person holding white ceramic sink
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The EVs — electric vehicles are everywhere. More SPACs are touting their fantastic future where they sell millions of vehicles. Elon Musk is the wealthiest guy in the world. Everything is so lit, except no one wants to talk about the elephant in the room — rare earth metals and the pollution that comes with mining them. And nothing is more precious for this new EV future than Lithium — the stuff at the heart of our connected future.

It is why the US needs to figure out how to control its rare-earth destiny and become less reliant on overseas suppliers and processors — read China. And that’s why every eye has been on the Thacker Pass Mine, a Lithium mine in Nevada. The mine can generate over 66,000 tons of Lithium a year for about four decades, the company behind the mine brags. But it will come at a substantial environmental cost. And that has got a wide variety of people up-in-arms.

Maddie Stone, writing for Grist, outlines the legal, social, and climate challenges against the Thacker Pass Mine in her deeply reported story, The Battle of Thacker Pass. I hope you read it.

About a month ago, I wrote about the state of Starlink, the satellite broadband division of SpaceX, and speculated that I won’t be surprised if “the Starlink network evolves into Tesla’s very own broadband backbone, connecting all Tesla vehicles.” Elon Musk, the CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX, threw cold water on that theory in a tweet. 

However, a new FCC filing shows that Starlink wants to offer connectivity to aircraft, ships, large trucks, and RVs. They picked the right target market for sure — the broadband choices on ships and aircraft are pretty meager. Mobile broadband is non-existent when you are using those modes of transportation.

However, I wouldn’t dismiss the Tesla vehicle network that quickly, despite what Elon said. In a January 2020 call, he said that in some years. Tesla could have Starlink terminals. Anyway, since Tesla has concrete plans to make trucks, so that would be a good start of Tesla’s backbone. Connecting its future big-boy trucks (Cybertruck) and moving trucks could help Tesla finetune the hardware for Starlink. 

And if the trajectory of all silicon has shown us anything, it is that miniaturization happens quickly. And capabilities increase even faster. I still remember the roof-sized dishes we needed to get satellite television. Those dishes are much smaller now. 


Ever wondered why Elon Musk is so high on Starlink, the low orbit internet access centric satellite constellation his company, Space X is building? It is because despite all the talk about Mars colonies, for now, communications is what will pay the bills and keep SpaceX growing. And it could be a lot more disruptive by lowering the cost of satellite communications and by being more inclusive. Imagine what if it cost $100,000 to build and launch a satellite — and you can imagine the rest. Read this astute analysis of the Starlink phenomenon by Casey Handmer.  (Also: Who is Casey?)

Tesla’s SolarCity gamble has gone wrong

“If he hadn’t bailed out SolarCity, his whole debt-laden empire might have cracked. Yet without the bailout, Tesla would be far more healthy….In the second quarter of this year, SolarCity installed only 29 megawatts of solar panels—far below the 10,000 megawatts in annual installations that Musk had promised.”

Vanity Fair

Bethany Mclean who made her name writing about Enron long before others is explaining the challenge faced by Tesla and Elon Musk due to the 2016 SolarCity acquisition. The much ballyhooed Solar Roof is a flop, and the whole thing seems to be coming apart at seams. Worth a read from a reporter, who has a habit of finding big stories before others.

Read article on Bethany Mclean