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Tesla Model 3 Production Keeps Ramping — Hitting Near 2,400 Per Week in Early April

Past behavior can often be predictive of future results. Sometimes, however, we are pleasantly surprised. Such is the case with Tesla’s Model 3 production ramp this week.

Tesla’s Big Surge Continues

According to reports from both Electrek and Bloomberg, Tesla appears to have sustained weekly rates of Model 3 production above 2,000 for more than 14 days. Indicators for this continued surge come in the form of record VIN number releases. For since late March, the number of Model 3 VINs ordered from the U.S. government has doubled from approximately 14,000 to around 28,000. Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s Model 3 production tracker has surged to 2,394 all-electric vehicles per week. A new record.

(Bloomberg’s Model 3 tracker has captured a big surge in Model 3 production translating through to early Q2. Image source: Bloomberg.)

The big jump in VINs comes along with Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s announcement that he planned to continue Model 3 production rates of over 2,000 vehicles per week into early April. This higher production rate is contrary to past production behavior by Tesla — which typically surges late in a financial quarter and then backs off at the start of a new quarter.

5,000 Per Week Model 3 Production Goal in Sight

And though it is still possible that we could see all-electric, zero-tailpipe emissions Model 3 production slackening a bit following this most recent, apparent much longer-running surge, there are indications that Tesla’s capability is rapidly expanding. First, it appears that two lines are now running for Tesla Model 3 and related battery production. Second, it appears that many of the Model 3 bottlenecks have been addressed. And, third, it looks like new Model 3 production infrastructure continues to spring up in the form of dedicated facilities at Tesla’s Fremont plant and Nevada Gigafactory.

(A drone fly-over of the Tesla Fremont factory shows new buildings that appear to be dedicated to Model 3 production efforts. Video source: Tesla Factory Flyover Drone.)

Tesla’s production legs are, therefore, growing longer. And, in light of this fact, it appears that our earlier estimate that Model 3 would produce between 17,000 and 27,000 during Q2 may fall a bit short. As a result, that estimate is now adjusted upward to 18,000-30,000. This steepening ramp is increasingly possible especially if Tesla is able to maintain production rates in excess of 2,000 Model 3s per week through April and May even as it attempts a surge to 5,000 Model 3s per week by June.

Diversification of Model Line Planned For July

Tesla presently still has around 470,000 reservation holders for the Model 3. However, it’s uncertain how many of these are waiting for the long-range, rear-wheel drive version that is now in production. Past indicators are that the number is around 100 to 120K. Most of the rest either appear to be holding out for the dual motor version or for the lower price version. A 5,000 vehicle per week production rate will quickly eat through remaining long range, rear wheel reservation holders. And it is likely for this reason that Elon Musk is planning to start looking at producing the dual motor Model 3 during July of 2018.

So not only is the pace of Model 3 production quickening, the advent of new Model 3 versions is on the horizon. All-in-all this is good news for Model 3 reservation holders and for renewable energy/climate change response backers in general. We’ll have to watch Tesla indicators closely. But it appears, more and more, that the company is able to put Model 3 production hell behind it. To step it out as an all clean energy mass producer.

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U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Rocket Higher — Breaking New Records in March

A proliferation of attractive electrical vehicle models produced by automakers combined with a surging Tesla to generate a significant new U.S. sales record in March.

The surge is indicative of a break-out ‘moment’ for EVs that will likely result in serious growth in this clean energy segment throughout 2018. The potential now exists that total U.S. EV sales will exceed 300,000 this year. As the global, regional and local impacts of continued high carbon emissions from fossil fuel industry worsens, this surge in clean energy technology couldn’t come on fast enough. However, as is true with all carbon emission reduction efforts, the pace needs to be quickened if we are to provide a navigable pathway through the rising crisis that is human-caused global warming.

44 Percent Growth YoY

In total, March saw 26,373 electrical vehicles sold in the U.S. This is about a 44 percent growth rate over March of 2017 at 18,542 EVs hitting the streets during that time. It was also a new all-time monthly record for the U.S.

(Due to better overall efficiency and zero tailpipe emissions, pure electrical vehicles presently cut annual carbon emissions by more than half. Plug-in hybrids also produce substantial emissions reductions. But the kicker is that when combined with an all renewable grid, pure EV production to roadways carbon emissions fall by 90 percent to up to 100 percent if materials and logistics are decoupled from carbon sources as well. Grids in the U.S. are becoming cleaner. As a result, EV emissions are making further progress over their dirty gas and diesel counterparts. Image source: Union of Concerned Scientists.)

Tesla Model 3, beginning a break out production surge, led the pack by hitting 3,820 sales. Tesla Model S trailed somewhat at 3,375. While Toyota Prius Prime’s plug in hybrid rounded out the top 3 at 2,922.

In the past, sales rates in excess of around 500 for individual models in any given month was seen as significant. And from the Chrysler Pacifica plug in hybrid (480) on upward to the Chevy Volt (1,782) and Tesla Model X (2,825), fully ten attractive models (outside of the top 3) fall within this range at present. These include both the Chevy Bolt (1,774) and the Nissan Leaf (1,500). Bolt, a long range all-electric vehicle rated at over 200 miles produced significant sales in the 2,000s to low 3,000s per month late last year. But as the Model 3 production ramp has increased, Bolt sales have lagged. A 151 mile range version of the Nissan Leaf (1,500) is one of the top selling EVs globally. However, the new Leaf’s production ramp in the U.S. has been a bit slower. That said, it’s expected that the Nissan sales effort for the Leaf in the U.S. will be substantial going forward.

Sales Surge Due to Multiple Factors

Meanwhile, the long tale of models selling between 100 and 400 is extending — with fully 16 models accounted for in that range.

(The U.S. saw a major surge in electrical vehicle sales during March. The start of a trend that will likely continue through the end of 2018. Image source: Inside EVs.)

The primary drivers of the major sales surge, therefore, are multiple. First, Tesla’s own production effort creates a lot of momentum for the surge — so far adding a net gain of around 3,000 vehicles all by itself. A second surge comes in the form of the advent of more attractive long range EV models like the Bolt and the Leaf — both of which are drawing intense interest from buyers. A proliferation of attractive plug in electric hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius Prime, The Chrysler Pacifica, The Honda Clarity (1070), and the Chevy Volt is leading a third wave in the surge. A final push comes simply due to model proliferation and increased general sales efforts.

Due to these combined trends, and due to the fact that additional attractive long range EV models are likely to become available during 2018, the 300,000 EV per year mark appears to be well within reach for the U.S. during 2018. Hitting so high would represent more than 50 percent growth over 2017. However, if major EV manufacturers like Tesla manage to step up their production game further, even the 300,000 mark could be substantially overcome.

Exciting if uncertain times.

 

Top Global EV Automaker? Telsa Electrical Vehicle Production Surges During Early 2018

The Tesla bears have all sorts of reasons to cry today.

Not only did Tesla manage to produce four times the number of revolutionary Model 3 vehicles it made during the fourth quarter of 2017, it also hit multiple additional milestones even as CEO Elon Musk derided unfounded rumors that the company was in need of an immediate cash infusion.

Model 3 Surge

Tesla bet its future on the Model 3. And after a nine month period of production chaos and uncertainty, it appears that the bet is starting to pay off.

Late in December of 2017, after struggling through a hellish maze of bottle-necks, Model 3 production rates briefly hit above 1,000 vehicles per week. At year start, this rate slackened somewhat only to reassert by early February. During late February, the Model 3 line was shut down briefly for improvements. Meanwhile, the battery-mass-producing Gigafactory in Nevada (at 11 GWh per year and growing) had opened up a second line for Model 3 batteries after new equipment was shipped in from another Tesla factory in Germany.

With a number of bottle-necks addressed, by mid-March Model 3 production was again surging — hitting around 1,400 per week. A final big late push by the end of the month resulted in weekly production in the range of 2020.

This impressive effort by Tesla generated nearly 10,000 Model 3s for Q1 of 2018. Of this number, about 8,200 are thought to have been sold.

Record First Quarter

With Model 3 selling at nearly as high a rate as Model S and Model X, Tesla appears to have rounded out the first quarter of 2018 with a record 29,980 vehicles delivered. A number that is likely to top 30,000 once all sales are counted. Tesla produced far more — hitting 40 percent growth and 34,494 all-electric vehicles made.

The clean energy company also announced that Model S and X orders were at an all time record high. A slight lag in S and X production during Q4 of 2017, therefore, was the likely cause of slightly lower S/X sales during Q1 of 2018. However, it appears that Tesla is rapidly catching up as it reports that 4060 of these cars were in transit to customers at the start of Q2 even as another 2040 Model 3s were also en route.

Top Selling EV Automaker Globally

Given approximately 30,000 cars sold and 34,500 produced in Q1 of 2018, it appears that Tesla is again in the running for the best-selling maker of electrical vehicles the world over. For it looks like other top contenders — BYD (China) and BMW (Germany) — will sell in the mid 20,000s during the first three months of this year. At the very least, current tracking indicates that Tesla will likely be in the top 3 with BAIC and Nissan trailing behind.

(Top global EV sellers list for January and February from InsideEVs puts Tesla at 5th globally. But a surge in sales during March likely pushed Tesla into the top spot for Q1. Image source: InsideEVs.)

Tesla Model 3 is also likely to hit within the top 6 EVs sold the world over for Q1. Nissan Leaf and the BAIC EC series will likely claim the top two spots. However, the story going into Q 2 is likely to be considerably changed as Tesla tests new limits.

Model 3 Production Likely to Hit 17,000 to 27,000 During Q2

In the U.S., the Model 3 is the uncontested top selling EV already. And its lead is likely to continue to widen.

Tesla notes that it will continue 2,000 Model 3 per week production during the first week of April. If past trends are any reliable indicator, this rate is likely to slacken somewhat as Tesla pauses for breath by mid-April. It doesn’t look like the 3’s production will drop significantly lower than the 1,200 per week mark going forward into April and May, however.

And as the quarter continues, Tesla will also likely attempt another period of surge production aimed at hitting the 5,000 vehicle per week mark. Such a surge will likely occur in June. But we might be treated to a mini surge or two by early to mid May as Tesla tests the 2,000 to 2,500 vehicle per week (or higher) mark again within the next five to six weeks. We expect weekly production during Q2 to average between slightly more than 1,400 per week to 2,250 per week with the number of Model 3s produced approximately doubling to tripling when compared to Q1.

The result is that Tesla appears to be on track to sell between 39,000 and 49,000 EVs (including Model S and Model X) during the second quarter. A surge in sales that will almost certainly propel it to the world’s top EV manufacturer even as Model 3 begins to hit breakout production velocity.

Fossil-Fuel Spear-Headed Fake News Attacks on Electrical Vehicles Intensify as Sales Ramp

In China, the world’s largest automobile market, something amazing is starting to happen. A swarm of electrical vehicles is hitting the streets. The smoggy, smoke-choked air is starting to clear. And oil demand is slowly starting to slacken.

Ramping electrical vehicle production in China takes a bit out of oil demand. Image source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Fossil fuel profit-addicted investors are starting to panic as oil’s very real carbon-spewing death-grip ’round the neck of what is now the world’s largest economy is slowly being pried off.

But big oil is nothing if not a tricky and resourceful beast. So as electrical transportation leaders are marching the world away from dirty energy sources, the fossil-fueled monstrosity is fighting back tooth and nail with its primary weapon of choice…

Fake News 

It’s one of those blanket terms that has been dramatically mis-used by those like Trump to generate a million false impressions of late. To attack credible, public-serving media sources and to generate an assault on freedom of the press in total. But the term has its origins in a very real problem that each of us have to deal with every day. That problem being that some news sources can and often do, intentionally or unintentionally, get the story wrong.

Why?

Well, it can happen for a hundred different reasons not the least of which is social and individual bias. But a key issue for the present day is news generated by special-interest related media aimed at creating an impression that serves that particular interest’s goals. In other words — media that sells to or pushes from a particular political, ideological, or business-related frame of reference.

Public relations campaigns aimed at misinforming the public about harmful products or to tamp down competition by more benevolent industries have long been funded by fossil fuel interests. Image source: Smoke and Fumes.

If, for example, you’re a Fox News viewer, then your information comes with such a heavy conservative and pro-established industry bias that you tend to believe fallacies like ‘climate change isn’t real or dangerous,’ ‘Hillary Clinton sold Uranium to the Russians,’ ‘giving more money to rich people by cutting taxes pays off the national debt,’ ‘Russian interference didn’t alter the outcome of the 2016 election,’ ‘social security is an entitlement and not a government run savings program that you pay into so you have a cushion for retirement,’ and ‘all real energy comes from fossil fuels.’

These media objects and impressions could well be considered fake news.

Fossil Fuel Special Interest Fake News

In the climate and clean energy sphere, we are confronted with these kinds of targeted messages every day. More specifically, what we see is a proliferation of messages aimed at delaying a transition to clean energy and enabling the continued dominance of fossil fuel based energy sources on and on into the future.

The primary messaging issues that we deal with here are smears, doubt promotion, distractions, and myth propagation.

Lately, for anyone that’s been paying attention, we’ve seen an amazing amount of smear-based hyperbole aimed at clean energy leaders like Tesla. Not a single day goes by when we don’t have some ‘journalist’ who holds a short position in Tesla as a company beating the old hackneyed drum over which terrible demise Tesla is ‘destined’ to suffer this day or that. And this short interest is not focused on predicting so much as it is on manufacturing reality.

‘Short EV Interest’

If we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that short interest in clean industry leaders like Tesla is primarily propagated by pro-fossil fuel sources. Most of the short ‘journalists’ have some association with the fossil fuel industry. And practically all take a negative view of the prominent and most widely available clean energy sources of the day.

Some will even promote a prospective clean energy source, like hydrogen, as a distraction from the larger mega-trend represented by wind, solar and batteries. But this is more as a shiny object in the form of systems that are 5-15 years or longer from actual realization. A kind of vapor-ware competition in impression vs the real trends.

Taking this week’s penchant to proffer the hydrogen economy distraction as an example, we find that during 2017 more than 1.2 million electrical vehicles sold worldwide. Hydrogen based vehicles sold far less well — at approximately 3,500 units in 2017 or about 1 hydrogen fueled vehicle to every 350 EVs hitting the roads. Moreover, global EV sales could hit as high as 2 million in 2018 and 4-5 million by 2020. Though hydrogen might get off its laurels and start to show real gains by the early 2020s or later, electrified transport is taking flight now.

Moreover, hydrogen presents its own emissions problems as it is presently 90 percent produced from reformed natural gas in a high-carbon emitting process. The promise of mass-electrolysis based hydrogen from renewables and other low carbon processes are, you guessed it, 5-15 years off. And, even more concerning, major oil companies like Shell are heavily invested in hydrogen — which increases the likelihood that it will serve as a spoiler and not as an enabler of the clean energy transition.

Just as electrical vehicles reach their moment of realization, major media attacks against the clean energy trend emerge. Image source: EV Volumes.

This week the flavor is hydrogen. Next week it will be nuclear. Next it will be something else that can be slow-walked. Anything to distract from the actual electrical, solar, wind revolution that is now in progress and achieving rapid advancements.

It’s at these critical times when the pro fossil fuel and anti renewable energy messaging tends to proliferate on a mass scale. And today is just such a time. For right now, global EV sales are surging. Spear-headed by industry leaders like Tesla and countries like China, the electrification revolution is on. And the oil companies know it. In rather short order, as occurred recently with coal, global oil demand could drop. And those magical, marginal profits that fossil fuel investors have been addicted to for so many years and decades could go up in one final puff of CO2 laden smoke.

Will Tesla Survive The Assault?

So it is at this crucial time that all of the major media guns associated with the fossil fuel industry are now unleashing a furious, focus-fire barrage on Tesla. We’ve hinted at some of the reasons above. But looking deeper we find that Tesla’s all-clean-industry business model is the exact antithesis to that produced by traditional industry.

From its lock to its stock to its barrel, Tesla is clean tech through and through. It builds battery plants, it builds solar panels, it builds battery storage for homes, it builds all clean energy vehicles, it builds EV charging networks. And it works to integrate them all. Not one dollar of Tesla capital is wasted on fossil fuel extraction or machinery that burns fossil fuels. Not one iota. Not one cent.

The Tesla model is the model of a pure path away from carbon emissions and if it gets duplicated in one subset or another by companies the world over, then big fossil fuel is finished. If Tesla generates competition by example, as it is doing, then the clean energy revolution takes flight and there’s nothing that the oil, coal, or gas industry can do to stop it.

So from the fossil fuel point of view, Tesla must die. And that is the primary reason why we are seeing so many negative news stories lately about Tesla. Not because of Tesla’s intrinsic weaknesses. Not due to some puffed up accident investigation. These are the facts — the negative bias against Tesla comes from fossil fuel industry based sources. Fin.

Facing such a massive wall of media, political, and industry opposition isn’t easy. In all honesty, it’s amazing that Tesla has made it as far as it has. And under the present barrage, Tesla’s survival is again somewhat in doubt. I think it will pull through this relatively difficult period to emerge as both a major automaker and a global clean industry leader. But if the shorts win and Tesla goes down it will be due to direct sabotage by fossil fuel special interests — not due to some other failure. And that’s not fake news.

Big Auto Freaks Out as Tesla Model 3 Deliveries for Q1 Track Toward 8,000 to 10,000

The major automakers are increasingly in a bind. They’re faced with a choice — keep investing in dirty energy vehicles that pollute the air, the water and wreck the climate, jump feet first into the EV revolution, or play both sides. And it’s this dichotomy that’s producing some rather freaky behavior.

(GM has often talked big about its EVs like the Volt and the Bolt. But its policy positions are contradictory to a rapid clean energy vehicle ramp.)

We’ve heard a lot of talk from some major automakers about how many electrical vehicles they’ll be producing in one year, two years, three years or more. And even as these companies have been beating the drum about ‘Tesla killers,’ how they have enough capital to own the EV revolution, some of them keep lobbying for dirty energy vehicles by attacking U.S. fuel efficiency standards.

It’s an inherent contradiction between communication and dedicated action. One that has generated a degree of legitimate distrust in the notion that some big auto manufacturers will follow up on their clean energy promises. Whether the talk is little more than a PR campaign aimed at tamping down public loyalty to those like Tesla who operate under a 100 percent clean energy business model. At the very least, it shows that auto industry focus is starting to fragment between traditionals (which include many backward-looking CEOs) who still support harmful legacy combustion engine production while hiding behind token ‘compliance cars,’ and the progressive-minded within the industry who want to rapidly jump into the EV market and compete.

(Not a compliance car. Nissan and a handful of like-minded major auto manufacturers produce and market seriously competitive EVs. Others appear to be dithering and dissembling.)

As uncertainty over auto industry intent expands due to various contradictory behaviors, here in the U.S., Tesla has been consistently ramping its production of 100 percent clean energy vehicles. And this has generated an equally predictable gnashing of teeth from the usual suspects in the financial media.

During the fourth quarter of 2017, Tesla’s factories pumped out a record number of electrical vehicles. In total, it delivered 29,870 zero tailpipe emissions cars. These included 15,200 Model S, 13,120 Model X, and 1,550 of the new Model 3s. This was the highest production quarter for Tesla and it was enough to propel its total sales for the year to over 101,000.

(Tesla Model 3 is one of the major spear-heads of a clean energy revolution. And it’s helping to goad other western automakers into a larger and expanding EV market. Image source: Tesla.)

Q1 of 2018, however, is likely to see even more. Present delivery estimates for Model S and X alone range from 22,000 to 30,000. Meanwhile the Model 3 is likely to have expanded deliveries more than fivefold to between 8,000 and 10,000. So a total of 30,000 to 40,000 Teslas will likely have hit the road by the time March elapses.

This is particularly significant when one considers that the first quarter is typically a lower selling point for most automakers even as sales have tended to peak for Tesla during Q4. During Q1 of 2017, Tesla sold 25,418 EVs. A number that will likely grow by 20 to 60 percent during 2018.

Moreover, recent reports indicate that Model 3 production is surging.

On March 19th, it was found that Tesla had ordered a large new batch of VINS. As a result, the total Tesla Model 3 VIN count had jumped to nearly 16,000. An indicator that Tesla Model 3 production — which has ranged between 700 and 900 per week since January is also likely expanding.

So it seems that the Tesla production bottle necks are starting to clear and that its ramp is jumping yet again. What this represents is a major call on the traditional auto-manufacturers. The time has come to ante up the EVs, or get out of the way for new clean energy leaders. Bluff time is over.

The Electrical Vehicle Revolution Keeps Expanding

While we often highlight the harmful impacts of fossil fuel burning in the form of ongoing crises like sea level rise and increasingly extreme weather, it’s important to keep shining a light on the fact that there are various climate change solutions available to us now. These solutions come in the form of policies and technologies presently at hand. A key solution being the ongoing renewable energy revolution.

A major aspect of this revolution is expanding access to clean energy vehicles and the high energy density batteries that drive their electric motors (see batteries will kill fossil fuels). Though we like to highlight the sustainability advantages of Tesla’s all-renewable business model, there are a number of other automakers who are also contributing. And these producers are manufacturing some increasingly kick-ass clean energy machines.

This widening field produces healthy competition between EV companies even as it results in greater overall appeal for electrical transportation in general. We covered Jaguar’s new I-Pace last week — which is a smaller competitor to the Model X (or maybe it’s not much of a competitor). But one that features high quality, a lower base price of around 70,000 dollars, (down from earlier estimates in the 80s) comparable range and rapid acceleration.

(Hyundai’s Kona SUV is expected to start selling in Europe, Korea and possibly the U.S. later this year.)

Another new high-quality, long-legged entry to the small EV SUV arena is the Hyundai Kona. Reported to have a range between 186 and 292 miles, the Kona is Hyundai’s second EV following the Ioniq. And it’s expected to launch in Europe and South Korea this spring to summer with a hopeful U.S. release for later this year. Like the I-Pace, it’s projected to sell about 20,000 units each year worldwide. But unlike the Jag and the X, it will probably have a sticker price that’s quite a bit lower than $70,000 to $100,000 (no firm word yet on cost). Though Hyundai recently poked fun at Tesla with a billboard, placing its hat in the ring as yet another ‘Tesla competitor,’ Kona is a smaller, slower SUV with a 0-60 acceleration of 9 seconds. But Kona’s sleek exterior and long range prove that you don’t have to travel at ludicrous speed to be attractive.

It’s worth adding that the increasing ranges and capabilities of these new gen EVs are quite compelling overall. The cars are a big jump forward and, in many respects, they’re better than the fossil fuel based vehicles they’re actually competing with (despite all the talk-talk about Tesla killers). Given the fact that billions and billions of dollars are presently being invested in EVs around the globe, we are likely to see a good many more high-quality EV models produced in a number of years.

(EV sales north of 16,000 during February [not yet illustrated] is a big jump that hints at a break-out year for U.S. electrical auto sales. Image source: Inside EVs.)

Not only are big automakers like Volkswagen and Porsche announcing new concept EVs with increasing frequency even as actual models keep coming out from an expanding list of companies, we also have all-electric start-ups jumping into the fray. Notably the China-backed NIO brand just made a $2 billion dollar IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. And, meanwhile, Dyson is backing its own electrical car division — with three clean energy autos on the drawing board so far.

The proliferation of EVs is already having a big impact on U.S. sales. Just during February of 2018, 16,489 electrical cars sold in the U.S. This is up considerably from the record 12,375 sold during the same month of 2017 and is even a big jump from earlier estimates near 14,000. One driver of this increase is rising Model 3 sales. But there’s also a nice fat tail coming in from the expanding number of high quality EVs selling in the range of 250 to 1,000 units per month.

The flow of new offerings from the clean energy revolution in autos is thus starting to look more and more like a fire-hose. And it’s about to get faster.

Earned Respect: As Other Automakers Promise, Tesla Delivers

Clean energy and climate change action advocates take note — Tesla is working hard to deliver on its sustainability promises. It is expanding EVs, solar, and battery storage on many fronts. And it has produced an all clean energy business model that no western corporation has yet to successfully emulate at scale.

*****

There’s been a lot of news during recent months about Tesla Model 3 production delays. And it presently appears that Tesla is manufacturing around 700 Model 3s per week.

This is still far short of Tesla’s stated goal of 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of this Quarter. It is even further from the 5,000 Model 3 per week goal it has established for 2018. However, most other EV manufacturers are being left in the dust by this so-called ‘slow’ production ramp.

Take the Chevy Bolt, for example. Here’s a well-built EV that some claimed would steal Tesla sales. That Chevy originally stated it expected to sell at a rate of 50,000 per year. Last year, Bolt sold 26,000 worldwide. Pretty decent. But if GM had marketed the high-quality, long range car with the same fervor that Nissan markets the Leaf, it’s entirely likely that Chevy could have gotten much closer to that 50,000 goal.

(Tesla’s vision for a clean energy future is a work in progress that is refined step-by-step. Case in point — adding solar panels to the Tesla Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. Image source: Building Tesla.)

Now Bolt is selling at the rate of about 1,250 per month in the U.S. during early 2018. Chevy is assuring prospective EV customers it will ramp up production again soon. But, so far, these are just assurances. Meanwhile, Model 3, despite delays, just sold about 2,485 in February and, in all likelihood, will approach or cross the 3,000 mark during March. Another way of putting it is that a delayed Model 3 just blew Chevy Bolt sales out of the water.

It’s worth noting that top EV analysts like Zachary Shahan over at Clean Technica are speculating that despite Tesla’s stated and pursued goals, the company may well be tracking closer to its original build path of 500,000 EVs per year by 2020. A build path that practically everyone said was impossible at the time it was announced in 2013 but which expanded following unexpectedly high demand for the Model 3.

To set out a marker, Tesla sold approximately 100,000 vehicles globally during 2017. This year, depending on how quickly the Model 3 ramps up, it will likely sell between 150,000 and 250,000.

The activity of Tesla in deploying EVs and other clean technology could well be described as building and improving a plane already in flight. Tesla vehicles are produced and sold to employees during beta testing even as the production line is refined and worked out. Low rate initial production then follows. And after that, mass market production and scaling. We saw this most clearly in the launch of the Model X which, though slow, ramped up to produce the best selling all-electric SUV in the western world.

(Tesla historic quarterly production through end of 2017. Note that Model 3 will likely produce between 6,000 and 8,000 units during Q1 of 2018. Data source: Tesla. Image source: Daniel Sparks.)

The Model 3 is simpler. It is, overall, easier to produce. However, a new battery pack design appears to be the source of its initial delays. Not much has been broadly confirmed about the Model 3 battery pack. But it implies a greater energy density than past packs. And getting any production kinks worked out is critical for both Model 3 and also Tesla’s future designs like Model Y — including upgrades to the S and X.

Despite likely battery production kinks, Model 3 will probably deliver between 6,500 and 8,500 units during Q1 of 2018 or nearly twice the number of Model X’s delivered 3 quarters in. It’s also about 25 to 60 percent more than the number of Model S’s hitting roads after 3 quarters. Facts that should be taken into account.

At the same time that Tesla is working through the Model 3 production ramp, it is also continuing to innovate. Recent satellite photos reveal that the Nevada Gigafactory 1 — which is producing batteries even as it is under modular construction — is starting to add solar panels to its roof top (see image at top). These panels will reduce the amount of carbon emitted in producing each battery pack. In turn, reducing the sunk carbon cost of producing each Model 3 and, ultimately, each Model S and X. Thus increasing the already substantial net carbon reductions achieved by each Tesla clean energy vehicle vs dirty gas and diesel guzzlers.

Meanwhile, the Tesla Semi — which was announced just 112 days ago — is already entering Tesla’s factory vehicle fleet to haul freight in the form of Nevada Gigafactory produced battery packs shipped to the California production plant. So it seems that the all-electric Semi has shortly started its own live testing prior to expected sales during 2019. And the Semis, like the solar panels are helping to further improve Tesla’s already substantial carbon emissions reductions.

In other words, Tesla’s work in progress model is working. It is producing. It is testing, and improving. It is delivering. Clean energy Model 3, Model X, Model S and the Semi are not just concepts. These are designs in operation that are being sold and used even as their production paths are expanded. This is what actual delivery of innovative, cutting edge, climate change impact reducing products looks like. The form an actual value-driven (as opposed to solely profit-driven), sustainability-driven business model takes. The rest of the auto industry should be standing at attention.

Respect.

This Week’s Climate and Clean Energy Brief: Amazon on the Brink, Tesla Competitors Emerge, Civilization Collapse Report, Trump Trashed on Environment, Utilities Partner with EVs

There was quite a lot that we missed in the climate and clean energy world this week. So, in an effort to catch up, we’re going to provide you with a handful of the major highlights. But before we continue, I’d like to also mention that a major and potentially weather event with climate change related influences is now starting to slam the U.S. Northeast with high winds, waves and heavy surf.

We’re compiling a report for later this afternoon on yet one more extreme weather event in a long procession. So watch this space.

The Amazon Rainforest is on the brink of collapseFor a number of years now, we’ve been covering the dual impacts of human-caused climate change and deforestation on the Amazon Rainforest. One of our expert commenters, Umbrios, is a Brazil native and regularly provides updates in the threads below. So those who’ve followed along here have known for a while now that the Amazon is in serious trouble.

Rising temperatures are increasing instances of wildfires within the typically wet forest. Meanwhile, encroaching farms and settlements have cut and burned through the lush jungle, invading it with roads and threatening to choke off what is one of the great ecological treasures of our world.

(A combination of slash and burn deforestation, droughts, rising temperatures and wildfires are pushing the Amazon Rainforest to the brink. A new study finds that human encroachment and climate change are on the verge of transforming half of the Amazon into less productive grasslands. Image source: The Union of Concerned Scientists.)

The concern is that the Amazon, which is under increasing threat like so many other key environments around the world, reaches a tipping point where much of it is transformed into less productive and less helpful Savannah. Where that point rests on the temporal and spatial scale has long been a subject of debate. But a new study finds that it’s much closer than many had feared.

In total, about 17 percent of the Amazon has been deforested. And what the study found was that, due to continued rising temperatures associated with human caused climate change, only another 3 percent deforestation would be enough to transform fully half of the Amazon into Savannah. In this case, global warming is acting in concert with local clear-cutting to provide a dual threat to this great forest that is home to 14 million species and is one of the largest remaining carbon sinks on the planet.

Tesla competitors emergeOn the sustainability side of our ongoing story of tragedy, hope and crisis, we find that a number of automakers are emerging to challenge Tesla’s all-renewable business model. Unfortunately, so far, most automakers are confronting Tesla with single model designs rather than a full transformation of business strategies. But what is encouraging is the rising quality of EVs entering the production fleet.

A good example is this week’s announcement by Jaguar that its I-PACE EV can out accelerate some versions of the Tesla Model X. I-PACE is an EV sporting a 90 KW battery pack and a 240 mile range. It’s priced between 87,000 and 102,000 dollars (US) and it has a stated acceleration of 4.5 seconds from 0-60 mph. This makes it a peer or a near peer to the Tesla Model X which starts at 85,000 dollars, has an all electric range of between 257 and 289 miles, and can accelerate from 0-60 in 4.9 to 2.9 seconds (P100D).

(Jaguar promotes smaller, long-range, high performance, high-price I-PACE electric vehicle as competitor to the Tesla Model X. But is Jaguar really serious about transformational EV production? Or is it just trying to slow Tesla’s all-renewable Juggernaut down? Image source: Jaguar.)

The I-PACE is, however, smaller than the X. Weighing less, it likely relies on this lower mass to match Model X acceleration and range due to Tesla’s superior battery energy density. But what is clear is that Jaguar is trying to compete with Tesla on turf that the all-electric automaker has long dominated.

Jaguar claims that the I-PACE is part of a transformational strategy. But a single EV entry is hardly tranformational compared to Tesla’s larger EV-only production chain and design path. So the question for renewable energy supporters is — does this Janguar really help to speed the clean energy transition, or is it just another rock a primarily fossil fuel based motor company is throwing into the road to delay Tesla? Time, and the number of EVs Jaguar produces (both as models and as single model production) will tell.

Scientists are concerned about the risk of civilization collapse due to climate change and how harmful political ideologies are making matters worse. So my background is one of emerging threats. I worked in the U.S. military, as a member of the U.S. Navy’s DOD force protection group, and as Editor for Emerging Threats at Jane’s Information Group. And it has long been my goal here to analyze climate change impacts in the frame of a systemic threat that increases civilization collapse pressure.

In the military context, climate change is often described as a Threat Multiplier. Rising global temperatures and associated sea level rise, growing season disruption, and increasingly severe weather events can severely damage infrastructure or tear at the fabric of societies — generating conditions of mass desperation the world over. Those focused both on humanitarian relief efforts, often a military mission, and on combating rising instances of extremism (which are often fueled by economic desperation or inability to access shelter, food, and water) are now very concerned about the impact of climate change disruptions on global stability.

(Illustration of instances where climate change has multiplied instability. Note that effects range well outside the regions indicated in the above graphic. Image source: Climate Change as a Problem of National and International Security.)

Unfortunately, these disruptions do not always occur far from home. And no nation has a viable defense against harms associated with climate change. Over the past year, the U.S. has seen some of the most damaging extreme weather events in its history. And most of these have been scientifically linked to climate change. One instance — Maria’s strike to Puerto Rico — resulted in a systemic collapse that has yet to be fully repaired. Part of this failure is due to the severe nature of the climate change enhanced storm. But another aspect of the U.S.’s failure to support Puerto Rico was the fact that the Republican Party was held in the grips of the harmful ideology of climate change denial, jingoism, and anti-government thinking.

This ideology, which has captured so much of the political state of play of one of the world’s greatest nations, cripples responses to the growing existential threat of climate change. It denies both mitigation in the form of renewable energy funding even as it denies the necessary level of support in response to the disasters that climate change produces in ever-greater numbers and on increasingly destructive scales.

The new climate change collapse threat study discussed above is being conducted to examine the societal risks of climate change in light of political capture by harmful ideologies that fail to recognize realities on the ground as they emerge. We’ll be following it here with interest.

Trump trashed on terrible, disjointed, reckless environmental policies. Pretty much every thinking, rational person in the free world has now been woke to the fact that Trump cares little for the safety and security of the American people and sees the office of the Presidency primarily as a means to advance the personal interests of himself, his family, and his close associates. Never before has an Administration acted in so corrupt a fashion or courted so many nefarious entities in a brazen effort at self-promotion, damn all public consequences.

“Over and over again, the Trump administration has put the profits of multinational polluters over the health and well-being of everyday Americans,” — Eric Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general.

One of Trump’s first harmful and self-serving actions was raise Scott Pruitt to head of the Environmental Protection Agency. An unprecedented assault of critical safety-related protections of the American citizenry soon followed. An assault led by policies promoted, through Pruitt, not just by his allies in the coal, oil, and gas industry; but by practically every harmful polluting industry.

(The Center For Biological Diversity has filed 57 lawsuits against the Trump Administration. And it just just one of many agencies leveling an all out response to Trump’s assault on the environment.)

The Trump Administration has tried to enable the dumping of dental mercury into water systems, to allow the use of a substance harmful to child brain development, to enable the environmental release of such dangerous toxins as lead, to let gas companies leak poisonous and climate change enhancing methane plumes into the local environment, to allow trucks and automobiles that spew smog, to halt the protection of key species like bumblebees, and to roll back the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act.

Such harmful and irresponsible actions have resulted in the Administration being hit by scores of court cases. Rick Sniedermann, the New York Attorney General, alone has produced 50 environmental lawsuits aimed at preventing the roll-back of key protections. And in many instances, the Administration’s pro-polluter policies are suffering serious losses in court.

Utilities partner with EV manufacturers. There’s an amazing clean energy synergy that’s yet to be fully leveraged. It’s a case where wind, solar, other clean energy sources, EVs and EV batteries are capable both of reducing emissions and of creating valuable new energy markets. PG&E apparently recognizes this opportunity and is more than willing to partner with automakers to incentivize it.

BMW and PG&E are offering a 10,000 dollar rebate for the BMW i3 to utility customers. The offer is beneficial to those purchasing an EV because it can reduce the cost of a 44,000 dollar EV to 24,000 after all state, federal, and utility/automaker rebates.

(PG&E power mix shows potential for substantial greenhouse gas emissions reductions for EV owners who purchase electricity from the utility vs those who own a gasoline or diesel-burning vehicle. At some point, PG&E may well considering changing its name to Pacific Electric. As the gas portion is increasingly less relevant to its energy portfolio. Image source: PG&E.)

The utility benefits due to increased electricity demand coming from the EV user. And BMW benefits from the marketing provided by PG&E which helps it to clear old models from its inventory and pave the way for more advanced electrical cars.

It’s also worth noting that PG&E generates more than 70 percent of its electricity from non-carbon-emitting sources and it has a goal for continuing to expand its clean energy allotment. So EV owners who are PG&E customers are engaged in substantially reducing their transportation based carbon emissions over time.

This Week’s Climate and Clean Energy Brief: Category Six Hurricanes, 8,000 Model 3s Produced, Bering Sea Ice Crushed, Electric Semi Savings, and California’s 2018 Snow Crash

While we were focused on extreme warming events and off-kilter weather related to polar amplification this week, there were quite a lot of other developments worth taking note of in both the clean energy and climate news sphere. This post will explore a number of highlights for those interested in the ongoing climate disruption and related responses through renewable energy development.

But before we continue, I’d like to send off a big thanks to Sarah Myhre — an ocean scientist who, unlike a number of broadcast meteorologists, isn’t afraid to tell the climate story like it is (in reference to a the major East Coast warming event this week). Kudos for your clarity, Sarah.

Human-Caused Climate Change is Causing the Most Powerful Hurricanes to Grow Stronger. That’s why scientists are now mulling over adding a new category to define the world’s most destructive storms: Category 6. Advanced by scientists meeting with Dr. Michael Mann in New Zealand and alluded to for the past few years in cutting edge blogs like Weather Underground, a 6th Category would be used to define storms with top sustained wind speeds that exceed 200 mph.

(Hurricane and named storm trend for the Atlantic basin. Note that 2017 was the most destructive year on record for hurricanes [not shown on chart]. Image source: National Hurricane Center and Phys.org.)

Global warming, driven by fossil fuel burning, is increasing both atmospheric convection and ocean surface temperatures. These provide energy to tropical cyclones. As a result, storms are forming out of season more often, they are ranging further into the higher latitudes, they tend to last longer, and the strongest storms (major hurricanes) are becoming both stronger and more frequent. 2017 marked the most destructive hurricane season on record for the Atlantic basin. And, unfortunately, with fossil fuel burning still ongoing, the potential for damage is likely to continue to increase with the advent of Category 6 storms.

The clean energy revolution intensifies as Model 3 Production hit an estimated 8,000 this week. According to Bloomberg, Tesla Model 3 production is presently at 1,052 vehicles per week. This is an estimate based on a computer model tracking VIN numbers and internet reports of Model 3 sightings. Overall, the number of this all-electric, clean energy vehicle produced crossed the 8,000 mark on Thursday in the Bloomberg estimate and has now climbed to 8,219. Bloomberg tracking indicates that the 1,052 per week production rate has remained steady for about two weeks.

(Tesla Model 3 production is significantly increasing, but lags earlier and present ambitious targets. Trajectory indicates that end Q1 is likely to be closer to 1,750 to 2,000 vehicles produced per week unless a major ramp in volume occurs soon. Image source: Bloomberg.)

Tesla is struggling to rapidly ramp production amidst amazing demand for its Model 3 vehicle — at approximately 500,000 pre-orders. And it is aiming to hit the 2,500 vehicle per week mark by the end of March. Given past delays in the production ramp, it’s uncertain if Tesla can hit this target (though Tesla says it is presently on track). But what is certain is that Tesla is putting in one heck of an effort. And one optimistic sign that the target may be within reach is the fact that Tesla recently opened Model 3 order configurations to non-Tesla owners.

Tesla isn’t the only clean energy vehicle leader in the world. Nissan, Renault, GM, and a number of Chinese automakers also produce EVs at high quality and in significant volumes. However, its all renewable business model, high quality products, large battery and solar production infrastructure, penchant for producing cutting-edge innovations, and dominance of a number of EV markets distinguishes it as a crucial player. Given the rising volume of Model 3s produced, it appears likely that Tesla will sell between 150,000 and 250,000 all electric vehicles during 2018.

Bering Sea Ice Crushed. We’ve extensively covered polar warming and sea ice losses this week. However, one highlight in the overall story continues to be record low ice coverage in the Bering Sea. Earlier this week, warm winds swept much of the ice out of this near Arctic Ocean zone. Though a return to somewhat cooler temperatures is predicted, it is so late in the season that any ice that does form will likely be very thin and vulnerable to melt come late March or early April.

A similar story is unfolding on the Atlantic side near the Barents Sea and the Greenland Strait. With a major warm wind event predicted for this weekend, a clearing of vulnerable sea ice on that side of the Arctic may well be in the offing. If this does occur, it will reinforce the trend of see-sawing ice losses shifting from Pacific to Atlantic zones that we’ve seen for much of the winter of 2017-2018.

Tesla Semi Promises Major Savings (and it’s scary-fast, see video). Major shipping companies are chomping at the bit for access to the new Tesla Semi. And the reason is that they’re seeing dollar signs. According to a new report out from Electrek, DHL — one of the largest logistics firms in the world — expects that a single electrical truck like the Semi would enable it to save tens of thousands of dollars per year. These savings come due to the fact that though the Semi, at a price starting at 150,000 dollars, is more expensive than your standard long-haul truck, is much less expensive to operate and maintain. Primary costs for trucking include both fuel and vehicle maintenance. Charging costs for EVs range from 30 to 60 percent or more less than refueling costs. Meanwhile, much simpler engine design results in far fewer mechanical failures or parts that could require replacing.

These prospects are generating serious interest and excitement from major shippers like DHL. Tesla has already received well over 500 pre-orders for its all-electrical truck which it plans to begin mass producing in 2019. As with other electrical vehicles, replacement of ICE based trucking with electrical trucking not only produces lower fuel and maintenance costs, it also substantially reduces net carbon emissions from transportation as adoption rates rise.

California’s Snow Crash is as Bad as 2015. Throughout most of fall and winter of 2017-2018, the U.S. West Coast has experienced incredibly warm and dry conditions. And despite a recent switch to cooler, wetter weather, it may be too late in the season for California’s snowpack to see any substantial recovery.

(California’s snow pack is tracking near record low levels. Snow melt and a longer term trend toward hot, dry weather in California is a key indicator of human caused global warming. It is also creating water security issues for the state. Image source: CDEC.)

Present snow pack levels are comparable to those experienced during 2015 — which was one of the worst water years ever in California history. The majority of snow will have already fallen by this date in any given year. So even if normal conditions were to prevail over the next few weeks, it appears that the damage is already done.

California relies on its snow pack to provide water to farms, industry, and cities. Summer of 2015 saw serious water shortages with some municipalities forced to make major cuts in supplies. It appears that a similar situation may be setting up for 2018. And human-caused climate change is the primary contributor to California’s water woes as well as its related longer-term drying trend.

 

Tesla Model 3 Leads Record Electrical Vehicle Sales in January 2018

For those concerned about human-caused climate change, electrical vehicles and the batteries that their engines derive stored energy from are a key innovation. These zero emissions platforms stand to potentially replace more than a billion internal combustion engines — each dumping about three tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere every year. Moreover, the powerful batteries in these cars can be used to store electricity generated by renewable sources. Making clean energy available 24/7 despite hours of darkness and lulls in the wind periodically sapping generation.

(In this National Renewable Energy Laboratory study, the most rapid carbon emissions reductions were achieved in scenarios where large-scale EV deployment was combined with wholesale replacement of coal, oil, and gas fired electricity generation with renewable sources like wind and solar.)

Recognizing the climate-saving potential of this clean tech, nations have pledged to rapidly transition vehicle fleets away from fossil fuel burning automobiles. Leaders of this revolutionary move include China, India, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Britain.

The U.S. is also presently a leader in EV innovation — primarily due to efforts by California, a handful of states, and locally based clean energy giants like Tesla. However, U.S. leadership in this crucial new industry is presently threatened by the Trump Administration which is seeking to remove incentives for EV adoption while also undermining the ability of states like California to set clean car goals.

(With numerous countries, states and cities planning to ban fossil fuel based vehicles, the Trump Administration’s proposed policies to disincentivize EVs would put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage. Image source: Commons.)

Such moves could rightly be called myopic as the global electrical vehicle market last year grew to 1.2 million and will likely hit near 2 million in 2018. So EV incentives in states like California aren’t just good for the environment, they’re good for U.S. competitiveness even as they benefit the larger economy. By the early 2020s, if Trump succeeds in undercutting the U.S. clean car market, around 5 million EVs will be sold per year even as U.S. automakers will be faced with the prospect of dwindling fossil fuel vehicle sales. A combination that may, once again, threaten bankruptcy for a key U.S. industry.

That said, despite ominous moves by Trump, the U.S. EV market presently continues to grow apace.

Tesla Model 3 Leads U.S. EV Sales

During January of 2018, approximately 12,000 EVs were sold. This beats out January of 2017 by about 1,000 cars to hit a new record for the U.S. market. And topping January’s sales is Tesla’s flagship Model 3. In all, about 1,875 of these clean cars were sold on the U.S. market last month according to Inside EVs. That’s about 80 percent growth from December sales and probably represents a total production of between 2,000 and 2,500 cars for the month.

(With 500,000 reservations, the all-electric, zero emissions Tesla Model 3 is probably the most desired car produced by an American automaker within the last 40 years. Can Tesla satisfactorily meet this demand by swiftly scaling production of high-quality versions? If it does, it will rapidly rocket to the top of the automotive world. Image source: Tesla.)

Model 3 is thus still steadily moving up the S curve according to this recent Inside EVs report. It is not, however, yet anywhere near target production volumes of 5,000 to 10,000 vehicles per week (which it now plans to meet by June). Nor is it in a position to hope to fulfill an unprecedented 500,000 pre-orders before 2019. Tesla thus still appears to be facing some production bottlenecks. But they appear to be steadily clearing even as the Model 3 line continues to ramp up. And at this point, it is notable that the Model 3 is now the best-selling EV in the U.S. We are likely to see continued progress with around 2,400 to 4,000 Model 3s sold during February. Ensuring that the Model 3 remains a top contender for the #1 EV sales spot for the foreseeable future.

2018 Nissan Leaf Enters U.S. Market with Potential to Surprise

Other top clean car sellers during January included Chevy with its Bolt (1,177) and Volt (713) offerings, Toyota’s Prius Prime (1,496), Honda’s Clarity (853), and Tesla’s Model X (700) and S (800).

(The 2018 Nissan Leaf ain’t as sexy as the Tesla Model 3. But it’s no slacker either — having already racked up numerous awards and tens of thousands of sales around the globe, this EV is now starting to enter the U.S. market. With a 150 mile range, a 30,000 dollar price point, and a jump in horsepower, this car has the potential to surprise during 2018. Image source: Commons.)

Nissan also released its new longer range Leaf in January.  But low initial rates of production resulted in only 150 sold. This vehicle will be one to watch as Nissan has a track record for both producing and selling Leafs in high volumes. The Leaf has good reviews and a considerably expanded range, horsepower and other capabilities. It also comes in at a price about 5,000 dollars lower than the higher performance luxury Model 3. So it’s not surprising that the car has already racked up 14,000 pre-orders in the U.S.

Overall EV sales in the U.S. near 200,000 represented about 3 percent of the 2017 market. During 2018, we should expect the U.S. EV market share to grow to between 280,000 and 400,000. This growth will primarily be dependent on new higher performance, lower cost Model 3, Leaf, and Bolt sales. But detrimental policy moves by Trump or his Republican allies in Congress may negatively and unexpectedly impact this key emerging market.

FEB 5 UPDATE: Tesla Model 3 Sales Projections For January Now Range Between 1875 and 3,000

In lieu of actual numbers coming out of Tesla itself, two firms have lately been producing reliable numbers based on analysis of factory output, VIN numbers, and employee statements — Inside EVs and Clean Technica.

This weekend, Clean Technica put out its own estimate in which total numbers of Model 3s, Model Ss, and Model Xs sold were considerably higher than Inside EVs estimates at 3,000, 2,300, and 2,200 respectively. If Clean Technica’s numbers are correct, then the Model 3 is much further up the S curve than we thought earlier. In addition, the larger Model S and X estimates would be enough, if they bear out, to push total U.S. EV sales to over 16,000 for January.

Clean Technica’s perspective is one of more rapid growth. But either estimate shows both growth and progress. And they probably provide a decent bracket between the more conservative and aggressive estimate ranges. We’ll see who ends up revising their numbers over the coming days and weeks. But overall, this is cautious good news for EV and clean energy enthusiasts.

Tesla Model 3 Production Ramp — Steady as She Goes

If a person were to define the goal of aspiration, not in the dictionary sense, but in the ideal sense, a part of it would include attempting to achieve things that were previously considered impossible.

From the point of view of Tesla, setting seemingly impossible goals and then shooting to attain them has apparently become a new model for doing business. As the old adage goes — shoot for the stars. Go ahead try. If you miss them you might hit the moon instead.

With the Model 3, it appears that Tesla, so far, may have just managed to land on the moon after setting some pretty amazingly ambitious initial star-shot-type goals. That said, the moon, at this point, appears to be a temporary way-station as the company course corrects, but is still aiming for some ridiculously starshot-high production goals through 2018.

According to recent announcements from Tesla, the company achieved 2,425 units of production in the 4th Quarter of 2017. This is a considerable jump from third Quarter production of around 260 Model 3s. It is not, however, anywhere near the 5,000 vehicle per week target by year end that Tesla had initially aimed for. In other words — some moon, but no stars as yet. And it’s obvious that some Tesla watchers are disappointed. Perhaps more frustrating to those of us who are EV lovers, Tesla has again scaled back its targets somewhat — shooting for 2,500 vehicles per week by the end of Q 1 of 2018.

(Ramping Model 3 deliveries in a record 4th Quarter for Tesla. Image source: Electrek.)

But before we leave it at that, let’s add just a little context.

The first bit is that reviews for the Model 3 are coming back as very positive. Even Jalopnik, which regularly tears Tesla a new one, recently complained that there wasn’t enough to criticize about the Model 3. Meanwhile, previous Tesla owners are raving about the car. So some credibility must be given, there, to Musk’s recent claim that the company is aiming for a slower ramp to focus more on quality early and push the mass quantity part back for later. But how much later is still a pretty serious question on everyone’s mind.

The second piece of context that’s worth considering is the fact that as of December, the Model 3 was likely the 5th or 6th best selling EV in the United States. If Tesla manages to achieve an average production rate of around 500 to 1,000 vehicles per week in January, then the car will likely be ranked between 1st and 3rd. By March, if the ramp continues to scale up, it’s likely that the Model 3 will hit over 5,000 monthly sales and be the best-selling EV in the U.S.

(Despite moderate production delays, the Tesla Model 3 continues on its ramp to mass production. As you can see from the above video, fans really love this car. Meanwhile, many analysts don’t see major issues with the present Model 3 ramp and still expect Tesla to be selling north of a million EVs per year by the early 2020s.)

Looking still closer, we should take Tesla’s claims of 750+ vehicle per week production in late December with a dash of salt. It’s clear that Tesla production is now ramping. That bottlenecks are being cleared. That said, this announced sustained rate is the highest yet achieved over a relatively decent period of time. And, if past is any guide, it’s likely that Tesla will be speeding and slowing the line as they address issues. We probably shouldn’t assume that every week from now on will produce 750 or more. It could. But it’s likely we’ll see a kind of two step forward, one step back, two step forward progression as Tesla continues to refine the Model 3 line.

To this point we should probably also add that when Tesla says it is aiming for 2,500 vehicles per week by end of Q1, that’s probably a snapshot of peak production. Not of average weekly production during March. Same for the 5,000 vehicle per week target by June.

It’s a lot to digest. But I think those of us who’ve been following EVs for some time should sit back and take stock of what is a really big achievement underway. It may not be happening as fast as many had hoped. But it is happening. And even with its less ambitious ramp, Tesla appears set to at least double its overall EV production during 2018.

Steady as she goes…

Record Renewables Growth in 2017 as New Global Solar + Wind Installations are Projected to Hit Near 175 GW 

Last year, global growth in new solar energy installations hit a new record of 56 gigawatts (GW) in a single year. This year, growth could nearly double to 108 GW installed according to recent reports from IHS. Meanwhile wind appears on track to add another 68 GW of clean power generation. In other words, the age of the renewable energy revolution is in the process of overtaking us. None too soon considering the fact that we are now facing serious ramping harms due to fossil fuel burning and related human-forced climate change.

Rocketing Global Growth For Solar Despite Trump/Republican Efforts to Throw a Wet Blanket on a Key Industry

Such amazing growth comes on the back of rapidly ramping solar markets in China, India and around the world. A ramp that’s happening despite anti-solar policy by the Trump Administration feeding a trade case that has injected uncertainty and distortion into the U.S. market. And even as the same Administration is waging an Orwellian-styled war on the employees of the Environmental Protection Agency who are still doing their best, despite rising odds, to protect the health of U.S. citizens from polluting industries.

The upshot is that the U.S. will lag behind these two emerging solar energy leaders as republicans in power put energy policy in retrograde following years of rapid advancement and clean energy leadership under Obama and the democrats.

(U.S. sees shrinking pie of new solar additions under Trump. Image source: PV Magazine/IHS.)

But despite harmful policy stances by republicans and related nonsensical litigation, the U.S. market is still expected to see 10-12 GW of new solar added in 2017 — or the second highest levels of solar installation on record.

Solar’s resilience in both the U.S. and around the world is primarily due to low photovoltaic panel prices combined with broad popular support by states, cities, businesses, and individuals. These low prices are evidenced by numerous solar tenders and purchase agreements that now range below the 5.5 cent per kilowatt hour level, that can often hit below the 4 cent threshold and sometimes dip as low as 3 cents or less. A recent solar purchase agreement in Arizona, for example, sold for less than 3 cents per kilowatt hour or lower than half the price of nuclear for that region. As mentioned above, trade case uncertainty has since driven solar prices in the U.S. marginally higher. Despite this counter to the global trend, U.S. solar sales are still beating out every prior year except 2016.

(Policies like the Sun Shot Initiative under President Obama and major investments by countries like China helped to rapidly reduce the cost of photovoltaic solar panels globally. Recently, major cost reductions have also been realized in concentrated solar power (CSP). Image source: PlanetSave.)

Concentrated solar power (CSP), which has the inherent advantage of offering both clean, renewable energy and storage in a single application, is also seeing falling prices. For ACWA Power is building a 700 MW CSP facility in Dubai that will provide clean solar energy for just 7.3 cents per kwh. This compares to natural gas prices which range as high as 24 cents per kwh for the Gulf region. If such low prices can be widely duplicated globally, CSP, which employs reflectors to gather solar heat into an oil based medium that is used to boil water to spin a turbine, then this additional form of solar is also likely to see broader use.

Wind Continues Steady Gains

Even as solar energy rockets to record gains, wind energy is also expected to see considerable increases. Forecast International now predicts that 68 GW of new wind capacity will be added globally in 2017. Wind installations at this point are quite widely distributed around the world. However, increased growth in Asia is a major factor in the continued steadily rising rate of adoption.

(Globally, wind energy is projected to continue its steady growth trend of recent years. Image source: Forecast International.)

Prices for wind energy range from 3.1 to around 5.5 cents per kwh, according to Lazard. Unlike solar, the price for wind has been on a slower decline curve during recent years. This means that at this time prices for both wind and solar are presently comparable for most regions. It also means that in places like Alberta, where a recent 600 MW wind project is expected to cost an average of 3.7 cents per kwh, prices for wind are less than half that of nuclear and less than most existing coal or even many new gas projects.

Major Growth in Renewable Energy as Coal Stagnates

If IHS and Forecast International projections for new solar and wind growth bear out, then we’ll see about 176 GW of these forms of renewable energy installed in 2017. That’s a tremendous rate of add that will considerably outpace new coal and gas installations even as it helps to reduce overall demand for power from these polluting sources and major contributors to climate change, related sea level rise, and similarly related worsening extreme weather. We are already seeing these effects as the world’s largest coal terminal is seeking to diversify on lowering demand forecast and as GE — a major provider of turbines for the gas industry — is cutting its fossil fuel based equipment sector.

One major aspect of the larger global shift can be seen in China. During past years, China rapidly added new coal and gas capacity. But non fossil fuel power generation additions were the major story for China in the first half of 2017. For by July China had added 24.4 GW of new solar capacity, 7.3 GW of new wind capacity, 6.69 GW of new hydro capacity, and 1.09 GW of new nuclear capacity. The total new add was 39.48 GW of non fossil fuel based electrical power generation vs 18.84 GW of new thermal capacity primarily coming from coal and gas. In other words, renewables outpaced fossil fuel generation in China by more than 2 to 1.

This comes as China is seeking to reduce coal use in an effort to clean up its air quality and fight climate change, as the price of coal burning rises to the point of producing losses in regions like Europe, and as predictions abound that the near term coal market is stagnating and long term future coal prospects, without the addition of costly carbon capture and storage, look bleak.

CREDITS:

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to Vic

Hat tip to Suzanne

Tesla Semi is Racking up the Preorders

Tesla isn’t the only player in the electrical trucking field. It is, however, presenting one of the most attractive offerings for an electric truck in the present marketplace.

(Tesla is again producing best-in-class clean transport capabilities in its all electric Semi offering.)

Tesla’s Semi will have a range of 300 to 500 miles. Its rig will go from 0-60 in less time than many passenger vehicles. And its cost of fuel is so low that it will repay the 150,000 to 200,000 dollars initially invested in energy savings in just three to five years. With economics and performance parameters like these, the fact that the Semi will emit zero harmful greenhouse gas emissions in operation is a much needed layer of icing on the new energy vehicle cake.

All these features are quite attractive. And, as a result, Tesla has already received upwards of 300 pre-orders for what promises to be a truly revolutionary vehicle. Pepsi, Anheuser Busch, SYSCO, Loblaw, Wal-Mart, DHL and numerous others have all jumped onto the Tesla clean trucking bandwagon. Since Tesla requires a 20,000 dollar down payment to reserve a truck (up from 5,000 dollars when the semi was first announced), these pre-orders represent a major commitment by buyers. It also represents between 45 and 55 million in new revenue for Tesla.

(Tesla is already starting to make waves in the U.S. class 8 truck market — in which less than 200,000 units are generally sold each year. Image source: Statista.)

300 pre-orders may not sound like much when compared to Tesla’s massive Model 3 total of about 500,000. However, considering the fact that less than 200,000 class 8 trucks were sold in the U.S. during 2016, this initial wave of orders is far from a drop in the proverbial bucket. For one, interest by major shippers in Tesla will likely bring more interest as competitors race to gain access to that best-in-class efficiency, performance and related energy cost reduction. In addition, pre-orders are likely to be a smaller portion of total sales due to Tesla’s higher reservation asking price.

Such levels of demand may support in the range of 5,000 Semis sold per year in the U.S., according to recent clean-tech market analysis. And this would represent about 3 percent of the present U.S. market from a single automaker. But when considering the fact that big rig emissions are about 20 to 40 times that of a typical medium sized car over the course of a year, those projected 5,000 Semis could have an outsized impact in helping to reduce the amount of heat trapping gas hitting the atmosphere.

Not too shabby for a start and for a single automaker. And some people called the Semi a distraction. Pshaw.

Signs that the Model 3 Flood Gates are Starting to Open Abound

Tesla’s mission ‘to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy’ appears to be surging forward after hitting a couple of road blocks this fall.

According to news reports, Tesla Model 3 distribution centers are now filling up with units of the highly desirable electrical vehicle. According to Elektrek, hundreds of Model 3s have been spotted at Freemont’s distribution Center. And a new distribution center in Los Angeles with a lot capable of holding 400 vehicles appears to also be full. Meanwhile, smaller centers and sales rooms around the country are reporting an influx of Model 3s.

(Sales lots for the Model 3 are starting to fill — indicating that higher production volumes have been reached)

This news comes after Tesla recently opened orders for a first batch of Tesla reservation holders. It also follows Panasonic’s announcement that battery production bottlenecks at Tesla’s Gigafactory had cleared.

According to reports from Inside EVs, a total of 712 Model 3s had sold through November. But with hundreds of Model 3s now flooding distribution centers and show-rooms, the rate of production appears to have started to take off. How much will be unclear until Tesla releases annual figures by early January of 2018. But it appears likely that Tesla is now producing north of 300 Model 3s per week — with this source pointing toward upward of 1,000 vehicles per week.

Exact numbers are all speculation and conjecture at this point. But clear evidence of swelling inventory is a sign that the steepening ramp of the S curve is upon us.

Tesla presently boasts approximately 500,000 reservation holders for its Model 3 electrical vehicle (EV). Many of these customers are willing to wait a year or more to receive a car. This is an unprecedented level of demand. But with the Model 3 featuring first in class acceleration, handling, EV range, recharging capability, and access to Tesla upgrades and widespread faster charging infrastructure, it’s little wonder that the car has so many admirers.

If Tesla is managing to ramp production as planned, the car-maker is likely to see record vehicle sales during December even as it climbs toward 250,000 to 300,000 approximate sales during 2018 (or up to triple projected 2017 sales). And due to the fact that the Model 3 eclipses the capabilities and features of tens of thousands of luxury and sport fossil fuel vehicles in the 30,000 to 50,000 dollar price range, it’s possible that Model 3 demand will continue to surge as the car becomes more widely available.

(Global EV sales are projected to hit above 1 million during 2017. With the Model 3 and other highly desirable, more affordable electrical vehicles hitting the market in 2018, total global sales are likely to challenge the 2 million mark. Image source: EVvolumes.)

Tesla’s leap forward coordinate with larger global EV adoption couldn’t come sooner. Harms from climate change are rapidly advancing. But the increased efficiency provided by electrical drive trains and their ability to be mated directly to renewable energy systems like wind and solar provide a major opportunity to cut harmful carbon emissions. So the faster global EV production ramps, the more competition that interest in Tesla’s leading-edge EVs spurs, the better it is for us all.

U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Rose by 30 Percent in November, Likely to Hit Near 200,000 by Year End

Good news continues in the U.S. on the renewable energy front where electrical vehicle sales increased by about 30 percent in November of 2017 vs November of 2016.

In all, 17,178 electrical vehicles sold on the U.S. market in November. This number compares to 13,327 sold during November of 2016. Top selling brands for the month were the Chevy Bolt EV, The Tesla Model X, the Chevy Volt, the Toyota Prius Prime, and the Tesla Model S. The Chevy Bolt topped the list of monthly best sellers with nearly 3,000 vehicles going to owners during the month. The top annual seller remains the Model S (at 22,085 estimated sales so far) — which the lower-priced Bolt is unlikely to surpass this year.

(Over the past few years, the performance of electrical vehicles has been steadily catching up to or outpacing that of conventional fossil fuel vehicles. The Tesla Roadster by 2019-2020 will have a 620 mile range, hyperfast charging, a top speed of 250 mph, and be able to go from 0-60 in 1.9 seconds. A combined set of specs that no gas guzzler could hope to match. By 2022, most EVs will cost less and perform better than their comparable fossil fuel counterparts. Image source: Tesla.)

Total electrical vehicle sales for the year so far has hit nearly 174,000 through November. This compares to 158,614 for all of 2016. Given that December is often a top sales month and that Model 3 production is continuing to ramp, it’s likely that final sales for 2017 will hit close to or exceed the 200,000 mark for the year in the U.S.

Model 3 Production Ramp Rate Still a Mystery

Model 3 sales will likely continue to ramp through December as Tesla works through scaling production. Considering the fact that there are more than 500,000 Model 3s on order, the big question is — how fast? For even if Tesla were able to produce 10,000 Model 3s per week, it would take more than a year to fill all the orders.

Production is presently considerably lower. But it more than doubled in November to an estimated 345. A similar rate of increase would result in 800 of the vehicles being sold in December. Meanwhile, the company plans to be making 5,000 Model 3s per week by Q1 of 2018.

There are some indications that Tesla is preparing for a start of mass market releases. It is filling an LA Model 3 distribution site even as it has opened up ordering to customers outside of employees. Meanwhile, Panasonic recently announced that battery production issues will soon clear. Which raises the possibility of a faster ramp going forward.

Updated Nissan Leaf Begins Mass Production

New developments also include the start to mass production of the 2018 Nissan Leaf in the U.S during December. The 2018 Leaf features longer range (150 miles), lower cost (700 dollars less) and higher performance (more horsepower) than the previous Leaf. And it will be followed on by a (higher-priced) 225 mile range version in 2019 which will put it in a distance capability class similar to that of the Bolt and the base line Model 3.

Electrical Vehicles — Key Aspect of the Renewable Energy Transition

In context, solar energy, wind, and battery storage are the triad of new renewable energy systems that have the serious potential to really start cutting down global carbon emissions as they replace fossil fuels.

All these energy systems are getting less expensive. All have what they call a positive learning curve. And all can work together in a synergistic fashion while leveraging technological advances. Economic advantages that fossil fuel based systems lack.

In addition, renewable energy sources help to drive efficiency, even as they clean up transportation, power generation, and manufacturing chains they are linked to by producing zero carbon emissions in use.

(By transitioning to renewable energy as the basis for economic systems, we can dramatically reduce global carbon emissions. In order to stave off very harmful impacts from climate change, this transition will have to be very rapid. In the best case, more rapid than the scenario depicted above. Video source: IRENA.)

On the battery storage side, electrical vehicles are a crucial link in the battery development chain. As electrical vehicles are mass produced, this process drives down the cost of batteries which can then be used to store electricity and to replace base-load fossil fuel power generators like coal and gas plants. Meanwhile, battery electrical vehicles are considerably more efficient than gas or diesel powered vehicles and those linked to wind and solar or other renewable energy sources emit zero carbon in use.

Both electrical vehicles and other renewable energy systems have a long way to grow before they provide the same level of energy produced by dirty fossil fuels today. This large gap represents a great opportunity to cut back on the volume of harmful gasses hitting our atmosphere in the near future.

Tesla Model 3 Production More than Doubled During November

Hands down, no other electrical vehicle company possesses the charging infrastructure, the high quality electrical vehicles, and the production infrastructure that’s now in Tesla’s hands. This system synergy provides unparalleled value to Tesla customers. Enabling them to use and improve their electrical vehicles with far greater ease than offerings from other automakers.

So when one reads about rising sales of the Chevy Bolt or how Volkswagen plans to sell 100,000 EVs per year by 2020 (Tesla sells that many now, in 2017), one should realize that both of these companies, though presently producing or planning to produce high-quality EVs, are behind in a race to catch Tesla. The Bolt, which sells for around 36,000 dollars hasn’t even yet caught up with the Tesla Model S — which costs more than twice as much. And Volkswagen is still waiting for its signature EV brands to be built over the next two years.

(Tesla deposits are an indicator of customer interest. Model 3 has been a primary driver of deposit increases since openings for reservations began in Q1 of 2016. Image source: Bloomberg.)

Struggles by Tesla to hit a rapid Model 3 production ramp, however, have caused some to question whether the revolutionary EV manufacturer and renewable energy company would hold on to that lead. Whether the delay would allow others to start to catch up. And of course some of this conjecture was puffed up by traditional Tesla bears and opponents — grasping at any bad news to spin against a rising green energy giant.

To be very clear, Tesla is at least 1-2 years ahead of the competition. So a month or two or three delay for the Model 3 production ramp — a vehicle which more than half a million customers have reserved — is not going to knock it out of its present leadership status. Longer term problems — lasting for more than 6 months — would be more telling, especially if reservation holders began to drift away. But Tesla’s present advantage is so significant at this time that the production fail on the Model 3 would have to be pretty monumental to provide any serious opening for the competition.

(Model 3 starting to break out of the pack. The vehicle is now the #21 best selling EV for all of 2017 and probably #11-12 for November. If the production ramp continues, the car will easily break the top 10 in December and probably become the best-selling EV in the U.S. by January or February. Image source: Inside EVs.)

To this point, according to reports from Inside EVs, Tesla produced and sold an additional 345 Model 3s during the month of November. This number is up 200 from the estimated 145 produced and sold during October. In total, Inside EVs estimates that 712 Model 3s had been sold by end of November.

Number sold is not number produced. So if Inside EVs estimates are correct, then Tesla has likely built over 800 Model 3s so far. And present trends make it likely that Tesla will complete between 1300 and 3000 of these revolutionary new vehicles by year-end. If this is ultimately the case, then the Model 3 production ramp is 2-3 months behind schedule. Disappointing to the hundreds of thousands waiting to get their hands on a Model 3, for sure. But not a crisis set to break the back of Tesla — as some have implied.

The Global Smack-down Against the Infernal Combustion Engine Achieves Full Charge

As the climate-wrecking fossil fuel age was climbing to dominance in 1943, Winston Churchill perhaps made the most famously telling Freudian slip of all time. In an attempt to laud the transition from the horse and buggy to the fossil-fuel driven car, he said to an audience at Harvard:

“Man has parted company with his trusty friend the horse and has sailed into the azure with the eagles, eagles being represented by the infernal combustion engine–er er, internal combustion engine. [loud laughter] Internal combustion engine! Engine!”

And as people from the Arctic to the Maldives to Bangladesh to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico can now attest, the effects of the gasses produced by internal combustion have indeed started to become quite infernal as the leading edge of climate change related disasters begins to take hold.

(The LA auto show this week was dominated by new electrical vehicles.)

But at the same time that seas are rising and the weather is worsening, there is renewed hope that all this infernal combustion and related climate wrecking carbon dioxide spewing into the atmosphere may start to taper off. For if the age of unsustainable fossil fuels was heralded by an infernal engine, then the age of sustainability itself is being heralded by blessed batteries and the cars they power.

UBS — 1 in 6 New Cars to be Electric by 2025

For the electrical transition is happening now. And it’s charging up as we speak.

According to a recent report by UBS, the number of affordable, desirable electrical vehicles will vastly expand between now and 2020. Multiple vehicles that are competitive with, if not matching the performance of, Tesla’s Model 3 will be available by that time. These models will continue to proliferate through 2025.

(UBS estimates rapid increases in EV market share. This is bad news for fossil fuels and good news for sustainability.)

At the same time, prices for both batteries and vehicles are expected to fall. Total cost of ownership for electrical vehicles is already less than a comparable fossil fuel based car for a number of models. This is due to lower fuel and maintenance costs. However, overall total cost of ownership is expected to be less on average than fossil fuel cars by the early 2020s. Meanwhile, base price for EVs is expected to out-compete that of fossil fuel based cars by 2025 even as EVs are expected to consistently outperform ICE vehicles by that time.

As a result, UBS expects that between 6 and 25 percent of all new cars will be electric by 2025 with the average between these two predicted ranges hitting 16 percent or 1 in 6 of all new cars sold.

Volkswagen Invests More than $12 Billion in EVs

Tesla, presently the global EV market leader, is today’s company to beat. And Volkswagen, recently stung by an emissions scandal, appears to be stepping up to the plate as a serious challenger.

The company, this month, decided to invest 12 billion dollars to build as many as 40 electrical vehicle models in China. A market that by itself may support as many as 6-9 million EV sales per year by 2025. Volkswagen, in total, aims to sell 1.5 million electrical vehicles per year at that time.

(Volkswagen electrical car, SUV and Hippie Van spotted in California on November 27th. Image source: Clean Technica.)

Already, the company is developing multiple high-quality models to include an electric version of its iconic hippie bus, an electric car based on traditional Volkswagen styling, and a new SUV crossover called the CROZZ. All are expected to have a 200+ mile electric range and feature better performance than their fossil fuel counterparts.

Movement Toward Electrification Across Entire Industry

But it’s not just Volkswagen that appears ready to move aggressively toward electrification, pretty much every major automaker is adding new EVs between now and 2022 — with a number focused on total or near total electrification (see Jaguar video at top of post).

To name just a few, GM plans 20 new electrical models over the next six years, Ford plans 13 by 2020, and both Daimler and Renault plan to have 8 BEVs on the road by 2022. New entrants like BYD and Tata are also advancing electrical vehicles in their home markets of India and China. And the above-mentioned Jaguar expects all its new vehicles to have electric or hybrid electric drive trains by 2020.

Tesla Still Leading the Charge, But Will that Last?

Though numerous factors have driven the industry toward electrification to include falling battery costs, concerns about mass devastation from human-caused climate change, and drives by cities like Paris and nations like China to clean up air quality, it was Tesla, primarily, that proved to the world that EVs could be mass produced at market-setting quality and performance.

Tesla advances continue today with news reports indicating that the Model 3’s performance beats pretty much all of the BMW 3 series internal combustion engine cars hands down. And reviewers over at Motor Trend have gone so far as to call the Model 3 a BMW 3 series killer.

Meanwhile, indications are that production bottle necks may be starting to clear for the market-setting Model 3. Panasonic recently announced that battery production for the vehicle is about to speed up even as the company introduced reservation options for non employees this past week. If this is the case, Tesla is in the process of securing at least a 1-2 year jump on most major automakers.

(The new Tesla Roadster. Image source: Tesla.)

Tesla has also not let its various aspirational goals slip. Its offering of a 500 mile range long-haul truck by 2020 at $180,000 is yet another trend-setter. And the new Tesla Roadster with a 250 mile top speed, a 600 mile range, and featuring hyper-fast charging will basically far outperform even the top fossil fueled vehicles in pretty much every metric.

As the race between Tesla and the rest of the auto industry to produce the next trend-setting EV ramps up, it looks like the main loser will be that old pollution-belching infernal combustion engine. Good riddance.

Just One More Reason Why Fossil Fuels Suck Tailpipe — The Cost of Wind and Solar is Now Lower Than Pretty Much Everything Else

During October, in Australia, something rather strange and hopeful happened. Grid prices for electricity rose. Power customers, fed up with this, en masse decided to purchase 100 megawatts of rooftop solar in a single month.

How and why did this come to pass?

Conservative allies of fossil fuel based utilities are currently in control of the Australian federal government. And they have been working to provide captive grid-tied energy consumers for their political backers — polluting power system owners. Because these systems are more expensive than their renewable energy counterparts, the price of electricity went up.

The Australian public, who generally supports renewables and who likes to pay less for electricity, wouldn’t have any of it. They didn’t like being forced to purchase more expensive, polluting energy. So more than 15,000 of them decided to tell fossil fuel backers to go suck tailpipe and went on ahead and bought solar energy directly.

(Guess what? That green glass you see on the school in this image comes from hundreds of solar panels. Solar is versatile and increasingly inexpensive. You can put it on rooftops, building sides, car roofs, fuel station overheads, build it in traditional utility arrays, construct it on co-generating farms, or float it on reservoir surfaces. Image source: Inhabitat and EPFL.)

This choice, enabled by falling renewable energy prices, is one that people around the world will be more and more able to make as time moves forward. And it’s the case even in instances where national governments of western democracies are heavily influenced by fossil fuel special interests — as is presently the case in Australia. The primary reason is that when conservative governments support fossil fuels and nuclear over renewables, power prices to society rise.

The cost of both wind and solar energy are now less than every traditional power source even in more mature markets like the United States. In this major market, according to Lazard, the levelized price of nuclear is 14.8 cents per kWh, coal is 10.2 cents per kWh, gas is 6 cents per kWh, solar is 5 cents per kWh, and wind is 4.5 cents per kWh. That’s right. Renewables are about 1/3 the price of nuclear, half that of coal, and 10-20 percent less than gas in the U.S.

 

(The levelized cost of wind and solar energy keeps falling. This is making continued fossil fuel development an expensive and untenable prospect. Image source: Lazard.)

But in places like Australia and in the developing world, this price difference is even greater. In the developing world, there are less legacy fossil fuel power systems — which makes it a no-brainer just to go ahead and build less expensive renewables. And islands like Australia traditionally suffer from higher import costs for fossil fuels and clunky or inefficient fossil fuel energy system components.

Levelized cost is a way of measuring total life-cycle costs. It includes such costs as fuel, transmission and construction. Because renewables do not require fuel and because they are based on technologies that benefit from both advancement and economies of scale, they are able to continuously increase efficiency and reduce cost over time. Fossil fuel based power systems are mated to very inefficient combustion and to mining and extraction of fuels that grow more scarce over time. As such, the power systems they are based on tend to have difficulty reducing costs  and are subject to market shocks and scarcity of feedstocks.

These simple economic facts put the political backers of fossil fuels at a disadvantage on the issue of base economics. But these direct cost related factors don’t even begin to count in the terrible external costs of fossil fuels ranging from ramping damages due to climate change and direct health impacts by adding toxic particles to the air and water. As such, fossil fuels are both economically and morally untenable. But such simple and easy to understand facts haven’t stopped republicans like Trump in the U.S. and LNP members like Turnbull in Australia from trying to ram these harmful and expensive energy sources down the throat of an increasingly outraged public.

Global Electrical Vehicle Sales Grew by 63 Percent in the Third Quarter, But Model 3, Leaf, and Bolt Say You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Tesla may still be the industry leader in global electrical vehicle sales. And though a very important player — primarily as a gadfly that’s helping to spur key renewable energy innovation through clean energy business models and competition — this story of a breakout in new energy production isn’t just about Tesla.

During July, August and September of 2017, according to Bloomberg, 287,000 electrical vehicles were sold worldwide. This is some pretty stunning growth equaling 63 percent more than during the same period of 2016 and 23 percent more than during April, May and June of 2017.

Electrical vehicle sales saw broad growth in all major markets. However, China experienced very rapid expansion of EV sales and was the primary driver of such a large jump with 160,000 electrical cars sold there in the 3rd quarter alone. Europe came in second with around 70,000 EV sales with North America following third with more than 55,000 EV sales. Since Bloomberg only tracked these major markets, total global EV sales were likely even higher, particularly when you consider that EV sales in places like Japan, India, other parts of Southeast Asia, and Australia are also on the rise.

China’s incentives aimed at cleaning up dirty air through EV purchases weighed strongly. In addition, pledges by various cities, states and nations to fully transition to electrical vehicles coupled with numerous policy incentives are helping to produce a ground swell of rising EV demand. However, EVs are also increasingly available, lower cost, and feature an expanding array of capabilities that are often competitive with or superior to their global warming producing fossil fuel competitors. And a number of new developments indicate that EV sales will continue to rapidly expand in the near term.

Signs the Model 3 Production Log Jam May Be Starting to Clear, Serious Competition on the Rise

During 2017, primarily on the strength of Model S and X sales, Tesla is the global sales leader for EVs at 73,227 cars sold through September. Chevy, runs a distant 7th with 36,963 EV sales through same period. While BYD, BMW, BAIC, Nissan and Toyota fall 2-6th in the global sales rankings thus far.

In the coming months, Tesla plans to be adding thousands of high-quality, lower cost Model 3s to its trend-setting volume. For 2017, the company is likely to hit near 100,000 sales in total. But if Tesla is able to achieve 5,000 Model 3 per week production by early 2018, that number could more than double in the follow-on year.

Presently, Tesla represents 10 percent of global electrical vehicle sales. And Bloomberg expects 1 million electrical vehicles to be sold globally during 2017. Yet during 2018, vehicles like the Leaf, the Model 3, and Chevy’s Bolt really have the potential to blow the lid off even these far-stronger numbers.

(The 2018 Nissan Leaf sold a pheonomenal 14,000 units during October of 2017. A record setting number of an all-electrical vehicle launch. Image source: Nissan.)

Nissan launched its longer range Leaf on October 1 of 2017 in Japan and Europe. And early reports indicate that sales of this model have just been going gangbusters. In total, 14,000 of the vehicles are reported to have moved in just one month — close to Tesla’s goal of hitting 20,000 per month by early 2018. The 2018 Leaf features a shorter range than the Model 3 (150 miles vs 210 for the base Model 3). But it also has a more attractive base price of 30,000 dollars (5,000 dollars lower than the base Model 3). And though not as zippy or sporty as the Model 3, the Leaf’s new design and 147 horsepower are nothing to shake a stick at. In total, for the same price, Leaf buyers are now getting a far more attractive and capable zero emissions vehicle. And though not in the same class as the Model 3, the Leaf is a serious competitor for those without the extra cash.

Hunger for lower cost EVs was also evident in Chevy’s sales of 2,871 Bolts in the U.S. during October. Though nowhere near the pheonomenal Leaf sales totals, the Bolt is giving Tesla a serious run for its money on its home turf in the U.S. And the high quality, 238 mile range Bolt is certainly a competitor of note. Priced about the same as the Model 3’s base vehicle at around 36,000 dollars, the Bolt is unable to compete on performance in any measure other than range. And its economy styling is certainly less appealing. However, the Bolt is nonetheless capable of capturing serious market share. Probably at least in the range of 30,000 to 50,000 annual sales.

With 500,000 pre-orders, the lower cost, longer range EV market still appears to be the Model 3’s to lose. And with a production ramp struggling to reach 440 vehicles by end October, Tesla looked like it was in a bit of a bind as competitors circled in. Yet some clouds appear to be readying to clear for Tesla as lots swell with Model 3s and the company opens up Model 3 orders to regular reservation holders. An indicator that production may finally be starting to ramp.

Understanding the Context — Sooner or Later, Model 3 Ramp is Imminent

In other words, the fact that Tesla is now transferring reservations into orders is an indicator that Tesla is now more confident in its ability to clear bottle necks and to rapidly ramp production. With a large number of employee pre-orders that need to be completed before it starts to meet regular customer orders, it appears that Tesla may be set to hit in excess of 1,000 Model 3s produced per week sooner than feared. However, we’ve seen hopeful signs of Tesla hitting an early production ramp disappointed before. So this news may just be another false signal.

What do you think? Will Tesla meet new competition coming from Chevy and Nissan by hitting a faster production ramp soon? Or are the Tesla woes of September and October here to stay for at least another few months? Please feel free to provide your take in the comments section below.

Another Record Month for U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales as Tesla Struggles with Model 3 Ramp

Electrical vehicles are a key element of the clean energy revolution. They are more efficient than fossil fuel driven vehicles; they produce zero particulate tailpipe emissions. When mated with solar and wind, they produce zero carbon emissions in operation. And they can serve as storage units for renewable energy sources all as their mass production drives the net cost of batteries continually lower.

So if you’re worried about climate change, and you’re well informed (not misinformed, confused, or focused on various shiny objects presently circulating the media), then you’re really interested in seeing electrical vehicle adoption hitting a high ramp in the near future. For those in this group, the October U.S. electrical vehicle report should serve as some hopeful news even as federal action under President Trump tilts more and more toward extreme anti-climate change response policy.

25th Consecutive Month of Record U.S. EV Sales

According to Inside EVs, plug-in electrical vehicle and hybrid sales saw their 25th month of consecutive record gains. About 14,598 electrical vehicles sold during October — which was 33 percent greater than during October of 2016. The yearly total for the U.S. during 2017 is now 157,039. This roughly matches 2016’s accumulated sales from January to December of 158,614. Given present trends, and given the fact that EV sales tend to ramp up during November and December, it is likely that U.S. numbers will hit near or slightly above the 200,000 mark by year end.

(U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales During October. Image source: Inside EVs.)

GM’s Chevy Bolt rocketed to the top of the list for the month with 2,781 sales. The Bolt has benefited from broader dealer availability and appears to be riding the wave of excitement produced by the Model 3, which is still not available in the mass market. The car is also low-cost, long range, and extraordinarily well reviewed — despite lacking the larger charging network support available to Tesla owners. Annual Chevy Bolt 2017 sales still lag behind that of Tesla’s market-leading Model S — with 20,750 sales for the Model S and 17,083 sales for the Bolt.

The second best-selling plug-in car during October was Toyota’s Prius Prime at 1,626. Toyota’s plug-in electric hybrid has also been very well reviewed by buyers and features a range extending gas engine that completely removes range anxiety (although this is less of an issue for Teslas and the Bolt which presently boast ranges in excess of 200 miles).

Chevy’s Volt takes up the third spot on the heels of the Prius Prime with 1,362 sales. This hybrid boasts a longer electrical range than Toyota’s Prime and the position of an established leader in the field. However, the Prime’s popularity is now giving the Volt a run as top plug-in-hybrid with annual sales neck-and-neck between the two at 16,710 (Volt) and 16,682 (Prime) respectively.

Tesla’s Model S and X vehicles rounded out the 4th and 5th spots for the month with 1,120 (S) and 850 (X) U.S. sales. For the year, Tesla’s Model S is still the top selling EV with 20,750 U.S. sales and the Model X is the 4th best selling U.S. EV with 16,140 total sales. Tesla sales efforts tend to follow an uneven track with greater sales pushes toward end-quarter. So Tesla’s October lag is par for the course for the company which saw a record 3rd quarter of 2017 with 26,150 cars sold globally during July, August and September. To match this level, Tesla total sales will have to ramp during November and December. However, it is worth noting that sales of Tesla EVs have grown significantly in places like Europe during recent months — hitting 4,662 in Europe during September alone.

Aspirational Tesla Struggles to Meet Vision of Mass EV Production

Tesla is presently struggling to ramp up production of its highly sought-after, signature Model 3. With upwards of 500,000 reservations, the nascent company is seeking to make a leap to major automaker status on the platform of an electrical-vehicle-only line. Tesla bet on a highly automated line and a simplified design to achieve a rapid Model 3 ramp to meet this demand and to ensure cash flow into 2018. However, issues with suppliers and with managing such a high level of automation has caused the Model 3 production ramp to splutter. In total, reports estimate that around 405 Model 3s have been produced through the end of October with 145 produced that month. Tesla, acknowledging difficulties, has rolled back its production ramp by 3 months — aiming for 5,000 Model 3s per week by March.

(The Tesla Model 3. Image source: Tesla.)

Our forecast for Model 3 production by end year has dropped to 2,000 with between 75,000 and 200,000 Model 3s produced for 2018. However, if problems with Model 3 production do not soon clear, the total for 2017 could drop to between 700 and 1,000. Hopefully, Tesla can transport itself out of its various circles of mass production hell and avoid such a lag.

Tesla has a history of missing ambitious targets and then catching up with time. Tesla’s Model X production ramp also encountered difficulties, but the all-electric SUV swiftly became a global best seller once production bottlenecks cleared. That said, these are tough signs in a tough time for Tesla, and for those (like this writer) who support the spirit of Tesla’s fully-integrated all-renewable based business model. Renewable energy foes have been emboldened by Tesla’s struggle with Tesla bears making rabid statements almost daily. The next 3-6 months will be make or break for Tesla — determining whether the company falls behind a growing pack of high-quality electrical vehicle producers or whether it continues to be an industry leader. And, in so many ways, Tesla’s success or failure will help to make or break U.S. global renewable energy leadership. For EVs, as a whole, have found new sources of leadership coming from China and Europe even as many automakers invest more heavily in electrical vehicle lines.

Links:

October 2017 U.S. Plug-in Vehicle Sales Report Card

Tesla Record Month in Europe

Tesla Model 3 Delivery Delays

 

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