Environmental issues, energy and electric cars
Two stories today:
France mandates solar panels on parking lots
France will require all parking lots with over 80 spaces to put in solar panels. That's huge, and means the power will be generated right where cars are charging in the morning -- no grid distribution needed.
In a short interview snippet, Karpathy, who recently stepped down from being director of AI for Tesla, explains their reasoning for taking out radar, ultrasonics, and never using LIDAR or detailed maps.
"The best part is no part" is Elon's philosophy, and it's a valid one, if you are an automaker who wants to lower costs. But is it the right philosophy if you want to be first on the road with a safe robocar?
A press release from Electrify America, the largest non-Tesla charging network, revealed that their average stall is used slightly more than once a day.
I explore what that might be and what it means, with questions about how much people road trip in non-Teslas and the issues with poor reliability of these stations. And I point out ways to improve that reliability, including failing operational at the risk of giving out some free electricity.
Tesla is conducting a vote among owners on where to put new Superchargers. This will identify popular locations, but popularity may not be the only metric to use to decide where fast charging goes. Tesla paved the way by creating chargers not to use in your home town, but so that you would feel confident you could take your EV on long road trips -- something not possible before. The best choices may be small and rural, where people only go rarely, but where they want to feel they could go if they wanted.
Today I attended the launch of the Alef, a new e-VTOL vehicle that drives as well as flies. Most so-called flying cars don't actually drive, and there are reasons for this, but Alef thinks the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
I've been friends with Alef since 2018, though I have no stock, so here's my report on the issues in their design and launch.
With California mandating all new cars be EVs by 2035, and other places doing the same, EV-skeptics argue the power grid can't handle this. This claim appeared again during the recent California heat wave that came close to overloading the California grid over a false report that the state asked EV drivers not to charge their cars. (In reality it just repeated the everyday policy to avoid charging from 4pm to 9pm on high usage days.)
Two recent stories -- about BMW charging a monthly fee to use the heated seats pre-installed in your car, and Tesla replacing a 60kwh battery with a 90kwh under warranty, but forgetting to software limit it to 60kwh, then finally applying the limit after two resales of the car as an (unknowingly accidental) 90 model, have opened up cans of worms about the question of software enabled and disabled features, and whether they are good or bad for the customer or just good for the company.
I have written a guide of useful hints and tricks for doing an EV road trip and barely spending any time charging. I've done over 10,000 miles of EV road trips and you can to, once you get an EV.
Read this at Forbes.com:
I have two other articles on Forbes.com that I didn't publish here in the blog:
Now that we can get good EVs, people are moving to SUVs and trucks, as they did with gasoline. It's better than gasoline of course, and cheaper, but there is a hidden cost in needing all that extra energy, beyond extra cost.
Travel around and you will find EV pricing anywhere from free, to up to 60 cents/kwh, or sometimes by the minute, with session fees, flat fees, idle fees and more.
The problem is that unlike gasoline, electrical energy isn't the product. It's charging that is the service with a bit of product. How does it make sense to price it?
Read more on Forbes.com at EV charging prices are all over the map, how should they price it
I just did my annual maintenance on my Tesla -- adding wiper fluid and putting air in the tires. That's really it. But last year it was different. I had to replace my tires after only 29,000 miles, in part because I mistakenly never rotated them. But there's more to it than just that mistake, so the tires remain a special source of higher maintenance cost you need to worry about.
In my article last week, I outlined how Texas issued grants to build EV charging almost entirely at gas stations, including a chain of mega gas-stations known as Buc-ee's. Buc-ee's may be a great place for gas, but to understand why it may not be right for charging, you have to understand that for gas cars, gas stations are a destination where you get gasoline, and it is nice if they have amenities. For charging to work in its ideal way, you want to have destinations you were going to stop at anyway, which have charging as an amenity, so charging can take nothing from your day.
I went digging in the numbers behind the Texas grants to pay 70% of the cost of installing Fast charging. All the grants went to gas stations (terrible places to spend 40 minutes) and Tesla's applications for its first stations which charge non-Tesla cars (required by grant) didn't make the cut -- even though they came in at only 1/5th of the price per charger of most of the other applications. In this new article, I discuss the issues around this -- what does it mean for Tesla to open up stations, why is Tesla so ridiculously cheaper, why did Texas make such bad choices and more.
It is common to see plans for EV charging which are still bound up in "gasoline thinking" where people treat an EV like a car with a tank you empty and then fill up while empty, waiting. In fact, if you do EV charging right, you always do it while you are doing something else, so it takes zero time from your day.
Sometimes people come up to full EV charging stations where cords can reach more than one spot and they unplug an EV that arrived earlier and take over the charger. Sometimes it's evil. Sometimes it's the earlier driver who is bad. How do we make a system to handle the problem?
Read more at Forbes.com in EV Drivers Are Unplugging Other EVs - How Can A System Of Etiquette Arise
The new high end versions of the Lucid Air luxury electric car -- the Grand Touring and Dream -- report a range of over 500 miles from a 113kwh battery. They do this at a high price -- $130K and $170K! What do you really get for 500 miles of range? It's obviously nice, but is it worth it at this high cost?
Rounding out my 3 part series on doing a 5,000 mile international road trip in a Tesla, I talk about the times I used slower chargers. The world installed vast numbers of slow chargers at huge expense in a giant waste of money, but they do have virtues on a road trip, and eventually all hotels will have them. On a road trip charge and range become very important and sometimes they save the day.
On road trips many people like to have a cooler. For my most recent trip I graduated to getting a 12v compressor fridge, a real fridge that, in theory, needs no ice. I presumed that in an electric car, with a giant battery, running the fridge would be no problem (it uses up only about 2 miles worth of range electricity per day.)
That turned out not to be the case due to a bad way the Tesla 12v system is designed. I wrote up this story of the ins and outs of using a fridge in a car, and how to fix the 12v problem in this new story on Forbes.com