Tesla just announced its (planned to be) world’s first mass-produced, highway-capable fully electric family Sedan.
The design is great.
And the specs even more so:
Does any one need any more convincing?!
You can place an order on their website here.
But just before you do... take note of two caveats:
1. $50,000 base price. I guess that with the minimal options it would come closer to $60,000 or more...
2. Deliveries start in 2011. So unless you work on Sand Hill Road and have invested in the company, prepare to wait. (consider that Tesla has delivered 300 of its Roadsters to date with nearly 1,000 more customers still on the waiting list)
I decided to pass on the car, and just buy the T-Shirt.
But they are out of stock...
Here's one of the more awe inspiring developments in renewable energy that I've seen - Super Kites for harnessing wind energy:
Its exciting because this is a totally new way of thinking about wind energy production. It even seems a bit science fiction. If successful in scaling and achieving performance, it would present a real paradigm shift.
In many ways this reminds me of the shift from sails into steam engines for propelling ships (a case in which the further addition of sales did not provide sufficient power gains). Ironically, here the shift is moving in the opposite direction: Back from a rotating blade design and into a sail / wing design.
But back to reality... Achieving such solution will take many years, and significant funding to get to commercial scale.
As with many of the early stage, disruptive innovations in the energy space, this is a good example of the many hurdles a project must overcome, as it moves from the drawing board, to a pilot system, and through to a commercial grade system. These include proving the technology works, its performance, the full system reliability (across various conditions and time periods), the lifetime system costs (including ongoing operations and maintenance which seem high in this case), etc... Even once all these are achieved, there is still the challenge of finding appropriate locations, permitting, accessing grid transmission (a huge problem, which I'll try to touch on separately), air space permits (beware low flying planes), and so on.
Not an easy task - but if you're going to change a paradigm - I guess that's what it takes.
And there's one great thing in going after the wind energy space - The potential is so great that there's room for any successful and economic solution.
For those of us interested in the darker side of Green life...
I just ran across an article with some scary data about accidents related to wind turbines:
"Wind energy. Clean, green, and relatively benign. The operative word is "relatively" benign. Those of us who work with wind turbines and the electricity these machines produce know that wind can also be deadly."
Most of the casualties seem to come from the system installation and operations side of the value chain.
Some examples (without too much detail) include - A runaway motor, unloading tower from truck, tower collapse... and even a parachutist who, in her first unassisted jump, hit a wind turbine (in doing so she became the first women killed by wind energy and the first member of the public killed by wind turbines)
Even though the data is from the wind industry, there are many risks associated with solar, geothermal, etc. And if you've ever seen the movie There will be blood - you will appreciate that producing energy (be it oil, wind, or any other) has many risks associated. As the article mentioned - "the current mortality rate of wind energy of 0.15 deaths per TWh is roughly equivalent to that of mining, processing, and burning of coal to generate electricity"
On a positive note, it seems there is a knowledge improvement curve and more attention to safety and security... the number of deaths per TWh of cumulative generation has steadily dropped over the last decades.
If you want to understand what the future of consumer mobile will look like, you should turn to Apple.
And if you want to understand what Apple's future products will look like, you should turn to Apple's patent applications.
If you follow my blog, you may have read about this here (back in 2006), when Apple filed for new interface. This interface has since taken over the mobile world...
So what will the future of mobile consumer device hold, as Apple views it? Well, of course - the future is green, with sun light powering (or at least enhancing) the power of our mobile device:
From a recent patent filing by Apple, it seems the company wants to place solar cells under the LCD touch screen inside a range of portable devices such as iPods.
As claimed here, this is not simple to achieve, mainly due to the fact that the solar power in a panel is directly proportional to its surface area, and the screen areas in portable devices tend to be small. But as we know, the iPhone and iPod have large screens that occupy most of the front of these devices, allowing more solar cells to be stacked beneath the display. The power collection component of the system also has to be redesigned, to support partial shading, for example by users gripping the device.
Several attempts have been made at this previously, but as we've seen already, none have which had much success (costs, form factor, usability). But as we all know, if anyone can overcome these hurdles and make it happen, its Apple.
Arjun Murti, the head of Goldman Sachs energy research team, is considered one of the best oil analysts out there.
He foresaw $100 oil prices when the market was at $50.
The group this week predicted that oil prices could reach $200 this year.
While some may look at such prediction with concern - its important to realize the huge boost high oil prices have in enabling alternative technologies to displace existing energy supplies:
"The ultimate benefit of going through an energy crisis is that while it's painful for a period of time because you are paying higher prices, you are going to end up with a world that uses less crude oil.
Higher prices would stimulate technological innovation in transportation and alternative energy, and encourage consumers to make more energy efficient choices", Murti said. He gave the example of a consumer choosing a fuel efficient hybrid vehicle instead of an SUV.
"All these things will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and help improve our environment," Murti said, "but it comes at the price of higher oil prices in the short term."
We all know that as demand grows for alternative energy technologies (such as hybrids), scale production will increase, driving costs down further, and increasing demand... creating a virtuous cycle that will significantly decrease dependence on oil...
And all the sudden - this doesn't seem like such a distant dream.
(Seeing the impact $4 per gallon gas prices has on people here in San Francisco (buying a hybrid is becoming an increasingly easy decision)... its not hard to imagine what will happen at $8 per barrel...)
There's no doubt that not many can beat Apple's Marketing.
The launch of the new Air included.
As part of this launch, a great commercial has been airing on US TV (below):
Great concept - the Manila envelope really substantiates the proportions.
But maybe even better - the commercial's soundtrack...
Here's the full song clip... very cute...
Only thing left was to go out and get the CD.
So - Only question left open... How did the Apple marketing people find the song... (The Israeli connection?...)
Among other New Year's resolutions I've made this year, I've resolved that in 2008 I'll become carbon neutral!
One option is to:
But then again... (from previous experience with New Year's resolutions) I'm not sure I'll be able to sustain this.
So there's another option:
A quick visit to the carbon offset calculator - Where one can pay for each pound of carbon created, which goes towards a carbon offset project (i.e. tree planting, renewable energy plant, energy conservation, etc). So basically - you pay for someone else to do the work for you (an option I've always favored).
A simple calculation of my usage, resulted in the following:
Then again... (from previous experience with New Year's resolutions) - I'm not sure I'll be able to sustain this method as well...
I think both methods are great - but both don't really work (they are good for creating marketing hype, such as the one going on all around us).
I don't subscribe to the view that people will need to change their lifestyle (or pay up) in order to save the environment. Its just not sustainable (like New Year's Resolutions), and not scalable to the mass population.
Not to mention that consumer usage behavior is not the main component of the problem (see on the right an interesting graph on this topic)
I think the consumer side of the equation will be solved only through technologies & solutions that are environmentally friendly, yet do not compromise quality of life, and most importantly, are at cost parity with existing solutions.
As I mentioned in the past, Israel is home to some of the worlds leading research and academic institutions.
Today I was lucky enough to be hosted at Ben Gurion University (BGU) in the Negev. I met the team leading the university's technology transfer activities (i.e. taking technologies and IP from the academic world into the industry), and several of the people behind the University's Green research.
One of the more interesting people I met, was the head of the Zuckerberg water research institute (located in Sde Boker). The institute focuses on developments across the water domain, including desalination, water treatment, membrane technologies, hydro chemistry, environmental hydrology, etc. Their team has grown significantly over the last years and currently has 22 faculty members, 16 engineers, and 62 graduate students, who come from all over the world to the desert - to find the next water innovation.
Bridging the divide:
In Greentech, much more than core IT, there is a big divide between the stage of academic research, and the stage of exporting it into the industry. There are additional stages that have to take place after the researcher finishes his work , so that the entrepreneur can start to work on it (and the VC can start to invest).
I think that one of the more encouraging takeaways i had from the day was that not only is BGU a place with significant Green innovations, but its also unique in thinking (and acting) on how to bridge this divide. For example, going beyond the pen & paper theoretical stage, and building actual testing labs for projects / products (Two such have already been built).
The meetings today showed there is a strong desire from the researchers to go beyond the "theory". To build the products, and increase their involvement with the industry.
The no smoking law in Israel has been around for quite a while, but only this last week was it actually enforced in Tel Aviv bars and clubs (Big fines to the owners who don't enforce it, and even some fines on the smokers)
Last night I was out to a bar, and all of the sudden part of the group excused themselves to go out and smoke. What a pleasant surprise :)
Finally I can stay in a bar for over 30 minutes without coughing, getting teary eyes, and reeking of smoke. Tel Aviv has finally seen the light.
And on a different topic of "new generation socializing" - It seems its really not what it used to be:
Next to me was a group of friends celebrating a birthday. The "socializing" actually included:
Over the course of one hour I estimate over 1,000 flashes went off (not exaggerating)... A bit dazed I walked out of the place.
Am I getting too old for this?