar horsepower if it wants any chance of getting that record.

Consumer Reports has released their latest reliability rating for the Model S, upgrading its rating from “average” to “above average.”  This is the first time Tesla has received an “above average” rating from Consumer Reports.

In the same article, Consumer Reports also mentions their “predicted reliability” for the Model 3.  They give these ratings out based on previous experience with a manufacturer and whether a new model is a significant departure from previous models – and this is not unique to Tesla, they give predicted reliability scores to other cars too.  Since the Model 3 doesn’t share many parts with the Model S but is expected to be less complex, and since Tesla has had difficulties with reliability of early VINs before, Consumer Reports is taking the middle ground as far as predictions go and predicts average reliability out of the Model 3.  They will not have an actual rating until owners have time to report back with their real-life experiences.

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October 10

Industry pawn Scott Pruitt, posing as the administrator of the “Environmental Protection” Agency, announced yesterday that he will end implementation of the Clean Power Plan, a course of action which will cause an additional 3,600 deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 missed days of work or school per year, according to his agency’s own estimates. Pruitt also suggested that solar and wind subsidies should be cut, but failed to propose ending any part of the $5.3 trillion annual global subsidy received by the large, polluting fossil fuel industry which has underwritten his political career.

Pruitt’s “reasoning” for these changes is because he does not want the government to “pick winners and losers.” But, apparently, he is fine with government picking winners as long as it’s the same historically-winning fossil industry (with 4 of the top 10 companies by revenue worldwide) which has been bribing him to do their work for decades. And he’s fine with picking losers as long as it’s the industry which he continues to quixotically fight against in his quest to eliminate green energy and worsen public health. However, the only loser in this quest will be him.

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October 4

Crowds gather in the village on the last day of public tours at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015, Sunday October 18, 2015 at the Orange County Great Park, Irvine, California (Credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)
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For 15 years, the US Department of Energy has held the “Solar Decathlon,” a student competition which showcases sustainable technologies in the home.  Teams from around the world come together and build functional solar-powered houses from the ground up, then use those houses for two weeks.  The houses are then graded on ten different aspects of their design, with the largest combined score being the winner.  The competition has been happening approximately biennially since 2002.  This year it’s in Denver, Colorado at the University of Colorado.

The best part is: all of this is free and open to the public.  Every house is open for tours and knowledgeable students are on hand and ready to answer questions about their projects, and there is a “sustainability expo” with company booths focused on sustainability.  There are even workshops, an electric vehicle ride-and-drive (only Oct 14th 11am-3pm), and a career fair (Oct 10th 12-3pm).  Public visiting hours are 11am-7pm most days (1-7pm Monday Oct 9), though the Decathlon is closed to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct 10-11).  See the full list of things to do here.

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October 3

Electrification will not solve the auto industry’s problems, said Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne in an interview posted by Bloomberg.

In keeping with Marchionne’s typical bombast, his comments were wide-ranging and a little disorganized – as they have been in the past.  We’ll attempt to pick through them below.

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