Putting Tesla to the Test

by Ethan Fukuto

The Aliso Canyon gas leak of 2015 in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley caused not only an environmental crisis—fuel shortages affected the region’s supply and source of energy. The crisis was a turning point for Southern California’s energy industry, the start of an experiment in the use of batteries to meet energy demands. Tesla’s contribution to the effort, 396 batteries at Mira Loma in the city of Ontario, went online on the 30th of January and is capable of providing power to around 15,000 homes for four hours. The batteries themselves are built at Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, and the company’s process of vertical integration now means each component of the battery is built in-house. They are designed to store energy during the day and release at night during times of highest demand in the evening. California’s increasing demand and funding for renewable energy projects allowed the Mira Loma project to come together in just a few months’ time, with the threat of climate change and the impending closure of the last of California’s nuclear plants pushing the industry towards alternative sources of renewable energy. Continue reading

2017 Brings More Tesla Superchargers and New Usage Regulations

by Bianca Rodriguez

Tesla Superchargers are currently the best and fastest charging option for long-distance travelers driving one of Tesla’s all-electric vehicles. A Supercharger takes a mere 30 minutes to replenish batteries from 10% to 80% charge, enough time to take a restroom break or grab a coffee during a long trip; or 75 minutes to reach a full 100% charge, enough time for a meal at a nearby restaurant. A battery charged at 80% will provide about 170 miles of driving range, which should be enough to reach the next Supercharger along some of the more popular routes. Even so, Tesla is continuing to increase the number of Supercharger locations around the world to fill the need of an increasing population of Tesla drivers. This is especially necessary due to the new Tesla Model 3, which is expected to be available after 2018. Starting at $35,000, the Model 3 is Tesla’s most affordable car and will most likely increase the number of Tesla drivers as more people will be able to afford these high-tech full electric vehicles. Continue reading

Competition is Heating Up in Battery Systems: the Rise of Sonnen

by Sharon Ha

Sonnen, a German start-up that specializes in battery systems, is rapidly growing and challenging established companies in the energy storage market, such as Tesla. Sonnen’s product, the sonnenBatterie, is available in a range of capacities for home and businesses. In addition to producing and storing solar energy, it detects optimal times to store energy or to draw down the battery, and saves energy in case of a power outage. While the system and installation starts at $10,000, Sonnen promises a return on investment since the battery cuts back on utility costs. Sonnen has sold over 10,000 batteries, and started its expansion into the US—they recently launched their LA headquarters, have partnered with 30 local solar installers in the area, and are ready to start installing systems in Hawaii. In a strategic move, Sonnen is focusing on locations where electricity is expensive, such as Hawaii and California. Furthermore, Sonnen continues to grow in European countries, Australia, and the Philippines. Continue reading

UK’s First Home Installation of Tesla Powerwall

by Dion Boyd

In an interesting article posted on The Guardian on February 5, 2016, blogger Steven Morris discusses the UK’s first home installation of a Tesla Powerwall by a company based in Port Talbot called Solar Plants. The Tesla Powerwall is a wall-mounted 7kWh or 10kWh lithium-ion-battery system that works by absorbing solar energy from exterior panels and then storing that energy for later use. It was first launched in California in May of 2015 with a price tag of $3000 or $3750 depending on the battery capacity. All orders sold out within the first 10 days and Tesla is now working on fulfilling backlog orders in 2016. They are also planning to release a second version of the Powerwall in July or August. Founder Elon Musk has not specified the details of the updates but has stated that the battery cells used in the updated model will come from the Gigafactory rather than their current dispenser, Panasonic. [http://www.fastcompany.com/3056330/fast-feed/tesla-will-launch-a-new-version-of-its-powerwall-battery-this-summer] Powerwall is not the first of its kind as there are other battery systems on the market, but its sleek, slim, and simple design makes it very attractive to consumers. According Mark Kerr, the owner of the Powerwall installed in this article, “its design is very sleek and minimalistic and something you can hang on the wall like a piece of art, definitely nothing like some of the other clunky looking batteries.” [http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/05/welsh-home-installs-uks-first-tesla-powerwall-storage-battery] Continue reading

Future of Energy Lies in Unscaling Energy

by Sharon Ha

In this TechCrunch article, Hemant Taneja, founder of Advanced Energy Economy, and Managing Director at investment firm General Catalyst, predicts that solving climate change and the energy crises lies in unscaling energy; creating alternatives to large power plants. He asserts that the government and energy companies need to support and incentivize entrepreneurs to rethink existing energy markets; less than 2% of the Federal Research & Development budget was spent on energy and big energy companies spend only 0.3% of their revenue on energy R&D. However, energy must become more of a priority because not only will unscaling energy allow for more creative and accessible solutions and prevent further climate change, it will also help the job market and lead to economic growth. Taneja predicts that new technology and entrepreneurship in energy will reinvigorate the market and consumer transactions, much like the inventors of Uber or Skype did to the transportation and communications markets. Continue reading

LightSail’s Mission to Cut Costs of Compressed Air Energy Storage

by Katy Schaefer

LightSail, an energy storage company based out of Berkeley California, is attempting to change the way we approach energy conservation. Not only is the method dramatically more efficient, but the costs that have the potential to be cut is game changing. Lightsail’s aim is to create a more economical storage system through compressing air to create heat energy, which before was just wasted energy. It seems that there is something to their system, as some of the country’s most prominent tech billionaires have backed the plan. Unfortunately LightSail and its leader, Danielle Fong, the 27 year old co-founder and chief scientist, are not releasing the details of the plan just yet. However, here’s what we do know. Continue reading

Moving Towards Consumable Energy: From Power Plants to Solar Panels

by Sharon Ha

In a Greentech Media article, Bennett Cohen predicts a revolutionary shift towards the consumerization of energy, in which the customer will purchase a variety of energy options as opposed to buying from a centralized power plant. Cohen, the chair and co-founder of clean energy financing organization Empower Generation, has also worked for Royal Dutch Shell, Rocky Mountain Institute, and CPower. He states four trends that support his claim: 1. the popularization of distributed energy, 2. the push from government and corporations for lower-carbon energy, 3. the internet of things, and 4. the leap-frogging of developing countries. Continue reading

Elon Musk Shares Tesla Model 3 Details in Twitter Rampage

by Woodson Powell

Ever since the Tesla Model 3 event on March 31, Elon Musk has posted several snippets of information on Twitter about the Model 3 on a daily basis [http://cleantechnica.com/2016/04/04/elon-musk-shares-tesla-model-3-details-twitter-rampage/]. On April 4, he hosted a full question and answer session on Twitter detailing many more facts than in previous posts. The session discussed all-wheel drive, launch details, interior, exterior, plus other options as well as expanded into general Tesla news including factories, service centers, and supercharging. Continue reading

Plunging Oil Prices and Their Effect on the Electric Vehicle Industry

by Jason Xu

In an invterview with CNN, CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, acknowledged that the electric vehicle industry will be hurt by falling oil prices, saying that “it just makes economic sense.” However, Musk showed little concern toward his own company Tesla Motors. He explained that even though the entire industry will be hurt by plunging oil prices, Tesla’s Model S and Model X will still be competitive in the market, because they are hugely differentiated, unlike other cheaper electric vehicle in the market. Musk also talked about Model 3, Tesla’s affordable electric vehicle aiming to hit the market in 2017. Continue reading

The Auto Industry and Climate Change in the US

by Abigail Schantz

The history of the automobile industry, in many respects, illustrates the progression of society’s perception and response to climate change. Caetano C.R. Penna and Frank W. Geels compare the progression of climate change from 1979 to 2012 using the Dialectic Issue LifeCycle (DILC) model in Climate change and the slow reorientation of the American car industry (1979–2012): An application and extension of the Dialectic Issue LifeCycle (DILC) model. The DILC classifies the progression of an issue into five major stages. In the first stage, the problem emerges, generally due to activist groups, and the affected industry rejects the issue and downplays its importance. During this stage, there is little progression in changing technologies. In the second stage, public concern begins to increase as activists generate social movements. Public agendas address the issue and policymakers create committees to study it, although this action is mainly symbolic. In the third stage, rising public concern spurs political debates, leading to formal hearings and investigations. The industry argues for voluntary implementation of solutions and attempts to show that the costs and technical complexity of rapid change make radical solutions impossible. Meanwhile, firms in the industry often take defensive measures, privately exploring solutions in laboratories. In the fourth stage, policies begin to be implemented through legislation. Suppliers and others that support the industry begin to develop technology while the industry itself actively argues against the new policies. At the same time, industry firms begin to invest in alternative technologies and embrace them more publicly in order to maintain the company image. This often leads to an innovation race. Finally, in the fifth phase, a new market emerges due to changes in mainstream consumer preferences and/or because regulators impose taxes or incentives, or other legislation causes a shift in economic conditions. To bolster the public image of the company, most address the problem in the company’s beliefs and mission. Continue reading