Wallbox Pushes Into The Rapidly Expanding US EV Market

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Spanish EVSE manufacturer Wallbox announced at an exclusive launch party at the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in New York City last week that it is entering the US EV charging market.

Image courtesy: Wallbox

Wallbox has already established itself as a global force in EVSE manufacturing and digital solutions, with more than 20,000 chargers installed in 30 countries across Europe. Its array of EVSE solutions combined with the smart solutions it stack on top of them like facial recognition, smart sensors, secure access control, remote programming, and a dynamic cloud-based app have made it the preferred choice for many charging site hosts.

Wallbox is leveraging the cloud to keep owners connected with its cloud-based myWallbox charging management platform. The solution gives owners visibility of real time updates from their EVSE, updates on the latest improvements from Wallbox and the ability to remotely control and program their Wallbox.

Image courtesy: Wallbox

“Customer understanding and innovation are fundamental to our approach. We have to remember that when people buy a plug-in vehicle, they are taking control and owning their mobility energy for the first time. This is a big and very liberating change,” says Wallbox US Country Director, Douglas Alfaro.

Wallbox has its sights set on the US market as one of the largest, fastest growing EV markets in the world, noting that the US EV market grew 81% last year. This is largely thanks to the success of the Tesla Model 3 in its home market, which has spurred interest in electric vehicles in millions of people around the world. The economics of electric vehicles are also starting to shift, with the total cost of ownership of the Standard Range Model 3 already having edged out BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and many more. Access to functional, high speed, convenient EV charging around town makes EVs that much more visible and easy to adopt for millions more drivers and Wallbox is eager to dive into the new market.

If you are in the market for a Tesla, find someone locally who you know (like, someone you know in real life) and use their referral code. If you don’t know anyone with a Tesla, go find someone at your local Supercharger and try not to be a creep and ask them for their referral code (they won’t mind). If that doesn’t work, ask a co-worker or a distant relative, post on Facebook or Twitter, or just hit up Google. If all of that fails and it’s an odd-numbered day and not too sunny out, you can use my Tesla referral link to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging, I guess. Here is my referral code: http://ts.la/kyle623 

Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe Details Plans To Move Into Stationary Energy Storage

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Rivian Big Bold EV Bet

Rivian hosted a roundtable discussion for 800 of its reservation holders to talk a little bit about how the company is progressing in the move to production. They also took the opportunity to talk about an exciting microgrid project they’re working on with the Honnold Foundation in Puerto Rico.

First off, Rivian designed its battery systems with second life use in mind.

Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe (RJ): “We can leverage our battery systems to support grid applications, to support energy storage applications. But very importantly, our platform, our technology can fit, and work in products well beyond our own.”

RJ: “If we were to show the product 2-3 years ago, it would have been similar, but it wouldn’t have been finished. It wouldn’t have had all those questions answered. We wanted to answer as many of those questions internally first.”

World-famous free-solo climber Alex Honnold, founder of the Honnold Foundation (Honnold): “I’ve been wanting to electrify my transportation for probably 5 or 6 years. I was fantasizing about electric vans and imaging, but it just wasn’t quite there.”

Honnold: “[When I saw Rivian’s vehicles, I thought,] this is exactly what I need to go out.

Honnold: “[When driving out to many of my climbing sites around Las Vegas,] you do a lot of highway commuting, then there’s a lot of extreme driving to get to the cliff.”

Honnold: “Obviously, there’s the alignment in values and what we hope to do in the world, but at some point, you just want to drive a truck real fast.”

RJ: “It seamlessly transitions into a storage application. The fact that it’s seamless is really important because it lowers the barrier for the batteries to find the second life, to get into a storage application.”

RJ: “The vehicles are designed so, essentially, the batteries come out of the vehicle and we flip a digital switch and the batteries can then go from storing electrons that are propelling a vehicle to storing electrons that could be powering a house or a business. The pack itself is designed to stack very easily into an enclosure, essentially a shipping container. In smaller applications, you can actually take the top off the pack and inside the pack are what we call modules. These are sized to perfectly fit into a rack, so you can dissect modules as well and use modules as more discretized or smaller energy storage applications.”

“The vehicles are designed so essentially, the batteries come out of the vehicle and we flip a digital switch and the batteries can then go from storing electrons that are propelling a vehicle to storing electrons that could be powering a house or a business.” — Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe

Sustainability is a foundational belief at Rivian. This penetrates the design of the vehicles, the design and intentionality that goes into the design of Rivian’s factory outside of Chicago, and the company’s philanthropic efforts.

RJ: “When I started Rivian, the goal was to create products that were exciting and built with passion and deliver real performance, but at the same time, are deeply sustainable.”

RJ: “The decisions we make as a company absolutely are made from the vantage point of, ‘How do we have the most impact?’”

RJ: “The deal we did with Ford was part of that. How can we provide help provide a platform that will speed up their electrification efforts in a certain segment? That was motivated by the desire to get more sustainable electric vehicles on the road more quickly.”

Honnold: “Having these powerful experiences in nature, you wind up caring a little bit more about preserving, protecting and hoping that the next generation can have similar experiences.”

Visiting an extremely remote climbing location in Chad, Honnold was taken aback by just how remote and disconnected some farmers were from the grid, from the infrastructure much of the world takes for granted.

Honnold: “This is an incredibly different existence than I’ve had growing up in Sacramento.”

Honnold: “I just feel a certain obligation to do something.”

Honnold: “At a certain point, personal actions only go so far.”

It was the disconnect between his ability to make a larger impact simply by living a more sustainable life himself and the much larger need for the world to rapidly transition to lower-carbon, more-sustainable ways of life that triggered him to start the Honnold Foundation.

Rivian plans to use much of the land that it purchased with its manufacturing facility to support local agriculture programs and to grow food for its workers.

RJ: “We’ve got about 1,000 people at the company split between 3 primary development locations. In Detroit, we do a lot of the mechanical design and larger systems that have interactions with the big suppliers in the midwest. On the West Coast, we have an office in Silicon Valley that does all of our connectivity, our cloud architecture, all of our self driving. In Southern California, just outside L.A., we do all of our propulsion systems, our chassis systems. But the three of those work streams come together in our production facility, which is just south of Chicago.”

RJ: “We have 508 acres at the plant, a very small percent of which actually has the plant occupying it. Most of it is just grass. We’re going to be turning a lot of that into an area to grow food. We’re going to run that in partnership with some of the local universities through their agriculture programs to grow food locally on our site, partnering with local universities and then that food is going to be served in our facility with students that are learning from top chefs who we bring in to run the food services in our facility. We’re going to provide incredible food to our plant team, regardless of what part of the plant you work in. So there’s true equity, we treat every employee as part of this mission to bring this facility back up.”

To vet the capabilities of Rivian’s second-life battery packs in a real life application, they partnered with the Honnold Foundation and the Camino Foundation on a world-first project. Together, they are designing and building Puerto Rico’s first cooperatively-managed solar energy microgrid. The new microgrid will power the community of Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. The solar-plus-storage installation will rely heavily on 8 Rivian battery packs as the storage for the system.

Honnold: “It’s a collaboration with the Camino Foundation, with Rivian, with the Foundation to provide second-life batteries to help power a cooperative solar microgrid.”

RJ: “We look out over time and this is a very big opportunity. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of vehicles, thousands and thousands of megawatt-hours of energy storage that needs to be applied. This is a beautiful project because it allows us to demonstrate what we’re thinking about for a community that really needs it and in partnership with that community to fully build out the potential of energy storage combined with solar. In many ways, this will serve to create echoes for others to see this.”

Honnold Foundation Executive Director Dory Trimble (Trimble): “At the Honnold Foundation, we really want to make sure that solar really is the right solution. With Casa Pueblo, the work we’re doing there, solar is the right solution for Puerto Rico.”

Trimble: “The cool thing that we can do is to shine this light on projects that wouldn’t have visibility otherwise.”

Trimble: “The core of our work is supporting solar energy access and everything else is just in service of that.”

Honnold: “That’s why a project like this is so important to us because it really does show real potential. If you can have such a big impact on a community with just 8 car batteries, it’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Honnold: “Electric cars are the future, so there are only going to be more and more batteries.”

RJ: “We see the ability to have enormous impact over time with the batteries from all of your vehicles at their end of lives.”

RJ: “We have very big batteries in our cars, so one battery can do a lot in terms of its impact to a community.”

Stationary energy storage applications have been embedded in the fabric of Rivian’s products, designs, and company strategy from the beginning.  

RJ: “There are some very large deployments. We haven’t announced yet, but we have a number of other relationships and partnerships that we’re establishing to really put this idea, this ability to use energy storage from our vehicles, through a megaphone to really help drive adoption of more sustainable ways to access sustainable energy.”

Honnold: “Domestically, one of the things I love about electric cars and why I have solar on my home is that I personally don’t support wars in the Middle East, let’s say. But I can charge my car at home and I can just completely opt out of the entire oil industry. I mean, obviously, it’s embedded in my groceries and it’s embedded into other aspects of my life, but to a certain point as a consumer, I can just opt out of certain things that I don’t support. My local utility is pretty regressive. I don’t really support it, but thankfully, I produce my own energy. That’s kind of the beauty of electric cars and the transition to renewables is that it allows individuals to opt out of a lot of the things they personally don’t support.”

Trimble: “When we think about giving and impact on the world, there’s also an opt-in, and for me, the opt-in is supporting work that has a positive impact.”

Trimble: “I don’t really care if you give us money. I just think that people should be giving their money to things they care about.”

RJ: “There are a lot of exciting things coming.”

RJ: “There are other products we’re developing. There are other things we’re doing with some of our technology. We’re excited to start to show the world more of that, but I also want everybody to know here, very pragmatically, we’re working very hard and very long to make sure that we get your cars ready.”

RJ: “We’re on track. Lots of activity at the plant with our teams, with the supply chain. Things are gearing up really nicely. As you’ve seen in how we approach these complex systems, we’re being very thoughtful and organized about how we execute.”

RJ: “As we get closer to production, we’re going to start asking you to tell us exactly what you want in terms of configuring your vehicle. So later this year, you’ll get a note to ask you to configure color and feature set.”

Dive into the hour-long talk below if you want more of the juicy pictures of what’s really going on at Rivian today and what’s coming down the pike in the future.

A Look Behind The Curtain At Rad Power Bikes

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Rad Power Bikes makes a lineup of funky looking, yet surprisingly capable electric bikes. After spending a few weeks ripping around town on its RadMini Step-Thru, we wanted to look behind the curtain to see where the company came from and what makes it tick, so I sat down with Rad Power Bikes co-founder and CMO Ty Collins for a chat.

The Early Days

Right off the bat, Ty opened up about what he first learned about ebikes from co-founder, CEO, and president Mike Radenbaugh as Mike started electrifying traditional bikes with custom-built retrofit kits back in 2007. The technology was exciting, he loved the results and his customers were thrilled, but, “it was a lot more time consuming, it wasn’t very repeatable and it wasn’t scalable,” Ty said.

An early ebike retrofit circa 2007. Image courtesy: Rad Power Bikes

Mike retrofitting bikes for customers one at a time was fun and showed promise, but the path forward was not clear at the time. A few years later, the underpinning technology had progressed significantly and in 2014, Mike and Ty, who had been friends since preschool, found that they were both eager and ready to explore the possibilities of ebikes full time with Mike spearheading design and Ty leading marketing. Ty recalled Mike saying that, “If we’re ever going to do this for real, now is the time,” and they started working out the details to allow them to truly spin up the company they had been dreaming about for years. They combined forces and ultimately relaunched as Rad Power Bikes in 2015 with a direct to consumer sales model.

An eBike Company

Taking a look at the company’s lineup of ebikes, you will quickly notice they do not look like traditional bicycles. From the start, Rad Power Bikes had it sights set on being an ebike company and came to grips very early on with the realization that ebikes should be their own creation. They should be more than a traditional bike design with a battery and motor bolted on. By doing this, and putting ebikes as the sole focus of the company, they would be able to build bikes truly optimized for their destiny as electrified, battery powered workhorses.

RadMini Step-Thru

The RadMini Step-Thru folded. Image courtesy: Rad Power Bikes

On this foundational belief, the team has built a lineup of vehicles that deliver unique value to Rad Power Bikes owners. The RadMini Step-Thru we tested weighs in at 68 pounds and surprisingly folds up for more compact stowage. The unique folding capability, uncommon on such a large bike, allowed us to fold it up and put it in the trunk of a car on more than one occasion. The robust frame of the bike allowed me to trip around town on it without worrying if it was capable of hauling my 205lb | 93kg frame along with all my gear.

Looking across the Rad Power Bikes lineup, the same core functionality can be found on all of its vehicles. The RadWagon is built with hauling capacity at the top of the list, and as such, it is not hard to imagine using it to replace a vehicle. Doing so may seem like a distant, obtainable future, but after spending time on the website and looking around at the variety of customer images featuring the wagon loaded with kids, groceries, and even lumber, it becomes a few steps closer to reality.

Rad Wagon

The Rad Wagon as a family hauler. Image courtesy: Rad Power Bikes

When shaping up the bones of the brand, Ty said that, “we knew it couldn’t be just another bike…We wanted to do something that was very unique and eye catching.” Its bikes are “designed with function in mind,” with the functionality of the bike defining the overarching reason for a bike to come into existence.

“We truly are an ebike company,” Ty said. That’s clear from the start and it is an exciting example of how the electrification of vehicles of all shapes and sizes is enabling people all around the world to live healthier, lower impact lives, while getting to know their communities even better at the same time.

Direct Consumer Relationships

From the early days of Mike working with customers one at a time to design and build a system for their specific needs, he was focused on building solutions for his customers. That’s easier to do in person, where you can see and interact with your customers directly, but Mike wanted to scale this same customer-centric model as they moved from local sales to an e-commerce model with most sales coming in over the internet.

2019 Rad Power Bikes lineup

The 2019 Rad Power Bikes lineup. Image courtesy: Rad Power Bikes

Rad Power Bikes’ strong focus on the customer has resulted in a core group of extremely passionate customers. “We’re really lucky where we feel that we are really selling to the super consumer,” Ty said. This passionate core group of customers not only continues to buy the company’s products, but they also bring more people to the Rad Power Bikes brand. “We are very fortunate that we are almost creating a mobile sales force of people that are on our bikes.”

From the looks of things, its customer-centric design process isn’t just talk. Ty said that if you look at the changes that went into its 2019 model year bikes, a “pretty large percentage of the changes actually came from feedback from our customers.” That’s really cool to be able to do and one huge benefit of leveraging a direct-to-consumer business model not only to cut out the middle man and bring savings to their customers, but more importantly to build real relationships with customers that allow them to get some skin in the game and contribute their ideas to the next generation product.

A Different Take On Service

Maybe it’s just me, but the prospect of dropping $1,500 USD or more on an electric bike is a HUGE purchase and as such, I was eager to hear about the ebike service process. What happens when I snap a pedal off? What happens when I need to replace the chain? And most importantly, what about that battery?

The Flagship 2019 RadRover. Image courtesy: Rad Power Bikes

I dug right into the heart of the matter and to my surprise, Ty was excited to talk about the service model. It turns out, they had been thinking about and planning for a remote service model from the start. Because it was a foundational belief, “the bikes were designed to make [remote service] very, very conducive,” Ty said. All of the unique components on the bike, like the electrical system, were designed to be modular. Each have a single unique connector that makes it easier for an owner to simply unbolt the part, unplug it and replace it with a new one if something goes wrong.

“We knew from the very very beginning that service and support would have to be a huge part of this,” he said. Ty continued that service is such a core focus for the company that they really do put their money where their mouth is. The largest contingent of the Rad Power Bikes team is focused on customers and service. Rad Power Bikes also developed a robust repository of online resources to guide owners through the most common scenarios they could encounter. That is not revolutionary or game-changing, but represents a solid step towards a robust, well-rounded service program for Rad Power Bikes customers.

Beyond the core electrical system, the majority of the parts on the bikes are standard: derailleurs, chains, gears, and cables. As crazy looking as some of its bikes are, they are still bikes at the core. That lets most owners do the normal tuning and maintenance that they would on their traditional ‘human-powered’ bike on their new boosted Rad Power Bikes. Similarly, the manual components of the bike can be serviced by a traditional bike shop.

If needed, replacement parts are shipped directly to the customer. If the customer doesn’t want to service their bike or doesn’t feel comfortable taking things apart for fear of having to put them back together afterwards, Rad Power Bikes has you covered there as well. “We are partnered with a ton of mobile service providers across the US,” Ty said. They can also work directly with a local bike shop near the customer to coordinate the repair and will even work with the mechanic directly if there are any questions. That feels above and beyond to me.

Rad Power Bikes founders Ty Collins and Mike Radenbaugh

Rad Power Bikes founders Ty Collins (left) and Mike Radenbaugh (right). Image courtesy: Rad Power Bikes

Next, I worked him for details about the batteries. How long will these things last? Ty didn’t shy away and dove right in. “The battery is very much so a consumable product meaning that at a certain point, it will have to be replaced.” They are rated for 800 cycles, which means that the amount of life any given customer gets from their battery will depend on how much they use it. If they’re pounding the pavement (or dirt) with their bikes everyday and recharging every night, that translates to just over 2 years, but that’s far from normal.

Digging into customer data, Ty said the average customer is not riding them that heavily and batteries should last 4-7 years before needing to be replaced. Much like electric vehicle batteries, the actual life expectancy depends on a number of factors, such as how often it is used, how far it is discharged, if it is left on the charger for days at a time or left unplugged for months at a time. They try to promote good charging habits with new customers to maximize battery life, but it’s ultimately up to the customer to treat their battery nicely for the longest life.

Epilogue

Why talk about founders and their beginnings? Each of us has our own story of how we cleaned up our lives, how we started biking to work or realized that the new electric train our city just installed could replace our car. We have charged our phones with portable solar panels and started buying second-hand organic cotton clothing.

Many of us have even taken larger leaps to start new businesses and it is our hope that by reading of the journey others have taken, others will be encouraged to throw caution to the wind and to take a leap into the unknown, into a new venture. We have one shot to fix the damage humanity has done and to even start winding back the clock on climate change, but thankfully, businesses can iterate and learn from their failures as they take two steps forward and one step back along the road to a success.

If you are in the market for a Tesla, find someone locally that you know (like in real life) and use their referral code. If you don’t know anyone with a Tesla, go find someone at your local Supercharger and try not to be a creep and ask them for their referral code (they won’t mind). If that doesn’t work, ask a co-worker or a distant relative, post on Facebook or Twitter or just hit up Google. If all that fails and it’s an odd numbered day and not too sunny out, you can use my Tesla referral link to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging, I guess.  

Rayvolt Is Not-So-Secretly Plotting An eBike Revolution Powered By The Sun

Originally published on CleanTechnica

A former boat captain might not seem like the most likely person to start the next big electric mobility company, but sometimes, it is just that kind of outside the box thinking that creates the perfect storm.

Mat Rauzier launched his career designing watercraft for several companies before taking a left turn when a new adventure presented itself and found himself at the helm of a boat. As captain, he shuttled clients around the world on their adventures, exploring the wonders of the seven seas day after day. After several years on the water, he found that it was not actually the siren song of the sea that called to him, but rather, an innate desire to create, to explore, and to bring his own style of change to the world that was his true passion.

That desire boiled up inside of him and led him to a degree in nautical engineering, which provided the structure and the technical cred to frame up his ideas in the real world, but it was not boats he would ultimately be creating. Rather, his dissatisfaction for the status quo and the pollution created from the vehicles that moved him around in the world led him to build something new. What it was at the time was not clear, but after some tinkering in his workshop and with the advice of friends turned business partners, Rayvolt was born.

From the glossy pages of its catalogs and the beautiful pictures that adorn the Rayvolt website, it is not immediately clear what kind of company Rayvolt is. So when they invited* CleanTechnica out to their headquarters to meet the team and to see their new lineup of ebikes for 2019, we were excited to get a look behind the curtain at what it was that really made them tick. *Rayvolt paid for our travel to and from Barcelona for the meeting.

After winding through the twisted alleys of Barcelona, I cracked the door to their showroom that also served as the company headquarters and R&D facility, and caught my first glimpse of what they stood for. A lineup of beautifully crafted electric bikes stood in a row to the right in what was clearly the showroom, but it was clear that it required an intentional effort to keep the handful of bikes polished up and pretty amidst the fray that lay beyond. A closer inspection revealed that two of those bikes were actually partially assembled prototypes that I later found were actively being developed for a huge new deal for a local bike-sharing company (more on that later).

Rayvolt’s Barcelona headquarters. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

As I looked up from the row of bikes that signaled that I was indeed at the right place, several desks full of smiling faces looked up to greet me. I caught a glimpse of CEO and founder of Rayvolt, Mathieu Rauzier, and Rayvolt co-founder and CTO Jaime Pla Vallve De Aviles, whom I had shared a lengthy Barcelona-style welcome dinner with the night before. Mat excitedly came over and welcomed me to the space before taking me on a tour of every nook and cranny of the facility.

The workspace was strewn with bolts, batteries, motors, and partially assembled (or disassembled) bikes. It felt comfortable and made a lot of sense to me, as I love tinkering with just about anything and everything to better understand how things work (or don’t) to try to make them work better, with varying degrees of success.

Mat introduced me to the diverse team of experts behind Rayvolt that handle sourcing, sales, engineering, and the more technical aspects of the business. They were enthusiastic and clearly felt at home in the space. In the days that followed, I saw each of them pushing their respective parts of the business forward in their own ways, whether it was tearing down and rebuilding the latest Rayvolt motor to integrate the another improvement or negotiating a change request with a parts supplier.

Detail on the Rayvolt Torino. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

We went down a set of stairs into the basement of the building they clearly outgrew months ago and entered into the workshop, and that’s when everything changed. Bike parts were laid out on and stacked up in every nook and cranny of the workshop like docked boats in a harbor. Each bike clearly had its place, but the sheer volume of the barely organized chaos was imposing and I tread carefully, so as to not accidentally disturb the one bike that might be holding everything else in place. Mat looked back at me as we covered the last few steps and the glow on his face made it clear that this was his domain.

A row of early prototypes lined the wall on the right. To the back, a few older Rayvolt Cruisers were in the middle of being upgraded with some new tech. Mat reached around a corner and as if pulling a rabbit from his hat, whipped out a hybrid bike frame that he was working on as one of his pet projects. His passion for design, electric motors, batteries, quality, and technology overflowed out into room as if trying to paint his vision onto the empty frame as he spoke.

The workshop and Mat’s passion for combining classic bicycle and motorcycle lines with the best electrification technology available to create the ebikes that will pull new riders into a new take on an old school mode of getting around. The challenge was clear: what is the best way to harness the firehose that is Mat’s passion for ebikes each and every single day and shape it into beautiful ebikes for customers.

Mat and his team of creators, of doers, of engineers, have built up a line of ebikes that continue to improve with each generation. On our first night in town, Mat shared that Rayvolt had initially struggled to bring its vision for technology-powered classic bikes into reality as they met with supplier after supplier in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Their volumes were too low for any suppliers to be willing to make the changes Mat and his team wanted, but after many long weeks in China and a lot of pushing from his Chinese-born wife and now Chief Operating Officer Ying Zhang, they found a handful of suppliers to work with.

These new suppliers were willing to customize parts to Rayvolt’s specifications and to the high quality standards they needed. Strong relationships forged through long days spent not just at the factory, but out on the factory floor with suppliers followed by drink-sodden business dinners, stretched out from days into weeks of what could best be described as Undergrad Engineering school meets the Hangover.

Putting in the time to design and build their bikes from the ground up without compromise meant designing their own motors, instead of using the off-the-shelf motors that find their way onto many electric bikes around the world. Rayvolt’s motors are optimized for efficiency and power, and building them from the ground up allows them to be constantly improved with numerous small improvements. Mat shared how the next generation motors will move from rectangular to curved magnets to allow for a seamless ring of magnetic field versus a sub-optimized design.

Rayvolt has built up an impressive lineup of ebikes for its customers including its flagship bike, the Cruiser, which pays homage to the early days of motorcycles. The seat sits low on the long frame and pushes the pedals to the front of the frame. It’s a sight to be seen and as we toured Barcelona’s most famous sites on a pair of Rayvolt’s bikes, we felt like the talk of the town as numerous bystanders gawked at the unique ebikes.

Mat also showed us an early build of a bike cover that he is working on that uses a set of integrated solar cells to recharge the battery. The solution folds up neatly into a briefcase sized package for travel, then unfolds to cover and power the bike. Stay tuned for more about this as it develops, but we are excited at the prospect of riding more bikes, powering them with batteries, and recharging it all from the sun. Beautiful!

The Rayvolt Torino. Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Bike-friendly cities like Barcelona make electric bicycles an even more obvious alternative to gasoline vehicles and the injection of Rayvolt’s ebikes into an already bike-centric city like Barcelona is sure to fuel the flames even further. In addition to Rayvolt’s impressive lineup of ebikes, the company has a number of irons in the fire, so stay tuned here on CleanTechnica for the news as it breaks.

We worked with Mat and the team on a special win-win deal for CleanTechnica and our readers. If you buy a bike using our link and our affiliate code KEEPSAFECT, Rayvolt will give you a free classic helmet with purchase of one of their ebikes. On our end, Rayvolt kicks down a few bucks to CleanTechnica through their affiliate program to help us keep the lights on. To get the deal, you do need to use our referral link to complete your purchase, then drop the coupon code ‘keepsafect’ in when you’re ready to checkout. The best part is that doing this costs you absolutely nothing extra and supports CleanTechnica at the same time. 
 

Tesla Leverages Software To Eke Out More Supercharging Capacity

Originally published on CleanTechnica

In a push to increase the capacity of its Supercharging network at the top 8% of its stations in North America, Tesla is implementing a charging limit of 80%. During holidays, an additional 9% (for a total of 17%) of Supercharging stations will have the new charging restrictions put in place.

Tesla reached out to CleanTechnica this morning with the update and told us that the new charging cap is being put in place in parallel to the continued expansion of the Supercharging network, not as a stop gap that is being used in place of spending more capital to continue to expand the network. Much like the On-Route Battery Warmup solution, the new charging cap is a simple software push that adds value to all owners and increases the amount of kilowatt-hours the company can push out to vehicles with its Supercharging network.

Owners on road trips using the in-car navigation to determine charging stops and durations will not be affected by the new restriction, however, allowing owners traveling to more remote destinations the ability to charge up as much as recommended by the navigation system. Even in these situations, because the system optimizes the route for overall travel time, charging beyond 80% is an infrequent occurrence.

Implementing a software-limited charging cap of 80% at 8% of Supercharging stations may sound like a limit to freedoms, but the reality is that most people do not charge up to 100% … ever. That is because charging from 0–80% is when charging speeds peak, while charging from 80–100% takes far longer since charging speeds quickly taper off. Charging up beyond 90% also has long-term consequences for battery life, so keeping the state of charge lower is also the best way to ensure a long life for the vehicle’s battery.

The company estimates that the throughput at popular stations should improve by 34%. That translates to higher availability and faster Supercharging times for owners.

As part of the rollout of version 3 of its Supercharging network, Tesla said that it would be doing more than just installing more stations in a push to serve more than twice the number of vehicles with its Supercharging network by the end of 2019, something some close followers of Tesla Supercharging stations have noticed.

Tesla’s continued expansion of its Supercharging network will continue on into the future as its production, delivery, and sales capacity continue to grow year after year.

Tesla’s new version 3 Supercharging hardware is also coming in 2019 as the company begins deploying its new Supercharging backbone that splits a single 1 megawatt power feed into four dedicated 250kW charging stations. This new hardware raises the bar and continues to expand Tesla’s DC fast charging network as competitors continue to take pot shots from the sidelines about how their one fast charging station in a lab charged their prototype vehicle at 350kW. Cute, but Tesla is doing it today. Less talk, more action, thank you very much.

If you want to take advantage of my Tesla referral link to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging on a Tesla Model S, Model X, or Model 3, here’s the link: http://ts.la/kyle623 
 

The Hands-Free Podcast Launches With A Special Guest (Spoiler: It’s Me)

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Friend of CleanTechnica Nico Nevolo (formerly of Tesla Van Life) has launched a brand new podcast called the Hands-Free Podcast and he brought his Tesla Model X to my neck of the woods in Southern California to talk with me about a wide range of topics in the clean tech space for the first episode.

We talked through subjects including some of my work history, Tesla (obviously, as Nico worked for Tesla for 4 years and lives in a Tesla Model X), electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, the controversial notion of a Universal Basic Income in the United States, and more. I really enjoyed talking with Nico as we drove from Ventura, California, up to Santa Barbara, California, and back with quite a bit of help from Tesla’s Autopilot system.

The Autopilot system is actually the star of the show in Nico’s Hands-Free Podcast, as he drives around interviewing his passengers while the car does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to driving down the highway. I will say that when I drive with Autopilot engaged, I always try to keep my hand on the wheel and recommend that you do the same. Having said that, I didn’t feel like we were ever in any danger and Nico did a great job of blending driving with talking for our ~1 hour chat.

I would love it if you watched the podcast and let me know what you think of it in the comments, on Twitter, on email, or whatever your preferred communication medium is these days. In related news, if you have comments about the topics we covered, as always, drop those down in the discussion here on CleanTechnica or on the Hands-Free Podcast YouTube channel, where the haters tend to hate just a little bit harder for some reason. Drop him some love while you’re at it. 
 

Harman Kardon’s Bold Vision For The Future Of Autonomous Electric Vehicles

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Harman flew me out to New York City to hang out for the weekend so the company could give me a behind-the-scenes look at what it has been working on, all while we enjoyed the historic Formula E in Brooklyn. I spent the weekend with Harman’s top brass and grilled them about the company’s plans for the future. We dug into how Harman Kardon is positioning its brands and its strategic relationships with 34 automotive companies to succeed as the automotive industry undergoes the largest transition in its more than 100-year history.

Automobiles are transitioning from 19th century internal combustion engines to electric powertrains. In parallel, autonomous driving technology is progressing to the point where Level 2 autonomous driving systems are moving into production quickly. All major automotive companies are planning to produce fully autonomous vehicles in the next 5 years.

These two disruptive injections into the automotive industry promise to topple carefully constructed legacies as new companies arise from the wreckage. Companies that are truly in touch with market signals and emerging trends will pivot and, indeed, are already positioning themselves to capitalize on the transition. They will move aggressively into the new markets to shape the future of the automotive industry.

Automobiles will transition from personally owned vehicles to a market of largely fleet vehicles. The personal vehicle ownership experience will evolve into a personalized multimedia experience within the vehicle. This is a transformation from a physical experience to a digital experience that will follow passengers from vehicle to vehicle, from home to work, to the café, and beyond.

Autonomous driving will free humans from the task of driving and for the first time in human history, humans will be able to focus on the music, the quality of the sound, a movie in full 7.1 channel surround sound, an immersive 3-dimensional call with coworkers around the world, or any number of other experiences while being moved from place to place. Forward-thinking companies have recognized this opportunity and have started to move into various niches of this future environment.

With the average human not fully aware how fast the transition to electric vehicles and autonomous vehicle technology will happen, it is important to step back from the compelling vision of the future automotive experience to build a bridge to that future. Electric vehicles will become the standard for new vehicles over the next 10 years because of cost and cost alone. If we have learned nothing over the course of the climate change awareness movement, it is that most people are not motivated by the environment, as it is too large for our brains to comprehend and not immediate enough of a concern. Making climate-friendly technology like electric cars more affordable than more damaging technologies like internal combustion engines hits budgets, though, and creates a near-term, practically guaranteed, compelling incentive to switch to an electric vehicle.

The advantages of autonomous vehicle technology similarly speak to our near-term ambitions. The promise to free us from hours and hours of slavery behind the wheel each week is enticing. Giving back weeks or months worth of time to work more, to play more, or simply to sleep is a gift that the ultra-rich will pay a premium for, at first. As with all software-driven technologies, autonomous driving technology will scale quickly as the initial R&D costs are absorbed and it quickly becomes ubiquitous amongst high-end luxury vehicles. Then it will begin to trickle down into more affordable classes. Economics will be the death knell for human drivers as trucking companies, taxi companies, and delivery drivers are replaced by lower-cost, fully autonomous driving technologies.

To the visionaries and early adopters with fingers on the pulse of the automotive industry, these transitions are inevitable and, depending on their individual levels of confidence, will transpire over the next 2 to 10 years. The bridge built by these two technologies to the future of personal transportation specifically wipes the inside of the vehicle clean. It’s a blank slate for visionaries to draw upon as they mold the future that so many have been dreaming of and attempting to recreate in so many science-fiction movies over the last 4 decades. The difference is that now, today, we have the technology to truly build that future and bring it to life for the first time in human history.

I think Harman Kardon is one of the visionary companies boldly looking into the future and creating what it envisions to be the future of the human transportation experience. Over the course of two days in New York City, Harman brass laid out their vision for the future, and I have to say, I was impressed. More than that, I’m now even more excited about the future and about the opportunity to be able to share a bit of that vision here.

If you were to ask 100 people on the street what products Harman Kardon designs, builds, and sells, you would likely come back with a consensus that it is a consumer products company playing in the audio space. Harman Kardon has for decades designed and built audio products for home, for cars, and everywhere in between that dazzled the ears. The sound system my father owned as I grew up was a Harman Kardon system. It filled my childhood Saturday mornings with the musical creations of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, with the Grateful Dead and Jeff Beck. I have fond memories of those days and of the music brought to my ears by Harman Kardon and would have given the very same answer as those 100 hypothetical strangers off the street.

The truth is that Harman Kardon is very much an audio company but that the expertise Harman Kardon brings to the table is much deeper than just speakers. When an automaker comes to Harman Kardon to buy speakers for its vehicles, it is presented with a full suite of offerings. From unbranded OEM speakers to a 12 speaker Harman Kardon system all the way up to the fully customized, audiophile-quality Revel audio system that was custom tailored and tuned for the Lincoln MKX, Harman truly has products for every use case, at every tier.

Aside: I’ll divert here to mention that this is not an advertisement. This is not paid, I don’t have to write any of this … but just as I built the bridge from internal combustion vehicles to the fully autonomous future, it is important to set the stage for the massive attack on your senses that is just around the corner in those very same autonomous vehicles.

Harman Kardon parent company Harman’s suite of products goes beyond the sound system into active noise-cancelling technology that is already in use today in ultra-luxury vehicles to cancel out the last remnants of road noise that cannot be overcome by another layer of sound-deadening insulation. Looking forward a few years, that same technology will be used to transform the already quiet interiors of electric (autonomous) vehicles into silence more traditionally associated with movie theaters and audiophile listening rooms like the one buried in the basement of the Harman flagship store in Manhattan.

Electric vehicles also bring new challenges to the exterior of the vehicle, where regulators have mandated the production of artificial alerts to inform pedestrians of the approaching vehicle. On the flipside of the equation, some drivers may opt for artificial engine noise to emulate the sounds of a rumbling racing engine to trigger reactions forged over decades of wrenching on internal combustion engines. Record-breaking zero-to-sixty times earned by torquey electric motors will be masked by the artificial sound of a roaring V8 produced by audio companies like Harman.

But those technologies are incremental. They show breadth but are not in and of themselves disruptive. Let’s rewind to CES in January of this year. In Las Vegas, Harman unpacked its vision for the fully autonomous (electric) vehicle, which featured an immersive webchat technology that included directional voice tech that synced up the audio with the location of the video of whoever was speaking.

Harman tech stretches beyond just enabling more working time (because who really wants to work more anyway?) and enables rich multimedia experiences as well. Harman’s Life-Enhancing Intelligence Vehicle Solution demonstrated a multimedia-rich, immersive, integrated experience that seems a bit too futuristic … until autonomous vehicle technology enters the picture. Then it becomes brilliant. It becomes the vehicle we all wish we had driving us down the road to work, to our relative’s house or just to grab a bite to eat at your favorite restaurant down the street.

The awkward part of the rich experiences Harman is slinging is not that they aren’t cool — it is only that we can’t imagine them in our lives today because most people don’t realize how close autonomous (electric) vehicles are to being invaluable pieces of our day-to-day life. 10 years ago, we couldn’t have bothered to worry about having a computer in our pockets. Today, everyone has a smartphone. In my travels in India 5 years ago, I was blown away with how everyone seemed to have a smartphone, regardless of income. Software-based technologies drop in cost quickly as production volumes ramp up.

Here at CleanTechnica, we are excited about the future because of what electric vehicles promise to do for global emissions by eliminating tailpipe emissions. We are also increasingly excited about autonomous vehicle technologies because they promise to save lives, while at the same time giving back hours per week or per day. We admittedly don’t often delve into what happens after that in the vehicles and I was thankful to have been invited to attend Formula E in New York City by a company as innovative and forward thinking as Harman to catch a glimpse of what that future might look like … and it’s exciting.

Harman paid for travel and accommodations for me to attend the Formula E in New York City. As mentioned above, I was not required to write anything at all about the event or about Harman. These thoughts are all mine, and yes, I am genuinely excited about the future of personal transportation … for more reasons than just the batteries.

24 Hours With The New, Longer Range 2017 BMW i3

Originally published on CleanTechnica

This review summarizes my early learnings in my first day with the new longer range BMW i3. A comprehensive review will follow, but I have found that some of the most important and impactful learnings about a vehicle arise very early on in vehicle use, as that is generally the time in which prospective buyers will make their decisions.

My comments include the background of time I’ve spent with the vast majority of electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles available in the United States (including owning at various times the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S, and Mercedes B250e).

Key Specs

  • Power: 125 kW (168 bhp) electric motor
  • Torque: 184 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Single-speed automatic
  • Configuration: Rear-wheel drive
  • 0-100 km/hr (0-62 mph): 8.1 seconds

First Impression

The BMW i3, released in 2014, was one of the first purpose-built production electric vehicles in the current generation of electric vehicles. BMW poured billions of dollars into electric powertrain technology, with the BMW i3 one of its first resulting products. The German company also invested heavily in a complete transformation of the core of its vehicle bodies, funneling factories worth of cash into the development of CFRP (Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic).

We spent a week with the most recent iteration of the i3, which cranks up the capacity of the battery to an impressive 114 miles of all-electric range.

With the i3, BMW masterfully wove its passion for sporty luxury vehicles together with the torquey acceleration of electric vehicles. BMW took a leap into the future with the i3, which maps out the aesthetics of a vehicle that comes from the future, as if it travelled back in time from 2030 to today. The futuristic exterior leaves only the signature kidney grill and bold BMW logos, but upgraded seemingly everything else. The future of BMW shines inside the cabin as well, with the threads of carbon fiber exposed along the frames of its split doors.

Driving Experience

A gentle tap on the start button brings the vehicle to life — though, you wouldn’t know it, as no engine revs up to shake the driver awake. Easing onto the accelerator reveals a finely tuned electric powertrain that beautifully rounds off the sharp edges of the poor traction control and jerky acceleration that plagues many EVs. Instead, BMW replaces such shortcomings with a dreamlike, silent, yet sporty grace.

Following the seamless integration of classic BMW themes and the future of the brand, the interior has been leveled up thanks to the electric drivetrain — as a result, it is quieter than any BMW I have had the pleasure of riding in to date. The combination of the classic build quality of a luxury BMW and the electric powertrain make for an extremely peaceful experience in the cabin.

Don’t let all this talk of peace and quiet leave you under the impression that the i3 is a spineless economy box. If anything, it is quite the opposite. The accelerator pedal, while controlled, packs more than enough torque with its 184 ft/lb. The power behind the pedal all but guarantees an exhilarating ride around town when the time comes for a bit of speed. Its 168 bhp is further magnified by the lightweight build of the vehicle, which allows for quick moves that defy more traditional builds.

A New Breed of BMW

BMW invested heavily into its BMW i program with the design for the i3 similarly starting from a blank sheet of paper. Doing away with legacy combustion engines, transmissions, drive shafts and emission control equipment allowed for new design options like building in a crumple zone in the front of the vehicle and opening up the passenger cabin with the elimination of the transmission and drive shaft.

The BMW i team took the design to the next level with the introduction of lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). The wonder material is just as strong as steel at half the weight. CFRP can also be crafted into completely new form factors without the need for structurally compromised welds to hold it together.

Price

Due to the relatively high price of lithium-ion batteries, electric vehicles have historically commanded premium pricing for relatively spartan offerings. Tesla turned that game on its head with a luxury vehicle that boasted sufficient margins to absorb the incremental cost of the batteries with a ground-up design that reimagined the luxury sedan, and later, the luxury sport utility vehicle.

The i3 design similarly started with a blank sheet of paper and resulted in a vehicle that is years ahead of its oil-powered peers. It too relies on pricey lithium-ion batteries and rolls them into a luxury design flush with carbon fiber, sporty handling, and a high-tech driving experience that naturally comes at a cost. It retails for $42,400, with options that take the price all the way up to $52,600 for a fully optioned vehicle with custom paint and an integrated range extender (REx) that brings the total range up to 190 miles. Regional rebates can bring the price back down considerably, resulting in a luxury electric vehicle that costs about the same as a standard luxury internal combustion vehicle.

Rebates

The fully electric BMW i3 is eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit as well as the $2,500 California EV rebate, bringing the cost down a full $10,000. Certain California air districts, counties, and even electric utilities are now offering incremental rebates that stack on top, like the recently launched $450 Southern California Edison (SCE) rebate that brings the cost down even further. At a time when electric vehicles are taking off with longer ranges, faster charging times, and lower MSRP prices, they are now more affordable than ever.

For a full list of rebates in your area, head over to the Plug In America incentives page or the EV incentives page at Energy.gov — they have all the juicy details. I also highly encourage you to dig into what may be available in your local region, as these rebates tend to get less publicity and last for shorter periods of time.

The Ultimate Driving Machine, Redefined

The bottom-up design of the i3 is evident in just a single glance. The exterior screams loud and proud that it is the teenage rebel of the BMW family, intent charting a new course forward for the BMW family while still undeniably one of the family. It sports the signature kidney-shaped grill, bold BMW logos in all the right places, and the same classic climate control design queues as its ancestors.

BMW is not shy about its bold vision for the future of the brand, with dramatic and beautiful carbon fiber left exposed around the interior of each door.

Charging

The i3 comes standard with DC fast charging (DCFC) capability via its integrated CCS charging port. This allows for charging on the existing network of CCS chargers around the world. While the average driver will primarily charge at home, with fast charging reserved for the rare road trip, there are many drivers around Southern California who put DCFC capability to heavy use, as evidenced by the comments on charging station mapping service PlugShare. I mention this service in nearly every review I write not because we’re paid for it (we’re not) but because I use it so much in my day-to-day life.

The DCFC network is currently very minimally deployed as potential investors wait to see how the battle between charging standards plays out. As more and more EVs hit the roads around Southern California, the network will be hit hard — as is already being seen in some areas. Norway should be looked to as an example of what a robust public charging network should look like, as many innovative solutions and business models have already surfaced there that the rest of the world can learn from and reapply.

Supercharging speeds are still out of reach for the i3. Though, this is true of every other non-Tesla EV out there today. Look for capability to charge at 150 kW and faster as a key indicator for which EV manufacturers truly understand what a fully capable EV looks like.

The i3 makes very efficient use of every kWh that comes in, with a rating of 124 MPGe for the 60Ah model118 MPGe for the 94Ah model, or 111 MPGe for the 94Ah model with the gasoline range extender. Adding more weight to gain the extra range clearly comes at a penalty for all miles driven.

The i3’s high rating is largely attributable to its lightweight design and results in a lower cost to drive than its peers, and more effective mileage per hour charging than less efficient competitors.

Charging my wife’s Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive for 3 hours on a Level 2 charger (@6.6kW) with an efficiency of 2.9 miles per kWh, we would be able to drive about 57 miles. At the same charging rate and duration, the i3 would be able to travel an impressive 81 miles. That means less charge time to go the same distance … not to mention a lower cost.

Summary

The BMW i3 remains an impressive vehicle and the incremental boost in range makes it that much more formidable for commuters and families looking to go electric in stylish luxury.

With all its allure, though, the i3 will struggle to remain competitive when pitted up against EVs with double the range and with capability to charge up in half the time (like the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3).

I’ll share further details and commentary in a more in-depth review article in the coming days.

Tesla Service Is On Another Level and Continues to Improve

Originally published on CleanTechnica

The Model 3 is going to level up Tesla’s game in many ways, with the first and foremost being the lower price point. Bringing a Tesla to market that is on par with the average sales price of a new car in the US changes everything and truly opens up the brand to the mass market for the first time in its existence.

Ushering in hundreds of thousands of customers per year allows for a scale previously unseen for electric vehicles and comes with a suite of new challenges for the brand. One of the big challenges is related to service. Customers just learning about Tesla and perhaps just learning about electric vehicles will have their eyes opened to many benefits of EVs, and one that will surely be communicated to them at some point is the lack of service requirements of EVs. That said, there will still be service requirements for many Tesla drivers, and its service process is a key piece of the new customer education process.

Tesla launched a new video today that highlights the key differentiators with Tesla’s service compared to the service drivers are used to receiving. The video spotlights Tesla’s over-the-air software updates that are pushed down to Tesla’s vehicles remotely — enabling new functionality, fixing bugs, improving vehicle performance, and all while eliminating the need for customers to come into a service center for these updates.

The over-the-air (OTA) functionality also highlights the connected nature of Tesla’s vehicles, which unlocks perhaps the biggest feature — Tesla remotely monitors its vehicles, resulting in 90% of issues being identified remotely, proactively. I experienced this firsthand with my Model S when Tesla asked me if they could fix a switch in my vehicle’s battery pack without it ever causing an issue. To replace the switch, Tesla sent a driver out with a loaner Tesla, picked up my Tesla, and repaired the issue that same day. In total, it took all of 20 minutes of my time from the initial phone call to the swapping of vehicles (2 times). The ability to remotely identify, triage, and proactively repair vehicles is something I have never experienced and it was amazing.

Stacked on top of proactive monitoring is Tesla’s ranger service. Tesla Rangers are a team of remote technicians who come out to your location – home, work, Starbucks, whatever – and repair your vehicle there. Tesla sent one of its Rangers out to my house to repair the door handles on my Tesla Model S when a few of them were having intermittent issues. The repair happened in my garage after I returned from work and took about an hour while I sat in the comfort of my living room on my laptop.

→ Related: Tesla Model S Service Screens Exposed

It was a breeze and took far less time than it would have if I would have had to book an appointment to come into a dealership or service center and wait for the repair, not to mention the coffee wasn’t burned and the WiFi was much better.

Tesla is also scaling up its service operations in preparation for Model 3, much as it is doing with its Supercharging network. Having visibility into the exact geographic locations where its customers will be (from the massive stack of Model 3 reservations) gives Tesla the data it needs to proactively build out Supercharging and Service Centers exactly where the most customers will be. It’s another brilliant component of the strategy of taking reservations for the vehicle in advance of the move to production.

Tesla is specifically adding 100+ new service centers, 350 mobile service vehicles, and 1,400 service technicians, which all told represents a tripling of its global service capacity. Check out the video below, which was posted to Tesla’s official Facebook and YouTube channels earlier today.

Photos by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

The Chevy Bolt & The Tesla Model 3: The Solar-Powered Restoration of American Energy Independence

Originally published on CleanTechnica

July 4th is Independence Day in the United States, and as with similar holidays in countless countries around the world, it is the perfect occasion to reflect on what it means to be independent. One key aspect of independence today is intimately tied into energy. How many countries around the world have found themselves economically enslaved to the energy economics inherited from past generations?

The US is the largest consumer of oil on the planet by a long margin, consuming more oil than any other country, regardless of population. While the US is also the largest “producer” of oil, it does not produce enough oil to satiate its seemingly endless thirst for it.

The capitalist country is embattled with modern-day oil barons fighting for lower fuel efficiency standards while climate change believers fight to raise fuel efficiency standards, enact a universal carbon tax, and work to create incentives for battery electric vehicles. The gridlock of the past took a turn for the worse with the Trump administration, which continues to plod forward in the mindless push to unshackle the American capitalist machine from the trio of perceived anchors that are the Clean Air Act (of 1970), the Clean Water Act (of 1972), and the much more recently added Clean Power Plan (of 2014).

In the face of this political uncertainty, a few beacons of hope have emerged, shining out of the dust of the recently fallen environmental protections. They give us hope for a future where our children and grandchildren can breath clean air, can drink water that is free of heavy metals and toxins. A future where the vehicles that move us from place to place move silently around, powered by clean technologies and whirring electric motors.

The Chevrolet Bolt, which launched in December 2016, and the Tesla Model 3, which will be delivered to its first customers later this month, are the first vehicles of a new generation of long-range, affordable electric cars that carry the keys to unlocking the most American of all values — true energy independence. For the first time in many, many decades, America has within its grasp the ability to harvest electricity from the wind and sun that will not run dry — using power systems that emit no pollution into the air and require minimal emissions to manufacture.

The shift from fossil fuel–fired vehicles to electric vehicles presents a rare opportunity for any country in the world to catalyze a paradigm shift in energy generation. The opportunity to convert to locally produced energy brings along with it the possibility to keep millions and billions of dollars of energy spending inside the country. For the United States, this means weaning itself off of the ill-adopted relationships with countries around the world that have failed to move forward adopting minimum standards for human rights. For many nations in Eastern Europe, the opportunity to throw off the shackles from oppressive regimes that have for too long throttled the supply of energy as a means of controlling the economies of those less endowed with natural resources has the potential to reinvigorate the people and catalyze a positive change in these countries.

Clearly, these changes are not being led solely by two vehicles, but these vehicles embody the broader movement that is only now reaching its climactic moment in history. Affordable electric vehicles let the average person purchase a vehicle that has the range to make 99% or more of all trips possible with an electric vehicle. When combined with the fact that electric vehicles are also cheaper to drive on a cost of fuel per mile basis, it starts to get interesting — my wife and I have saved nearly $2,000 in 2½ years of owning our first electric vehicles versus the cost of gasoline.

Electric vehicles also require significantly less maintenance, with thousands of fewer moving parts than their fossil fuel–fired counterparts, resulting in even more savings. Electric vehicles are much quieter to drive, and without the controlled explosions of a fossil fuel engine under the hood, don’t vibrate their passengers to death. Removing that combustion engine from the vehicle and replacing it with an electric motor also allows for completely new vehicle designs that have resulted in the Tesla Model S being rated the safest vehicle to ever be tested by the NHTSA, with the Tesla Model X coming in at number two — a ranking unheard of for a sport utility vehicle. The Chevy Bolt received top honors for its safety results as well, recently being selected as an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

Roll that all together with extreme performance and supercar 0 to 60 times and electric cars start to look appealing to people from all walks of life. Until these two cars rolled onto the scene, these benefits were only accessible to those who were willing to compromise on range with a ~100 mile electric vehicle or those with the finances to throw down $60,000 or more for a Tesla.

Driving an electric vehicle is great, but here’s where it gets interesting: Electric vehicles unlock much more than that. A core American value — and if we’re honest, a core human value — is the desire to not be dependent. Electric vehicles tap directly into that with the ability for homeowners, property owners, and many people around the world to install solar or wind on their residence to generate all the power their homes, businesses, and vehicles will use. The solar installation on my rooftop generated enough power last year to completely power our home and one of our electric vehicles. Another couple of panels and we will be generating the vast majority of the power we use in our lives on our roof. That is straight out of a science fiction novel but it is a true possibility for billions of people around the world today … and it gets even better than that.

With the massive improvements in production and scale that have been made over just the last 10 years, solar and wind are now extremely cost competitive — even beating out the competition in many areas of the world … today … right now. That’s right, you can create this utopian lifestyle today … and save money while you’re doing it.

That is the beauty of the paradigm shift that is occurring right now. We are living through an historic transition that our grandchildren will read about as the turning point in energy economics, globally. Entrenched trillion-dollar industries will crumble in decades along with the household-name companies that operate within them. Amidst the rubble, new companies, new individuals, and new nations are rising to the forefront of the discussion as leaders in never-before-seen industries that bring with them new possibilities for economic freedom and energy independence.

Transitions of this magnitude are apparent from the early birthing pains that manifest themselves in the form of federal policy debates, vicious catfights over government incentives, kickbacks, and tax breaks. The transitions are rarely fair, but with so much at stake, bloodshed on both sides is to be expected.

Rolling back to where we started, what seems like a domino effect of toppling regulations led by industry insiders that have been put in charge of the agencies that formerly regulated their industries have left many dumbfounded. The foundations of American environmental protections have been stripped bare in a matter of weeks. But all is not lost. The brazen disregard for the charter on which the Environmental Protection Agency was founded has woken millions from the enchanted slumber, just as Rip van Winkle awoke after many years of sleep into a frenzy.

The people of this great nation and many more around the world demand that the governments they voted into place protect their most fundamental rights to clean air and clean water. The catalyst could not have come at a better time, as affordable electric vehicles and cost-saving solar and wind generation allow individuals to cut the cord from the very capitalists who now move to enslave the population.

It is time to rise up and regain the independence that our ancestors fought for in years past, but this time we fight against those in charge in our own nation. The time is now to go test drive an electric vehicle. If that’s not enough time to get a feel for life with an electric vehicle, rent or borrow one. Services like Turo and Maven are lowering the bar to get into an electric vehicle just as the Chevy Bolt has and the Tesla Model 3 soon will for hundreds of thousands more people around the world.

If renting isn’t an option, it may be time to step up the game and steal one … or, rather, get a steal of a deal on one at a local dealership. While you’re at it, don’t forget that to really, truly cut the cord takes a little more work to ensure that the power you’re pumping into your vehicle every night comes from renewable sources as well, preferably from a solar installation or wind turbine on your property.

That, my friends, is what it truly means to be independent. Celebrate yours by taking action today. The future is electric. The future is now!

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