Tesla has just announced plans to add Superchargers (its rapid car chargers) in dense, urban locations in order to assist owners of its cars who live in cities and in many cases don’t have places to plug in their cars at home. Tesla’s own blog post does a good job of explaining the various charging options available today to owners both at home and away from home, but the post from Jalopnik linked below does a fantastic job of explaining the significance of the move. Essentially, if you’re an urban Tesla owner you have to explicitly go find somewhere to charge your car from time to time, which might well be inconvenient, especially because even the Superchargers take 45-50 minutes to charge the car. What Tesla is offering now is Superchargers sited in locations where those customers might already be spending time – e.g. at supermarkets, malls, or shopping or office areas within cities – so that their cars can charge while they’re busy doing other things. That potentially solves one of the biggest challenges for would-be urban owners of Tesla cars, and reinforces the challenge that still faces pretty much all of the other electric carmakers: the lack of widespread charging infrastructure. Though Tesla’s total scale in terms of car production remains tiny relative to the bigger manufacturers, the one area where it has a massive lead is in building out that infrastructure to enable charging while traveling and elsewhere, and adding Superchargers in cities will give it a further lead.
Apple’s Next iPhone Will Have a Curved Screen – WSJ (Feb 28, 2017)
This report is written by a reporter in Tokyo rather than the US, suggesting that it’s a firm in the Japanese supply chain which is the source of the data. The headline doesn’t seem to be specifically supported by any of the actual reporting in the article, though – the article itself mentions that OLED can be bent into curved screens, but then only says that Apple has placed orders for OLED screens without confirming that it actually intends to use a curved screen. And of course, OLED screens have been reported for at least some of the new iPhones for ages now. I’m still very skeptical about the $1000 price point this article repeats, however. The other major point from the article is that Apple will replace Lightning with USB-C for the port on the new phones. I’m not as skeptical on this as some, but I don’t think it’s a certainty either. Between wireless for headphones and potential wireless charging, the port will just become a lot less important over the next few years, so at some point it doesn’t matter all that much what technology that port uses. There would be a certain symmetry, too, in abandoning the Lightning port after five years, just as Apple abandoned the old 30-pin connector after the first five years of the iPhone. Apple clearly isn’t wedded to particular ports or technologies for nostalgic or other reasons, and is willing to make changes where the upside outweighs the downside. And there’s a frustration right now to having to buy a whole new cable to charge your brand new iPhone from a brand new MacBook, which could be resolved somewhat by standardizing on USB-C. So I see the logic here, especially in making this change in the context of a big upgrade to the device, and I think this change may be inevitable in the long term, but it could easily be a year or two out still.
Building the Supercharger Network for the Future – Tesla (Jan 12, 2017)
Tesla announced the outlines of this new approach several months ago, but has now fleshed out some of the details – it will begin charging for using more than 400kWh annually at its supercharging (rapid charging) stations for new cars sold from this month onward, but the rates will be very low – apparently just $120 to drive across the US from New York to Los Angeles. The motivation here is that this charging infrastructure remains absolutely critical to the owner experience for electric cars, and densifying the network is expensive. As such, Tesla wants to recoup some (though apparently not all) the costs from those who actually use it. One of the big challenges for the big auto manufacturers is not just matching the performance of Tesla’s cars but matching its charging infrastructure over time too, and some have partnered in Europe to accelerate this rollout.