Tesla never stops thinking about new ways to do old things. Never. Not for one minute. Every second of every day is devoted to exploring new ideas that can make the world a better place. This past week, Tesla introduced two such advances. One is small thing — dynamic brake lights. The other could upend the utility industry — interconnecting solar power installations without using the existing electric grid.
An End To The Grid As We Know It
Forbes reports that Tesla has filed for a patent on a proposal that would allow people and businesses with solar installations to share electricity with each other directly. At the present time, if you have a rooftop solar system, the only way you can share any of the electricity it generates with your neighbor is by putting it back into the grid and hoping the utility company sends it to your neighbor’s house.
Tesla has a better idea. Its latest patent filing, Number 16/186390, explains how people with behind-the-meter solar generating installations could share the electricity generated with each other without using the existing grid. The grid would still be there, ready to supply electricity when needed, but it would act more like a battery backup system than a primary source of power.
The key to the proposal is linking the solar systems together with direct wired connections. These would “enable sharing of power, controlling power flow over the direct connections, and/or recording relative power flows between the devices,” according to the patent application.
The application goes on to say, “Most of these alternative-source systems are connected to the grid using preexisting electrical cables and utility company infrastructure. As such, they are not equipped to effectively manage power flow between the systems without accounting for control and/or regulatory issues. Still, even ignoring utility infrastructure constraints, current systems lack intersystem interaction capabilities.”
The flow of power between solar systems would be managed digitally, presumably in much the same way that inverters today provide an interface between the solar system on the roof and the 110 volt AC system used by most homes and businesses.
The problem, of course, will be existing utility companies, who since the days of Thomas Edison have been blessed with government-sponsored monopolies that give them the exclusive right to supply electricity within a designated geographical area. As a result, they have become accustomed to thinking, “It’s our electricity dammit and we will decide how it is made and distributed.”
The Tesla proposal, of course, takes a sledgehammer to that model, just as selling cars directly to the public has done to traditional car sales. Most states have laws on the books that prohibit anyone but a licensed utility company from sharing electricity with any other person or group. Those laws, which were entirely reasonable 100 years ago, are no longer appropriate today. But the utility companies, like franchise dealer organizations, will fight any amendment to the current business model with every weapon they can muster. Count on it.
Dynamic Brake Lights
Most people don’t give much thought to brake lights. They are either on or they are off. But Tesla doesn’t see it that way (naturally). It has introduced dynamic brake lights for its Model 3 sedans in Europe.
If the car is traveling more than 50 km/h and the driver stomps hard on the brake pedal, the brake lights will flash on and off to alert the driver behind of a sudden stop. This is an idea that has been trialed on some city buses and motorcycles in the past but one that has never been applied to production automobiles.
Australia’s Motor 1 says, “Tesla’s New Dynamic Brake Lights Should Be Standard On Every Car.” We agree. The rollout out of the dynamic brake lights was first reported by Reddit user DutchDeity and picked up by Teslarati.
“If you are driving over 50 km/h and brake forcefully, the brake lights will now flash quickly to warn other drivers that your car is rapidly slowing down,” reads the description for Tesla’s Dynamic Brake Lights feature. In addition to flashing the tail lights in situations that call for unexpected heavy braking, the vehicle will also flash its hazard lights.
If your car stops completely, the hazard warning lights will flash until you press the accelerator or manually press the hazard warning lights button to turn them off.”
Is it a small thing? Yes, it is. But it adds to the company’s reputation for making some of the safest cars available. Tesla’s idea is one that other automakers should adopt as soon as possible. Oh, wait. Those other guys can’t implement over-the-air updates to improve their cars after they leave the factory, can they? Another reason to buy a Tesla instead of some another brand in the first place.