Undoubtedly, EVs are starting to take over the automobile market. International investment bank UBS thinks the first step in market dominance of EVs would be in terms of costs. In a report published on May, analysts from the bank’s “evidence lab” predicted that EV prices will soon match those of combustion-engine cars.
According to The Telegraph, the UBS report predicts that the “total cost of consumer [EV] ownership can reach parity with combustion engines from 2018”, a trend which would likely begin in Europe. “This will create an inflection point for demand. We raise our 2025 forecast for EV sales by 50% to 14.2 million — 14% of global car sales.” UBS reached this conclusion after tinkering with a Chevrolet Bolt EV, which it described as “the world’s first mass-market EV, with a range of more than 200 miles.”
Speaking of new vehicles, the recently launched Tesla Model 3 is expected to boost mass adoption of EVs with its relatively affordable price. While it’s currently the cheapest EV out there, Nissan’s 2018 Leaf promises to cost some $5,000 less than the Model 3. This doesn’t mean, however, that electric cars aren’t going to be profitable. “Once total cost of ownership parity is reached, mass-brand EVs should also turn profitable,” the report said.
The UBS report also noted that manufacturing EVs is cheaper than they previously thought — and there’s still more room for cost reduction through strategies like developing cheaper batteries and building more charging infrastructure. These measures will be important, since more and more countries are now opting for EVs. France will ban selling petrol and diesel cars by 2040, while all cars sold in India will be electric by 2030.
Electric cars aren’t the only clean energy tech that’s been getting less costly. Renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, continue to be cheaper than their fossil fuel counterparts. The price of solar panels has, for example, dropped over the last few months. The decreasing cost of EVs seems to be part of a greater revolution towards clean energy.
Between 2017 and 2024, completely electric cars are expected to “become the rational choice for motorists in Europe,” the report said, as EV showroom prices fall due to cheaper batteries and EV ranges increasing. Charging infrastructure is also expected to become more widespread, in part due to government support.
Stanford University economist Tony Seba, who published a separate report on EVs, made a similar forecast for worldwide adoption. “Our findings clearly indicate that essentially all vehicle miles travelled will be electric by 2040 [worldwide],” he told The Guardian. “The car industry faces an imminent technology disruption by AEVs [autonomous electric vehicles] in the early 2020s. Even without autonomous technology, the internal combustion engine car industry will have been long decimated by 2040.”
When it comes to renewable energy, generation and storage are two facets of technology that have to be tackled simultaneously. For the latter, the development of electric cars and lithium-ion battery storage projects seem to be the number one factor. Yet, when compared to their fossil fuel counterparts, the future of these technologies remain largely uncertain.
To this end, researchers from the Imperial College in London have developed a new tool that could facilitate the prediction of costs and outcomes for electric cars and home batteries. In a study published in the journal Nature Energy, the Imperial researchers demonstrated how their tool could be used. They predicted that electric cars could rival petrol by 2022, and that home batteries could become competitive by the 2030s.
“An informed understanding of the potential future costs of electricity storage technologies is essential to quantify their uptake as well as the uptake of low-carbon technologies reliant on storage,” the researchers wrote.
Towards a More Effective Adoption
Their prediction tool was the result of compiling data from the installed capacity and price of energy storage technologies — like Tesla’s Powerpack — over time. It could be used to figure out how the costs would drop in the future when investment would increase installed capacity.
“With this analysis tool we can quantify when energy storage becomes competitive and identify where to invest to make it happen, thereby minimizing investor and policy uncertainty,” lead researcher Oliver Schmidt, from the Grantham Institute and the Center for Environmental Policy at Imperial, said in a press release.
In short, this could help investors and policy makers make informed decisions when it comes to the future of renewable energy, electric vehicles, and energy storage devices. As another example, the team predicted that EVs could catch up with petrol in terms of costs by 2034 at the latest, given current oil prices. The introduction of Tesla’s low-cost EV, the Model 3, could also affect the outcome.
As co-author Iain Staffel from the Center for Environmental Policy explained, “This tool allows us to combat one of the biggest uncertainties in the future energy system, and use real data to answer questions such as how electricity storage could revolutionize the electricity generation sector, or when high-capacity home storage batteries linked to personal solar panels might become cost-effective.”
While wireless charging is an improvement over a mess of entangled wires, the technology does not solve the issue of mobility — your phone still needs to remain in one place to charge. This could change with the development of a new type of charging.
Current wireless charging devices operate using an electromagnetic field. For the power transfer between the charger and the device to remain optimal, the distance between the two must remain fixed. However, a team out of Stanford has created a charger that can transfer power to moving devices up to a meter away. Their research has been published in Nature.
The system uses a quantum mechanical principle called parity-time symmetry. Essentially, this means their charger can automatically adjust its power flow depending on the situation. The researchers demonstrated their device using an LED bulb. When the bulb moved further away, the distance was mitigated by the charger. This allowed the bulb to retain its brightness despite the motion.
Though this study only demonstrates the technology at a minor level, if scalable, it could essentially enable us to charge devices at the optimum rate despite a varying distance. This has exciting applications in a number of fields beyond just allowing you to comfortably use your phone while charging it.
Theoretically, it could revolutionize our ability to wirelessly charge electric vehicles as charging devices could be built into roads to charge the EVs as they drive past. The study also cites the potential to charge medical implants more efficiently. These devices are all implanted at slightly different depths, which can make charging them using existing technology complicated. This new technology would give patients the ability to move around while charging, as well.
While the team’s technology is still in its nascent stages and has only charged a single moving LED so far, the concept has the potential to radically change how we power our lives in the future. Now, it’s just a matter of scaling it up.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he’s in talks with India’s government to sell electric cars in the country, which is currently the fourth-largest auto market in the world.
Musk said on Twitter Thursday that he is currently negotiating a relief on import penalties until Tesla can build a local factory. This isn’t the first time Musk has announced he intends to enter the Indian market — Musk said in February he was hoping to launch in the country this summer.
In discussions with the government of India requesting temporary relief on import penalties/restrictions until a local factory is built
India could become one of the most important markets for Tesla given the country’s massive population size and focus on reducing emissions.
Adoption of Electric Vehicles
Vehicle adoption in India is expected to grow rapidly. At its current pace, the country is set to become the third-largest auto market in the world by 2020, according to a May report by the India Brand Equity Foundation, the Indian government’s resource center for economic information.
India’s passenger vehicle segment witnessed the most growth in the 2016 fiscal year, but two-wheelers still secure the most widespread adoption.
But some foreign automakers have so far struggled to increase sales in India, driven partially by a crackdown on diesel vehicles. General Motors put its $1 billion planned investment in India on hold last summer due to poor sales and the regulatory environment, Reuters reported at the time.
What could give Tesla an edge is that India is looking to promote electric and hybrid vehicle sales through its National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. The initiative aims to have 6-7 million electric and hybrid vehicles on the road by 2020 by offering manufacturing and purchasing incentives. The country, however, will need to invest heavily in a charging infrastructure to make that vision a reality.
As Musk explores India, Tesla is also looking to further tap into the Chinese car market, the largest in the world, as the government pushes battery-powered vehicle adoption.
Imagine you are driving in an electric vehicle (EV), and you notice that you’re running low on charge. You use your smartphone — not to find a charging station, which you hope is within range, but to summon a charging drone — and you keep driving. Within minutes, a drone is hovering over your car, and your battery is charging. You never even had to leave the road.
This could be in our future if one new patent leads to a prototype and eventually a product. It is one response to the practical problem posed by the anticipated proliferation of EVs: charging infrastructure. Back in April, Tesla announced plans to double the size of its charging infrastructure in 2017, both in urban centers and along highways. These plans will bring Tesla’s total to more than 10,000 Superchargers and 15,000 Destination Chargers in service all over the globe.
From Patent To Reality?
Now, while these massive expansion plans aren’t yet enough to keep up, Tesla isn’t the only entity focusing on charging points. As of 2016, these points were more plentiful in Japan than traditional fossil fuel filling stations. Proterra has developed a rapid charging system for electric transit, but it relies on the existence of charging infrastructure. Honda has designed a dynamic charging system that would recharge while the vehicle was in motion—but again, the problem is infrastructure.
While this innovative drone charging system would be revolutionary for EVs, the mere filing of a patent application does not guarantee that an invention will ever be made. In the meantime, it seems that all of the minds working on Evs need to advance solutions to solving the problem of infrastructure expansion.
Every car sold in India from 2030 will be electric, under new government plans that have delighted environmentalists and dismayed the oil industry.
It’s hoped that by ridding India’s roads of petrol and diesel cars in the years ahead, the country will be able to reduce the harmful levels of air pollution that contribute to a staggering 1.2 million deaths per year.
More than a million people die in India every year as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, with an investigation by Greenpeace finding that the number of deaths caused by air pollution is only a fraction less than the number of smoking-related deaths.
The investigation also found that 3% of the country’s gross domestic product was lost due to the levels of toxic smog.
In 2014, the World Health Organization determined that out of the 20 global cities with the most air pollution, 13 are in India.
Efforts have been made by the country’s leaders to to improve air quality, with one example coming in January 2016 when New Delhi’s government mandatedthat men could only drive their cars on alternate days depending on whether their registration plate ended with an odd or even number (single women were permitted to drive every day).
While such interventions have enjoyed modest success, switching to a fleet of purely electric cars would have a much greater environmental impact.
As India’s ambitious electric vehicle plans begin to take shape, oil exporters will be frantically revising their calculations for oil demand in the region.
In its report into the impact of electric cars on oil demand, oil and gas giant BP forecast that the global fleet of petrol and diesel cars would almost double from about 900 million in 2015 to 1.7 billion by 2035.
Almost 90% of that growth was estimated to come from countries that are not members of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), such as India and China.
China is also gearing up for a move away from gas-guzzling cars.
Oil bosses claim it’s too early to tell what the implications of a move away from petrol and diesel cars will be. However, Asia has long been the main driver of future oil demand and so developments in India and China will be watched extremely closely.
Between now and 2021, battery production all over the world will more than double, Bloomberg reports. With more companies getting into the game, expansion and competition are up, and prices are down. This will mean more opportunities for energy companies and electric car manufacturers, and better deals for consumers looking to purchase clean powered technology for less money.
Gigafactory One in Nevada is Tesla’s battery producer at the moment. Daimler, the parent company of Chrysler, Maybach, and Mercedes, will be buying batteries from Accumotive’s brand new plant in Kamenz, Germany, which just broke ground this week. The installation of large-scale battery factories, which will supply Renault, Volkswagen, and others, are also planned in Hungary, Poland, and Sweden.
Asia’s battery manufacturing industry will also be booming. BYD, LG, Samsung, and Tesla’s partner, Panasonic, are all major global battery producers. Right now, at least nine major new factories are being built in China.
Batteries make up about 40% of the cost of electric cars, and so with this increased competition and the resulting drop in the price of these batteries is going to cause the cost of electric cars to fall. Benchmark Minerals reports that costs per-kilowatt-hour have dropped from $542 in 2012 to $139 where they are now. Benchmark analysts indicate that kWh costs will plummet beneath the $100 mark by 2020.
All things considered, Bloomberg speculates that the 2020s will see the real rise of electric cars — including their eventual overtaking of gasoline-powered cars in both cost and value. “As battery costs fall and their energy density increases, we could see cheaper battery-electric cars than their fuel-burning equivalents by 2030,” Bloomberg analyst Nikolas Soulopoulos commented in their report.
Will costs drop too low for electric car companies to make a profit? It’s unlikely. India is aiming to ensure that all cars sold in the country are electric by 2030, and China is already replacing its enormous taxi system with electric cars. Tesla is also preparing to produce Model 3s on a massive scale for a broader market. And with all of this progress for electric cars, humans gain cleaner air, better public health, and more traction in the fight against climate change. So, while the fight against climate change will continue to be an uphill battle, the more countries, companies, and individuals that adopt technology that uses greener energy, the farther along we will be.
A recent collaboration between the Israelian government and ElectRoad, a company focused on enabling the large-scale use of all-electric buses, to develop technology that allows buses to charge while driving has recently passed its first round of testing. This has won the company $120,000 in investment and the chance to test the technology in 2018 on a 1/2 mile route in Tel Aviv. If this testing goes well, an 11-mile path will be implemented between the city of Eilat and the Ramon International Airport. But more importantly, the success of this testing could signal the feasibility of the technology in other countries.
The technology works using electromagnets. Inverters are installed along the side of the road to provide power to plates of copper embedded in the road, and when these interact with similar copper plates under the bus, the fields interact and power is produced. In addition to this mechanism, the bus will be equipped with a small battery that will provide it with power when it is not above the electromagnetic strip, and allow it to accelerate, which requires a greater force. To learn more, watch the video below:
While this technology is promising, there are still significant hurdles that need to be overcome. The first is the issue of implementation. ElectRoad claims that they can equip one kilometer of road in a single evening, but this is yet to be tested in a city context.
The second problem is that this solution may have come too late because of more recent advances in battery technology. Over the last few years, the cost per kilowatt hour of a lithium battery has decreased from 1000 dollars to 200-300 dollars. Dustin Grace, Director of the battery company Proterra, has stated that “What these auto manufacturers are finding when they’re getting into the $100-to-$200-per-kilowatt-hour range is these vehicles are really on parity with other vehicles.” Therefore, if we just look at these numbers, there is no pressing need to work on rechargeable solutions.
What are the Potential Benefits?
The biggest advantage of this form of powering buses is sustainability. The Buses will not use polluting fossil fuels that simultaneously rob the planet of natural resources and damage caused by pollution. If the technology could be extended and applied in cars and other types of vehicles, this could be a feasible solution to the problem of cars and trucks accounting for 20% of U.S emissions.
This technology could also contribute to a greener world in a more subtle way: by producing power. This idea has not yet been integrated into the design, but Oren Ezer, chief executive and co-founder of ElectRoad, claims that the system could be used two-ways, meaning that the buses would feed electricity produced by braking back into the grid.
India’s coal and mines minister, Piyush Goyal, just revealed some exciting new plans: by the year 2030, every car sold in India will be electric. The aim of this move is to lower the costs of running electric vehicles and importing fuel, and to improve population health.
“We are going to introduce electric vehicles in a very big way,” minister Piyush Goyal remarked at the Confederation of Indian Industry Annual Session 2017 in New Delhi. Speaking with reporters, he compared the initiative to the successful 2015 promotion of LED lightbulbs, which was intended to reduce energy bills: “We are going to make electric vehicles self-sufficient. The idea is that by 2030, not a single petrol or diesel car should be sold in the country.”
According to The Independent, Mr. Goyal estimated that the electric car industry would require government assistance initially, but for only two to three years. After that, the Indian government expects the production of electric vehicles will be “driven by demand and not subsidy.”
In India, air pollution has become a public health crisis as well as an economic one. This is only poised to get worse without immediate, meaningful intervention. While India is somewhat ahead of the curve on this issue — feeling the pressure first due to high-density areas — it isn’t the only country in this position. China is making new strides in sustainable energy for similar reasons.
Earlier this year, Greenpeace released a report that attributed as many as 2.3 million deaths annually to air pollution in India. The report— entitled “Airpocalypse” — calls air pollution a “public health and economic crisis” for Indians, pointing out that the number of air pollution deaths in the nation are only “a fraction less” than the number of tobacco deaths. Furthermore, a full 3 percent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is devoured by toxic smog in the form of healthcare and other remediation costs.
Finally, the report indicates that without immediate action and a “robust monitoring system,” the problem will worsen: “India’s pollution trends have been steadily increasing, with India overtaking China in number of deaths due to outdoor air pollution in 2015.” For example, Delhi — India’s most polluted city — was found to have particulate matter concentrations 13 times the yearly limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Apparently, the Indian government knows that now is the time to act, and will target dense urban centers first. Mr. Goyal indicated that the electric car plan would focus on “larger consumer centers, where pollution is at an all-time high,” first.
Veteran automaker Volkswagen is set to roll out a new line of zero emission I.D. vehicles by 2020. One of which is a full-electric crossover with autonomous driving features. On April 12, the German car manufacturer released teasers of this concept car, which is set to rival Tesla’s Model X.
The electric crossover concept is actually the third in VW’s new I.D. lineup, following the hatchback and van concepts. “Volkswagen has set the clearly defined goal of advancing electric-drive vehicles from the status of a startup niche to large-scale production models by the middle of the next decade in a worldwide product offensive,” the company said in a statement.
The concept vehicle — a mix between a four-door coupe and a SUV— is set to debut at the Shanghai auto show next week. By pressing the VW badge in the middle of the steering wheel, the crossover shifts into autonomous driving mode, with the steering wheel automatically folding into the cockpit. The car is then maneuvered by signals coming from a combination of laser and ultrasonic scanners, radar sensors, and cameras working in tandem.
The Autonomous Future
VW’s goal is to sell 1 million EVs every year by 2025. While that number might seem huge, it’s a testament to how VW sees autonomous EVs as the future of personal transport — and they’re not the only one.
The appeal of self-driving cars isn’t just in their futuristic factor: they’re also expected to save lives. By taking human error out of the equation behind the wheel, that could work out to be roughly 40,000 in the U.S. alone. Even better, many of the autonomous car concepts are also EVs — so it’s not just human lives they’re saving, but the environment, too.
Back in July 2016, Tesla noted that owners of the company’s EVs had driven a combined total of more than 2 billion miles. In an effort to speed up the journey to three billion miles (while simultaneously “showcas[ing] the uncompromised capabilities of Model S and Model X”), the company launched its Electric Road Trip.
Now, more than eight months after the road trip kicked off, Tesla has hit another milestone. The company’s fleet of electric vehicles all over the world have now collectively covered more than four billion miles of road — and counting!
The Road Ahead
When Tesla first launched its EVs and started laying down its network of charging stations, the company was met with a lot of skepticism. In 2014, someone even went out of his way to do his own electric road trip and found the whole thing impractical.
While Tesla continues to invent and engineer cutting-edge electric vehicles, they are often in an unreachable price range for many. And, while the Tesla’s Model 3 has made many headlines with its technological advances and competitively comparable price point, GM’s latest triumph, the Chevorlet Bolt EV (or Chevy Bolt, for short), has been making some serious waves. Priced at around $30,000 (post tax-credit), the Bolt can drive over 320 km (200 miles) on a single battery charge.
Production of the Chevy Bolt began in October of 2016 and has been taking away some (well, quite a bit) of the limelight from the Model 3. Now, the Model 3 already has 400,000 preorders and is bound to be a massive success. However, the specs of the Chevy Bolt are impressing many.
Named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for 2017, the Chevy Bolt is more than just an affordable alternative. The comfortable compact vehicle can go from 0-97 kph (0-60 mph) in just over 6 seconds. And, while that is slower than all of the Tesla vehicles currently on the market, it is fast enough for the average car owner.
GM has also included OnStar 4G LTE connectivity in the Chevy Bolts. They also plan to equip the electric car with Cruise Automation’s experimental self-driving technology (to what extent it has not been made clear).
Despite whether the GM or Tesla vehicle “wins” (though most are certain that the Bolt will not outsell the Model 3), this surge in electric vehicles is a good sign. As climate change becomes an ever-growing reality, it is imperative that we lessen and eventually cut our dependence on fossil fuels. And, while a lot of electricity is still produced using coal, renewable energy sources are becoming more feasible and powerful by the day. And so, as the technology for renewable energy resources advances, it is a hopeful thing to see, similarly, a rise in the production of electric vehicles.
From powering electric cars to charging that smartphone you’re holding — the lithium-ion battery has grown to be one of the most commonly used batteries in the world. But one of its inventors, John Goodenough, has decided it’s time to upgrade.
Goodenough, who serves as a professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering of the University of Texas at Austin, has led a team of engineers to develop an entirely solid-state battery that could revolutionize how we use devices. The study behind the battery can be found in a paper recently published in the journalEnergy & Environmental Science.
So what does this battery have to offer? The newly developed battery touts safety, faster-charging, and more recharge cycles. The battery can replace the current lithium-ion batteries found in handheld mobile devices, electric cars, and stationary energy storage. The new battery has three times the energy density of today’s batteries, meaning that it would give electric cars a greater range, recharge mobile devices in just minutes rather than hours, and would last much longer than its predecessor.
Unlike today’s batteries that use liquid electrolytes to transport the lithium ions, the new battery uses glass electrolytes instead. This reduces the risk of forming dendrites, whisker-like pieces of lithium that can grow within older models of batteries if they are charged too quickly, causing explosions and fires — similar to what we saw with Samsung Note 7.
Seawater: The Birthplace of Tomorrow’s Batteries?
The glass electrolytes opened up new possibilities for the team of inventors. Rather than relying on lithium-ions, Goodenough’s team was able to use a low-costing alternative — sodium.
With sodium ions readily available from sea salt, the team excited to design a new generation of batteries can be produced with earth-friendly materials, making the battery cheaper and, by extension, more accessible. Goodenough is currently working with battery makers to test the team’s work further, but he is confident in the work.
Singapore is set to become home to one of the world’s coolest supercars, and it’s electric. Vanda Electrics presented a model of its Dendrobium electric car this week at the Geneva Motor Show — and it looked really super. But this EV isn’t super just based on appearance. It packs the specs to back it up.
Named after a Singaporean orchid, the Dendrobium was “inspired by nature and rooted in technology.” The concept was first announced in February 2016, and some of the vehicle’s previously announced specs were changed as it moved from the drawing board to today’s unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show. However, it remains a highly impressive electric car with a top speed of 320 km/h (199 mph) and an acceleration time of 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) in 2.7 seconds.
The inside of the Dendrobium houses two inboard electric motors per axle, with a front-side differential (a device that splits an engine’s torque) and single-speed gearbox. At the rear, it has a multi-speed gearbox and differential. No details have been released yet about the capacity of its batteries and its power range.
Electric Cars Are the Future
The future of land transportation will likely be cars that are autonomous and clean, running on renewables like electric batteries or solar power. Tesla is a leader in the growing industry, but they aren’t the only ones in it. Almost all of today’s car manufacturers, including bigwigs like Volkswagen, Ford, Mitsubishi, and Honda, have electric car projects in the works or already in production.
The market for electric vehicles is growing and that trend is expected to continue in the coming years. As their battery costs go down, electric vehicles will become as affordable as their gas-powered counterparts. Indeed, the cost of electric vehicle batteries has already gone down by 80 percent since 2001. Tesla’s Model 3 electric vehicle is moving toward a $35,000 price tag, and while that’s still not as cheap as most comparable gas-powered cars, it’s also not as expensive as electric vehicles used to be.
As countries push for more electric cars, the number of gas-powered vehicles on the roads will drop. This will reduce the number of carbon emission sources on our planet and help in the battle against man-made climate change. While not every EV can be as super as the Dendrobium, each one brings us one step closer to a future free of fossil fuels.
Of course, there is a downside: the electric car boom is a troubling trend for fossil fuels. As plug-in electric vehicles threaten to take over the roads, fossil fuels are steadily on the decline. The powerful oil industry has started to find itself resorting to somewhat desperate measures, including efforts attacking the incentives for electric vehicles and even introducing legislation that would penalize electric car drivers.
These electric vehicle fees, according to fossil fuel lobby groups like the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), are designed to level the playing field (an interesting take, since the oil business is significantly larger than the electric car industry).
Reportedly, for more than a year, Koch Industries has spent nearly $10 million dollars, and plans to do so every year, on a campaign to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government support for electric vehicles. This campaign was presumably created because of the risk [electric vehicles] place on the oil and coal industry. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing state legislation machine funded by the Koch brothers and several other multinational corporations, introduced in December of 2015 a resolution to discourage states from providing subsidies for [electric vehicles] at their States and Nation Policy Summit.
China has already relaxed its policies to allow for more electric vehicles on the road. In the spirit of healthy competition, will the U.S. follow suit in progression, or go in the opposite — and regressive — direction?
For much of the 20th century, Telsa was simply the last name of a brilliant man who died penniless after living much of his life in the shadow of successful rival Thomas Edison. Now, the name is synonymous with innovation, excitement, and the future thanks primarily to the efforts of another brilliant man: Elon Musk.
Under the Tesla moniker, Musk and a group of Silicon Valley engineers set out in 2003 to prove to the world the benefits of electric cars. Five years later, they released their first model, and since then, the company has become the poster child for sustainability. With Musk at the helm, Tesla has expanded its focus from simply building the best electric car to paving the way for autonomous vehicles, solar power, and so much more.
Here are seven ways Tesla is changing, well, everything:
Building Better Electric Vehicles
You can’t talk about Tesla without talking about electric vehicles. The company’s very first model, the Tesla Roadster, was the first mass-produced, all-electric car to travel more than 320 kilometers (200 miles) on a single charge and the first highway legal one to use lithium-ion battery cells. It’s only gotten better from there.
Tesla’s Model S was the first fully electric sedan, and it earned the distinction of being the best selling plug-in electric car in the world in 2015 and 2016. Their forthcoming Model 3 is expected to put even more Teslas on the road, racking up hundreds of thousands of preorders shortly after it was announced. Even Tesla’s charging stations are better than the competition — its Supercharger network features more than 5,000 of the fastest charging stations in the world, giving Tesla drivers the ability to get back on the road quicker than any other electric vehicle.
Not only are their electric vehicles outperforming other EVs in terms of sales, driving range, and charging times, Teslas are outperforming their gas-guzzling counterparts in some ways, too. Just recently, the Model S P100D earned the distinction of being the fastest production car by accelerating from 0 to 97 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in 2.28 seconds. That’s the fastest production car, period — not just the fastest electric vehicle.
The company is building some of the highest-tech cars on the road, receiving top safety ratings, and even pushing the envelope with style (just check out those falcon wing doors on the Model X). That these cars are better for the environment ends up feeling like a really, really great bonus.
Increasing Vehicle Autonomy
By now, you’ve likely heard the statistic that 94 percent of vehicle collisions are caused by human error, resulting in thousands of deaths every year. No company has been making greater strides toward removing the human element from driving than Tesla.
A mere half-decade after the first Uber app was downloaded, ridesharing is already proving to be a major disruptor in the transportation market. This billion-dollar industry is poised to put taxi drivers out of business, so they couldn’t be happy to hear that Tesla plans to enter the market as well, but with an autonomous twist.
Sure, Lyft and Uber are already testing out autonomous vehicles for ridesharing purposes. However, their one-off, city-specific autonomy tests can’t compete with Tesla’s ability to make frequent adjustments to its Autopilot software thanks to the number of equipped vehicles already on the road. The company expects to reach Level 5 autonomy by the end of 2017, and once that happens, it’s looking to launch the Tesla Network.
This fleet of self-driving Teslas could be summoned via an app just like you would an Uber or Lyft driver, but if you’re going to take a chance on a driverless taxi, why wouldn’t you want it to be one from Tesla, the company at the forefront of the self-driving revolution? The benefits extend to Tesla owners as well, as the Network would give them a built-in way to monetize their new vehicles. “This would be something that would be a significant offset on the cost of ownership for a car,” Musk told Techcrunch back in August.
Making Solar Energy Sexy
Not content to simply reshape our roads, Tesla is also bringing residential energy into the future through its acquisition of SolarCity last year.
Compared to traditional solar panels, Tesla and SolarCity’s are attractive and available in multiple styles, ranging from slate to Tuscan, to help the energy-generating devices seamlessly blend into existing architecture. If you don’t want to worry about matching solar panels to your existing tile, though, Tesla also gives you the ability to have an entire solar roof. Either option is sure to remove “eyesore” from the vocabulary of any solar naysayers.
“I think there’s quite a radical difference between having solar panels on your roof that actually make your house look better versus ones that do not,” said Musk in a conference call. “I think it’s going to be a night-and-day difference.”
Designing Superior Batteries
Tesla’s attractive take on the traditional solar tile isn’t the only thing helping propel the company forward in the residential energy market. Its cutting-edge Powerwall and Powerpack energy storage systems are making those tiles worthwhile.
Introduced in October 2016, the Powerwall 2 system includes a 14 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, and it can be mounted on a wall or the ground, indoors or outdoor, adding to the aesthetic flexibility of Tesla’s residential solar energy systems. One Powerwall can store enough energy to power an entire two bedroom home for a whole day, and it can even be used in homes without a solar energy system, pulling energy from the electric grid when rates are lower and saving it for use during times with higher rates or a power outage.
While the Powerwall is designed for residential homes, the Powerpack system was created with utility and commercial vendors in mind. Each Powerpack contains 16 battery pods, and it can be used as a standalone system or combined with solar. The latest version, Powerpack 2, features the highest efficiency, highest power density utility-scale inverter available at the lowest cost. Telsa already built a massive 80 MWh Powerpack station for Southern California Edison and has plans for a number of other major collaborations in the near future.
If all goes according to Tesla’s plan, your home or business may never be without power again.
Creating 21st Century Jobs
Beyond making big money for its investors, some of whom expect the company to cross into the trillion dollar range in the next decade, Tesla is doing its part to share the wealth by creating much-needed jobs at home and abroad.
As of last year, Tesla only had 14,000 employees worldwide. When you consider that Musk believes the Nevada Gigafactory alone could end up employing 10,000 people, you get an idea of its growth trajectory and how it could be majorly responsible for training people in the clean energy industries of the future while keeping many jobs Stateside.
Leading By Example
Perhaps more than anything else, Tesla is changing the world by showing us that changing the world is possible. Musk is the closest thing the real world has to Tony Stark, and his work with Tesla is just the tip of the iceberg. He’s using his Boring Company to decrease traffic congestion by building a tunnel below the streets of Los Angeles, he’s revolutionizing space travel through SpaceX, and he’s even inspired the world to reimagine mass transit with his Hyperloop vision.
Musk has proven that a single person can still have a huge impact on the world around them. At a time when “big business” is often seen as the Goliath out to exploit the Davids of the world, Tesla is a welcome exception. It’s a multi-billion dollar company that seems more interested in building a better future than satisfying shareholders, and for that, we are grateful.
According to a letter to investors, the Model 3 is expected to begin production in July, and deliveries will begin later in 2017. Tesla is already building prototypes of the vehicle, and the company has noted that production will begin at 5,000 vehicles per week and slowly ramp up to 10,000 vehicles per week in 2018.
With that said, Tesla’s Gigafactory will be booming. With 550 new hires and an additional $350 million investment, the Nevada factory will produce the electric motors and gear boxes for the newest and most affordable Tesla, while other parts will be manufactured in California.
Tesla’s most recent rollout, the Model S, costs around $70,000, so the Model 3 will be just what the company needs to finally be able to compete with other affordable electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt, which sit within a similar price range of the Model 3.
All we have to do now is count the seconds until the second half of 2017.
After some recent controversy over emissions, Volkswagen is working hard to restore consumer confidence. The company’s goal to release 30 electric or hybrid vehicle models by 2025 is a centerpiece of that effort.
Their latest offering is a sleek, futuristic upgrade to one of the company’s most iconic models, the Microbus.
The I.D. Buzz is the namesake of Volkswagen’s artificial intelligence (AI) system, I.D. The AI is said to have the ability to discern between drivers to automatically customize things like seat position and other environmental factors — it can even choose the appropriate music to play. The windshield features a heads-up display, and the center console is a detachable tablet that can be used outside of the vehicle.
The I.D. Buzz boasts a spacious interior thanks to a combination of Volkswagen’s Modular Electric Driving Kit (MEB) and rearrangeable seating, which is placed on a rail system that even allows for a foldout table.
The vehicle’s two electric motors allow the bus to travel up to 434 kilometers (270 miles) on a single charge. The motors’ 369 horsepower make the vehicle capable of accelerating from zero to 96 kmh (zero to 60 mph) in five seconds, with a maximum speed of 159 kmh (99 mph).
The vehicle is also fully autonomous, relying on lidar, radar, ultrasonic sensors, and cameras to work with GPS to guide the vehicle. The car is also able to keep track of live traffic updates and to record and provide data to make driving safer for other autonomous vehicles.
We look forward to what the future has in store for Volkswagen and other companies bolstering the electric and autonomous transport revolutions.
The article itself is something of an encomium for the president’s energy policy during the last eight years, but it succinctly argues a point that has already made headlines: namely, his belief that global technological advances and market forces—to say nothing of cultural and social shifts—have imparted an irreversible momentum to the trend toward clean energy.
“[T]he mounting economic and scientific evidence,” President Obama writes, “leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow.”
It’s an important argument, with far-reaching implications for the future, and it bears a closer examination.
A New Energy Economy
The president contends that CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the energy sector have finally been “decoupled” from economic growth; in other words, that societies are no longer faced with the insupportable dilemma of having to accept economic decline and lower standards of living in order to reduce emissions. This economic reality has formed the greatest barrier to the self-imposition of limits on carbon emissions.
The use of fossil fuels has always been predicated on their cheapness and widespread availability—a low-cost means of fueling economic growth. But it seems now that emissions can remain flat while the global economy continues to grow, a historic turning-point in the economics of renewable energy. Fossil fuels will remain a cheap source of energy for a while yet; but they’re not inexhaustible, and access to them is vulnerable to the fickle winds of geopolitics, which makes them highly unattractive as a future energy source.
All of this serves to underscore the president’s point: ineluctable market forces are dictating the future energy economy, largely because technology is rewriting the terms of the equation.
Consider this: in the 20th Century, access to cheap fossil fuels was crucial to keep the wheels of industry spinning, to inject lifeblood into burgeoning economies, to power vehicle traffic and logistics, and to supply power to huge cities and rural communities alike. Now, it’s possible for a home to be almost entirely separate from the grid, powered by solar panels, and yet still have access to all the amenities associated with 21st Century living. So the trend has been from energy centralization to decentralization—a future without a vulnerable power grid, and without energy companies monopolizing access to power.
The attraction here is irresistible, and we can only expect further improvements and innovations as consumer demand for energy independence increases; falling prices for solar, battery, and electric car technology will also accelerate the evolution away from fossil fuels. At first, the new technologies—whether solar, wind, hydroelectric or tidal—will complement conventional sources of energy; but as investment increases and costs decrease, they will slowly supplant carbon-based energies and (hopefully) pave the way for a new energy economy of mixed renewable and fusion power by midcentury.
An International Effort
“It is good business and good economics to lead a technological revolution and define market trends,” President Obama writes in his article.
And the man’s got a point. It’s likely that energy—how to acquire it, produce it, manufacture it and do so as cheaply as possible—is going to be a major issue in the coming century; perhaps it will even be the defining issue. “[C]ountries and their businesses are moving forward,” the president observes, “seeking to reap benefits for their countries by being at the front of the clean-energy race.”
Nations like Germany and Costa Rica have already proven that it’s possible to run entirely on renewable energy, and we can expect more of the same in the coming decades.
So it makes sense for our country to lead in the 21st Century’s “Scramble for Energy.” With all its intellectual and financial capital, together with the sizable technological lead it already possesses, the United States is poised to become the Saudi Arabia of the new energy economy.
The president concludes his analysis on a hopeful note: “Prudent U.S. policy over the next several decades would prioritize, among other actions, decarbonizing the U.S. energy system, storing carbon and reducing emissions within U.S. lands, and reducing non-CO2 emissions.”
And it seems that, between current market forces and technological advances, this will largely be the case for the foreseeable future—irrespective of administrative policy in this or any other country.
Scientists have managed to create a unique material that, they claim, is able to do what no other material can—act as an ionic conductor and at the same time, heal itself. The group of researchers from the University of California, Riverside and University of Colorado have published their findings in Advanced Materials.
The substance they produced is low-cost, transparent, and highly elastic—able to withstand being stretched up to 50 times its original length without loss of function. It’s also very resilient. After being cut, it could repair itself completely within 24 hours at room temperature. In fact, when the severed ends are placed beside one another, the material quickly reattaches them after only five minutes—leading some to compare the fantastic new material to the superhuman regenerative powers of the X-Men’s Wolverine.
But we’ve seen self-healing materials before. What’s amazing about this offering is that it’s able to conduct electricity through the flow of ions. Usually, reactions like that weaken the integrity of the bonds that hold together self-healing polymers.
To synthesize the material, the team took advantage of ion-dipole forces. By combining a polar, elastic polymer with a strongly ionic salt, they were able to create a material with bonds that do not degrade when exposed to electricity.
Given its combination of properties, the Wolverine-inspired material was tested to power a dielectric elastomer actuator—in other words, to see if it was capable of performing as an artificial muscle. Artificial muscles, of course, are materials that respond to external electrical, physical, or thermal stimuli by expansion, contraction, or rotation.
The artificial muscle was composed of two layers of the synthesized material, with another transparent, non-conductive polymer membrane in between. Electrical signals were sent as stimuli, to which the artificial muscle responded accordingly. Further, certain areas of the artificial muscle were bisected. Stunningly, the layers healed themselves without external prompting, and without loss of function, much like how wounds naturally close up.
Wang sees immense promise in the teams’ creation, “[w]e…are just beginning to explore the applications.”
The team also believes that this new material could be used to improve batteries, electronic devices, and robots. For instance: robots could heal themselves after suffering mechanical failure; lithium ion batteries used in electronics and electric cars could have greatly extended lifespans; and biosensors for environmental monitoring and medical use could also be highly improved.
Though refinement of the material is still in its early stages, it already suggests a plethora of applications in electronics, especially in making fragile components more durable and resilient.
Elon Musk just hinted at some of Tesla’s plans for Supercharging stations on Twitter over the holidays. The SpaceX and Tesla CEO, in response to a question from Electrek‘s Frederic Lambert, talked about possible new features, including a new Supercharger V3.
@FredericLambert There are some installed already, but full rollout really needs Supercharger V3 and Powerpack V2, plus SolarCity. Pieces now in place.
Other players in the have already joined forces to develop powerful charging stations of their own in Europe, eyeing a power output of around 350 kW.
While the power output of Tesla’s Superchargers clock out at around 145 kW, the next generation would most likely exceed the industry goal. This output, along with the upcoming Powerpack V2, promises to recharge EVs at greater speeds—possibly taking only as much time as filling up traditional cars at the gas station.
The year 2016 has indeed been a great one for EVs, with more people making the switch from gas-fueled to electric-powered modes of transport. Slowly, electric cars are catching up with traditional ones in terms of performance. More long range models are becoming available, affordable alternatives are continuing to pop up, and battery power is developing at an extremely rapid pace. Indeed, the future of the electric car is bright.
General Motors and WiTricity have begun working together to make wireless charging of electric vehicles not only more efficient but also more accessible. The collaboration involves testing WiTricity’s prototype Drive 11 park-and-charge system, which could work with vehicles that have 7.7 kilowatt or 11 kilowatt systems. Electric vehicles could just park over a designated area, and the batteries would start filling up.
This hopes to address the unexpected hassles that came with owning EVs, particularly that of recharging. Although owners of EVs have foregone countless tedious trips to gasoline stations to pump fuel, they have had to deal with the new troubles of cables and adapters. Imagine coming home and forgetting to plug in your electric car, then waking up to find that it has no juice left to run.
Other partnerships have had a head start on the wireless EV charging game, but GM and WiTricity hope to take it one step further, like installing “charging pads” in public spaces and parking lots. Further, the technology is being developed so that it could be compatible with all EV models. International standards, however, are yet to be finalized. According to SAE International, the authority in wireless charging, commercialization isn’t likely until 2020.
In an effort to stop the outflow of investments, and at the same time, reduce carbon emissions, China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Commerce have announced a new policy that will relax the country’s protectionist laws for electric vehicles — subject to public approval.
The global superpower has laws in force that require foreign automobile companies wanting to establish a Chinese production base to form partnerships with the local ones, and divulge their manufacturing process. This discourages external competition and protects the domestic manufacturers. But apparently China can’t produce enough EVs by itself, so it’s bringing in foreign companies.
As it stands, the government is rallying for its citizens to make the switch to EVs. China wants to have 5 million EVs rolled out on the roads by 2020, as a measure to combat its massive carbon footprint.
This is backed up by studies which show that “electrification” of automobiles is a huge step towards being green. One of which shows that an across-the-table use of EVs reduces greenhouse gasses by 45 to 77 percent, carbon emissions by 80 to 100%, and air quality.
For a country that has been struggling with carbon emissions like China, EVs could be instrumental in achieving its goals. The relaxation of laws cultivates competition, which hopefully results in more EVs on the road, and more efficient models in the future.