The time for excuses and argument is over

“There are no excuses left”:
Why climate science deniers are running out of rope
The Guardian, 10/17/2020

Audible in the background is the drumbeat of new science, data piling on data showing how close we are coming to disaster. In 2007, I watched the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emerge bleary-eyed from an all-night session in Paris where they faced down vested interests to warn emissions must peak by the early 2020s to avoid dangerous climate change. By 2013, in the fifth report in Stockholm, they predicted it would be 30 years before the 2C threshold would be breached. Last year, in the starkest warning yet, the IPCC gave us 12 years to reverse direction.

Our climate knowledge has increased vastly in 15 years. No one can now plausibly say there is not enough data, or that we lack the technology, or that saving the climate is too expensive. All of these pretexts have been exploded by patient scientific work. There are no excuses left and now it is up to journalists to ensure there are no more hiding places either, in the boardrooms, on the websites of fake news, behind the facade of populism. That is what the Guardian has committed to do, with a clear focus on the climate emergency. Even if that upsets some people in the corridors of power: there can be pride in being the worst, if that’s what it means.

Not quite a fair start

While I have no doubt the Tesla truck would emerge victorious from a tug of war with a F-150, to be fair the contest should have started with the line taut, not slack. Also, both vehicles should have moved at the same time. In this video, the Cybertruck moves first, giving it an advantage it doesn’t need. This contest must be done over.

It occurs to me…

that I saw no wing mirrors on the truck. Also, with the roll down bed cover, a rear-view mirror is not going to work, so they must be going to cameras in place of mirrors. Which is fine by me, since they have wider fields of vision.

Update: This has been confirmed by people who road in the truck. The rear view mirror is a camera and side cameras fill in for wing mirrors.

Okay, let’s start with the elephant in the room…

Tesla Cybertruck is definitely different

Tesla’s much anticipated “Cyber ” pickup truck was revealed last night and it definitely is not going to win over the “traditional” pick up truck owner. Then again, nothing Tesla makes is going to interest that crowd.

The customer segment for this truck is going to be the “pro-Tesla” crowd, and any fleet owners, or contractors who are looking at the specs and the bottom line. More on that in a moment.

The moment of the reveal (which is now destined for immortality as a meme for all the wrong reasons, under the header “Fail”) is the moment Elon Musk had the truck’s designer Franz Holzhausen chuck a steel ball at the side windows to demonstrate the unbreakable glass, which promptly broke. Then, because he couldn’t avoid doubling down, he had Franz try the same thing on the rear window with identical results. We then spent the remainder of the reveal with these two failures on prominent display.

Musk had already tested samples of the glass by dropping these same steel balls on sheets from about 20 feet with nary a problem. So, their is definitely a miscalculation somewhere, and I am guessing someone’s job just ended last night.

As expected Tesla stock price is taking a SERIOUS beating in pre-market trading (down 6%, or about $20 as I write this). Which is to be expected, since Musk just handed the financial media (who pretty much hate his guts) a Cybertruck load of steel balls with which to pummel the company.

This is a shame, and a distraction from the truck itself. With a stainless steel body, looking very “Deloreanesque”, it did weather an assault with a sledge hammer with nary a dent, so things started off well.

The specs were quite impressive

  • 250-500 mile range
  • 3,750 lb cargo capacity
  • 14,000 lb towing capacity
  • 6 passenger
  • 0-60mph in 6.5-2.9 seconds
  • Onboard 120v/220v electrical service
  • Onboard air compressor
  • Adaptive Air Suspension
  • 16″ ground clearance
  • Retractable bed cover
  • Built-in tailgate loading ramp
  • RWD/AWD/Tri-motor performance
  • Starting price of $39,900, ($49.9K for AWD, $69.9K for performance model)

So, if you are looking for a tough truck, cheap to operate, hard to dent, that includes 120v/220v electrical service, air compressor and room for six, this is your truck. Just don’t hurl any three pound steel balls at the windows.

Floods in Africa, Droughts and Wild Fires in Australia

Guardian graphic. Source: The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

Global heating supercharging Indian Ocean climate system
The Guardian, 11/19/2019

Global heating is “supercharging” an increasingly dangerous climate mechanism in the Indian Ocean that has played a role in disasters this year including bushfires in Australia and floods in Africa.

It is similar to El Niño and La Niña in the Pacific, which cause sharp changes in weather patterns on both sides of the ocean.

Recent research suggests ocean heat has risen dramatically over the past decade, leading to the potential for warming water in the Indian Ocean to affect the Indian monsoon, one of the most important climate patterns in the world.

“There has been research suggesting that Indian Ocean dipole events have become more common with the warming in the last 50 years, with climate models suggesting a tendency for such events to become more frequent and becoming stronger,” Ummenhofer said.

She said warming appeared to be “supercharging” mechanisms already existing in the background. “The Indian Ocean is particularly sensitive to a warming world. It is the canary in the coalmine seeing big changes before others come to other tropical ocean areas.”

This is our future. The world is either on fire, or under water.

Today Ends in “Y”, so Market Watch has a Negative Tesla Story

Tesla ‘Blade Runner’ pickup truck could be so
futuristic that it leaves buyers cold 11/20/2019

Claudia Assis never saw good news come from Tesla that she didn’t interpret as bad news. This week with Tesla’s much anticipated Cybertruck debuting tomorrow, she made the rounds of Tesla critics and short sellers to find out why this was a bad thing.

Some on Wall Street were sounding skeptical about the new Tesla Inc. pickup truck, the Silicon Valley car maker’s first foray into the top auto segment in the U.S.

“We expect focus to be on how well the actual design resonates with pickup buyers,” Emmanuel Rosner at Deutsche Bank said in a note Monday.

There’s a risk the vehicle would be so futuristic as to not attract “traditional pickup buyers, leaving it a lower-volume niche product,” Rosner said.

Yes, that would be a worry if Tesla was trying to sell to “traditional pickup buyers”, who would not drive a Tesla if it came free with a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Tesla’s customer base are people who want a pickup truck that isn’t coating the insides of their lungs (and their children’s lungs) in a way that would make a bare-handed coal miner leery. Oh, and contractors who don’t want to pay 25¢ a mile to haul around their tools, including a generator to power said tools, when they can pay under a dime a mile and power their tools with their truck.

Back in March, Tesla revealed the compact SUV Model Y just ahead of its first-quarter results. Many analysts faulted Tesla for that timing, and the reveal renewed concerns about production issues. The stock fell 5% after the Model Y unveiling.

True. The stock fell to around $280. Of course this week it is trading at $350+, so I don’t think the “concerns” were lastingly concerning.

“After the model Model Y launch fizzled on concerns this will cannibalize the Model 3, we expect a similar response to the truck,” said Craig Irwin, an analyst with Roth Capital Partners.

In 24 hours after the reveal of the Model Y, 5 million people had watched the livestream on Youtube. Contrast this with the 50,000 who watched Ford’s Mustang Mach E reveal. We seem to have a different idea of “fizzled”.

Roth Capital can’t seem to make up its mind what it believes. They rated Tesla a buy at $208 this past June, but then rated it a sell October 29th, with a target rating of $249. Tesla closed that day at $323, and as I write this is trading at $353.

“We do not expect initial truck production until mid-2021, around a year after first Model Y production,” Irwin said in a note. Tesla could also walk back from prior suggestions that the “cybertruck” would start at less than $50,000 and with the 400-500-mile range, he said.

Tesla “could” do that. They also “could” build robotic fire ants and send them to Mars, then bury fickle analysts in the mounds covered Karo Syrup­. I don’t expect that idea to begin production until mid-2021.

About That Supercharger Fire in NJ

Tesla supercharger ruled out as cause of N.J. fire
Automotive News, 11/19/2019

A fire at a Wawa convenience store in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon was not caused by a Tesla supercharger; it arose from a nearby transformer, a local fire official said Tuesday.

“No vehicles were involved; it wasn’t the charging stations at all,” Palmeiri said. “It was a separate on-site transformer that sends power from JCP&L to the charging stations … Nothing to do really with the charging stations.”

Yes, this was a BIG story for a day or so. Never mind that fact that 13 gas stations catch on fire every day.

Production Hell Comes to Porsche

Porsche Taycan reservation holders from Norway recently received a rather disappointing message from the veteran German sports car maker. As it turns out, deliveries for the all-electric Taycan will be starting later than expected, with the automaker estimating a delay of about 8-10 weeks. 

The message, which was recently sent out to Taycan reservation holders and shared on media outlet, explained the reasons behind the automaker’s delivery delays. Based on the information provided by the carmaker, the complexity of the Taycan’s production is a key reason behind the vehicle’s longer-than-expected delivery timeline. 

Sorry to see them have problems, though according to a lot of Wall Street analysts, “real” car companies aren’t supposed to have problems like this.

Another Coal Plant Turned Off

A Massive Coal Plant That Asked for Trump’s Help Has Gone Dark
Bloomberg News, 11/19/2019

At 12:09 p.m. local time on Monday — after churning out electricity for almost five decades — the largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S. permanently closed, becoming the latest testament to the fossil fuel’s decline. Once a flash point in President Donald Trump’s campaign to save America’s coal industry, the Navajo complex in the Arizona desert will now spend the next three years being dismantled and decommissioned.

Tribal leaders spent years appealing to the Trump administration for help saving the plant, characterizing it as the president’s chance to fulfill his campaign promise to revive America’s Coal Country. The fact that the Interior Department owns a 24% stake in the complex gave him all the more reason to make an example out of it. Then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke vowed to explore all options for rescuing the site.

For all its political ties, the Navajo complex proved no match against market forces. The shale boom unleashed record volumes of low-cost natural gas, undermining the economics of coal generators across the U.S. Cheaper and cleaner wind and solar farms also began squeezing the plant’s profits.

Coal simply cannot compete with low methane prices and the continued fall or renewable costs. Hydro/solar/wind power generation are the only power generation methods where the fuel comes to you. No exploring, drilling, pumping, refining, transporting by pipe or rail required.

Flawed narrative

In their hurry to write headlines about “Ford versus Tesla”, the financial press/pundits are missing the bigger story, which is “EV versus ICE”, and more subtly, “Ford versus Ford dealerships”.

People are sending their $500 reservations directly to Ford, reserving their Mach E’s online, not at the dealerships. The dealerships are now the delivery boys for Ford. What will the dealership’s add to the transaction? Electron rustproofing?

Actually, there are some things a dealer could do to “add value”, starting with installing home charging equipment, but that is going to take effort on the dealer’s part.

Mustang Mach E, First Look

A nice first look by our friend Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield at Transport Evolved

Nikki shows us a few of the E’s fairly cool features. I have to say that while I had notice the lack of door handles, I thought it was just that they blended in to the body. They seem to have taken Tesla’s idea, and went a bit further.

Big Oil in Big Trouble

The future is not looking bright for oil, according to a new report that claims the commodity would have to be priced at $10-$20 a barrel to remain competitive as a transport fuel.

The new research, from BNP Paribas, says that the economics of renewable energy make it impossible for oil to compete at current prices. The author of the report, global head of sustainability Mark Lewis, says that “renewable electricity has a short-run marginal cost of zero, is cleaner environmentally, much easier to transport and could readily replace up to 40% of global oil demand”.

As a result, the report says, the long-term break-even oil price for gasoline to remain competitive as a source of mobility is $9-$10 per barrel, and for diesel $17-$19 a barrel

More and more analysts, industry insiders, and business/economics journalists are beginning to see the looming iceberg the oil industry is sailing toward with no awareness of their peril.

The current “oil boom” brought about by fracking was the result of new technology, and huge sums of borrowed money. The oil industry has always had a “boom/bust” cycle where the rising price of oil causes more rigs to be built, resulting in a glut of oil, which then drives down the price, bankrupting the late arrivals and the early players who didn’t have enough sense to get out before the prices collapsed. This then resulted in a contraction of the oil supply, causing the prices to rise again.

Rinse and repeat every decade since Titusville.

The new variable in this economic see-saw, is the rise of EVs and global warming. At some point, society is going to impose restrictions on oil extraction, which would limit supply and drive up the price. This would normally be welcomed by the oil industry, as consumers and industry must have oil for transport. But, unlike times past, there is an alternative to internal combustion engines powered by oil byproducts, electrically powered vehicles. Cheaper, cleaner, and with less impact of the environment.

So, as the price of oil rises, consumers are driven to EVs, which are cheaper to fuel, operate and maintain. The more people who switch, the lower the demand for oil, which drives the most expensive producers to bankruptcy, which reduces the supply of oil, keeping the price high.

“For the oil majors, the challenge is on a scale that they have never faced before, and business-as-usual is simply not an option,” the bank says, with any projects with break-even costs of $20 a barrel or higher facing the possibility that up to 40% of their output at below the cost of production.”

Ford’s new Mach E Mustang SUV looks appealing

Ford Wants to Sell You an Electric S.U.V. It’s Called a Mustang.
New York Times, 11/17/2020

Ford Motor’s latest offering seems like an oxymoron twice over: It’s a sport utility vehicle that’s electric … that’s a Mustang.

It’s also Detroit’s biggest bet yet on a mass-market future for battery-powered cars.

The big automakers have been producing hybrid and fully electric vehicles for years. But almost all have been smaller models that found limited demand. Even the manufacturers often referred to them as “compliance cars” — built to help meet environmental regulations while they mainly turned out big internal-combustion vehicles that sold well and made hefty profits.

Purists will probably complain about the looks, and I guess they have a point. The Mustang has always been know for its distinctive and sleeks lines, and the decision to shoehorn an SUV into a Mustang could be divisive, but it is keeping with Ford’s decision to switch away from “family cars” to SUVs and trucks.

Pricing and performance seems tailored to parallel the upcoming Tesla Model Y in price and performance, though it comes up short on range in its high end trim, and is 6 cubic feet shy on cargo space on all trims.

Also, Ford gets to have a celebrity spokesman, which Tesla, so far, does not, and he comes in the form of Idris Elba, which is certainly better (and less creepy) than Matthew McConnaughey.

Prices for the new EV range from $43K to $60K and you can reserve one now for $500 (refundable), though they will not be shipping until about this time next year (for the high end models), and sometime in 2021 for the cheaper models. One thing that Ford does have helping its efforts is that the $7500 federal tax credit (and some state credits) are still available. Tesla’s remaining $1875 credit expires at years end, and GM’s in April 2020. Ford, having only sold about seven of its Ford Focus EVs has a ways to go.

One caveat I see after reviewing the Ford web site is that a number of the specs like range and performance are not firm, but a “target” spec. Which means, “Here’s what we hope it does when it comes out”, which I have to say

And that will be, to use the hoary cliche, “where the rubber meets the road”. Will Ford hit that ship date? Probably, since they are a “big auto” company and are supposed to be able to mass produce cars on time. And will they be mass produced, and available nationwide, and will dealers actually sell a product that will be less profitable to dealerships going forward?

Stay tuned.

Site back up after long hiatus

My apologies for the site being down for so long. The site database was corrupted after an update went awry, and it required some time to get sorted. I hope to have more updates and stories going forward and keep content flowing.

EMC will be participating in the Jamestown Christmas parade, December 1st, in Jamestown, at 3:00 PM. We will have 8 members bringing a variety of of EVs, appropriately decorated, to show that electricity can power more than just lights.

Parade drivers can find more info here.

Debunking yet another ill-informed, or deliberately misleading, anti-EV screed

These “articles” are now popping up about once a quarter. The latest is from the site “Seeking Alpha” which, as best as I can tell, is a major disinformation site for people into shorting stocks. The article, Tesla Model 3 Costs More to Charge Than a Gasoline Car, starts right off with a title that is misleading on its face. Normally, I wouldn’t deign to quibble over such an error, but as the author has either failed to properly research his topic, or simply wasn’t going to let facts get in the way of his agenda, I will make an exception.

Yes, a Model 3 costs more to CHARGE than a gasoline car does, since a gasoline car doesn’t require charging of anything other than its 12v battery, and does that with its onboard alternator, powered by its gasoline engine. The correct title for his assertion would be “Tesla Model 3 Costs More to Fuel Than a Gasoline Car“, which even then would be wrong in all but the most narrow of circumstances.

To save time, I will rebut the writer’s summary.

Investors who take it for granted that electric cars are cheaper to run, need to think again.

And if they do, they would come to the same conclusion. Setting aside, his cherry-picked fuel numbers and bizarre assumptions about battery life, EVs have no transmission, no radiator, no muffler, no catalytic converter, no fuel pump, no water pump, no oil pump, no timing belt, no oxygen sensor, and of course, no internal combustion engine. This means the number of moving parts in an EV drivetrain is about two orders of magnitude less than an ICEV; a dozen or so, versus thousands. Fewer moving parts means less things to wear out and fail. In four years of EV driving I have paid for a set of tires, and a cabin air filter. My results are hardly atypical. So, on to the next assertion.

A comparison between Tesla Model 3 and the three leading hybrid cars of calendar year 2018 from Toyota, Honda and Hyundai proves otherwise.

Our writer then compares the M3 to three hybrids, instead of three gasoline cars. The major point of switching to EVs is to STOP burning gasoline, which produces health/environment damaging pollutants. Hybrids are great, and a step in the right direction, but they still burn petrochemicals, and produce exhaust which damages your lungs and warms the planet. (Oh, and one of the hybrids, the 2018 Honda Insight, won’t be out until the Summer). To compare fuel costs with a just 3 (2 actually) hybrids, but ignore health and environmental costs, is disingenuous at best, evil at worst.

At the current typical Supercharger price of $0.24 per kWh, a Tesla Model 3 is $0.06 per mile. At the current gasoline price of $2.65, the 50+ MPG hybrids are $0.05 per mile.

Supercharger prices vary based on locations, since different states have completely different tariffs for electricity. It can be argued that 24¢/kWh is an average, but even then this ignores the fact that the majority of EV owners charge at home, where the national average is about 12¢/kWh, which means the M3 costs 3¢ a mile to run, not 6¢. Superchargers are used for long distance travel, not day-to-day commuting. The average driver in the U.S. drives 35 miles per day or less.

Then you have to add that the Model 3 has at best half the range and takes at least 10-20x as long to recharge that inferior range.

Yes, the Prius and the Ioniq get around 550 miles on a tank of gas, but again, burning gasoline means damage to people’s health and the environment. How much are your lungs worth? How about you children’s lungs? As to the 10-20x slower, this is technically true, in a narrow range of real world circumstances.

Yes, pumping gasoline is faster than recharging, if you consider only the time from putting the nozzle into the tank and pulling it out. But hey, next time you pull in for gas, time from the moment you pull in, until you pull out. Did you have to wait on a pump? I am guessing depending on the time for day, a fuel stop could be as fast as five minutes, or as long as fifteen minutes. Did you run into the bathroom for nature’s call, or to wash the smell of gasoline off your hands? Did you spill gasoline on the ground, or your shoes/clothes?

Yes, you can drive 550 miles without stopping, which would be almost eight and a half hours at typical highway speeds, but who does that? Most people drive 2-3 hours and then stop for a bathroom break, or food, or because the kids are going stir crazy. These stops average how long? 20-30 minutes? Three hours of driving in an M3 is 130-195 miles, or about 2/3s of the car’s range tops, meaning that when you stop at a Supercharger station for a break, you can replace most, if not all, of your lost range.

I am sure there are masochists out there with bladders the size of a camel’s hump who can drive eight hours straight, but I don’t believe there are many.

Of course, the Model 3 also costs twice as much, and you have to assign an approximate $1,000 per year to battery depreciation, alone more than driving on gasoline for a year.

I was utterly puzzled as to where our writer got this $1000 a year battery depreciation number? Now, it is an inescapable fact that driving ANY new car off the lot causes as 20-30% loss in value the first year, and it continues to depreciate over time. But $1000 a year for just the battery? So, let’s look at his key basis for this statement:

It is understood that you should not have to pay for a new EV battery within the first ten years, if for no other reason because of warranty and general expectations of reliability. However, at some point the day to buy a new battery will come. Perhaps not at the 10-year mark, but otherwise at 15, 20 or 25 years.

In a gasoline car, you are not worrying about the expense of switching out the gasoline tank after a decade or two or three. If you had to do it, the cost would be tiny anyway.

Okay, on average, how many people keep their cars longer than ten years? By this time, your car has accumulated about 150,000 miles, and most people I know are looking for a newer model (whether new or used). So, by his own admission, the battery is not a problem for the expected life of the car. But just for fun, let’s look at the outliers, the folk who keep their car for 15 years. By that time, the battery may have seen its range degrade to the point it needs to be replaced.

However, in a Tesla Model 3, you are talking about a battery close to 80 kWh. We know Tesla said that its cost (by some narrow definition) was falling below $190 per kWh. However, counting all costs and adding a profit margin plus labor, we can safely say that the price (not cost) would be at least $250 per kWh all-in.

So at $250 per kWh, we are talking $20,000 as the total price for the 80 kWh battery, perhaps including installation and disposal, if necessary.

Well, the math makes sense, if one assumes that the cost of batteries will remain the same as it is today, which is a bet I would not take.

In 2010, the average cost of a battery pack was $1,000/kWh. Yet, today it is (using his number) $250/kWh, a 75% reduction in 8 years (more if you factor in inflation). Battery costs are falling as demand increases due to economies of scale. There is no reason to assume that this will not continue for another decade yet. A state of the art PC cost around $8,000 back in the early 80s, yet you can have one (three, or so, orders of magnitude better) today for under $500. It is not unreasonable to expect battery pack prices to fall another 75% in the next 15 years, which means that when our frugal driver is looking for another battery pack for his 15 year old Model 3, it will set him back $5,000, not $20,000.

Oh, and a question for the reader to ponder: How often has the rate you pay for electricity fluctuated wildly from month to month? How often has it almost doubled over the course of a year? It doesn’t happen. Why? Because electrical rates are set by regulatory agencies, not by the utility companies. Gasoline, on the other hand…..

In the end, we find that the entire premise of this article is either ill-informed, or deliberately misleading.

Which is it you ask? Well, I will quote one last key sentence and let you decide:

Disclosure: I am/we are short TSLA.

Well, in the interest of fairness,

Disclosure: I own two EVs.