Electric Cars, Cold Weather, and Emergencies

Three things that do not do well together. An electric car can’t fully replace a gas-powered car in my world.

So recently I was at a graduation party for the son of a friend. (It was more like 2 parties, one of high-school kids, one of adults.) One of the neighbors had recently purchased a Tesla, and so someone else came up with a Tesla-cold-weather-driving story. After enjoying the schadenfreude, I went on a search for info about Tesla’s performance in cold weather.

Here’s the situation. You are driving to see family. Your young child develops a medical emergency. So you need to divert from your intended destination to an urgent care, then to the local hospital, and then to a regional hospital. Now for part of that time, the kid was traveling by ambulance, but that isn’t the point. The point is, sometimes plans, destinations, and expected driving distances need to change. Without regard for the nearest charging station.

Here’s the meat of the issue.

We can breathlessly talk about driving range, but neither that nor more chargers would have erased my anxiety—the anxiety of a parent who can’t spare extra minutes because his kid needs to get to the hospital.

Other situations where driving distance is an issue… Evacuation ahead of a hurricane in Florida. Evacuation ahead of the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. I’m sure you can think of others, while playing along on the home version of “Situations where charging time can be deadly.”

The whole thing is well written, and not terribly long. I encourage you to go read the whole thing. Here is the detailed account of what happened to that family at Christmas, driving to see family.

After further discussion and tests at Allen Hospital, it was clear Seth had intussusception—his intestines had folded onto themselves, and nobody could do the more complicated procedure on a toddler at the small-town hospital. I immediately wanted to go north, back to Minneapolis to get him care from doctors we knew and trusted, or at least head north and go to The Mayo Clinic. From that point, that would’ve asked an electric car to cover at least 339 miles, or at most 446 miles in the dead of Iowa winter. Waterloo, Iowa, isn’t far and has electric-car charging, but waiting at a Level 2 charger to charge over hours, at a trickle, wasn’t an option when every minute counts.

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Tesla and SolarCity

The Tesla fanboys were so sure that this merger was going to change the face of power generation. Didn’t really work out that way. MIT Technology Review: Tesla’s trumpeted solar shingles are a flop.

But then I’ve always believed that Tesla (and Musk) were “all hat and no cattle” when it came to solar. For a couple of reasons.

The first is tied up with the reality of what has happened since the merger.

In the more than two years since Tesla acquired SolarCity, its overall solar installations have plummeted by more than 76%.

A Tesla spokesperson told Reuters it’s “actively installing” the Solar Roof product in eight states but declined to discuss its purchases from Panasonic or provide overall installation numbers.

At least they seem to have learned the lesson from the SEC: Don’t embellish the truth.

Those numbers aren’t really a surprise, given the state of SolarCity before the merger. Elon Musk just kicked his shareholders in the teeth. (This is from Business Insider in 2016.)

Now, in case you haven’t been following the SolarCity story, it’s the company that, a few minutes before this deal was announced, Goldman Sachs said was the “worst positioned” for growth in its sector.

So why would someone with no real experience in a business-turnaround capacity, buy such a company? It may only be a coincidence…

It’s also a company that is helmed by Elon Musk’s cousin, Lyndon Rive. Go figure.

Though the stock was down 60% in the year before the merger was announced. Maybe he thought it looked cheap.

Back to the MIT article linked at the top. It looks like Tesla won’t meet the employment numbers it committed to at its “gigafactory” to avoid the penalties inherent in that deal. Though they have another year to get there.

Last year, Tesla ended its months-old retail partnership with Home Depot, and shuttered a number of solar installation facilities. It’s reportedly cut thousands of workers in its solar division since the acquisition. The team also faced difficulties with the appearance and performance of the Solar Roof tiles.

A Bloomberg article late last year said Tesla was operating just one production line at the Buffalo factory, rather than the multiple lines that were supposed to be running at that stage.

And then there is the little issue of actually having a product to sell.

The team also faced difficulties with the appearance and performance of the Solar Roof tiles.

The other reason I always thought Tesla’s move into solar was a joke? (This is not covered in either article.) Musk talked about using his very expensive, lightweight lithium-ion battery technology in homes and businesses. In your phone you want a light battery. In a car you also want to reduce weight. In a building that doesn’t move, why is weight an issue? (Hint: It’s NOT.) In a building that doesn’t move, the issues are cost, life-span, and durability. Long-lasting, cheap batteries, that don’t have a tendency to catch on fire are most desirable. Most homes that rely on solar get by with good old-fashioned lead acid batteries. (Invest in the automatic watering setup!) Want to take a step up? Then there are Nickel-iron batteries. There are also Lithium-iron batteries, which are not lightweight, and not sold by Tesla, that some industrial applications use for backup. (Think cellphone towers in remote locations.) None of those examples move, so weight – critical in applications that specify lithium ion batteries – is basically ignored.

If You Live Behind a Dike, You Should Expect to be Flooded

It is the dirty little secret from the age when governments thought they could command the tides. Dike in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac was inspected, but failed anyway.

While most people’s attention – in the US anyway – is focused on Davenport, Iowa, (at least on the subject of flooding) there has been another dike failure in the past week. That was on Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac in Quebec, Canada.

Hydrologist François Brissette says Saturday’s flooding tragedy was foretold for decades: “The reason they are protected by dikes is because their houses are built in a lake.”

As noted in that article, once upon a time, people only built (relatively cheap) vacation shacks in flood plains. That changed when folks decided that they wanted to live full-time on the river or the lake, and the .gov was happy to enable their bad decisions by building various flood control systems. But that doesn’t mean you are not in a flood zone.

And so Davenport, Iowa is in a similar situation, and facing more of the same. City to sound air horns if dike fails near Garden Addition.

Davenport officials are warning residents of the Garden Addition neighborhood about a possible dike failure that could worsen flooding in the West End.

Some houses were bought out after the 1993 flood, but not all. For those of you who don’t remember the 1993 flood, you can find a lot of info on the web. This article from STL News is pretty good as an overview. And 1993 wasn’t that long ago, but 26 years could have seen improvements.

And before anyone jumps on the point I am aware of the old saying, “God made the world, but the Dutch built Holland.” But take a look at what they spend on flood defenses, and get back to me on where in the US we want to sign up for similar expenditures. Assuming that the environmentalists haven’t decided that dikes/levees are not green enough.

Remember When Tesla Was Going to Sell Solar Stuff at Home Depot?

Someone (aside from me) used the term “liquidation.” Tesla’s Firesale Of Its Solar Inventory Begins.

Back in February 2018, the company said it would sell panels in 800 Home Depot stores – that idea lasted until June, only 4 months later, when they ended the partnership.

There there was other bit of marketing hype.

The solar roof shingles that Tesla pitched to the public about 2 years ago have also not come to fruition yet.

Maybe

I’ve said it many times. We pay for expensive, lightweight batteries for your home. Your home doesn’t move. For your car, weight is important, or your phone Lithium ion batteries make sense. When they don’t need to move, or fit in your pocket, not so much. For a fixed installation, you want them to be relatively cheap, reliable.

I Blame Global Warming

Weather or Climate Change? You decide. Weather Forecast: Winter Storm Watch Issued for Several Chicago-Area Counties.

The winter weather could leave anywhere between 3 and 5 inches of snow on the ground in areas north of I-88

To be fair, April 27th is listed as the “final frost date” for that part of the world, so it isn’t really unheard of to have cold weather this late. (That date is from the Farmer’s Almanac.)

Pirate’s Cove on Climate Change

William Teach at Pirate’s Cove has a long list of posts deconstructing the Climate Change cult, but this one is especially entertaining. And on point. Say, What Does Life Look Like After “Solving” Hotcoldwetdry?.

There’s been a concerted effort as of late by the Cult of Climastrology to attempt to paint the world after implementing tons and tons of Warmist policies as being a utopia. Here’s another

Anyway, I think it’s worth a bit of your time. If only for the green hammer and sickle he uses.

Snowpack Above Average in California

I blame Global Warming. Or Climate Change. What the Latest Eastern Sierra Snowpack Measurement Means for the LA Aqueduct.

The final snowpack measurement in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains showed levels well above average after winter’s unrelenting storms in California.

Snowpack is 162 percent of average over the entire state.

The only thing amazing about this story is that NBC Los Angeles has to define “aqueduct” in a city that has relied on an aqueduct for its drinking water for more than 20 years. They also feel they have to emphasize that snow melts in the spring, and note that gravity makes water run downhill. For that blinding ignorance, thank a teacher’s union.