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Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud, Minister of Energy of Saudi Arabia arrives for the 178th meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna, Austria, on March 6, 2020.
Alex Halad | AFP | Getty Images

Disagreement within OPEC could trigger a more a volatile period for oil, with prices jumping on lack of new supply or sinking suddenly if member countries decide to release crude independently.

Oil prices initially surged to a six-year high on news that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, ended their meeting Monday with no action and no new meeting date. A proposed plan by OPEC, Russia and other allies to bring 400,000 barrels a day back to the market was disrupted by the United Arab Emirates’ objection to other aspects of the deal.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures for August traded as high as $76.98 Tuesday before falling back to settle down 2.4% at $74.53 per barrel. Many analysts had expected oil to rise on the discord among members of OPEC, and say prices could still climb despite the sell-off.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better. I still think $85 to $90 per barrel should be the upper end,” said John Kilduff, partner with Again Capital. “You’ll see more oil produced. They’re not going to go crazy, but they’re not going to live within the current structures. Russia will lead the charge.”

“It could become a free for all,” he said.

Some analysts had already expected oil spikes into the $100 per barrel range over the course of the next year. The feuding between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates opens a new fissure in OPEC, which now means oil could also tank if members decide to open the spigots.

“Realistically, I don’t think anybody wants to go this way. I suspect cooler heads or rational thinking will prevail,” said Bart Melek, global head of commodity strategy at TD Securities. Melek said there are some wild cards for OPEC that could affect prices. A major one is whether the U.S. and Iran strike a deal on Iran’s nuclear programming, allowing it to return more than 1 million barrels a day back to the market.

Another risk is whether the variants of the Covid virus could affect the economy’s recovery and crimp demand for travel.

OPEC and its partners were able to agree to return 400,000 barrels a day to the market starting in August. But the UAE sought to also have its production baseline increased from 3.1 million barrels a day to 3.8 million barrels, and that was the sticking point with Saudi Arabia.

After three days of meetings, there was also a deadlock over whether the deal would include an extension of the the plan to the end of 2022, which was opposed by the UAE. Without an agreement, 5.8 million barrels a day, cut from production last year, will remain off the market even as demand rises.

“I think OPEC event risk is back. We had pretty smooth sailing this year, and now this was not priced at all,” said Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets. “Once people start focusing on 5.8 million barrels off the market, I think they might get nervous. How they come back will be important.” The market will be affected much differently based on whether the oil trickles back or the producing countries flood the market with supply.

The friction between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, formerly strong OPEC allies, comes at a time when the market is increasingly in need of more supply. Analysts expect the world is short of upwards of 2 million barrels a day, based on current production levels and increasing demand. That means oil is being taken from storage, and there could be increasing pressure on prices as the economy rebounds and demand rises.

The U.S. is producing about 2 million barrels a day less than it did pre-Covid, and output has remained at a steady level even as prices rise. The U.S. industry has become more disciplined, due to demands from shareholders and lenders. Oil companies also face sustainability demands and pressure to reduce carbon.

But U.S. drillers do have capacity to increase drilling. “Certainly, $90 oil would encourage a lot of drilling in not only the Permian, but in the Bakken and Rockies,” Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates said. “I think as prices creep up, one of the things [OPEC+ members] are worried about is a spike higher that would encourage lots of drilling in other parts of the world.”

Lipow said OPEC will also be careful about falling prices and the potential for even lower levels. “If prices fall $5 a barrel, they’ll come to an agreement to signal the market they’re not going to flood it with supplies,” he added.

It also comes as gasoline prices continue to rise and are nearly $1 per gallon higher than this time last year. The national average for unleaded was $3.13 per unleaded gasoline Tuesday, following a weekend where prices at the pump were the highest in seven years for the Fourth of July holiday, according to AAA. If crude prices continue to rise, so will gasoline prices.

“I think gasoline prices could remain above $3 a gallon for the balance of the summer,” said Lipow.

The White House Tuesday said there have been a number of high-level conversations with officials in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other partners.

“If prices were rising, I think that would be more of a catalyst for the White House to get involved,” said Croft. “If you have a sell-off you may have people in the administration saying why do I need to be involved in this.”

Kilduff said he does not think the situation will last much longer. “I think we’re in the last innings of it right now. I’m targeting in mid-August, you’re going to start to see gasoline demand going down because kids are going back to school. Refiners will start to dial back,” he said.

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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


UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad.

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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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