This week Tesla dominated the news in Silicon Valley, but other ideas for more efficient or cleaner ways of using or producing energy keep on coming.
Tesla loan repayment is ahead of schedule. First, Tesla announced that it is on track to repay its $456 million loan from the Department of Energy five years early, that is, in 2017, thanks to the success of the Model S (despite controversial reviews).
Those waiting for a Tesla SUV will have to wait a little longer. The demand for Model S sedans also means that Tesla won’t be putting its sport utility vehicle, the Model X, into production as soon as it had intended, pushing that off until late 2014.
Could ship movements on water generate electricity on land? Tesla seems like such an established company these days, it’s hard to remember that it wasn’t so long ago that Elon Musk’s venture seemed more than a little crazy. But crazy ideas sometimes work out. One of those kind of crazy ideas launched this week as an Indiegogo project. Indiegogo, like Kickstarter, is a crowd funding website. Nautical Torque, a company founded by Cahill Maloney in 2008. Cahill Maloney died in late 2012; the company is now being run by his son, Galen Maloney. It proposes using the movement of ships in harbors, as they rise and fall with the tides, to generate electricity (see pitch video, below). The idea is that the water lifts the mass of a ship, which, when it falls back down again, spins a turbine on the dock. Cahill Maloney calculated that 20 ships properly equipped could power half the city of San Francisco. The company has tagged its technology “Lunar Energy,” and is trying to raise $16,000 to build a prototype. Crazy? Maybe, but a $25 investment will get you a T-shirt.
Getting more out of the computers in your car. Cars have gotten very very smart in recent years, they just don't clue drivers in on what they're thinking, like, "Hey, lead-foot, ease up on the accelerator already!" Maybe the Tesla news left me with cars on the brain, but right now the gadget that most appeals to me this week is Automatic’s gizmo that's intended to get all sorts of info out of your car's brain and into your smart phone. The Automatic Link is a little dongle that plugs into a car's data port to wirelessly connect your smart phone to the car's processors. Besides dealing with the check engine light, telling you what’s wrong and letting you clear the light yourself (something I’ve been doing with a clunky old device about the size of a man’s shoe), the Automatic gizmo coaches you to drive in a more fuel efficient way, and automatically tracks where you’ve parked your car. (To me, that alone seems worth the $69.95 the company is asking for the gadget.)
Photo Top: Tesla Model X Credit: Tesla
Photo Center: The Automatic Link Credit: Automatic Labs
Video Bottom: Nautical Torque's Indiegogo pitch.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.