Disclaimer. After nearly 40 years managing money for some of the largest life offices and investment managers in the world, I think I have something to offer. These days I'm retired, and I can't by law give you advice. While I do make mistakes, I try hard to do my analysis thoroughly, and to make sure my data are correct.

BTW, clicking on most charts will produce the original-sized, i.e., bigger version.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Road widening futility

A cartoon by André-Philippe Côté

Model 3 production shut down. Again.

From Buzzfeed:

Just a few days after Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he’s feeling optimistic about his ability to speed up production on the company’s vehicles, the assembly line for the Model 3 in the company’s Fremont, California, plant has been temporarily shut down — again.

The announcement of the four- to five-day production pause for the Model 3 came without warning, according to Tesla employees who spoke with BuzzFeed News. During the pause, workers are expected to use vacation days or stay home without pay; a small number of workers may be offered paid work elsewhere in the factory.

A Tesla spokesperson said that the assembly line is on pause in order to “improve automation.”

[Read more here]

After the previous shut down, there was a big jump in output from the Model 3 assembly line.   But it is concerning that Tesla's having a second shut down so soon after the previous one.  And it also worries me that this shutdown was obviously planned at very short notice. 

Musk drives his staff to achieve more than they thought possible, and sets goals that appear unachievable, and in fact are often reached late.  That doesn't mean he hasn't achieved extraordinary things.  But .....

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Luka -- a cool retro electric car

As a bit of a petrol-head (in Ozzie parlance, somebody who likes exotic, classic and muscle cars) I found this Czech electric car rather intriguing--though whether it'll ever make it to Australia is another question.

Czech electric car startup MW Motors unveiled a new lightweight and retro-looking all-electric vehicle powered by in-wheel hub motors.

[T]he Luka EV’s look is not even the most interesting thing about this new electric vehicle.

MW Motors is using in-wheel hub motors, which is not exactly a new concept, but it hasn’t really been implemented in a significant way by automakers.

They are using 4 motors in the wheels delivering 4 x 12,5 kW for a total output of about 50 kW (66 hp).

The motors are powered by a very small 21.9 kWh battery pack, which MW Motors claims is enough for up to 300 km (186 miles) of range.

It’s hard to believe until you hear how much the whole car weights: 815 kg (~1,800 lbs).

Of course, we are talking about a small two-seater here, but it’s still an impressively low weight and yet, the company claims that you will still find all the features you’d expect to find in a modern car.

MW Motors plans to bring the vehicle to market for a somewhat reasonable 30,000 EUR ($36,900 USD) starting price.

[Read more here; pictures from same source]

Underground transmission could be a game changer

No one likes overhead transmission lines.  Yet, connecting geographically separate wind  or solar regions will be key to increasing the percentage of electricity generated from renewables.  This is because if wind farms are far enough apart, their output is uncorrelated, which means that even if the wind dies down at one farm, it will still be blowing at the other.  In statistical terms, the average of the two farms together has a lower variance than either farm separately.  The lower the correlation the more this is true.  In practical terms, this means that the combined output of several geographically diverse wind farms is more stable than the output from any single farm.  The same principle applies to the correlation between output from wind and solar farms, even in the same region.  Wind is at worst uncorrelated with solar, and at best negatively correlated (the wind blows stronger when the sun isn't shining).  A mixture of wind and solar is less variable than either by itself.


Long distance power lines will also be necessary for carrying electricity from places where the wind blows strongly or where the sun shines a lot to where demand for electricity is actually located.   For example in the US, the mid-western "wind corridor" is a fecund source of cheap electricity, but the big consumption centres are thousands of kilometres away in the east.

So if we could build long distance high voltage power lines and put them underground that would reduce community hostility.  If they could be reduced in cost that would be even better.

It’s become clear in recent years that expanded transmission from the windy Great Plains to the east is a prerequisite to developing more of the wind potential in the Midwest. If his project comes to fruition, Ward said, “We will pull some of the cheapest, most robust wind from the upper Midwest and bring it to the East Coast.”
Wind resources in the US (Source)

US solar irradiance (Source)

As a result of recently completed multi-value transmission projects across the region, he said, his project would be able to tap into a wide swath of the windiest land this side of Canada.

However, Ward’s decision to pursue this project now is a function of technology, not policy. Moving high voltages of electricity generally has required copious amounts of space, he said, meaning that transmission developers would hoist their lines high overhead. But over the past five years or so, “The technology of high-voltage cables has changed dramatically. I think everybody understands that solar and wind and batteries have changed a lot, but nobody is thinking about transmission.”

The German manufacturing conglomerate Siemens, looking for a way to unobtrusively move wind power from the North Sea to southern Germany, has been “leading the charge,” Ward said. The company has used a new rubber-based cable that is “very easy to handle in the field, easy to splice,” Ward said.

High voltages of power moved underground now require “a relatively small footprint,” about two-and-half feet across, Ward said. Two transmission cables are installed about three to five feet underground. It seems that the price has a smaller footprint as well.

“Compared to five years ago,” Ward said, “we can transmit much more power at a much lower price.”

[Read more here]

The 100% renewables grid of the future will have a mixture of wind and solar (because of their low correlation), spread across different regions (ditto), connected by underground HVDC lines, with battery storage for grid stability and time shifting.  We might keep legacy gas peaking plants for backup, and might even use power to gas to fuel these gas plants.  But the core of our new 100% renewable grid will be interconnectors and storage, and both are falling in cost.

Tesla semi starts work--for Telsa

The first of Tesla's new semi trucks started work, shipping batteries from the Tesla gigafactory to the Tesla car manufacturing plant in Fremont California.  If we are to slash emissions, all road transport-cars, lorries & vans, must be electrified, and the electricity that powers them has to be generated by renewables.  So Tesla's semi, and the van and ute hinted at when Musk launched the semi 6 months ago are key to the transformation of road transport.  It's encouraging to see the semi being tested.  What is also very encouraging is the steady stream of new orders.  Musk claims that the Tesla semi will be much cheaper to run than a diesel semi because it will manage higher speeds uphill and from a standing start than a diesel does plus the "fuel" will be cheaper--Tesla guarantees that the power used by the semi will cost no more than 7 cents/kWh, presumably because wherever possible, it will be derived from Tesla solar panels and stored in Tesla Powerpack batteries for night charging.

The new Tesla semi at the gigafactory (Source: InsideEVs)