Auto smoke sig­nals

AL­WYN VILJOEN un­packs three events that will one day close petrol sta­tions

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

MARCH has been quite a month for events that take us all a bit closer to the end of petrol- en­gined motoring as we know it.

The last of these events hap­pens tonight, at a car launch that will be watched closely by city plan­ners and so­cial an­thro­pol­o­gists alike, for it in­volves that great dis­rup­tor, Elon Musk.

Musk, owner of the elec­tric car brand Tesla, had al­ready tweeted in Fe­bru­ary that “Model 3 reser­va­tions ($ 1 000 down) will be ac­cepted in Tesla stores on March 31 and on­line April 1”.

Un­like other Tesla cars, the Model 3 is not a bru­tally fast, very lux­u­ri­ous all- elec­tric ve­hi­cle, but an af­ford­able evee aimed at the masses — a lot like the Chevro­let Bolt.

The Tesla 3 will bring Musk a step closer to his real ob­jec­tive — to save the planet from our car­bon- belch­ing ve­hi­cles by re­plac­ing them with electrics.

Last year, Musk told stu­dents in Paris, while the French cap­i­tal was host­ing the U. N. Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence, that elec­tric ve­hi­cles are a cru­cial part of a so­lu­tion to cli­mate change. That, and much higher taxes on car­bon emis­sions.

The Model 3 launch will be hosted at the Tesla’s de­sign head­quar­ters in Hawthorne, Cal­i­for­nia, and will be livestreamed at the Tesla web­site from about 4.30 am on Fri­day morn­ing, SA time.

Rock­ing the oil world

While the Tesla car shows the way for­ward in propul­sion sys­tems, an an­nounce­ment by the Rock­e­feller Fam­ily Fund ( RFF) last week shows if not the end of oil, at least that the end of oil is nigh.

The fam­ily fund, a char­ity set up in 1967 by de­scen­dants of John D. Rock­e­feller, an­nounced last Wed­nes­day that it would di­vest from all fos­sil- fuel hold­ings “as quickly as pos­si­ble”.

Bear in mind, it was in oil that Rock­e­feller made his bil­lions, but now his de­scen­dants, Martha, John, Lau­rance, Nel­son and David Rock­e­feller, have said that ExxonMo­bil in par­tic­u­lar is “morally rep­re­hen­si­ble” in its deeds as the world’s largest oil com­pany. In a state­ment that may as well have been writ­ten by Musk, the RFF founders thun­dered: “There is no sane ra­tio­nale for com­pa­nies to con­tinue to ex­plore for new sources of hy­dro­car­bons. “We must keep most of the al­ready dis­cov­ered re­serves in the ground if there is any hope for hu­man and nat­u­ral ecosys­tems to sur­vive and thrive in the decades ahead.

“We would be re­miss if we failed to fo­cus on what we be­lieve to be the morally rep­re­hen­si­ble con­duct on the part of Ex- xonMo­bil. “Ev­i­dence ap­pears to sug­gest that the com­pany worked since the eight­ies to con­fuse the pub­lic about cli­mate change’s march, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously spend­ing millions to for­tify its own in­fra­struc­ture against cli­mate change’s de­struc­tive con­se­quences and track new ex­plo­ration op­por­tu­ni­ties as the Arc­tic’s ice re­ceded.”

An Exxon spokesper­son told CNBC: “It’s not sur­pris­ing that they’re di­vest­ing from the com­pany since they’re al­ready fund- ing a con­spir­acy against us.”

In Eng­land, mean­while…

While Musk and the Rock­e­fellers dom­i­nated the head­lines, news that millions of pounds ster­ling will be sucked up by Bri­tish vac­uum maker Dyson to de­velop a bat­tery sys­tem, al­most slipped in un­der the radar.

The news would have slipped past un­no­ticed were it not for the Bri­tish Na­tional In­fra­struc­ture de­liv­ery plan first claim­ing that Dyson will de­velop an elec­tric car, us­ing £ 147 mil­lion in in­vest­ment and creat­ing 500 jobs.

Ac­cord­ing to the Guardian, the cur­rent ver­sion of the same gov­ern­ment re­port now states “up to £ 16 mil­lion” will be granted to Dyson to sup­port re­search and devel­op­ment for bat­tery tech­nol­ogy at its site in Malmes­bury.

The news fol­lows Dyson’s ac­qui­si­tion of bat­tery start- up Sakti3 late last year for $ 90 mil­lion, cit­ing it had “de­vel­oped a break­through in bat­tery tech­nol­ogy”.

Sakti3 is best known for its “solid- state” bat­ter­ies ( SSBs) that store 50% more en­ergy than cur­rent lithium- ion mod­els in less space. The Sakti3 pro­to­type can sur­vive more chargedis­charge cy­cles than tra­di­tional Li- ion. What­ever the real rea­son be­hind the changes in the UK state­ment, the smoke sig­nals seem to in­di­cate a UK gov­ern­ment that is also on fire for ve­hi­cles that do what Musk also wants — no car­bon belch­ing from ex­haust pipes.


Elon Musk in front of a Tesla car at the elec­tric car fac­tory in Fre­mont, Cal­i­for­nia.

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