Featured Post

Plug In Drivers Not Missin' the Piston

This is the Kodak Moment for the Auto Industry. Electric vehicles are here to stay. Their market acceptance and growth will continue....

Friday, January 12, 2018

When Will Tesla Hit 200,000 Sales in the U.S.? [Q4 2017 Update]

2017 was an exciting year for electric vehicles. Among the many milestones, there are two
(or three) relevant to this discussion: one, the US Federal Tax Credit survived the political budget process; two, the Tesla Model 3 began shipping to Tesla employees in July and (3) to non-employees in December.

Now that Model 3 is shipping, I (and thousands of others) are patiently (or not so patiently) awaiting our delivery and (if we're in the US) we want to know if we'll get the EV tax credit for our new Tesla!

Tesla released their 2017 delivery numbers, so we can update our prediction model and see where it forecasts the incentive phase out to begin and how many more Tesla vehicles can qualify for the full $7500 amount.

Tesla's 2017 Deliveries

Tesla delivered just over 50,000 cars to the US market in 2017 with ~15,000 of those in Q4. This brings the total US delivery number up to ~160,000 cars. Remember the incentive starts its phase out 3 to 6 months after a manufacturer hits 200,000 deliveries. So Tesla only has ~40,000 cars to go before the trigger number is hit and the countdown starts to reduce the incentive.

Tesla Model 3 Options

If you want to get your Model 3 sooner, you can get the First Production version. This is rear-wheel drive with the long-range battery and premium upgrades. If you want the cheaper standard range version or the all-wheel drive, you can see an example of how this will impact your potential delivery below:

For the example schedule above the First Production vehicle could be delivered in just four weeks from the time the configure button is clicked. The more affordable $35,000 car could be delivered a few months later, and finally, the Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive in seven to nine months after the First Production would be in your driveway. There is still no official word on the white interior or the performance version of Model 3 yet. If those are on your desired feature list, keep your fingers crossed that they roll out with the model variants above.

If your car were on this example schedule and you waited for the Dual Motor AWD car, would you receive the full $7500 tax credit?

Tax Credit Cut Off

We've been tracking Tesla's US sales for over a year now. About a year, back then we predicted that Tesla would cross the 200,000 mark in Q2 of 2018. The Tesla superfans thought this was crazy late because Tesla would be making 5.000 Model 3s per week by the end of 2017. While I hoped they were right, the data said otherwise. Rather, we looked at all the hurdles that needed to be overcome and said that Tesla would ship a few thousand Model 3s in 2017. Musk's own warning statements (not his bold predictions) were used to support this forecast. As the 2017 production numbers rolled in each quarter, our prediction continued to come into focus as you can see here, here, and here.

With 160,000 Tesla's on US roads and a current delivery rate of 15,000 per quarter (and increasing), unless there is a major disruption, Tesla certainly will hit the 200,000 number at some point this year. So, let's look at the data:

Just as it has for more than a year, our model predicts the 200,000th US Tesla car will be delivered in Q2 of 2018. This is not the hyped expectation nor the pessimistic one; each of which have their following, but a realistic prediction that, so far, has proven to hold up over one year's worth of additional car deliveries.

If this model is correct and the 200,000th car is delivered in Q2 of 2018, here's how the incentive would phase out.

That means the example delivery schedule given at the beginning of this article, could wait for the standard battery in "Early 2018" or the dual motor AWD in Q3 and still receive the full incentive.

Maximize The Incentive

Looking at the prediction model in more detail, since it shows 200,000th delivery in June (late in Q2), Tesla may opt to stockpile some and/or divert some Model S and X deliveries to Norway or China so that the 200,000 mark is crossed in July rather than June. Delivering the milestone vehicle early in the 3rd quarter would allow Tesla to maximize the number of deliveries that fall under the full incentive. This is likely to be a decision that is made as late as possible so they will have the most certainty possible.

If Tesla cannot deliver the 200,000th car in April of 2018, they will likely delay the delivery until July.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Tesla: What to Expect in 2018

What does Tesla have in store for us in 2018?

Following Tesla, there are always surprises. You never know when Elon Musk is going to launch a car into space or tweet about drilling tunnels, selling flamethrowers, or building a 50s style diner with food delivery on roller skates.

A few things that we should expect might see in 2018:
  • Ramping Model 3 production to 5,000 per week
  • Standard range Model 3 deliveries
  • Dual motor Model 3
  • Announcing locations and perhaps even breaking ground on one or two new Gigafactory locations
  • Coast to coast autonomous drive 
  • Solar roof tile deliveries 
  • Megacharger location deployments
  • Sneak peaks of the Roadster 2020 and Semi as they start road testing
  • New Tesla mobile app with several new features
By July of 2018, we can expect Tesla to be the first automaker to cross the 200,000 US vehicle delivery mark. This starts the countdown to phase out the US federal incentive for Tesla's vehicles.

A few more things we might see:
  • A reveal event for Model Y 
  • More info about Tesla Pickup Truck (what is the game-changing feature?)
  • Performance version of Model 3
  • Model S and X interior redesign to bring it up to snuff with the Model 3 minimalism 
  • Model S and X moving to the 2170 cell. This is certainly possible, but given the desire to ramp Model 3 as fast as possible, it may be a good idea to keep S & X on the unconstrained 18650 for another year.
  • 120kWh Model S / X: if these vehicles move to the 2170, a range upgrade would be a nice add-on
  • Improved voice commands that reduce the need to use the touchscreen for many settings
  • TeslaTunes streaming music service
  • Tesla Network ridesharing service
  • Surprises that we could never predict
What surprises do you expect from Tesla in 2018?

====== UPDATE ======

A few updates from readers:
  • Stop sign \ stop light recognition
  • Navigation route following
  • Full-self driving 
  • HUD 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Trolley Problem and Murder Hospital


  • The Trolly Problem might be a philosophical construct that won't happen in the real-world, but the press around it will mean that some variant of it will be in autonomous car simulators
  • The _ethical_ case for hitting 5 people, rather than 1 is presented

Full Story:
If you've talked about (or read about) autonomous cars, then you've heard of "The Trolley Problem." If you haven't encountered this, count yourself lucky.

To briefly recap, here's how The Trolley Problem goes:
There's a runaway trolley car is barreling down the tracks. There's no way for you to stop it. Ahead, on the tracks, there are 5 people tied down, unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You're standing next to a track lever. If you pull the lever, the trolley will divert to a different track and the 5 will be safe. However, there's 1 person tied to the other track. What do you do?

Each time I've encountered it, I thought, "Who cares? In the real-world, it will never come up. It is just a philosophical debate of no consequence." Chatting with a friend, the topic again came up and after my "This doesn't matter" objections, we agreed that, if for no other reason than the press around the topic, some variation of the trolley problem will be put into the training simulators for self-driving cars and the cars will have to do something, the system will have to make a choice. What should it be?

You have two standard options:
1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the 5 people
2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley, where it kills 1 person

You can save five lives by sacrificing one. Would you do it?

Assuming you know nothing about the people, the utilitarian answer seems to be: Pull the lever because 5 is greater than 1. You've saved a net-sum of 4 lives.

Let’s continue that reasoning. If you were sitting on a bridge above the tracks, and you saw the trolley heading towards 5 people, and you knew that you could shove the person next to you off the bridge, thereby derailing the trolley and saving 5, should you do it?

In this second case, most people now say 'No' because murder.

The results are the same in each case, 1 person dies to save 5 based on your actions; yet, these two feel very different. I propose that the response in the 2nd case (the bridge), of doing nothing, is the right one for both situations.

In both cases, the 5 are the ones that are in danger (by who knows what cause) and the 1 has not put themselves in danger (they were off the active track…). So the 5 must be the ones to suffer the consequences of their circumstances and it is wrong to force anyone else to suffer on their behalf.

Let's look at one more example, Murder Hospital, to make this point. If there were a national organ registry and they analyzed it periodically. During this analysis, if they found out that you could save 5 or more people by having your organs harvested, then they would round you up for harvesting.

My guess is that you would not like to live in a world with that system. Even if they told you that you would save 5 lives, plus your skin will be used for graphs to help burn victims and your eyes will be used to restore sight for someone. Your blood will go to help people in an ER. You will help more than a dozen people in very positive ways. Saving lives and restoring sight, you should be honored that you’ve been selected. And as part of the package, your family gets a lottery-sized check and will be taken care of for life. One life seems like a small price to pay to bring life and joy to so many.

So we should implement forced organ harvesting immediately, right? Of course not! You might feel sympathy for these sick people and you may donate money to their causes or volunteer time to their organizations, but sacrificing your life for people that you don't know is asking too much. In the end, the tragic situations of their lives are theirs to deal with; reasonable help and support are all that should be expected.

These life and death choices are not made by the simple utility of the outcome. They have to be based on the fairness of the situation. As Murder Hospital demonstrates, sacrificing an uninvolved bystander without their consent is wrong, even if it saves the greater number of people.

The ethical case for an autonomous car to run over five people instead of one

Applying this to autonomous cars, it means that the car doesn’t swerve into the smaller crowd, to avoid the larger one. If the car cannot avoid the accident (avoidance is, of course, always preferred), then it does all they can (such as braking) to mitigate the damage to what is right in front of them and then just lets fate take its course.

This has several advantages:
  1. This action is "more human." In the midst of an accident, no one is going to go through the ethical debate of which way to swerve. It is far more likely that they would just hit the brakes.
  2. It is easier to program. Look for a clear path, if one cannot be found, then brake.
  3. You won’t have bystander video footage of a car flying off the road and hitting innocent pedestrians.
Advantages aside, self-driving cars should act this way because it is the right thing to do. I assert that self-driving cars should act to minimize involvement (rather than simple utilitarian harm). When there's an imminent accident, the people, be they pedestrians crossing the street or in an oncoming car, are already involved. They voluntarily entered the arena where cars traverse. In doing so, they took on some measure of risk and responsibility.

So my answer to The Trolley Problem is to stay on the straight tracks. In a car, however, there are no tracks. Cars will have many more options. They can dodge, skid, brake, drift, and more. Autonomous cars will, at some point, have thousands of years of driving experience and skills beyond any human. These cars will be controlled by powerful AIs that do this one thing (driving) really really well. With these skills, they will likely find a way to avoid hitting anyone. Which all brings me back to the start: The Trolley Problem, won't be a problem.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Winter Driving In A Tesla

Tesla Model S in the Snow, Image via caricos.com

Tesla has released firmware version 2017.50 and it has new cold weather features. We'll show you tips that work with this new firmware and tips that you can use in any electric vevhicle.

Old man winter's here and it's cold outside. The cold weather and road contions have impacts on driving regardless of the fuel source. In an EV, winter conditions have range impacts. If you want to maximize your winter driving range, there are some smart things that you can do in a Tesla to make winter driving comfortable and to maximize your winter range.

1. Preheat Your Car

Climate Control in Tesla App
Using the Tesla app, you can preheat your car while it is still plugged in. This allows the cabin to heat up using wall power instead of battery power, leaving more of your battery energy to move you down the road. You might even pre-condition 4 or 5 degrees above where you'd like it normally to further delay the use of battery power for the climate system once you are on the road.

It takes a lot less energy to maintain a warm temp than to raise the temp, so this tip pays off and now you get to step into a nice warm ride. #winwin

To use this tip, you must keep your car plugged in. Occasionally, new EV owners worry that leaving their car plugged in will damage the battery or cause a memory effect. With Teslas, the saying is "A plugged in Tesla, is a happy Tesla." There is memory effect concern with modern Lithium batteries. If you plan on leaving your can for any period of time, set the range down into the "Daily" region and keep it plugged in. This allows the car to draw power whenever it needs it for various thermal maintenance and connectivity actions.

1b. Scheduled Preheating

As I write this, there is no option to schedule a reoccurring climate control event in the app, but a major overhaul of the Tesla app is expected in 2018 and this is an oft requested feature so I would not be surprised to see it arrive soon. There are 3rd party apps available today that will allow you to pre-heat on a fixed schedule if this is a must have for you and you don't want to wait.

2. Pre-Heat The Battery 

Starting with firmware version 2017.50, Tesla added a new feature to precondition the battery. It might be more accurate to say that the app now displays this to the user since the car has had this feature for several years, but now the driver can see the battery temperature state.

When the battery is too cold, it is limited in many ways. It cannot charge or discharge at its full rate. This limits acceleration and regen. With limited regen, energy is wasted rather than recaptured and your range will be reduced.

When temperatures are near freezing and the battery would benefit from preconditioning, you'll see the snowflake icon and a blue region in the Tesla app. The blue region shows the portion of the battery capacity that is currently not available due to the cold temperature. To start the preconditioning, just turn on the climate control system. Climate control only takes a few minutes to heat or cool the cabin but warming the battery takes about an hour, so plan ahead when possible.

Using this feature will allow you to regain the blue region of the battery and increase your range and performance.

Just like Tip #1 above, to maximize range, make sure the car is plugged in.

3. Heated Seats

Model X 6 Seat Config w/ Subzero Package
If you live in a region that has a notable winter season or you just don't like being cold, it's worth it to get the subzero package when you buy a Tesla. It adds heated seat, heated wiper blades, heated washer nozzles, headed mirrors, and a heated steering wheel.

Heating the seats and the steering wheel is a much better way to stay warm than heating all the air in the cabin. Depending on the outside temp, this may be all the warming that you need.

4. Snow Tires & Alternatives


The above tips have been about keeping you warm and maximizing range. This tip is about keeping you safe. Winter driving can be dangerous. Make sure you use adequate traction control for the conditions and slow down as needed to maintain control.

If you live someplace with harsh winter conditions, then you should likely get winter tires and carry chains. Tesla sells traction devices that are made to fit their cars in their "shop" website.

I am fortunate that we only have a few days each year of snow and ice. On these rare days, I can generally work from home so I usually don't have to drive in the snow unless we're headed up to Mt. Hood for some skiing fun.

Even though snow and ice driving are not part of my typical routine, it's better to be prepared. I don't want to stranded if there is a surprise snowstorm while I'm out of the house. If we need supplies or there's an emergency, I want to be able to drive in winter conditions. To cover this case, I carry a set of AutoSocks in the car. These are light and easy to put on. They slip over the tire like a shower cap. Much easier to put on than chains and they work far better than I thought they could.

I'm not sure that you'd want to use them on a 100-mile skip trip, but they'd work great for a trip to the store on a cold winter's day. You can pick up a set here.

5. Smart Climate Control

When it's cold in the car, you might be tempted to crank the heater up all the way. Tesla's cars have powerful heaters that can bring the cabin temp up to 80F/27C quickly. This is usually a waste of energy. Instead of setting it on HI, just set it to the temp that you want, such as 72F/22C and let the HVAC system do its thing. This will avoid the overshoot that will likely occur if you are manually controlling the system.

As we mentioned in tip 3, make sure you are warming your seat when you're cold. If this is not enough, this can be supplemented with the cabin heater. You might notice that you can leave the HVAC temp a little lower than you normally would when you have your hands and buns already warm. This might also mean that all you really need to do is warm your feet, so you can direct the HVAC air to just that region.

If you turn on Range Mode in your Tesla, the HVAC system power is reduced. This can help in this case, but it is generally needed if you follow the tips above to preheat, seat heat, and use a smart temp.

6. Chill Mode

Depending on the options that you buy with your Tesla, you'll have 2 or more acceleration modes. They are: Standard, Chill, & Performance/Ludicrous/Launch. When you are driving on snow and ice, gradual acceleration is a good idea. Chill Mode acceleration can help keep all the tires gripping. Traction control certainly will still kick in as needed, but Chill Mode can help you lighten your foot a little and prevent you from needing it as often.

Chill Mode also seems to engage the regen a little slower, this means it can help when slowing down as well as when accelerating.

7. Driving Speed

Speaking of chilling, now that you have the cabin, battery, and seats warmed up and the climate control set just right, it's time to drive.

If you want to increase your driving range, one of the simplist ways is to slow down a bit. Drag is a function of the square of velocity, so even taking 5 MPH off your speed could have a notable impact on the range. When you are driving on ice and snow, slowing down is a good idea for safety too. Here, you have the additional benefit improved range.

8. Route Planning

Know Before You Go: As always, when traveling in an EV, make sure to allow for a margin of error on your routine planning and charging. You don't want to get stranded. Especially in the winter, road closures are possible and you may have to take a detour. Make sure you have enough charge to get to your next stop. If you have an app like PlugShare, it can help you find a place to grab a few extra killowatt-hours if the unexpected happens and you need a charge.

Anytime you stop and plug in, make sure to preheat the cabin and seats again before you unplug and get back on the road. If you've been driving and charging, the battery pack should not need to be warmed up again.

9. Clear The Snow

Snow Brush and Ice Scraper
If you stop to charge, this is also a good time to clear the snow that has likely accumulated on the car. Snow and ice can block the sonar sensors and can add drag to the car. I like to carry a brush-scrapper combo like the one shown above. The brush is great for the snow and the scraper for the window ice. You can get one here in blue or red to match your car (assuming it's blue or red :)

Bonus Tip 

The side view mirror defrost does not have its own setting. They are enabled when the rear window defrost is turned on.

Wrapping Up

I hope these tips help you stay warm this winter. Have a nice cup of cocoa when you make it to your destination. Be sure to wear a good coat, hat, and gloves for the trek. Drive Safely.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Profitably Powering The Tesla Semi

While talking with some EV-driving friends about the Tesla Semi, we got to the subject of paying to charge the truck on the road. At the Semi unveiling event, Elon Musk said that it would cost 7¢ per kilowatt-hour anywhere to charge in North America. To my surprise, they didn't think that Tesla could profitable sell energy for such a cheap price. One of these friends drives a Tesla and is a big fan of the company, so I was surprised to hear his skepticism. I asserted that they could.

Everyone has opinions, but let's look at some data and try to make it an informed opinion.

Wholesale Electricity Market

The US Energy Information Administration tracks US wholesale prices here:

Looking at the numbers for 2016 and 2017, you can see that wholesale prices are generally $30-$50 per MWH. That is only 3 to 5¢ per kilowatt-hour. There are times when it is 9 or 12¢, but just as many times when it is 2¢.

Tesla has acquired SolarCity and they are in the energy business. This gives them access to the wholesale market in many regions. Looking at the wholesale data alone, you could profitably buy energy on this market and resell it at 7¢ per kWh. However, this is only part of the picture.

Demand Charges

What makes industrial energy expensive are demand charges. Large industrial electricity consumers are charged per kilowatt-hour similar to residential customers, but they additionally have to pay a demand charge. Whereas industrial electricity rates are pennies per kilowatt-hour (generally cheaper than residential rates), demand charges are generally several dollars per kilowatt-hour. Depending on the usage, these demand charges can be up to 80% of the energy bill. Demand charges are designed to discourage big swings in demand from the grid. If industrial customers can use energy at a steady and predictable pace, then the utility can better serve everyone. Steady predictable usage helps prevent brownouts and the need for more expensive peaker plant sources such as diesel generators to be powered on by the utility.

Controlling demand charges the key to industrial electricity usage. If Tesla can buy energy for 3 to 5¢ and sell it for 7¢, they have a positive gross margin. If they have $8 per kWh demand charges on top of that, they have a big loss.

Applying this to Tesla Megacharger stations, there are three mechanisms that Tesla has to manage these demand charges: Onsite energy storage (Tesla Powerpacks), Solar energy production, Charging speeds. Let's look at each of these.

Onsite Energy Storage

Tesla's Megacharger stations will most likely have Powerpack energy storage systems as part of their design. Using these batteries Tesla can manage their grid demand. During a peak use time, rather than draw all the energy from the grid, they could, for example, draw 80% from the grid and 20% from their onsite batteries. This allows them to reduce the grid draw while not requiring the onsite batteries to take 100% of the needed demand. The batteries can then be recharged long after the semi is back on the road. This draws the same amount of energy from the grid, but it smooths out the load and reduces or avoids demand charges.

Utility Services

Once Tesla has Powerpacks installed, they could offer Peak Shaving and Load Shifting energy storage services to the local utilities. In many regions utilities have renewable energy goals. If they have to turn on demand standby sources (peaker plants) such as diesel generators, this could blow their CO2 budget and result in fees (in addition to the fuel cost).

If Tesla offered Demand Response Services to local utilities, they could have an additional revenue stream for these sites. Today, for Tesla to build an energy storage system for a utility, they have to go through an arduous approval process. However, if the Powerpacks are already installed and Tesla is offering this as a service, the upfront cost to the utility would be much smaller and the approval process to use the service could be much simpler.

Solar Energy

As we covered recently, a solar carport covering 40 parking spots (depending on where it is installed) can provide enough energy to power 100,000 Tesla Semi Truck miles annually. This is energy that Tesla can sell without buying it on the wholesale market.

Additionally, when solar is paired with energy storage, this allows for load demand management. The solar panels will produce energy during the day. Any semi charging that occurs when the sun is out would allow the onsite management software to determine the best combination of sources to draw energy from (solar panels, batteries, and/or grid).

Excess solar energy would be stored in the Powerpacks for evening use. The Powerpacks could then be recharged overnight at off-peak rates for morning charging events before sufficient solar energy has been generated for the day.

Charging Rate

Last on the list of things that Tesla could do to control Demand Charges is to slow the recharge rate of the Semis at the Megacharger. This is not something that they are likely to do, but it is an option. If they hit a case say at 8PM when the Powerpacks are drained, the solar is no longer generating and using grid energy is the only option. Then charging at 90% instead of 100% would reduce the grid load.

Capital Costs

Installing Megacharging stations with solar carports and Powerpacks will be expensive. Today, however, the markets are willing to invest in Tesla's growth. Projects like this, with significant capital outlays are only possible when they expand the market potential for a company. For Tesla, freight hauling is a new market with the possibility for huge future revenues, so the markets are again likely to fund this topline growth.

Gas Station Model 

I've been making the case that the energy sales alone could be profitable. However, it is worth pointing out that at franchise gas stations, the station owners make little or no money from the pumps. The profits from the fuel sales go to the parent company. The franchise makes its profit from the store. The coffee, Marlboro, and Slim Jim sales are what keeps the lights on at your local gas stations.

Tesla Megacharger stations are going to have amenities such as coffee shops and restaurants. Sales are more likely to be lattes and scones than Marlboros and Slim Jims though. These amenities sales will be a much higher margin portion of the Megacharger revenue.

Wrap Up

This post started with the assertion by my friend that Tesla would lose money by selling energy at 7¢ per kWh. A first-order approximation response shows that wholesale energy markets commonly sell energy for 3 to 5¢ and that reselling for 7¢ could be done profitably. Additionally, Tesla will generate their own energy onsite with solar panels. These require very little ongoing maintenance and will allow Tesla to sell energy without buying it from the wholesale market.

With solar and onsite storage, Tesla has all the tools they require to mitigate demand charges. Tesla has further opportunities to generate revenue with the Megacharger stations by offering peak-shaving and load shifting services to local utilities.

There will be a significant cost to build-out this infrastructure, but the market has shown a willingness to fund Tesla's topline growth and Tesla's market darling status does not appear to be in any danger. This will allow Tesla to raise capital as needed to fund this growth.

All this allows Tesla to branch increase their revenue, grow their infrastructure, and take a chunk of a new market.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

How Many Solar Panels To Power A Tesla Semi Truck

I've seen a couple attempts to figure out how solar energy would be needed to "fuel" a Tesla Semi Truck. The analyses that I've seen have several flaws. They assume things like the panels must provide power at the same level as the charging system or that charging at night would cause problems. I'll show that neither of these are problems.

The primary failure of these analyses is that they confuse power and energy. I even conflated them in the title of this article (depending on how you read it). If you want to understand the difference between power and energy, you can read about it here. When you are looking at how far the semi can go, what matters for our purposes is energy.

The Tesla Megacharger stations will have onsite batteries and they will be grid-tied. This means that energy use can be time-shifted from the energy generation and the system could use net metering as well as the batteries as a form of energy storage.

If the energy can be generated and stored in onsite batteries, then the power levels that are needed can be supplied without taxing the grid. The level of power that is drawn from the grid does matter for demand charges and we'll cover methods to mitigate this in our next article. This just leaves us with one question:

Can solar panels generate enough energy to significantly supply a Tesla Semi?

To be clear, I don't mean solar panels on the semi truck itself. We're talking about stationary rooftop or carport solar panels. Will it take 4000 homes worth of rooftop solar installations or just a handful of rooftops PV panels worth?

Several years ago, we wrote an article that detailed how you could calculate how big of a solar array you'd need to supply your own EV. Now, we'll use the same tools and apply them to the Tesla Semi.

This is a two-step process: One, determine the energy need. Two, size the solar array to meet that need.

One: Determining the Semi Energy Needs

According to Tesla, their Semi uses less than 2 kWh per mile. To cover the worst-case, we'll use 2 kWh in our calculations. According to the Federal Highway Administration, a typical semi drives about 45,000 miles each year on average. Long-distance trucks travel upwards of 100,000 miles a year.

Using these datapoints, we can determine that a Tesla Semi driving a typical 45,000 miles annually will use about 90,000 kWh each year. A road warrior Semi would need 200,000 kWh. For context, in 2016, the average annual electricity consumption of a U.S. residential customer was 10,766 kWh. So a typical Tesla Semi will use the energy of about 8.4 typical U.S. homes.

Two: Determining Solar Array Size

Now that we know the typical and extreme energy use, we can size a solar PV system to meet this need. How much energy is produced by solar panels depends on where they are installed. Not surprisingly, sunny locations produce more energy. Since Tesla Megachargers will be installed all around the world. To get some idea of the impact we'll look at sunny San Diego and rainy Portland, Oregon.

Using the calculator at the National Renewable Energy Lab, you can determine that in sunny San Diego, to generate 90,000 kWh, you would need a 53 kW system. We have a 12kW system on our house. Assuming a similar rooftop size, 5 San Diego home rooftops could drive a Tesla Semi more than 45,000 miles.

Looking at rainy Portland, running the numbers, it would take a 78kW (6.5 rooftops) PV system. That is big, but not undoable. You can use the link above and plug in your own town and see for yourself how big of a PV system would be needed where you live.

Solar Carport at Intel Jones Farm in Hillsboro, Oregon
Above is a picture of a 400kW SolarCity carport. An installation like this in San Diego would generate 664,000 kWh/year. This would fuel a Tesla Semi for ~332,000 miles. That means each of these carports that covers 40 cars could fuel one of the 100,000-mile road warriors with miles to spare.

In Portland, a carport installation like this would generate 469,000 kWh/year, enough for 235,000 Tesla Semi miles.


Solar carports and rooftops can provide enough energy for hundreds of thousands of miles.

Now, if you hear someone say. "It would take football fields worth of solar panels to power a Tesla Semi", you know the truth of it. You now know that a 40 car solar carport could supply enough energy for 100,000 miles. That means coving a 400-car parking lot at the mega-mall or outlet stores with solar carports would deliver enough energy for over 1 million Tesla Semi truck miles.

If you hear someone say, "It would take the power of 4000 homes," you know that it is energy that matters and that it only takes 5 or 6 houses worth of solar to supply a typical Tesla Semi's annual needs.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Plug Your Ride

Our Affordable Tesla Fan Gift Guide was recently featured on the Plug Your Ride podcast!

I listen to a lot of podcasts and Plug Your Ride is one of my favorites. The host is Eddie Haskell. He's a Tesla owner and enthusiast that brings a fun slant to Tesla news as well as stories of his own Tesla ownership experience.

A regular feature of his show is Tesla tips and tricks. This week, I was surprised to hear in Episode 50 that his Tip Of The Week was a post from this blog.

To return the favor, I'm writing this post to plug his podcast. So here's a plug for Plug Your Ride from Cars With Cords. Thanks Eddie!

You can find the Plug Your Ride podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or at their RSS feed.