Gas2 Week in Review, September 24: Tesla Tops the News Cycle — Again

Tesla tops our Gas2 headlines this week, surpassing stories about possible biofuel sources like seaweed, confusion over why hybrid cars don’t achieve promised mileage if they’re not plugged in, slashing congestion in LA with more ride sharing, and even an announcement about a new battery cell with higher energy density.

Why is the public so fascinated by Tesla?

Tesla symbolizes the momentous shifts toward electrification in transportation that are taking place all around us. Tesla is also a constant reminder that many of the dominant auto manufacturers today may not survive in a carbon-neutral future.

Another Gas2 article this week charts the changes in society that widespread adoption of the electric car may bring, and the article may help us to understand the Tesla phenomenon a bit better. Globally generated wealth. Drops in oil consumption. Cleaner air and health-related dividends. Here in the interim, we’ll take a closer look at those Tesla stories that captured so much of our interest and imaginations this week.

Here is this week’s edition of “The Gas2 Week in Review.”

Tesla tops

Tesla May Locate Repair Facilities At Some Supercharger Locations

Could Tesla service stations be co-located with its Superchargers? That’s the latest possibility as recently related by Tesla Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel. The scenario makes fiscal sense for traveler-focused companies who will no longer have to build massive underground tanks to store their gasoline and diesel; instead, they can invest in infrastructure required to charge 20, 40, or 144 EVs at the same time on three-phase 480V power. For customers, the convenience associated with a safe, bright environment in which to snack or dine while their Tesla is charging is quite appealing. For the food service industry, a captive audience who will be on site for 20-30 minutes is a lure that can’t be overlooked. Tesla already has existing relationships with numerous food service locations that have opted to open up their parking lots for Tesla Superchargers, so new partnerships here make sense.

Tesla Developing Proprietary Chip For Autonomous Driving Use

Tesla may be supplanting its current advanced supercomputer from Nvidia with its own proprietary computer chip for use in Tesla autonomous driving systems. A massive amount of computing power is required to make the millions of calculations per second necessary for autonomous driving systems. With systemic wariness of outside suppliers, Tesla tops the list of automakers who like to do as many operations as possible in house, where it can control performance, timeliness, and price. The new chip would be specifically designed for autonomous driving duties. Reports suggest that Tesla is collaborating with AMD on development of the new chip, but Sanjay Jha, CEO of AMD, will only confirm that his company is working with several automakers on dedicated computer chips.

Tesla First Responder Manual Offers Insights Into Model 3 Construction

First responders deal with a variety of safely hazards — from a battery fire to retrieving a submerged car. Rescuing passengers from a Tesla Model 3 (or any electric car) requires fire and rescue personnel to be aware of high-voltage links that pose potential safety hazards. Some systems might explode due to heat or intrusion from hydraulic shears, especially air bags, air suspension components, and seat belt pre-tensioners. The new Tesla first responders’ manual designates a number of “no cut zones” that should be avoided for safety purposes. Worry about battery fires in electric cars may be excessive, but Tesla does offer first responders an extensive list of precautions nonetheless. The Tesla first responders’ manual indicates that a hot battery can emit noxious fumes that are potentially hazardous to health, including “volatile organic compounds, hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, soot, particulates containing oxides of nickel, aluminum, lithium, copper, cobalt, and hydrogen fluoride.”

Shanghai Home To World’s Largest Tesla Supercharger Facility

Currently, the largest Tesla Supercharger facility has 20 stalls and is located in Nebbenes, Norway, a rural town 40 miles outside Oslo. As part of Tesla’s commitment to China, Tesla will be installing 1,000 Superchargers within the country by the end of 2017 to support sales efforts there. Of those, a new video suggests that 40 – 60 of the Superchargers will be located in the parking garage below the Lilacs International Commercial Center in Shanghai. This installation expands the current list of Tesla superchargers available throughout China. Several similar installations are underway in the U.S., particularly in California, as Tesla races to fulfill its promise to have 10,000 Superchargers in operation worldwide by the end of 2017.

Unplugged Performance Introduces 3 Body Kits For Tesla Model 3

Ready to transform your Tesla Model 3 into an electric vehicle with an aggressive, race-ready stance? The body kit offerings newly announced from Unplugged Performance will provide three different exterior packages. Ranging from conservative offerings with lip spoilers to high performance versions with replacement bumpers and a more forceful racing rear wing, the Unplugged Performance kits elevate the look and stance of the vehicle from an everyday commuter car into a weekend-ready show car. Unplugged Performance acknowledges the important role that Tesla has had in bringing electric car ownership to the masses, calling Tesla’s Model 3 “one of the most important cars in the history of the automobile!” They say that the Unplugged Performance Model 3 will be “the car Tesla does not want to make themselves: a low production, artisan-made specialty vehicle for a limited audience of motoring enthusiasts.” And, who knows? With the all-wheel drive and performance versions of the car yet to be officially announced, it is anyone’s guess just how fast a production Model 3 will be.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that during most weeks in most publications with audiences interested in cars, Tesla tops the news charts. But the Tesla story is not all success, all the time. The Model 3 has forced Tesla to address head-on the challenge of producing millions of cars, on schedule, up to quality standards, without losing money. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced company plans to make every Tesla capable of driving itself everywhere, at any time, on highways and rural roads. That’s a huge promise. Tesla is a company that also builds rockets and sells solar roofs. We’re closely watching to see if the Hyperloop can become a transportation reality, and the long-haul trucking sector is pacing as it awaits the upcoming Tesla Semi.  Through the triumvirate of technology, timing, and team, Tesla has continue to gain momentum when other electric car companies, including Fisker, and other cleantech companies in general, have fallen short.

It’s no wonder readers want to learn more about Tesla.

Photo credit: p_a_h via / CC BY

Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn grew up in Stafford Springs, CT, home of the half-mile tar racetrack. She's an avid Formula One fan (this year's trip to the Monza race was memorable). With a Ph.D. from URI, she draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+