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For nearly a decade, utility companies have been targeted by companies and individuals selling a particular kind of snake oil. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a lot of these people are acting maliciously (I’ll get to that in a minute). In fact, I think a lot of these people have the best of intentions at heart — there’s just a problem in the way they look at the world, and that’s this: they’re wrong about what the utility companies’ role in the transition to EVs needs to be, and there is a whole lot of incentive for them to stay wrong.

How We Got Here

Before we talk about how we got here, we need to talk about what “here” is. Basically, we exist in a world that is still very much influenced by pressures that started way back in 2008 and 2009 when the housing market collapsed, fuel prices soared, and carmakers were desperate to sell new cars and trucks to just about anyone who could still buy them. The flex-fuel Dodge Ram pickups (Ram was still part of Dodge back then) had “Runs on Corn!” written in broad strokes across the windshield while they baked in the Napleton Northlake Dodge parking lot.

It was a wild time, for sure, but it was the first real shake to the ever-growing US car market that many of us had lived through, and it was very much the dawn of the EV startup. There was Tesla, there was Fisker, there was Aptera, heck, there was even Paul Elio and his goofy tadpole thing. Everyone was pushing for 40 MPG or 50 MPG cars, hybrids were in the limelight, and nobody back then really knew if it would be biofuels or hydrogen or battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) that would win the day.

Now, as I type this, it’s obvious that BEVs won. It wasn’t so much that BEVs won, though. It was Tesla that won, and every other carmaker has been forced to participate in the electric future that Tesla created. And, to their credit, just about every one of them — with a few notable holdouts, like Toyota and Mazda — have jumped into the BEV race with both feet, committing to a majority electric future by 2030, if not a fully electric one … and the environmentalists are pushing this as a huge win.

The EV Future Is Not An Environmentalist Victory

No to Climate Death! Used under CC License.

Read that heading again, carefully. This isn’t an article that’s claiming EVs are worse for the environment than internal combustion (those articles are complete and utter bullshit, anyway). What this is is an article that hopes to explain that Tesla — and, by extension, all EVs — didn’t win because they are better for the environment. The EVs won because they are better cars.

That’s it. That’s the reason. Electric cars are better cars. Electric cars are succeeding as a product, in other words, not as an ideology.

It’s not the planet. It’s a sad fact, but almost no one cares about the planet. Even in a liberal Utopia like Portland, Oregon, headlines about record heat waves hover over pictures of JetSkis leaping over the waves and scantily-clad women on motor yachts enjoying mojitos. Hardly the picture of doom and gloom that you’d expect from a burning planet facing record heat waves, record droughts, and a global pandemic that’s still churning out thousands of newly-stuffed body bags every day, you know?

You know.

The Consultants Get Paid

Screencap from Breaking Bad.

The success of Tesla has given the internal-combustion stakeholders a bloody nose, and the environmentalists and activists — even the most well-meaning among them — have done everything they can to draw attention to that fact. As such, the sharkiest sharks have had no choice but to smell the blood in the water, and find a way to cash in. Who are they? Consultants.

While the environmental activists are working hard to change the way that people think about cars with talk about “average commutes” and “savings calculators” and “cradle to grave emissions” and “educating the public about the benefits of EVs” to anyone who will listen, the consultants have found someone who is not just willing to listen, but who is willing to reach into some very, very deep pockets when they’re done listening. That someone is the utility companies.

Utility companies, almost without exception, have millions of captive customers who must pay them every month or risk their health, their jobs, or more. That also means they have millions of dollars to play with. Combine that huge budget with pressure from policy makers and those very same, well-meaning environmentalists, and you end up with a large company that has a large PR incentive to spend large amounts of money on large projects — projects like getting people to buy more EVs! (Maybe even large ones!)

The first problem is that even the most well-meaning and sincere among the policy makers and activists typically have no idea how the car business works. Like, none. Not even a little bit. They don’t know about floorplans or co-ops or CSI scores or allocations — and they certainly, as a group, have no idea how those things can conspire against a dealer or salesperson who might very much want to sell you an electric car, but who literally cannot, through no fault of their own.

The second problem is that very few people at the utility companies understand how the car business works, either, but they at least know enough to know that they don’t know enough, and that’s where the consultants swoop in and convince the utilities that it’s their job — no, their mission — to convince people to buy electric cars.

To aid in that mission, the consultants have created a cottage industry of certificate programs, expensive training seminars, and online buyers’ guides that are terrible at convincing people to choose a perfectly reasonable EV instead of a loud and emotional Hemi-powered monster, terrible at their stated mission of helping dealers to sell cars, and terrible at showing people how an electric car can fit into the lives, today, but that are very good at convincing utility companies to transfer money from their bank accounts to the consultant’s.

They got it wrong, and that was the elephant in the room right now that everyone was afraid to talk about at that “big” EV web conference took part in last month. The environmentalists and activists who wanted the utility companies and policy-makers to engage in conversations with John Q. Public about “wheel to well emissions” and change the way people make decisions about cars got it 100% wrong. EVs aren’t succeeding because people are changing the way they think, they’re succeeding because they’re meeting new car buyers where they’re at today with body styles, performance figures, and capabilities that are more in line with what mainstream Americans are already buying, which also includes easily knowing how and where to fill up. The EV evangelists got it wrong, and the consultants took advantage of their political clout in order to siphon money out of the utilities. Full stop.

TL;DR: environmentalists and activists lobbied utility companies to become more visibly “green,” and the consultants took advantage of that by convincing the utility companies that it’s their job to sell cars, when it’s actually their job to sell electricity.

Selling Electric Fuel

Image courtesy Western Electric Co., circa 1915.

Utility companies sell electricity, plain and simple. But, they’ve had such a captive market and such a strong natural monopoly on their primary product that almost no one involved in a utility company’s day-to-day even thinks about selling electricity.

Want to see someone flounder? Ask someone at a utility company why you should buy electricity from them.

It seems like an asinine question, doesn’t it? A given, even, that you must buy electricity — but that wasn’t always the case. At the turn of the last century, though, it was a legitimate question. My own home outside of Chicago still has gas fixtures in it, for gas lights. There are pictures of lamplighters on the streets right outside, and the reason those gas lamps aren’t lit tonight is that, once upon a time, someone sold electricity to the people of this neighborhood.

Electricity is a superior product, and it succeeded because it was cleaner than gas and oil, sure, but I’d weigh that at about 10% of the reason why. The reasons that weighed heavier were many. The electric lights burned brighter, the smell of burning fuel oil was gone, the hassle of refilling oil lamps was eliminated, there was no smoke to stain the walls or ceilings, either.

That was it. That was the reason: electric fuel was better fuel. It succeeded as a product and not an ideology.

Image courtesy Chicago Edison Co.

Fast forward a hundred-odd years, and electric fuel is still better fuel. The electricity pushes cars to highway speeds faster than gasoline can, that gasoline smell that sticks to your hands is gone, the hassle of pumping gas into the car every few days is eliminated by at-home charging, and there are no harmful tailpipe emissions, either.

What’s more, electricity is cheap, it’s familiar, and it is absolutely everywhere. Sure, there may not be a 20 minutes-to-200 miles fast charger on every street corner (yet), but there very much is a power outlet that will, given time, charge your electric car, and every new electric car sold is a new car that needs electric fuel.

That’s it. That’s the difference. An electric car is just a regular car that you fill up with different stuff, and the utility companies, environmentalists — and every other stakeholder, come to think of it — would be better served by understanding that they’ll never “advance” or “accelerate” EV adoption by getting people to change the way they think about cars, but they may have a chance by getting people to change the way they think about the fuel that they’re putting in their cars.

Not dirty. Clean!
Not hard to find. Everywhere!
Not an expensive luxury. Affordable!
Not for hippies and tree-huggers. For everyone!
Not a sacrifice for a better tomorrow. Better for me, now!

Once the utility companies understand their role, they can start affecting real change, and let the dealers do what they know how to do best: sell cars that people want to buy to the people that want to buy them. And if that means that one or two of these opportunistic “consultants” has to find a different 9-5? So much the better.

Original content from CleanTechnica.


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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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