Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday that his electric vehicle and solar business could help bitcoin miners switch to renewable energy, but is currently limited by tight supply of battery cells.
He also acknowledged that Tesla is still not manufacturing its custom-designed 4680 cells for commercial use in electric cars or energy storage systems yet.
The comments came during an appearance at The B Word Conference, which was focused on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. During a panel, Square Crypto lead Steve Lee asked Musk what the energy-intensive bitcoin industry can do “to accelerate the transition to renewable energy” and “could Tesla Energy play a role?”
Musk replied, “Well, I think Tesla can play a role.”
Then, the 50-year-old CEO broke into a reflective moment, implying that Tesla’s entire reason for existence was to transition the world to clean energy.
“I would say I’ve had some pretty tough life experiences and Tesla’s probably responsible for two-thirds of all personal and professional pain combined to give you a sense of perspective there.”
Tesla’s energy business
Tesla has been selling commercial and residential solar installations since acquiring SolarCity in 2016 for around $2.6 billion, a deal that landed Musk in a Delaware court this month.
But before it got into the solar business, Tesla created and began selling energy storage products in 2015, including a backup battery for homes called the Powerwall, and larger batteries that can store solar or wind energy generated intermittently so it is available for use whenever utilities need it.
Tesla has installed a number of these utility-scale energy storage systems, Musk reminded his audience on Wednesday, that have helped utilities with “load-leveling the grid,” including in South Australia and elsewhere. But he noted that battery production was currently constraining produciton.
“In fact the limiting factor for us right now is cell production. So we need to both internally get our Tesla internal battery cells produced as well as increase supply from suppliers.”
Musk also repeated that even once Tesla can make its own battery cells, it will still rely on other battery cell makers. Its current cell suppliers include Panasonic, LG and CATL.
“Generally when I talk to our suppliers and they say ‘how many cells would you like?’ I say ‘how many cells can you make?’ you know ’cause sometimes they’re concerned, is Tesla gonna compete with them on cells? I’m like no no, if you want to make the cells be our guest. It’s just that we need a crazy number of batteries.”
In a Twitter exchange with fans after the bitcoin conference, Musk wrote that Tesla is still “not quite done” getting to “volume production” of its custom-designed 4680 battery cells.
He also acknowledged that Tesla sold Maxwell Technologies’ ultra-capacitor business and other assets to a San Diego-based startup called UCap Power, which is led by Gordon Schenk, preivously Tesla’s VP of sales for its Maxwell division.
Tesla initially acquired Maxwell in 2019 in a deal valued over $200 million. The exact terms of the sale to UCap Power Inc. were not disclosed, but may be discussed when Tesla holds its second-quarter earnings call on Monday, July 26.
Finally, at The B Word conference, Musk said energy storage systems, combined with solar and wind weren’t the only ways to transition bitcoin to cleaner energy. He endorsed existing hydropower, geothermal and nuclear energy to reduce the environmental impact of bitcoin mining.
“My expectation is not like that the energy production must be pure as the driven snow, but it also cannot be using the world’s dirtiest coal which it was for a moment there. So. You know, that’s just difficult for Tesla to support in that situation. I do think long-term renewable energy will actually be the cheapest form of energy, it just doesn’t happen overnight.”
Quick Charge Podcast: November 29, 2023
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UAW launches campaign to unionize all automakers at once – Tesla, Toyota, etc
The UAW has launched an unprecedented campaign to unionize the entire US auto sector at once, with thousands of auto workers at 13 companies announcing simultaneous unionization campaigns.
After UAW’s big strike win, winning 25%+ pay increases at the “Big Three” American automakers after a simultaneous strike at GM, Ford and Stellantis, the union is looking to maintain that momentum and go bigger.
Immediately after declaring victory, UAW President Shawn Fain said that in the next negotiation in 2028, UAW wants to come back to the bargaining table to negotiate not just with the Big Three, but with “a Big Five or a Big Six” – implying that the union planned to expand to other automakers. And President Biden said that he would support a UAW push to unionize Tesla and Toyota.
Now we’ve seen an official announcement that UAW isn’t just looking to unionize two or three more automakers, but all of them at once. Typically, unionization campaigns focus on a single company at a time, but here UAW is targeting a whole sector with simultaneous campaigns at each individual company. This seems like a tall order, but UAW’s triple-strike against the Big Three seemed to work out well, so it’s now applying that simultaneous tactic to organizing new union drives.
In service of its goal, UAW launched a new website at uaw.org/join, asking workers at each company to sign their union card. The website mentions several automakers by name, and has links to individual campaigns for each automaker where workers can go to express their interest in unionizing:
The campaign was accompanies by a video narrated by Fain making his union pitch. In short, UAW says that automakers and investors are making record profits, but that worker compensation has not kept up. The video specifically mentions Tesla and Rivian’s recent quarterly results, and also states that the Japanese/Korean automakers have combined to make $470 billion in profits, and the German automakers have made an additional $460 billion, in the last ten years.
Since the UAW’s big wins, other automakers have moved to increase pay to (partially) keep up with pay increases at the Big Three. VW, Hyundai, Toyota and Honda have all announced hikes in pay, showing how union wins can buoy an entire industry by making automakers compete for workers with higher pay.
But UAW doesn’t want to stop at a few voluntary pay hikes from other companies, it thinks that unionizing those companies can give workers a better deal. One worker at Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant put it thusly:
We’ve lost so much since I started here, and the raise won’t make up for that. It won’t make up for the health benefits we’ve lost, it won’t make up for the wear and tear on our bodies. We still build a quality vehicle. People take pride in that, but morale is at an all-time low. They can give you a raise today and jack up your health benefits tomorrow. A union contract is the only way to win what’s fair.
Jeff Allen, 29-year Toyota assembly worker
UAW also quoted workers at Hyundai, VW, Mercedes and Rivian in its release, focusing on how they think unionization would improve safety and benefits at these automakers.
Unions are having a bit of a moment in the US, reaching their highest popularity ever since surveys started asking about them.
Much of union popularity has been driven by COVID-related disruptions across the economy, with workers becoming unsatisfied due to mistreatment (labeling everyone “essential,” companies ending work-from-home) and with the labor market getting tighter with over 1 million Americans dead from the virus and another 2-4 million (and counting) out of work due to long COVID.
Unions have seized on this dissatisfaction to build momentum in the labor movement, with successful strikes across many industries and organizers starting to organize workforces that had previously been nonunion.
But union membership has been down over several decades in the US, and as a result, pay hasn’t kept pace with worker productivity and income distribution has become more unequal over time. It’s really not hard to see this influence when you plot these trends against each other.
It’s quite clear that lower union membership has resulted in lower inflation-adjusted compensation for workers, even as productivity has skyrocketed. As workers have produced more and more value for their companies, those earnings have gone more and more to their bosses rather than to the workers who produce that value. And it all began in the 80s, around the time of Reagan – a timeline that should be familiar to those who study social ills in America.
All of this isn’t just true in the US but also internationally. If you look at other countries with high levels of labor organization, they tend to have more fair wealth distribution across the economy and more ability for workers to get their fair share.
We’re seeing this in Sweden right now, as Tesla workers are striking for better conditions. Since Sweden has 90% collective bargaining coverage, it tends to have a happy and well-paid workforce, and it seems clear that these two things are correlated. And while that strike is continuing, meaning we haven’t yet seen the end of it, most observers think that the workers will eventually get what they want since collective bargaining is so strong in that country.
These are all reasons why, as I’ve mentioned in many of these UAW-related articles, I’m pro-union. And I think everyone should be – it only makes sense that people should have their interests collectively represented and that people should be able to join together to support each other and exercise their power collectively instead of individually.
This is precisely what companies do with industry organizations, lobby organizations, chambers of commerce, and so on. And it’s what people do when sorting themselves into local, state, or national governments. So naturally, workers should do the same. It’s just fair.
Rivian R1T could add a projector for movies on the go
The Rivian R1T might get an exciting upgrade. The electric pickup can drive through 3+ feet of water, rock crawl a 100% grade, and take off like a sports car. But what if the Rivian R1T had a mobile projector that could be easily stored in the gear tunnel? That’s what Rivian is scheming up.
Rivian files patent for R1T mobile movie projector
Rivian’s R1T electric truck is the ultimate adventure vehicle. It recently made history as the first EV to win the off-road Rebelle rally, the longest of its kind in the US.
The truck continues improving through OTA updates that add fun new features, range, and more. One of its most recent improved the ride quality of its vehicles. By building its cars from the ground up, Rivian has a major advantage.
Like Tesla, the EV maker focused on software and “having the ability to configure every piece of hardware,” according to Wassym Bensaid, Rivian’s VP of software development.
Rivian can use this advantage to create unique products that integrate into its EVs. One of its most recent ideas is a mobile projector.
According to a new patent filing for a “vehicle entertainment apparatus,” the Rivian R1T could soon see an added movie projector.
The patent, filed November 23, details a kit that can include a projector, screen, and at least one speaker. The kit is attached to a shuttle that slides in and out of the gear tunnel for easy storage.
Once extended, the projector can be rotated into position. It will also include a mirror to reflect the projected light onto the screen without harming quality. Meanwhile, the pole to hold the screen will fit into several spots.
The setup enables a mobile entertainment setup in little to no time. Everything can be stored in the gear tunnel while not in use. When ready, it can just slide out and set up.
Rivian is including everything needed for the ultimate movie night on the go. And the best part – everything is powered by the R1T.
Although a movie projector may seem like a wild idea to some, that’s right up Rivian’s alley. The company has developed several add-on options like a three-person tent and the Camp Kitchen.
Many were dissapointed when Rivian discontinued the Camp Kitchen from its gear shop earlier this year. The $5,000 add-on included a pull-out kitchen complete with two induction cooktops, a water tank, collapsable sink, and more.
Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said on the MKBHD podcast that the idea was more popular than expected. However, Rivian is redesigning it for something that doesn’t take up the entire gear tunnel.
Maybe a Rivian R1T movie projector isn’t that far off after all. Meanwhile, Rivian will likely offer a redesigned camp kitchen first.
Would you consider buying Rivian’s movie projector add-on? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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