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Coal is one of the world’s biggest polluters, with its transportation, storage and usage accounting for around 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations.

One executive who says she wants to help reduce the Asia-Pacific region’s dependence on the fossil fuel is Somruedee Chaimongkol, chief executive of energy firm Banpu Public Company. The company has operated coal mines in Thailand for almost four decades.

Sometimes known as Asia’s “first lady of coal,” Chaimongkol became CEO of the company since 2015 and established what she called a “greener, smarter” business plan for the firm the following year.

“Since 2010, we talk about transformation. And since 2015, when I succeed my predecessor as CEO, we start to implement on the greener, smarter [plan]. For the past five years, we spent $2 billion and 90% of [that went on] … a greener investment, such as gas, such as renewable energy, and energy technology,” Chaimongkol told CNBC’s “Managing Asia: Sustainable Future.”

“[There are] a lot of mega trends happening — digitalization, decarbonization, decentralization — and that sped up Banpu to produce a new, greener, smarter strategy,” she added.

Founded in 1983, Thailand’s Ban Pu Coal Company Limited began its operations in the country’s northern Lamphun Province and listed on the Thai stock exchange six years later. In 1993, it took on its current trading name, and in the following years expanded into other parts of Southeast Asia and China.

Last year it established Banpu Next, which encompasses its energy technology businesses including electric vehicles, renewable energy plants and electric ferries.

Banpu’s 2020 annual report indicates that coal accounted for more than 95% of Banpu Public Company Ltd’s revenue in 2020, a figure more or less in line with 2019. The same annual report shows that including the company’s overseas subsidiaries, coal accounted for more than 80% of total revenue.

The company has been buying up natural gas assets in the United States for the last several years.

In March, the firm said it wants to make half of its earnings from “green” energy by 2025.

“We are adding more rapidly on the renewable generation in Japan, Vietnam and in China … And we have set up Banpu Energy Australia,” Chaimongkol said.

Electric vehicles

The company also wants to create an energy “ecosystem” within Banpu NEXT, covering everything from energy creation and storage, to distribution and building charging stations for EVs. Chaimongkol said the division can generate “significant” revenue by 2025.

“Under Banpu NEXT, currently the major revenue contribution is still from energy generation from solar farm and wind farm. Going forward, we will scale up on … [the] energy technology,” she explained.

One aspect of the new system is a tech platform that helps to manage fleets of electric three-wheel taxis known as tuk-tuks, as well as four-wheel vans. “What we are selling to our customer is selling the platform, selling the solution, managing … a fleet [and providing] … e-charging station[s],” Chaimongkol explained. In November, Banpu NEXT launched an electric powered ferry that will operate rides for tourists around the Thai island of Phuket, and in March it invested in Urban Mobility Tech Co (UMT), an EV ride-sharing company based in Bangkok.

A mini electric vehicle from Banpu Next in Bangkok on February 26, 2021.
Romeo Gacad | AFP | Getty Images

Will Banpu ever exit coal mining altogether? Not in the next five to 10 years, according to Chaimongkol, as there will still be a demand from customers for it. But the company won’t invest in new coal assets, she said, adding it will instead be pumping money into renewable energy and in doing so reducing the contribution of coal to the firm’s turnover.

Chaimongkol said future business plans would “embed” sustainable policies and gave the impression she’d like to move away from her “first lady of coal” nickname. “Right now, Banpu is transforming and … our direction is towards a greener, smarter [plan]. But if [we] talk about leading the company, I would say Banpu is an energy company,” she stated. Her leadership is about making sure managers of the firm’s four divisions — minerals, gas production, conventional coal-fired power and Banpu NEXT — can focus on the “greener” strategy, she added.

Banpu has been selected as a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices benchmark for seven consecutive years, which Chaimongkol hopes will appeal to investors. Companies are chosen following an assessment of ESG (environmental, social and governance) criteria.

“I hope that investor[s] will see this strong … commitment [to] being a conscious company. I hope that it will reflect in the value of the company going forward,” she said.

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Tesla lowers price of ‘Full Self-Driving’ to $8,000, down from $12,000

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Tesla lowers price of 'Full Self-Driving' to ,000, down from ,000

Tesla has once again lowered the price of its Full Self-Driving software by $4,000, now costing $8,000, down from a previous price of $12,000 in the US.

Prices were also lowered in Canada, where the system used to cost $16,000CAD, and now costs $11,000CAD.

In addition to the price drop, Tesla has eliminated “Enhanced Autopilot” as an option, which previously cost $6,000. For owners who already have enhanced autopilot, the cost to upgrade to FSD is now $2,000, down from $6,000.

Tesla has been doing a lot of price cuts lately, including dropping the price of most of its vehicles by $2,000 just a day ago.

It also cut the price of its FSD subscription service in half, to $99/mo, just a couple weeks ago.

That new subscription price suddenly made FSD’s $12k price seem quite steep, as someone would need to subscribe to FSD for ten whole years before paying $12k in total cost – and that’s not including the time value of money.

So it seemed inevitable that people would lean towards subscriptions, rather than upfront purchases, after that price drop.

Now, to make the prices a little closer, Tesla dropped the price of FSD to $8,000 – or 6 2/3 years worth of subscriptions at $99/mo. A little more reasonable, though still longer than many people own a car (and, again, one should account for the time value of money).

All of these prices are down significantly from the highest price FSD has ever sold for, which was $15k from late 2022 until late 2023 when it dropped the price back to $12k.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly said that as FSD becomes more capable, it should also go up in price to reflect its greater value. Previously, FSD price increases were largely associated with software updates that added new capability to the system.

Musk even went as far as to say that this means Tesla cars with FSD are “appreciating assets,” potentially worth $100-200k due to their value as robotaxis. Though Tesla only uses those values when it’s convenient, considering FSD much less valuable when offering trade-in estimates to owners.

But on a more practical business level, this move to lower FSD prices probably has less to do with the system’s capabilities and more to do with boosting revenue during a difficult time for the company, having just posted bad quarterly delivery numbers and laying off 10% of its workforce. A lower price could incentivize owners to pony up for software which had previously mostly gone up in price, giving Tesla a free cash infusion.

The system’s capabilities have been changing, too. Tesla has been pushing FSD more lately, ever since the release of the “mind-blowing” FSD v12. The new version changes the system significantly on the back-end, finally using machine learning neural nets to analyze Tesla’s vast amounts of driving data to teach cars how to drive themselves.

With Tesla’s confidence in the new system, the company rolled out a free one-month trial of FSD to all Teslas in the US, basically encompassing the month of April.

It has also started calling the system “Supervised Full Self-Driving,” a somewhat self-contradictory name that nevertheless is more accurate given that FSD is still a “Level 2” system that does not ever actually take full responsibility for the dynamic driving task (that only happens with level 3+ systems, like Mercedes’ DRIVE PILOT or Waymo).

Today’s price drop hasn’t been echoed in all other territories. It’s still listed at £6,800 in the UK and 59,600kr in Norway, same as it was before today’s price drop. FSD has generally been somewhat cheaper in Europe than the US after taking into account exchange rates, because it also has more capabilities in the US than in other countries, but after today’s price cuts, it’s actually more expensive in some EU countries (like the UK, where exchange rate puts it at ~$8.4k USD equivalent) than in the US, despite lower capabilities.

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First ever electric semi truck rides into Mexico with SDG&E

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First ever electric semi truck rides into Mexico with SDG&E

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) says the maiden voyage of their Class 8 heavy-duty electric semi marks the first time an electric semi has crossed the border hauling a standard load, marking an important milestone as the two nations move toward a net zero future.

The electric semi truck – one of 11 Peterbilt 579EV Class 8 trucks bought by San Diego-based Bali Express last year – made its first trip to Mexico carrying an unspecified load of goods through the Port of Entry at Otay Mesa, which connects Southern California to the city of Tijuana, Mexico.

Bali Express’ electric trucks will utilize SDG&E’s recently activated HD charging infrastructure to provide “reliable and affordable” electric freight options for medium and heavy-duty EVs crossing the US/Mexico border.

The SDG&E-powered chargers were partially funded through a $200,000 grant from the California Energy Commission’s Clean Transportation Program. That program has put more than $1 billion to alternative fuel and vehicle technology projects designed to improve public health while bringing both environmental and economic benefits to communities throughout the state.

Those sentiments were echoed by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “The historic crossing of this electric freight truck symbolizes San Diego’s commitment to innovation, cross-border cooperation and our binational community,” said Gloria, in a statement. “We’re not just reducing emissions, we’re building a cleaner future for people living near our border, and leading the way in international trade and environmental responsibility.”

Meanwhile, Executive Director of SDG&E Caroline Winn called the new charging corridor, “an example of how collaboration can create new and innovative ways to rethink how to move transportation systems toward electrification.”

The Peterbilt 579EV trucks have an 82,000 lb. GCWR and is powered by the same 670 hp Meritor 14Xe “epowertrain” used in the PACCAR Kenworth t680e that debuted back in 2022. That system integrates electric motors and drive axles into a single unit, making it easy for manufacturers to electrify their fleets by maintaining existing (re: ICE) axle mounting hardware.

The big Petes have approx. 150 miles of range and are capable of fully charging their massive, 400 kWh batteries in about 3 hours.

Electrek’s Take

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Bali Express have announced the maiden voyage to Mexico of a U.S. Class 8 heavy-duty electric truckload; image by Bali Express, via Mexico Now.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved a landmark plan to end the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035. And, while California is just one state, it’s important to remember that, as California’s fleets go, so too go the fleets of Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Washington State, and others.

If we’re lucky, the whole country will be electric-only well before then.

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Liebherr electric excavator reaches million ton milestone, scores more orders

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Liebherr electric excavator reaches million ton milestone, scores more orders

This massive Liebherr electric excavator reached a major operational milestone earlier this month when it moved its one millionth tonne of dirt. And now, its buyers want more!

That’s right, gang – since we first covered the converted mining excavator back in January it’s been hard at work. And now, after its initial 90 day “break-in” period operating at partial capacity while the site team familiarized themselves with the new tech, it’s operating at full speed at Fortescue’s Christmas Creek mine in Western Australia.

The Liebherr is working so well, in fact, that Fortescue is planning on order two more examples of the mighty electric earth-mover.

“This is such an exciting milestone for Fortescue and our decarbonisation journey. Importantly, we’ve been able to achieve this while maintaining our high safety standards,” says Fortescue Metals CEO, Dino Otranto. “We will have two additional electric excavators commissioned by the end of April. Once we decarbonize our entire fleet, around 95 million liters of diesel will be removed from our operations every year, or more than a quarter of a million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.”

Big work needs big power

Liebherr and Fortescue repower R 9400 excavator to electric configuration
The repowered Liebherr R 9400 E excavator at Fortescue’s Christmas Creek mine; via Liebherr.

Moving more than a million tons of earth and rock takes a lot of energy. To keep its batteries topped off, the re-powered Liebherr R 9400 E electric excavator operates off blend of renewable solar power and a 6.6 kV substation pumping electrons through more than two kilometers of high voltage trailing cable.

Eventually, though, Fortescue plans to power its equipment completely from sustainable sources. “In line with our commitment to eliminate emissions across our mining operations,” reads the company’s statement. “The intention is that all electrified mining equipment will eventually be 100 per cent powered by renewable electricity.”

Electrek’s Take

Because Liebherr takes a modular approach to building its larger mining equipment, repowering a diesel-drive excavator like the R 9400 can be completed in a matter of weeks; courtesy Liebherr.

Covering an electric pilot program is always fun, but all too often the results of these initial experiments aren’t publicized – or else, don’t directly lead to sales. To their credit, Liebherr is lucky to have a customer in Fortescue that’s willing to put their cards on the table here, trumpeting the re-powered excavator’s success and even announcing its plans to order two more electric machines publicly.

They won’t have to wait long, either. Because Liebherr takes a modular approach to building its larger mining equipment, a diesel-drive excavator like the R 9400 can be completely re-powered to electric in a matter of weeks.

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