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Tesla Has Its Fingerprints On Apple & Volkswagen Business Deals

Tesla is involved in an energy storage project for Apple and may be selling emissions credits to Volkswagen in China.

Apple and Volkswagen are both intent on reducing carbon emissions from their business operations, and Tesla is helping them get there. Apple is adding a 60 MW/240 MWh battery storage component to the 130 MW California Flats solar power farm it built in Monterey County, California, several year ago. The electricity from that operation helps power Apple’s offices in Cupertino.

Image courtesy of Tesla

Oddly enough, neither Tesla nor Apple seems anxious to mention that the energy storage addition, which was approved by the county last year, will consist of 85 Tesla Megapacks, according to The Verge, which learned of the Tesla connection in an email from the county’s head of planning. Apple is crowing about its new energy storage facility, which it calls one of the largest in the US, but never mentions that Tesla is involved or that Tesla is constructing larger battery storage facilities elsewhere in the US.

Last week, Apple vice president Lisa Jackson told Reuters, “The challenge with clean energy — solar and wind — is that it’s by definition intermittent. If we can do it, and we can show that it works for us, it takes away the concerns about intermittency and it helps the grid in terms of stabilization. It’s something that can be imitated or built upon by other companies.”

The Apple/Tesla linkage is interesting because the two companies have had a rather frosty relationship over the years. Elon Musk one quipped that Apple is where former Tesla engineers go to die. He revealed last year that at one point, when Tesla was in dire financial straights, he was considering whether to sell his company to Apple but Tim Cook refused to meet with him. Apple is also rumored to be considering building some sort of electric vehicle, which would put the two companies in direct competition for the first time ever.

VW Buys Credits From Tesla In China

Tesla Gigafactory 3 employees in Shanghai. Image courtesy of Tesla.

Another company that is striving to lower its carbon footprint is Volkswagen. It has two factories in China that are already producing the new ID.4 electric SUV, but the majority of the cars it sells in that country are powered by gasoline engines. In order to meet China’s tougher emissions rules — which are patterned after those created by the California Air Resources Board — it needs to buy green credits to offset the emissions from those conventional cars.

FAW-VW sold over 2 million cars in China last year, none of them battery electrics. According to Reuters, unnamed sources say that company will buy green credits from Tesla if necessary. There is no indication whether Volkswagen’s other joint venture with SAIC will also be looking to buy green credits, but Reuters reports the two companies combined have one of the worst emissions histories in China. Volkswagen expects to have 5 all-electric models for sale in the Chinese market soon, but has a long way to go to clean up the carbon footprint of its conventional cars.

Reuters reports that Tesla generated $1.58 billion in income from the sale of emissions credits to other manufacturers last year. When Tesla first began selling cars, some critics accused it of being in the credit business more than in the car business, but as Elon Musk famously replied, he and Tesla didn’t make the rules, they just know how to profit from them.

The takeaway from both of these stories is how tightlipped everyone is about Tesla’s involvement in their businesses. Even Tesla declines to talk openly about it, as if there may be nondisclosure agreements involved that require all parties to keep their business dealings confidential. (Then again, Tesla reportedly no longer has a PR department.) The upshot is that Tesla is an important behind-the-scenes player in the business dealings of several global companies. Its stock may continue its roller coaster ride, but Tesla itself is thriving as it seeks to become one of the most important business corporations in the world.

Related story: Tesla Megapack, Powerpack, & Powerwall Battery Storage Pricing

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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