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In physics, a flywheel is a rotating disk that stores kinetic energy in its momentum and then spins that energy out to a nearby engine. In the context of business, as the flywheel rotates, it increases output or revenue without increasing input or cost.

Tesla, best known for being an all-electric car company, is, well, much more than just a car company. It has disrupted a legacy industry with a new business model and consumer approach. But Tesla didn’t stop there. It expanded to new industries, grabbed a stake in key infrastructure sectors, worked to decentralize power distribution, and now offers a new alternative to today’s utility industry. Tesla’s end products are state-of-the-technological-art — all of which interconnect in a flywheel that incites consumer allegiance across multiple sectors and keeps those consumers coming back to Tesla for more — in a flywheel effect, essentially.

Tesla’s mission statement is: “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass-market electric cars to market as soon as possible.” Today, Tesla builds not only all-electric vehicles, but also scalable clean energy generation and storage products, all part of a business model that prods the world to stop relying on fossil fuels and move towards a zero-emission future.

The intersecting notions of a flywheel in this article were inspired by Post Corona — From Crisis to Opportunity, by Scott Galloway (2020). The book draws upon the metaphor to suggest that, when today’s consumers are introduced to one product within a brand, they are more likely to purchase other products within that same brand. Companies today, Galloway explains, should be focusing on the reciprocal nature of consumerism so that the lure of one product leads consumers to other, different products made by the same company.

In the book, the author, an NYU Stern School of Business professor, unpacks how “tech” used to be a “narrowly defined industry consisting of companies that made computer hardware and software, which companies in ‘other’ industries bought for their business.” No longer is tech so specifically grounded. As an example, Galloway explains that combined tech/auto company Tesla appeals “through every aspect of its strategy: pricing, production, marketing, and even its leadership.”

In a February regulatory filing, Tesla acknowledged CEO Elon Musk’s numerous commitments. “Although Mr. Musk spends significant time with Tesla and is highly active in our management, he does not devote his full time and attention to Tesla,” the filing indicated. It described Musk’s leadership in SpaceX and “other emerging technology ventures.” Musk’s influence extends beyond Tesla to a company that merges the human brain with computers, Neuralink, along with a tunnel-building firm, The Boring Company.

In essence, the Tesla flywheel concept suggests that a person who purchases a Tesla Model 3 is more likely to add range at a Tesla Supercharger and eat at a Tesla restaurant. Later, when growing into other renewable energy options, that same consumer is more likely to choose Tesla Solar and Powerwalls over a competitor’s offerings. And who knows what else?

The Tesla flywheel concept makes the company very appealing to some investors. In fact, Canaccord Genuity estimates that Tesla will reach $8 billion in revenue by 2025.

Tesla Energy Storage alongside Use

The Tesla company website acknowledges that “electric cars, batteries, and renewable energy generation and storage already exist independently, but when combined, they become even more powerful.” That confluence is the essence of the Tesla flywheel.

EVs and other renewable energy sources rely on batteries, and Tesla has refused to relinquish its full autonomy as it grows into different products and sectors. As elsewhere, Tesla is planning for its own battery production in China and has been advertising for technicians for its Shanghai facility in recent months, part of better per unit profitability in the region.

The Tesla Energy division provides stationary storage batteries for residential (Powerwall), commercial (Powerpack), and utility-scale (Megapack) applications. Musk has noted on several occasions that Tesla Energy could someday become bigger than Tesla’s automobile business.

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.

Tesla’s Core Electric Vehicle Catalog

New regulations on safety and vehicle emissions, technological advances, and shifting customer expectations are bringing electric vehicles (EVs) into the consumer transportation mainstream. The Tesla flywheel is evident within its EV business model, which is based on 3 levels of consumer service: selling, servicing, and charging its electric vehicles, which maintains control over sales and service.

The Washington Post says that Musk’s “impulsive leadership” has vaulted Tesla from its initial entry “as an upstart electric vehicle pioneer to the world’s most valuable automaker.” Fortune named him its 2020 Businessperson of the Year.

An international network of Tesla-owned showrooms and galleries, mostly in urban centers, is based on direct sales and service, not franchised dealerships. The showrooms are complemented by internet sales as well as Service Plus centers. In some areas, Tesla mobile technicians make house calls, and service can even occasionally be delivered remotely — without ever physically touching the car.

Tesla has created its own network of “supercharger stations” where drivers can charge their Tesla vehicles in about 30 minutes using a proprietary network. The highly anticipated “Full Self-Driving” suite will be another way of allowing longer and safer road trips.

Future additions to the Tesla catalog include the Cybertruck, an all-electric pickup truck with angular proportions and stainless steel exoskeleton, and a Semi, which will invigorate long-haul trucking with more benefits for drivers and transit companies.

The Tesla Gigafactory Flywheel Phenomenon

Tesla’s has 4 “gigafactories” (‘giga’ stems from gigawatt-hour, or GWh, here):

  1. Giga Nevada — in Sparks, near Reno, Nevada;
  2. the Solar City Gigafactory at Buffalo, New York (Giga Buffalo? Gigafactory 2?);
  3. Giga Shanghai — the 2019 Tesla plant in Shanghai, China; and,
  4. Giga Berlin — the new European Tesla gigafactory, which is being constructed in Grünheide, near Berlin, Germany.

Three main gigafactory features are part of the Tesla flywheel phenomenon.

  • Separate from their scale, Tesla’s organization of production reverses much current conventional wisdom regarding production geography. For example, Tesla’s automotive facility in Fremont, California, reconcentrates manufacturing onsite as in-house brand componentry, especially heavy parts, or by requiring distant global suppliers to relocate in proximity to the main manufacturing plant.
  • As an electric vehicle producer, Tesla’s production and logistics infrastructures are important in meeting greenhouse gas mitigation and the reduction of global warming.
  • Tesla’s deployment of Big Data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and predictive management are important. Gigafactory logistics contribute to production and distribution efficiency. Company effectiveness is a primer for all future industry and services as they seek to minimize time-management issues. Methods of reduction of wasteful energy usage become evident through dataset analysis.

Tesla’s global reach is extending to Europe and Asia. Tesla Motors India and Energy Private Limited was incorporated on January 8, 2021. Registered in Bangalore — the country’s technology hub — the company would start with sales and then potentially move on to assembly and manufacturing, Nitin Gadkari, India’s transport minister, said. Also see:

The Long Reach of Tesla’s Flywheel

Tesla solar customers from now on will buy power systems that feed exclusively to Powerwalls. Powerwalls will interface only between the customer’s utility meter and house main breaker panel, enabling a relatively simple install and seamless whole house backup during utility dropouts, according to Musk.

Updates reflect customer feedback — many people thought their battery-less solar system would work in a blackout, only to be disappointed when it didn’t. Moreover, Tesla consumers seemed eager to gain protection against blackouts, so streamlining the offerings into paired technologies made sense — and deepened the Tesla flywheel effect.

CleanTechnica’s Zachary Shahan has outlined the extensive list of internal “Tesla companies” and their immediate competitors. If there was any doubt about Tesla’s flywheel effect, look no farther than these intersections of products and consumer loyalty to understand Tesla’s ongoing and seemingly impossible accomplishments.

  • Tesla Cars vs. BMW & Audi & Toyota & Honda — car manufacturing
  • Tesla Network vs. Lyft & Uber — mobility services
  • Tesla Supercharging vs. Electrify America & EVgo & Ionity & Fastned — fast charging
  • Tesla Charging vs. ChargePoint & EVBox & many others — home/destination chargers
  • Tesla Autopilot vs. Mobileye/Intel & Waymo & Cruise/GM & Nvidia — self-driving/driver-assist tech
  • Tesla Solar vs. Sunrun & Vivint Solar — solar panel installation
  • Tesla Solar Tech vs. SunPower & Trina Solar — rooftop solar generation tech
  • Tesla Energy Storage vs. AES & SimpliPhi & sonnen — stationary energy storage
  • Tesla Grid Services vs. Utilities around the world & Stem — grid services
  • Tesla Insurance vs. Allstate & Geico & State Farm — insurance
  • Tesla Stores vs. Auto dealerships — auto sales & service
  • Tesla Trucks vs. Freightliner/Daimler & MAN Truck and Bus & Scania & Iveco — semi trucks
  • Tesla Infotainment vs. Apple & Google — in-car infotainment
  • Tesla Computers vs. Nvidia & Intel — computer chips, systems on a chip, supercomputers
  • Tesla Batteries vs. LG Chem & CATL & Panasonic — battery cells
  • Tesla Seats vs. Faurecia & Johnson Controls & Lear Corporation & TS Tech & Toyota Boshoku — automotive seats
  • Tesla Robots vs. Kuka & ABB & Yaskawa Electric Corporation — industrial robots for manufacturing
flywheel

Tesla offices in Fremont, California. Photo by Zachary Shahan, CleanTechnica.


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Aptera’s clever new community funding program prioritizes your SEV delivery the more you invest

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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 funding
The Launch Edition Aptera

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.

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Norway just greenlit this vertical-axis floating wind turbine

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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.

Read more: These companies will build a floating wind turbine out of aluminum


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Audi hints at luxury electric 4×4 to compete with Mercedes Benz and Land Rover

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Audi hints at luxury electric 4x4 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.

electric-Audi-4x4-2
Audi activesphere concept, a separate project from the 4×4 (source: Audi)

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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