Learning by Proxy | The Electric Future

The world has determined that electric vehicles and renewable energy is the future, is it?; the fires seem to be quite selective; Can you just impose trade restriction? WTO sides with China!

Did you know that it was only in 1901 that Oil was first pumped out of the Earth? The first oil company was set up by the English in Iran; the Anglo-Persian oil company. It took just one world war to move all ships and vehicles from coal to oil. And by 1980 we knew we were changing the weather of the planet.

After the Second World War, nuclear energy was considered the solution to global energy requirements. Then there was Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and more recently Fukushima.

Over the last 30 years we have been going two steps forward, one step back with renewable and a more concerted effort started with the Obama administration in 2009. To me, it just seems like, as humans, we prefer death by a thousand cuts rather than one swift blow.

Electric Car

In the summer of 2003, two entrepreneurs, who had invented the e-book business back in 1997, sold it and decided to pursue a new venture. They decided to take a Lotus chassis and add batteries to it and create an electric car. The genius that they accomplished was to design a motor that world run like an AC motor with DC input. DC is binary, full power or no power and this allows for limited acceleration. AC, by comparison, is a sinusoidal wave that allows a range of output.

A year later they were looking to raise a Series A and struggling to put the USD 7.5 Million together. A young dot com Millionaire showed up with a USD 6.5 Million cheque. His name was Elon Musk and the company we are talking about is Tesla. Over the subsequent years, the co-founders were ejected from the company for not being able to drive sales and Elon Musk took over as the CEO.

Elon Musk and his need for Tesla to survive resulted in a PR push projecting him as a messiah trying to save the planet. In reality, he just created a new problem. Li-Ion batteries started to be produced at a different scale thanks to cars. The application of this technology before this was in small electronic devices. Lithium-Ion batteries are called as such because Lithium is the carrier of the electron and hence the current. The battery consists of much greater quantities of Manganese, Cobalt, Nickel and other rare earth metals. The trouble is recycling them is tough. 

The travesty is that Germany and Japan had for decades been experimenting with Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars. They need to be refuelled with Hydrogen, much like we fill Petrol today and the byproduct is water vapour! Even today, there is a vast network of Hydrogen fuel stations across Germany and Japan.

On that note - After harnessing Direct Current (DC), Edison had decided DC was a solution. A young apprentice who worked in his shop called Nikola Tesla came up with Alternating Current (AC). Edison could not stomach the fact and berated Tesla and declared AC impractical. He even went so far as to put on a show in the middle of New York, electrocuting horses and dogs to make people fear AC and adopt DC. Dues to technical shortcomings DC lost.

Incidentally, Elon Musk did the same to Hydrogen Fuel Cell, claiming that Hydrogen was unsafe and highly inflammable. 

You know another highly inflammable substance - Petrol. 

Not very much unlike Edison; Musk berated Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology. He ensured that research into Fuel Cell died and the technology was not made any safer. He sunk to the lows of opening up Tesla’s patents so that other automakers chose Li-ion Cells. The real irony is that Elon Musk’s car company is called Tesla.

This is not a war of technology but one of infrastructure. If there are no recharging stations, no matter how good the Li-Ion battery, it will not succeed. Similarly, no matter how good Hydrogen Fuel Cells are if there are no Hydrogen fuelling stations - checkmate. More auto manufacturers adopt Li-Ion, it spurs more infrastructure for it, the fate of the other technology is sealed. 

China was amongst the first nation to get on board with the electric car experiment and today is buried in landfills full of spent Li-Ion batteries. Two years ago every country was releasing an EV Policy. And now…

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has floated an expression of interest (EoI) to invite companies that can assist in recycling and refurbishing of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries as well as printed circuit boards (PCBs), according to documents seen by The Indian Express.

Source: Indian Express

Elon Musk is certainly aware of the garbage armageddon that he is unleashing. Certainly why he is so desperate to get to Mars.

Not to mention we will probably run out of Lithium in the next 10 years at the rate at which we are consuming it. Chile, Bolivia and Argentina form the Lithium Triangle and hold about 80% of the deposit on earth. The current appetite is so high every nation is scrambling to buy mines in the region. The USA in the meantime is busy organising coups. 

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has stirred up a Twitter storm after seemingly suggesting that he has no objections to carrying out regime change operations for his company’s benefit. But some argued Musk was joking.

The provocative comments were made after the billionaire businessman suggested that another government stimulus bill to help boost America’s faltering economy would “not be in the best interests of the people.” 

Source: RT

It certainly is not a joke. You see the condition of the Middle East today. South America will resemble that in 10 years. 

An Estonian startup is trying to bring to an end the Lithium domination. They have been developing a battery using Graphene Technology. Graphene is a single atomic layer of carbon and has incredible properties. The trouble has been scaling production. It is very hard to make.

It can be charged in just 15 seconds and can go through hundreds of thousands of charge-recharge cycles without degrading. Meet the “SuperBattery” developed by Estonian startup Skeleton Technologies, which could solve some of the biggest problems still holding back the transition away from fossil fuels.

Source: Sifted

This is one of the battery technologies that seems interesting and can help us move away from the Lithium-Ion Battery.

Renewable Energy

The entire premise that electric cars will help reduce emissions is predicated on the assumption that the electricity will be generated using renewable sources.

I wrote a previous edition on Energy and how the visionary moves made by ARPA-E has moved the world towards building renewable energy supply chains. The economies of scale are kicking in and prices are falling precipitously. Even the story of renewable energy being the saviour is all a lie. Solar and Wind are both a recycling nightmare.

[…] because the solar e-waste glut is coming. By 2050, the International Renewable Energy Agency projects that up to 78 million metric tons of solar panels will have reached the end of their life and that the world will be generating about 6 million metric tons of new solar e-waste annually. While the latter number is a small fraction of the total e-waste humanity produces each year, standard electronics recycling methods don’t cut it for solar panels. Recovering the most valuable materials from one, including silver and silicon, requires bespoke recycling solutions. And if we fail to develop those solutions along with policies that support their widespread adoption, we already know what will happen.

“If we don’t mandate recycling, many of the modules will go to the landfill,” said Arizona State University solar researcher Meng Tao, who recently authored a review paper on recycling silicon solar panels, which comprise 95 per cent of the solar market.

Source: Wired

Solar panels use a whole host of rare earth metals and while they have a long life, that life eventually comes to an end. When it does, dealing with the leftover cells is challenging. We do not have the technology to deal with the quantum of solar cells that will arrive at end of life. 

You would think Wind Turbines made of metal should not be a problem. But they pose a different challenge.

The municipal landfill in Casper, Wyoming, is the final resting place of 870 blades whose days making renewable energy have come to end. The severed fragments look like bleached whale bones nestled against one another.


Built to withstand hurricane-force winds, the blades can’t easily be crushed, recycled or repurposed. That’s created an urgent search for alternatives in places that lack wide-open prairies. In the U.S., they go to the handful of landfills that accept them, in Lake Mills, Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Casper, where they will be interred in stacks that reach 30 feet under.

Source: Bloomberg

If renewable energy is also a bad solution, then the question that begs to be asked if what is the right solution? Many including Bill Gates have maintained that Nuclear is the right way to go.

In that context,

While we are on the subject, is this not all about reducing pollution? This…

Oregon Fires

When you look at the images of the Oregon fire destruction, what do you see?

One thing seems to be common - Standing Trees. I think nature is out to exterminate our presence and cleanse itself.

USA meet WTO

The American government has been acting strange with China especially when it comes to trade. There have been two rounds of tariffs levied on China at random. Their companies have been asked to sell themselves. Crazy nonsense that China has been enduring rather stoically. 

The World Trade Organization ruled today that US tariffs on Chinese imports are illegal under global trade rules.

The new taxes in question were imposed on Americans by President Donald Trump, ostensibly put in place to combat Chinese efforts to steal intellectual property from US companies through coercive investment pacts, among other tactics. Now, the WTO says the US’s blanket tariffs aren’t a permissible solution under trade agreements the US signed on to starting in 1994.


Consider that traditional US allies Australia and the European Union both weighed in on the dispute—in China’s favour. Both submitted formal comments saying that they think China’s exploitation of foreign intellectual property is a problem, but that the US arguments about multilateral trade rules were incorrect.

Source: Quartz

The US has been slowly alienating itself. It began by pulling out of the Paris Convention and denying climate change. Karma is a bitch! A third of the country is burning and another third is underwater. Being in a position where your greatest allies from 80 years align themselves with China! Now, that requires some talent.

Facebook Campus

Facebook started at Harvard as an aggregator of hostel facebooks. 15 years, several acquisitions and even more copying later, Facebook does not resemble its former self. Furthermore, the company does not appeal to the younger demographic. So what does the company do? Launches Facebook for college - Campus.

Facebook is getting back to its roots today with the launch of a new product called Campus, a section of the main app specifically designed for college students. Campus is designed to be a place where students can interact only with peers at their school; they can access a Campus-only News Feed and join Groups, events, and group chat rooms, called Campus Chats, about campus life. In a nod to the original Facebook, they’ll even have access to a “Campus directory” where they can find and friend other students.

Source: Verge

What this would ultimately mean for the company and its fortunes remains to be seen. I feel pretty confident that it would be a qualified disaster.

Nvidia Armed

As a kid when I heard Nvidia, I thought gaming. Nvidia makes some of the best Graphics Processors (GPU) in the world. It has off-late been associated with Bitcoin since GPUs are used heavily to mine bitcoins. This has changed the fortunes of the company. You could have bought Nvidia shares for USD 20 in June 2015, as of yesterday it was priced at USD 510. The company has been doubling sales since 2015, every year.

They bought ARM from Softbank last week. A chip architecture that powers almost every mobile device in the world as well as 

The deal values ARM at $40bn (£31.2bn), four years after it was bought by Japanese conglomerate Softbank for $32bn.

ARM's technology is at the heart of most smartphones, among many other devices.

Nvidia has promised to keep the business based in the UK, to hire more staff, and to retain ARM's brand.

It added that the deal would create "the premier computing company for the age of artificial intelligence" (AI).

Source: BBC

Nvidia has the most sought after GPU and the company that produces the architecture for the most sought after CPU. It is a whole widget!

Nvidia is a US company and fears are rife that the company that was born in Cambridge might be forced to move. Also, with Brexit looming anything could happen.

If you want to know more about ARM - a thread


Across the world, e-commerce companies have been grappling to bring the cost of delivery down. The big problem - people. They have to be paid salaries every month. It's like a subscription service that you want to get rid of. Several companies have experimented with drones but drone regulations across the globe are not free enough to allow any of these companies to move to drones completely. Snapdeal, the homegrown e-commerce company is now attempting to use the current pandemic to start contactless delivery using autonomous vehicles in Gurgaon. 

Ottonomy IO has developed delivery robots for autonomous last-mile and local deliveries which can run along sidewalks and local streets autonomously.

“We are investing heavily in artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop future-oriented capabilities. Delivery via robots is part of the evolving future of logistics and we are excited to partner with Ottonomy IO to test these technologies. Contactless delivery via robotic vehicles is a step in building a safer and convenient future for shoppers”, said Snapdeal spokesperson in a medial release.

Source: Inc42

It remains to be seen what technical challenges are faced and also if this model takes off or not. We can all wait and watch. Given that this is Haryana, I expect many of them will be stolen!


Delhi is getting a new Parliament building which will be a triangle! Read here

People are dying - literally - of sickness, of fires, of anger and stupidity. And some of the best minds in the world are busy…

You think it is all bad, get disappointed and then…

Would you like to brush your teeth like this?

On activism

You have come this far, so I assume you enjoyed reading this. If you are not subscribing but still want to know when Learning by Proxy drops; follow me on Twitter @viveksrn 

It takes me time to write this and if more people read it and comment on it, it encourages me, so please do share this post with anyone who might like to read it.

Signing off…