At $200 billion in annual revenue and employing more than 3 million American workers, advanced energy is driving the U.S. economy forward… literally! This week’s news was full of advanced vehicles, the latest in solar roofs, and nuclear power for the next generation.
This week the electric vehicle blog EV Obsession posted that sales of plug-in EVs rose 89% in March over February, and sales in Q1 2017 are up 74% over the same period last year. Although there are dozens of models on offer, Tesla is the clear leader, with models S and X accounting for 38% of Q1 sales. Zachary Shahan digs into the numbers a little more in an article for CleanTechnica, answering the question, “Why Do High-End Tesla Model S & X Dominate US Electric Car Sales?” High-end car sales typically “don’t account for a large portion of any car market (maybe they do in Liechtenstein),” Shahan writes, but notes several considerations that might explain Tesla’s dominance, including Tesla’s reliable battery supply and a reluctance on the part of the other automakers to commit to EVs.
That may be changing. Just this week, Daimler, the German automaker that also owns Mercedes-Benz, announced plans to bring more than 10 new EV models to market over the next five years. The company also announced that it would be providing 1,500 all-electric vans for Hermes, the largest independent logistics firm.
Even though EVs saw record-breaking sales in March, the segment still accounts for a relatively small portion of the overall automobile market: 1.2% of all car sales in the period.
Speaking of Tesla, The Buffalo News reported this week that the company would begin taking orders this month for solar roof shingles. Tesla announced the shingles last year, in typical Musk fashion, with a major event on the set of Desperate Housewives. The shingles, which will eventually come in four different styles, will be produced at the Buffalo Gigafactory. The company has pledged to bring 500 manufacturing jobs to the Buffalo Niagara region (along with another 1000 jobs in support, sales, and administration) and will begin production in June.
Then, from solar roofs to the latest in nuclear energy. Bloomberg reports this week on AEE member Apollo Fusion. The next-gen nuclear company touts a revolutionary hybrid reactor technology that uses fusion power to provide safe, clean, and affordable electricity. The company’s website explains, “Apollo Fusion power plants are designed for zero-consequence outcomes to loss of cooling or loss of control scenarios and they cannot melt down.”
The company is led by Mike Cassidy, a former Google executive who has started and sold four technology venture companies over the past two decades, according to Bloomberg. The company is entering the nuclear market at a time of both major opportunity and major challenges: in the past few years, the U.S. has begun building the first new nuclear plants in several decades, and new international standards mean the market is safer than ever. Apollo already has an agreement to deliver power to the company’s first international customer.
Meanwhile, the industry is experiencing some major upheavals, with one of the industry’s major players, Toshiba-owned Westinghouse Electric Co., filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy last week.
As James Conca writes in Forbes, however, “the cause of this latest problem seems to have nothing to do with nuclear power and everything to do with incompetent business practices.” No industry, not even one as robust as advanced energy, is immune to that.
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