Rwanda to phase out gas motorcycle-taxis for e-motos – gpgmail


The government of Rwanda will soon issue national policy-guidelines to eliminate gas motorcycles in its taxi sector in favor of e-motos.

The country’s president Paul Kagame previewed the plan last week. “We will find a way to replace the ones you have now. We urge taxi-moto operators to help us when the phase-out process comes,” he said speaking at a youth forum.

The Director General for the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority Patrick Nyirishema confirmed Kagame’s comments were ahead of a national e-mobility plan in the works for the East African nation.

“The president’s announcement is exactly the policy direction we’re in…it’s about converting to electric motos…The policy is prepared, it’s yet to be passed..and is going through the approval process,” Nyirishema told gpgmail on a call from Kigali.

Motorcycle taxis in Rwanda are a common mode of transit, with estimates of 20 to 30 thousand operating in the capital of Kigali. The country has come a long way since the 1990s, becoming a test-bed for drone-delivery and prioritizing initiatives to become an African tech hub.

Rwanda motorcycle taxisNyirishema explained that converting to e-motorcycles is part of a national strategy to move Rwanda’s entire mobility space to electric. The country will start with public transit operators, such as moto-taxis, and move to buses and automobiles.

“Once the policy is out, we’ll no longer permit any motorcycle that is not electric to be added to a fleet,”  Nyirishema said, adding that the country’s regulators will need to create an appropriate transition period and program for taxi operators to move to e-motos.

The news comes as Africa’s motorcycle taxi markets — worth an estimated $4 billion — have seen a flurry of tech investment and expansion. Uber and Bolt got into the motorcycle taxi business in Africa in 2018.

Norwegian (and Chinese backed) browser service Opera’s recent $50 million backed West Africa product expansion included linking its new payment app to ORide, a motorcycle ride-hail venture it launched in Nigeria.

Nigerian motorcycle taxi and delivery startup MAX.ng raised a $7 million Series A round with participation from Yamaha. The company is using the funding to pilot e-motorcycles in Africa powered by renewable energy.

Another local moto-taxi ventureUganda’s SafeBoda—received outside capital in a Series B round co-led by the venture arms of Germany’s Allianz and Indonesia’s Go-Jek. 

The Director General for  Rwanda’s Utilities Regulatory Authority Patrick Nyirishema prepared to confirm partners for the country’s e-moto conversion.

One startup that says it will be involved is Ampersand, a Kigali based venture that has already begun to pilot EVs and charging systems in Rwanda.

The company has worked with a feasibility study for implementing electric vehicles across Rwanda since last year, according to CEO Josh Whale. “We’ve also got a grant from the government…and it’s been tied in really well with the feasibility study,” he told gpgmail.

Copy of Bike Rebero Ampersand eveningAmpersand has shaped its own e-motorcycle model, building the batteries and fitting them into new motorcycle chassis imported from Asia. To keep the taxi-moto riders consistently moving—vs. delayed while recharging—the startup has developed a battery swapping system and station.

One motorcycle ride-hail startup that’s been testing an Ampersand e-moto is Cango. Founded in 2015, the company has app-based, on-demand taxi-moto fleets in Rwanda and Congo.

“We intend to be among the first to switch our fleet, as the [Ampersand] bikes are ready,” Cango co-founder Barrett Nash told gpgmail in a message from Kinshasa.

Ampersand CEO Josh Wale sees electricity changing the micro-economics of motorcycle taxi markets. He estimates taxi riders in Rwanda spend $2000 a year on fuel and oil-charges for their gas machines.

“Looking at it from a driver point of view, from day one they are paying less for the bike and the battery by going electric,” he said.

 

 

 


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Walmart and Tesla are going to try and work things out – gpgmail


Walmart came out swinging earlier this week in a lawsuit that accused Tesla of breach of contract and gross negligence over problems with rooftop solar panel systems installed at the retail giant’s stores.

Now, just days later, the lawsuit has been placed on hold while the two companies try to reach an agreement that would keep the solar installations in place and put them back in service, according to a joint statement issued late Thursday night.

“Walmart and Tesla look forward to addressing all issues and re-energizing Tesla solar installations at Walmart stores, once all parties are certain that all concerns have been addressed,” the statement read. “Together, we look forward to pursuing our mutual goal of a sustainable energy future. Above all else, both companies want each and every system to operate reliably, efficiently, and safely.”

Walmart hasn’t dropped the lawsuit. The complaint is still on file with New York state court. But the two parties are going to try and reach an agreement that would avoid a lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which is aimed at Tesla’s energy unit that was formerly known as SolarCity, alleges that seven fires on Walmart rooftops were caused by the solar panel systems. Walmart asked Tesla to remove the solar panel systems on all 244 stores where they are currently installed and to pay for damages related to fires that the retailer alleges stem from the panels.

Now, a Walmart spokesperson said it is “actively working towards a resolution” with Tesla.

Neither Tesla or Walmart would explain the details of the negotiations.

The stakes are high for Tesla. Earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk  announced a new rental offering for solar power in a bid to reboot the flagging renewable energy business.

Tesla’s share of the solar market has declined since its merger with SolarCity in 2016. In the second quarter Tesla deployed only 29 megawatts of new solar installations, while the number one and two providers of consumer solar, SunRun and Vivint Solar, installed 103 megawatts and 56 megawatts, respectively.

Tesla’s renewable energy business includes residential and commercial solar and energy storage products. The company also has a utility-scale energy product called Megapack. While Tesla still produces solar panels for residential use, much of its focus has been on developing its solar roof, which is comprised of tiles. It still operates a commercial business, which targets municipalities, schools, affordable housing, enterprise and agriculture and water districts as customers.

The company doesn’t provide a breakdown of its solar installations, making it difficult to determine if the commercial business is flat, falling or on the rise. Language in its latest 10-Q suggests Tesla is putting a renewed effort into its solar business.

Tesla said it’s working on revamping the customer service experience for solar products, according to the 10-Q. The company said while its retrofit solar system deployments have it expects they “will stabilize and grow in the second half of the year.”


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NASA’s new HPE-built supercomputer will prepare for landing Artemis astronauts on the Moon – gpgmail


NASA and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) have teamed up to build a new supercomputer, which will serve NASA’s Ames Research Center in California and develop models and simulations of the landing process for Artemis Moon missions.

The new supercomputer is called ‘Aitken,’ named after American astronomer Robert Grant Aitken, and it can run simulations at up to 3.69 petaFLOPs of theoretical performance power. Aitken is custom-designed by HPE and NASA to work with the Ames modular data centre, which is a project it undertook starting in 2017 to massively reduce the amount of water and energy used in cooling its supercomputing hardware.

Aitken employs second generation Intel Xeon processors, Mellanox InfiniBand high-speed networking, and has 221 TB of memory on board for storage. It’s the result of four years of collaboration between NASA and HPE, and it will model different methods of entry, descent and landing for Moon-destined Artemis spacecraft, running simulations to determine possible outcomes and help determine the best, safest approach.

This isn’t the only collaboration between HPE and NASA: The enterprise computer maker built a new kind of supercomputer able to withstand the rigors of space for the agency, and sent it up to the ISS in 2017 for preparatory testing ahead of potential use on longer missions, including Mars. The two partners then opened that supercomputer for use in third-party experiments last year.

HPE also announced earlier this year that it was buying supercomputer company Cray for $1.3 billion. Cray is another long-time partner of NASA’s supercomputing efforts, dating back to the space agency’s establishment of a dedicated computational modelling division and the establishing of its Central Computing Facility at Ames Research Center.


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After a breakout year, looking ahead to the future of podcasting – gpgmail


2019 has been a breakout year for podcasting. According to Edison Research’s Infinite Dial report, more than half of Americans have now listened to a podcast, and an estimated 32% listen monthly (up from 26% last year). This is the largest yearly increase since this data started being tracked in 2008. Podcast creation also continues to grow, with more than 700,000 podcasts and 29 million podcast episodes, up 27% from last year.

Thanks to this growing listener base, big companies are finally starting to pay attention to the space — Spotify plans to spend $500M on acquisitions this year, and already acquired content studio Gimlet, tech platform Anchor, and true crime network Parcast for a combined $400M. In the past week, Google added playable podcasts to search results, Spotify released an analytics dashboard for podcasters, and Pandora launched a tool for podcasters to submit their shows.

We’ve been going to Podcast Movement, the largest annual industry conference, for three years, and have watched the conference grow along with the industry — reaching 3,000 attendees in 2019. Given the increased buzz around the space, we were expecting this year’s conference to have a new level of energy and professionalism, and we weren’t disappointed. We’ve summarized five top takeaways from the conference, from why podcast ads are hard to scale to why so many celebrities are launching their own shows.

Rise of celebrity podcasters boosts listenership

We’ve officially entered the age of celebrity podcasters. After early successes like WTF with Marc Maron (2009), Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The Thing (2011), and Anna Faris’ Unqualified (2015), top talent is flooding into the space. In 2017, 15% of Apple’s href=””https://www.allaccess.com/net-news/archive/story/172268/apple-podcasts-charts-top-20-most-downloaded-podca”> top 20 most-downloaded podcasts of the year were hosted by celebrities or influencers — this jumped to 32% of the top 25 in 2018. And of all the new shows that launched in 2018, 48% of the top 25 were celebrity-hosted.

Screen Shot 2019 08 21 at 1.21.50 PMThough podcasts are undermonetized compared to other forms of media, talent agents now consider them to be an important part of a well-rounded content strategy. Dan Ferris from CAA tells his clients to think of podcasting as a way of connecting with fans that is “much more intimate than social media.” Podcasts also help celebrities find a new audience. Ben Davis from WME said that while his client David Dobrik has a smaller audience on his podcast than on YouTube (1.5M downloads per episode versus 6M views per video), the podcast helps him reach a new group of listeners who stumble upon his show on the Apple Podcast charts.

While some podcast veterans grumble about the rise of celebrity talk shows, famous podcasters are good for the industry as a whole. Advertisers are drawn to the space by the opportunity to get to access A-list talent at lower prices. One recent example is Endeavor Audio’s fiction show Blackout, which starred Rami Malek, who was fresh off an Oscar win. Endeavor’s head of sales Charlie Emerson said brands might have to sign a “seven or eight figure deal” to advertise alongside Malek’s content in other forms of media. Other podcasters also benefit from new listeners brought into the medium by their favorite stars — a Westwood One survey in fall 2018 found that 60% of podcast listeners report discovering shows via social media, where celebrities and influencers have huge existing audiences to push content to.

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Creator backlash against “walled garden” apps

Paid listening apps represent a fairly small percentage of podcast listenership, with production platform Anchor estimating that Apple Podcasts and Spotify control more than 70% of listenership. A venture-backed company called Luminary is trying to change this — it raised $100M to launch a “Netflix for podcasts” this spring. Consumers pay $7.99/month to access Luminary-exclusive shows alongside podcasts that are free on other apps. Because podcasts have RSS feeds, distributors like Luminary can easily grab free content and put it behind a paywall. The platform, not the creator, benefits from this monetization.

Within days of Luminary’s launch, prominent podcasters and media companies (The New York Times, Gimlet, and more) requested their shows be removed from the app. It’s interesting to note that YouTube has a similar premium plan — for $11.99/month, users can access and download ad-free videos. Unlike Luminary, however, YouTube, pays creators a cut of the revenue from these subscriptions based on how frequently their content is viewed.

Unsurprisingly, creator sentiment is more positive toward platforms like Spotify and Pandora . Though these companies do make money from premium subscribers who listen to podcasts, creators can choose whether or not to submit their shows. And podcasters benefit from making their shows discoverable to the existing user base of these platforms, which already dominate “earshare.” Spotify alone has 232 million MAUs, which dwarfs the 90 million people in the U.S. who listen to a podcast monthly.

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Industry anxiety around maintaining quality at scale

Podcast ad revenue has been scaling quickly, with $480M in spend last year and a projected $680M this year. Over the past four years, ad revenue has scaled at a 65% CAGR, and this growth is expected to continue. In its early days, the podcast ad market was largely been driven by D2C brands — you’ve probably heard hundreds of Casper, Blue Apron, and Madison Reed ads. However, bigger brands are also starting to enter podcasting (Geico, Capital One, and Progressive made the top 10 list for June 2019) due to the growing audience scale and increased precision around targeting and attribution.

Screen Shot 2019 08 21 at 1.48.00 PM

While many attendees were excited by the massive growth in ad revenue, others worried that it may kill what makes podcasting special. They’re particularly concerned that podcasts may go the way of online video, with annoying, generic, low CPM ads. Podcast hosts typically read their own ads, and are often true fans of the product — they share personal stories instead of reciting brand talking points. This results in premium CPMs compared to most digital media — AdvertiseCast’s 2019 survey found an average CPM of $18 for a 30-second podcast ad and $25 for a 60-second ad, more than 2x the average CPM on other digital platforms.

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While these ads are effective, they’re time-consuming and expensive to produce. Big brands interested in podcast ads often expect to reuse radio spots — they aren’t used to the process of crafting and approving a host-read ad that may only reach 10,000 listeners. Podcasters, meanwhile, value their trust with listeners and don’t want to spam them with loud, unoriginal radio ads. The tension between maintaining the quality of ads while scaling quantity was an underlying theme of most monetization discussions, and industry veterans disagree on how it will play out.

Despite the growth in ad revenue and relatively high CPMs, the industry is significantly undermonetized. Using data from Nielsen, IAB, and Edison, we calculated that podcasts monetize through advertisements at only $0.01 per listener hour — less than ten times the rate of radio. Podcast monetization per listener hour has increased over the past year, up 25% by our calculations, but still substantially lags all other forms of media.

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Why are podcasts so undermonetized? Unlike many other forms of media, the dominant distribution platform (Apple Podcasts) has no ad marketplace. Creators have historically had to approach brands themselves or sign with podcast networks to construct custom ad deals, and the “long tail” of podcasters were unable to monetize. This is finally changing. Anchor, which reported in January that it powers 40% of new podcasts, has an ad marketplace that has doubled the number of podcasts that are running ads. Other popular platforms like Radio Public have launched programs for small podcasters to opt-in to ad placements.

The second major hurdle in monetization is attribution. Podcasts have historically monetized through direct response campaigns — a podcaster provides a special URL or promo code for listeners to use when making a purchase. However, many people listen to podcasts when exercising or driving, and can’t write down the promo code or visit the URL immediately. These listeners might remember the product and make a purchase later, but the podcaster won’t get the attribution. Thomas Mancusi of Audioboom estimated that this happens in 50–60% of purchases driven by podcast ads.

Startups are trying to bring better adtech into podcasting to fix this issue.Chartable is one example — the company installs trackers to match a listener’s IP address with a purchaser’s IP address, allowing podcasters to claim attribution for listeners who don’t use their URL or promo code. Chartable currently runs on 10,000 shows, and the early results are so promising that ad agencies expect to see higher CPMs and significantly more spend in the space.

Podcast fans of the future ≠ podcast fans today

As podcasting grows, the listener base is diversifying. Edison Research looked into data on “rookie” listeners (listening for six months or less) and “veteran” listeners (listening for 3+ years), and found significant demographic differences. Only 37% of veterans are female, compared to 53% of rookies. While the plurality of veterans (43%) are age 35–54, 54% of rookies are age 12–34. Rookies are also 1.6x more likely to say they most often listen to podcasts on Spotify, Pandora, or SoundCloud (43% versus 27% of veterans). And social media is an important way that rookies discover podcasts — 52% have found a podcast from video and 46% from audio on social media, compared to 41% and 37% for veterans.

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These new listeners will have a profound impact on the future of podcasting, in both the type of content produced and the way it’s distributed. Industry experts are already noting significant new demand for female-hosted podcasts, as well as audio dramas that appeal to young people looking for a fast-paced, suspenseful story. They’re advising podcasters to share clips of their content on social media, and to leverage broader listening platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud for distribution.

International markets also represent an enormous opportunity for growth. Most podcast listeners today live in the U.S. or China, but content producers are starting to see significant demand elsewhere. Castbox’s Valentina Kaledina said that many fans abroad have resorted to listening in their non-native language, with the top 100 shows in each country comprising a mix of English and local language. Adonde Media’s Martina Castro, who recently conducted the first listener survey on Spanish-language podcast fans, said that 53% of the survey’s 2100 respondents reported listening to podcasts in English — and only 20% of them use Apple Podcasts.

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Larger podcast producers are beginning to translate shows for non-English-speaking markets. Wondery CEO Hernan Lopez announced at the conference that the company’s hit show Dr. Death is now available in seven languages. Lopez noted that it was an expensive process, and he doesn’t expect the shows to generate profit in the near future. However, he believes that Wondery will eventually see a significant return from investing in the development of new podcast markets — and if they do, other podcast companies will likely follow in their footsteps.




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France’s Solar Road Is a Complete Failure


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Remember solar roads? Five years ago, the idea of building insanely expensive solar panels on the ground and driving pollution-spewing vehicles over them was all the rage. Scientists pointed out the obvious flaws. A flat surface that can’t tilt or move to capture sunlight doesn’t hit very high-efficiency targets. Driving pollution-spewing vehicles over the solar panels in question would inevitably hurt their ability to gather sunlight as pollution built up on the surface. Putting solar panels on the ground and then driving over them is an excellent way to smash said solar panels to flinders. In short, the grand push for solar roadways left a lot of very smart people wondering why we didn’t just put the same amount of money into building conventional solar panels and wiring them up in the normal fashion.

Naysayers, all of them. The campaigns to build various solar-powered roads took off. The Dutch, at least, saw reason in one regard and deployed them as part of a bike path rather than attempting to craft a workable system from running pollution-spewing vehicles over a surface that gathers energy from sunlight.

Now, some years after the first solar roads opened for business, they’re… well, an abysmal failure. According to French newspaper Le Monde, the roadway-building effort failed in part because the builders didn’t consider how robust the construction would actually need to be. The “Wattway,” as the French solar road installation is known, is disintegrating much more quickly than its builders anticipated.

This is a fairly common issue. One reason the US highway system requires so much more maintenance than its builders ever anticipated is that the weight of the vehicles we’ve allowed to travel on the highways has increased so much. Roadway damage rises as the fourth power of axle weight, which means an 18,000-pound truck does 3,000 times more damage to the pavement than a 2,000-pound car. French vehicle weights are going to be different and farm tractors aren’t going to weigh as much as a semi. But the point stands: These roads weren’t built to the required standard, even though the manufacturer, Colas, promised that the resin would withstand the weight of 18-wheeler trucks.

According to this report, the proposed benefits of the Wattway (above, translation via Google) did not materialize.

The problems, however, go deeper than just vehicle weight. Thunderstorms have damaged the road. Rotting leaves clogged it. Pale splinters of resin have broken off the surface and the end of the road is now truncated. It’s described as “pale with its ragged joints,” with solar panels “that peel off the road,” and splinters of enamel resin falling from the panels they were intended to protect. Total power production has fallen every year the road was in service. The roadway targeted 790kWh per day but managed just 409kWh/day in its first year of operation. It fell sharply thereafter due to damage, producing 215kWh/day in 2018 and has slipped down to ~200kWh/day in 2019.

The French government invested a relatively small amount of money in the project (5 million euros), but the efficiency problems with the design were fully apparent before ground was broken. “Our system is not mature for inter-urban traffic,” Etienne Gaudin, Colas’ chief executive of Wattway, told Le Monde.

The problem is not the system. The problem is the concept. There is no known manufacturing method that would allow for the construction of cost-effective solar roads that can both withstand the weight and strain of daily driving and deliver acceptably efficient power. Actions taken to improve the efficiency of a road for gathering energy — like tilting the roadbed to match the sun’s travel across the sky and cleaning oil, dirt, and grime from the panels — would make it a less-effective road. Creating a more effective road by using better protective coatings or cheaper manufacturing materials would make the road a less-effective solar panel. Given that solar roads are already far less effective at producing energy than conventional solar installations, one wonders why we don’t leave the roads for driving and optimize the power infrastructure for the specific job it’s good at.

There are lots of great flavors that go together. Chocolate and peanut butter. Salt and vinegar. Butter and popcorn. Ham and cheese. There are also a number of flavors that don’t go well together at all, like steak and tetrachlorodibenzodioxin. We submit that solar roads are much closer to the latter than the former. The idea might not be completely without merit if evaluated in very sunny areas where people primarily bike or walk, but it’s never going to match the efficiency of a conventional array. Outside of specialized applications, it’s time to turn the light off on this idea.

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MIT develops a sensor that can work underwater without a battery and send back data – gpgmail


MIT researchers have created a new underwater sensor and communication system that doesn’t require batteries, and barely uses any power at all. This could help set up an underwater ‘internet of things’ according to MIT, which would allow for real-time sea temperature and marine life monitoring, without requiring regular equipment and power swaps to make it work. Without that requirement, it would even be possible to set up networks of underwater sensors in the seas of distant planets.

The system devised by MIT researchers use a transmitter that sends out sound waves underwater, which then hit sensors with embedded receivers, transmitting a tiny amount of energy in the process. The sensor then either uses that energy to answer back – or doesn’t, which corresponds to either a 1 or a 0, meaning it can effectively communicate in binary. The only energy required for this to work is the power stored in the sound wave sent by the transmitter.

The inspiration for devising this system came from a somewhat unlikely source: Fadel Adib, an assistant professor in the MIT Media Lab and one of the researchers who worked on the project was watching nature doc “Blue Planet” and thought about how much of the Earths oceans are left unstudied, and also about how the solution for that can’t be battery-powered sensors since that could result in a lot of excess pollution.

Essentially, the system works but allowing piezoelectric resonators, which have been used in things like microphones for well over 100 years, to either deform in response to a sound wave, or retain their shape and reflect, based on information contained in any kind of sensor you might want to pair with the piezoelectric material. That sends back the binary signal, which can then be collected and interpreted.

Next up for the research team is to show that this can work at longer distances, and in concert with other sensors for simultaneous transmission. Eventually, it might even be able to transmit sound and even low-res images, which would be a huge development in terms of establishing remote monitoring stations – especially as we pursue more science and research on worlds not our own.


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Tesla Begins Renting Solar Panels for as Little as $50 Per Month


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Tesla has worked to bring down the price of its electric vehicles, but there’s only so much you can do to make large solar panels affordable. The company’s solar installation business has lagged in recent quarters, but a new rental program might pique consumer interest. Consumers in several states can rent Tesla solar panel setups for their homes for as little as $50 per month. 

Tesla purchased solar panel installer SolarCity about three years ago when it was vying for the top spot in residential solar power. Tesla sold the systems, which can cost upwards of $30,000, in Home Depot stores for several years, but now it relies entirely on direct sales similar to its electric vehicles. Unfortunately, installations have been dropping. Tesla is now a distant third in US solar power behind SunRun and Vivint Solar which deployed 103 and 56 megawatts of solar power last quarter, respectively. Tesla only installed 29 megawatts. 

Under Tesla’s new rental system, consumers can pay as little as $50 per month for the solar panels. That’s for a “small” 3.8kWh installation on the roof that could generate almost 20 kWh per day in some of the sunnier states. You can only get the rental option in California (minimum $65), Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico. The largest installations cost as much as $195 per month (California pricing). 

Tesla estimates consumers will save money even with the smallest installations, but not much. For example, in Arizona with its ample sunshine, consumers can expect to net between $110 and $280 per year after rental fees. The cost of electricity also matters, though. In shadier California where power prices are higher, you could cut your bills by $250-650 annually. 

According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the lower out-of-pocket pricing makes it easy for anyone in supported states to get solar panels with just a few clicks. It’s like having a “money printer on your roof,” says Musk. Although, he admits it’s better over the long haul to buy the solar panels. You can’t rent a Powerwall battery system with the panels, but you can buy one and have it installed the same day.

While Tesla doesn’t guarantee you’ll save money with the rented solar panels, that seems like a safe assumption. The one catch is what happens when you decide to stop renting the panels. Tesla will charge $1,500 to remove the panels and repair the roof. The company claims it makes no profit on this process, but that could still erase most of the savings you’ve enjoyed from having the panels.

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Shell’s first electric vehicle fast charger lands in Singapore – gpgmail


Royal Dutch Shell, the energy giant known for its fossil fuel production and hundreds of Shell gas stations, is creeping into the electric vehicle-power business.

The company’s first DC fast charger launched Monday at a Shell gas station in Singapore. Greenlots, an EV charging startup acquired by Shell in January, installed the charger. This is the first of 10 DC fast chargers that Greenlots plans to bring to Shell service stations in Singapore over the next several months.

The decision to target Singapore is part of Greenlots’ broader strategy to provide EV charging solutions across all applications throughout Asia and North America, the company said. Both Shell and Greenlots have a presence in Singapore. Greenlots, which based in Los Angeles, was founded in Singapore; and Shell is one of Singapore’s largest foreign investors.

Singapore has been promoting the use of electric vehicles, particularly for car-sharing and ride-hailing platforms. The island city-state has been building up its EV infrastructure to meet anticipated demand as ride-hailing drivers and commercial fleets switch to electric vehicles.

Greenlots was backed by Energy Impact Partners, a cleantech investment firm, before it was acquired by Shell. The company, which combines its management software with the EV charging hardware, has landed some significant customers in recent years, notably Volkswagen. Greenlots is the sole software provider to Electrify America, the the entity set up by Volkswagen as part of its settlement with U.S. regulators over its diesel emissions cheating scandal.


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Y Combinator-backed Holy Grail is using machine learning to build better batteries – gpgmail


For a long, long time, renewable energy proponents have considered advancements in battery technology to be the holy grail of the industry.

Advancements in energy storage has been among the hardest to achieve economically thanks to the incredibly tricky chemistry that’s involved in storing power.

Now, one company that’s launching from Y Combinator believes it has found the key to making batteries better. The company is called Holy Grail and it’s launching in the accelerator’s latest cohort.

With an executive team that initially included Nuno Pereira, David Pervan, and Martin Hansen, Holy Grail is trying to bring the techniques of the fabless semiconductor industry to the world of batteries.

The company’s founders believe that the only way to improve battery functionality is to take a systems approach to understanding how different anodes and cathodes will work together. It sounds simple, but Pereira says that the computational power hadn’t existed to take into account all of the variables that go along with introducing a new chemical to the battery mix.

“You can’t fix a battery with just a component,” Pereira says. “All of the batteries that were created and failed in the past. They create an anode, but they don’t have a chemical that works with the cathode or the electrolyte.”

For Pereira, the creation of Holy Grail is the latest step on a long road of experimentation with mechanical and chemical engineering. “As a kid I was more interested in mechanical engineering and building stuff,” he says. But as he began tinkering with cars and became fascinated with mobility, he realized that batteries were the innovation that gave the world its charge.

In 2017 Pereira founded a company called 10Xbattery, which was making high-density lithium batteries. That company, launching with what Pereira saw as a better chemistry, encapsulated the industry’s problem at large — the lack

So, with the help of a now-departed co-founder, Pereira founded Holy Grail. “He essentially told me, ‘Do you want to take a step back and see if there’s a better way to do this?’” said Pereira.

The company pitches itself as science fiction coming from the future, but it relies on a combination of what are now fairly standard (at least in the research community) tools. Holy Grail’s pitch is that it can automate much of the research and development process to create new batteries that are optimized to the specifications of end customers.

“It’s hard for a human to do the experiments that you need and to analyze multidimensional data,” says Pereira. “There are some companies that only do the machine-learning part and the computational science part and sell the results to companies. The problem is that there’s a disconnection between experimental reality and the simulations.”

Using computer modeling, chemical engineering and automated manufacturing, Holy Grail pitches a system that can get real test batteries into the hands of end customers in the mobility, electronics, and utility industries orders of magnitude more quickly than traditional research and development shops.

Currently the system that Holy Grail has built out can make 700 batteries per day. The company intends to  build a pilot plant that will make batteries for electronics and drones. For automotive and energy companies, Holy Grail says it will partner with existing battery manufacturers that can support the kind of high-throughput manufacturing big orders will require.

Think of it like bringing the fabless chip design technologies and business models to the battery industry, says Pereira.

Holy Grail already has $14 million in letters of intent with potential customers, according to Pereira and is expecting to close additional financing as it exits Y Combinator.

To date the company has been backed by the London-based early stage investment firm Deep Science Ventures, where Pereira worked as an entrepreneur in residence.

Ultimately, the company sees its technology being applied far beyond batteries as a new platform for materials science discoveries broadly. For now, though the focus is on batteries.

“For the low volume we sell direct,” says Pereira. “While on high volume production, we will implement a pilot line through the system… we are able to do the research engineering with the small ones and test the big ones. In our case when we have a cell that works, it’s not something that works in a lab it’s something that works in the final cell.”


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Southern California athletic brand, Vuori, raises $45 million from Norwest Venture Partners – gpgmail


The four-year-old, Southern California athletic brand Vuori has picked up a $45 million growth equity investment from the investment firm Norwest Venture Partners.

The company, which says it’s profitable, will now join a stable of consumer startup brands that includes Birdies, Casper Sleep, Grove Collaborative, Jolyn, Kendra Scott, Madison Reed and Topo Athletic.

Founded by Joe Kudla, Vuori began as an athletic wear company focused on selling shorts, sweatshirts, hoodies, and t-shirts to men in a more muted palette than other options.

Focused on retailers like REI, Nordstrom, Equinox and Core Power Yoga, the company’s clothes retail from anywhere between $32 for shirts and hats and $188 for its most expensive jacket. 

“As devoted customers, it was apparent to us that Vuori had built versatile products with tremendous energy and soul,” said Jon Kossow, managing partner at Norwest. “This is exactly the type of positive brand experience we search for in our consumer investments, and we look forward to supporting Joe and the team as they continue to bring new products to market and delight their customers.”


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