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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aspirational Tesla Struggles to Meet Vision of Mass EV Production

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

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

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

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

Links:

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

Tesla Record Month in Europe

Tesla Model 3 Delivery Delays

 

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Republicans Seek to Use Tax Bill to Suppress Climate and Clean Air Saving Electrical Vehicles

Republicans in Congress seem more concerned with cutting taxes for the rich than dealing with present and worsening problems like Russian interference in U.S. democracy or the ever-escalating damages coming from human-caused climate change related to fossil fuel burning. In fact, the Republican Party today signaled its intent to use the presently proposed tax bill in a manner that would make one of these problems dramatically worse.

According to news reports, Republicans intend to use their tax cut plan to remove incentives for electrical vehicle ownership by the end of 2017. Presently, buyers of all-electric vehicles enjoy a $7,500 tax credit. An incentive that helps the U.S. clean up its air and reduce the kinds of greenhouse gas emissions that fuel sea level rise, more powerful storms, and worsening droughts, deluges, and wildfires.

(In the U.S., more than 200,000 people die every year as a result of outdoor air pollution to which vehicle transportation is now the primary contributor resulting in 53,000 such deaths per year. That’s more deaths than from vehicle accidents. Moreover, air pollution impacts like asthma, stroke, heart attacks, and reduced lung function are far more widespread. Image source: EPA.)

Though such a policy might not be much of a surprise coming from the party of a Rick Perry, who today falsely claimed that fossil fuel burning prevented sexual assault against women, climate change denier Inhoffe, and tilting at windmills Donald Trump, it would have wide-ranging negative impacts for every American. Impacts like bad air quality which is a health risk for everyone, worsening climate change which is now causing many Americans to lose their homes or be forcibly displaced, and loss of economic advantage coming from new jobs and new industry.

Presently, U.S. automakers hold a global edge in high quality electrical vehicle adoption due to this and other related policy supports. Top EV automakers like Tesla, GM and Ford who produce renowned vehicles like the Model S, Model 3, and the Chevy Bolt. But, apparently, it looks like Republicans are now using tax policy as a means to legislate an attack on this innovation, which result in reduced fossil fuel demand, more energy independence for the U.S., and far less in the way of harmful particulate and greenhouse gas emissions.

(Tesla stock reacts negatively to news that Republicans are adding a provision to remove electrical vehicle incentives to their tax bill. Image source: Google Finance.)

Tesla bears, who have been rabidly consuming and perpetuating bad news (a good portion of it exaggerated or invented) about the leading U.S. electrical vehicle manufacturer, went nuts over the Republican announcement today. Tesla share prices dropped from around $320 to $296 following the move. More than a bit of this investor flight appears to be irrational. Ironically, Tesla is less exposed to risk from removal of this tax cut than automakers like GM due to the fact that it is already approaching the 200,000 EV limit under the tax credit. After this point, tax incentives for EVs from individual automakers drop off. And Tesla has already sold 250,000 vehicles globally with more than 150,000 of those sales coming from the U.S.

Republicans have once again proven that they are the anti-renewable energy, pro harmful impacts from climate change party. They have also once again proven that their capacity to use tax policy to greatly increase a variety of bad effects — ranging from worsening inequality in the U.S., to undercutting innovation and American technological leadership, to fighting directly against the very solutions and mitigations for a rapidly worsening climate situation.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Links:

Republican Tax Plan Kills Electrical Vehicle Credit

EPA

Air Pollution Causes 200,000 Early Deaths in the U.S. Each Year

Rich Perry Says Fossil Fuels Will Prevent Sexual Assault in Africa (Hint: FALSE)

Hat tip to Suzanne

This post is dedicated to DT Lange

Whitefish Puerto Rico Contract Cancelled, Now How About Letting Renewable Industry Leaders Step in?

At this blog I often cover how climate change is worsening the global weather situation. How fossil fuel burning is the primary cause of climate change. How renewable energy adoption is the primary means for removing global carbon emissions. And how bad, on our present track, climate change outcomes could become.

What I often do not talk about in main posts (though we see quite a bit in the comments section) is how underlying factors such as political corruption and the ideologies supportiing that corruption can harm effective responses to climate change.

Witness Puerto Rico. A U.S. territory that has suffered a very severe blow from one of the worst hurricanes ever to make landfall in the Caribbean. A storm fed by the warming waters of human caused climate change which were, in turn, fed by a rampant and harmful climate change denial afflicting a number of our powerful political leaders.

There, electricity has now been largely knocked out for more than a month. U.S. Citizens have been forced to go without water, power, and basic life-saving medical services. The Trump Administration’s response to the disaster could best be described as incompetent. More incompetent than the Bush Administration during Katrina. And that’s being generous.

Though people died during the storm, a far more substantial death toll is emerging due to the Administration’s lagging response. With 900 people now estimated to have perished as a result of life-threatening conditions due to a loss of infrastructure and due to Trump’s larger failure to rapidly deploy a necessary massive relief and restoration effort.

If this spiraling situation wasn’t bad enough, Trump Administration incompetence has been followed on by allegations of corruption. The most glaring example comes in the form of a recently cancelled 300 million dollar contract with Whitefish to restore power on Puerto Rico — a small contracting firm reported to have only two permanent employees, links to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and whose larger investors are known Trump donors.

Due to the fact that this contract appeared to contain a number of conflicts of interest that looked like a ‘pay for play’ arrangement, and due to concerns over a privatized grab for control of Puerto Rico’s energy grid, both Republican and Democratic leaders have called for an investigation into the power repair contract. FEMA had also flagged the contract for potential problems. Meanwhile, review of the contract has found a number of cases that could best be construed as over-charging. According to NPR:

Much of the controversy that has surrounded the contract has focused on the high rates Whitefish is charging for labor. The contract shows those labor rates are pricey indeed: $240 an hour for a general foreman and $227 for a lineman. The per diems are also expensive: almost $80 a day for meals, and $332 a day for lodging. Employee flights are billed at $1,000 each way. For subcontractors, the bulk of Whitefish’s workforce, the prices go even higher. A general foreman costs $336 an hour and a lineman, $319.

The combined allegations of corruption, overcharging, and various links to the Trump Administration are all hallmarks of vulture disaster capitalism — where private firms exploit government contracts following disasters or military conflict to bilk exorbitant sums from the government (and by extension the taxpayer) while providing only standard or substandard service. Such exploitation comes along with a policy push for privatization of previously provided government services. And there was serious concern that the Whitefish contract would result in just such a privatized electrical grid in Puerto Rico following over-charging and possible shoddy work.

Today, amid rising scandal, both Puerto Rico’s governor and the mayor of San Juan called for the cancellation of the Whitefish contract. Work already started by Whitefish will be completed — this includes refurbishing two major power lines. But the contract is expected to be awarded to a less shady agency going forward. San Juan’s mayor, on AM Joy today called for work to be led by companies like Tesla or Southern California Edison — both of which have substantial experience with both grids and renewables.

Tesla, for its own part, restored power for a children’s hospital by providing solar + power packs without any incentive. The renewable energy company has become increasingly involved in building power systems for islands and helping to stabilize grids through its renewables based energy storage. Tesla played a pivotal role in providing solar+battery based power for the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It has also worked with Australia to provide batteries to assist in grid stabilization activities.

Given Tesla’s long track record and due to the fact that Tesla workers were already on the ground helping Puerto Ricans, it was a no-brainer add this company to a mixed list of experienced corps in assisting the power restoration effort. In addition, renewable energy systems like those provided by Tesla help to mitigate the root causes of the climate change related extreme weather that has so terribly damaged Puerto Rico — putting of the U.S. citizens there in danger. A fact that was obviously missing in the decision to hire Whitefish — a company with practically zero renewable energy chops.

And it is here that we need to return to the basic problem that arises from having climate change deniers as leaders in government. First, such politicians tend to favor contracts by fossil fuel companies, or worse, by shady firms like Whitefish. They also tend to be ideologically opposed to actual functional government — which leads to harmful privatization, related over-charging, and exploitation following disasters. In other words, such ideologues on the right leave wide open the door to corruption by establishing links with shady corporations. Finally, they tend to block more upstanding corporate players like Southern California Edison and Tesla who have a track record for building public utilities up by establishing solid renewable energy systems rather than by tearing them down by seeking to ram through fossil fuel linked privatization.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to Wili

 

Tesla Under Fire as Renewables Rise: China, Consumer Reports, and the Ailing ICE Industry

With major renewable energy and automotive media now obsessed with the success or failure of Tesla’s zero emissions Model 3, it’s helpful to understand the larger context in which a monumental conflict between an old, mostly dirty industry and new clean energy players is occurring. To this particular point, we should take the opportunity to step back for a moment from the day-to-day minutiae of business activities and related media campaigns to ask this single essential question:

In the present day’s ever-worsening and warming climate, what does a wise, forward-looking national energy policy look like?

Such a question may seem out of context until one considers the fact that the object of so much media and industry drama — Tesla — operates in what can best be described as a conflicted policy environment. In the U.S., Tesla enjoys a dwindling subsidy in the form of tax breaks going to purchasers of zero highway emissions electric vehicles (EVs). This subsidy was intended to incentivize zero emission vehicle adoption and thus enable the numerous health and environmental benefits that would result from taking more polluting automobiles off the road.

(One of Tesla’s main advantages has always been aspirational vision. Part of that vision involves a systemic approach to clean energy production. In one example, Tesla not only produces electrical vehicles, it owns a large and expanding global EV charging infrastructure. The future is electric and Tesla is vertically integrated.)

Such a subsidy also pushes for the replacement, ultimately en-masse, of dirtier vehicles upon which an old and thus more easy to profit from industry presently relies. And in Western democracies, this looming replacement has resulted in a number of political and media firestorms as the old industry tries to delay or deny the pathway for new energy leaders like Tesla. These old industry players — ranging from traditional automakers to fossil fuel behemoths — have managed to place barriers to electrical vehicle adoption in many regions. The upshot is a kind of energy policy (and related media) gridlock where the old industry attempts to hamstring the new, aspirational, more helpful industry at every possible turn.

In this very serious game with ultimately extraordinary consequences for everyone living on the planet, this increasingly polarized policy posture results in serious delays of an essential energy transition. It also leaves wide open the door for outside competitors to take advantage of what can well be described as western balking and intransigence at a critical moment in global history.

China’s Drive for Global Energy Leadership

For a China observing a West consumed by in-fighting and division over energy and climate futures, wise policy involves a rapid move to cut coal burning and shift to becoming a global renewable energy leader. To do this, China has funneled billions of dollars of aid and incentives to solar production, to battery production, and to electrical vehicle manufacturing. It has protected these markets, which it invests heavily in, by both tariffs and trade laws. Some of these laws encourage the transfer of technical knowledge to local companies by requiring foreign companies wishing to produce EVs on Chinese soil to partner with indigenous industry and share information.

For China, these policies are not simply altruistic. Though they will result in considerably less greenhouse gas emissions on net and help to drive the world to reduce harms from both air pollution and climate change, they are also aimed at global energy leadership and, perhaps, dominance. They grant China both moral authority and economic might that leverages the powerful economies of scale a massive manufacturing base provides. Such clear-focused policies aimed directly at both moral and strategic energy goals are largely lacking in the polarized West. And this consistent organization and follow-through produces a growing moral and economic advantage for China. For the prize of renewable energy leadership or dominance is huge — ranging in the trillions of dollars.

(China leaving the U.S. behind on green energy. This is largely and ironically due to increasingly backward climate policy promoted by the Trump Administration.)

In the global solar industry, such renewable energy focused polices have resulted in the majority of world solar manufacturing being housed in China. This development, in turn, has produced a considerable price advantage for solar panels manufactured by large Chinese facilities that can leverage expanding economies of scale.

In the U.S., this advantage has produced a flood of cheap solar panels coming from foreign shores. Such a flood helped to enable the building of a massive industry that now directly employs more than 370,000 people — which is about seven times the number of people employed by the coal industry and about double those employed in the oil, gas, and coal based electricity generation industry combined. But cheap Chinese imports have also put a big dent in direct solar manufacturing in the states. In reaction, we are now seeing a trade case that will have far-reaching impacts on the U.S. solar industry presented to the unwise and irrational Trump Administration. And it is, perhaps, the irony of all ironies that a Chinese solar manufacturer operating on American shores was one of the key plaintiffs in a case that could dramatically undercut solar adoption rates while also removing thousands of renewable energy related jobs if handled poorly.

Though China’s solar industry is well ahead, its related electrical vehicle industry is rapidly catching up. Last month (September of 2017), fully 59,000 electrical vehicles sold in China. This represents about half of all electrical vehicles sold across the world during that month. It is 80 percent more EVs than were sold in China during September of 2016. So far in 2017, 338,000 EVs have sold in China, which is a 48 percent growth year-on-year. Globally, due in part to these considerable advancements by China, it is likely that total EV sales will well exceed the 1 million mark for the first time with growth into 2018 easily likely to exceed 50 percent.

Tesla as Global Gadfly vs Ailing ICE Industry

And here we return, at last, to Tesla and its imminently controversial Model 3. For what China is doing on a massive national scale, Tesla is attempting to do through business and related capital investment alone. Tesla is a renewable energy only company — offering battery storage for clean power systems, electrical vehicles, and solar panels. And it is presently the only large western automobile and energy company to operate under an all-renewable products banner.

Tesla’s mission from jump was to attempt to spur widespread electrical vehicle production and a related renewable energy revolution. To disrupt the automobile market enough to spur the entry of serious competitors and to, through such competitive incentive, drive a global industry sea change. And the Model 3 was at the center of Tesla’s plans.

Tesla’s successful Model S and X were intended, in other words, to enable Tesla to mass produce a high-quality, lower cost, long-range electrical vehicle that, by itself, would be capable of selling 200,000 to 500,000 units or more per year. This vehicle, in turn, was meant to help Tesla produce an even lower cost, high quality EV that would be capable of selling even more.

Looking at numbers alone, it is difficult to conceptualize what such sales would mean for the global automobile industry. But digging a bit further, we find that the Model 3 represents a serious threat to a large lower-end luxury and sport vehicle market presently dominated by major ICE automakers such as GM, Audi, Porsche, Volvo, Mercedes, Jaguar, Toyota, and BMW. IF the Model 3 achieves its sales goals, well-selling vehicles like BMW’s 3 series or the Audi A3 or A4 could be decimated. Such automakers would be largely forced to react by producing high quality EVs to compete with the Model 3 and hopefully blunt some of its impact on traditional auto industry profits. Which is exactly what is now happening as we see Chevy’s Bolt, an up-ranged Nissan Leaf, and numerous other higher-quality, longer-range, lower-priced EVs on the way or already on the market.

ICE Industry Critics 

So even without large Model 3 production, Tesla has already played a major role in forcing traditional fossil fuel based automakers to react. However, the success of the Model 3 is of key importance to the speed of market transition. A less successful Model 3, for example, would take the pressure off traditional automakers — perhaps allowing room for backsliding and ICE market retrenchment. A more successful Model 3 would force more rapid responses — goading automakers not just to produce compliance EVs, but high-quality EVs capable of competing with what is likely to be an amazing vehicle on all counts.

Considering these very high stakes, it is easy to understand the present media hyper-focus on the Model 3 production ramp. And it is also easier to comprehend the cause of an emerging public war of words between major traditional auto industry stake holders and Tesla. For in the past six months we have seen CEOs from GM, Volkswagen, and others decry, mis-characterize, or otherwise seek to blunt support for Tesla’s rise.

Conflicts with Workers

Tesla, like any other company, is staffed by human beings possessed of various human limitations. And in its Herculean push for rapid expansion, Tesla is also likely driving these employees rather hard. So we would be remiss not to illuminate the sacrifices, conflicts, and casualties that are often produced in the quest to achieve lofty goals.

Musk himself operates under a puritan work ethic in which his observed or reported work encompasses 60-100 hours per week. An example which he appears to expect his employees to emulate. Given his company’s aspirational aims and the stakes involved, this serious drive is understandable. However, such an extreme work ethic has clashed with the values of U.S. unions who attempt to protect employees from over-work and all the risks of injury such a higher stress work environment entails.

This is one reason for the growing friction between Tesla and some of its employees. It is also worth noting that the UAW, which is attempting to organize workers at Tesla plants, is a political organization with deep-seated ties to the traditional ICE manufacturing structure in the U.S. So it’s also possible that motivations for union opposition to Tesla may exceed those of a traditional workplace conflict with management. One would hope, in an ideal world, that UAW workers would share the aspirational goals aimed at speeding advancement of clean energy and transportation systems while differing with Tesla management workplace practices. However, institutional knowledge of workers is presently more largely tied to the fossil fuel based vehicle production chain. And such ties represent a higher likelihood of producing traditional industry biases that are difficult to overcome.

In the absence of government leadership and communication addressing both fair workplace practices and a larger recognition of the need to re-train workers steeped in a systemic ICE production tradition, such an interests-based-conflict is probably unavoidable. And it appears that we are seeing it emerge now with the hard-charging Tesla. Such a systemic conflict with traditional institutions within the U.S. may well be just one more reason why Tesla is now planning to build a large manufacturing facility in more institutionally EV-friendly Shanghai, despite facing high tariff barriers on vehicles built there for the Chinese market.

Consumer Reports

Assaulted by traditional automakers, a large and vocal subset of institutionally biased fossil fuel based investors, and embroiled in an escalating conflict with factory workers in the U.S. while attempting to achieve aspirational and ultimately helpful goals, it is understandable why Tesla executives might feel emotionally raw when reading daily news and market reports. To these executives and to company leader Elon Musk, it is, indeed, understandable that they would feel at least some of the cards have been stacked unfairly against Tesla’s needed success.

So when Consumer Reports last week issued an expected ‘average’ reliability rating for the otherwise fantastically reviewed Model 3, it is also understandable why Tesla executives reacted with criticism of the major consumer watch-dog agency.

Overall, Consumer Reports ratings of Tesla vehicles have been mixed. The Model S, for example, received glowing ratings. The Model X, troubled at times by the complexity of its falcon wing doors, has received somewhat more qualified ratings. It is worth noting that both vehicles maintain the advantages of a drive train that is basically an order of magnitude more reliable than a traditional ICE and first in class Tesla acceleration and top-notch handling. So Model X critiques are primarily due to body design elements as reported by Consumer Reports.

That said, some EV owners have criticized Consumer Reports for what they perceive as reviews of the Model X and other EVs that do not take into account inherent EV benefits. Consumer Reports, for example, had reportedly issued a somewhat negative review of the low-cost Mitsubishi MiEV. But it is worth noting that Consumer Reports has also provided a glowing review of the Chevy Bolt EV which the agency has given top reliability ratings. So it’s unreasonable to say that Consumer Reports trashes all EVs.

Returning to the Model 3, the Consumer watchdog agency, which has yet to actually get its hands on a Model 3 for an actual review, has noted that it issued its forecast in the understanding that first model year vehicles tend to be somewhat less reliable as production kinks are addressed. Such a forecast can be chalked up to informed speculation by an expert agency that, though authoritative, is not infallible. But given the massive barrage by traditional fossil fuel industry and ICE supporters against Tesla in the Model 3 production ramp up, it is understandable why Tesla execs might be miffed by a less than stellar, if speculative, Consumer Reports announcement.

The Model 3 Tsunami is Still Coming

Despite Tesla taking so much fire and sometimes apparently over-reacting, every indication points toward a tsunami of high quality Model 3s still coming — if, perhaps, a bit slower than many of us had hoped. Production has continued to ramp up through September, though on a slower ramp than initially targeted. Meanwhile, Tesla has presently filed for VIN numbers up to 2,136 as of last week.

As we learned a couple of weeks ago, VIN numbers are not a reliable indicator of present Tesla production. However, it is still an indicator of expected production. So it appears that Musk’s Tesla is continuing to navigate Model 3 production difficulties in a highly challenging environment for the new company. Speculative reports have indicated that Tesla may be having difficulty with both parts suppliers and high speed welds for its new production of a steel-based vehicle (past vehicles were made from aluminum or other materials).

That said, even on a slower ramp, Tesla appears likely to produce at least 3,000 Model 3s by year end and in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 or more of the highly-sought-after vehicle during 2018. This expected 2018 production is still 4-8 times the likely sales of Chevy’s Bolt which entered the market nearly a year ago and has slowly ramped up to selling in the range of 2,500 vehicles per month. It also rivals, for a single model vehicle, the entire EV sales of a very EV ambitious China during 2016.

Given both the need for a rapid energy transition and for strong renewable industry leadership to be held by a western auto-maker vs a rising wave of competition aimed at new energy dominance coming from China, this is still good news for those of us who support renewable energy as a necessary solution to the problem of human-forced climate change and for those promoting American innovation and leadership alike. But we should be very clear that the global energy game is rapidly changing and increasingly complex. So, as ever, watch this space…

(UPDATED)

Links:

7 Million Deaths Annually Linked to Air Pollution

Widespread Adoption of Electrical Vehicles Would Curb Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Improve Air Quality

Solar Employs More People in U.S. Electrical Generation Than Oil, Coal and Gas Combined

China is Crushing the U.S. in Renewable Energy

Solar Power in China

China-Owned U.S. Solar Maker Seeks Tariffs on China Imports

Tesla Could Have Millions of Cars on the Road by 2023

Model 3 Production Bottlenecks are Due to Suppliers Says Oppenheimer

Led By Tesla, September U.S. Electrical Vehicle Sales Surge

The month of September was another big one for U.S. electrical vehicle sales. And, once again, despite a growing barrage from its increasingly irrational detractors, Tesla just keeps crushing it as a U.S. and global clean energy leader.

Tesla Leads Record September EV Sales

In total, 21,325 plug-in vehicles were sold in the U.S. during September. This sales rate represented a 24 percent growth over September of 2016 and amounted to the second highest number of electrical vehicles sold in the U.S. during any month on record. Total annual sales are now 142,514 and appear ready to approach or exceed the 200,000 mark by year-end.

(Strong electrical vehicle sales growth in the U.S. continued during September — with Tesla remaining ahead of the pack. Image source: Inside EVs.)

Tesla again showed itself as a strong market leader with combined Model S and X sales of 7,980. These models, respectively, held the top two sales spots for the month — followed closely by the long-range Chevy Bolt EV at 2,632 sales after nearly a year on the market. The Toyota Prius Prime and Chevy Volt plug-in hybrids rounded out the top five spots at 1,899 and 1,453 sales, respectively.

The main story of these best-sellers appears to be range — with all of these vehicles boasting long range electric or plug-in-hybrid capability. But Tesla’s high quality luxury offerings still hold an edge due to better technology, better charging infrastructure support, and superior overall capabilities. What’s even more ironic is that Tesla’s vehicles — that often sell for upwards of 100,000 dollars each — are still moving at greater volumes than the 35,000 dollar Chevy Bolt.

Chevy Bolt and Model 3 — Place-Holder vs Industry-Mover

The Bolt has a 238 mile range, which is a bit shorter than the higher-end Teslas which now can travel for between around 250 and 315 miles on a single charge. The Bolt’s quality is also considerably lower than the higher-priced Teslas — with slower acceleration, economy body styling, inferior handling and less features. As noted above, the Bolt also does not enjoy the support of Tesla’s large and expanding charging infrastructure. All that said, the Bolt remains an excellent EV for the price. It’s just that one wonders if GM’s heart is really in it to go all-in to sell the vehicle. Or is GM just placing a necessary high-quality competitor in a strategic attempt to stymie enthusiasm for the upcoming, trend-setting, Tesla Model 3?

(Obama-era CAFE standards are a major driver for auto industry transformation away from polluting fossil fuels and toward zero-emissions electric vehicles. Industry leaders like GM have long fought a policy that incentives electrical vehicle production and ultimately produces the combined benefits of moving the country toward energy independence, renewable energy, healthier air, and a less hostile climate. This year, the Trump Administration has sided with fossil-fuel based automakers and moved to roll back Obama’s helpful CAFE standards. Image source: Alternative Energy Stocks.)

A big hint comes in the form of continued opposition by major automakers like GM to increasing CAFE standards. From Electrek earlier this week:

In a time where a surprising number of major automakers are announcing that they believe electric cars are the future of the auto industry, we are still seeing them complaining about, and in some cases lobbying against, the fuel emission standards.

Now trade groups representing virtually the entire auto industry are again putting pressure on U.S. regulators to weaken rules that would force them to produce more electric cars.

So the rational question arises — would an automaker who really believes that the future is electric, who is really dedicated to the success of vehicles like the Bolt and the Volt also be fighting to remove fuel economy standards? If this appears like hypocrisy to some, then it probably is. A duck, after all, does quack from time to time.

Moving Economic Eggs into the All-Electric Basket = No Harmful Fossil Fuel Conflict of Interest

Tesla, on the other hand, only produces electrical vehicles. So, unlike GM, it doesn’t have a gigantic fossil fuel burning vehicle production infrastructure hanging around its neck and dragging it back down into the vast ocean of structural industry contributors to worsening climate change impacts.

And while critics decry production delays for the Model 3, GM’s own ambitions for the Bolt were comparatively modest — aiming for around 50,000 sales per year vs Tesla’s ultimate goal of 400,000 to 500,000 for the Model 3. One of these cars, therefore, looks like a shot at an industry defender while the other appears to be aimed directly at transformation. And who wins out in this David and Goliath struggle will have far-reaching energy, climate, and vehicle industry repercussions.

(Total U.S. EV sales for the year of 2017. Image source: Inside EVs.)

Sales of the key vehicle in question, the Model 3, remained slow at 115 units in September. This following 30 and 75 sales respectively during July and August. Tesla admitted facing production bottlenecks in its planned massive ramp up for the Model 3 aimed at meeting the demand of an amazing 500,000 pre-orders. Tesla critics have had a field day as the all-electric automaker struggles in its attempts to get its famed ‘alien dreadnought’ production of all-electric vehicles up and running.

The slower ramp in Model 3 production, so far, is admittedly a bit of a bump in the road for Tesla. But critics’ claims of Tesla’s ‘imminent demise’ have become a common and hackneyed cry over recent years. So we can take the present brouhaha with a couple of grains of salt and view any major downward moves in Tesla stock as a panic-induced opportunity for more steady, savvy, and environmentally conscious investors.

Investing in Clean Energy Future Makes Moral and Economic Sense

To this point, Tesla uses its stock market capitalization to help fund its energy transformation efforts. So Tesla investors are helping to fund a global move away from fossil fuels. And for putting their money on the line in this way, we should express to them our thanks and gratitude.

In the larger context, electrical vehicles, and more broadly, a related ramping battery storage production chain forms one of three key pillars to the global energy transition away from fossil fuels. The other two pillars are composed of wind and solar. All of these technologies produce zero carbon emissions in use. And due to their ability to hit economies of scale in production that result in reduced costs, higher efficiency, and higher energy densities over time, they have a demonstrated capability to increasingly out-compete dirty fossil fuels and rapidly reduce carbon emissions.

So when new clean industry leaders like Tesla are forcing laggards like GM to produce electrical vehicles and market them, even as market-defenders, then those of us who support clean energy and are worried about the threat of climate change should all be cheering.

RELATED INFORMATION AND STATEMENTS:

If true, then why continue to fight CAFE standards? —

DISCLOSURE:

I presently hold Tesla stock as part of a larger renewable energy and sustainable industry investment portfolio. For me, this is part of a morally driven choice to divest from fossil fuel based energy companies and invest in clean energy companies. Though these choices incur considerable financial risk, I believe that wholesale investment by society in fossil fuels results in severe ultimate harm — which I will not be a party to. I urge others to seriously consider joining the campaign to divest/invest.

Links:

Monthly Plug-in Sales Scorecard

Automakers Claiming to be ‘All-in on Electric Cars’ are Still Lobbying Against Stricter Fuel Standards

Aggressive New CAFE Standards

Tesla’s Electric Sales Explode Despite Slow Model 3 Production Ramp

Around the world, electric vehicle makers are starting to make serious inroads into the global auto market. And aspirational industry leader Tesla continues to break new ground and open new markets despite an increasing array of challenges.

Record Tesla Sales

During the third quarter of 2017, Tesla sold 26,150 all-electric vehicles. A new quarterly sales record for the company which included 14,065 super-fast luxury Model S sedans, 11,865 of the also super-fast and highly luxurious Model X SUV, and 220 of the mid-class luxury-sport Model 3. In total, during 2017, Tesla has sold more than 73,000 vehicles. Placing the all-electric vehicle and renewable energy systems manufacturer in a position to challenge the 100,000 cars sold mark by end of December.

(Tesla production and sales by Quarter shows that Q3 2017 beat Tesla’s previous record by more than 1,300 vehicles. Tesla appears on track to hit near 100,000 vehicle sales in 2017. Note that Model X production took 6 Quarters, or approximately 18 months to fully ramp to present sales rates above 10,000 per Quarter. Telsa ultimately expects to produce more than 60,000 Model 3s per Quarter by 2018. Investment analysts are more conservative — with Morgan Stanley targeting 30,000 Model 3s per Quarter. Image source: Commons.)

Surprises in Tesla’s Q3 report include greater than expected overall Model S and X sales. Pessimistic speculation about Tesla struggling to sell its higher-quality line as customers await the anticipated but less expensive and tweaked-out (but still bad-ass) Model 3 abounded throughout August and September. Those contributing to this brouhaha, however, did not appear to anticipate the excitement generated by Tesla’s Model 3 launch which appears to have spilled over to the more expensive line-up even as Tesla both offered incentives on some of its showroom vehicles and cut shorter range, lower cost versions of its Model S line-up.

Tesla Model 3 Production Ramp — A Miss, But Still in the Window

Tesla did, however, fail to meet Model 3 production ramp goals of 1,500 by the end of September. And this was one point where the Tesla pessimists ended up proving at least partly right. Citing production bottlenecks, the luxury EV manufacturer noted that it had produced only 260 Model 3s by end month — a 1,240 vehicle short-fall for the Quarter.

Overall vehicle production had still grown from July through September — hitting 30 in July, about 80 in August, and about 150 in September. This is still an exponential rate of expansion. But the more rapid anticipated ramp was not achieved. Tesla noted that most of their fast production chain was functioning as planned. But that a few bits of the complex and highly automated Model 3 manufacturing subsystems were taking “longer than expected to activate.”

(Tesla’s ground-breaking Model 3 missed company production targets by a fairly wide margin this month — triggering a big controversy among investors. Long term prospects for the Model 3 remain strong as Tesla works through what is, effectively, an employee beta testing period. Image source: Tesla.)

At first blush, this appears to be a fairly wide miss in Tesla’s planned production ramp. But if rapid production scaling is still achieved this fall, it will look like nothing more than a bit of a bump in the road. After the Q3 report, Elon Musk noted:

“I would simply urge people to not get too caught up in what exactly falls within the exact calendar boundaries of a quarter, one quarter or the next, because when you have an exponentially growing production ramp, slight changes of a few weeks here or there can appear to have dramatic changes.”

In other words, we are still in the window for rapid production scaling, even if the earlier, more rapid, ramp was missed by a few weeks.

The company previously struggled with its very complex production of the ultimately popular Model X. To address production challenges, Tesla aimed to simplify production for the Model 3. But integration of new automated equipment into large manufacturing chains as the vehicle is built and product-tested by employee-customers is proving to again pose a few challenges. Challenges that, at this time, do not appear to be anywhere near as serious as those encountered during the Model X production ramp, but are still enough to produce delays.

Tesla Model 3 Production Still About to Explode as EV Maker Enjoys Serious Structural Advantages

Keeping these facts in mind, we can take some of the overly negative reports following Tesla’s failure to hit early Model 3 production targets with a lump of salt. The company still produces amazing cars, is still going to flood the world with high-quality and much more affordable all-electric Model 3s. The company owns a massive manufacturing apparatus in the form if its Freemont plant and Nevada Gigafactory. An apparatus that is rapidly growing. Outside this expanding manufacturing chain, the company is the only major automaker to seriously invest in and rapidly expand crucial EV charging infrastructure. All of these are systemic underlying strengths that the electric automaker will continue to leverage and expand on.

(Tesla battery sales help to reduce EV battery pack costs by producing economies of scale in production. The reverse is also true. With demand for Tesla’s powerwall and powerpacks on the rise, the company possesses a number of systemic advantages that most automobile manufacturers lack. Image source: Tesla.)

Tesla is in the process of transitioning from an automaker that produces a moderate number of vehicles each year to a major automaker that produces more than half a million vehicles each year. And it’s bound to encounter a bump or two in the road from time-to-time. Ultimately, the Model 3 production ramp will hit its stride as Tesla works out the kinks. Around 500,000 reservation-holders will still get their cars.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley recently:

warned investors against “micro-analyzing the monthly ramp of the Model 3.” Most vehicle launches have hiccups, and quality and attractiveness count for far more importance than quantity “at least for now,” they said in a note.

Tesla was quick to stress that it foresaw no serious issues with the Model 3 production. That the company understood what needed to be fixed in the manufacturing chain and was working to address those issues. If this is the case, we should see Model 3 production start to ramp more swiftly over the coming weeks. But even without rapidly ramping Model 3 production — which is on the way sooner or later — Tesla is still smashing previously held all-electric sales records.

And for those of us concerned about climate change, that’s good news.

Links:

Tesla Shares Shake off Bad News of Model 3 Deliveries

Tesla

Tesla Q3 Report

 

 

Tesla’s All-Electrical Spark is About to Grow Much, Much Brighter

Can a single venture born out of one man’s vision for a more sustainable future help to spark the complete transformation of global automobile markets, aid the U.S. and other nations moves toward energy independence, help tamp down the problem of human-caused climate change, spur a rapid influx of renewables in the electrical generation sector, and, all the while, compete toe-to-toe with nationally funded battery, automobile, and renewable energy companies emerging in China?

We’re about to find out.

Tesla, Daimler, China Invest in Gigafactories; Musk and Daimler Spar on Twitter

This week, large German automaker Daimler announced that it would invest 1 billion dollars in an EV battery production plant in Alabama. The move followed very heavy similar investment and policy announcements by China and a multi-billion dollar investment by all-electric automaker Tesla in the first of a number of planned battery gigafactories.

Elon Musk, noting the size of Daimler’s available capital for investment, made the following pithy remark on Twitter:

Daimler, appearing more than a little sensitive to the remark, replied that it would be investing 10 billion in EV development in total, with 1 billion going to batteries. Musk replied — “Good” — with Daimler stating that it had been developing electrical vehicles for more than 100 years.

Of course, Daimler, unlike Tesla, still primarily produces fossil fuel based vehicles. The company’s planned launch of EVs capable of competing with Tesla’s present offerings are slated for around 2020. By that time, Tesla is likely to be producing well north of half a million all-electric vehicles per year. Daimler would have to significantly increase investment to adequately meet such a major challenge by Tesla.

The history of Daimler is one in which it has mostly dabbled in electrical car production while instead dedicating the lion’s share of its efforts to producing unsustainable carbon emitting cars and trucks. In 2016, Daimlier sold 3 million vehicles — the vast majority of which were ICE-based. With Tesla gobbling up larger and larger market share as an electric-only vehicle supplier, that may soon change. A result that would be “Good” for everyone on the planet. Especially in the present situation where harms from human-caused climate change are rapidly ramping higher.

But despite Daimler’s 100 year history of experimenting with electrical vehicle designs, it has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to confronting a serious market competitor in the form of the all-electric Tesla.

Tesla Ahead in the Electric Race

To understand how serious, we need only look at Tesla’s growing suite of top-in-class vehicle offerings combined with an emerging fierce logistics chain of increasingly low-cost EV batteries.

Part of this story begins at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory 1. To look at even the 1/3 complete Gigafactory is to behold the awesome potential of mass production writ large. Back in 2014 when Gigafactory 1 began construction under a partnership with Panasonic, the ultimate aim was to build a facility capable of producing 35 gigawatt-hours of batteries per year by 2018. That number has been raised to 50 gigawatt-hours — with an ultimate goal for this single factory in the range of 100 to 150 gigawatt-hours. By comparison, the entire global total of battery production in 2014 was around 35 gigawatt-hours. And total national production by battery giant China is presently at around 125 gigawatt hours — set to hit around 230 gigawatt-hours by 2023.

(Tesla Gigafactory 1 shows 9 of 21 planned modules complete by late August of 2017. Image source: Commons.)

Producing so many batteries in one facility will enable Tesla to leverage some serious economies of scale. This, in turn, will result in lower prices for the batteries it produces — allowing the automaker to sell electrical vehicles for less or make higher profits on models that are produced. Already, with about 15 percent of the planned gigafactory now producing batteries, Tesla is starting to see the benefits of this scaling. And recent reports indicate that it has pushed battery prices to below 140 dollars per kilowatt hour during 2017. Ultimately, many industry analysts expect the Gigafactory 1 to enable Tesla to produce batteries at near the 100 dollar per kilowatt hour mark before 2020 — substantially reducing base production costs for EVs in total.

Masses of Model 3s

This mass production of batteries is the cornerstone for Tesla’s expected mass release of its Model 3 vehicle.

To be very clear, Tesla’s spearhead Model 3 is the ultimate aim of all of the company’s efforts thus far. Each sale of the more expensive luxury Model X and Model S versions have gone to fund the more mass market Model 3. And recent cancellations of lower cost, shorter range Model S versions appear to have been aimed at creating space for the Model 3 in the 35,000 to 59,000 dollar market segment.

(This week’s Tesla Model 3 news.)

Present production of the Model 3 appears to be ramping up according to Tesla’s plans. More and more of the vehicles have been sighted on California highways. A forward-shifted delivery date spurred a rumor that the Model 3 was being produced faster than expected. Texas has already started to receive some of its Tesla employee-ordered Model 3s. Rising rates of battery production at the Nevada Gigafactory 1 site have been observed. And the appearance of VIN numbers above 700 earlier this week roughly jibe with a planned ramp to 1,500 Model 3s produced by end September.

A clearer picture of this critical production ramp may emerge over the next couple of weeks as Tesla analysts pick up on monthly Model 3 production information and the Tesla Q3 report begins to take shape.

Tesla All Electric Sales Tracking Toward 230,000 to 500,000 in 2018

By end of this year, Tesla expects to be producing 20,000 of these vehicles per month. By end 2018, Tesla is aiming for 40,000 Model 3s per month. Pre-orders in the range of 500,000 vehicles show that demand support for this level of production exists. And even conservative forecasts by investment firms like Morgan Stanley show Tesla vehicle production and sales more than doubling from an expected 90,000 to 100,000 in 2017 to over 230,000 in 2018.

Already Tesla sales appear to be edging higher — with Q3 expected sales in the range of 24,000 to 25,000 including the ramping Model 3 production. Meanwhile, Tesla’s own goals far outstrip expectations by forecasters like Morgan Stanley with the company aiming for 500,000 total sales in 2018.

(Tesla’s Model 3 planned production timeline. Image source: Tesla.)

Regardless of whether Tesla sells 230,000 cars or 500,000 cars in 2018, it will be the first automaker in a long time to see such rapid sales growth. According to Adam Jonas at Morgan Stanley, it has been generations since we’ve seen growth like this. It’s not just 2018 that forecasters like Stanley are looking at. By 2023, the investment firm expects 3 million Tesla cars to be ranging the world’s highways with that number growing to 32 million by 2040.

Tesla’s own goals appear to be significantly more ambitious. The expected 150 gwh ultimate production capacity of Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 alone could support an annual production of 2-3 million Model 3 type vehicles. And earlier this year Tesla announced plans to construct 3 more similar facilities with an ultimate goal of 10-20. Locations for the 3 new expected Gigafactories are set to be announced later in 2017.

Given the totality of this amazing undertaking, it’s unlikely that any present individual vehicle manufacturer is pursuing mass EV production at a quality and scale comparable to that of Tesla. Daimler may now be spending billions, but they are in a race to catch up. Meanwhile, it appears that Tesla may even rival China in its ultimate ability to scale battery production.

The Economist Sounds Death Knell for the Internal Combustion Engine as Pathway Toward Carbon Emission Reductions Opens Wide

Earlier this month, The Economist prophetically declared that the “death of the internal combustion engine” is at hand. That the end for this inefficient fossil fuel burning monstrosity was “in sight.” And that, ultimately, “days were numbered” for a design that has so efficiently and so harmfully injected billions of tons of pollution into the Earth’s atmosphere.

(Gigafactories like this one being built in Nevada and numerous others being built in Southeast Asia are helping to enable a combined electrical vehicle and grid based renewable power revolution. Note that the Tesla gigafactory is still far from complete even though it is currently producing 5 GWh of lithium batteries per year. Production by end 2018 is expected to hit 35 GWh per year and ultimate production could hit as high as 150 GWh per year.)

The Economist notes that performance gains for electrical vehicles are quickly outpacing those of internal combustion engine based vehicles. That “today’s electric cars, powered by lithium-ion batteries, can do much better.” It finds that electrical vehicles are simpler to manufacture, easier to maintain, and easier to improve than traditional vehicles. It points to the fact that transportation based emissions alone result in 53,000 premature deaths each year in the U.S. vs the 34,000 who die due to car related collisions. And it cites research showing that transferring existing vehicles to electrical vehicles would reduce vehicle based carbon emissions by 54 percent using present grid sourced electricity generation. But it also rightly notes that as the grid becomes more and more dominated by renewable based energy systems, vehicle-based emissions will fall further — eventually reaching zero on a grid fully supplied by sources like wind and solar. Finally, The Economist notes that when mated with automation and ride share, EVs have the potential to reduce the number of vehicles on the road upwards of 90 percent (in the most optimistic assessments).

EVs are disruptive in that they’re becoming increasingly easy for start-up companies to produce — even if they are more difficult for traditional auto manufacturers who have heavily invested in fossil fuel based vehicle production infrastructure and parts chains. The result is that numerous independent EV shops are cropping up and that countries and industries who were not traditionally auto manufacturers are capable of making serious new entries. Tesla was an industry leader in this regard. But many such businesses are emerging all over the world from the U.S. to China to Europe to India and beyond.

(Increasing predictions for rate of EV build through 2040. Image source: The Economist.)

Moreover, the predicted rate of EV adoption just keeps rising. The Economist points out that UBS expects that 14 percent of all new vehicles in 2025 will be electric. And while UBS is among the more optimistic prognosticators, even traditional oil companies like Exxon are being forced to acknowledge that EVs will take larger and larger portions of the auto market. In just one year, from 2016 to 2017, Bloomberg adjusted its expected rate of new EV sales in 2040 upward from 400 million to 520 million, OPEC from 50 million to 250 million, and Exxon from 80 million to 100 million (see graphic above).

Such large and expanding build rates will certainly enable more and more rapid rates of global carbon emissions reductions. Not just through direct carbon emissions removal by replacing ICE based vehicles with EVs. But also by enabling the mating of batteries with renewable energy systems around the world. Tesla, which is today producing 5 gigawatt hours of battery storage in 2017 from its Gigafactory in Nevada is now starting to do just that. In South Australia, Tesla is involved in mating wind energy with battery storage even as it pursues a similar project in New Zealand and following its completion of a solar and battery based storage system for Kauai Hawaii.

(The amount of batteries available for both EVs and grid based storage is set to rapidly expand. Note that Tesla recently announced that its Nevada Gigafactory could eventually produce 150 GWh per year of battery storage. Image source: The Economist.)

By 2018, rate of battery production at the Tesla plant will accelerate to 35 GWh per year with the plant ultimately able to achieve near 150 GWh per year (according to Musk). Similar very large battery production plants are being built in Europe and China, with a number likely also slated for India in the near future. And the batteries produced in these plants can be used either in EVs or as a massive and growing energy storage pool that’s already capable of directly replacing coal and gas plants now operating on electrical grids.

Such was the economic reality for the Liddel Coal Plant in New South Wales Australia when AGL Energy decided it was more economic to replace the plant with wind, solar and batteries than to continue to burn coal and gas as a baseload energy supply. And this decision was made under present economic realities. Now imagine what those economic realities will look like when the world is producing more than an order of magnitude more battery storage each year at much lower cost and as wind and solar costs continue to fall. In other words, the electrical vehicle revolution is enabling the renewable power revolution and vice versa. And both are bringing forward the time when global carbon emissions start to consistently drop off. To support the advancement of one is to support the advancement of both — to the larger overall benefit of more rapid global carbon emissions reductions and a quickening ability to address the very serious issue that is human-forced climate change.

Links:

The Death of the Internal Combustion Engine

After Electric Cars, What Will it Take For Batteries to Change the Face of Energy?

Tesla Could Triple Planned Battery Output of Gigafactory 1 to 150 GWh

China is About to Bury Elon Musk in Batteries

Tesla to Build World’s Largest Lithium Ion Battery Plant in South Australia

The Economist Announces Death of the ICE

Liddel Coal Plant in New South Wales Will be Replaced By Wind, Solar and Batteries

Tesla Powerpack Will Join Wind Turbine at New Zealand Salt Factory

India and China Building Solar Like Gangbusters, Electric Revolution Continues as GM Sells EV for $5,300 in China, Tesla Plans 700,000 Model 3s Per Year

If we’re going to halt destructive carbon emissions now hitting the atmosphere, then the world is going to have to swiftly stop burning oil, gas and coal. And the most effective and economic pathway for achieving this removal of harmful present and future atmospheric carbon emissions is a rapid renewable energy build-out to replace fossil fuel energy coupled by increases in energy efficiency.

(To halt and reverse climate change related damages, fossil fuel based greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere need to stop.)

This week, major advances in the present renewable energy build and introduction rate were reported. Chiefly, India and China are rapidly adding new solar panels to their grid, the monthly rate of global EV sales surpassed 100,000 in June, GM is offering a very inexpensive electrical vehicle in China, and Tesla has ramped up plans for Model 3 EV production from 500,000 vehicles per year to 700,000 vehicles per year.

India and China Solar Gangbusters

In the first half of 2017, India is reported to have built 4.8 gigawatts (GW) of new solar energy capacity. This construction has already exceeded all 2016 additions. The country is presently projected to build more than 10 GW of new solar energy capacity by year-end. Large solar additions are essential to India meeting its goal of having 100 GW of solar electrical generation available by 2022. It is also crucial for reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuel fired power plants (coal and gas).

(Total solar capacity in India could hit 30 GW by end 2018. India will need to add solar more rapidly if it is to achieve its goal of 100 GW by 2022. Image source: Clean Technica.)

Further east, China added 24.4 Gigawatts of new solar energy in just the first half of this year. This pushed China’s total solar energy generating capacity to a staggering 101 GW. It also puts China firmly in a position to surpass last year’s strong rate of solar growth of 34 GW. China’s previous goal was to achieve 105 GW of solar production by 2020. One it will hit three and a half years ahead of schedule. China now appears to be on track to overwhelm that goal by achieving between 190 and 230 GW of solar generation by decade’s end.

(China has already overwhelmed its 2020 target for added solar capacity. Recalculating based on present build rates finds that end 2020 solar generation levels are likely to hit between 190 and 230 GW for this global economic powerhouse. Image source: China National Energy Administration.)

Such strong solar growth numbers in traditional coal-burning regions provides some hope that carbon emissions growth rates in these countries will continue to level off or possibly start to fall in the near future. Adding in ambitious wind energy and electrical vehicle build-outs in these regions provides synergy to the larger trend. If an early carbon emissions plateau were to be achieved due to rapid renewable energy build-outs in China and India, it would be very helpful in reducing overall levels of global warming during the 21st Century.

GM’s $5,300 EV for the Chinese Market

Adding to the trend of growing movement toward an energy switch in Asia this week was GM’s introduction of a small, medium-range electrical vehicle for the Chinese auto market. GM is partnering with China’s Baojun to produce the E100. A small EV that’s about the size of the U.S. Smart Car. The E100 has about a 96 mile all-electric range, a 62 mph top speed, and goes for $14,000 dollars before China’s generous EV incentives. After incentives, a person in China can purchase the vehicle for $5,300. GM states that 5,000 buyers registered to purchase the first 200 E100s hitting the market last month, while a second batch of 500 vehicles will be made available soon.

100,000 Electrical Vehicle Sales Per Month by Mid 2017

Globally, electrical vehicle sales have ramped up to 100,000 per month during June of 2017. This growth is being driven primarily by increased sales volumes in China, India, Japan, Australia, Europe and the U.S. as more and more attractive EV models are becoming available and as governments seek to limit the sale of petroleum-burning vehicles in some regions.

(Projected growth rates for EV sales appear likely to surpass present projections through 2020. Image source: Cleantechnica.)

Meanwhile range, recharge rates, acceleration, and other capabilities for these vehicles continue to rapidly improve. This compares to fossil fuel vehicles which have been basically stuck in plateauing performance ranges for decades. 2017 will represent the first year when sales of all EV models globally surpass 1 million per year. With a possible doubling to tripling of EV production through 2020.

Telsa Aiming for 700,000 Per Year Model 3 Sales

2018 will likely see continued growth as new vehicles like the Model 3, the Chevy Bolt, and Toyota Prius Prime provide more competitive and attractive offerings. This past month, the Chevy Bolt logged more than 1,900 vehicles sold in the U.S. in one month. If GM continues to ramp production, marketing, and availability of this high-quality, long range electrical vehicle, the model could easily sell between 3,000 and 5,000 per month to the U.S. market. Another vehicle — the plug in electric hybrid Toyota Prius Prime — is also capable of achieving high sales rates in the range of 5,000 per month or more on the U.S. market due to a combined high quality and low price so long as production for this model also rapidly ramps up.

But the big outlier here is the Tesla Model 3. By end 2017, Tesla is aiming to ramp Model 3 production to 5,000 vehicles per week. It plans to hit more than 40,000 vehicles per month by end of 2018. And, according to Elon Musk’s recent announcement, will ultimately aim to achieve 700,000 Model 3 sales per year. If such a rapid ramp appears, the Model 3 along with other increasingly attractive EVs could hit close to 2 million per year annual combined sales in 2018 and surpass 3 million at some time between 2019 and 2020. This is well ahead of past projections of around 2.2 million EV sales per year by 2020. Representing yet another early opportunity to reduce massive global carbon emissions coming from oil, gas, and coal.

Links:

India Installs 4.8 GW of Solar During First Half of 2017

China’s New 190 GW Solar Guiding Opinion Wows

China Could Reach 230 GW Solar by end 2020

GM Should Bring Baojun E100 EV to USA

EV News for the Month

Joint Venture for Baojun E100

Model 3 Annual Demand Could Surpass 700,000

A Beautiful Machine to Change the World — Model 3 to Transform Global Automobile Markets, Open Pathway For Rapid Energy Transition

“The Tesla Model 3 is here, and it is the most important vehicle of the century. Yes, the hyperbole is necessary.” — Motor Trend

“The arrival of Tesla’s Model 3 signals a new chapter in automotive history, one that erases 100-plus years of the gas engine and replaces it with technology, design, and performance hot enough to make electric vehicles more than aspirational – to make [electric vehicles (EVs)] inspirational.” — Wired.

“[T]here isn’t anybody who’s going to sit in the driver’s seat of this car and not want it. The Model 3 stokes immediate desire, and the lust lingers. That truly changes everything.” — Business Insider.

(The Tesla Model 3 entered low rate initial production in July of 2017. There has likely never been a more anticipated, desired, or better reviewed automobile. Image source: Tesla. )

*****

More than half a million. 

That’s the number of pre-orders Tesla’s Model 3 has racked up since its 2016 product announcement and through its July 2017 launch. And it’s possible that there’s never been a car that’s so anticipated, so desired by the public. People are literally clamoring for this best-in-class, long-range, all-electric vehicle. Elon Musk is getting harassed on twitter by followers anxious to know when their Model 3 will be ready for purchase. And it’s questionable if Elon’s plan to go through ‘mass production hell’ to reach 500K per year annual production rates by end 2018 will ever come close to satiating demand for what is far more than just an amazing automobile (Tesla reports it is still accumulating reservations at a rate of 1,800 per day net, or more than 12,000 per week).

If we were to tap into what drives Model 3 customers, what fuels this particularly virulent brand of Tesla-mania, we’d probably find a dynamic combination of desire, aspiration, and fear. Desire for what is hands-down an absolutely awesome vehicle. Aspiration to contribute to a public good through a meaningful purchase. And a growing fear that we need to move very swiftly away from fossil fuels to confront the rising crisis that is human-caused climate change.

Beautiful Machines

The vehicle itself is just simply extraordinary. For 35,000 dollars you can get a car with a 220 mile all-electric range. For 44,000, the car’s renewable legs lengthen still further to 310 miles. This graceful beast can rocket from 0-60 in less than six seconds. And her interior is wrapped in the kind of bubble cockpit, due to glass roofing, that most fighter pilots would envy. She’s a vehicle that gives a nod to the simplicity of earlier times with her gadget-less dash board. Her liquid exterior a reflection-in-form of the plasma-producing energy of a futuristic, but quietly purring, all-electric drive train.

(Tesla’s beautiful machine launches. Top down view shows iconic glass roof. Image source: Tesla.)

Elon Musk has delivered to us the exact opposite of a clunky automobile made up of all the worst excesses of a stinking smokestack civilization. The Model 3 comes across as a bold and proud creature of air and light. A hopeful machine designed in the pursuit of a better future day, a better way forward.

Changing the World for the Better

And this is what brings us to the heart of the matter. The crux of the reason why hunger for the Model 3 is quite possibly without cure, without limit. People in advanced civilizations these days are tired of being the butt of blame. And they are more than a little worried about what may be coming down the Keystone XL pipeline of climate change. They don’t want to contribute to the great death and harm that is worsening climate disruption with their purchases. They no longer want to be consumers captive to the unforgiving, smog-belching yoke of fossil fuels. They want the vehicular equivalent of the paladin’s white horse. They want to buy into a liberation from an age of pain and heartbreak and endless bad choices with no visible way out. And with each Model 3 purchase — that’s exactly what they are doing.

(Tesla aims for 5,000 vehicle per week Model 3 production ramp by late fall. Image source: Tesla.)

For if Tesla is able to meet this visceral demand for a truly renewable vehicle, if the company is able to ramp up to 20,000 + vehicle per month production rates, it will, by itself, more than double the size of the U.S. Electrical vehicle market in just 1-2 years. The batteries the elegant Model 3 relies on will form a basis for extending the reach of already affordable wind and solar energy (as we are seeing this week in a new wind + battery deal off Massachusetts). And the seismic ground wave produced by the Model 3 will drive a major spike in demand for other, similar electrical vehicles from an expanding array of automakers.

The Model 3 is thus the tip of the spear for speeding an energy transition in the U.S. and in many other countries. And she couldn’t have come at a better time.

Racing to Catch Ludicrously Fast Model 3 Production Ramp, U.S. Automakers Grew EV Sales by 102 Percent in June 

Early on, Tesla recognized that responses to climate change were necessary — not just from individuals and governments, but also from industry. And Tesla realized that, when mated with wind and solar energy, electrical vehicles could become a powerful force for driving an energy transition capable of rapidly cutting global carbon emissions.

(Reduction in coal burning and lower than predicted demand for fossil fuels has helped to generate a carbon emissions plateau during 2014 to 2016. Rapid additions of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and electrical vehicles provides a potential to begin to bend down the global emissions curve near term and reduce the damage that is now being locked in by fossil fuel based carbon emissions. Image source: IEA.)

Tesla’s Market-Driven Response to Climate Change

Electrical vehicles possess a number of key sustainability advantages that aren’t widely talked-about in the public discourse. Electrical motors are considerably more efficient than ICE engines — so broadening EV use lowers energy consumption in transportation while at the same time allowing EVs to draw power from traditional and newly emerging renewable sources. The massive batteries housed in EVs and sold after-market also have the capacity to become a major solar and wind energy storage asset that could ultimately enable the removal of peaking, high emissions, coal and gas plants.

In light of these opportunities, back in the mid 2000s, Tesla made a bold, necessary move. Its leadership decided that it would attempt to become a major automaker dedicated solely to electrical vehicle sales. This business plan would hitch Tesla’s economic future entirely to the success or failure of clean energy ventures. Unlike most present automakers, Tesla would not suffer from divided loyalties to harmful incentives linked directly to fossil fuel based economies. It decided to make its clean energy break by producing top of the market, high-quality electric-only vehicles and, then, by leveraging loyalty to a superior brand, move vertically down into broader market segments.

(If Tesla’s planned Model 3 production ramp to 5,000 vehicles per week by end of 2017 holds true, then the all-electric automaker’s quarterly deliveries are about to go exponential. Image source: EV Obsession.)

Such a disruptive end run on the world’s energy and vehicle markets was bound to encounter stiff resistance and loud detractors. However, if successful, Tesla would force traditional energy and transport players to make a tough choice — follow in Tesla’s footsteps and try to compete, or face dwindling customer bases as a massive wave of innovation completely upended markets. The automaker decided that the best way to goad a broader transition toward electrical vehicles in western markets was to lead it. And that’s exactly what Tesla has been doing.

Major EV Sales Growth on Tap for 2017 Due to Automaker Shift + Model 3 Sales

In the U.S., during 2017, the trend of an emerging industry reaction to Tesla is becoming quite clear. The major automakers are all in a scramble as the imminent arrival of the Model 3 nears. The vehicle, which begins production this month, aims to provide very high quality, Tesla’s trademark swift acceleration, top-notch tech, groundbreaking automation, and 215+ miles of all-electric range for a 35,000 dollar base price. An offering that is disruptive due to quality and accessibility alone. But add to it the 400,000 + preorders that Tesla has accumulated and you’ve got what basically amounts to a volcanic eruption in the global auto market.

In large part, as a response to Tesla’s market-transformation plan, a number of major automakers are deciding to provide their own competing offerings. This year, GM beat the Model 3 to the start line with the 200+ mile range, high-quality Chevy Bolt. Toyota, launched its competitively-priced Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. Nissan redoubled efforts to position its best-selling Leaf all electric vehicle even as it announced plans for a 200+ mile range version in 2018. Meanwhile, Volvo plans to electrify all its vehicles by 2019.

(Increasingly attractive EVs and plug in hybrids like the Chevy Bolt, the Prius Prime, and the Nissan Leaf helped to boost U.S. electrical vehicle sales in June as automakers gear up to compete with Tesla’s Model 3. Image source: InsideEVs.)

This activity has generated considerable growth in sales as customers discover electrical vehicles of ever-increasing variety, value and capability. During June of 2017, all-electric vehicle sales from major automakers in the U.S. market (excluding Tesla) increased by more than 100 percent over June of 2016 on the back of the entry of attractive, highly-capable models like the Bolt. Meanwhile, plug-in hybrid sales grew by 11.5 percent. Total U.S. EV and plug in hybrid sales for the month from major automakers + Tesla hit a new record in June of 17,182 on the back of major automaker sales growth (a total growth of about 16 percent for the entire U.S. market).

Tesla, on the other hand, showed slightly lower June 2017 sales vs June 2016 in U.S. markets as it experienced a hiccup in 100 kw battery pack production. But with the Model 3 nearing launch, an explosion of EV sales from Tesla is in the offing over the coming months. According to statements by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the ground-breaking vehicle is expected to trickle into the market by adding about 30 sales in July. By August, deliveries are expected to triple to 100. By September, another 1,500 or so Model 3s are expected to arrive. Production will then, according to Musk, swiftly ramp up to 20,000 per month by December.

If these ambitions bear out, and if about half of Model 3 sales are in the U.S., then the U.S. could see north of 40,000 EVs and plug in hybrids sold in the U.S. during December. This would represent a 60 percent + jump over the all-time record EV sales month of December 2016. But even if Tesla’s extraordinarily ambitious production ramp-up goals for the Model 3 aren’t reached by December, the excitement surrounding the vehicle is likely to continue to spur growth and competition in the larger EV market through the period. And that’s a bit of much-appreciated good news for those of us who are increasingly concerned about climate change.

Links:

Big Auto’s Fully Electric Car Sales Up 102% in USA

Plug-in Electric Sales Report Card

Next Generation Leaf to Have 215 to 340 Mile Range

Volvo Electrifying All Models By 2019

CO2 Emissions Flat for Third Straight Year

EV Obsession

Big Win For Solar Revolution, Public as Nevada Reinstates Net Metering

Back during late 2015 and early 2016, wealthy investors aligned with Nevada utilities in an attempt to kill off a wave of rooftop solar adoption rippling through the state.

Campaign money was promised, shady back-room deals were made, and in 2016, the state set forward a policy that would basically make it uneconomical for homeowners to purchase or maintain solar rooftops. Credits to homeowners with solar roofs who sold electricity back to utilities dropped from 12.5 cents per kilowatt hour to 2.5 cents.

This crushing blow to clean, distributed energy resulted in mass protest both from the Nevada public and from the industry itself. Demonstrations erupted in the Nevada capital as Solar City (now under Tesla), Sunrun, and Vivint all decided to pull the plug on state operations in an all-out boycott to protest Nevada’s anti-renewables policy. In total, 2,600 clean energy jobs were lost in Nevada as industries fled the state and solar adoption rates plummeted.

Many thought this was the short-term end for rooftop solar in Nevada. That residents wanting to tap the abundant, clean power source would have to wait for battery prices to drop enough for them to go off-grid. But since 2016, it appears that the Nevada government has now had a change of heart in the face of a powerful counter-lobbying campaign by the solar industry, progressive politicians, and the public. For yesterday, both Governor Sandoval and the state legislature reinstated a net metering policy that is far more benevolent to homeowners with solar roofs and the solar industry at large.

(Nevada Governor Sandoval signs new state law re-opening the state to the rooftop solar industry. Image source: Vote Solar Nevada.)

It’s worth noting that the new policy makes far better sense for Nevada — which has no fossil fuel resources to speak of, but possesses an abundance of sunlight and is home to Tesla’s Gigafactory 1. And the fact that Nevada ever turned against renewables at all is a testament to the harmful influence fossil fuel based utilities are sometimes able to exert on state governments. But this effort to stymie renewables and home solar ownership ultimately failed.

Assemblyman Chris Brooks, a Democrat who spearheaded a clean energy push in Carson City provided this gauge of Nevada public sentiment in Scientific American:

“A lot of folks would say, and you would be surprised, ‘Las Vegas has so much sun; why aren’t we putting solar on every roof in Nevada? People across the state, from many different demographics, many different socio-economic situations, all said, ‘Why don’t we use more solar?’”

The newly reinstated policy will provide utility buy-backs for home solar generation at no less than 75 percent of the retail rate (or around 8-9 cents per kilowatt hour) and would be phased to allow new solar purchasers to receive higher payback rates during early years of ownership to help defray system costs. This policy stability ensures that homeowners who buy solar will receive a good return on their investment.

And it’s something politicians in the state are pretty proud of. Republican Governor Sandoval suggested that the program be a model for other states looking to incentivize renewable energy as the bill was signed.

“I believe, humbly, it will be a national model across the country.” he said to a crowd of solar advocates at the signing ceremony. “I’m as competitive as it gets, and I want Nevada to truly be a leader in energy policy.”

Links:

Nevada Boosts Solar Power, Reversing Course

Vote Solar Nevada

Warren Buffet’s Quiet Bid to Kill Solar in the Western U.S.

Nevada Enacts Progressive New Solar Policies

Nevada Reinstates Key Solar Energy Policy

Nevada’s Solar Fees Have People Furious

AB 405

Old Energy Left Behind — Equivalent of 7 Gigafactories Already Under Construction; Tesla Plans 10-20 More

In an interview with Leonardo DiCaprio during late 2016, Elon Musk famously claimed that it would take just 100 Gigafactories to produce enough clean energy to meet the needs of the entire world. As of mid 2017, in the face of an ever-worsening global climate, the equivalent of 7 such plants were already under construction while plans for many more were taking shape on the drawing boards of various clean energy corporations across the globe.

(Elon Musk shares climate change concerns, expresses urgency for rapid transition to clean energy in interview with Leonardo DiCaprio during late 2016.)

Tesla’s own landmark gigafactory began construction during late 2014. Upon completion, it will produce the Model 3 electric vehicle along with hoards of electric motors and around 35 gigawatt hours worth of lithium battery storage every single year (a planned output that Tesla said it could potentially triple or more to 100-150 gigawatt hours). During May, Tesla stated that it would set plans for four new gigafactories after Model 3 production began in earnest late this summer. And this week, Elon Musk announced an ultimate ambition to construct between 10 and 20 gigafactories in all. For reference, so many gigafactories could ultimately support vehicle production in the range of 12 to 24 million annually.

Racing to Catch up With Tesla

Tesla’s ramp-up to clean energy mass production, however, is not going unanswered. In China, CATL is building a gigafactory that by 2020 will produce about 50 gigawatts of battery packs every year. This massive plant is the centerpiece of China’s push to have 5 million electrical vehicles operating on its roads by 2020. It’s a huge facility that could outstrip even the Tesla Gigafactory 1’s massive production chain.

Meanwhile, another 11 facilities under construction around the world will add around 145 gigawatts of additional battery pack production capacity by the early 2020s as well. Add in both China’s CATL and Tesla’s Nevada battery plant and you end up with 230 gigawatts of new battery production — or the equivalent to just shy of 7 gigafactories that are already slated for completion by around 2020.

(Steep climb in EV adoption pushes global fleet to above 2 million during 2016. Swiftly dropping prices and expanding production chains will help to drive far more rapid adoption during 2017-2020. Massive factories producing EVs will also help to speed larger energy transition away from fossil fuels. Image source: International Energy Agency.)

Race to Win the Energy Transition 

According to news reports, the big-ramp up in battery production has already driven prices down to $140 dollars per kilowatt hour. That’s a major drop from around $550 dollars per kilowatt hour just five years ago. An amazing trend that is expected to push batteries for electrical vehicles down to below $100 dollars per kilowatt hour by or before 2020, and to around $80 dollars per kilowatt hour not long after. This means that battery packs for vehicles like Nissan’s new Leaf, the Chevy Bolt, and Tesla’s Model 3 are likely to range between $5,000 and $7,000 dollars in rather short order. A price level that will allow EV production at cost parity with similar fossil fuel driven vehicles within the next three years.

But ambitions appear to go well beyond just the transportation industry. Based on Musk’s earlier assessment, it appears that he’s aiming to control a 10-20 percent stake in the larger global energy market. An aspiration aided both by the innate fungibility of battery pack production (after-market EV batteries can be resold to the energy storage market) together with Tesla’s recent Solar City acquisition. It also appears that he is helping to spur a race between various companies and nations for new, clean energy, leadership. And with so much momentum already building behind the big clean energy push, it appears the choices for present energy and transport leaders are either to join the race or get left behind.

Links:

100 Gigafactories Could Power Entire World

Battery Gigafactories Hit Europe

Lithium-Ion Batteries are Now Selling for Under $140 Dollars per kwh

China Battery-Maker Signs Massive Supply Contract

Tesla Plans 12 to 24 Million Vehicles Per Year

Electric Batteries $100 Dollars Per kwh by 2020, $80 Soon After?

Tesla — 4 More Gigafactories

Global EV Outlook 2017

Tesla to Build 10-20 Gigafactories

Hat tip to Greg

Renewable Energy Technology is Now Powerful Enough to Significantly Soften the Climate Crisis

In order for the world to begin to solve the climate crisis, one critical thing has to happen. Global carbon emissions need to start falling. And they need to start falling soon before the serious impacts that we are already seeing considerably worsen and begin to overwhelm us.

Carbon Emissions Plateau For Last Three Years

Over the past three years, countries around the world have been engaged in a major switch away from the biggest carbon emitter — coal. China is shutting down hundreds of its worst polluting coal plants, India is following suit, the U.S. is shuttering many of its own facilities, and in Europe the trend is much the same. Around the world, investment in new coal fired plants continues to fall even as the old plants are pressured more and more to halt operations.

(It’s starting to look like cheap renewable energy and the drive to reduce pollution and to solve the climate crisis are a stronger factor in the present carbon emissions plateau than a cyclical switch to natural gas fired power generation. Image source: The International Energy Agency.)

In many places, coal generation is being replaced by natural gas. This fuel emits about 30-50 percent less carbon than coal, but it’s still a big source. In the past, a switch to natural gas due to lower prices has driven a cyclical but temporary reduction in global carbon emissions. And falling coal prices have often driven a price-forced switch back to coal and a return to rising emissions rates. But after years of rock-bottom coal prices due to continuously falling demand this, today, is not the case.

Low-Cost, More Desirable Renewable Energy Blocks a Cyclical Switch back to Coal

And the primary reason for this break in traditional energy cycling is that renewable energy in the form of wind and solar are now less expensive than coal and gas fired power generation in many places. Add that wind and solar are considerably more desirable due to the fact that they produce practically zero negative health impacts from pollution and that such zero-emitting sources are critical to solving an ever-worsening climate crisis and you end up with something seldom seen in markets anywhere. A rare synergy between a public interest based drive for a more moral energy industry and a, typically callous to such concerns, market-based profit motive.

(In Western Europe basic economics and a desire for cleaner power sources has resulted in both wind and solar overtaking coal fired power generation capacity. Image source: Bloomberg.)

Consider the fact that now, in Western Europe, both solar and wind energy have higher installed capacities than coal. Combined, the two sources have more than double the present energy producing capacity of this dirty fuel. Coal just can’t compete any longer. And an increasing glut of low-cost, non-polluting renewable energy is forcing even the largest, most economically viable, coal fired power plants such as the 2.2 gigawatt facility in  Voerde, Germany to shut down.

In Australia, despite the mad-hatter attempts by coal cheerleader politicians to supply more of this dirty carbon to a dwindling world market, renewable energy just keeps on advancing. This week, Queensland announced a new solar + storage project that would at first supply 350 megawatts of renewable energy and would ultimately expand to 800 megawatts. The drive for the project comes as solar prices in Australia are now beating out gas fired power generation. Meanwhile, market analysts are saying that solar+storage will soon be in the same position. And, even more ironically, many of the new solar and battery storage promoters in Queensland are past coal industry investors.

Simple Technologies Leverage Economies of Scale

The technologies driving this fundamental energy market transformation — wind, solar, batteries — are not new silver bullet advances. They are older technologies that are simple and easy to reproduce, improve, and that readily benefit from increasing economies of scale. This combination of simplicity, improvability and scaling is a very powerful transformational force. It enables companies like Tesla to spin core products like mass produced batteries into multiple offerings like electrical automobiles, trucks, and residential, commercial and industry scale energy storage systems. A new capability and advantage that is now beginning to significantly disrupt traditional fossil fuel based markets world-wide.

A fact that was underscored by the shockwaves sent through combustion engine manufacturers recently after Tesla’s simple announcement that it would begin producing electric long-haul trucks.

The announcement almost immediately prompted downgrades in conventional truck engine manufacturer stock values. In the past, competition by electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla have forced traditional, fossil fuel based vehicle and engine manufacturers to produce their own electric products in order to protect market share. But since these companies are heavily invested in older, more polluting technology it is more difficult for them to produce electric vehicles at a profit than it is for pure electric manufacturers like Tesla.

Renewable Energy Technology Capable of Removing Lion’s Share of Global Carbon Emissions

In light of these positive trends, we should consider the larger goals of the energy transition with regards to climate change.

  1. To slow and plateau the rate of carbon emissions increases.
  2. To begin to reduce global carbon emissions on an annual basis.
  3. To bring carbon emissions to net zero globally.
  4. To bring carbon emission to net negative globally.

By itself, market based energy switches to renewable energy systems can cut global carbon emissions from their present rate of approximately 33 billion tons of CO2 each year to 1-5 billion tons of CO2 each year through full removal of fossil fuels from thermal, power, fuel, manufacturing, materials production and other uses. In other words, by itself, this now rapidly scaling set of technologies is capable of removing the lion’s share of the human carbon emission problem. And given the rapid cost reductions and increasing competitiveness of these systems, these kinds of needed reductions in emissions are now possible on much shorter timescales than previously envisioned.

(UPDATED)

Links:

Europe’s Coal Power is Going up in Smoke — Fast

The International Energy Agency

Plans Laid for 800 MW Solar + Storage Facility in Queensland

Tesla Semi Announcement Causes Analysts to Start Downgrading Traditional Truck Stocks

Coal Plants are in Decline

Hat tip to Phil

Hat tip to Spike

Hat tip to Brian

Electric Flights Between Major Hubs Possible in Ten Years as Tesla Outpaces Ford & GM Market Value

As the impacts of climate change continue to worsen, the opportunity still exists for leaders and individuals at every level to reduce the coming harms by renewing and redoubling the push for clean energy. And in many places, this kind of strong leadership is happening — just not in the Trump White House.

(Battery gigafactories, solar roofs, electric vehicles and many other renewable energy advances are enabling both energy independence and the potential for a rapid response to human-forced climate change. But obstacles imposed by short-sighted and immoral leaders like Trump could get in the way of these much-needed actions. Image source: Tesla.)

In January, China appeared ready to take the title of clean energy leader away from the United States as it planned to shut down 104 carbon and soot spewing coal-fired power plants. California and New York pledged to redouble support for renewables even as they vowed to fight Trump’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan all the way to the Supreme Court (an all-too clear reminder of why the Republican sabotage of Garland really hurt us all). Meanwhile, 25 cities in the U.S. have now set their sights on getting 100 percent of their energy needs from zero-carbon sources.

Tesla Surges Ahead Despite Negative Attacks

The supporting clean energy industry is also still making great strides despite attacks on helpful climate and energy policy by Trump. Tesla this month announced that nearly 30,000 of its electric vehicles were sold in the first quarter of 2017 — that’s a 69 percent jump in sales over the same period for 2016. The news buoyed Tesla stock prices which are now more highly valued than those of the still mostly fossil-fueled Ford and GM. The news shows that confidence among investors for Tesla’s future success is hitting extraordinary high levels, despite what has been an ongoing negative PR campaign linked to fossil-fuel special interests against the clean energy company.

(Elon Musk mocks those in the investor media who’ve been on what amounts to a multi-year campaign to talk down Tesla at all costs.)

Tesla plans to rapidly ramp up electric vehicle production this year with the entry of the Model 3. The clean energy company is presently on track to sell about 400,000 Model 3’s in 2-3 years. And its Nevada Gigafactory is already ramping up the battery production that will support the new vehicle.

Electric Medium Range Aircraft on the Horizon

Tesla owes a lot of its success to its ability to provide high energy density batteries at a relatively low cost. And the company now produces a wide range of clean energy products from battery storage systems to electric vehicles to solar rooftops. Tesla’s ability to leverage advances in energy storage and renewable energy technology has been a primary key to its relatively rapid short-term success. And it’s these rapid advances in renewable energy that are enabling another wave of products increasingly capable of replacing harmful fossil fuel burning — extending even to medium range aircraft in the near future.

(The Wright 1 by Wright Electric is expected to be able to handle up to 30 percent of global air travel without the use of fossil fuels.)

According to reports from BBC, Wright Electric is set to produce a plane that, within the next decade, will be capable of making medium range flights. It expects to produce an aircraft called the Wright 1 which will be capable of making 300 mile flights using electric engines and battery power alone. The aircraft could, for example, make the trip from London to Paris. Wright Electric says that the new craft would be capable of completing 30 percent of global flights. The aircraft is expected to be considerably quieter than conventional, fossil fuel driven craft. And British low cost flyer — Easyjet — has already expressed interest in the design.

Storage Advances Our Options for Fighting Climate Change

In the past, battery storage energy density was too low to support the needs for most air travel platforms. But recently, both increasing energy density in new batteries and falling costs have been enabling electric flight. That said, electric medium range aircraft would be a real sustainability breakthrough — adding to the biofuel option for air travel.

It is becoming increasingly clear that we have strong options for confronting climate change. With each week there seems to be some new advance or positive movement. But we must make the choice to turn away from harmful fossil fuels together. And, unfortunately, this issue has been clouded by harmful political actors which puts everything we’ve worked for up until this point into jeopardy.

Links:

London-Paris Electric Flight in a Decade

Tesla Now Worth More Than Ford, GM

Tesla

Wright Electric

Hat tip to Wharf Rat

Hat tip to Greg

Kauai Shows Solar + Storage is Starting to Become Cost Competitive With Fossil Fuels, Nuclear

It wasn’t too long ago that the cost of an average solar energy power plant was above 10 cents per kilowatt hour and the world was raving at the low prices for Middle East solar generation in the range of 6 cents per kilowatt hour. At that time, to the shock, awe, and dismay of many, solar began to become earnestly competitive with traditional power plants based on price of energy alone.

Base Wind + Solar Now Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels, Nuclear

But it’s amazing what a difference just two years can make. Now solar prices have fallen into a range of around 4-6 cents per kilowatt hour with the least expensive solar plants now hitting as low as 2-3 cents per kilowatt hour. These prices are now far less than diesel and nuclear based generation (in many cases 1/2 to 1/4 the price of these systems) and today even out-compete coal and gas fired generation.

utility-solar-beats-fossil-fuels-and-nuclear

(Research by Lazard now shows that wind and solar are less expensive than all forms of fossil fuel and nuclear based energy. Image source: Lazard and Clean Technica.)

For as you can see in the image above, the cost of new natural gas generation now ranges from 5 to 8 cents per kilowatt hour for the least expensive plants and the price for new coal generation ranges from 6 to 14 cents per kilowatt hour. Utility wind and solar, by comparison, now ranges from 3 to 6 cents per kilowatt hour in most cases.

These, far more competitive, prices for renewable energy based systems provide a very strong case for the base market competitiveness of renewables. One that supports a clear rational economic argument for rapid integration of renewable energy systems. A strong economic case that can now be made even when one doesn’t include the various harmful externalities coming from nuclear energy and fossil fuel based power or the related and continuously worsening climate crisis. Renewable energy detractors, therefore, can now no longer make an argument against clean energy sources based on price alone. As a result, the argument against more benevolent energy systems during recent months has tended to shift more and more to the issue of intermittency.

Facing Down Fears of Intermittency

As an example, in its most recent report on the cost of global energy, the typically pragmatic Lazard Consulting group recently noted:

Even though alternative energy is increasingly cost-competitive and storage technology holds great promise, alternative energy systems alone will not be capable of meeting the baseload generation needs of a developed economy for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the optimal solution for many regions of the world is to use complementary traditional and alternative energy resources in a diversified generation fleet.

It’s a statement that moves the consultancy group closer to reality. One that opens wide the door for a much needed rapid integration of clean energy supplies. But, as with the analysts who failed to predict the precipitous fall in solar prices and the related rapidly increased availability of renewable energy sources as a result, the Lazard report fails to understand the fundamental price and mass production supply dynamics now setting up. A dynamic that will likely transform the cost and availability of energy storage systems in a similar manner to those that acted to greatly reduce the price of solar energy systems during the period of 2011 through 2016. As a result, Lazard’s ‘not for the foreseeable future’ statement is likely to have a life expectancy of about 3-5 years.

Soft Limits

Wind and solar power generation systems do have the base limitation that they only produce energy when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. Often, these energy sources have to be widely distributed and interconnected to cover a significant portion of demands coming from power grids (30 to 50 percent or more). And in the present understanding of energy supply economies, standby power or power storage systems have to be made available for the periods when majority renewable energy systems go off-line. All too often, this standby power generation comes from conventional sources like coal, gas, or nuclear.

That said, the underlying flexibility of renewable energy is starting to overcome the soft limit that is intermittency. And a recent report by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that as much as 80-90 percent of grid electricity demand could be met by widely distributed renewable energy sources such as wind and solar as soon as 2050 so long as an advanced grid and related energy storage systems are developed.

In order to meet the challenge of transitioning most or all electricity based energy supply to renewables — not only does the cost of renewable energy need to be competitive with fossil fuels, but the cost of intermittent renewable energy + the systems that store them must be similarly competitive. Fortunately for those of us concerned about the growing risks posed by the global climate crisis, it appears that we are now entering a period in which exactly this kind of cost competitiveness for integrated renewable + storage systems is starting to emerge.

Solar + Battery Storage Becoming Cost Competitive

Last year, the Hawaiian Island of Kauai purchased a ground-breaking solar + battery storage system from Tesla and Solar City. The system paired solar panels with Tesla power packs to provide 17 megawatts of solar energy and 10 megawatts of battery storage in order to replace about 10 percent of the island’s expensive diesel electricity generation.

kuaui

(Tropical Kauai aims to be powered by the sun. In doing so, it’s starting to shift away from dirty and expensive energy derived from coal and diesel generating plants. Image source: Kuaui.com.)

On Kuaui, diesel generation costs about 22 cents per kilowatt hour. Expensive fuel and equally expensive heavy machinery must be shipped from far-flung locations to the remote island. And this adds to the overall cost of fossil fuel generation. During 2016, Solar City and Tesla significantly out-competed the price of diesel generation by offering its solar + storage generating system for 13.9 cents per kilowatt hour — a cost that was comparable to the more expensive versions of nuclear, coal, and gas fired generation plants the world over.

Fast forward to early 2017 and another solar + storage provider was being contracted to add still more renewable based electrical power to Kauai’s grid. AES Distributed Energy is now contracted to build 28 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels mated to 20 megawatts of battery based storage. The price? About half that of diesel-fired power generation at 11 cents per kilowatt hour.

This is about 20 percent less than the Solar City + Tesla offering just one year later. A system that hits a price comparable to mid-range coal and nuclear generation systems. And, more to the point, AES’s solar panels + battery packs will enable Kuaui to produce 50 percent of its electricity through renewable, non-carbon-emitting sources.

Renewables + Storage to Beat Fossil Fuels in Near Future

Compared to the cost of renewable energy, the price of batteries is still comparitively expensive — effectively doubling the price of base solar. However, widespread adoption of battery-based electrical vehicles is helping to both rapidly drive down the cost of batteries and to provide a large global after-market supply of batteries useful for storing energy. By 2017, it’s likely that about 50 gigawatts worth of energy storage will be sold on the world market in the form of electrical vehicle batteries. By the early 2020s, this number could easily grow to 150 gigawatts of storage produced by the world’s clean energy suppliers every year.

lithium-ion-battery-production-to-triple-by-2020

(Global lithium ion battery production is expected to hit more than 120 GW and possibly as high as 140 GW by 2020. This production spike is coming on the back of newly planned battery plants in China, the U.S., and Europe. Presently, the largest plant currently operating is LG Chem’s China facility which was completed in 2016. Tesla’s Gigafactory is already producing batteries and is expected to ramp up to 35-50 GW worth of annual production by 2018-2019. Volkswagen has recently announced its own large battery plant to rival Tesla’s Gigafactory [not included in chart above]. FoxConn, BYD, and Boston Power round out the large projects now planned or underway. Image source: The Lithium-Ion Megafactories Are Coming.)

As electrical vehicles are driven, the batteries they use lose some of their charge. However, by the time the life of the electrical vehicle is over, the batteries still retain enough juice to be used after-market as energy storage systems. Meanwhile, the same factories that produce batteries for electrical vehicles can co-produce batteries for grid and residential based energy storage systems. This mass production capacity and second use co-production and multipurpose versatility will help to drive down the cost of batteries while making energy storage systems more widely available.

Though mass produced batteries represent one avenue for rapidly reducing the cost of energy storage systems mated to renewables, other forms of energy storage including pumped hydro, molten salt thermal storage, flywheels, and compressed air storage also provide price-competitive options for extending the effectiveness of low-cost variable power sources like wind and solar. And with the price of solar + storage options falling into the 11 cent per kilowatt hour range, it appears likely that these varied mated systems have the potential to largely out-compete fossil fuels and nuclear based on price alone well within the foreseeable future and possibly as soon as the next 3-5 years.

Links:

The World’s Cheapest Solar Energy in January 2015 Was 6 Cents Per Kilowatt Hour

Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis

Cost of Solar and Wind Beats Coal, Nuclear and Natural Gas

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Kauai Solar Peaker Shows How Fast Solar + Storage Costs are Falling

The Lithium-Ion Megafactories Are Coming

AES Distributed Energy

The Electric Vehicles are Coming — Global Sales Likely to Exceed 1 Million During 2017

Electric vehicle (EV) performance has been improving so quickly and prices have been falling so fast that the internal combustion engine (ICE) wouldn’t be able to compete for much longer. You will soon be able to get Porsche performance for Buick prices and when you get that, neither Porsche nor Buick are able to compete.Tony Seba

*****

We talk a lot here about tipping points. Often this is in the negative sense when it comes to climate change. But when it comes to electrical vehicles, which is one of the key renewable energy technologies that has the capacity to mitigate climate harms, it appears that the world is rapidly approaching a much more positive kind of economic tipping point.

Steadily, markets are opening up to a new wave of far more capable electric vehicles. And this is good news — because the combination of wind + solar + electrical vehicles + battery storage has the capacity to act as a market force that, on its own, will begin to dramatically cut the global carbon emissions now driving dangerous climate change the world over.

850,000 EV Sales for 2016, Possibly More than a Million During 2017

During 2015, as EV ranges extended, as charging networks expanded, as countries like China and India began to incentivize electric vehicles in an effort to fight choking air pollution, and as high value vehicles like Tesla’s model X became available, global EV sales jumped to over 500,000. This momentum continued during 2016 despite plummeting gas prices — a year when sales of electric vehicles are now expected to rise by more than 60 percent to 850,000.

By 2017, it is likely that global annual EV sales will lift still further — hitting over 1 million in the world market as lower cost, longer range electric vehicles like the Chevy Bolt, the Tesla Model 3, and an upgraded Nissan Leaf are expected make their entry.

ev-volumes

(Plug in vehicle sales including EVs and PHEVs are expected to jump about 60 percent during 2016. Rising vehicle quality and concerns about pollution and climate change are the primary drivers. Image source: Plug in Electric Vehicles Sales Growth.)

While climate and environmental policy is helping to spur this beneficial trend — with smog-choked cities and countries concerned about climate change pushing for fossil fuel based vehicle bans — it’s important to note that overall EV performance and quality now also appear to be a major underlying driver pushing EV adoption rates higher. In other words, a vehicle with a more powerful engine, faster acceleration, and a larger interior, one that produces less noise while driving, generates no toxic stink from a tail pipe and costs less to fuel and maintain, and one whose operation (when coupled with a renewable electricity supply) won’t contribute to all the nasty droughts, floods, heatwaves, animal deaths and rising tides that are becoming so pervasive due to fossil fuel burning, is looking increasingly attractive.

Rising EV Quality, Lower Cost Helps to Drive Adoption Rates

Rising rates of adoption, in essence, come both from various performance advantages as well as from an increasing societal awareness of EVs’ greatly lessened harmful impacts. Moreover, electric vehicles — like wind and solar — have the ability to produce great leaps in performance, capability, and cost reduction. As a result, they are increasingly narrowing the gap with fossil fuel based vehicles on range and price even as already superior power and efficiency expands.

chevy-bolt

(Higher capability electric vehicles like the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 will help to further increase global sales during 2017. On acceleration and torque, both of these vehicles will be able to outperform many ICE based sports cars for a lower price. But the larger point here is that EVs are advancing very rapidly and are likely to be able to outperform ICEs in almost every way by as soon as the 2020s. Image source: Chevy Bolt.)

Vehicle ranges across almost all model lines are rising. The Nissan Leaf, for example, now has a range of 107 miles — compared to 84 miles just two years before — even as the company is expected to provide a 200 mile capable model in the near future. Meanwhile, today’s Leaf’s range is less than half that of the comparatively priced Chevy Bolt whose late 2016 release model boasts a 238 mile capability (about 4 times that of typical electric vehicles from just 2-3 years ago). Well-selling higher end vehicles like Tesla’s model S and X still dominate the longer range category. The base Model S’s range is 210 miles with larger battery pack versions now extending the vehicle’s legs to up to 315 miles.

The Chevy Bolt is the first mass market, moderately priced, fully electric vehicle (starting at around 35,000 dollars) with a highway range in excess of 200 miles available for US buyers. A vehicle that Motor Trend Magazine has rated very favorably. Lower maintenance and fuel costs will further add to the vehicle’s economic value and overall appeal. In late 2017, the Tesla Model 3 will join the Bolt in this category. Both vehicles represent high quality and higher performance options for buyers. And these models should help to considerably increase the number of electrical vehicles sold in the U.S. and around the world as they become available.

Electric Buses Promise to Help Revitalize Urban Areas, Make Public Transport More Attractive

(Gothenburg is one of many cities around the world moving to electric bus based transportation. This form of transport is not only clean, it provides unique features that aid in city planning and urban renewal. Video source: Electric Buses Regenerate City Planning.)

Larger electric vehicles such as trucks and buses are also starting to become more widely represented. For example, Chinese EV manufacturer BYD recently received an order for 50 new all-electric buses from Argentina. Proterra, another electric bus manufacturer, just had an order from the city of Seattle for 73. King County, which includes Seattle, plans to have all its buses powered by electricity within 3 years. Electric buses have seen major advances in recent years and now feature ranges as long as 350 miles and charging times in as little as 3-30 minutes.

Better Access to Charging Infrastructure, Faster Charging, Superior Performance

Expanding EV charging networks are also making these vehicles more accessible to the public. Tesla has invested heavily in placing chargers along highways in the U.S. and around the world. And it is the only automaker presently making superchargers — capable of fully charging an electric vehicle in about an hour — available as a special service to its drivers. These networks are adding to EV ease of use and are helping to further reduce range anxiety. Meanwhile the ability to charge at home, at work, and at numerous destinations such as grocery stores, rest stops, and malls adds to EV versatility and ease of use — providing convenience that ICE vehicles lack.

tesla-superchargers-destination-chargers

(Tesla’s ever-expanding charging network includes both super-chargers and more conventional charging stations. Image source: Gas2.)

EVs now also provide superior performance when compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in a number of areas. Though gasoline is presently more energy dense than batteries (a situation that is changing as battery technology improves), electric motors are far and away superior to internal combustion engines. Smaller electric motors save weight and space — allowing for larger vehicle interiors and storage. Meanwhile, an electric motor’s ability to rapidly deliver energy to the drive train produces superior acceleration and torque compared to ICE based vehicles. It is this feature that allows the Tesla Model S to outperform even motorcycles in acceleration. Simplicity of design is also a superior feature of electrical vehicles — one that is enabling EV owners to dramatically reduce maintenance costs. Less moving parts and less complicated engines enable this benefit. Add in greatly reduced fuel costs and it becomes pretty clear why EVs are enjoying such rapidly rising rates of adoption.

Helping to Combat Global Climate Change

Increasing EV popularity and access helps to combat global climate change on a number of levels. First, EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions. Second, EV engines are more efficient than internal combustion engines — so they use less energy overall than fossil fuel based vehicles. Third, EVs mated to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar produce zero or near zero carbon emissions during operation. Finally, the batteries used to charge EVs can provide storage for intermittent sources like wind and solar energy. And this energy storage can occur both while the batteries are sitting in a stationary vehicle and after-market when batteries are removed following the end of the vehicle’s time of use.

EVs are also transformative in that they greatly reduce and provide the potential to eliminate emissions from large segments of the transportation sector. And this is a pretty big deal as global transport is presently one of the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. With EVs, supply chains for food delivery and manufacturing have the potential to be decarbonized — which also helps to reduce various material and food based carbon footprints.

So the EVs are coming. A liberating economic force that’s helping to drive an energy switch that the world, at this time, desperately needs.

Links:

Dramatic Plug in Vehicle Sales Growth During 2016

EVs Will Soon Be Cheaper Than Regular Cars

Norway to Ban Petrol Vehicle Sales

Chevy Bolt

New Nissan Leaf With 200 Mile Range is Coming

Tesla Model S

Chevy Bolt vs Model S

Electric Buses Regenerate City Planning

BYD Sells 50 Electric Buses to Argentina

Seattle Buses to be All-Electric

Gas2 — More Tesla Charging Stations

Hat tip to JPL

As France and Canada Plan to Phase Out Coal, Trump Backers Attack Tesla

Taking traditional coal power out of our energy mix and replacing it with cleaner technologies will significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, improve the health of Canadians, and benefit generations for years to come. —  Canada’s Environment Minister Kathleen McKenna

Make no mistake – Trump and his legion of doom cronies are a very real threat to the environment. Apart from the fact that they deny climate change actually exists, they are also quite big fans of coal. — IFL Science

Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk. But the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness. — 365 U.S. Companies in an open letter to Trump asking him not to back out of Paris Climate Summit.

Climate change is a hoax. — Myron Ebell, whom Trump tapped to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency transition team.

*****

The wide-ranging conflict over renewable energy, carbon emissions, and climate change rages on. And as Donald Trump prepares to enter the Oval Office, or stay within the gilded halls of Trump Tower to the tune of 1 million dollars a day from the U.S. taxpayer (not Trump), it appears that U.S. climate and renewable energy leadership are already starting to lag.

Canada and France to End Coal Burning

Yesterday, in stark contrast to the Trump Administration’s pledge to rebuild the bankrupt U.S. coal industry, Canada announced that it would phase out coal burning by 2030. In similar moves, France stated that it would shut down all of its coal plants by 2023. Both pledges by Canada and France are aimed at pursuing carbon emissions reductions agreed to at the Paris Climate Summit and to honor the spirit of a new climate summit — COP 22 — that is now underway.

France and Canada join with Britain, the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark who have all announced near-term timetables for phasing out coal burning. And since coal is the worst of the three major fossil fuel sources of CO2 emissions, halting coal burning is a key to addressing the rapidly worsening crisis that is human forced climate change.

Trump’s own statements on global climate summits and carbon emissions reduction commitments are that he wants to back out. An action that has already harmed U.S. trade prospects with France — whose public officials are now signaling that they could slap a carbon tax on U.S. goods if the President-Elect carries through with his threats. But, perhaps even worse, it appears that Trump’s intention to cling to dirty, old industries is also endangering U.S. competitiveness in emerging markets.

Elon Musk Solarizes American Somao

As the world moves ahead with emissions reductions and looks for ways to manage a recalcitrant U.S. under Trump, backers of Trump’s Presidential bid are at this time preparing to attack a key emerging U.S. solar and electrical vehicles industry. This week, Elon Musk’s Tesla announced that it had succeeded in providing 100 percent solar powered electricity to the island territory of Samoa.

american-samoa

(Like many places in the world, American Samoa is threatened by climate change. Now, thanks to Tesla, the island will not contribute to the problem through electricity generation as all such energy is produced by 100 percent solar power. Image source: The Embassy of Samoa.)

And over the next few years, Tesla, a global leader in renewable energy products, promises to create whole new markets even as it helps the world greatly reduce carbon emissions by providing both zero emitting power sources and zero emitting electrical vehicles.

Trump Backers Smear Tesla While Subsidy Support for Fossil Fuels Continues

If there is one major avenue for U.S. growth into new industry and innovation — it comes in the form of renewables. And Tesla is on the cutting edge of renewable energy innovation. The Trump Administration has made big and risky bets on rapid U.S. economic growth to support its own economic policy stance. But Trump backers appear set to try to hobble Tesla and prevent its entry as a global energy leader fostering solutions to climate change, providing products that enable energy independence, and supporting thousands of American jobs.

Trump’s stance in this case is pretty outrageous. It would be like the Reagan Administration attacking personal computers and Microsoft in favor of companies that produced the typewriter after his election in 1980. But as ludicrous as such a policy would have been, it wouldn’t have risked the global calamity that a failure to transition to renewable energy sources results in today.

fossil-fuel-subsidies

(A vast amount of public money and support has gone to aid fossil fuel extraction. This extraction, in its turn, has contributed greatly to the problem of human-caused climate change. It’s worth noting that zero-emitting renewable energy, over its industry lifetime has received just 1 percent of the support that the fossil fuel industry has in this country. Image source: Clean Technica.)

Despite the plain fact that expansion of access to renewable energy is necessary to deal with the crisis of human-caused climate change, Trump backers continue to attack these helpful new industries. In the most recent salvo, according to Electrek, a right wing group that aided Trump’s Presidential bid is now spear-heading a PR campaign aimed at damaging Tesla. The group is trying to falsely portray Tesla and the solar industry as a ‘subsidy hog.’ But the group mentions nothing of the massive subsidies going to fossil fuel corporations and to related oil, gas, and coal extraction. The group’s leader, Laura Ingraham, is a Fox News host and is likely acting to protect oil, gas and coal subsidies from a more appealing and less environmentally harmful energy industry competitor. And because groups like the ones fronted by Ingraham have come to prominence by riding in on Trump’s coat-tails, we can expect more and more of the same.

Business Leaders Plead With Trump, But Policy Looks Bad as Bad Can Be

But it’s not just an issue of Trump and his backers targeting Tesla. It’s an issue of Trump vs the sentiment of a major subset of the U.S. business community.

Last week, 365 major U.S. businesses issued an open letter asking Trump to support policies that confront climate change like the Paris Climate Summit. Businesses that included icons like Mars Candy, Nike, IKEA, Intel, Dannon, Dupont, and Hilton were among the signatories. And these industries together represent a huge interest group. One that supports the low carbon and carbon nuetral economy that companies like Tesla are helping to build. So the question is — will Trump turn a deaf ear to a whole segment of the American business community just to defend the interests of the damaging and fading fossil fuel industry (supposing the alternative is the highly unlikely event in which Trump, like Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, undergoes a miraculous change of heart).

Add in the fact that Trump’s cabinet is full of climate change deniers like Myron Ebell — who was the big voice supporting the fake argument that ‘global warming is a hoax’ — and we get the general picture of an Admistration that is hostile to both renewable energy and to the global effort to confront climate change. That is deaf to rational arguments by global political and industrial leaders. And such a brazen failure to engage on an issue that impacts pretty much everyone is the kind of lack of leadership that comes to the U.S. at the absolute worst possible time.

Links:

France to Halt Coal Burning

Canada to Halt Coal Burning

U.S. Companies to Trump — Don’t Abandon Global Climate Deal

IFL Science

Clean Technica

The Embassy of Samoa

Hat tip to Genomik

Hat tip to Cate

Hat tip to June

Hat tip to Greg

In Defiance of Harmful Fuels — Is Tesla/Solar City the New Model For What an Energy Company Should Look Like?

It could well be said that we are subsidizing our own destruction. Despite centuries of use, fossil fuels around the world today receive about 500 billion dollars annually in the form of economic incentives from Earth’s various governing bodies. With alternatives to fossil fuels becoming less costly and more widely available, and with the impacts of human-forced climate change growing dramatically worse with each passing year, such wasteful and harmful misuse of public monies is starting to look actively suicidal.

Fossil Fuel Funding for Global Catastrophe

Given so much money going into the hands of what are already the wealthiest corporations in existence, one would expect that the practice of providing these economic powerhouses with such a massive largess of public generosity would result in some kind of amazing overall benefit.

Energy itself is certainly a benefit. It allows for the rapid and easy transportation of groups and individuals. It lights up homes, powers machinery, keeps us warm in the winter and cool in the increasingly hot summers. But despite what the industry would like you to believe, fossil fuels themselves only represent a small fraction of the global energy available to human civilizations. And the kinds of energy fossil fuels provide is often in its lowest efficiency and most highly externally destructive forms.

What these deleterious industries instead provide is the dirtiest sources of energy in the world. Harmful energy whose particulate pollution alone results in the death of 7 million people each year. More deaths than warfare, more than natural calamities such as earthquakes, and more than even those two combined. That doesn’t even begin to add water pollution from practices like coal burning and fracking. Nor does it add in the ramping up of a global mass extinction event due to the pumping out of hothouse gasses at the rate of 13 billion tons of carbon every single year. A rate that is likely faster than during even the worst previous periods of hothouse extinction in all of Earth’s long geological past. Probably faster than during the Permian, and certainly faster than the last heat spurred mass die off — the PETM of 55 million years ago. A harmful emission that threatens to, by mid Century, wreck much of global civilization and ruin the prospects of all of the children of humankind, not to mention that of millions of species living on this planet.

(Arctic glacier melts under the heat of human-forced climate change as Ludovico Einaudi plays a haunting requiem. Fossil fuel burning has led us to this pass, and things are now about to get much worse. But, for some inexplicably immoral reason, we continue to pump billions of dollars every year into the very industries that are causing the trouble in the first place.)

As such, the fossil fuel industry produces the exact opposite of a public good and its very continued operation is a dire existential threat. One that grows worse each and every time any of us light up a fossil fuel fire. Back during the 1930s, at a time when the US was recovering from another destructive period of corporate excess, it was thought that a corporation should not exist unless it produced some form of benefit to civilization. So the question must be asked — why do the destructive fossil fuel industries continue to receive so much support from the political bodies of the world when the use of these fuels results in so much harm inflicted upon the very publics they are supposed to serve?

It’s not as if there aren’t any viable alternatives.

Tesla Plans to Merge With Solar City

One example of a corporation that could produce an amazing public benefit by speeding the transition away from harmful fossil fuels is Tesla. Since its inception, this auto company has dedicated itself to producing only electrical vehicles. And it was the first Western company to do this successfully on a large scale despite a massive opposition coming from the fossil fuel special interest political and economic bodies themselves.

The reason for such opposition is due to the fact that the electric vehicle represents the potential to radically transform the way people across the world use energy. The electric motors and batteries that drive electric vehicles are themselves 2-3 times more efficient than fossil fuel based internal combustion engines. So even if the global EV fleet were powered by fossil fuels, it would result in less overall fossil fuel demand.

But an EV can be charged by anything, including wind turbines and solar panels. And this mating of battery powered vehicle with these two sources provides an amazing opportunity for individuals to dramatically reduce fossil fuel use yet again. Finally, the batteries produced in electrical vehicle manufacturing can be used, after and during their use in cars, as a device to store renewable energy produced in homes, commercial buildings or cities.

Energy Storage Tesla

(Tesla has long marketed itself as an energy storage provider. Its expanding battery supply chain, increasing reductions in battery cost, and recent proposed merger with Solar City provides the potential for Tesla to provide fully integrated renewable energy systems. Image source: Tesla Motors.)

The average home in the US uses about 10 kilowatt hours (kwh) of electricity on any given day. The Tesla Model 3 will come with a 60 kwh battery pack. Fully charged, this battery could power a home for nearly a week. But just sitting in the garage or driveway, the vehicle could take in energy from rooftop solar panels during the afternoon and evening hours, and with the simple application of some smart electronics and software, provide that energy back to a home during the night.

It’s an integrated system that largely can remove a person’s dependence on oil, gas, and coal for energy all in one shot. One that can reduce individual carbon emissions by 60 to 80 percent. And one that can result in greater systemic carbon emissions reductions if it becomes integrated into the full chain of manufacturing and transportation. And even more alluring is the fact that the more batteries are produced, the more solar panels that are sent down manufacturing lines, the lower the prices and the greater the public access to these energy transforming technologies. In such cases, it becomes more and more likely that an EV + solar combo will be supplemented by an inexpensive home battery capable of smoothing out times when the vehicle is not longer parked.

It’s a combination that the fossil fuel industry is apoplectic to prevent from hitting the market in a way that is broadly accessible. And, up until this point, there has never been one company that had the ability to integrate all these various systems in one go and under one roof. It’s a situation that changed yesterday when Tesla Motors offered to purchase Solar City.

Solar City Tesla

(The Solar City + Tesla merger has the potential to provide a number of integrated renewable energy solutions there were not previously available. EV charging stations mated with solar power generation is just one of many potential innovations that are likely to provide the opportunity to transition away from fossil fuel use. Image source: Clean Technica.)

The announcement came as CEO Elon Musk spoke of Tesla’s plans to fully solarize its network of charging stations. An innovation that would essentially begin to replace gas stations with solar and battery stations — and a huge step away from fossil fuels in itself. But the real transformative potential of the first fully vertically integrated renewable energy company in the form of Tesla + Solar City would be in its ability to provide single family homes with the potential to operate on renewable energy in a manner that is completely independent of any outside fossil fuel based source. And that, unlike oil, gas, and coal, is a public benefit that is entirely worthy of a government subsidy.

Links:

Fossil Fuels with 550 Billion in Subsidies Hurt Renewables

Tesla Offers to Buy Solar City

Tesla Motors

The National Recovery Administration

Air Pollution Kills 7 Million Each Year

Historic Performance on the Arctic Ocean

Hat tip to Vic

Hat tip to Greg

Tesla’s Powerwall Puts Huge Crack in Carbon-Based Energy Dominance

“I think we should collectively try to do this, and not win the Darwin Award.” — Elon Musk

*   *   *   *   *

This week, with much fanfare, Elon Musk’s Tesla launched a new venture — Tesla Energy.

It’s a move that propels Telsa into direct competition with giant fossil energy companies. One that promises to disrupt the global power markets and to free a vast number of consumers now held captive to home and transport based fossil fuel energy use. An offering that provides a glimmer of hope for an escape path out of our current nightmare of an ever-heating global climate.

(Elon Musk presents Powerwall together with a nice, succinct summary of our current carbon emissions crisis.)

Freeing the Fossil Fuel Energy Slaves

As with Tesla’s earlier electric vehicle offerings, its new energy product seems humble. But don’t let looks fool you, because this little beast packs one hell of a wallop. Dubbed Powerwall, the offering is a scalable battery storage system. In its home energy incarnation, it comes in trim dimensions — 7 inches thick in a 4×3 foot stack. For homeowners, it provides two options — 7 kwh of storage for 3,000 dollars or 10 kwh of storage for 3,500 dollars. A low-cost, high quality offering that will allow individual and family solar users to say to hell with the grid, contentious fossil fuel interest muddied utility politics, and any coal or gas fired powerplants if they so choose.

Both stacks provide more than enough storage to get the average homeowner through a night’s electricity usage, with the 10 kwh stack providing a bit more flex. The stacks also provide back-up for grid tied homes during power outages. It’s enough flexible storage to run virtually any home on solar + battery power alone. That’s the real, revolutionary aspect of this system — cheaply and seamlessly providing homeowners the means to run on all-renewable power, all the time.

Tesla Powerwall

(Tesla Powerwall [upper left] and Model S. Image source: Tesla Energy.)

When combined with the ever-less-expensive and more reliable home solar arrays now becoming more readily available, this combination now poses not only a threat to fossil fuel based grid and vehicular energy — it represents a superior option to energy users on practically every level. Energy costs go down, reliability during storms goes up, and environmental impacts — carbon emissions, water use, and energy use based air pollution — go down or are virtually eliminated.

Massive New Market for Tesla

From a business standpoint, this is a huge breakthrough for Tesla. Previously, the company competed in a market rife with rivals. Still, it managed to succeed and even dominate by offering some of the highest quality vehicles in the world. Vehicles that pushed sustainability for the automotive industry toward new frontiers and provided a threat to both internal combustion and fuel cell based autos all in one go. But now, Tesla enters the power storage market with practically no comparable rivals. Its Powerwall is both the lowest cost and the highest quality storage solution available and it breaks new ground in an established, multi-billion dollar home energy market.

In an article today in Scientific American Karl Brauer, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, noted:

“If Tesla can produce a cost-effective home energy storage system, it could prove far more valuable, and profitable, than anything the company is doing with automobiles.”

Intermittency Constraints Reduced, Hitting Renewable Economies of Scale

Tesla’s Powerwall shatters the myth that renewable energy can’t effectively function due to its intermittency. That renewables require high price storage options to provide energy 24/7. Tesla’s offering enables 24/7 renewable power at low cost. The option it provides is scalable to utility level, and its modular construction leverages renewable energy’s distributed power advantages. It’s a complete game changer that should have fossil fuel execs quaking in their boots and those of us concerned about climate catastrophe feeling a bit more optimistic.

Rendering of Tesla Gigafactory

(Rendering of Tesla Gigafactory due to be complete before 2020 — the first of possibly many such gigantic battery producing facilities. Image source: Tesla Motors/Chamber of Commerce.)

Recent statements by Musk indicate that the new energy industry wildcard is ready to go all out for both new homeowner and utility customers. The company mentions one major utility that is already interested in a 250 megawatt battery storage buy. And Tesla plans to work with partner Solar City in developing comprehensive home solar + storage options.

Finally, the synergy between the Powerwall and the electric vehicle battery should not be missed. Large scale production of Powerwall will serve to leverage economies of scale and drive down battery costs both across the energy storage and electric vehicle sectors. Tesla is planning for this through the construction of not just one but multiple gigafactories — assembly plants capable of producing hundreds of thousands of battery packs each (See Tesla Gigafactory May be First of Many). And, even more impressive, Tesla plans to provide its patents to other players looking to rapidly scale battery production. It’s a nightmare scenario for fossil fuel companies, but a much more hopeful one for the rest of us. A bit of much-needed good news in an otherwise grim present.

Links:

Tesla Energy

Elon Musk Unveils Stored Sunlight in Batteries

Tesla Gigafactory May be First of Many

Tesla Motors/Chamber of Commerce

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to Robert in New Orleans

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