Posts tagged with "Tesla":

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Catch up on Elon Musk’s summer rollercoaster ride

Elon Musk has had a summer of ups and downs in 2018, even after putting aside all of the twists-and-turns of his personal life and turmoil at Tesla. In May, Musk announced that The Boring Company would be turning its excavated dirt and rock into bricks for low-cost housing. What started as an attempt to sell more Boring Company merchandise ala their flamethrower—in this case, “giant Lego bricks”—soon morphed into an unspecified commitment on Musk’s part to build future Boring Company offices from muck bricks. Future Hyperloop tunnels might be able to swap out concrete for the seismically-rated bricks, but they’re unlikely to lower affordable housing costs much; land and labor are the most expensive aspects of new construction. While The Boring Company hasn’t actually constructed much except for a short test tunnel in Hawthorne, Los Angeles, Musk scored a win when the City of Chicago chose the company to build a high-speed train route connecting the city's Loop to O’Hare International Airport. Or did they? After a lawsuit was filed against the city in mid-August by the Better Government Association (BGA), the city claimed that the plan was still “pre-decisional” and that no formal agreement had been struck yet. If the loop is ever built, The Boring Company would dig two tunnels under the city and connect Block 37 in the Loop to O’Hare. Electrically-driven pods, with capacity for up to 16 passengers, would arrive at a station every 30 seconds and complete a one-way trip in 12 minutes. There are still major concerns over the project’s feasibility and cost, as Musk had pledged that construction would take only one year if the company used currently non-existent (and unproven) tunneling technology. The project could cost up to $1 billion, which The Boring Company would pay for out of pocket and recoup by selling $20 to $25 tickets, advertising space, and merchandise. On Tesla’s end, problems with the company’s much-vaunted solar roof tiles have bubbled over. Production has slowed at Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York, as equipment problems and aesthetic issues have prevented the factory from rolling out tiles on a large scale. Tesla is pledging that they can ramp up production at the state-owned factory by the end of 2018, as the company tries to fulfill the $1,000 preorders placed after the tiles’ reveal nearly two years ago. Not to let the end of summer slip by without one last announcement, Musk took to Twitter to release a Boring Company proposal for an underground “Dugout Loop” in L.A. Several conceptual designs were included for different routes between the Red Line subway and Dodgers Stadium that would use technology similar to what Musk has proposed in Chicago to ferry passengers along the 3.6-mile-long trip in only four minutes. It’s unlikely that the Dugout Loop will come to pass, as L.A. is already looking to realize a $125 million gondola system that could carry up to 5,000 passengers an hour. What the fall will bring for Musk, we can only guess.
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Tesla’s solar roof tiles suffer serious delays at Buffalo factory

Production on Tesla’s highly-anticipated solar roof tiles is currently stalled due to aesthetic quality concerns and assembly-line problems at its Buffalo, New York, factory, according to Reuters. In an article published last week, Reuters interviewed eight former and current employees at Tesla, Inc. and their joint venture partner Panasonic, who revealed that the future of solar tile production is murky at this time. According to Reuters’s unnamed sources, since opening last year, manufacturing at Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo has suffered repeated interruptions with equipment issues and delays in achieving the tile style CEO Elon Musk is seeking. The state-owned, photovoltaic cell factory, leased by Tesla’s subsidiary SolarCity, currently employs around 600 people. After the prototypes of Musk’s sun-powered roof tiles were revealed two years ago, U.S. customers put down $1,000 deposits and production ramped up at the facility. Tesla told Reuters in a statement that though production has slowed, work can be expected to increase later this year. “We are steadily ramping up Solar Roof production in Buffalo and are also continuing to iterate on the product design and production process,” Tesla said. “We plan to ramp production more toward the end of 2018.” Per the subsidy agreement that allowed Tesla to build the $350 million factory and purchase production equipment, the company has to live up to its investment and employment promises in Buffalo and beyond. New York lawmakers are skeptical that the company can achieve the mandates the state and the company have set. At least 1,460 people must be employed by Tesla within the first two years of opening, and the company must spend $5 billion in New York over the next ten years. Panasonic employees told Reuters that their current production on solar products has been delayed as well, but it’s due to pick back up in September. The company has also started selling to outside buyers since Tesla has yet to integrate their designs as promised. According to a source, Tesla is currently working with JA solar to address Musk’s aesthetic concerns with the tiles.
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A tiny start-up partners with Peterbilt to roll out self-driving big rigs

As of 2015, over 70 percent of all freight transported in the U.S. was moved by truck. That represents a whopping $726 billion in gross revenues from trucking alone, and each year, trucks haul everything from consumer goods to livestock over billions of miles in the United States. All of those numbers are growing—so much so, that according to the American Trucking Associations, the industry is running into a major driver shortage. Long hours, days away from home, and the stress of driving 80,000 pounds at 70 miles per hour is not for everyone, but one company is hoping to make the task easier through automation. Embark, a small startup based in Silicon Valley, is led by a number of engineering school dropouts. Its goal is to develop affordable semi-autonomous semis using neural-net–based deep learning technology. By developing hardware that can be fitted onto existing truck models, and software that learns as it goes, Embark has quickly and cheaply developed some of the most promising autonomous vehicles in the world. “Analyzing terabyte upon terabyte of real-world data, Embark’s DNNs have learned how to see through glare, fog, and darkness on their own,” said Alex Rodrigues, CEO and co-founder of Embark, in a statement that coincided with the introduction of the technology this spring. “We’ve programmed them with a set of rules to help safely navigate most situations, safely learn from the unexpected, and how to apply that experience to new situations going forward.” Rather than try to replace drivers, or redesign the trucks or roads, Embark is focusing on working with what already exists. Collaborating with Texas-based truck manufacturer Peterbilt, Embark is retrofitting the popular 579 semi models with sensors cameras and computers that can read existing roads and take over driving tasks from long-haul drivers. When the trucks must navigate more complex urban settings, the human driver takes back command. This focus on solving the open-road problem, instead of the entire range of driving situations, has streamlined the development process. Currently Embark is one of only three companies permitted to test autonomous 18-wheeler semis on the highways of Nevada (the other two companies being Freightliner and Uber). With the Peterbilt collaboration and a recent announcement of $15 million in additional financing, Embark has become one of the leaders in the race to automate transportation. While Google, Tesla, and a slew of other car companies target the finicky consumer market, Embark has its sights squarely on a market struggling to keep up with demand. With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake, and billions of pounds of freight being moved, it seems only likely that it will be the self-driving truck, not sports car, that we will be seeing on the road sooner rather than later.  
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Tesla’s solar roof will cost less than normal roofs

While the oil companies struggle to maintain their environmentally disastrous stranglehold on the market and the planet, there are some very realistic technologies that threaten to disrupt the status quo. One of the most dangerous for the oil companies is the Tesla solar roof, an off-the-shelf consumer system of tempered glass tiles. Last week, Tesla began accepting orders for the product and released pricing, which is comparable to normal asphalt roofing. The system is a mix of active solar tiles and inactive simple glass tiles, and as the percentage varies, so does the eventual cost. A 35 percent mix would cost $21.85 per square foot, and according to Consumer Reports, the tiles need to be under $24.50 per square foot to compete with normal tiles. That math doesn't even take into account the energy savings over time, which should allow the tiles to pay for themselves. Tesla released a savings calculator when they announced sales, and they are also offering a lifetime warranty. “We offer the best warranty in the industry—the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first,” a Tesla rep told Inverse. https://www.instagram.com/p/BT7HVS3AZ4q/
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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 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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Elon Musk to unveil new solar roof product

UPDATE: See the unveiled solar roof, powerwall, and powerpack here. Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk tweeted his plans to unveil a new solar roof product on October 28 in San Francisco. The design will reportedly feature photovoltaic units integrated into the roof itself. When Musk initially teased the solar roof concept back in August, according to Electrek, he stated that part of his product’s appeal is that customers are left with “a beautiful roof” of solar power cells. “It’s not a thing on the roof. It is the roof,” Musk said. The solar roof incorporates Tesla’s Powerwall, a rechargeable battery that stores a significant amount of power— 6.4 kWh, according to Tesla—and is marketed for residential use. The Powerwall can store energy generated by photovoltaics and act as a backup electrical system in the event of a power outage. The new Powerwall 2.0—also to be unveiled on the 28th—will simplify the process of installation and feature a charger for Tesla automobiles. SolarCity’s plans for the solar roof won’t compete with their existing products. Instead, the company hopes it will present an opportunity for innovation in the context of new construction as well as reroofing, which is generally required about every 20 years (depending on the roofing material). Although it’s possible that installing the solar roof could be significantly more expensive than a conventional roof-mounted panel, SolarCity could market its savings in power production alongside the endurance of the product, making it an appealing option for homeowners. The product would be the first to emerge from SolarCity, which accepted Tesla’s offer of acquisition at the start of August this year. The company specializes in the design, financing, and installation of solar power systems. While many companies have attempted to perfect the solar roof, they often fail to find enough customers and submit to acquisition or bankruptcy. Recently, Dow Chemical ceased production of its solar shingles, citing a lack of sales, according to Fortune. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Jesse Pichel of Roth Capital Partners said SolarCity struggled to raise money as well. “Tesla solves that problem,” he said.