It might be more than just Tesla's most important car

Everyone’s getting very excited about the announcement of the Tesla Model 3, and for good reasons – it’s a Tesla with a 215 mile range and a $35,000 price tag. This is pretty much in Nissan Leaf country, for a car with twice the driving range – so I’m not all that surprised that more than 250,000 people have put down a hefty deposit to pre-order one.

I’ll admit straight off that it’s not for me – I’d still rather have my diesel Golf (no, it’s not one of those ones) – but the Model 3 is a big deal for the future of Tesla, the future of electric cars, and maybe the future of the battery industry. Many observers have been debating whether this is the make or break moment for the company, and it might well be – its losses increased to almost $900m last year, and the company’s share price decreased 40% before it was restored after Tesla announced last month that it expects to finally become profitable this year.

I doubt Tesla will actually go bust, but if it somehow does, or if the Model 3 doesn’t meet expectations, I think it could seriously shake public confidence in electric cars in general. Again, the Model 3 being a flop seems unlikely given Tesla’s image and reputation for customer service, but concerns have surfaced about the build quality and reliability of their other cars:

It’s one thing to have a quirky, problematic car that sells 20,000 units per year to wealthy people who probably own at least one backup vehicle. It’s quite another when Tesla scales up to its 2020 projection of 200,000 U.S. Model 3 buyers, who may not have the luxury of being so forgiving.

I probably seem pessimistic and down on electric cars in general, and I don’t hide the fact that I wouldn’t want to own any all-battery-powered car as they exist today (and for the forseeable future). I would rather consider a hybrid like the Golf GTE, but even that is rather expensive for a car which in practice is no more fuel-efficient than my diesel one (yes, I know I’m oversimplifying a bit). I am looking on with interest, though. There’s a lot to like about electric cars, but too many drawbacks for me at the moment – but a company like Tesla who can capture the headlines and early adopters has to encourage innovation across the industry. The announcement of the Model 3 at least makes me think that one day I’ll be properly convinced.

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Vanishing traces of winter

Today is Easter Monday, and I think it’s the first day of the year so far that it’s actually felt like spring to me, even if there is still ice on the lake. This photo is from the “wilderness trail” (vildmarksleden) at Fjällnora near Uppsala – which is a pretty good hiking path considering the relatively flat landscape in this part of Sweden!

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Meanwhile, in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, Mr. Trump described himself as the person he listens to most on foreign policy. “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things,” Mr. Trump said.

Via this

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Why we don't have battery breakthroughs

An interesting article about the continuous battery breakthroughs which fail to materialise.

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Yeah, I thought about it and I call bulls**t

Unilever CEO Paul Polman recently tweeted this, which was subsequently retweeted by real-life Tony Stark Elon Musk and a couple thousand others.

It’s complete tripe.

Ignoring the awkward unit conversion, I can accept that $166,666 a second can pay for 20 solar panels on 1.5 million houses a day – by my maths that’s in the range of $9,600 per house, which seems reasonable if a bit optimistic, considering things like installation.

But $166,666 a second is $5.26 TRILLION a year, which is more than 10 times larger than what the International Energy Agency reckons is the global subsidy to all fossil fuel (about $493 bn in 2014). Those energy subsidies, by the way, are overwhelmingly provided by major producers (e.g. Iran, Saudi, Russia) and developing countries. In the States, 65% of the government’s total energy subsidies go to renewable energy (yes, the government pays people to buy your cars Mr Musk), and it’s a similar story in the EU.

I’ll freely admit I don’t know very much about economics, so I had to do my homework – I later found that the IMF source providing this $5.26 trillion number was this working paper, which was jumped on by the usual suspects at the time. The huge difference between that number and what the IEA considers to be subsidy comes from “post-tax subsidies”, which apparently cover enormous non-existent taxes and fines on climate change, air pollution, and so on. (Those pre-tax subsidies in the IEA estimate also include (among other things) taxes not levied, for example in bringing cheap petrol to the people of Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar, Iran, etc.)

It’s already a stretch to conclude that world governments could reasonably be taxing oil companies almost five times their annual revenue – close to 1/7th of all the value created in the entire world, as it happens. It’s plain dishonest to imply that oil companies are somehow being given this fictional money and that it could have been spent on solar panels instead.

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