Auto smoke signals
ALWYN VILJOEN unpacks three events that will one day close petrol stations
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.