There’s an intimate connection between electric vehicles and renewable energy, and that connection — both literally and symbolically — runs directly through the electrical grid. Intermittent energy sources such as solar and wind need grid-connected storage in order to be viable, and the most flexible and scalable type of storage is a battery, which just happens to be the core technology behind EVs. Thus, advances in battery technology, and expansion of battery manufacturing, have applications for two very different industries.
Tesla understood this early in the game — it launched Tesla Energy, a division that provides stationary storage batteries for residential (Powerwall), commercial (Powerpack) and utility-scale (Megapack) applications, in 2015. Elon Musk has said on several occasions that Tesla Energy could someday become bigger than Tesla’s automobile business.
That hasn’t happened yet, but Tesla’s energy business has been scaling up quickly. On its Q4 2020 earnings call, the company said battery deployments increased by 83% in 2020, driven mainly by sales of the Megapack to utilities. And the potential for more expansion is enormous — Grand View Research estimates that grid-scale battery storage will become a $15 billion market by 2027. On Tesla’s 2021 Q1 earnings call, Musk predicted that the transition to electric cars will cause electricity demand to double, and the transition to electric heating systems for buildings will cause it to triple. “This is a prosperous future both for Tesla and for the utilities,” said he.
A new video from CNBC offers an in-depth look at Tesla Energy. CNBC visited one of Tesla’s Megapack sites, an installation for Pacific Electric & Gas (PG&E) in Moss Landing, California, for a first-hand look at how smart energy storage systems like Tesla’s are enabling the rapid adoption of renewable energy.
A look at PG&E’s Tesla Megapack site in Moss Landing, California and why energy storage systems like this could be the future (YouTube: CNBC)
Unlike electric cars, utility-scale energy storage is not something that has been discussed much in the popular press — except perhaps in Australia, which has suffered several embarrassing energy outages in recent years. A rapid expansion of solar power, enabled by massive battery farms provided by Tesla and others, is bringing the problem under control.
The recent cold snap in Texas, which led to widespread power outages, brought energy storage to America’s nightly news. California has also had to deal with brownouts and other power problems of late, and CNBC explains why stationary storage is becoming necessary to keep the modern electrical grid up and running.
Storage is not just about enabling renewable energy — it’s also an important tool for ensuring the reliability of the grid, smoothing out peaks in demand for power and preventing sudden surges that can overload local distribution systems. David Bissell, the CEO of the local utility on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where Tesla built a massive storage system in 2017, tells CNBC that batteries are “amazing” at helping to balance energy supply and demand, because they can respond instantaneously to imbalances. “We had our best reliability ever last year,” he says.
Tesla isn’t the only player in energy storage — venerable electronics giants such as Toshiba, Siemens, Panasonic, General Electric and ABB, as well as utilities such as NextEra Energy, are also claiming pieces of what’s shaping up as a large and lucrative pie.
Demand for storage is being driven both from below and above — governments around the world are mandating energy storage as part of strategies to modernize electrical grids. China has made storage part of its plan to get 16.5% percent of its energy from solar and wind by 2025. California launched a major energy storage program in 2014. The Biden Administration’s energy plan calls for $100 billion of investment in upgrades to the grid, including storage.
For companies that can move quickly to join the transformation of the world’s electrical grid, it looks like a prosperous future indeed.
Aptera’s clever new community funding program prioritizes your SEV delivery the more you invest
One week after sharing details of its Launch Edition Solar EV, Aptera Motors has announced a community funding program called Accelerate Aptera, hoping to raise between $20 and $50 million. By investing a predetermined minimum, reservation holders have a better chance at receiving delivery of one of the 2,000 Launch Edition Apteras planned. Better still, the person who invests the most on the leaderboard (yes there’s a leaderboard) locks in delivery slot #1.
It’s been a newsworthy week for Aptera Motors and solar EV companies in general. With one fellow SEV startup toiling through a bankruptcy filing and another fighting for its life, our hope in a future of EVs powered by the Sun currently rests heavily on Aptera.
Last Friday, the company’s cofounders Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony held a live streamed webinar, where they walked the public through the specifications of Aptera’s unified, preconfigured Launch Edition solar EV.
The startup’s loyal community was up in arms about the lack of DC charging capability, but it took just three days for the cofounders to take to YouTube once again and quickly makes things right. ALL Aptera solar EVs will now come equipped with DC fast charging, including the Launch Edition. Phew.
While most of last week’s Aptera news was exciting, one discouraging aspect was the fact that deliveries of the Launch Editions remain at least a year away and that the startup needs another $50 million in funding to reach its first gate of scaled production.
Well, the guys at Aptera are back with another video, this time explaining the launch of a new competitive community funding campaign called Accelerate Aptera, complete with a leaderboard.
Aptera’s accelerated funding program starts at $10,000
The company shared details of its new accelerator program in a post to its website this afternoon, which also included a new video from its cofounders you can peep below. First off, Aptera’s team is working through a Series B2 funding round, but says that will take time to secure and finalize.
Aptera has received a $21.9 million grant, but it is all but guaranteed and the process will not be completed until February or March. Furthermore, the grant is a reimbursement, so Aptera must complete eligible purchases (production equipment, machines, etc.) up to $21.9 million with its own money first.
Enter #AccelerateAptera – the company’s latest community funding program intended to put money in the bank and bridge to gap toward prospective grants and series funding rounds. Per the release:
We want to deliver solar mobility to the world as quickly as possible. Our Launch Edition vehicle is only one of many future products we hope to build that will make the world a better place. Once funded, we expect it will be 12 months until production of our first vehicle commences. Without funding, we anticipate our timelines will continue to be pushed back. Our community has always been our biggest asset and we’re asking our order holders and other supporters to now help us to accelerate our growth. If we can raise $20-50 million to execute on the first phase of our production plan, it will help tremendously. We expect our use of proceeds to include capital expenditures such as equipment and tooling and assisting in completing the requirements for obtaining the grant.
Here’s how the accelerated funding program works.
From now through March 26, anyone can invest a minimum of $10,000 in Aptera to join the Launch Edition leaderboard. Investments over $10k qualify you for a $100 coupon (okay?) and a 5% discount on your Aptera solar EV (up to $2,500 and does not include purchase price).
Whoever contributes the highest investment by the end of the funding round will receive the first delivery slot of 2,000 planned Launch Editions. The remaining 1,999 slots will be prioritized down the leaderboard.
Lastly, those reservation holders who already have their hard earned money invested in Aptera will have those amounts added to their leaderboard funding total… as soon as they donate an additional $10,000.
You can join the funding leaderboard by investing here, and can follow the “competition” here. If you still haven’t reserved an Aptera, you can do so here and get $30 off the $100 fee. To learn more about the Accelerate Aptera campaign, see the video below where the cofounders explain it best.
Norway just greenlit this vertical-axis floating wind turbine
Swedish wind turbine maker SeaTwirl got the go-ahead to test its 1 megawatt (MW) S2X vertical-axis floating offshore prototype in Norway.
Vertical-axis floating wind turbine pilot
In March 2022, Norway’s Ministry of Energy gave approval to SeaTwirl and Norwegian offshore wind test center Marine Energy Test Centre to pilot the vertical-axis floating wind prototype for five years at a former fish farm in Boknafjorden, northeast of Lauplandsholmenoff, 700 meters (2,297 feet) from the coast.
But four groups – the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association, the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, and two campaign groups – appealed against SeaTwirl’s permit, and so the project was put on ice.
Yesterday, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate rejected the appeal, so SeaTwirl’s S2X pilot can now proceed, and no further appeals will be considered.
CEO Peter Laurits said:
Our main focus is the commercialization of large turbines, SX, in floating wind farms. The outcome provides freedom to choose and plan the installation of S2x in the way that best supports that goal.
How S2X works
SeaTwirl says that “multiple S2xs can be placed in a dense pattern for increased output.” The company’s reasoning for building vertical (instead of horizontal) axis floating turbines is this:
The simplicity of the design and low center of gravity are the big advantages. All moving parts and electrical systems are easily accessible [and] close to the water’s surface, lowering maintenance costs.
The S2X prototype is 55 meters (180 feet) above sea level, and it’s around 80 meters (262 feet) below sea level. The turbine diameter is 50 meters (164 feet). Its rotor blade height is around 40 meters (131 feet). Its optimal operating depth is 100 meters (328 feet) and deeper.
SeaTwirl isn’t the only company testing vertical-axis wind turbines off the Norwegian coast – earlier this month, aluminum and energy giant Hydro and floating wind specialist World Wide Wind announced that they’re going to test a vertical-axis wind turbine made out of aluminum.
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Audi hints at luxury electric 4×4 to compete with Mercedes Benz and Land Rover
The luxury electric 4×4 you’ve been waiting for is set to emerge in 2027, and no, it’s not the Mercedes Benz G-Class or Land Rover Defender. It’s a new secret project from Audi.
A luxury electric Audi 4×4 coming in 2027
In a first from Audi, the German automaker is showing interest in the luxury 4×4 segment. The secret new electric SUV will feature a top-notch interior with the ability to perform its best on and off the road.
Audi unveiled its new activesphere concept Thursday, a four-door crossover coupe that doubles as a truck. The concept combines a luxury SUV, sports car, and off-roading pickup into one versatile EV.
Although this is a separate concept from the planned electric Audi 4×4, the off-road EV gives us an impression of where the automaker is headed.
In an interview with Autocar, Audi’s head of design, Marc Lichte, hinted at the idea of a new 4×4, saying:
I think there is space [for a rugged SUV in Audi’s lineup]. There is potential because there are only two premium players, and I think there is space for a third one.
Lichte didn’t give up details other than mentioning it will ride on one of Volkswagen’s platforms other than the Audi-Porshce co-developed PPE platform like the activesphere concept.
Since Volkswagen’s next-gen SSP platform designed for all segments has been delayed until at least 2028, there’s a good chance Audi’s new 4×4 will share technology with VW’s recently revived Scout off-road brand of vehicles.
Following Volkswagen’s announcement last year that it would revive the Scout brand for an all-electric lineup and bring rugged SUVs to the United States, reports surfaced VW was considering Canadian parts manufacturer Magna (which also builds the Mercedes Benz G-Class) to help build the vehicles.
The initial plans called for Audi to build Scout models in a new US facility but were later scrapped. According to Autocar, the two brands may still benefit from each other.
Audi is already working with Magna to develop electric vehicle batteries for the Scout brand. With VW reportedly leaning toward having the part supplier build 100,000 Scout EVs, there could be room for an additional 50,000 electric Audi 4×4 models to be built alongside.
Audi is already familiar with electric off-road technology with its beastly RS Q e-tron rally car (and Quattro four-wheel drive tech) and is well known for its premium luxury interior. It seems like a match made in heaven to me.
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