by John Brian Shannon
I used to write one article per day. But with my editing duties at other publications and posting content to JBS News from authours besides myself, I’m now down to writing once or twice per month. Meaning, I only get to write about the super important stuff nowadays.
So, on that note, let’s cover today’s announcement that Apple’s VP of Mac Engineering, Doug Field, has been hired by TESLA Motors.
Think of the possibilities! When you combine the best under $100,000 car in the world with the full computing power and vision of Apple computer’s top Engineer, the result in a year or two might well be a bona-fide game-changer in this segment of the auto industry.
TESLA has built an almost perfect car with the S model, complete with zero emissions, performance and styling that defines a new class of electric vehicle and (bonus!) an unparalleled pride of ownership experience. Besides more colour and material choices, the ability to improve on the S model is limited. Really, what could you do to improve this car?
TESLA owner, meet a new way of using your car.
If you think about the interface between car and driver, that is one interface. Another interface occurs between the car and the car owner, and yet another interface occurs between the owner/driver, and the utility company.
With the perfect car the only thing to improve on is the role the car performs. It’s a car, right? What other role could it perform? And what has an Apple engineer got to do with any of this?
Let us count the ways that a TESLA Model S could become more than the great looking and great performing near-supercar that it is, with the injection of a visionary Apple engineer into the mix.
Is it a gorgeous EV car, or a transportable battery pack?
1. Homeowners: At the end of the day, every EV driver plugs their car in to their househod electricity, and we all know that some cars or the charger units have the ability to auto-schedule their charging time to meet the lowest electricity rates of the day (usually late at night and into the early hours of the morning).
Now imagine if TESLA’s newest engineer decided to instruct the car’s charge controller software to automatically have the battery in the TESLA allow uninterrupted power to the home in the event of a household power outage? Of course, once grid power was restored by the utility, the car would resume charging and be ready for next use. Everything is automatic.
If you happen to be one of those TESLA owners you wonder why everyone is talking about the big power outage the night before. “What, the power was out?” Try not to be too smug.
2. Solar powered homeowners: For that growing number of homeowners who choose to mount solar panels on their rooftops, owning a TESLA could afford them the opportunity to store the solar energy collected during the day for later use, courtesy of the TESLA’s battery. That energy could be used by the home throughout the day or night, to minimize the amount of electricity purchased from the grid during the most expensive times of day, while still keeping the car battery charged to a minimum drivable charge (whatever percentage of charge the car owner determines is reasonable). At the software charger interface you might see these words; “Never allow charge to fall below, a) 80%, b) 70%, c) 60%, d) 50% when using battery for household power.”
TESLA fleet owners: The obvious thing for small business owners would be to install solar panels on their business rooftop and leave their TESLA’s plugged-in all day. Again, if the grid fails, the business can still continue normal operations — giving them an advantage over their non-TESLA competitors. Larger businesses might want to replace their entire present car fleets with TESLA cars and direct employees to plug-in upon arrival at the workplace, to allow uninterrupted electricity supply in the event of power outages. Not only that, drivers might want to ‘charge up at work’ for free, with the only downside being that occasionally, the car might be leaving work with only a 70% (no-cost to the driver) charge — or whatever the driver has specified as the available default as some people have a longer commute home, than others.
Modulated Demand: In a small-to-medium sized business, even 100 or 200 plugged-in TESLA’s could offer an advantage that their competitors can’t match. (Zero electricity-related downtime, not to mention a 100% clean energy car fleet for starters). For other small fleets such as towns or government agencies for example, cars are for the most part parked, but available when required. Why not leave them permanently plugged-in, modulating electricity flow throughout the day/night? I call this ‘Modulated Demand’ as the car battery can be used to levelize energy flows and free-up energy consumers to purchase electricity at the cheapest time of day/night, instead of the present (most expensive) method.
3. Supplemental Grid Energy: Taking it a step further. Should a utility company spend $15 billion dollars on a large nuclear power plant to meet rising demand, or should it offer a $1000. coupon to each new TESLA buyer who keeps their car plugged-in to the grid for more than 360 hours per month and who is willing to allow up to 30% (or more) of the energy stored in the battery to be accessed at any time by that utility?
(Let’s say the new TESLA owner gets their coupon after 12 months of 360 hrs. per month availability, consecutive months or not, and whether any battery energy was accessed or not. The coupon pays for the privilege and ability of the utility company to have additional on-tap energy during peak energy consumption hours, or during energy production or transmission interruptions).
Easy enough for an Apple engineer to write that code and have the total hours of grid availability and the amount of any battery power accessed (if any), summarized and uploaded to the utility company, so they can properly credit the TESLA owner on their monthly electric bill via net metering.
This doesn’t even begin to cover what the Apple touch could do for TESLA, the private or fleet owners of these great cars, especially homeowners and businesses with rooftop solar, and the utility companies.
Today, a seemingly small but profound shift occurred in the electrical grid/electric vehicle world. Get ready. Even apart from meshing electrical grids with EV’s, it’s gonna be a game-changer.
Apple’s VP Of Mac Engineering Joins Tesla Motors (CleanTechnica.com)