Tag archive

Tesla

We need Elon Musk

in Business/Environment/Local News

 

We need Elon Musk much more than he needs us

BY BEN LAMM, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR, 

More so than any time in our history, we are inundated with existential threats to our way of life. The future of the planet depends on our ability to accelerate scientific discovery and deploy new technologies, and that's precisely what Elon Musk is doing.

Musk has committed literally all of his considerable resources, and all of his talents, to addressing those threats. He doesn't need the money, he doesn't need the fame, and his legacy is already a lock. Yet, he's facing a societal firing squad that has decided that he's too eccentric to be allowed to solve these problems for us.

One tweet from Musk about taking a company private and the Department of Justice opens up an unprecedented investigation into him. A delay in production of a radically new type of vehicle and his stock goes tumbling.

What's next? Should we dock the pay of everyone working on the Cancer Moonshot for every month we go without a cure?

“As concerned as I am about the problems we face in energy, climate, transportation, and the new space race, there's one overarching problem that scares me more: We don't want modern heroes to succeed in their efforts to tackle these challenges on our behalf.”

Musk has been given every reason to call it quits, buy an island and retire. That hasn't stopped him yet, but it's pretty clear the absurd behavior of an ungrateful public is taking a toll. If you care about the future, it's essential to put the work of our future-makers in the appropriate context.

Overly eager critiques

Few people realize it, but Tesla is not a luxury car company. The stated mission at Tesla is: “to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.”

Consider that for a moment. A car company took it upon itself to enact a much larger societal shift to a better form of energy. The luxury car is just a beachhead market for the underlying technology. And you know what – the cars are great! It's a phenomenal product, with diehard fans and loyal customers.

Tesla could have stopped there and would get all the respect in the world. Even just building a new car brand in this era is accomplishment enough, but Musk himself made the choice to dedicate Tesla to the even more ambitious mission with enduring societal impact.

Instead of marveling at the ambition, we've fallen into the habit of chronicling the inconsequential delays in Model 3 production on a weekly basis. A recent Fortune article opened with, “Tesla CEO Elon Musk is known for setting ambitious goals and timelines for the electric car company, but he isn't known for hitting them.”

When is it enough?  Read More

Inside ‘The Gigafactory’ Tesla’s Mission to Utilize Energy Usage

in Business/Local News
DCIM100GOPRO

About 14 percent of the Gigafactory in Nevada has been built so far. At 5.8 million square feet, it will be a building with one of the biggest footprints in the world.

Originally published on April 18, 2016, 3:56 pm

Outside Reno, in Nevada's high desert, Tesla is building what it says is the world's largest battery factory. The Gigafactory, as it's called, will churn out batteries for the company's electric cars. But it's also making something new — a battery for the home.

Tucked away in a dusty valley near Sparks, Nev., the Gigafactory is kind of like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory: It's mysterious, it's big and few people have been inside.

Actually, “big” may not do it justice.

“It's really hard to get a sense of scale. I mean, it's huge,” JB Straubel, Tesla's chief technical officer, says while standing on the roof of the factory — the 14 percent of the Gigafactory that's been built, at least.

We're looking down at a flat stretch of land where the rest of the Gigafactory — with an estimated price tag of $5 billion — will go.

Like Willy Wonka's factory, there's a lot of hype around this place. People have been caught sneaking onto the property to see what Straubel says, at 5.8 million square feet, will be a building with one of the biggest footprints in the world.

“I'm not a huge football fan, but I think it's on the order of around 100 football fields,” he says.

Nevada beat out several states by offering an incentive package worth more than $1 billion. State lawmakers are watching like hawks for the economic benefits, such as making sure Nevadans make up a big part of the factory's 6,000 workers.

Inside the factory, in room after room after room, workers are welding steel, pouring concrete and installing highly specialized machines, shrouded in plastic.

One room is filled with huge metal tanks, like an insanely large industrial kitchen. It's where the raw materials are mixed together. In other rooms, the fully formed pieces of the battery, called the anode and cathode, are baked in huge ovenlike machines, several hundred feet long.

According to Straubel, the equipment in the factory will double the world's capacity to make lithium-ion batteries. Tesla hopes to produce 35 gigawatt-hours of energy storage annually, which could supply 500,000 of its electric cars.

“It's not just about building a lot more batteries but it's about reducing the cost,” Straubel says.

Tesla is known for pricey electric cars, and batteries are a big part of the sticker price. And that, Straubel says, is why this factory is all about scale. Scaling up could drive down the cost of batteries 30 percent or more, he says. Battery packs in most electric cars are estimated to cost more than $10,000 today.

“Our vehicles can be more affordable. More people can have access to them,” Straubel says.

That's the company's goal with the new Model 3, Tesla's first mass market car, announced last month. The Model 3 will start at about $28,000 after the federal tax credit.

“We have today over 325,000 reservations for Model 3, representing this enormous backlog of orders,” Straubel says.

Those are orders that Tesla can't fill if this factory isn't up and running.

One room over, part of the factory is running, but it's making something else: the Powerwall. The flat battery, about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, is Tesla's first battery for residences.

“If someone has solar on their house and they install a Powerwall, what this lets you do is store your surplus solar energy,” Straubel explains.

This is Tesla's ultimate vision: an electric car in your driveway and a Powerwall — priced starting at $3,000 — in your garage. It's a future free of fossil fuels, Straubel says.

Tesla is also making a larger version of these batteries called Powerpacks, about the size of a refrigerator, that can be used to store electricity at factories, industrial sites, or by electric utilities.

“That's changing the transportation landscape. It's changing the energy landscape. It's changing the world,” Straubel says.

Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees that it would be “a game changer for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” The question, he says, is whether consumers will buy into Tesla's vision.

Take that $3,000 home battery. Electric rates in many states make it hard to actually save money storing your own electricity.

Some solar customers are paid by their electric utilities for the extra solar power they put onto the grid, a policy known as “net energy metering.” That creates little incentive to store solar energy at home.

A battery could help someone save money if his electricity costs a lot more at night than it does during the day. Borenstein says few states have those kinds of electricity prices.

“Average households are not going to get much or any value from these batteries,” Borenstein says.

Early adopters may not care, though.

“They're people who like that and feel good about it and they're mostly pretty darn rich,” he says.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is betting that cheaper batteries will make everyone else want a home battery and electric car, too, which could finally lead the company to profitability.

“Is Elon Musk far-seeing and investing in the future?” Borenstein asks. “Or is he making big bets that could all collapse at once?”

The Gigafactory is exactly that gamble. If Tesla stays on schedule, it'll be fully open in four years.

Copyright 2017 KQED Public Media. To see more, visit KQED Public Media.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Today on All Tech Considered, an energy revolution.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MCEVERS: In the high desert of Nevada outside Reno, Elon Musk's company, Tesla, is building a massive battery factory, the largest on the planet. It's called the Gigafactory, and it'll turn out batteries for the company's electric cars. But it's also making something new, a battery for your house. Lauren Sommer from member station KQED got a rare tour.

LAUREN SOMMER, BYLINE: Tesla's Gigafactory is kind of like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. It's mysterious, it's big and few people have been inside. Actually, big may not do it justice.

JB STRAUBEL: It's really hard to get a sense of scale. I mean, it's huge.

SOMMER: JB Straubel is Tesla's chief technical officer. And we're up on the roof of the Gigafactory – the part that's been built, at least.

STRAUBEL: So you can see the sort of building footprint that would be in front of us to the north.

SOMMER: We're looking down at a flat stretch of land where the rest of the Gigafactory will go. It's tucked away in a dusty valley near Sparks, Nev. Like Willy Wonka's factory, there's a lot of hype around this place. People have been caught sneaking onto the property to see what will be one of the biggest buildings in the world, Straubel says, almost 6 million square feet.

STRAUBEL: I'm not a huge football fan, but I think it's on the order of around 100 football fields.

SOMMER: Nevada beat out several states by offering an incentive package worth more than $1 billion. Lawmakers here are watching like hawks for the economic benefits, like making sure Nevadans make up a big part of the factory's 6,000 workers.

STRAUBEL: We have to, you know, watch a little bit where we walk.

SOMMER: Inside the factory, workers are welding steel, pouring concrete and installing highly specialized machines shrouded in plastic in room after room after room.

STRAUBEL: So this is a pretty exciting room.

SOMMER: It's filled with huge metal tanks, almost like an insanely large industrial kitchen.

STRAUBEL: This is where we will actually mix the materials. So the raw materials, we mix them into what's called a slurry.

SOMMER: Straubel says all this equipment will double the world's capacity to make lithium-ion batteries.

STRAUBEL: You know, it's not just about building a lot more batteries, but it's about reducing the cost.

SOMMER: Tesla is known for pricey electric cars, and batteries are a big part of the sticker price, which is why, Straubel says, this whole factory is about scale. Scaling up could drive down the cost of batteries 30 percent or more, he says.

STRAUBEL: Our vehicles can be more affordable, more people can have access to them.

SOMMER: That's what the company is going for with the new Model 3, its first mass-market car announced last month. It'll run around $28,000 after the federal tax credit.

STRAUBEL: We have today, you know, over 325,000 reservations for Model 3, you know, representing, you know, this enormous backlog of orders.

SOMMER: Those are orders Tesla can't fill if this factory isn't up and running. Just one room over, part of the factory is running, but it's making something else.

STRAUBEL: That's a Powerwall, actually. Do we want to walk through a little bit…

SOMMER: …The Powerwall is a flat battery, about 4 feet tall, 3 feet wide, coming off the production line. It's Tesla's first battery for your house.

STRAUBEL: And if someone has solar on their house and they install a Powerwall, what this lets you do is store your surplus solar energy.

SOMMER: This is Tesla's ultimate vision – an electric car in your driveway and a Powerwall in your garage. It's a future free of fossil fuels, Straubel says.

STRAUBEL: It's changing the transportation landscape. It's changing the energy landscape. It's changing the world.

SEVERIN BORENSTEIN: It would really be a game changer for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

SOMMER: Severin Borenstein is an energy economist at UC Berkeley. He says the question is whether consumers will buy into Tesla's vision. Take that $3,000 home battery. Electric rates in many states make it hard to actually save money storing your own electricity.

BORENSTEIN: Average households are not going to get much or any value from these batteries.

SOMMER: Early adopters may not care, though.

BORENSTEIN: There are people who like that and feel good about it, and they're mostly pretty darn rich.

SOMMER: Borenstein says Tesla CEO Elon Musk is betting that cheaper batteries will make everyone else want one, too.

BORENSTEIN: Is Elon Musk sort of far-seeing and investing in the future, or is he just making big bets that could all collapse at once?

SOMMER: The $5 billion Gigafactory is exactly that gamble. If Tesla stays on schedule, it'll be fully open in four years.

For NPR News, I'm Lauren Sommer outside Sparks, Nev. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tesla’s Battery Factory Surges past Nevada Tax Break benchmark

in Business/Local News

 

Tesla added more than 800 employees and $459 million in capital investment at the giant factory in Nevada that manufactures batteries for its electric cars during the fourth quarter of last year. The latest tax incentive audit from the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development shows private spending surged past the benchmark needed to ensure Tesla's state tax breaks, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Tuesday.

The fourth quarter additions brought employment up to nearly 3,250 and capital spending to $3.7 billion. The company also employed more than 1,300 construction workers during the fourth quarter, bringing that employment up to about 13,700.

Read More https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article217121655.html

Go to Top
Bitnami