Electric Vehicles — 18 October 2012

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

This week, I spoke with Diurmuid O’Connell, VP of Business Development at Tesla Motors and he confirmed the company is not just focused on sexy fast cars but connectivity and energy storage.

“The totem of social acceptance is no longer personal mobility, it’s personal connectivity…the smart phone,” says O’Connell, citing the company’s massive 17 inch touchscreen which offers everything from navigation, to climate control to web browsing. He describes how it gives consumers the ability to upgrade a vehicle immediately and remotely; a useful benefit especially for what he calls “the perfect navigation system.”

“The screen can be updated in real time to improve not just the entertainment and climate control aspects but actually the performance of the vehicle,” he adds.

O’Connell also shared some details of Tesla’s push into energy storage. I asked him if the focus was on utility scale storage or distributed energy storage and he made reference to Bloom Energy – the Sunnyvale based fuel cell maker – that has a business model aimed at both sectors. Energy storage is something that many experts describe as the holy grail for advanced energy systems and Tesla has a large team of engineers working hard on the challenge at its Deer Park, Palo Alto facility. When I pressed him on future breakthroughs, O’Connell admitted the team is making good progress and said an announcement was likely within the next 12 months.

The video was recorded at SVForum’s CleanTech breakfast, moderated by Rob Shelton of PwC, in Silicon Valley on October 16, 2012. Check back soon for more on Net Zero buildings and other clean tech innovation trends.

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