Posts tagged with "Elon Musk":

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Can Elon Musk’s solar roof tiles replace fossil fuels in housing?

At the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in July, Elon Musk claimed that the U.S. can run solely on solar energy. “If you wanted to power the entire U.S. with solar panels,” he said, “it would take a fairly small corner of Nevada or Texas or Utah; you only need about 100 miles by 100 miles of solar panels to power the entire United States.” In October 2016, Musk unveiled Tesla’s latest products: a solar roof and an updated Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2. Tesla, Musk’s electric car company, acquired photovoltaics company SolarCity in 2016 for $2.6 billion. The deal merged the two companies, allowing the tech millionaire to sell and advertise Tesla products and solar roofs for a fully integrated solar home. Energy gathered from the solar roof will be stored into a Tesla Powerwall, a 14 kWh battery for residential homes (it is scalable up to nine Powerwalls in one unit). During the day, the solar shingles will generate electricity and recharge the batteries, which will then provide power at night in place of a traditional utility grid. Each unit has enough capacity for a day’s worth of power. The Powerpack 2 is meant for commercial use and is limitlessly scalable. The solar roof system integrates the photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are covered with color louver film and glass tiles, inside the structure of the roof. There are four tile options hydrographically printed to resemble classic roofing materials. Tesla also offers a solar panel designed to be aesthetically innocuous to attract those who would otherwise be put off by typical solar shingles. In July, Tesla began accepting orders and released price points for a roof with a mix of active solar tiles and inactive glass tiles. As the ratio of active to inactive tiles varies, so does the cost. A 34 percent mix is only $21.85 per square foot, well under the $24.50 threshold that Consumer Reports sets in order for the roof to be price competitive with standard residential roofs. Tesla’s Solar Roofs were rolled out this August and the company claims that each roof will pay for itself in electricity savings over the course of the 30-year warranty. If the solar roof is truly this affordable, then it could become very attractive to the mass consumer. The acquisition of SolarCity is Musk’s answer to the fossil fuel industry, which he has said needs to be replaced by solar energy. In 15 years, Musk proclaimed at a TED 2017 conference in April, it will be unusual for a house to not have solar roofs. His visionary zeal—he also claims that it’s possible to colonize Mars in the next decade—is spreading. YarraBend, an upcoming mini-suburb in Australia, will have Tesla Powerwalls and solar panels in all of its houses. Nicknamed “Tesla Town,” it could be a model for planning around the combination of solar energy, home battery packs, and electric vehicles.
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Here are the 10 winners of Hyperloop One’s global challenge

Are we one step closer to zipping around in pods at hundreds of miles per hour? One company would like us to think so. Hyperloop One announced last week that 10 winners have been selected in their global competition for potential Hyperloop routes. The hyperloop was the brainchild of tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. Musk proposed the hyperloop as a form of passenger and freight transportation in which pods travel at incredible speeds through nearly frictionless tubes, essentially allowing for Jetson-like travel between cities at a highly reduced time. The CEO and founder of Hyperloop One, Shervin Pishevar, met Musk during a 2013 humanitarian trip to Cuba and presented Musk's white paper on the Hyperloop to President Obama only months later. Less than a year after that, Pishevar had founded his own company, Hyperloop Technologies, Inc. (now Hyperloop One), in a garage. Mobilizing his extensive background in venture capital to get the project off the ground, he has already funded one of the world's first full-scale systems test of a Hyperloop project on a test track in the Nevada desert. The company announced its selection of 10 winning teams from a pool of  35 semi-finalists. The winners demonstrated the "strongest routes" for potential Hyperloop lines. The list will not seem intuitive to many, but below are the routes that were selected. United States
  • Chicago-­Columbus-­Pittsburgh 488 miles, proposed travel time: 47 minutes
  • Dallas-Laredo-Houston 640 miles, proposed travel time: 46 minutes
  • Cheyenne-Denver-Pueblo 360 miles
  • Miami-Orlando 257 miles, proposed travel time: 25 minutes
Canada
  • Toronto-Montreal 400 miles, proposed travel time: 39 minutes
United Kingdom
  • Edinburgh-London 414 miles, proposed travel time: 50 minutes
  • Glasgow-Liverpool 339 miles, proposed travel time: 47 minutes
Mexico
  • Mexico City-Guadalajara 330 miles, proposed travel time: 38 minutes
India
  • Bengaluru-Chennai 208 miles, proposed travel time: 23 minutes
  • Mumbai-­Chennai 685 miles, proposed travel time: 63 minutes
Why did a route from Cheyenne to Pueblo win, you may ask, rather than one that connected San Francisco to Los Angeles or New York to D.C.? In Hyperloop One's global competition, the latter two routes weren't proposed to begin with, for what we can only speculate are political reasons. Both are routes that Musk has talked openly about his proposals for creating under the auspices of two companies he's CEO of – SpaceX and Tesla. According to Hyperloop One's website, however, the Colorado route would support the state's "population growth and emerging industry sectors," such as biotechnology, technology and aerospace. The route between Bengaluru and Chennai would support an industrial corridor that is becoming "one of the fastest growing economic regions in India." The link between Edinburgh and London even aims to – by the company's humble claim – "reduce the country’s socioeconomic inequalities and rebalance growth in the region." Of course, behind such grandiose language there's a much more complicated story. The selection of winning routes entails no commitment to actual construction in the future, but rather to technical and feasibility studies to see whether each of the proposed projects are economically feasible and commercially viable. AECOM will serve as an engineering consultant for the Colorado route. A vital question remains: Who is Hyperloop for? Surely a form of transportation with such astronomical construction costs won't be cheaper than an Amtrak ticket, and the company hasn't detailed its ticket pricing plans. Some skeptics have argued that if Hyperloop One had any real commitment to equity in transportation, maybe those same funds would be better reallocated to repairing the nation's existing, decaying infrastructure. Those who have experienced the New York City metro system's "summer of hell" will probably understand this argument intimately.
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Elon Musk’s Boring Company receives approval to build a test tunnel in L.A.

Elon Musk’s The Boring Company—a tunnel-focused start-up aimed at reducing the overall cost of building underground tunnels in urban areas—has received approval from the Hawthorne City Council in Los Angeles County to build an initial two-mile-long test tunnel under the city’s streets. The approval was made this week and would allow Musk’s Boring Company to extend an ongoing pilot tunnel being dug on the site of the company’s headquarters in Hawthrone, near Los Angeles International Airport. The company is building the tunnel using a second-hand boring machine that was originally used to dig a sewer tunnel in San Francisco, Daily Breeze reports. The souped-up boring machine is named “Godot” and is designed to dig tunnels that measure 14 feet in diameter, 50 percent narrower than traditional subway tunnels. The smaller diameter is expected to bring costs down considerably, reducing costs three to four times compared to traditional methods, according to The Boring Company website. In recent weeks, the company took to building a shaft and a 160-foot-long tunnel on the property, a passage that will be extended underneath local city streets as soon as is feasible. With the approval comes a series of new details surrounding Musk’s plan, including a proposal for a new type of autonomous vehicle system that would allow the entire system to function seamlessly. The 14-foot wide vehicle would consist of an automated platform that can hold pedestrian passengers and bicyclists. These so-called “Skates” would travel in the tunnels and be capable of carrying people, vehicles, as well as other types of freight. The tunnels are also being planned to reuse excavated dirt from the construction process into site-cast building blocks that can be used to line the tunnel interiors in lieu of conventional concrete coatings. Musk also expects that the tunnels will be a useful way of extending a proposed Hyperloop network into dense urban areas.  Brett Horton, SpaceX's head of construction, said in a statement, "We won't have construction crews walking down the street, we won’t have any trucks or excavators working in those areas." Instead of performing labor-intensive and traffic-snarling decking procedures like those involved with traditional subway construction, "Everything that we’re doing is underground," Horton explained. For now, construction on the tunnels continues.
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Elon Musk says N.Y.-D.C. Hyperloop has government approval

Elon Musk tweeted earlier this morning that he received government approval to start building a New York-Philadelphia-Baltimore-D.C Hyperloop, as reported by engadget. His series of tweets indicate that while The Boring Company, the infrastructure and tunneling company that Musk founded, received “verbal” government approval, there are still steps to be made before getting formal approval. If the project is actually approved, construction will begin in conjunction with the company’s other talked-about project: underground tunnels in L.A. that aim to relieve vehicular congestion.

Musk is already plotting future connections elsewhere, too. One of his follow-up tweets reveals that the next Hyperloop would likely be an L.A-San Francisco track, and maybe even a Texas loop (Dallas-Houston-San Antonio-Austin).

A Hyperloop in the Northeast Corridor could do wonders for the deteriorating rail infrastructure at New York’s Pennsylvania Station, which has resulted in a “summer of hell.” Right now, a regular Amtrak train between New York and Washington D.C takes approximately three and a half hours; the same trip is two-and-a-half on the Acela Express. With a Hyperloop, however, it will only take 29 minutes.

Apparently, local officials in charge of the cities involved were not looped into the conversation; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary tweeted that “this is news to City Hall.”

It’s unclear who Musk received this verbal approval from, though it is likely someone from the Trump administration (where he briefly served as one of President Trump’s advisors), according to CNBC. It will take numerous hurdles before Musk can even begin drilling a hole; he would need approval from the federal Department of Transportation, not to mention the various states, counties, cities, and elected officials.
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Tesla reveals slender solar panels that appear to float on roofs

On Monday, Tesla became the most valuable car company in America. The day before, the Californian company headed by Elon Musk unveiled a new "streamline" solar panel to continue its foray into the green energy market. The slender panels are designed to be aesthetically innocuous and attract customers who would otherwise be put off by shingles or a large blue grid. To achieve the look, invisible mounting hardware and front array skirts allow the panels to appear to float upon the roof. “I think this is really a fundamental part of achieving differentiated product strategy," said Musk in Electrek. Japanese tech giant Panasonic will manufacture the panels at their "Gigafactory 2" in Buffalo, New York. As part of a deal with Tesla, Musk's firm will be the only company allowed to use and sell the panels produced there. Tesla and Panasonic have an already established business partnership after the two worked together to produce batteries for Tesla's electric cars. As for the panels, the well-disguised mounting system was originally developed by fellow Californian firm, Zep Solar. That company, however, was bought out by SolarCity who they themselves were purchased by Tesla. As reported by Techcrunch, Zep co-founder Daniel Flanigan has taken the role of Senior Director of Solar Systems Product Design in Tesla's engineering department. If you want an even more discreet solar panel, look, Tesla does that too. Solar panel shingles with textured glass span the whole roof, and like the new panels revealed last week, work with Tesla's Powerwall battery to power homes "with a completely sustainable energy system."
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Tesla may build up to three more Gigafactories

Tesla announced last week that it has upgraded its Gigafactory 1 in Nevada and begun battery cell production in anticipation of the launch of the Model 3 electric car later this year. Tesla’s newest model is a four-door sedan designed for families and is expected to be the company's most affordable model, starting at $35,000. The development and manufacturing of the Model 3 are on track to begin production in July, having begun prototype testing earlier in February. Gigafactory 1 is also being adapted to accommodate the manufacturing of Tesla’s new solar roof system, which is expected to begin production later this year as well. The company is currently constructing a second factory, Gigafactory 2, a solar panel manufacturing plant, in Buffalo, New York, and expects to finalize the locations of Gigafactories 3, 4, and possibly 5, later this year. To learn more about the new Gigafactory, you can read Tesla's fourth quarter investor letter here or visit their website here. (Investor letter originally linked on Inhabitat.)
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Elon Musk hates traffic, plans to dig tunnel under Los Angeles

Elon Musk announced today via Twitter that he is making plans to build at least one tunnel under Los Angeles as part of the Tesla and Space X CEO’s efforts to overcome automobile traffic in that city. A few weeks ago, the technology magnate issued a series of tweets expressing displeasure with what must have been a particularly bad patch of gridlock, saying, “Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…” Early this morning, Musk followed up with an update, saying, again via Twitter, “Exciting progress on the tunnel front. Plan to start digging in a month or so.” Responding to a follower who asked exactly where would Musk’s new tunnel be, Musk said, “Starting across from my desk at SpaceX. Crenshaw and the 105 Freeway, which is 5 mins from LAX.” It is unclear if or how these tunnels will be approved for construction, whether Musk has begun the environmental review process for the tunnels, or if the tunnels will be built using solely private investment or whether the local, state or federal governments will help out. Musk has cozied up to President Trump in recent weeks, attending a technology summit at Trump Tower earlier this month and another meeting on manufacturing just after the president was inaugurated, so it’s possible he could have access to some portion of the president’s purported $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Details for that plan is still forthcoming, but early reports indicate it will rely heavily on Public Private Partnerships and will aim to boost highway, bridge, and tunnel infrastructure—not to mention detention centers, and prisons—at the expense of more publicly-oriented and environmentally-friendly infrastructure like rapid-transit. It is also unclear if Musk has considered taking L.A.’s existing rapid transit system when traveling to the airport. There’s a stop on the system’s Green Line at the corner of the block where Space X’s headquarters sits. Additionally, with the Crenshaw / LAX Transit project due to be completed in 2019, getting to the airport should be quick, easy, and only cost $1.75 each way from there. “Traffic,” after all, isn’t something that merely happens in isolation; it’s a phenomenon that happens as a result of individuals using private vehicle transport to get around.
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BIG releases more information on ultra-fast Hyperloop One

After teasing audiences with a 170-second-long video last month, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has unveiled further information on its collaboration with Elon Musk's Hyperloop One, a super high-speed transit network in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With expected travel times of just 12 minutes between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the route would slash current car journey times of two hours between the cities. It's a tantalizing prospect and BIG has been working on the project since May of this year. The firm has developed concepts for autonomous point-to-point travel including Hyperloop One's transport portals and pods while also working on a feasibility study financed by the Transport Authority of Dubai (RTA). The plan so far involves a pods—capable of carrying humans and freight—traveling in excess of 680 miles per hour through pressurized tubes that would stretch between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These pods will carry six people and would be part of a zero-emission electric propulsion system. Speed is also a concern relative to passenger circulation outside the pods. "All elements of the travel experience are designed to increase convenience and reduce interruptions," BIG said in a statement. "The main objective of the design is to eliminate waiting from the passenger experience." BIG's designs for the portals build on a study that looked at inter-city transport network integration with existing infrastructure and population density in the two cities. As a result, the firm's proposal involves easily identifiable departure gates that passengers can swiftly access. While pods may be small in size, BIG explained that their frequency rate of arrival and departure would cater to high demand. Pods would also be able to operate autonomously away from the pressurized tubes, meaning they could travel on regular roads. "Together with BIG, we have worked on a seamless experience that starts the moment you think about being somewhere—not going somewhere,” said Josh Giegel, president of engineering of Hyperloop One, in a press release. “We don’t sell cars, boats, trains, or planes. We sell time.” Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of BIG, added: “With Hyperloop One we have given form to a mobility ecosystem of pods and portals, where the waiting hall has vanished along with waiting itself. Hyperloop One combines collective commuting with individual freedom at near supersonic speed," he said. "We are heading for a future where our mental map of the city is completely reconfigured, as our habitual understanding of distance and proximity—time and space—is warped by this virgin form of travel.”
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Elon Musk unveils new Solar Roof, Tesla Powerwall 2, and Powerpack 2

On October 28, surrounded by houses topped with solar roofs designed by SolarCity and Tesla, Elon Musk discussed Tesla’s latest products: a Solar Roof, the Powerwall 2, and Powerpack 2. “The goal is to have solar roofs that look better than normal roofs, last longer, provide better insulation, and actually have an installed cost that is less than a normal roof plus electricity. So why would you buy anything else?” he said at a press event. The solar roofs are comprised of glass tiles with photovoltaic cells underneath; the tiles are hydrographic printed to resemble four classic roofing materials: French slate, Tuscan, Smooth, and Textured. Each is printed differently so that each tile is a “special snowflake” Musk quipped. Musk also explained the improvements that the new Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 have over their predecessors. The Powerwall 2, meant for single-family homes, has double the energy storage of the first home battery Tesla created, with a usable capacity of 13.5 kWh and 90 percent efficiency. It can also be scaled up to combine nine Powerwalls into one storage unit. The Powerpack 2, meant for commercial use, is limitlessly scalable, and Tesla is currently working to supply utility company Southern California Edison with 80 MWh of battery storage—the largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world, according to Tesla. During the day, the photovoltaics charge up the batteries, which then dispense energy throughout the building until the next morning. Each Powerwall 2 can provide a two-bedroom home with one day of power, so service wouldn’t lapse even on a (hypothetically) pitch-black day. Musk discussed the world’s current dire 404 parts-per-million C02 levels in Earth's atmosphere as vertically climbing since the 1950s. Now that solar roofs are available at a competitive price point (the cost of Tesla’s solar roofs has not yet been disclosed, but Musk said that it would be less than the cost of a standard roof plus the money saved on energy) in a variety of styles, Musk hopes that the four to five million new roofs installed in the U.S. each year can be solar powered, effectively taking millions of people off of the grid. “The whole purpose of Tesla is to bring about sustainable energy,” Musk said. Combining the solar roof with the storage Powerwall or Powerpack and a solar car means a whole household can have an integrated, off-the-grid system. In short, Musk wants to do for solar roofs what Tesla did for electric cars and turn a niche product into an aspirational mass consumer item. And if these solar panel systems are as affordable, beautiful, and seamless as he says, then the future could be sunny indeed. Watch the full video below:
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Bjarke Ingels Group releases teaser video for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has released a teaser video for Hyperloop One—the high-speed transportation system pioneered by Elon Musk, who is seeking to revolutionize modern transit. The plan is to shoot freight and passenger pods through a pressurized tube at speeds of more than 700 miles per hour using a zero-emission electric propulsion system, which, according to Rolling Stone, could result in a travel time of about 30 minutes from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The video reveals the first hyperloop links in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and features Jakob Lange, BIG partner and director of BIG Ideas, the experimental incubator that creates prototypes and products for their portfolio projects. (See our interview with Lange). BIG Ideas is responsible for helping envision the Hyperloop and designing adaptability into its initial pods and pressurized tubes. Hyperloop One announced that Bjarke Ingels Group would join them as an architectural partner in the same week as it passed its first, open-air test of their electric propulsion technology in the Mojave Desert back in May 2016 (that test reached speeds of 116 miles per hour). Engineering firms AECOM and Arup have also been named as partners to realize the advanced technology as infrastructure. The video above reveals planned Hyperloop connections between Abu Dhabi Airport and Dubai Airport, among other locations in the UAE. Hyperloop One’s chief executive Rob Lloyd told The New York Times that he is most proud of the speed at which the technology is being developed, saying that Hyperloop “will do to the physical world what the Internet did to the digital one.” The company recently raised another $50 million needed to complete another prototype, bringing its total funding for research and development to $160 million. The company also named Brent Callinicos as its chief financial advisor to guide its funding needs. Callinicos joins Hyperloop after working as a treasurer at Google, and most recently as Uber’s chief financial officer.
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New teams taking on Elon Musk’s Hyperloop high-speed transportation concept

While California's High Speed Rail system broke ground last month in California, Elon Musk's dream of a Hyperloop, a rocket-propelled system that would shuttle passengers (and/or freight) across the state (and perhaps the country) in minutes, not hours, is making surprising progress, with new teams, and visions emerging. According to Gizmag, an LA-based startup called Hyperloop Technologies has raised $8.5 million for the project, with another $80 million in funds projected for later this year. According to Hyperloop Technologies' web site, its investors include Formation 8, Sherpa Ventures, Zhen Capital, and David O. Sacks. Another startup called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) has cajoled (via crowdsourcing) people to chip in part-time on engineering and design. The company's CEO told Bloomberg that it hopes to go public later this year. Meanwhile Musk himself has promised to build a test track in Texas for such companies to test out Hyperloop prototypes.
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Buffalo breaks ground on largest solar panel facility in the Western Hemisphere

Manufacturing is returning to Buffalo, New York in a big way. In late September, SolarCity broke ground on a 1.2-million-square-foot solar panel manufacturing plant that will be the biggest facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The company, which Elon Musk chairs, is investing $5 billion into the project that will rise on the site of a former Republic Steel factory. When fully operational, the panels produced at the factory are expected to generate one gigawatt of energy, that's roughly enough power to power 145,000 homes. New York State has also put forth significant funds for the project. "Under the deal with SolarCity," explained the Buffalo News, "the state will spend $350 million to build the sprawling factory on South Park Avenue and provide $400 million in funding for equipment, with the state following the economic development model that it used to build up the semiconductor industry in the Albany area. Under that model, the state invests in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment that typically are too costly for companies to acquire on their own and then signs agreements with companies, like SolarCity, that want to access it." The facility is expected to open in 2016 and provide 3,000 jobs for the Buffalo region, according to the Cuomo administration.