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Elon Musk Works Through And Around Obstacles

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When I heard that Elon Musk and Tesla Motors had to sue the state of New Jersey and then a cascade of subsequent states just to sell cars without going through the antiquated car dealership model, I lost hope for a moment. I felt like not only do we like that vision to create a cleaner and sustainable future, but when forward thinking titans of industry get blocked by ridiculous laws that prop up business as usual I felt defeated. In my wilted state I managed to keep learning, however, and discovered that Musk is winning his battle for alternative delivery methods, even when the various state courts shoot him down. He’s done this by finding workarounds and using whatever means possible. This reversed my mood and encouraged me.

The current model of car dealerships was set up decades ago to make competition with the major car companies difficult. In order to sell new cars you have to first go through a licensed dealership and those have the autonomy to promote whichever cars they want. Dealerships often make more money by selling particular brands and made additional profits from servicing the cars after purchase. Both of these facts put Tesla in an unfair sales position at a conventional dealership because they don’t give incentives to salesmen and their cars require virtually no maintenance. With the additional friction that salesmen don’t particularly understand the electric cars, selling Teslas at conventional dealerships was a losing proposition.

What I failed to understand is that Elon Musk is as sneaky as he is determined. He is not merely trying to create a car to compete in the market, he is trying to create a model that will save the planet from the pollution. This became more clear to me when I learned more about his other business, most notably the Gigafactory and SolarCity. Not only is Musk taking on the daunting challenges of providing enough battery power to fuel a massive fleet of electric cars, he is also providing the clean fuel source, solar power, with innovation and on a scale that it will make a difference.

With the Gigafactory, SolarCity and Tesla Motors, Musk is employing vertical integration. A supply strategy where all facets of production are controlled by the same company. This strategy has been dismissed over the years on an economy of scale because suppliers of parts would compete to drive down prices and improve outcomes. But we’ve reached a point in our linear economy where that no longer serves us. Vertical integration promotes a circular economy where there is less waste, which lowers cost and improves reliability.

The Gigafactory is the perfect example of vertical integration and a circular economy. With the Gigafactory, the minerals used to create batteries are brought in via train in raw form, straight from the mines. At the Gigafactory the minerals are processed and then constructed into the batteries. Normally, minerals are mined, then shipped to a processing plant where they are refined, then sent to plant where they are manufactured and then packaged. Then they are shipped again where the packaging must be removed and the batteries must be configured to the packs necessary for the products. This is wasteful and expensive. By bringing the ore straight to the Gigafactory, Musk estimates that they can immediately reduced the cost of the expensive fuel delivery system by 20 percent. This becomes significant when we understand that it is the main cost of the Tesla cars. Additionally, the are creating batteries that go with solar power, which will allow installations from SolarCity to be less expensive and more efficient.

Ultimately, the Gigafactory can make Tesla Motors and SolarCity more effective and less expensive as Elon Musk works to overcome the entrenched obstacles created by old vertical economic models that have no regard for our environment. It’s maddening that these obstacles exist when the world needs all hands on deck to overcome our environmental challenges. But it’s encouraging that there are people like Elon Musk who are willing to take on the establishment as well as outsmart them.

 

Environment

Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations

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Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?

The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.

New Construction Options

One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.

In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.

The Simple Retrofit

From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?

Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.

Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.

Big Innovations

Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.

In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.

Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.

It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.

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Environment

How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions

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Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Public Health Crisis

It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.

Eco-Friendly Vehicles

It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.

Used Cars

Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.

Public Perception

With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.

Progress

The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.

With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.

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