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Sunday, September 25, 2022

My Virtual Summer

Event Notification From Portland General Electric(PGE) Smart Battery Program

We joined our local utility's Virtual Power Plant (VPP). If you want to know more about what a VPP is, we've covered that here. In short, the utility can turn on (discharge) hundreds of home batteries like mine when needed to supply additional power to the grid. It's a dispatchable distributed (cloud) energy storage system. 

A VPP is like Energy from The Cloud

This is a list of all the times this year (so far), that PGE has tapped our battery to support the grid.

2022 PGE VPP Events To-Date
Date       Time            Rate        Energy    
Jan 275PM-8PM   2kW   6kWh  
Jan 285PM-8PM 2kW6kWh
March 18  5PM-6PM 2kW2kWh
April 138PM-9PM 2kW2kWh
April 258PM-9PM 2kW2kWh
July 115PM-8PM 3kW9kWh
July 265PM-8PM 3kW9kWh
July 285PM-8PM 3kW9kWh
Aug 84PM-7PM 3kW9kWh
Aug 174PM-7PM 3kW9kWh
Aug 184PM-7PM 3kW9kWh
Aug 304PM-7PM 3kW9kWh
Sept 64PM-7PM 3kW9kWh
Totals33 Hours90kWh

That's 13 events this year. The early events seemed to be testing out the system. These events were lower power and shorter events. The real use cases started in July. There were 8 of these hot summer day events, where our batteries worked in cooperation with all the other home batteries in VPP to provide energy and frequency stabilization.

I can't help but notice that the energy use total for this year is 90kWhs. Our Tesla Model X is a 90D, which means that the battery capacity is about 90kWhs. So these events used the same amount of energy as one fully charged Tesla Model S/X 90D.


One final note, each of these event notifications comes with a simple opt-out link that you can click if you don't want your home battery to participate. I'm not sure why you'd opt-out if you're signed up for the program, but if you do have a reason to want your battery all to yourself, they make it easy to keep your stored energy for your own purposes.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

6 Years of Tesla Model X Ownership

UPDATED (2022 Sept 21) Corrected unlimited mileage warranty. Hat tip to David Michel. 

Hard to believe it's been six years since taking deliver of a Model X. I still think of it as a 'new car.'

In September of 2016, I took ownership of the best (and most expensive) vehicle that I've ever owned. A Tesla Model X 90D. It's been a fun time even though there were a couple of bumps in the road. 

As early as 2014, I knew a plug-in SUV was going to be one of the vehicles in our home fleet. I assumed it was going to be a plug-in hybrid until I went for a ride along in a friends Model X test drive. This changed my mind. Hybrids (plug-in or not) were no longer on the table. 

I shudder to think about how much money I'd have right now if, in 2016, I had invested those funds into Tesla stock instead of buying a Tesla with it. To be clear, I did some Tesla investing too and it has done well, so I can't complain loudly. In fact, owning a Tesla vehicle made me understand the company, how far ahead they were, and then invest even more into the company stock. I call this self-reinforcing feedback loop The Tesla Cycle; but this is not a post about stock investing. Back to the six-year story.

Quick Stats 

Here are a few stats for my 6th year: 

My 2016 Model X
Miles Driven This Year 5,598
Lifetime Miles Driven   47,789
Lifetime kWh used 30,622
Lifetime Electricity Cost $1,254
Lifetime Fuel Saving (see below)   $10,300
Wh per Mile 603
Miles per kWh 1.7
Cost Per Mile 2.6¢
Trips to Service Center This Year   2


'Fueling' Cost 

Primarily I charge in my garage, overnight, using an off-peak electricity rate of 4.1¢ per kWh. This is the value used in the table above, however, when we travel, we generally use Tesla Superchargers. I'm lucky to have free Supercharging for life (something Tesla no longer offers), so my actual total cost for charging is less than the $1254 amount shown above.

$1,254 is a lot of money, but this powered nearly 48 thousand miles of driving. How much would it have cost me to drive a similar sized and model-year gas vehicle? Let's compare my Model X results to a 2016 BMW X5 M AWD 4DR. The BMW X5 gets 14 city /19 hwy MPG. This means it would have burned about 2,900 gallons of gasoline over these 6 years. At $4 per gallon, fueling the BMW X5 would have cost more than $11,500. So a BWM X5 would have cost over 9 times more than 'fueling' a Tesla Model X. 

Year 6 Adventure Recap

Over the last year, most of our vacation travel has been by road rather than by air, so our Model X has been our primary vacation transportation. We enjoy traveling around the Pacific Northwest. In the last year, we've visited Seattle, Arch Cape and Hug Point Park, Mount Hood, Eugene, and Corvallis. Here are a few photos from this last year's journeys.


I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine where each photo above was taken. 

Service Center Visits

Tesla's New Service Center in Tualatin, OR

First, Tesla has opened a new service center in the west Portland suburbs! This is great. When I first received my vehicle in 2016, the regional service center was in a rental space in Tualatin. Then they opened the South Waterfront Service Center in downtown Portland and closed the (convenient to me) rental location. The South Waterfront site was a much nicer, a larger building, but it is a pain to get to. It was farther away and there's always traffic in downtown Portland. 

This new service center solves that problem. The majority of Tesla vehicles in the region are on the west side suburbs in the Silicon Forest high-tech area and this location is perfectly positioned to service these vehicles. 

Both of my service center visits this year were related to the battery coolant system. I guess that's just something that starts having trouble at this age. 

Here are my two visits: 
  1. In Feb, the coolant heater died (a bit of an oxymoron that coolant needs to occasionally be heated) - This was by far the biggest component failure that we've had during our ownership experience. The vehicle was out of action for 44 days, but they gave us a loaner. We were back on the road in early April.

  2. In June of 2022, we went back into the service center for low coolant levels. Despite just having the coolant completely refilled just 2 months before, it was now reading low. The technician claimed the leak was completely unrelated to the work done in Feb/April. A quick three-way-value replacement and we were back on the road. Service was completed much more quickly this time; I dropped it off at 4PM on a Tuesday and picked it up at 3:30PM the next day. 

Software Updates

One of the coolest features of owning a Tesla is getting software updates. They bring improvements and fun extras. As an older model year, I don't expect (and don't have the required hardware) for all the bells and whistles. However, I'm surprised Tesla still updates vehicles as old as mine. They have long ago collected their payment for the vehicle. Yet, I received three updates this year. 

v10.2 2021.24.28
v11.0 2022.8.10.1 
v11.0 2022.8.10.5 

A few of the features that these updates added: 
  • Stay connected to Wi-Fi while driving - a great feature if you are using your phone as a hotspot
  • Improved Bioweapon Defense Mode - turn it on via the app and purify the air before you enter the vehicle
  • Better driver profiles allows each driver to have their own home and work locations
  • Customizable in-vehicle app launcher - put your favorite app (Spotify) in an easy to access spot in the toolbar 
  • New app features to adjust charging current, scheduled charging from the Tesla app
  • Better Autopark
  • Dark Mode!
  • Several cold weather improvements:
    1. Improved cold weather preconditioning en route to Supercharger
    2. Maintain front defrost climate settings when clearing ice and snow
    3. Precondition cabin via the Tesla app even if the battery is low

Battery Degradation

I've been tracking the battery degradation since the vehicle was about 1 year old. After my poor experience with a 2011 Nissan LEAF, I was concerned about this with any EV I'd be purchasing next.

From Tesla: 

The Battery degradation coverage was clarified in a later version of the warranty:

Model S
Model X
8 years or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first, with minimum 70% retention of Battery capacity over the warranty period.

Now entering year 7, the 8-year warranty terminal date is within sight. Other than the original Tesla Roadster and some really old Model S cars, not too many of Tesla's vehicles are outside of this coverage. With less than 50k miles on the odometer at this point, the 8-year mark is very likely to come before the "unlimited" mile mark (lol). But how close are we to the 70% battery pack retention level? Let's figure it out.

We began this year with 237 miles of range* and we are ending the year with 233 miles of range. We started with an EPA rating of 257 miles of range, and now in year 6 with 233 miles, that's 24 miles (or 9%) of lifetime degradation to-date. This is all easier to see in a graph. 
As you can see the degradation rate is slowing. In the first 3 years, it averaged a little over 2% per year and in the last 3 years, it averaged about 1% per year. We are still under 10% total degradation, so it seems unlikely that we'll have below 70% capacity in time for a warranty claim before the 8-year mark. A free battery pack replacement for me seems very unlikely.  
For completeness, here's the graph that I've shown in previous years, now with a view out the the end of warranty.

Another way to get an estimate of the vehicle range is to charge it to 100% full. I generally don't do this, but before one of our road trips this summer, I did just that. When fully charged, the display reported that we had 242 miles of range on July 22nd, 2022. This is a little more than the 237 mile estimate from the battery monitor, but in the same general area.


Our Model X parked in front of a solar array

For me, fueling our vehicle with energy generated on our own roof is an important and satisfying part of EV ownership. Technically, we usually charge overnight, with off-peak electricity rates, but this allows us to charge our home batteries and feed energy into the grid during mid-peak and peak times, reducing mid-day and peak grid load. As well as making our home batteries available for our local utility to dispatch when the grid needs it most. 

Over the last year our rooftop has generated 11,525 kWhs of energy. This would be enough drive our Model X nearly 20,000 miles. That's three and a half times more than we drove the X during this time.

Wrap Up

Another fun year of Tesla ownership. Our chariot took us on great adventures. Tesla has kept the ownership experience fresh with continued software updates bringing improvements and new features. This is likely one of the reasons our 6 year old vehicle still feels like new.  

We did have to replace parts for the battery coolant heater system, but these things happen. Tesla gave me a loaner vehicle, so I was not without a Tesla in the driveway, there waiting when a get-around was needed. 

Related Links

This is our 16th year driving electric. You can read more of that history here.

If you enjoy this post, you can see our other annual reviews and Model X milestone reports below:

Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Year 4
Year 5


Disclosure: I am long Tesla

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Storm Watch Becomes Fire Watch

Tesla Powerwalls have an opt-in feature called Storm Watch. This is a reassuring feature; if there is a some danger in your area that could interrupt power service, your Powerwalls will charge up so you won't lose power if the grid goes down. If you have a medical device that you depend on and it must be powered, this can literally mean the difference between life and death, but it is also handy to keep the items in your freezer from melting or to keep your HVAC system operating.

Nowadays winter storms are not the only thing taking down the grid. In the summer, days are now hotter and that means more air conditioner usage. This can stress the grid. There are high winds. These can down lines or cause fire risk. That's what's happening as I write this. We received the below warning:  

High Wind Forecast & Potential PSPS Activity

Communities around the area may experience Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) this weekend due to high wind forecasts and elevated fire danger.


Portland General Electric (PGE) is considering safety shutoffs for pre-identified high hazard areas in their service territory. These include select areas in the Tualatin Hills, Coast Range Foothills, and Chehalem Mountain. If initiated, this would impact approximately up to 15,000 customers. Impacted residents have been notified by PGE and would continue to receive notifications both before, during, and after the potential shutoff.

Potential Public Safety Power Shutoffs areas in NW Oregon

This Storm Watch mode is now a year-round feature. Below is the notice that we received from the Tesla app. 

This event put the Powerwall on notice and it began charging up immediately. Usually, the Powerwall only charges from solar. This type of emergency event is the exception, it will charge from the grid and it will charge up regardless of the current solar production level or the current time-of-day electricity rate. The goal is just to get to full as fast as possible. 

Tesla App - Powerwall in Storm Watch Mode

In the image above, you can see our Powerwalls are 100% charged and the active Storm Watch indication. We generally let our Powerwall discharge down to a 20% reserve level in the evening to avoid peak rates as the sun sets. This could mean that, if we unexpectedly lost power, we'd only have 20% of our battery available to get us through the night until the sun comes up the next morning, allowing solar to power our home. Storm Watch is a nice set-it-and-forget-it method to ensure that we have 100% of our battery capacity available when we're most likely to lose power. In the winter, we bump that reserve amount up to 50% since solar production is not as assured.

Red Flag At Night 

For the US, Tesla uses Red Flag events from weather.gov as the trigger Storm Watch events. When we received the notice, I went to the national weather service website to see all of the impacted areas. Here's the map:  

From https://www.weather.gov/ 

As you can see, most of the west coast is under some level of warning and apparently all of Wyoming with most of Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota. 

Zoom in on NW Oregon

As we moved into the weekend, the red flags continued. The winds continued to create an ongoing fire danger. Here is a map of the active fires in Oregon: 

Active Wild Fires In And Around Oregon

With the ongoing fires and increasing winds, PGE did move ahead with the safety shut-off. So if you were in this area, unless you have a generator, home batteries, or an EV like the Ford F-150 Lightning with a Home Integration System, you were in the dark. 


Disclosure: I am long Tesla

Sunday, September 4, 2022

X.com - How Elon Musk Could Reinvent The Internet (X, The Everything App)

If you're familiar with the lore of Elon Musk, then you know he's one of the PayPal Mafia. Musk's x.com merged with Confinity in early 2000 to form PayPal. Musk has retained ownership of the x.com domain for the last 22 years since the creation of PayPal left it without a purpose. As of yet, Musk has done nothing with the URL which he has refused to release for so long.

PayPal was soon acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion. Musk has said that the innovation rate at PayPal plummeted after the acquisition. At that time PayPal was essentially a one-trick pony, you could pay someone by using their email address. It was a nice trick, but Musk and the other Mafia members had a grandiose vision far beyond this for PayPal's future. The plan was for it to be the one-stop-shop for all your financial needs; where you could do all of your traditional banking (savings, checking, credit cards, loans...), investing, and more. The “and more” is the exciting bit. We'll explore what this could mean soon, but first - Twitter. 

The House That Jack Built 

If you're reading this, you undoubtedly know that Musk attempted to buy Twitter earlier this year and it has become a chaotic tumult. The board of Twitter initially resisted Musk's takeover attempt, then changed their mind, just as Musk decided he no longer wanted to go forward with the proposed deal... The courtship has the makings of a rom-com plot. Now they are in court to see who will own Twitter and who will have to pay for breach of contract.

So why does Musk want Twitter? Is it just to continue his meme-lord trolling unabated? No (well at least not just for that purpose).

Musk tweeting about x.com as a potential platform

As the tweet above indicates, if the Twitter deal does not go through then Musk may launch x.com to fulfill his vision. In the 2022 Tesla shareholder meeting, Musk indicated that acquiring Twitter would accelerate his plan by 3 to 5 years. What is that plan?  

There's one more ingredient that I'd like to throw into the pot before we start mixing them to see what might come out. That final ingredient is Dogecoin.

The Doge Father

Musk's obsession with Doge isn't only because it's fun and memeable. Bitcoin is the grandfather cryptocurrency, but Doge might be a better fit for Musk's purposes. Doge is fundamentally different from Bitcoin in several ways: 

  • Bitcoin was intended to be a new decentralized currency; Doge was started as a joke
  • Bitcoin has a max supply of 21 million coins; Doge had no defined limit
  • The price of Bitcoin has been as high as $65,000 USD; Doge has never been over $1
So what do these three big differences mean? Bitcoin is more like digital gold. It can be a store of value, but it is not very transactional. Doge, on the other hand, primarily because of its low price, is much more utilitarian. It is much easier to understand the price of something if it is 5 Doge, rather than 0.0003 Bitcoin.

Further, Bitcoins scarcity grants a tendency for the price to increase over time. This makes it more likely that people will want to horde Bitcoin. Doge, on the other hand, has no built-in scarcity. As more Doge are issued, its price will tend to depreciate. This disincentives hoarding. If you have Doge, you'll be more likely to spend it.

MiXing It All Together

The three ingredients that we're mixing into this vision are a payment platform, a social platform, and a transactional digital currency.

What could X.com become:

   X.com for exchanging ideas
   X.com for exchanging funds

X.com - Mr. Musk, Tear Down This (Pay)wall!

The days of subscribing to just one or two paper newspapers for all of your news are long gone. Today, most of us get our news online from aggregators (e.g., Apple News, Google News, or Flipboard) and/or from social media. This means that there are many potential news sources for interesting articles that are shared. Some of these sources use paywalls to restrict their content exclusively to subscribers.

When the news stories that roll past our screens come from all over the world, subscribing to Hindi Times, Statesman Journal... and all of the regional sites for 2 years because they have one article that I happen to be interested in, is not a viable option.

I suspect this is a problem that many of us have encountered. The average digital subscription is $10 per month. It is unrealistic to think that anyone would have tens of subscriptions at that price. Rather, if there's a story I'm interested in, what I typically do (as I assume many of is do) is google the topic and find another (free) source covering the same story (often using the paywalled article as a source).

How could x.com fix this? Doge

All x.com accounts would come with a built-in Doge wallet. This could be funded by the user or the x.com paid tier (like Twitter Blue) would receive a monthly stipend of Doge. This wallet will be used to access paywalled content without a direct subscription. This would allow the publishers to be paid for their content and allow the public an ala carte option to only pay for the specific articles that they are interested in.

X.com - Pravda & Clickbait 

If you have people on the platform that have verifiably paid for access to an article, you could then allow them to rate the article. This would help weed out clickbait that doesn't deliver the content they tease in the headline. If Musk wanted to deep-dive into this area, articles could be rated on several metrics (accuracy, comedy, credibility, comprehensiveness...) fulfilling his 2018 Pravda vision and granting power to the people to bubble the quality article to the surface. 

Will this yield the wisdom of the crowd or the ignorance of the masses? We may find out. We'll call this a bonus ingredient.

Update: December 3rd, 2022 -- "The Twitter Post"

Musk gave journalist Matt Taibbi access to internal Twitter documents and emails discussing the handling of the 2020 Hunter Biden laptop story. The results were released on Twitter as a lengthy thread called "The Twitter Files." This drove a lot of discussion activity on the site.

This made me wonder, is this the first of a trend that we might see? Will more original stories be released on initially Twitter itself, rather than tweets about stories from other sites? Will Musk hire a handful of journos to write for the site? We know a long-form tweet format feature is coming soon. This would accommodate long-form articles much better than a tweet thread.

Musk could hire a few reporters slightly left-of-center and a few slightly right-of-center (emphasis on slightly). It might even be interesting to see the same topics covered by both groups, each with their own slant.

If Twitter were to do this, what would you call it? The Twitter Post (see what I did there), Tweeter Times, The Song Bird, Twitter Tribune (Tweetbune), Twitter Gazette (Twizette), or (my favorite) The Character Limit.

X.com - Live Events 

If you want to hold a live event similar to Twitter Spaces or Clubhouse, what if you charged a Doge or two to enter or to be promoted to speaker? Popular creators could hold large events and make it very easy for people to buy tickets to an online concert, speaking tour, or stand-up act. These could be immersive 360 events video or simply audio. Attend live podcast recordings and pay a few Doge to ask a question... There are a lot of possibilities.  

X.com - Peer Acknowledgement - Creator Support - Tip Jar 

Occasionally, online you see something that's insightful, inspiring, or just makes your day. When this happens, you might want to more than just click like, you might want to give the creator a tip. With everyone having a Doge wallet as part of their account, it would be easy for creators on the platform to have tip jar.

Speaking of creators, currently, they have no incentive to post content on the site other than to build an audience that they can then direct to their content on other platforms (YouTube, twitch, mech store...) where they can monetize their Twitter following. X.com (or new Twitter) will have to fix this; it will allow creators to monetize their content views and sell merch within the platform.  

X.com - Payments, Banking, & Stocks

Once you have a wallet and online store, the next obvious step is real-world transactions. Tap-to-pay or QR-scanning access to the x.com wallet would allow peer-to-peer transfers or point-of-sales transactions as easily as the Cash App or Venmo do today.  

Remember that grandiose vision for PayPal from 22 years ago. Once you have a payment platform, why stop there. X.com could become the one-stop-shop for all of your financial needs; traditional banking (savings, checking, credit cards, loans, mortgages...), and investing (stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds...). 

"Are you on Twitter again?"
"Yep, just made the mortgage payment."

In Conclusion

There's a lot of potential for a new media site that has a native internet currency. Musk could be the one to bring this into existence either as a next-gen Twitter or as the new x.com. The new site would have a crowdsourced mechanism to evaluate media content and sources. Until then, we have the courtroom drama to watch, to see how the legal battle unfolds, to find out if the single lonely letter x that resides on X.com will ever become something more. 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

One Planet

We have one planet; we all share it; global warming is a global problem. To make the shift to renewable energy, hard choices must be made and political will is required in every city, county, state, country... If we don't make the hard choices now, Mother Nature will make them for us, without compassion, whether we're ready for them or not.