Boring’s new Boring Machine
One of the reasons that The Boring Company came to fruition was because Musk believed that Tunnel Boring could be innovated.
Typically, tunnel boring is an extremely slow task, moving at just under 1m per hour. This renders current systems useless at digging long tunnels in a short space of time. But, why is this?
This main problem that tunnel boring companies face is not the machine itself, but the whole production line behind it. The only thing that the machine actually does is excavate and remove the excavation material outwards with a conveyor system.
Consequently, power, lighting, reinforcements and other tunnel necessities must be installed following the excavation. This process moves much slower, meaning it is the tunnelling bottleneck, not the machine itself.
Musk claims that existing tunnel boring companies spend only 10 minutes in every hour (1/6 of their time) actually digging. As you can imagine, this is horribly inefficient.
To combat this issue, Musk looked to the tunnel boring machine. Yes, I already said that the machine is the bottleneck, so how does working on the machine help. What if the machine could automate some of the production line tasks which go on behind it.
Turns out it can! Musk suggested last year that the next (3rd) generation of a boring machine would automatically take care of some of the production line tasks behind it, whilst excavating at the same time. This, he said, would increase production speed up to 15x the next best boring technology.
In early 2019, Musk said the system would be ready relatively soon. Now, just over a year later, The Boring Company posted an image on Twitter titled “Prufrock is alive.”
Seemingly, the boring machine is completed, and, judging by the picture, it looks like it’s being deployed. At this time, we are unsure as to where it is being deployed, but probably somewhere near the SpaceX factory again.
Tesla Firmware Leaks 110 kWh Battery Pack
Tesla’s battery management system software, the set of heat pipes which heat and cool the batteries, seems to have leaked some battery news.
According to the firmware, Tesla is working on a 110 kWh pack, which would allow the Model S to travel well beyond 400 miles. Recently, Musk has been teasing that Tesla was rapidly approaching a 400-mile range Model S.
It’s been a while since Tesla last made a major change to its batteries. The most recent thing would be the switch to the 2170 cells in the Model 3 over the 18650 cells used in the Model S and X. This improved energy density and allowed the Model 3 to travel further on a smaller battery pack.
Currently, the largest battery pack that Tesla offers in any of its vehicles is the 100 kWh pack in the Model S and X. Tesla’s battery management system (BMS) states that the usable capacity of that battery is 98.4 kWh, alongside a 4 kWh buffer, bringing the capacity of the pack up to 102.4 kWh.
The BMS is indicating that the new 110 kWh battery pack will feature 109 kWh of usable capacity. Factoring in a probable buffer of 4 kWh brings the capacity up to 113 kWh. This is roughly a 10 kWh improvement, in line with the naming of the battery packs being 110 kWh and 100 kWh.
At this point, it’s unclear what the implications of this pack will be. It’s likely to mean that the Model S will be able to travel well over 400 miles on a single charge, perhaps around 410 to 420 miles. What’s less clear is whether it will have an impact on performance.
The current 100 kWh battery pack in the Model S and X P100 improves the performance of the vehicle over other, lower capacity P85 or P90 options. Additionally, it seems to be a trend with Tesla’s that long-range variants always have better performance, i.e. acceleration and top speed.
Hence, we can expect the new battery to improve the performance of the vehicle. If Tesla is able to do that, it would be an incredible feat, mostly because the performance in the Model S is already outstanding.
The new pack is likely to be officially announced at the battery and powertrain investor day. Hopefully, the new pack will feature the larger and more efficient Panasonic 2170 cells that are in Model 3. This would allow for a new cooling system that would allow the car to do repeated, rapid accelerations, much like the Porsche Taycan can do.
Alternatively, the new pack could feature new Maxwell developed cells, possibly based on the dry electrode or solid-state technology.
Tesla and PG&E Close to Deploying GWh Megapack
California grid manager PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) is coming close to deploying the largest battery storage project in the world. It will aim to replace one of their existing natural gas ‘peaker’ plants in Moss Landing, California.
The aim of these peaker plants is to produce quick energy when production is expected to be lower than demand. Natural gas plants can be initiated very quickly, especially in comparison to their other natural gas alternatives like coal or oil. As a result, this makes them perfect for grid stabilisation.
However, natural gas plants are dirty, and, if there’s a natural gas leak, it can have a catastrophic effect on the environment. Hence, the demand for battery energy storage.
Recently, Tesla has become a big player in the commercial grid storage market. It all started when Musk made a deal with the Australians to build the world largest grid-scale battery. The system has been a huge success, almost saving the Australian grid company what it cost to install by now.
PG&E is installing two battery projects. One is made by Dynegy and will be a 300 MW / 1200 MWh project. The other will be installed by Tesla and will be a 182.5 MW / 730 MWh project, that could eventually expand up to 1.1 GWh.
Furthermore, the site will feature 449 Megapacks at maximum capacity, bringing the total energy storage to 1,200 MWh. The site plans can be seen here:
Just over a year ago, the California Public Utilities Commission approved 3 energy storage facilities, including Tesla’s. Combined, they will provide enough storage to bring 3 natural gas power plants offline.
Now, the Monterey County Planning Commission has approved the construction of the Megapack. Once everything is ready to go, Tesla should begin construction next month in March and finish by the end of 2020.