Make Megawatt the New Kilowatt


Stephen Farmer

Don’t know if you’re up on the news about the Tesla semi. I like the fact the regenerative braking can keep the brakes unused, and cool, during hill descents. That makes the semi much safer when emergency braking is needed. I also like its ability to pass other semis almost as fast as a car can pass. These trucks won’t be holding up traffic.

I just had a thought that could lead to one of our interesting conversations. The charging station for the semi must be a beast. The power requirements to charge it are enormous. I had a similar thought early in my career about computer speed and storage size. Where we started with kilohertz and kilobytes we now have gigahertz and petabytes. Moore’s Law was supposed to have ended, yet computers continue to improve in performance.

I know the next Big Thing ™ in battery technology—where the batteries store more, charge faster, and are inexpensive—is perpetually 5 years away. But so was useful machine learning. And we’ve reached a tipping point there. New battery technology is inevitable. It’s just a matter of time.

The thing that we really need is cheap sources of abundant electricity. I don’t think wind mills and solar farms are going to cut it. Coal and natural gas have targets on their heads. My unpopular vote is to build more nuclear power plants. No matter how the electricity problem is resolved, we need to make megawatt the new kilowatt. Otherwise better batteries won’t matter.