It’s Everywhere Now — COVID-19 A Global Viral Wildfire

It moved like a fire.

First flickering in China during December.

There it evaded detection early-on. The Chinese government demurring to provide reports on the virus for crucial days. Then it grew and grew. Expanding to the point that it raged to terrifying size in China during January and February.  Evoking a sudden, serious and locally effective lock-down even as the Chinese government coordinated with world health bodies on what had now become a large and deadly-serious threat to both national and global security.

COVID-19 Leaps China’s Fire Break

China and world health bodies built up a kind of infectious disease fire break meant to contain the new virus. By the end of February, China’s own initial case numbers had rocketed to just below 80,000. The largest novel infectious disease outbreak of its kind in at least three decades. But the viral fire wasn’t finished. In fact, it was just getting started.

Fort McMurray Wildfire

Like wildfires, viruses can rage out of control once they escape containment — forcing large-scale mitigation to save lives. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened in the case of COVID-19. Above image is of the climate crisis worsened Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016. Image source: Government of Alberta.

Like a climate crisis amplified blaze, the initial outbreak size was immense. It cast highly infectious sparks in all directions. It presented a much greater opportunity for infection spread than the first SARS outbreak in 2002-2003, than subsequent MERS outbreaks, or during the Ebola outbreak. Even in the best of circumstances, the viral fire had become so large that it would have been difficult to fight from mid-February onward.

Multiple Conflagrations During February and March

Tightly packed ships, travelers on airlines, persons in large gatherings became super spreaders of the new viral fire. South Korea, then Iran, then Italy saw large outbreaks in February through early March. But smaller numbers bearing viral fire were moving elsewhere. And if containment mostly succeeded after a hard fight in the areas that were diligent, and ready, and equipped and lucky, it failed in places where leaders were lackadaisical or too slow, or who brutishly suppressed inconvenient information and science, or who were overconfident and didn’t take the threat seriously, or who lacked or sabotaged response and containment capability, or who were just unlucky.

The viral fire was canny. It found weaknesses. It mercilessly exploited them. It spread rapidly through these weak points to other regions. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. By the end of March worldwide cases had expanded to more than ten times China’s initial load — hitting just over 860,000 by the last day of March. The illness’s capacity to spread had expanded by an order of magnitude. Even more grim, the loss of souls was beginning to mount as well — with deaths from the virus rising to 43,000 by this time.

Running Toward the Flames — U.S. Outbreak Becomes Largest in the World

But despite its vicious pace of expansion, overconfidence still appeared to sway many right-wing heads of state, media personalities, and government leaders. Downplaying of the viral threat was still prevalent through mid-March and even as shut-downs began to take hold some were already calling it an over-reaction. Others showed an amazing insane propensity to run toward the viral fire or urge their followers to do the same. Trump and fellows on the right in the U.S. peddled the false hope of silver bullet treatments like chloroquine putting many people at increased risk of deadly health complications like cardiac arrest. Politicians like Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, who wore a gas mask to mock a COVID-19 vote in Congress, and British Prime Minister Borris Johnson would show cavalier attitudes toward social distancing — later coming down with the infection. In the case of Johnson, his battle with COVID-19 would go critical — putting him in the emergency room for the fight of his life.

global distribution of cases

Visual of global distribution of COVID-19 cases on April 24, 2020. Note that U.S. case numbers are the highest of any nation. This is true for mortality numbers as well. Image source: Worldometers.

So overconfidence itself became one of the biggest weak points for the viral fire to exploit. For the United States, the overconfidence would prove crucial as a containment failure there allowed the viral fire to explode into the largest national outbreak anywhere. Presenting serious risks both to U.S. and global citizens. In March and April, a rapid U.S. spread would ultimately result in about a million cases in the U.S. alone (as of this writing, on April 23rd, the U.S. total is 850,000 with the growth ranging between 25,000 and 30,000 cases per day). About one in every four hundred U.S. citizens would become hosts to the viral wildfire before May. The toll in lives would be serious — approaching 60,000 by April’s end for the U.S. alone (more than 48,000 U.S. deaths on April 23rd with between 1,100 and 2,700 more deaths each day). This as governors like Georgia’s Brian Kemp unwisely sought to relax stay at home policies early against the advice of health experts as daily infection rates were still near peak levels. The failures of overconfidence and not listening to experts being a hard lesson to unlearn for many — particularly those on the political right. Overall, the United States’ outbreak would be the largest first wave event anywhere on the globe — surpassing China’s initial explosion by more than an order of magnitude.

Large Viral Fires Everywhere — Including Hot Brazil

The story was similar in Europe where states like the, at first lackadaisical under Borris Johnson, U.K. and a seemingly unlucky Spain and France would see massive outbreaks to add to Italy’s major event. Germany would experience its own major outbreak. But containment efforts for that state would prove more diligent and effective. Total cases in these five countries would roughly equal that of the U.S. by the end of April — adding almost another million (also at about 850,000 on April 23rd but growing at around 15,000 cases per day which is considerably slower than the U.S. growth rate).

Large outbreaks in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Brazil would further feed into the global conflagration as May approached. With these four countries hosting about 210,000 cases as of April 23rd, but growing at a rate of about 12,000 cases per day combined. Brazil’s own large outbreak of about 46,000 by April 23rd also carried with it a warning. Spokespersons on COVID-19 have often assumed that it, like the flu, maintained a seasonal nature in which infection spread more rapidly at cold times of year, but that hot times would prove protective. The virus’s response to temperature may well be more complex and nuanced. Repeatedly, experts have cautioned that COVID-19 cold weather prevalence assertions are somewhat dubious and unproven. Notably the virus emerged from tropical and subtropical environments. So hot weather may have a limited ability to curtail infection rates. And Brazil’s own large outbreak has occurred in a hot weather region during a hot time of year. Showing that the virus is capable of rapid spread during hot, summer-like conditions.

Global COVID-19 case and death totals

By April 23rd, global case numbers and deaths continued to increase on at a steep rate with little sign of abatement. More than 185 nations had seen COVID-19 cases and the likelihood of subsequent viral waves remained high. Image source: Worldometers.

Including all outbreaks, by mid-to-late April, the fire had taken in 213 countries, areas and territories. On April 23rd, about two million, seven hundred thousand people had been infected across the globe. The case rate was growing by about 80,000 each day (2.4 million per month). And of those confirmed with infection, about 190,000 or seven percent had died. A grim tally that continued to swell by 5,000 to 8,000 each day. Showing the world would likely see a quarter million lost from the virus by some time in early May.

More Waves Could Follow

COVID-19 had defied expectation both for its ability to spread and for its apparent lethality. A disease capable of super-spread that is at present apparently seventy times more deadly than the seasonal flu among detected cases (See John’s Hopkins data on case fatality for individual countries here).  Something that given present data is potentially capable of producing a global impact that is the worst seen from an infectious illness outbreak since the deadly flu Pandemic of 1918-1919 if it breaks out more fully. This all just as the first wave of viral fire is passing over the globe. And until a cure or a very effective treatment is found, the virus now exists in a high enough global density to produce multiple subsequent waves of infection even if the first wave is abated (it presently is ongoing). A virus that appears to be capable of defying the conventional understanding of seasonality. And one that is extraordinarily transmissible and tricky to contain.

(UPDATED)

Up Next: No COVID-19 Didn’t Stop the Climate Crisis, But it’s Interacting with in in a Bad Way

Denial, Defunding, Downplaying — First COVID-19 Leadership Failures

“Decades of climate denial now appear to have paved the way for denial of Covid-19 by many on the right, according to experts on climate politics.” — Inside Climate News.

“The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus… and this is their new hoax.” — Donald Trump.

“Just left the Administration briefing on Coronavirus. Bottom line: they aren’t taking this seriously enough. Notably, no request for ANY emergency funding, which is a big mistake. Local health systems need supplies, training, screening staff etc. And they need it now.” — Democratic Senator Chris Murphy

“Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus … Yeah, I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.” — Rush Limbaugh

“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” — Donald Trump

“President Donald Trump has repeatedly undermined science-based policy as well as research that protects public health.” — the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative.

*****

In the ancient story, the prophet goes to confront the king. The prophet says — the Babylonians are coming, we must prepare, we must try to save our people. And the king says — I don’t believe it.

This is tragic. But it is also a dramatic failure of leadership and of a leader’s basic responsibility to protect those she or he serves. Because the point where disaster becomes inevitable is not when news of danger arrives. The point where disaster becomes inevitable, in the face of great danger, is when leadership sabotages itself and everything that relies on it. In the ancient story, the king’s denial is the death-knell for his civilization.

Science Denial As Climate Crisis Enabler

In America, we’ve done our best to remove ourselves from the curse of kings and their blind, cowardly, selfish pride that can hurt so many. But we are not immune to it. Far from it, with the political right now enamored with a novel authoritarianism, we are intensely vulnerable at this moment in history.

It is a vulnerability that we have seen play out again and again in the context of the climate crisis. With Inhoffe’s snowball in Congress, with Trump calling climate change a Chinese hoax during the 2016 election, with the thousands of false climate messages sent out by organizations like the Heartland Institute, with the ongoing attacks on climate scientists coming from platforms like Fox News, right-wing talk radio, and social media.

Even worse, we’ve seen this vulnerability of playing to unfettered and corrupt authority mutate into the climate crisis denial policies — huge subsidies for fossil fuels, erosion or removal of pollution controls, removing clean vehicle standards, hobbling or delaying clean energy systems like wind, solar, and EVs, smearing helpful policies like the Green New Deal, misinforming the public on the efficacy of climate solutions, attacking IPCC findings even while working to water down IPCC messaging, and attacking helpful global climate policies like Paris from every angle imaginable. In this way, a politics of denial becomes a platform both for harmful policy and for harmful behavior.

Anti-Science Denial Becomes Bludgeon 

A new vulnerability emerged with COVID-19. A kind of right wing systemic weakness resulting from years of failure to listen to experts and to support the institutions that protect both those of us in the U.S. and people around the world from the ravages of a wave of emerging and re-emerging infectious illness. This vulnerability became visible as China was grappling with a monstrous outbreak during December of 2019 and January of 2020. It became still more apparent during February as COVID-19 threatened to go global, to strike deeply into the U.S. population as well. And by March the various failures of the Trump Administration would result in the U.S. suffering the worst of any nation from COVID-19’s global first wave.

But the failures of leadership that paved the way for COVID-19 to rapidly expand began months and years before. It began with anti-science and anti-public-health Trump-lackey-type Republicans taking control of the executive branch of the United States.

Sabotaging Global and US Pandemic Preparedness

The story of the Trump Administration’s erosion and removal of key U.S. and global protections in the time before the Coronavirus outbreak is extensive. We will touch on some of its highlights here. In short, the removal of protections was deep, it was systemic, and it arose from both the Administration and its supporters’ operating ideology which included actively eroding national and global institutions. It also centered on Trump himself — who seemed unwilling to listen to even his own followers, taking any seeming or perceived contradiction as an insult. Moreover, presented with facts, Trump has repeatedly seemed to consider them an affront to him personally. In this case, Trump and his loyal and unquestioning followers targeted the very institutions aimed at keeping our populations well.

2018 was the first fiscal year budget request by the Trump Administration. This graph by Kaiser is one indicator of how much Global Health was de-prioritized in the transition from Obama to Trump. Image source: Kaiser.

According to reports from Foreign Policy, in 2018 the Trump Administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command. This included the management infrastructure for pandemics within the White House. An observation that has been broadly validated.

In 2018, the Trump Administration also sought deep cuts in a program called the Global Health Security Agenda (GSHA). The program was aimed at shoring up other countries ability to detect pathogens. The GHSA aimed to set up a global early warning system for new outbreaks of infectious diseases.

In July of 2019, the Trump Administration told an infectious disease expert then in China whose job it was to assist Chinese disease response and to facilitate information sharing between the U.S. and China during a disease outbreak that her job was defunded. This caused her to leave her post. Overall, the Trump Administration dramatically reduced disease response capability in China. According to The Guardian, 11 CDC staffers charged with disease response were cut to three people, while 39 workers who supported them were reduced to 11 people.

In addition, Trump Admin budget requests have asked for a reduction in CDC funding by 15-20 percent for each of the past years. Coordinately, Trump’s attempts to defund the Affordable Care Act would have reduced CDC funding by a further 8 percent. Congress (primarily due to the efforts of Democrats) ultimately restored funding removed in Trump’s budgets. So these cuts did not fully occur. That said, the attempted cuts show the Trump Administration’s preference for disease preparedness erosion. In the end, Trump leadership was still corrosive to the CDC. According to a report provided by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative:

“President Donald Trump has repeatedly undermined science-based policy as well as research that protects public health. That undermining has eroded our government’s capacity to respond to the coronavirus — from the White House itself to the labs and offices of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the federal government’s lead agency for science-based public health. The Trump administration’s widely-reported disbanding of the National Security Council’s directorate charged with global health has, according to many experts, hobbled the United States’ efforts against this pandemic.”

It was a hobbling that not only made the U.S. less prepared, it also set the global field — allowing any new epidemic outbreak to proceed undetected longer, to expand more rapidly into epidemics due to lack of disease response personnel, it disrupted global communications on the issue of illness, and it cost us dearly in both needed response time and lives of those who would not have been infected otherwise.

Ignoring the Severity of the Threat and Confusing the Public

The Trump Administration’s adversarial relationship with the front line soldiers in the global war on infectious disease early-on quickly morphed to a brazen denial of both the threat posed by the disease itself and the need for a strong response once it did emerge.

The timeline for these initial response failures — both a failure to take the threat of the virus seriously and communicate that seriousness to the public and the failure to provide adequate testing (next two chapters), contacts tracing, containment and isolation early on — occurred during January, February, and early to mid-March of 2020 as the disease first mostly ravaged China, then appeared overseas at first in large numbers in places like South Korea (high case numbers were, in part, due to an aggressive testing regime resulting in a clearer outbreak picture there) and then Iran with small numbers of cases elsewhere. By the end of February, it was clear that Italy was seeing uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 as well (with around 2,000 reported cases at the time). And by early-to-mid March it was apparent that both the US and large swaths of Europe were in the same boat.

Painting False Comparisons with Seasonal Flu and “Moving to Zero” in a Few Days — Trump’s Long March of Misstatement

Trump’s downplaying statements began in January and continued on through mid-March. On January 22nd, Trump stated to CNBC “We have it totally under control, It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” This initial major statement came notably late — weeks after first warnings (December 31) from China and WHO, and five days after CDC, in an almost unprecedented move, sent 100 disease screeners to U.S. airports. Trump’s statement was also apparently contradictory to CDC’s own statement on January 21st in which Dr. Nancy Messonnier noted “We do expect additional cases in the United States and globally.”

On January 23rd, CDC advisers reported to CNN that they were concerned that China hadn’t released enough basic epidemiological data about the virus. The next day, Trump apparently contradicts CDC again tweeting his praise for the Chinese government’s transparency and saying “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well…” By the next day, on January 25, there are 1,000 global confirmed cases of COVID-19. By the 26th of January, China reported that the disease can infect people and be contagious before displaying symptoms.

On January 30, 7 cases have been confirmed in the United States but the country is starting to show its woeful lack of testing capability (more on this later), the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern, the U.S. State Department issued a ‘do not travel’ warning for China. Trump states on the same day: “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five — and those people are all recuperating successfully.” This under-counted the official number and stood in contradiction to WHO and U.S. State Department warnings. On January 31, Trump barred many travelers from China. The Administration will later hold up this single, disorganized, inadequate by itself, and too late in retrospect action, as a ‘strong response.’ According to the New York Times, more than 430,000 Chinese still made it to the U.S. despite Trump’s travel ban (40,000 of which arriving after the ban was instated). Trump would later try to turn the blame for the virus onto the Chinese people, in statements that many described as race-baiting and which were reported to have set off a wave of acts of violence against Asian people living in the U.S.

By February 6, the virus was rapidly spreading with 25,000 known cases worldwide. In the following days, Trump would show stunning, and unfounded, optimism stating on February 7 that China will be successful in fighting the virus “especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone.” Infectious disease experts on the same day noted that there wasn’t yet any evidence that warmer weather would slow the virus. On February 10 and 12, Trump would repeat this unproven information stating: “looks like, by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” And “as I mentioned, by April or during the month of April, the heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus.”

Local counties, city and state governments, were often forced to contradict myths spread directly from Trump about COVID-19 as a matter of public health and a life-saving measure. Image source: McLean County Health Department.

By February 19, the WHO was now tracking more than 75,000 confirmed cases globally. By February 24, the White House was requesting 2.5 billion in emergency aid funding due to COVID-19. At this point, there were 51 confirmed cases in the U.S. But actual cases were probably far more extensive as U.S. testing capability remained well behind the infection curve. Trump’s statement on this day was also rosy despite a very grim global and U.S. picture starting to emerge: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” It’s also at this point that Trump began his counter-productive increased obsession over the stock market. On February 25, CDC again showed how out of touch Trump was with reality on the ground by stating that it expected to see both community spread and thousands of deaths in the U.S.

By February 26, Trump seemed bound and determined to overwhelm the dutiful reporting of infectious disease experts with utter nonsense. He made an odd comparison between COVID-19 and the flu and then he claimed that U.S. cases would be down to zero in a couple of days. For the sake of accuracy, infectious disease experts estimated COVID-19 lethality to be 10-40 times worse than the seasonal flu (as of this writing the disease has killed more than 100,000 people globally, more than 18,000 in the U.S., is the leading cause of death today in the U.S., and has a present global case fatality rate of around 6 percent or 60 times worse than typical flu). It’s also worth noting that at a time when the official CDC case count was 58, Trump falsely claimed the number was 15. Trump’s full statement is worth reading as an example of how delusional the deniers of scientific fact can become and how damaging such delusion is to our lives: “I want you to understand something that shocked me when I saw it that — and I spoke with Dr. Fauci on this, and I was really amazed, and I think most people are amazed to hear it: The flu, in our country, kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me. And, so far, if you look at what we have with the 15 people and their recovery, one is — one is pretty sick but hopefully will recover, but the others are in great shape. But think of that: 25,000 to 69,000. … And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

The next day, on February 27, there were 60 confirmed U.S. cases of COVID-19. Trump at this time was still living in the cloud of his self induced denial euphoria. His statement for the day was: “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” On February 29 the refrain for Trump continued at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland when he stated: “And we’ve done a great job… Everything is really under control.” Later it was confirmed that an attendee at the same conference tested positive for COVID-19. On the same day, health officials announced the first official COVID-19 death in the U.S. Later on the 29th, Trump would claim that: “we have far fewer cases of the disease then even countries with much less travel or a much smaller population.” Of course this statement would later be proven dramatically false as U.S. cases jumped to highest in the world on a numerical basis (as of this writing, U.S. cases are now rapidly closing in on half a million).

By early March, cases were notably surging in the U.S., but testing capability still lagged, so only the most severe or high profile infections were accounted for. Regardless, on March 4, 217 cases were confirmed in the U.S. On the same day, Trump was telling people: “Yeah, I think where these people are flying, it’s safe to fly. And large portions of the world are very safe to fly. So we don’t want to say anything other than that.” At this point such statements were directly risking life — it was like telling people to go to the beach in a category 5 hurricane. Conservative followers of Trump would make similar irresponsible statements risking harm to those who listened to them in the weeks and months to follow. It’s also worth noting that the coronavirus denial messages had extended to Trump’s flu comparison by this time as well. A poll conducted by Vox from mid-March found that 90 percent of Fox viewers felt it was safe to go out even as experts were increasingly recommending stay at home policies. But looking at this litany of Trump statements, it’s little wonder how many developed such a false sense of security.

To round out this account of live-action denial, on March 6 Trump began to downplay the lack of testing availability claiming: “Anybody that wants a test can get a test. … The tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect, the transcription was perfect, right?” This as many Americans with symptoms were forced to wait in long lines only to be turned away when asking for a test. And by March 9, Trump is again making the false equivalency comparison with the seasonal flu: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

We’ll pick up the thread of Trump misstatement in a later chapter. For now, we will mercifully break from his ongoing and delusional screed to take a look at how the Administration failed so miserably to provide the much-needed test kits that could have helped to contain COVID-19 in the U.S. even as the disease rapidly spread. To look at what could have been and to try to learn from the successful responses of other nations.

(UPDATED to include more information on Trump’s China travel ban in late January.)

Up Next: Effective Containment — How South Korea’s First Coronavirus Wave was Halted

COVID-19 First Outbreak — Viral Glass-Like Nodules in Lungs

“The chances of a global pandemic are growing and we are all dangerously underprepared.” — World Health Organization in a September 18, 2019 statement mere months before the COVID-19 outbreak.

“There’s a glaring hole in President Trump’s budget proposal for 2019, global health researchers say. A U.S. program to help other countries beef up their ability to detect pathogens around the world will lose a significant portion of its funding.” — From a 2018 NPR news report

*****

During recent years the world has swelled with new and re-emerging infectious illnesses. Ebola, HIV, and SARS were among the worst. And many were accelerated, worsened or enabled through various harmful interactions with the living world to include deforestation, the bush meat trade and the climate crisis. But these illnesses were not the only ones. Between 2011 and 2018, the World Health Organization had tracked 1,483 epidemics worldwide including SARS and Ebola. These illnesses had forced human migration, lost jobs, increased mortality, and major disruption to the regions impacted. In total 53 billion dollars in epidemic related damages were reported.

COVID-19 Lungs

Comparison of lungs of a Wuhan patient who survived COVID-19 — image A-C — to those of a patient who suffered death from the illness — image D-F. Both image sets show the tell-tale ground glass like opacities of COVID-19 in lungs. Image source: Association of Radiologic Findings.

By late 2019, before the present pandemic, a sense of unease had appeared to settle upon the global health, threat analysis, and infectious disease response community. The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) convened a joint World Bank and WHO meeting during September. The meeting brought with it a kind of air of dread. At the time, various climate change related crises were raging around the world and the general sense was that the human system had become far more fragile in the face of an increasingly perturbed natural world. At the conference, members spoke uneasily about past major disease outbreaks like the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed 50 million people. About how we were vulnerable to that kind of potential outbreak in the present day.

“While disease has always been part of the human experience, a combination of global trends, including insecurity and extreme weather, has heightened the risk… The world is not prepared,” GPMB members warned. “For too long, we have allowed a cycle of panic and neglect when it comes to pandemics: we ramp up efforts when there is a serious threat, then quickly forget about them when the threat subsides. It is well past time to act.”

And they had reason to be uneasy, for even as global illnesses were on the rise in the larger setting of a world wracked by rising climate crisis, reactionary political forces in key nations such as the United States had rolled back disease monitoring and response capabilities. It basically amounted to a withdrawal from the field of battle against illness at a time when those particular threats were rising and multiplying. And the responding statements of increasingly loud concern coming from health experts and scientists, ignored or even muzzled by the brutally reactionary Trump Administration, would end up being devastatingly prophetic.

Live Animal Markets Again Suspect

“We do not know the exact source of the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now primarily spreading from person to person.” — CDC.

*****

If the story of how SARS first broke out in 2002-2003 is not fully understood, then we know even less today about how the second strain of SARS (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19) made its way into the human population. What we do know is that the disease is closely associated to a coronavirus found in bats, that the disease transferred from bats or animals ecologically associated with bats and the virus (such as pangolins or civets) to humans through some vector, and that live animal markets remain high on the suspect list.  According to recent scientific reports, an intermediate host such as a pangolin, a civet, a ferret, or some other animal like the ones sold in wet markets probably played a role. Chinese health experts also identified a seafood and wildlife market in Wuhan as the original source of the new illness in January.

Regardless of its zoonotic genesis, COVID-19 made its leap into the human population sometime during late November or early December of 2019 in Wuhan, China where it began to spread. At first the spread was relatively slow. Or it seemed slow, due to the fact that the initial source of the infection was small — possibly just one person. But viral spread operates on an exponentiation expansion function. And like its cousin SARS-CoV, COVID-19 was quite transmissible — generating about 2.2 persons infected for each additional new illness.

Wuhan Suffers First Outbreak

At the time, no-one really knew how rapidly the illness spread. Some early reports of the disease seemed to indicate that it was easy to contain. That it wasn’t very transmissible. These accounts would prove dramatically wrong in later weeks. But this early confusion  about the risk posed by COVID-19 did hint at its nasty, sneaky, back and forth nature. About how it lulled the unprepared and the overconfident into a sense of false security early on. It also would later show that slower responses to the illness in its ramp-up phase would prove devastating.

By December through mid-January, Wuhan was dealing with an uptick in pneumonia-like infections. Having experienced SARS illness before, the region was put on alert after getting days of indicators that all was not right. These response efforts have been criticized as slow. How it happened is also opaque. One reason is that China was rather close-lipped about the outbreak’s rise on its soil at first. But another reason (an arguably much greater one) for this lack of clarity is due to the fact that many U.S. disease monitors charged with providing reports about the infectious disease situation on the ground in China and various other countries were removed by the Trump Administration in the years and months leading up to the outbreak.

Despite not providing a clear early picture of the outbreak, China did start to rapidly and effectively respond during December and January. In December, researchers received samples of the disease which they identified as a new coronavirus infection — naming it SARS-CoV-2. Once samples were available, both China and the World Health Organization (WHO) swiftly and dutifully produced tests to detect the illness. As of late January of 2020, China had 5 tests for COVID-19. At the same time, WHO began deploying tests to countries and by February the global health agency had shipped easily produce-able tests to 57 countries. This early availability of testing capability provided by WHO would prove crucial to the effective infectious disease responses of many countries in the follow-on to China’s disease outbreak.

Viral Glass Like Nodules in Lungs

Back in Wuhan and in larger China, it was becoming apparent both how deadly and how transmissible the new SARS was. From mid January 23 through February 18 — over a mere 26 days — the number of reported cases rocketed from around a hundred to more than 75,000. About ten times the total cases of the first SARS outbreak in 2002-2003. This even as China shut down large regions of the country, putting the whole Wuhan region on lock-down, and setting up dedicated COVID-19 testing and treatment centers. Notably, the new SARS-CoV-2 had become not only a serious threat to China. It was now a significant threat to the globe — one unprecedented in the past 100 years. A threat on a scale that disease experts had warned of during late 2019. One that if it broke out fully was more than capable of mimicking the 1918 flu pandemic’s impact and death tally.

China COVID-19 Cases

After rapid growth in COVID-19 cases in China, a strong national response has limited the first wave of outbreak in that highly populous country to just over 80,000. Image source: WorldoMeters.

The disease, which had first been seen by some as mild and easy to contain, had taken hold to great and grim effect. It produced direct and serious damage to people’s lungs. China’s dedicated mass testing centers quickly adapted to look for the tell-tale and devastating signature of COVID-19’s progress in the human body. A kind of viral glass like set of nodules that appeared plainly in scans of victims lungs.

As devastating as the disease was to individual bodies, it hit community bodies hard as well, producing mass casualties as about 15 percent of all people infected ended up in the hospital. A large number of these hospitalized cases required intensive care support (ICU) with ventilators and intubation to assist breathing. This put healthcare workers at great risk of infection themselves — because as with SARS — COVID-19 was not containable in the hospital setting without protective gear and masks (PPE). Early indications were that the lethality rate in China was around 2-3 percent or 20 to 30 times worse than the seasonal flu. Present closed reported case mortality for China now stands at 4 percent with 3,333 souls lost.

The progress of COVID-19 in an infected person was itself rather terrifying. Its ‘milder’ expression resulting in severe flu and pneumonia like symptoms with a number of other bodily responses to include serious spikes in blood pressure along with a manic variance in symptom severity. In hospital cases, victims often struggled to breathe to the point that they required oxygen. If the disease progressed, it produced serious inflammation — filling up lungs with fluid requiring support with machines for breathing. Late stage COVID-19 also attacked the body’s organs with inflammation, resulting in a need for multi-organ support in the worst cases.

Massive Outbreak of a Terrifying Illness

It was a nasty, terrible thing. It brought China to its knees — despite what ended up being a strong overall response by the country. At present, China is still recovering, still going slow with certain sectors of its economy despite limiting new cases to less than 100 per day.

The first outbreak in China was extraordinary in number of persons infected. So large as to be extremely difficult to contain through a well managed global response. But the response from key nations like the U.S. was not well managed. So through various contacts and travel vectors within the human system, this serious illness made its way out to the rest of the world. For the diligent contacts tracing and isolation, the early detection and response by international disease experts that had contained Ebola and the first SARS outbreak had been both hobbled and overwhelmed.

Up Next: Denial, Defunding, Downplaying — First COVID-19 Leadership Failures

How I Used Rideshare to Afford a Tesla Model 3 (You Can Do it Too)

So I’ve got a bit of a background in the field of emerging threats — both as a former military intel analyst and as an editor at Janes Information Group back in the early 2000s. And, in my opinion, the biggest threat facing civilization today is a twofold crisis.

Climate Change and the Failure to Use Clean Energy Crisis

We could easily call this crisis climate change — because these are the effects we see around us in the form of melting glaciers, changing seasonal weather patterns, rising seas and more extreme weather. We could easily call it global warming. Because net energy gain through heat trapping gas increase in the atmosphere is causing the Earth System to warm up.

But that’s just the first side of the problem. The ‘what’s happening’ side. The other side of the problem is systemic. It’s also cultural to a certain extent. And it mainly has to do with how we presently use energy to drive a massive global economic system that supports most of the 7 billion people living on the Earth. More importantly, the driver of the vast majority of the global warming we see (in the range of 80 percent or more) is the direct carbon emission coming from fossil fuel burning and extraction. About thirteen billion tons of heat-trapping carbon comes from this primary source and enters the atmosphere each year.

You could also call the climate crisis a harmful energy crisis. But that misses a bit of the story as well. For back during the 20th Century, competing clean energy sources failed to move to the fore. We knew how to generate energy from the sun and from the wind in a carbon-free manner. And we knew how to store that energy. But, mainly due to the fact that the fossil fuel interests held more political and economic power, these clean energy sources got sidelined. Bringing us to the final way that we could characterize this crisis — the failure to use clean energy crisis.

Setting an Individual Policy for Climate Action

It’s at this point in the discussion that we come down to little ol’ me. What’s my level of responsibility? What can I do as a person to help correct this problem. To not contribute to the failure to use clean energy crisis?

IMG_2493

(Optimized for zero emissions. My clean energy Tesla [Clean KITT] recharging at a local solar garage. Planning to purchase a Tesla that’s capable of sucking energy direct from the sun? Get up to 5,000 free supercharger miles through this link.)

This has been a big issue for me for some time. I don’t make a huge amount of money. I’m a writer after all. And my wife works for a not-for-profit. Sure, we are probably better off than some. But when it comes to being able to produce the capital to access 40,000 dollar electric vehicles, or a home where I can charge it in the garage, or the 20,000 dollar plus for solar panels and the other 7,000 dollars or so for energy storage at home, all that stuff may as well have been on the moon with me waiting for an Elon Musk rocket to get me there.

Sure the costs had come down. And sure clean energy was more accessible to me than it was before. But it wasn’t accessible enough. I needed just a little extra push to start to get there.

In all honesty, I really wanted to make the push. As a climate change blogger, I’ve been harassed by anti-clean energy trolls for the better part of 7 years. And you can say what you want, but proving trolls wrong can be a powerful motivator. So I wondered what I could do personally to generate enough capital to afford a primary clean energy platform.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. So I’ll just step back and put you in my place during fall of last year. Then, I was looking at a way to individually make a difference for climate change. Sure, we all need to support climate change response policies like Paris, and the Green New Deal. And we, as societies, need to escalate those policies pretty quick if we’re gonna have a real Extinction Rebellion. But as people and individuals, there are things we can do as well to try to correct our failure to use clean energy crisis. We can set our own personal climate policies in place.

For my part, I set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2025. And as a first step, I settled on getting an electric vehicle. I figured I could cut my family carbon emissions on net by about 2 tons per year including all the typical travel my wife and I engage in. But when I started to think about how I could afford something in the range of 35,000 to 40,000 dollars, I stumbled on the notion of rideshare.

Streetfighting Against Climate Change

You see, a local buddy of mine had been Ubering — even as he worked full time as an electrician. He told me that Uber was really flexible (if you decide to rideshare for clean energy, you can help this blog by using my referral code robertf30288ue). Your work hours were entirely yours to control and there was no commute except for the walk out to your car. I decided to look into it. And after a little research, I found that the average income for an Uber driver in D.C. was just short of 20 dollars per hour.

Now you may be smirking at me through your fingers. For a lot of people, 20 bucks an hour isn’t really much at all. But you have to remember that I’m working from a blogger’s/writer’s baseline that is rather short of that. And if I could somehow combine my writing income with an extra 25-30 hours of Uber income, I could make about 2,000 to 2,500 extra each month. This would be more than enough to cover the cost of a new, long-range electric vehicle.

(Paying for a Tesla using rideshare.)

The idea to then rideshare with the EV to multiply my clean energy system usage was a natural follow-on from this notion. Elon Musk had always talked about a master plan to use vehicle autonomy to achieve this kind of clean energy access multiplication on a mass scale. But what if I could use my basic human gumption to accelerate the process by a year or two or three even as I helped to make the local public more aware of how badass clean energy vehicles had become?

By this point, I had a plan. As many of you who have attempted difficult or ambitious plans before know, the major step is not coming up with a decent idea. It’s executing it. So I set out to, for lack of a better phrase, start busting my tail. This meant that I had to temporarily let go of some of my less lucrative work. Those of you who frequent this blog will attest to the fact that I went dark for a number of months. Mia Culpa! But contrary to one of about a bazillion climate change denier memes — those of us who communicate on the issue of climate change all-too-often don’t make minimum wage back for our time.

So I went dark and worked hard. In doing so, I met a lot of people. And aside from the odd Heritage Foundation pick-up (yes we Uber drivers pick up political org folks in D.C.), I’d say 95 percent of the people I talked to about my project were both concerned about climate change and interested in clean energy advancement. In other words, they were supportive of my goal. Plus they were also pretty geeked out about the potential notion of riding Uber in a Tesla.

As I drove, I also became keenly aware of how expensive it was to operate even an efficient internal combustion engine vehicle like a Hyundai Elantra. The cost of gas alone increased for me by about 250 dollars per month. Add in the new 50 dollar monthly oil change, and I began to get an understanding of how much an electric vehicle could save me later (more on this in a future blog).

How You Can Raise Funds for a Clean Energy Vehicle Through Rideshare

Long story short, after busting my tail, I had enough funds to afford a clean energy vehicle by April. I did this by using the rideshare app Uber. And by saving a portion of the profits to invest in a Tesla Model 3. I have now driven 800 miles in this clean machine. Like so many EV converts, I am never going back.

It is here that we get to the nitty-gritty of this post. How can you make enough money to afford a Tesla Model 3 if you’re strapped for cash like I was? One way is to do what I did — use Uber or Lyft part-time and save the profits for an EV purchase a few months down the road. This works well if you can set aside an extra 10 hours or more per week. And if you have the time, then fantastic! I recommend you give it a shot if you want to gain access to the amazing piece of clean tech that is the Tesla Model 3 and help fight climate change in one go.

Uber destination trips

(Uber destination trips allow you to pick up riders and earn money through the app while driving to and from work. This is a great way to optimize time and earn money for a clean energy vehicle. Image source: Uber.)

Many of us do not have an extra 10 hours a week or more, though. So I’m going to make this additional time optimization suggestion for rideshare usage to purchase a clean energy vehicle. And this suggestion includes the nifty little Uber feature called destination trips. What the destination trips feature allows you to do as an Uber driver is to set a way-point, drive to that way-point, and take trips toward that destination as you drive.

If you’re a regular office worker type, who makes a long drive to work and back, this has huge potential benefits. What it can allow you to do is turn your regular daily commute into a money-making endeavor. Just log into Uber in the morning, set your way-point to your office, drive the usual rush hour drive, and pick up a few rides in on the way to work. You’ll make about 15-20 dollars or more in an average rush. On the ride home, repeat. Now you’ve got an extra 150-200 dollars per week in your pocket to work with. Counting in future gas saved, that’s more than enough to cover the monthly payment on a Tesla Model 3 SR+.

Full disclosure, this will probably increase the time it takes to get to and from work. So plan accordingly. However, all the time during the work commute has now become gainful employment in the service of the clean energy transition. Nice! Of course, if you have a short commute, then such a plan is less optimal. But for our long commuters, this optimization will both enable you to make money while commuting and turn the tables on typical transport energy usage to fight climate change.

Not too shabby!

Now I know that I haven’t provided every little detail in my post. So if you have any questions about how to employ rideshare to help you purchase a clean energy vehicle and get you off the fossil fuel pollution wagon, I will be regularly checking the comments section below. So feel free to ask any question that you might have.

Thanks so much for stopping in! For the next blog post, I’ll be talking about Arctic sea ice as we haven’t had an update on that subject here in a while. Kindest regards to you all! And if you want a riddle for a near future blog post/Radio Ecoshock interview topic it’s a word with a hidden meaning: Lucina.

Which Clean Energy Vehicle is Best for Rideshare?

More than 1 billion… That’s how many carbon spewing internal combustion engine vehicles presently operate on the road today. Approximately 2.6 billion — that’s how many tons of carbon the use of this ground transport spews into the atmosphere each year (see also).

We’re Well Behind the 8-Ball on Climate Change — So What to Do?

Simply transforming this system to electrified transport would remove roughly half of these heat-trapping emissions. Emissions that are, even now, worsening our weather, melting our glaciers, warming our world, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, and threatening the emergence of a Hothouse Earth. And 90 percent or more of vehicle based carbon emission could be removed by linking electric vehicles to clean energy generation sources like wind and solar.

hothouse earth

(Tipping into a hothouse Earth state will happen if we keep burning fossil fuels. Individual and group action is now needed to prevent this catastrophe. Image source: The Potsdam Institute.)

Doing this would provide a big step forward in addressing the climate crisis. It would help to peak carbon emissions early on a global scale. It would provide the needed energy storage production for transforming the larger energy system. And it would prove to the world that we do not need to sacrifice quality of life or life-saving technologies in order to clean up our act.

****

Welcome to the second installment of Extreme Clean — my personal journey to cut my carbon emissions to zero and to multiply my clean energy footprint by sharing it with others. I hope you will join me in this much-needed endeavor.

****

From the standpoint of a single individual in a massive system that presently injects mountains of heat-trapping carbon into the atmosphere each year, the question needs to be asked — what can I do to speed up the clean energy transition process? In such a large world, how can the actions of a single individual matter? And how can I multiply my impact?

Choosing a Clean Energy Vehicle to Meet My Needs

For my part, and for the first phase, I have decided to purchase a clean energy vehicle. But I’m not just going to buy one and keep it for myself. I’m going to rideshare it through the Uber app. Thus multiplying my clean energy impact. I’m already living a veg-vegan lifestyle. My wife, two cats, and I already live in a relatively modest abode. But this is not enough. Not nearly enough. So step one is cleaning up my transport and sharing it with others.

Swallow Falls

(Cat and I hiking at Swallow Falls in 2018. For clean energy to work, it needs to provide for families like mine. We’re going to see if it’s possible to do that and more.)

In order to do this, I’ve go to make a choice. I’ve got to pick a clean energy vehicle that meets my transportation needs. This includes driving my wife to her work at the Humane Society of the U.S. about a mile away. It includes a vehicle capable of making the trek to the mountains where we enjoy hiking and camping. It includes one that is able to make the annual family reunion trip to Murrell’s Inlet some 500 miles away. One that can make the seasonal treks to my parents and grandparents in Virginia Beach — which is about 250 miles from my abode in Gaithersburg, MD. And if I rideshare it, I’m going to need something capable of consistently driving 100 to 200 miles per day on a 4-5+ day a week basis.

In other words, what I need is an affordable advanced clean energy vehicle. And for my purpose, for this blog post, I’ll be evaluating the capabilities of these vehicles before making a choice in a future installment. This first evaluation will look directly at the vehicles themselves. In particular, I’m interested in their range, their features, their price,  their level of efficiency, and their charging speed. In a second blog, I’ll be looking at another key feature — the availability of the charging infrastructure that supports them. This is crucial for me — as I presently live in a condo with no home charging capability. So I’ll need access to nearby local charging stations and fast charging stations. But, for now, I’ll be looking simply at vehicles themselves.

Five Highly Capable Clean Energy Vehicles on Offer

Luckily, at this point in time, there are now numerous affordable, advanced clean energy vehicles on offer. Even just last year, this was not the case. But, for the U.S. market, the number of clean energy vehicles that roughly meet my stated needs is about five. Last year, it might have been 1 — the Chevy Bolt. Arguably, the Tesla Model 3 also met my needs in 2018. But, on price (at around 50,000 dollars and up), it was then unattainable.

No more. The 2019 Model 3 Standard and Standard + are now within reach as well.

In 2019, Nissan is also offering a longer range version of its global best-seller — the Nissan Leaf. In 2018, the longest range a Leaf could achieve was approximately 150 miles. For my needs, this was a bit too short-legged. But the new Leaf + now boasts more than 200 miles of all-electric range. So we can add it to our list.

Rounding out the final two we have that Hyundai Kona Electric and the Kia Niro Electric. Both offer 200+ miles of range and prices in the mid 30s before some still substantial incentives.

If I wait until 2020, there will probably be more electric vehicles on offer that meet my needs. But at this time strong government incentives are now available for early adopters. In addition the purpose, for me, is to help provide a climate saving impact. To send a signal to markets demanding clean energy now. So acting sooner rather than later is very helpful to support this goal.

Evaluating the Cars

What follows is a pretty deep dive into the features and capabilities of these five vehicles. So hold onto your hats! The information is about to get dense!

Chevy Bolt

(Achieving a mass market debut in 2018, the Chevy Bolt is a highly capable, affordable electric vehicle featuring 238 miles of range and a number of highly attractive options. Image source: Chevy.)

Digging deeper into the individual cars on range, we find that the Chevy Bolt presently boasts an EPA range of 238 miles. This compares favorably to the Tesla Model 3 Standard at 220 miles of EPA range. However, the similarly priced Model 3 Standard + edges the Bolt out at 240 miles. Nissan Leaf Long Range is very close but lags a little at 226 miles. It is also worth noting that the Nissan is the only vehicle on offer with a passive cooling system. In the past, this has had negative impacts on battery life — which means that there’s a bit higher risk that the Leaf’s range could degrade more rapidly over time. Depending on local climate and use, my mileage may very. But this is a concern given the big swings in temperature the D.C. area has recently experienced. Moving over to the Hyundai Kona Electric, we get a bit of a break-out with 258 miles of range. This is pretty impressive and is one of the features that makes the Kona a pretty attractive offering to me. Finally, the Kia Niro matches the Standard + version of the Model 3 with 240 miles of electric range.

To me, this is all very impressive and roughly matches what only versions of Tesla’s Model S and X could do on range just a few years ago — but for around 75,000 to 90,000 dollars. Of course, none of these vehicles are as luxurious as the S or X. But the longer legs makes them all far, far more attractive to potential EV buyers — further shrinking the range gap with the ICE.

Looking at features, I’m going to provide a rough overview of the various aspects of each car. This is by no means fully comprehensive, but it does give a rough overview. Chevy Bolt is a relatively roomy sub-compact with 94 cubic feet of interior space and 17 cubic feet of storage. It has five seats, but might be a crunch for some larger folks in ride-share. Like most sub compacts, it can expand its cargo capacity by lowering the rear seats. The base Chevy Bolt comes with a rear camera and a 10.2 inch digital touch screen. Like many electric vehicles, Bolt has a lot of zip with 200 horsepower. Pretty surprising to pack so much torque into a sub-compact body design. Autonomous and more advanced AI features are available on the 41,000 dollar version. But the base version is, well, pretty basic in this respect. In addition, a number of people have complained about the seat comfort of the Bolt. An issue that, hopefully, Chevy is working to address.

Model 3 Standard

(At 35,000 dollars base price, the Model 3 Standard is Tesla’s fulfillment of its promise to provide an affordable mass market electric vehicle. And it’s a real thing of both beauty and clean energy aspirational achievement. Image source: Tesla.)

Features for the Model 3 Standard and Standard + are a bit more luxurious and muscular than the Bolt. The interior for the Model 3 is 97 cubic feet. However, storage is less than the Bolt at a still respectable 15 cubic feet including the front and rear trunks. Seating for the standard version is cloth, but the Standard + boasts vegan leather (faux leather) along with front heated seats. Basic level of autonomy including collision warning is standard for the vehicle. However, full autopilot is a 7,000 dollar upgrade (and out of reach for me). The central screen is 15 inches and includes most control options for the vehicle. Doors and windows both open at the push of a button from the inside (no levers). And outside entry is controlled either by fob or cell phone. Even the Standard Model 3 features sport car performance at 130 mph top speed and 5.6 second 0-60 acceleration. With the Standard + improving to 140 mph and 5.3 second acceleration. Overall, the feel of the Model 3 is that of a pretty awesome clean machine featuring minimalist styling, impressive design, decent AI capability, and powerful road performance. In terms of overall features, it’s a step beyond the competition, putting it in a class all its own.

Nissan Leaf + features include a unique customizeable display panel — which is pretty cool. Standard also includes automatic breaking — a basic autonomous capability. Like many EVs, the 226 mile/62 KwH battery is pretty muscular providing 214 horsepower and quite a bit of torque. Top speed is limited to 98 mph and 0-60 time is about 7 seconds. Central screen is a bit small for the class at 8 inches. Another compact model, the Leaf does boast a rather large storage area at 23.6 cubic feet. Hatchback design allows for good optimization of space. Other standard provisions include a heated steering wheel — nice for cold mornings.

Nissan Leaf Long Range

(Nissan has already sold more than 400,000 all-electric Leafs globally. Its new 226 mile range offering is bound to extend the legacy of this clean energy vehicle brand through seriously expanded capability. Image source: Nissan.)

Hyundai Kona Electric comes standard with another relatively beefy 201 hp electric motor. The vehicle is equipped with a relatively small 7 inch central display screen. Autonomous features include forward and side collision avoidance. A crossover/compact SUV, the vehicle looks really attractive both outside and inside. It sits higher than Bolt, Model 3, and Leaf — which likely provides some additional interior comfort. Overall cargo space is a decent 19.2 cubic feet. Seating for five might be a bit tight in back for larger riders — a repeating theme for the class of new, affordable electrics. Overall, a very attractive vehicle with notably high review ratings.

Kia Niro Electric rounds out our list with another 201 hp motor. It’s worth noting that the basic design is shared with the Kona, so a number of vehicle aspects will be similar. Kia Niro’s body, however, is roomier than Kona — with more space for those five passengers and 19. 4 cubic feet of storage. It is worth noting that Niro is still not yet available in the U.S. — so details are a bit less specific than the other options above. If the vehicle is not available in Maryland by mid April, it may opt itself out of the running for me. In general, there have been some issues with U.S. availability for the Kona as well — which appears to be limited to around a 20,000 vehicle per year global production rate. This compares to Bolt which will likely hit above 30,000, Leaf at around 100,000ish for 2019, and Model 3 at 250,000 to 300,000 (estimated figures).

Price comparisons are pretty comparable between these various high-performance, lower cost EVs. Chevy Bolt starts at $36,500 while the Tesla Model 3 Standard and Standard + start at $35,000 and $37,500 respectively. The longer range Nissan Leaf starts at $37,445. Kona shows a starting price of $36,500 — at the same point as the shorter range Bolt. Meanwhile it’s suggested that Niro will start at $37,500. Model 3 and Bolt have both lost the full $7,500 dollar tax credit, however. So at present that incentive is bumped down to $3,750 dollars. In addition, Maryland offers its own $3,000 dollar subsidy for electric vehicle purchases — which applies to all of the above models. Other features related to price include reported generous rebates on Bolt by Chevy as well as very attractive financing offers by Tesla (3.75 percent) and Bolt (zero percent for some qualifying buyers). Adding money to the ledger could include hidden costs like Tesla’s 1,200 dollar destination fee. All vehicles would be subject to sales taxes for their regions.

Kona Electric

(Kona Electric is a beautiful, highly capable 258 mile range EV crossover. But can Hyundai produce enough to meet expanding global EV demand and will it reach all markets in the U.S. during 2019? Image source: Hyundai.)

Not included in the price is the likely savings over time for lower maintenance and fuel costs. For regular drivers, this is pretty substantial — amounting to $1,000 dollars in savings per year or more. For higher usage drivers involved in rideshare, this savings is likely in the range of $3,000 per year when including reduced fuel costs, reduced wear and tear on brakes, no need for an oil change (I’ve changed my oil once per month on the Hyundai!), and overall return due to more simple design. These savings may be somewhat offset by rarer parts for EVs and potential longer periods in the shop as the maintenance infrastructure for EVs is somewhat smaller than for ICEs at present. In addition, use of aluminum to lighten the frames for Tesla vehicles may also add to body costs as aluminum work tends to be a specialized skill. Reports are, however, that Model 3 was simply designed for ease of use, manufacture and repair. We shall see if these claims hold out.

Efficiency is one factor where electric vehicles are head and shoulders above their ICE counterparts. Electric engines, in general are about 3 times as efficient as internal combustion engines. So far less energy is wasted overall. This is one reason why even EVs plugged into standard grids get far better fuel economy ratings and emit far, far less carbon than their ICE counterparts. EPA rated efficiency numbers for all the above vehicles are quite extraordinary. But it is an interesting metric to compare and determine which vehicle(s) stand out and which lag a bit. In the end, those with the highest efficiency will produce the lowest carbon footprints in use when plugged into the grid — which is important to me.

Kia Niro Electric

(Kia Niro Electric is another beautiful and highly capable affordable EV crossover. Will it release in time and in large enough numbers to have an impact on the U.S. market, much less make it available as a viable choice for me? Image source: Kia.)

EPA testing shows that the Chevy Bolt comes in at 119 mpge fuel efficiency. This is an amazing rating approximately four times better than my present Hyundai. But the Tesla Model 3 Standard and Standard + leap ahead with a 134 mpge rating. This is amazing considering that the vehicles have a rather high curb weight. But Tesla’s newer batteries appear to be breaking ground in a number of respects. Nissan Leaf long range lags both Bolt and Model 3 at a still impressive 112 mile per gallon equivalent. Kona follows at 120 mpge efficiency — which is also pretty strong. Finally, Niro rounds out the pack at 112 mpge. Overall, very impressive but with Tesla coming in as a clear leader.

Last but not least, we finally come to the important metric of charging speed. Typically, most of these vehicles can recharge at a rate of around 15 to 30 miles per hour of range through level 2 charging stations or the same capability charger at a home garage. However, in a pinch, all of these vehicles possess some form of fast charging capability — enabling charging rates of 150 miles per hour or more. For rideshare, this is important due to the fact that I might find myself relatively far afield and need to return home while still a 100 or more miles out. In addition, since I’m going to be using my vehicle for long trips, rate of charge will be a major factor in determining how long it takes for me to get to a distant destination.

Starting with the Chevy Bolt we find that this EV supports up to 50 kW rates for fast charging. What this means is that the Bolt can go from a low level of charge to a near full level of charge in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Nissan Leaf also is capable of recharging at 50 kW per hour rates and produces comparable recharge times during fast charge. True to trend, Kona and Niro also both charge at 50 kW per hour rates. And this rounds out the rest of the pack.

Pretty decent, but nowhere near as fast as the Tesla Model 3 using a Supercharger. Present Superchargers can provide between 72 kW and 120 kW of charge at most locations. For Model 3 Standard, these can provide a near full level of charge within between 40 minutes and an hour. A new version 3 supercharger rated at 250 kW is being introduced in California during early 2019. The Model 3 is equipped to handle this level of charging — which could cut near complete charging times down to 20-30 minutes or less. However, it will take a few years for these ultra-fast chargers to trickle through Tesla’s vast Supercharger network. It is worth noting that the Supercharger Network is presently closed to rideshare drivers. However, a Tesla representative recently noted that fair use of the network was typically considered to be once or twice per week. So on the rare occasion that I’m stranded far from home while ridesharing, I can simply turn off the Uber app, drive to the nearest Supercharger, get enough charge to return home, then link up with a local level 2 charger for the remainder (more on charging networks in another blog). So still useful in a pinch.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I’m 2900 words into the report and what I can say is that I’m very impressed with all the electric vehicles on offer. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that five very attractive EVs with this price range and capability would be available in 2019, I would have hoped you were right, but I might have doubted your conclusion. In addition, I’d like to add that there is a lot to consider when buying an EV for extreme clean energy use. Far more than I had initially thought. The details in this report are pretty extensive and, for me, quite a lot to digest.

At this point, I’m still evaluating which vehicle to choose. And I’d like to ask you for your help and opinions — so please feel free to post them below! I’ve also added a twitter survey at the start for feedback.

For our next blog, we’ll be looking at the ability of various charging networks to meet my stated needs. The availability of chargers is a big deal for me given the fact that I live in a Condo, don’t have a personal garage, and don’t have a charging station presently in my parking lot. So, yeah, access to various chargers nearby is going to be pretty key.

As ever, thank you all for joining me. I hope you have found this evaluation helpful. I also hope that some of you will decide to take the leap and rideshare in a clean energy vehicle. If you do, please help this blog by using my Uber referral code: ROBERTF3028UE. And if you have found this blog helpful and informative, please share widely! Warmest regards and, until next time, ciao!

Extreme Clean — Fighting Climate Change in Daily Life

The climate story of past weeks has grown all-too-familiar. The Central U.S. has been flooded by record rains whose extremity was spiked by the heat trapping gasses still building in our atmosphere. A city of half a million people was devastated by a cyclone feeding off of record warm waters. The oceans continue their rise. The glaciers their melt. The corals their dying. The fisheries their shifting. The seasons their altering. In other words, the climate upon which we all rely for so much is gradually becoming FUBAR.

warmer than normal sea surface temperatures

(Warmer than normal sea surface temperatures related to human caused climate chance contributed to a city-devastating cyclone striking Mozambique. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The story of the recent climate change related disasters could have been written a month ago, a year ago, two years ago. And ten years from now it will be the same story. Only worse. Though we have not yet entered the truly catastrophic age of climate change driven by fossil fuel burning and greenhouse gas emissions, for some, the situation is already a catastrophe. Whole towns have burned from worsened wildfires. Entire islands are being swallowed by the rising sea. The heat is more dangerous, the droughts more difficult with each passing year. And new, terrible storms range the globe with increasing frequency.

In my last blog, I made an appeal for U.S. and global action in the form of a Green New Deal. Why? Because I believe this is our all hands on deck moment. The time when we, both as people and as societies, need to do everything we can to blunt the coming trouble. And true to that cause — I went dark.

Why?

(More on present day climate impacts and action.)

Well, I figured that it was time to stop simply writing about climate change and start doing something about it on a personal level. Sure, I’d already done what I could in some respects. My wife and I worked to be as energy efficient as possible. We adopted a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle (which reduces our carbon emissions by about 10-15 percent). I promoted clean energy through my work and writing. I voted for politicians who would adopt helpful climate policy like the Green New Deal. But for me, those actions were not enough. In order to be most effective, I needed to pursue the goal of a clean energy transition and a net zero carbon lifestyle for self and family and to help others to do the same. In the parlance of my military/emerging threats background, I needed to become a climate change response force multiplier.

That public effort begins today. It will be a no-holds barred description of my clean energy transition attempts. A down in the dirt expose of my successes, my struggles, and my failures. And an attempt to transfer all the knowledge gained in that process to as many of you as possible. I’m calling this effort — Extreme Clean. And I hope you join me in pursuing it.

Though the public effort begins today, the private effort started back in September of 2018. Back then, I decided that the first major goal of my clean energy transition attempt would be to purchase an advanced electrical vehicle and to share access to this clean energy system with others. Gaining access to a long range electric vehicle would not be easy. Costs, compared to the reach of my middle class income, were relatively high — ranging from around 29,000 dollars to the upper 40s. And sharing an electric vehicle would not be easy. Slower refuel times and somewhat shorter range than internal combustion engine vehicles were all also limiting factors.

Reduced emissions with electric vehicles

(Electric vehicles allow you to cut transport based carbon emissions by half or more. Image source: Union of Concerned Scientists.)

At the time, I didn’t have the money or the means or even a plan. My access to clean energy, as had been the case for too, too long, was limited. But there were a growing set of options coming from clean energy business and a new economy that I thought could help me reach my goals.

My first move was to begin ride-sharing during the time I would typically spend blogging. I planned to use the ride share money to save for an electric vehicle. The vehicle I was driving (and continue to drive) is a 2009 Hyundai Elantra. Not a gas guzzler, for sure, but a vehicle with a total carbon footprint in the range of 2-3 times that of a fully electrified vehicle plugged into the cleaner Maryland grid. One that would be even less if I could eventually get a home equipped with solar panels.

Rideshare

(My present goal: ridesharing an electric vehicle as a clean energy multiplier.)

Since September of I have completed 1,139 shared rides using the Uber rideshare application. This enabled me to have lots of chats about climate change and clean energy with riders. And I’ve got to say that many, many people out there are very concerned. These folks come from all walks of life and political persuasions. And though I did get into a few polite discussions with people of the climate change denial persuasion, my overall sense is that the vast majority of riders I picked up basically got it and shared my concern.

To me, this experience was pretty liberating. But even more liberating was the fact that I was able to save a good deal of money using the Uber app to put toward the purchase of a clean energy vehicle. To start taking rides in an electrical vehicle in order to multiply my clean energy impact.

So as of this point in time, I am looking at logging my reservation of a long range electrical vehicle by mid April, to take delivery of that vehicle by sometime in May or June, and to start sharing clean rides with people by that time. But before I do that, I’m going to have to actually choose a brand of electrical vehicle to purchase. And in that process, I’m going to need to look at cost, capability, maintenance, and charging. To look at what works best for me given my personal needs and my clean energy goals. It won’t be easy. I live in a condo. I don’t even have access to a garage. So for me, the bar for clean energy access is pretty high. But that’s what the Extreme Clean program is all about. Attempting to overcome difficult obstacles in order to help save our future. And I hope you all will weigh in as I go through the process of picking an electrical vehicle that’ll work for me given my situation and goals.

So thanks so much for stopping by. Thanks for taking part in Extreme Clean. And until next time — cioa!

(Want to help spread the word about personal clean energy transformation? Then please share this blog far and wide. Wish to engage in a similar Extreme Clean effort through rideshare? Then please help by using this Uber referral code: ROBERTF30288UE.)

Aiming For 1.5 C Part II: This is Your Home

In achieving any kind of real progress toward an important end, it’s necessary to set goals that are difficult to attain. To aim further than you think you can go. And that’s even more important for a climate crisis that will produce catastrophic outcomes if we don’t set some very serious renewable energy, emissions reduction, and sustainability goals.

(This is your home.)

Because the important end that we are now trying to attain involves saving the future. Future prosperity, future vitality, future generations of human beings and living creatures. In the end it’s about the future of your home. For each 0.1 C of additional warming will bring with it more risk. More potential for increased harm.

It doesn’t matter if you live in Miami or Bangladesh. In Norfolk or Washington DC. In London or LA. In Calgary or Quebec. Where you live is where climate change is happening now. And where you live is where the future catastrophic impacts from climate change will be felt if we don’t do the necessary work.

In saying this, I can also say with confidence that we have a pathway out of this crisis. We have the renewable energy technology available now that is capable of replacing fossil fuel burning — so long as it is deployed on a mass scale. We have the ability to make our energy systems more efficient. We have the ability to change the way we manage lands and farms. And we can do all this — getting to net zero carbon emissions — without the kind of (post-Maria Puerto Rico-like) austerity invoking collapse of the global economy that the mongers of fear, uncertainty and doubt falsely say is necessary.

But to do this, to prevent catastrophe — not harm, because we are already going to see harm — we have to set our goals high. We have to try to achieve what might not be possible. And that’s why we aim for 1.5 C. Because this is your home. And we will employ every tool in our kit in our fight to save it.

Hat tip to Dr. Michael E Mann

US EV Sales Likely Hit 26,000 in June

The big surge in electrical vehicle sales within the U.S., primarily driven by clean energy leader Tesla, continues.

According to reports from Inside EVs, total U.S. EV sales are likely to hit near 26,000 for the month of June. Such sales increases have primarily been driven by Tesla — which sold over 11,000 EVs in the U.S. for the month — representing nearly half (42 percent) of the entire U.S. market.

(Unpacking why EVs are so important to confronting climate change.)

Tesla’s dominance was spear headed by its Model 3 — which sold over 6,000 in June to the U.S. (and approximately 2,000 to Canada). Meanwhile, combined Model S and Model X sales were in excess of 5,000 in the U.S.

Other U.S. clean energy vehicle leaders for the month of June included Toyota Prius Prime (a plug in hybrid electrical vehicle), the Nissan Leaf, The Chevy Bolt and the Chevy Volt (plug in hybrid). In total, all of these four models combined represented less sales than Tesla — approximately  5,900 in total or about 55 percent of Tesla’s sales. Of these, only the Prius Prime cracked the 2,000 mark (see more here).

(U.S. EV sales are rapidly increasing in 2018. Image source: Inside EVs.)

Overall, it appears that U.S. EV sales are likely to hit near 400,000 on the back of Tesla’s rapid expansion in production rates. In addition, GM has recently acknowledged that it is unable to meet high demand for the Bolt in the U.S. and has stated that production lines are set to expand by 20 percent. Though this is unlikely to satiate rising EV demand, it will add to the widening trend of ramping clean energy sales here.

GM recently saw big Bolt sales gains in South Korea. And the company recently acknowledged that it is not doing enough to meet consumer’s clean energy needs in North America. Though a bump from 26,000 to approximately 31,000 Bolts sold from 2017 to 2018 is a drop in the bucked compared to the approx 100,000 or more new EVs Tesla will be adding by itself vs 2017 (100,000 total EVs in 2017 to approx 200,000 total in 2018).

(Tesla hits past 5,000 Model 3’s per week in late June and early July. Image source: Bloomberg.)

Looking ahead, Tesla appears set to sell well in excess of 10,000 Model 3s alone in the U.S. in July as weekly production rates surge. According to Bloomberg’s Model 3 Tracker (image above), the company has sky-rocketed weekly Model 3 production rates to above 5,000 during late June and early July. And while some wag is likely between the mid 2,000s to mid 5,000s as Tesla continues to work on its lines, the company is on a clear path for increased production — aiming at another surge to 6,000 per week by August.

Tesla is Pwning Markets Traditionally Dominated by ICEs as Manufacturers Desperately Call for More Battery Production

Last year, the world produced more than 1.2 million electrical vehicles. This was nearly 60 percent growth from the previous year when just shy of 800,000 EVs hit the world stage. During 2018, the world is expected to achieve anywhere between 1.6 and 2 million electrical vehicle sales. And by 2020, the number is likely to exceed 3 million. In other words, clean transportation that transitions away from climate change producing fossil fuel burning is a major emerging and rapidly growing global market.

(Tesla is surging ahead in the race to produce clean energy vehicles. But Volkswagen has promised to spend 48 billion on batteries in a bid to catch up. Image source: Inside EVs.)

Today, Tesla presently dominates global clean transport sales. Producing just three models — the S, the X, and the 3 — this new automaker is seriously disrupting a number of traditional segments. During most weeks, Tesla now produces more than 4,000 all electrical vehicles in total. This makes it the largest global EV producer by a long shot at a present pace of more than 200,000 vehicles per year. In the key U.S. market, Tesla appears to have sold between 5,000 and 8,500 vehicles during April alone. And the mass-produced Model 3 is presently making up more than half those sales at between 3,875 and 4,777 according to estimates by InsideEVs and CleanTechnica.

For Tesla, it’s just another milestone on the road to mass vehicle electrification. By summer, the clean energy company expects to be producing around 7,000 electrical vehicles per week in total — with fully 5,000 of that number coming from the Model 3 alone.

What this means is that Tesla is both racing ahead of other automakers in the EV field and that it will also start to dominate markets traditionally ruled by carbon-belching ICE makers. As one example of this trend, the Model 3 is presently the #21 best-selling car in the U.S. — out of all cars sold. By summer, it is likely to be #6. In its segment — small to medium sized premium cars — it is presently crushing the likes of Acura, Infiniti, and Jaguar to take the #5 spot. But with 5,000 per week production on the way, in just a few months it will assuredly take the crown from Mercedes and BMW.

(According to CleanTechnica analysis, Tesla appears likely to dominate the small to mid-size luxury vehicle segment in the U.S. come May to June. Image source: CleanTechnica.)

This from a type of vehicle — electric — that was once thought to be humble and non-competitive. One can practically hear the crack of the world-spanning shot running through the global auto industry at this time. An industry that has been mostly caught flat-footed by a trend that us clean energy advocates have long been predicting.

The reaction by traditional industry has been predictably varied and chaotic. Ford appears to be in full retreat from segments that are now increasingly dominated by high-quality EVs — recently announcing that it will no longer build sedans, but will instead focus on trucks and SUVs. On the other side of the spectrum, a Volkswagen still reeling from the PR disaster that was dieselgate appears to have seen the electric light. That OEM has now pledged to spend 48 billion in battery orders in an effort to beat or at least confront Tesla in the market that it created.

Batteries are the key enabler to mass EV production. Hyundai had a hard lesson in this over past days as the all-electric Ioniq — celebrated for its efficient design — ran into a supply wall. The reason? Hyundai had only planned for 1,200 battery packs per month. But demand for the clean energy vehicle quickly outstripped supply. Hyundai subsequently stretched Ioniq production to 1,800 per month. But, at that point, the automaker was dead in the water on further expansions due to a 2 year lead time for battery contracts. In other words — if you don’t have battery production or suppliers, then you’re out of luck if you want to produce EVs in higher volumes.

(Global lithium battery supply and demand keep running ahead of expectations. By 2021, racing global battery producers are likely to supply 344 GWh of battery production or more. Image source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance.)

Battery manufacturers are thus scrambling to meet a rapidly rising demand. In 2017, global battery production capacity stood at about 100 gigawatt-hours (GWh). And global expansion plans appear to be aiming for around 300 to 350 GWh by 2021. But even this estimate could be low. For Volkwagen’s own recent 48 billion dollar call for EV batteries is likely to generate even more supply chain expansions even as other automakers call for more production.

Returning to Tesla, we would be remiss if we didn’t highlight one of its many key advantages — it owns its battery supply chain. Tesla’s Gigafactory in Reno, through its partner Panasonic, is expected to be able to produce 35 GWh of batteries all by itself over the next year or two. This is enough to support annual Tesla EV production in the range of 400,000 to 500,000. Gigafactory battery capacity is expected to expand to 150 GWh by the early to mid 2020s — which would support two million or more EVs each year.

(Without the Tesla Gigafactory in Reno, U.S. battery production would be dead in the water due to myopic and harmful policies produced by the republican-dominated federal government and various similar state legislatures. Europe, China and Tesla have realized that large scale battery production is necessary for a clean energy future and a related strong response to climate change.)

By contrast, Volkswagen is presently targeting 3 million EVs per year by 2025. In 2018, it is well behind Tesla — unlikely to see sales across all EV models exceeding 100,000 while Tesla is likely to at least double that number. So VW will have to race to catch up. A 48 billion dollar battery buy will be key to achieving this goal. It’s a very aggressive move that will enable the manufacturer to produce millions of EVs in the future. But, at the present time, it is seriously lagging. A situation that doesn’t have much chance of changing until the early 2020s even as Tesla gains both credibility and market share.

At least Volkswagen appears to have seen the proverbial writing on the wall. Transition is, after all, the best option in the face of competition from far more healthy and desirable EVs. For the other laggards in the traditional auto industry — time’s a-wasting.

Tesla’s EV Lead Expands as Production Hits 13,000 to 17,000 in April

In the present day, two forces are helping to drive the potential for a rapid and much-needed transition to clean energy. On the one hand, we have countries like China and states like California providing clean energy leadership and incentive. And on the other hand, we have clean energy innovators like Tesla who continue to stretch the bounds of what’s possible.

This month, Tesla proved naysayers wrong by consistently producing more than 2,000 all electric Model 3 vehicles per week. During late March, Tesla produced 2070 Model 3s in one week. The next week they produced 2100. And the following week they produced 2250. During the third week of March they probably produced around 1,000 as the line shut down for improvements for 3-5 days. However, it’s likely that the final week will show in excess of 2,200 as the production line again expanded.

(Tesla EV production rates saw a big jump in Q1 as Model 3 began to hit a stride. However, Q2 2018 results will likely more than double that of Q4 of 2017 with Model 3 likely averaging over 2,000 per week. Image source: Statista and Tesla. )

Assuming that average weekly Model S and X production rates of around 1,000 (each) continued throughout the month, it appears that Tesla achieved a total rate of 4,000 BEVs produced each week. In sum, that adds up to a yearly rate of 200,000 per year.

Such a rate would make Tesla the present fastest-rate producer of EVs in the world. It would outstrip BYD and BIAC. It would leave BMW, Volkswagen, and Nissan in the dust.

Since Tesla rates of production can vary from week to week and month to month, the estimate I’ve given ranges from 13,000 to 17,000 EVs produced for April. Implied in this number is a one-month rate for the Model 3 that approaches all of Q1 production.

(CO2 emissions per 100 kilometers driven is greatly reduced when EVs are mated to grids with high clean energy penetration — like the one in Ontario. And it is for this reason that mass replacement of ICE vehicles with EVs is a key climate solution. Image source: Plug’n Drive.)

By May, it is likely that we will see 1 week rates for Model 3 exceed 3,000 as Tesla adds a third shift and continues to refine its line. Average total EV production for the month could exceed 20,000 if this ramp is achieved. By June, Tesla is aiming for a peak Model 3 production above 5,000 per week — which would imply a total EV production rate of 7,000 per week.

What all these numbers mean, and what few are reporting, is it appears that Tesla is achieving a break-away rate of electrical vehicle manufacturing. One that other automakers will have major difficulty catching up with. Such large volumes of EVs will displace a significant amount of carbon emitting ICE demand. Fossil fuel luxury and sport vehicles by BMW, Toyota, VW, Volvo, GM and many others will increasingly be replaced by this flood of high quality electrical vehicles. And a signal will be sent to the markets that higher margin ICE sales are taking a serious hit.

(Tesla Model 3 production rates significantly accelerated during early Q2 of 2018. Image source: Bloomberg Model 3 Tracker.)

If Tesla’s ramp continues, it will easily be selling 300,000 to 350,000 EVs per year by 2019 — which is considerably more than Volvo’s annual U.S. sales. This high volume will force other automakers to respond in kind. But since none will likely be able to produce in comparable volume and quality until at least 2020, Tesla is developing a major head start.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

%d bloggers like this: