Disruption in Energy and Transportation

Posted: September 6th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Technology | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Disruption in Energy and Transportation

The following presentation by Tony Seba, called “Clean Disruption of Energy & Transportation”, is long (an hour), but is insightful:

In case you don’t have an hour, a quick summary of the video is below.

Low-level technology advancements

There are three major technological advancements in the works right now. Thy are all following exponential curves similar to Moore’s Law for CPU power/price.

  • Lithium-ion batteries are becoming drastically cheaper.
  • Solar power generation is becoming drastically cheaper.
  • Self-driving car technology (notably GPUs and Lidar) is becoming drastically cheaper and better.

High-level technologies become possible

These basic technological advancements are making several higher-level technologies available.

  • Self-driving electric vehicles will soon be economically viable. Potentially within the next 3 to 4 years, electric vehicles will be cheaper than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Add to that the self-driving capabilities, and self-driving electric vehicles will be viable much more quickly than most people think.
  • Solar power generation and storage will also soon (in the next 3-5 years) become economically viable.
    • The first hurdle for this technology to clear is known as “grid parity”—i.e. can you generate and store electricity with solar for cheaper than you can get power from certain sources on the grid. Solar has already reached grid parity in many places, and soon solar+storage will also reach grid parity.
    • The second hurdle for this technology to clear is what Seba refers to as “god parity”—i.e. when solar+storage is cheaper than the transmission of power. Once this happens, it isn’t even economically viable to have central generation of power (e.g. power plants) even if generation were free except for areas that are too densely populated to generate all of their own solar power (think Manhattan).

Industries get overturned

So what does this mean for industry?

  • Individual car ownership will be replaced by Uber, Lyft, and other “Transportation as a Service” companies, all using self-driving electric vehicles.
  • Energy generation and transmission will drastically change. Not only will fossil-fuel-based electricity generation become untenable, even centrally-located power generation will become much less necessary. The electric grid will become something much more akin to the internet, with many nodes of generation and a more diversified and resilient transmission system. Not to mention what the transition away from ICE vehicles could do to the price of oil.

And remember, the timeline on all of this is by 2020-2025.

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