cartechboy writes How low can battery costs go, and how fast? That's the question automakers are dealing with when it comes to the future of electric cars. Tesla is betting big on electric and has already proven many skeptics wrong with its Model S sedan. The company is making even bolder claims with its upcoming Model 3 stating it'll have about 200 miles of range and a base price of $35,000. That's a nice goal, but is it possible. Battery skeptic Menahem Anderman wrote a new report suggesting that the pace of cost reduction for electric car batteries won't be as swift as Tesla's CEO Elon Musk suggests. This leads Anderman to predict the actual price of the upcoming Model 3 will be in the range of $50,000-$80,000.
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Lucas123 writes Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said his company's Gigafactory battery plant, the world's largest, will be "self contained" and run on solar, wind and geothermal energy. The obvious problem with renewable sources is that they're intermittent at any given location, but on a larger scale they're quite predictable and reliable, according to Tom Lombardo, a professor of engineering and technology. Lombardo points out that Tesla isn't necessarily going off-grid, but using a strategy of "net metering" where the factory will produce more renewable energy than it needs, and receive credits in return from its utility when renewables aren't available. So why can't other manufacturing facilities do the same? Is what Tesla is doing not necessarily transferable to other industries? Sam Jaffe, principal research analyst with Navigant Research, believes Tesla's choice of locations — Reno — and its product is optimal for using renewable and not something that can be reproduced by every industry.
An anonymous reader writes: $3 billion in funding is on the line as private space companies duke it out for contracts to end U.S. reliance on Russian rockets for manned spaceflight. The two biggest contenders are SpaceX and Boeing, described as "the exciting choice" and "the safe choice," respectively. "NASA is charting a new direction 45 years after sending humans to the Moon, looking to private industry for missions near Earth, such as commuting to and from the space station. Commercial operators would develop space tourism while the space agency focuses on distant trips to Mars or asteroids." It's possible the contracts would be split, giving some tasks to each company. It's also possible that the much smaller Sierra Nevada Corp. could grab a bit of government funding as well for launches using its unique winged-shuttle design.
cartechboy writes: Tesla and Toyota have already worked together a few times. The factory in which Tesla builds the electric Model S? It bought that from Toyota. The Toyota RAV4 EV? The battery and software tuning was done by Tesla. Now it sounds like Tesla and Toyota might have another significant project in the pipeline in the next two or three years. Tesla CEO Musk said such a project could be "on a much higher volume level" than the firm's last project with Toyota, the RAV4 EV. Toyota currently has a 2.4 percent stake in Tesla Motors and has sold 2,130 RAV4 EVs through August. For its part, Toyota has no comment regarding Musk's statements about the future project. Given Toyota's stance on electric cars, Musk's comment is a bit confusing. So what exactly will this joint project be?
AmiMoJo writes In his press conference, Elon Musk stated that the factory will produce all of its own energy using a combination of solar, wind, and geothermal. Engineering.com looks at the feasibility of the plans. Spoiler alert: it looks possible, though some storage will be required. Fortunately, if there is one thing the Gigafactory won't be short of it's batteries. From the article: "The numbers don’t lie. The site could realistically produce more than 2900 MWh of renewable electricity each day ... 20% more than it needs. These are conservative estimates on production and worst-case estimates on consumption, and it’s clear that there’s enough renewable energy to run the plant with some to spare."
cartechboy (2660665) writes [Elon] Musk and Tesla's biggest hurdle in the U.S. has been bypassing conventional dealerships and selling directly to customers. This concept is something that's illegal in many states thanks to a nationwide patchwork of decades-old franchise laws. Tesla's latest battle is taking place in Georgia where dealers allege that the start-up company is in violation of the state's franchise laws. Not surprisingly, Tesla's fighting back. To sell cars in Georgia, Tesla had to agree to sell fewer than 150 vehicles directly to consumers in the state. Last week the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association complained that Tesla sold 173 vehicles. Tesla hasn't publicly commented on how many vehicles it has sold in Georgia. We've seen time and time again how this story ends, and the writing is clearly on the wall for this case. Another bit of writing on the wall, though, as reported by the L.A. Times, is that recent electric car sales in the U.S. have been stagnant.
speedplane writes: Last week, Elon Musk's SpaceX fired two challenges (PDFs) at Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin over U.S. Patent 8,678,321, entitled "Sea landing of space launch vehicles and associated systems and methods." The patent appears to cover a method of landing a rocket on a floating platform at sea. In their papers, SpaceX says that "by 2009, the earliest possibly priority date listed on the face of the patent, the basic concepts of 'rocket science' were well known and widely understood. The "rocket science" claimed in the '321 patent was, at best, 'old hat[.]'" Blue Origin has approximately three months to file a preliminary response to the challenge. You can review the litigation documents here and here. (Disclosure: I run the website hosting several of the above documents.)
Ars Technica reports that Elon Musk today wrote that Tesla will remove mileage limits on its warranty policy for all Tesla Model S drive units. The warranty, which will still span eight years, won't have a cap on the number of owners for each vehicle. People who purchased Teslas before today were told that the warranty period for the drive unit expired after eight years or once the car logged over 125,000 miles. The revised warranty applies to new vehicles and Model S cars that are already on the road. The article mentions that quite a few Tesla owners have had to have their drive units replaced; out of warranty, that runs about $15,000. Musk's announcement acknowledges that the change may cost the company some money, but says he's "confident it will work out well in the long run."
An anonymous reader writes: Phil Plait reports that a trio of U.S. Congressmen are asking NASA to investigate what they call "an epidemic of anomalies" at SpaceX. They sent a memo (PDF) demanding that SpaceX be held accountable to taxpayers for mission delays stemming from the development of new rockets. Plait notes, "[A]s a contractor, the rules are different for them than they would be if NASA themselves built the rockets, just as the rules are for Boeing or any other contractor. In fact, as reported by Space News, NASA didn't actually pay for the development of the Falcon 9; Elon Musk did." He adds, "Another reason this is silly is that every rocket ever made has undergone problems; they are fiendishly complex machines and no design has ever gotten from the drafting board to the launch pad without issues. Sure, SpaceX has experienced launch delays and other problems, but the critical thing to remember is that those problems are noted, assessed, and fixed sometimes within hours or minutes." Plait accuses the congressmen of trying to bury private spaceflight under red tape in order to protect established industries in their own states.
AcidPenguin9873 (911493) writes Today, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced that SpaceX has chosen a site at Boca Chica Beach, Texas, as the location where SpaceX will build its rocket launch facility. The Boca Chica site, at the southern tip of Texas near Brownsville and South Padre Island, had been competing with sites in Florida, Georgia, and Puerto Rico, but had been named the frontrunner to land the site by Musk when he testified to the Texas state legislature in 2013. The spaceport will be the first privately-owned vertical rocket launch facility in the world, and will target commercial customers. State and local governments have pledged to provide a total of about $20 million in incentives to attract SpaceX to the site.
Dave Knott sends this news from the CBC: Tesla stock was up five per cent on Friday morning after CEO Elon Musk said the electric-car company would deliver 100,000 vehicles next year. Its earnings report released Thursday shows Tesla continues to operate at a loss as it spends on engineering and setting up an assembly line for its Model X SUV, which is scheduled to go into production early next year. But investors were cheered by the news that the company would deliver 100,000 vehicles next year, up from 22,000 in 2013 and a projected 35,000 this year. Tesla reported a loss of $61.9 million in its second quarter, compared with a loss of $30.5 million in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue nearly doubled to $769.3 million, missing Wall Street's forecast of $801.9 million, but expenses were also up as Tesla prepares some ambitious projects, spending $93 million in the quarter on research and development alone. While the Model X is in development, the longer-term plan is for a cheaper, mass-market car, the Model 3, to be launched in 2017. The biggest investment Tesla will make is in its large lithium-ion production plant, to be built at an as-yet-unnamed U.S. location in a $5-billion partnership with Panasonic.
First time accepted submitter cowdung (702933) writes In spite of Elon Musk's characterization of the landing as a KABOOM event. Judging by this video SpaceX has managed to land the first stage rocket booster nicely on the ocean after their Orbcomm launch on July 14th. It seems we're one step closer to a landing on dry land. Both this and the previous landing seem to have gone well. Hopefully the next landing test camera has something to deice the camera lens.
An anonymous reader writes Thanks to some clean-energy tax incentives approved late this spring, California appears to be in the running again for Tesla's "Gigafactory". From the article: "The decision should have been made by now, and ground broken, according to the company's timeline, but is on hold, allowing California, which was not in the race initially — CEO Elon Musk has called California an improbable choice, citing regulations — to throw its hat in the ring. 'In terms of viability, California has progressed. Now it's a four-plus-one race,' said Simon Sproule, Tesla's vice president of global communication and marketing, referring to the four named finalists — Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada — for the prize. That's heartening. Having the Gigafactory would be a vindication of Gov. Jerry Brown's drive to make California the home of advanced manufacturing, of which Tesla's battery technology is a prime example. With its technology, 'Tesla may be in position to disrupt industries well beyond the realm of traditional auto manufacturing. It's not just cars,' a Morgan Stanley analyst told Quartz, an online business publication last year.
mrspoonsi sends this news from The Verge: Elon Musk can no longer say that no one's ever died in a Tesla automobile crash. But few people will be pointing fingers at the electric car maker for this senseless tragedy. Earlier this month, 26-year-old Joshua Slot managed to successfully ride off with a Model S he'd stolen from a Tesla service center in Los Angeles, but police quickly spotted the luxury vehicle and gave chase. According to Park Labrea News, the high-speed pursuit was eventually called off after officers were involved in a fender bender of their own, leaving the police department strained for resources and without any feasible way of catching up to Slot. Reports claim he was traveling at speeds of "nearly 100 mph," but losing the police tail apparently didn't convince Slot to hit the brakes. Instead he sped on, eventually colliding with three other vehicles and a pair of street poles. The final impact was severe enough to "split the Tesla in half" and eject Slot from the car's remains. The Tesla's front section wound up in the middle of the road and caught fire. Its rear portion flew through the air with such force that it slammed into the side of a local Jewish community center and became wedged there.
Ars Technica notes (as does Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman) that Elon Musk has agreed to donate $1 million towards the restoration of Nikola Tesla's old lab as a museum, a project that Inman has been pushing for some time now. And if you happen to get there in a Tesla, you're in luck: Musk is also planning to install one of his company's superchargers in the parking lot. (At the other end of the east coast, you can visit a very different kind of Tesla museum.)
An anonymous reader writes Elon Musk says that he'll put the first human boots on Mars well before the 2020s are over. "I'm hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years, I think it's certainly possible for that to occur," he said. "But the thing that matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars, to make life multiplanetary." He acknowledged that the company's plans were too long-term to attract many hedge fund managers, which makes it hard for SpaceX to go public anytime soon. "We need to get where things a steady and predictable," Musk said. "Maybe we're close to developing the Mars vehicle, or ideally we've flown it a few times, then I think going public would make more sense."
MarkWhittington writes: Elon Musk is well known as a private space flight entrepreneur, thanks to his space launch company SpaceX. He is also a purveyor of high end electric cars manufactured by his other company, Tesla Motors. But many people do not know that Musk has a third business, Solar City, which is a manufacturer of solar panels. On Tuesday that company announced a major play to increase the output of solar panels suitable for home solar units. Solar City has acquired a company called Silevo, which is said to have a line of solar panels that have demonstrated high electricity output and low cost. Silevo claims that its panels have achieved a 22 percent efficiency and are well on their way to achieving 24 percent efficiency. It suggests that 10 cents per watt is saved for every point of efficiency gained. Solar City, using the technology it has acquired from Silevo, intends to build a manufacturing plant in upstate New York with a one gigawatt per year capacity. This will only be the beginning as it intends to build future manufacturing plants with orders of magnitude capacity. The goal appears to be for the company to become the biggest manufacturer of solar panels in the world.
PC Magazine reports that following Elon Musk's announcement that Tesla would be freeing for other electric car makers to use the various patents that the company has amassed, at least two companies — Mazda and BMW — are said to be interested in meeting with Tesla, for a very good reason: According to undisclosed sources speaking to the Financial Times, both Nissan and BMW would be interested in working with Tesla to craft up some universal vehicle charging standards. To quote unnamed official: "It is obviously clear that everyone would benefit if there was a far more simple way for everyone to charge their cars."
mknewman (557587) writes with a welcome followup to the broad hints that Tesla might release some of its patents for others to use patents that it has amassed. Now, Elon Musk writes on the company's blog: Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology. Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.