Innovator of the Year: Tesla
Superchargers in urban areas, which give Tesla a stronger foothold in the growing EV market.
Biggest project to watch:
The Hyperloop. An underground tunnel offering superfast travel between cities would be incredible. But there’s red tape and large costs in the way.
From announcements about flying cars to newly-launched data portals and products to make cities more connected, 2017 has seen significant innovations across countless cities. However, one company generated and delivered a steady flow of news: Tesla.
Disappointing third quarter earnings did not keep its CEO, Elon Musk, from making headlines all year. Musk's projects and proclamations cover a variety of areas, with some focused on smart cities.
To name just a few: A demonstration that nanogrids could be effective for large buildings, a solar panel product that replaces roofing, and a Boring Company initiative that could change traffic flows. And, yes, there’s the Hyperloop — now Virgin Hyperloop One — an underground train system that’s had some successful tests and could revolutionize the way cities are connected.
Deploying a nanogrid to Puerto Rico as the island was grappling with Hurricane Maria helps to prove the idea that nanogrids, disconnected from any main electrical grid, offer a high degree of resiliency and stability.
While the cost of Tesla’s Solar Roof might be a bit high for some customers, solar prices are dropping all the time, and introducing aesthetically-pleasing solar tiles gives Tesla a strong foothold in the solar marketplace. Solar panels or solar tiles, coupled with Tesla’s Powerwall, could turn individual buildings into entirely self-sustaining microgrids. The ability to take some buildings — even just critical ones, like hospitals, supermarkets and banks, for example — off of the grid by equipping them with solar and solar storage, will go a long way toward making cities more resilient against disaster.
Ten years ago the type of underground tunnels Musk envisions for cars or passenger pods were far-fetched. But Musk has already started drilling in Maryland a route for a hyperloop train. The state's transportation secretary called the move "transformational."
What may be most innovative from Tesla in 2017, though, may be one of the announcements that got little fanfare — moving Supercharging stations into urban cores.
The number of electric vehicles purchased and sold is expected to climb, and it will be important that cities have infrastructure in place to support residents that purchase EVs. This is especially true in light of the buyer’s remorse that can surface with EV owners who find it difficult to charge their cars away from home.
By the numbers
Energy capacity of a single Powerpack 2, a type of battery pack developed by Tesla. Musk shipped several to Puerto Rico to help areas of the island without power following the hurricanes.
Tesla, Inc. market cap. Tesla shares sold for over $100 more in October 2017 than in October 2016.
Potential routes for Hyperloop One in the U.S., out of 10 total worldwide. Hyperloop One officials want three routes to be operational by 2021.
While Tesla’s urban Superchargers were first only deployed in Chicago and Boston, those locations give the company a foothold into a market that will continue to grow and develop, much like its solar roof tiles.
Tesla had a rough third quarter, in part because the latest model of its electric car hasn't sold too well. But a good bet is on Musk and Tesla to focus on ambitious and revolutionary technologies.
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