Musk “playing” states? No, just hedging.

Musk hedge master TeslaMondoNevada Sen. Harry Reid says Tesla might be “playing” his state against other states.

Now now . . .

Tesla has maintained it’s working multiple sites simply to guard against Gigafactory delays. The future of the company depends on a healthy battery supply for the Model 3. Can’t have all eggs in one Gigafactory basket, Mr. Reid. Too risky.

The concept of spreading risk — utilizing alternatives, hedging bets, that kind of thing — defines not just the Gigafactory process, but all of Elon Musk’s endeavors, if you think about it.

Tesla: Electric cars as a hedge against fossil fuel depletion and economic collapse.
Solar City: Solar as a alternative to the dirty grid, and when using Tesla-supplied batteries, all the better!
SpaceX: Mars as an alternative to Earth.

So Reid would do well to remember that Tesla is hedging more than “playing,” and that Musk, the man oft-presented as the ultimate risk-taker of recent times, is really the ultimate risk mitigator.

Oh, one more thing, as Peter Falk might say. Reid said Tesla has already prepared Gigafactory pads in multiple states. This is news to us meddling bloggers, who thought the Project Tiger site near Sparks, NV was the only such pad. Assuming Reid is right, how does he know about these other pads? Moreover, where the heck are they? Never mind Peter Falk. Cue Dragnet theme.

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Behold another battery breakthrough

But this time is different! A company called Sakti3 has REALLY DONE IT. These batteries are not only reliable and safe, but simple and cheap to build.

We’ll see . . .

Tesla customarily asks “breakthrough” scientists for a sample battery cell to test, but has never received one.

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Every episode a fixer-upper

This Old House TeslaMondo

Here’s a graphic without a story. Got some time? Write one.


Consumer Reports reports diaper rash

The magazine has written a follow-up article pointing out that Tesla’s retroactive expansion of its drive-unit warranty — a radical move totally alien to Big Auto — is irrelevant to the “body hardware” issues in the CR test car. You may recall it was, not CR, that had drive unit failures. This follow-up action by CR invites questions, but this time the questions are about CR, not Tesla.

1. Are you pouting because Tesla seemed to respond to the Edmunds experience, but not CR’s?
2. Should every automaker extend its warranty on every problem experienced by CR, even if those issues were covered under the original warranty and might never recur?
3. If not, what’s the point of the follow-up article?

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Franz > Steve

Saleen FourSixteen TeslaMondoThe Saleen FourSixteen is a thing of beauty, for three reasons.
1. Saleen’s interest in the Model S bridges a gap between the old school of auto performance and the new. That’s good. The electric vehicle segment needs more of this assimilative legitimacy.
2. It suggests the Model S has a long shelf life in its current iteration, since it’s considered creative fodder even two years in.
3. It fails to aesthetically improve the stock Model S. That’s the best news of all, for it means Franz von Holzhausen’s slippery, eggy design is darned good right out of the box. Anything added looks superfluous, and anything subtracted is dearly missed.

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Tesla kills another bug dead

The Model S warranty expansion reminds us that Tesla deals with potential crises of confidence the same way you might deal with discovering a house centipede on the bedroom wall at night. You don’t just coax it to crawl onto a piece of paper and then politely flick it out the window. That treatment is for cute bugs like ants. And you don’t merely smush it with a paper towel. That’s for silverfish and spiders. No, you grab the Consumer Reports 2014 Auto Issue, roll it up into a baseball bat, and you pulverize that big prickly prick until it’s reduced to a omelette of organic dust and scrambled legs. If you need drywall repair due to excessive force, it’s well worth it. Then you immediately put your house up for sale and begin scouting real estate in an area outside the geographical reach of scutigera coleoptrata. That means Nuuk, Greenland.

Such was the reaction of Tesla Motors to the road debris spook a few months ago, and now to the drive unit spook. Maybe a little overkill, but at least we can sleep. Well done.

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The disappearing ad from General Motors

If you scroll down, you might see an ad that purports to sell you a Cadillac ELR in lieu of a Tesla Model S. Then again, you might not see it. It seems to be visible only to certain people. For example, GM’s head of global product development is totally unaware of it. How else can we explain this quote in the Detroit News?

Cadillac ELR not a Tesla competitor, TeslaMondo

And now, below, the ad that apparently does not exist, espousing a sales angle that apparently doesn’t exist, about selling you a Tesla competitor that GM apparently does not have. Hurry up and look before your eyes fail you they way they’ve failed Mark Reuss from GM:

Cadillac ELR vs Tesla Model S TeslaMondo


Mid-cycle refresh? We ain’t mid-cycle.

Tesla aftermarket TeslaMondoThe Model S hit the market in June, 2012. It’s now August, 2014. For an ordinary car produced by an ordinary car company, the two-year mark often brings a mid-cycle refresh. That means a minor update, mostly exterior, to keep it “fresh” for another couple of years until a full update comes. For Tesla, however, it seems the Model S should enjoy a much longer “cycle” without any refreshing. That’s because:

1. The aftermarket is just now getting its hands on it. That helps the Model S maintain freshness by showing it’s still very fertile creative ground, not a lame duck.

2. The car is just now debuting in overseas markets including China, a biggie. While the S might be quite pedestrian at this point in California, it’s a thrilling novelty in much of the world.

3. The car gets regular updates like your smartphone or computer software. Smell that freshness?

4. Franz von Holzhausen’s design is not timeless, but pretty close. It’s a super-smooth muscular sedan, never overbearing. Extreme designs tend to wear on the eye after a short time, and might make the more conservative motorists among us feel like they’re begging for attention. Wouldn’t be prudent.

And so we might see Tesla break yet another industry tradition with a ridiculously long product cycle, at least for this model. Who knows — maybe for the Model 3 you’ll be able to choose your own styling from several online templates, allowing an even longer product cycle due to built-in variety. Try it, Tesla!

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Reuters: Tesla weighing carbon fiber

Tesla naysayers often point to BMW as a big bad bully, with lots of money and carbon fiber in its new i-series cars. Well, Tesla might be looking at carbon fiber also, according to Reuters. An “industry source” says South Korea’s GS Caltex plans a sit-down with Tesla. Nobody will talk openly about it.

Carbon fiber makes sense in the context of high-end EVs, cutting weight by about 50 percent with no compromise in crashworthiness. The i3 weighs about 1,000 lbs less than the Chevy Volt, partly due to carbon fiber. The material is expensive, but when has Tesla shied away from expensive stuff? Back when the company was young, it could have gone for a cheap battery solution for a cheap EV like other half-assed players. But instead of scrimping, it sought to produce the highest-performance EV anyone dared imagine, and priced the car accordingly. So the Roadster was born, and EVs became sexy overnight. Scrimping isn’t a Tesla habit.

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JB Straubel talks battery storage

JB Straubel Battery talk TeslaMondo

Obscure heavy metal reference. Sorry.

J.B. Straubel is Tesla’s chief technology officer, and also a Solar City board member. He will one day become Tesla CEO*, when Musk steps aside around 2019 to focus on Mars. ** Around the same time, Tesla will either drop “motors” from the name or spin off its energy storage unit under a different name.  ***

In May, Straubel delivered an hour-long filibuster on energy storage at the 2014 Silicon Valley/ SEEDZ Energy Storage Symposium. Style-wise, it falls well short of history’s greatest speeches. He doesn’t raise his voice or whip up audience emotion. He fails to even tap his lectern, never mind pound it. But importance-wise, especially to TSLA shareholders, it’s a great speech indeed, for it colorizes Tesla’s relationship with batteries, past, present and future. One could argue there is no more crucial relationship in the industrial world at the moment. Certainly none more watched. And yet, you probably haven’t seen the video. TeslaMondo will save you some time. Here are the highlights:

General context:
“I really love batteries. I think I might love batteries more than cars. It’s kind of a passion of mine.”
“It’s kind of amazing that even in the 90s we were building electric vehicles with lead acid batteries.”
“Tesla was the first one to actually commercialize and sell a lithium ion car to consumers.”

The pace of battery improvements: “There was nothing, and still is today, nothing that’s clearly starting to plateau . . . We’re seeing something close to doubling in performance, of energy-density performance, every ten years . . . Model S was introduced maybe five years after the Roadster and we saw improvements of around 40 percent, on the battery technology, the fundamental chemistry, the packaging of the battery pack itself. And that directly translated to how we can get close to 300 miles range in a model S, almost 85 kw of energy storage, in a pack that’s actually smaller than the Roadster pack. And again, these improvements are not standing still. We’re continuing to watch the same doubling every ten years out for at least another 10 to 20 years. And it’s incredibly exciting on the car side, because, you know it doesn’t take many more, even tens of percent improvement, before the competition with ICE just spreads everywhere.”

Non-automotive Gigafactory business: “I’m pretty bullish that stuff can actually scale faster than the car market. The grid storage market is kind of slow to mature but once you cross some critical price thresholds, you’re really dealing almost more in commodities. You know, nobody really cares that much about how sexy your stationary battery pack is, what the styling looks like, you know. It’s a much easier sales proposition. If it saves money for the customer, and you can clearly do that in a bankable way, you’ll sell it. It will scale.”

Solar backup: “Most people today still think that if they install solar on their house, they’re off-grid. I could take a poll of most people and I’d say that’s about a 75 percent assumption, even though it’s totally wrong. You’re absolutely on grid, in fact, totally dependent on the grid for the solar to even operate.”

Battery role in green energy storage: “Almost everyone realizes that in the very long term future we have to get to 100 percent renewable grid. You know, that seems logical, right? Is it going to take 50 years, 100 years, who knows. As you start adding more and more solar to get to, you know 50, 60, 70 percent renewable, you’ve completely morphed and changed around your whole concept of when the peaks happen. You know there would be negative midday demand. There would have to be, in order to have 100 percent renewables. You’d have to over-generate, clearly, when you have the energy. Storage just becomes an absolute imperative to get there. At some point, there isn’t a choice.”

Humanity’s motive: “It’s not something where fear over Co2 or fear over other things will be the driving reason for change. The economics and the compelling technical merits of this solution will be what drives it.”

Wind backup: “If you look at the price of wind generation today, it’s cheaper than anything else that people can install. You can sign power purchase agreements in Texas that are under three cents per kilowatt hour. You know, that’s incredibly cheap. But it needs storage in order to drive it to a higher percentage of the mix.”

Lithium supply: “There’s plenty of raw materials. There’s a lot of hype about lithium shortages, but you know, we’ve dug into that pretty deeply and it’s just not true. There’s an overabundance of lithium that takes us way, way beyond these projections.”

Regulatory change: “Tesla is an innovation company at the core. And we really focus on creating products that end up driving the need for change in a regulatory environment. That’s kind of our cycle of chicken and egg. I think it’s very hard to create and educate people on the need for new regulations based on hypotheticals.”

Selling stationary storage to utilities: “That’s kind of why we’ve come into this on the back of the automotive industry. So we can say, ‘This is very low-risk.’ We have many gigawatt hours of cars zooming all around different countries doing duties that are enormously more aggressive than these stationary packs. This is, like, where an automotive pack goes to take a nap.”

Li-ion’s obsolescence. “It definitely is not lithium ion forever. You know, forever is a long time. But I think it is lithium ion for five, maybe 10 years. And I’m the first person that’s hoping and rooting for battery improvements in whatever form they come . . . But we’re not waiting. That’s another dangerous game that people get into. When you look at any technology that’s improving, there’s always a temptation to just wait and do nothing, but we’re seeing an ability to get to the price points and the economies and business models that just make sense on their own right.”

TeslaMondo editorial interjection on battery tech shelf life: Note the continued success of the Prius, which is predominantly NiMh for Cripes’ sake.

* A guess
** Another guess
*** And another guess

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