SpaceX successfully launches reused Falcon 9 rocket, recovers first stage

 SpaceX has successfully launched a Falcon 9 to orbit during its BulgariaSat-1 mission Friday. The launch reused a first stage booster first employed during an Iridium Communications mission in January of this year, after that Falcon 9 first stage was recovered and refurbished. The mission on Friday was to delivery Bulgaria’s first ever geostationary communications satellite into orbit,… Read More

Satellogic raises $27M for affordable, high-resolution imaging satellites

 Space tech company Satellogic has raised $27 million in a Series B round led by Chinese internet giant Tencent, and with participation by CrunchFund (disclosure: co-founded by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington). The company also launches its sixth micro-satellite into orbit on June 15, aboard a Long March-4B rocket that took off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. What Satellogic… Read More

Nissan’s ProPILOT driver assist features coming to the new LEAF EV

 Nissan will be bringing its ProPILOT Assist ADAS features to the brand new Nissan LEAF, the redesigned version of its pioneering EV, which is still “coming soon” and mostly still a secret. We do, however, expect it to have around 200 miles of range on some models, which is more than double the current version. The ProPILOT features will provide semi-autonomous acceleration, braking… Read More

As Uber’s value slips on the secondary market, Lyft’s is rising

 It’s been happening for months. The value of Uber’s shares has been falling on the secondary market, hammered by a barrage of press attention paid to its real and perceived misdeeds. That slip is widely seen as the reason Uber investors strong-armed CEO Travis Kalanick out of his role as CEO on Tuesday night. As numerous sources confirmed to us yesterday (and The Information… Read More

Banks see electric car industry revving up and ushering in an energy fortune

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Morgan Stanley is betting that electric cars will corner 70 per cent of the European vehicle market by the middle of the century, leading to upheaval for the power sector and a scramble for dominance of lucrative new technologies.

Global banks in London and New York are no longer debating whether the switch-over will occur. Research reports have shifted to granular analysis over what this means for large swathes of the economy, and who will be the winners and losers as the old edifice crumbles.

Morgan Stanley says in a report this week that a ratchet effect is under way. It’s becoming more costly each year to develop petrol and diesel cars that comply with tightening rules on emissions of CO2 and particulates (NOx), yet the cost of electric-vehicle (EV) batteries keeps falling. The crossover point will arrive in the mid-2020s.

EV sales

The US bank expects global EV sales to reach one billion annually by 2050, pulling ahead of internal combustion engines. The switch could take place much faster. A widely-cited report by Tony Seba and James Arbib at think tank RethinkX argues it will make no sense to make fossil-fuel driven cars, trucks, buses, or tractors within a decade.

The US pioneer Tesla – worth more on Wall Street than General Motors or Ford – is targeting annual sales of one million EVs within three years. It is mulling a joint venture in China, the biggest market for zero-emission cars.

China has banned petrol motorbikes, leading to a massive switch to EV two-wheelers. Some 230 million are on the roads. Under draft proposals from the industry ministry, all car companies will have to reach an EV quota of 8 per cent of sales from next year, 10 per cent by 2019, and 12 per cent by 2020.

Morgan Stanley said it would be “very difficult” for Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes to comply with this. They will hit a sales cap in China. This will be a rude shock.

Whether China’s breakneck drive for EVs lowers CO2 emissions is an open question. This depends on how quickly it cuts reliance on coal plants – down 8 per cent in two years – and shifts to gas, nuclear, and renewables.

In Japan, Honda is betting its future on EVs, aiming to raise the sales share to two-thirds by 2030. Ford plans 13 new EV models in the next three years.

In Europe, Renault-Nissan is targeting 1.5 million EVs sales a year by 2020, and Volvo 1 million by 2025; Volkswagen is scrambling to make up lost ground with plans for 2 million to 3 million annually by 2025.

Power companies

A parallel battle is under way among power companies, each eyeing control of ultra-fast charging points in the way that US railroad barons sought to snap up land in the late 19th century. Even more money will be made from the “big data” networks that underpin EV technology. Chargemaster in the UK runs a network of public charging stations called POLAR. ChargePoint in the US offers an ultra-fast unit enabling “hundreds of miles of range in under 15 minutes”.

Morgan Stanley expects up to 3 million public charging stations in Europe by 2050, up from 100,000 today. They will be ubiquitous. Smart phones will locate them instantly. “Range angst” will rapidly fade. Britain’s National Grid has carried out advance planning under its Future Energy Scenario and is eyeing a network of fast-chargers for the motorways. It estimates there could be 6 million EVs in Britain by 2030 under a “Gone Green” assumption.

A string of European firms are jostling to seize the lead in their home markets, with SSE in the UK, Innogy, EON, Iberdrola, Enel, Fortum, EDP, ABB, and Schneider Electric, all pushing ahead with expansion plans.

They are watching developments closely in Norway. The country is close to 30 per cent penetration for EVs, achieved by tax-free status and waivers on toll roads, as well as free parking until 2016.

Germany’s Bundesrat has voted to ban the sale of new fossil-fuel cars by 2030. This is not binding but it is a straw in the wind. In Italy, EVs are tax-exempt for five years. France offers euros 6,300 subsidies for EVs.

Nicholas Ashworth from Morgan Stanley says electrification will break the existing system with time. Utility companies should have no trouble over the next decade but the extra power required to recharge a European fleet of 150 million cars in 2050 would be equivalent to “another Germany” springing into being.

Nobody knows how much could be achieved by shifting to off-peak hours through smart grids and variable tariffs. Nor whether car batteries will act as a major storage reservoir.

Everything is up in the air. All we know is that vast sums are at stake and vested interests that fail to adapt in time will be wiped out.

Tesla said to be in talks to create its own streaming music service

 Tesla might be a music service operator soon, in addition to a maker of electric cars and solar energy products. That’s according to a new report from Recode, which says that Tesla has been talking to music labels to make this happen.
The planned offering could start with a free, Pandora-like streaming radio option, which theoretically would be tied to Tesla vehicle ownership, one imagines. Read More

Some Uber employees are reportedly petitioning for Travis Kalanick to stay

 There’s a petition circulating among Uber employees asking the board of directors to let Travis Kalanick return to the company, Recode reports. The email going around talks about how Kalanick is “critical” to the company’s future success. It ultimately asks employees to show their support for Kalanick and push for him to get reinstated in an operational role. Read More

Waymo filing says ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick knew engineer had Google info

 In the ongoing legal case between Uber and Waymo, a new filing suggests Uber knew that Anthony Levandowski possessed Google information as of last March, before Otto’s acquisition. The former Google self-driving project engineer founded Otto, and then joined Uber to lead its self-driving efforts when Otto was acquired by the ride hailing giant. Waymo’s new filing cites a response… Read More