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What Would A US–China War Mean For Tesla?

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When I was in college, I spent some time in Taiwan doing volunteer work. It was a neat experience to get to know a culture very different from the American and Mexican cultures I grew up with, but car enthusiast me noticed a lot of familiar things.

For one, there was a Ford testing facility of some kind right around the corner from my apartment. I’d regularly see upcoming vehicles that weren’t out yet testing their mettle against Taiwan’s sometimes rough and crowded roads. They usually wouldn’t mind when I took out my phone and snapped a photo, but one test driver shouted a bunch of obscenities in a mix of Mandarin and Taiwanese. My native friends said I didn’t want to know what exactly the man said.

In the country, I was surprised at how many American vehicles I saw on the streets. I saw Fords, GMs, lots of Dodge Neons, and even one Pontiac Fiero (a car I’m a big fan of). I didn’t know at the time just how involved American automakers were in Asian markets, and in the following years I watched an increasing number of manufacturing operations shift to Asian countries, especially Mainland China.

Given all of this, it was largely inevitable that a company like Tesla would expand there. Not only is China a big and expanding market, but general industry trends pull everyone in the industry in that direction.

The Dark Cloud That Hangs Over Everything

Aside from the rampant pollution in 2004, there was a dark cloud that hung over everything in Taiwan. Imagine if a whole country doomsday prepped, and you’d have a pretty good idea of what it was like. I frequently saw military bases with tanks, helicopters, and warplanes in every city. They even regularly hold exercises where planes take off from and land on freeways.

There are armories and supply depots everywhere, and most men had performed mandatory military service of two years at that time, with periodic refresher training. Today, the mandatory military service is a lot shorter, and there are real questions about whether some frontline military units are prepared in any way for a military conflict, but millions of barely-trained people would quickly get a rifle in their hands in the event of war. History shows us that these minimally trained civilian-soldiers would serve better in a disruptive and irregular bushwhacker role (the oft-misquoted “rifle behind every blade of grass” concept), but Taiwan wants to maintain the illusion (read: delusion) that they will have millions of real, professional soldiers in the event of a conflict.

Taiwan does all of this because the whole island (along with smaller islands) is disputed. When communist forces (backed by the Soviet Union) won the civil war in 1949, nationalist leaders (backed by the United States), military forces, and loyal civilians fled to Taiwan, which is just off the coast of the mainland. While the United States didn’t initially continue to back the nationalist leaders, the Korean War led to Taiwan becoming a front in the wider Cold War, and U.S. support resumed.

In 1955, a formal treaty obligated the United States to come to the aid of Taiwan’s government in the event of invasion. This obligation partially survives in an ambiguous form as part of the Taiwan Relations Act, which governs U.S.–Taiwan relations after the U.S. stopped openly recognizing Taiwan’s government as the legitimate government of China. Today, the U.S. maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” with regards to Taiwan, and supports a “One China, Two Systems” policy, which opposes both the mainland taking control of Taiwan by force and any official declaration of Taiwanese independence.

In the interest of truth and fairness, it’s worth noting that the nationalist government in Taiwan was basically a military dictatorship, and continued to rule Taiwan harshly (including civilian massacres) until after the death of Chiang Kai-Shek. In the 1980s and 1990s, democratic reforms were instituted. This may be a big part of why the United States continues to support Taiwan despite the end of the Cold War.

In recent times, tensions in the region have been rising, and the risks of an invasion of Taiwan continue to grow with Beijing’s military power. The unilateral rejection of obligations with regard to Hong Kong brought little in the way of meaningful foreign consequences. While there’s no formal obligation for the United States to come to the defense of the island today, whoever is president of the United States would be under immense pressure to intervene militarily in the event this occurs, but with real questions of whether the United States can even win such a conflict.

How This Affects Businesses

On top of the political pressure, Taiwan supplies a large portion of the world’s semiconductors, and losing access to TSMC would put the U.S. in a position that makes today’s semiconductor shortage look tame. Many other economic effects, combined with the rising tensions, add up to a growing number of business writers saying companies need to come up with a plan for this scenario.

The good news is that a short conflict, which gets resolved quickly and ends in restored peace, might not have any effect on American companies operating in China. The economy is important to both sides, and cutting off foreign trade would be like shooting one’s self in the foot, so there’s a lot of pressure to restore peace as soon as possible, even if shots are initially fired.

Tesla’s China manufacturing operations are particularly vulnerable to an extended military conflict, though. A skirmish that develops into a short war could cut off trade and shut off the flow of supplies and finished product in and out of the Shanghai factory. If things get more nasty, the company could completely lose control over their properties in China through nationalization. Tesla’s factory may continue to operate, but it might no longer answer to Elon Musk. At absolute worst, Shanghai is only a little over 400 miles from Taipei, and a large-scale war could subject the area to direct military conflict, such as bombings.

Planning Is A Real Challenge

Once such a conflict gets started, nobody knows in advance how bad it will be. That leaves companies in a tough planning situation, and also leaves them with the possibility that they really can’t plan for it. A private company like Tesla might not be able to do anything about what’s happening at all, making all planning basically useless. The best they can likely do is make sure that they don’t have too many eggs in the China basket so that the company can survive in the event the worst happens.

Another article says that companies doing business in China need to prepare to quickly move people and operations out of China in the event things start getting too bad. Tesla is even mentioned as a company that risks a reputation loss in other countries, even short of war if it fails to speak out against aggressive Chinese moves. Beyond what they’re saying, should a large war break out, with thousands losing their lives, people outside of China won’t be happy with companies that are perceived to have been too cozy with “the enemy.”

But this fundamentally presents a Catch-22. Should the Chinese government get wind that a company is preparing to be able to flee the country, or if they’re seen making plans or public statements against Beijing, the risks of retaliation are very real. Statements in state-run media against the company, allowing bad word about the company to spread on social media (only that which is approved goes viral), and other soft measures have already been used against Tesla in the past. We’d be fools to assume they won’t take harsher measures.

All of this puts Tesla at significant risk, and also leaves it unable to publicly discuss any plans or measures it may be taking to reduce those risks. That’s a tough spot to be in, but we need to keep this in mind before judging the company. Tesla really doesn’t have a lot of control over that at this point.

The best we can do for the company is to help encourage political leaders to stay away from such a war.

Featured Image: Tesla Giga Shanghai. Image courtesy Tesla.


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/26/what-would-a-us-china-war-mean-for-tesla/

Cleantech

 Elon Musk Offers Insight On Pros & Cons Of Electric Vehicle Battery Form Factors

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Most would agree: safety first. That said, are there battery form factors that are safer than others? While you can ask a variety of “experts” their opinion on the matter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is probably a good candidate to start with — after all, Tesla sold almost 80% of all electric cars sold in the US last year.

Elon Musk discussing the new 4680 battery form factor at last year’s “Tesla Battery Day” presentation. (Source: Tesla)

It turns out that Elon recently opened up a bit more regarding his views on EV batteries. Musk began by answering a question on Twitter about different EV battery form factors and the use of pouch cells. He said that heat propagation (technical term: TRP, which stands for thermal runaway propagation) seen in large pouch cells can be dangerously high.

“Probability of thermal runaway is dangerously high with large pouch cells. Tesla strongly recommends against their use,” Elon Musk tweeted.

Pouch cells have come under some scrutiny of late due to GM’s Chevy Bolt recall related to a series of battery fires, as reported by CleanTechnica. According to Steve Hanley, “The Bolt’s battery packs are made up of pouch cells, which are essentially layers of cathodes, anodes, and separators that are flooded with liquid electrolyte and encased in a flexible polymer pouch.”

In turn, is there a better approach to EV batteries? Twitter weighed in once Musk provided his initial input. Twitter handle Tesla Facts inquired, “So smaller, reinforced, pressure protected prismatic cells for iron based cells (LFP) are good & safe, and steel cylindrical for nickel (and iron) are the overall design sweet spot?” It appears Elon agrees.

Tesla battery cells.Tesla tab-less battery cells (Source: Tesla)

Musk further explained that cooling a cell with a larger form factor can be a challenge because the cooling loop to the center is a longer distance. This high cooling loop makes it harder to prevent hotspots (or heat spots). “Then, pressure & heat released from large cell in weak bag make it impossible to stop whole pack from burning,” Musk tweeted.

Tesla unveiled its 46mm diameter and 60mm length (4680) form factor battery cell at the company’s “Battery Day” in 2020. Since this is a larger form factor cell as well, I thought I should ask Elon if Tesla also had to deal with heat propagation issues with the 4680.

He did not reply to our official account directly, but he indirectly addressed the question. “Our new cell is 46mm diameter with steel shell & even that was huge challenge for propagation resistance,” Musk tweeted.

Taking a closer look at the Battery Day presentation, vehicle teardown expert Sandy Munro noted that Tesla had changed its battery cooling mechanism. Previously, the batteries were cooled down by placing the battery coolant tubes between the cell walls. The newer battery packs with 4680 cells will be cooled down by placing the coolant tubes above and below the cells, an effective technique to dissipate battery heat. Coupled with the tab-less design that reduces the cooling loop, Tesla appears to have discovered an optimal approach for battery thermal management.

An earlier version of this article was originally published by Tesla OracleRevised update edited by EVANNEX.

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/09/21/elon-musk-offers-insight-on-pros-cons-of-electric-vehicle-battery-form-factors/

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Cleantech

Tesla Donated A Solar Roof Worth At Least $150,000 To Buffalo Heritage Carousel In 2020

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In August 2020, The Buffalo News reported that Tesla donated a solar roof to the Buffalo Heritage Carousel at Canalside, which was scheduled to open in the spring of 2021. The article noted that the black tiles were made at Tesla’s factory in South Buffalo and that each would be stamped “Assembled in Buffalo, NY, USA.” Today, Tesla shared a stunning video of the carousel on Twitter with the caption, “Solar Roof powers Buffalo Heritage Carousel in NY.”

When Tesla made the donation, Laurie Hauer-LaDuca, who is the president of Buffalo Heritage Carousel, said:

“With the support of Tesla, this rare and historic carousel will be powered by the sun and offer a new family recreational and educational attraction located along the boardwalk.

“We are so proud to be a local showcase for the solar roof tiles that are ‘made in Buffalo, New York.’”

The article noted that Tesla didn’t put a dollar value on the solar roof, which consists of two tiers. However, Corky Burger, the organization’s capital campaign director, said that estimates received before Tesla stepped forward came in at around $150,000.

The octagonal roundhouse was designed by eco_logic STUDIO houses a vintage park-style menagerie carousel that was manufactured in 1924 by Spillman Engineering Co.

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/09/21/tesla-donated-a-solar-roof-worth-at-least-150k-to-buffalo-heritage-carousel-in-2020-see-it-now/

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World’s Longest-Operating Solar Thermal Facility is Retiring Most of its Capacity

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The Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) facility in California’s Mojave Desert retired five of its solar plants (SEGS 3 through 7) in July 2021 and plans to retire a sixth (SEGS 8) in September 2021, based on information submitted to EIA and published in our Preliminary Electric Generator Inventory. After SEGS 8 is retired, only one solar thermal unit at SEGS will remain operating (SEGS 9). SEGS, which began operating in 1984, is the world’s longest-operating solar thermal power facility.

Solar thermal power plants use mirrors to focus sunlight onto a receiver, which absorbs and converts the sunlight into thermal energy (heat). The heat is used to drive a turbine, which produces electricity. The SEGS units are parabolic trough concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) systems, meaning that parabolic (u-shaped) mirrors capture and concentrate sunlight to heat synthetic oil in a central tube, which then boils water to create steam. The steam drives the turbine, generating electricity.

The 356-megawatt (MW) SEGS facility was originally made up of nine solar thermal plants. SEGS 1 and 2 were retired in 2015 and replaced with two solar photovoltaic (PV) farms, Sunray 2 and Sunray 3. SEGS 3 through 7 (each with 36 MW of capacity) came online from 1986 to 1988. SEGS 8 and 9 (each with 88 MW of capacity) came online in 1989 and 1990, respectively.

Solar thermal plants account for a relatively small share of utility-scale U.S. solar electric generating capacity. As of June 2021, the United States had about 52,600 MW of utility-scale solar capacity. Of that total, 3.3% was solar thermal; the remaining 96.7% was utility-scale solar PV.

Although solar capacity in the United States is increasing rapidly, most of the capacity additions in recent years have been solar PV. About 42,000 MW of utility-scale PV capacity was added to the U.S. power grid between 2015 and June 2021; no additional solar thermal capacity has been added since the Crescent Dunes plant came online in 2015.

Based on data that developers and power plant owners have reported to EIA, one utility-scale solar thermal plant is planned to come online in the next five years in the United States: Arizona’s 200-MW La Paz Solar Tower. According to trade press and announced projects, several CSP projects are planned or are in development in other countries.

Principal contributor: Singfoong “Cindy” Cheah

Originally published on TODAY IN ENERGY.

Featured image source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Electric Generator Inventory. Note: SEGS 1 and SEGS 2 were replaced by photovoltaic systems Sunray 2 and Sunray 3, respectively, in 2017 after being decommissioned. They appear in EIA data as Sunray 2 and Sunray 3.

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/09/20/worlds-longest-operating-solar-thermal-facility-is-retiring-most-of-its-capacity/

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5-Seat Tesla Model Y Approved For Australia

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The Tesla Model Y (five seater) has now been approved for sale in Australia, TechAU reports. The approval came from Australia’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Communications Road Vehicle Regulator (ROVER) website.

ROVER is the system that administers road vehicles according to the nation’s Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018. From the approval documentation, TechAU found that three variants of the Model Y have been approved for sale — the Standard Range (255 kW power capacity, 69.2 kWh battery), Long Range (375 kW power capacity, 92 kWh), and Performance (393 kW power capacity, 92 kWh battery).

One key thing the article highlighted was a towbar option included in the documentation, leading to the expectation that Tesla will be offering a towing package with the Model Y. In particular, the document showed:

  • Maximum towing mass (braked trailer) — 1600kg
  • Maximum towing mass (non-braked trailer) — 750kg

Here’s the approval document:

There’s not any pricing information as of yet, but the article noted that it’s a pretty safe bet that there will be a $3,000 to $10,000 premium over the Model 3.

The Driven reported that there is no confirmed date for local sales and that Tesla representatives are reportedly indicating to some customers that it’s not on track to start deliveries in late 2021, early 2022, or even late 2022. This could be due to regulatory delays and/or strong demand elsewhere along with the widely reports automotive chip shortages. The Driven also noted, as did TechAU, that when the Tesla Model Y finally arrives in Australia, sales are expected to skyrocket. The Driven emphasized that Australian consumers favor SUVs and that these make up over half of total sales in Australia. So, as popular as the Model 3 is, the Model Y should be even more so.

 

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/09/20/5-seat-tesla-model-y-approved-for-australia/

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