Carbon dioxide emissions are set to hit a record high this year (it’s not fine, but not hopeless)

Carbon dioxide emissions, one of the main contributors to the climate changes bringing extreme weather, rising oceans, and more frequent fires that have killed hundreds of Americans and cost the U.S. billions of dollars, are set to reach another record high in 2019.

That’s the word from the Global Carbon Project, an initiative of researchers around the world led by Stanford University scientist Rob Jackson.

The new projections from the Global Carbon Project are set out in a trio of papers published in “Earth System Science Data“, “Environmental Research Letters“, and “Nature Climate Change“.

That’s the bad news. The good news (if you want to take a glass half-full view) is that the rate of growth has slowed dramatically from the previous two years. However, researchers are warning that emissions could keep increasing for another decade unless nations around the globe take dramatic action to change their approach to energy, transportation and industry, according to a statement from Jackson.

“When the good news is that emissions growth is slower than last year, we need help,” said Jackson, a professor of Earth system science in Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth), in a statement. “When will emissions start to drop?”

Globally, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel sources (which are over 90 percent of all emissions) are expected to grow 0.6 percent over the 2018 emissions. In 2018 that figure was 2.1 percent above the 2017 figure, which was, itself, a 1.5 percent increase over 2016 emissions figures.

Even as the use of coal is in drastic decline around the world, natural gas and oil use is climbing, according to researchers, and stubbornly high per capita emissions in affluent countries mean that reductions won’t be enough to offset the emissions from developing countries as they turn to natural gas and gasoline for their energy and transportation needs.

“Emissions cuts in wealthier nations must outpace increases in poorer countries where access to energy is still needed,” said Pierre Friedlingstein, a mathematics professor at the University of Exeter and lead author of the Global Carbon Budget paper in Earth System Science Data, in a statement.

Some countries are making progress. Both the UK and Denmark have managed to achieve economic growth while simultaneously reducing their carbon emissions. In the third quarter of the year, renewable power supplied more energy to homes and businesses in the United Kingdom than fossil fuels for the first time in the nation’s history, according to a report cited by “The Economist”.

Costs of wind and solar power are declining so dramatically that they are cost competitive with natural gas in many parts of the wealthy world and cheaper than coal, according to a study earlier in the year from the International Monetary Fund.

Still, the U.S., the European Union and China account for more than half of all carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. did decrease year-on-year — projected to decline by 1.7 percent — but it’s not enough to counteract the rising demand from countries like China, where carbon dioxide emissions are expected to rise by 2.6 percent.

And the U.S. has yet to find a way to wean itself off of its addiction to cheap gasoline and big cars. It hasn’t helped that the country is throwing out emissions requirements for passenger vehicles that would have helped to reduce its contribution to climate change even further. Even so, at current ownership rates, there’s a need to radically reinvent transportation given what U.S. car ownership rates mean for the world.

U.S. oil consumption per person is 16 times greater than in India and six times greater than in China, according to the reports. And the United States has roughly one car per-person while those numbers are roughly one for every 40 people in India and one for every 6 in China. If ownership rates in either country were to rise to similar levels as the U.S. that would put 1 billion cars on the road in either country.

About 40 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions were attributable to coal use, 34 percent from oil, 20 percent from natural gas, and the remaining 6 percent from cement production and other sources, according to a Stanford University statement on the Global Carbon Project report.

“Declining coal use in the U.S. and Europe is reducing emissions, creating jobs and saving lives through cleaner air,” said Jackson, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy, in a statement. “More consumers are demanding cheaper alternatives such as solar and wind power.”

There’s hope that a combination of policy, technology and changing social habits can still work to reverse course. The adoption of new low-emission vehicles, the development of new energy storage technologies, continued advancements in energy efficiency, and renewable power generation in a variety of new applications holds some promise. As does the social adoption of alternatives to emissions intensive animal farming and crop cultivation.

“We need every arrow in our climate quiver,” Jackson said, in a statement. “That means stricter fuel efficiency standards, stronger policy incentives for renewables, even dietary changes and carbon capture and storage technologies.”

 

China Roundup: Y Combinator’s short-lived China dream

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China Roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world. Last week, we looked at how Alibaba and Tencent fared in the last quarter; the talk in Silicon Valley and Beijing this week is on Y Combinator’s sudden retreat from China. We will also discuss the enduring food delivery war in the country later.

Brief adventure in the East

The storied Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator announced the closure of its China unit just a little over a year after it entered the country. In a vague statement posted on its official blog, the organization said the decision came amid a change in leadership. Sam Altman, its former president who hired legendary artificial intelligence scientist Lu Qi to initiate the China operation, recently left his high-profile role to join research outfit OpenAI. With that, YC has since refocused its energy to support “local and international startups from our headquarters in Silicon Valley.”

What was untold is the insurmountable challenge that multinationals face in their attempt to win in a wildly different market. Lu Qi, who wore management hats at Baidu and Microsoft before joining YC, was clearly aware of the obstacles when he said in an interview (in Chinese) in May that “multinational corporations in China have almost been wiped out. They almost never successfully land in China.” The prescription, he believes, is to build a local team that’s given full autonomy to make decisions around products, operations, and the business.

A former executive at an American company’s China branch, who asked to remain anonymous, argued that Lu Qi’s one-man effort can’t be enough to beat the curse of multinationals’ path in China. “All I can say is: Lu has taken a detour. Going independent is the best decision. When it comes to whether Chinese startups are suited for mentorship, or whether incubators bring value to China, these are separate questions.”

What’s curious is that YC China seemed to have been given a meaningful level of freedom before the split. “Thanks to Sam Altman and the U.S. team, who agreed with my view and supported with much preparation, YC China is not only able to enjoy key resources from YC U.S. but can also operate at a completely independent capacity,” Lu said in the May interview.

Moving on, the old YC China team will join Lu Qi to fund new companies under a newly minted program, MiraclePlus, announced YC China via a Wechat post (in Chinese). The initiative has set up its own fund, team, entity and operational team. The deep ties that Lu has fostered with YC will continue to benefit his new portfolio, which will receive “support” from the YC headquarters, though neither party elaborated on what that means.

Alibaba’s food delivery nemesis

The food delivery war in China is still dragging on two years after the major consolidation that left the market with two major players. Meituan, the local services company backed by Tencent, has managed to attain an expanding share against Alibaba-owned Ele.me. According to third-party data (in Chinese) provided by Trustdata, Meituan accounted for 65.1% of China’s overall food delivery orders during the second quarter, steadily rising from just under 60% a year ago. Ele.me, on the other hand, has lost nearly 10% of the market, slumping to 27.4% from 36% a year ago.

In terms of monetization, Meituan generated 15.6 billion yuan ($2.2 billion) in revenue from its food delivery segment in the quarter ended September 30. That dwarfs Ele.me, which racked up 6.8 billion yuan ($970 million) during the same period. Both are growing north of 30% year-over-year.

meituan dianping

Source: Meituan

This may not be all that surprising given Alibaba has arguably more imminent battles to fight. The e-commerce leader has been consumed by the rise of Pinduoduo, which has launched an assault on China’s low-tier cities with its ultra-cheap products and social-driven online shopping experience. Meituan, on the other hand, is fixated on beefing up its main turf of on-demand neighborhood services after divesting its costly bike-sharing endeavor. 

When both contestants have the capital to burn through — as they have demonstrated through heavily subsidizing customers and restaurants — the race comes down to which has greater control of user traffic. Meituan holds a competitive edge thanks to its merger with Dianping, a leading restaurant review app akin to Yelp, back in 2015. Dianping today operates as a standalone brand but its food app is deeply integrated with Meituan’s delivery services. For example, hundreds of millions of users are able to place Meituan-powered food delivery orders straight from Dianping.

Alibaba and Meituan used to be on more friendly terms just a few years ago. In 2011, the e-commerce giant participated in Meituan’s $50 million Series B financing. Before long, the two clashed over control of the company. Alibaba is known to impose a heavy hand on its portfolio companies by taking up majority stakes and reshuffling the company with new executives. That’s because Alibaba believes that “only when you operate can you generate synergies and really create exponential value,” said vice chairman Joe Tsai in an interview. Whereas if you just make a financial investment, you’re counting an internal rate of return. You’re not creating real value.”

Ele.me lived through that transformation. As of September, Alibaba has reportedly (in Chinese) completed replacing Ele.me’s management with its pool of appointed personnel. Ele.me’s founder Zhang Xuhao left the company with billions of yuan in cash and joined a venture capital firm (in Chinese).

Meituan’s founder Wang Xing had more unfettered pursuits. In a later financing round, he refused to accept Alibaba’s condition for portfolio companies to eschew Tencent investments, a strategy of the giant to hobble its archrival. That botched the partnership and Alibaba has since been gradually offloading its Meituan shares but still held onto small amounts, according to Wang in 2017, “to create trouble” for Meituan going forward.

VoltServer adds a data layer to electricity distribution in a move that could help smart grid rollout

Stephen Eaves, the chief executive of a new startup which promises to overlay data on electricity distribution has spent years developing data management technologies.

Eaves’ first company, the eponymous Eaves Devices focused on energy systems in aerospace and defense — they converted the military’s fleet of B2 bombers to use lithium ion batteries.

The second company he was involved in was developing modular array devices to install in central offices and cell towers and conducted early work on electric vehicle development.

His goal, Eaves says, was to “make electricity inherently safe”.

VoltServer is the latest company from Eaves to pursue that goal. Eaves makes transmission safer by breaking electrical distribution into packets and those packets are sent down transmission lines to ensure that are not faults. If there’s a break in the line, the equipment stops transmitting energy.

“We take either AC or DC electricity into a transmitter and the transmitter breaks the electricity into packets and the receiver takes the packets and puts them back together and distributes it as regular AC/DC current,” Eaves explains.

The architecture is akin to a router. There’s digital signal processing in the transmitter powered by a semiconductor that’s a gateway for the electricity. “It’s like the devices you find in solar power converters,” says Eaves.

Already roughly 700 stadiums, large offices, and indoor grow facilities have deployed the company’s technology. And the traction was enough to attract the attention of Alphabet subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs, which led a recent $7.4 million financing into the company. To date, the company has raised $18 million from a clutch of investors including: Marker Hill Capital, Slater Technology Fund, Natural Resources Capital Management, Clean Energy Venture Group, Angel Street Capital and Coniston Capital.  

“We’re kind of a combined hardware and software company,” says Eaves. “[Customers] buy the boxes and the company has third parties that install it.. There are software applications to track energy usage to assign processes for what to do in an outage.”

Typical installations can be anywhere from $30,000 to $1 million and the company is targeting three core markets — intelligent building infrastructure, communications, and indoor agriculture, according to Eaves. In fact, the company’s largest installation is a lettuce farm in Florida. “You’re in a very constrained environment and you want a very safe transmission technology. And we’ve developed a lighting product. It removes a lot of the conversion electronics that would normally be in the growth space,” says Eaves.

The technology certainly slashes the cost for power transmission in a stadium. Traditional power transmission can cost roughly $36 per linear foot, while VoltServer can cut that cost to less than $10 per foot, according to the company.

VoltServer isn’t the only startup that’s looking to add data controls to electricity distribution. Companies like Blueprint PowerBlue Pillar, and monitoring companies like Enertiv and Aquicore are all looking at ways to monitor and manage distribution. At the grid scale, there’s Camus Energy which looks to provide energy “orchestration” services.

“Electricity powers our world, but the fundamental danger inherent in AC or DC electricity makes today’s electrical systems expensive to install or change,” said Sidewalk Labs chairman and chief executive, Dan Doctoroff in a statement. “[This technology] is a breakthrough, offering a less expensive, safer and more efficient way to distribute electricity that can make buildings more affordable and flexible.  Over time, that can make cities more affordable, sustainable, and adaptable as our needs change.”

For some investors in the energy sector, these kinds of distribution and transmission technologies are a critical component of the next generation of grid technologies needed to bring the world closer to 100% renewable transmission.

“What is relevant is internet-connected, controllable energy assets that you can control from some centralized dispatch,” says one investor active in energy investing. 

Battery tech startup Sila Nano lands $45 million and Tesla veteran Kurt Kelty

Sila Technologies, the battery materials company that has partnered with BMW and Daimler, landed $45 million in new funding and hired two high-profile executives, including Kurt Kelty, who led the battery cell team at Tesla for more than a decade.

Kelty, who was on Sila Nano’s advisory board, has been appointed vice president of automotive, according to Sina Nanotechnologies. The company also hired Bill Mulligan, the former executive vice president of global operations at SunPower, as its first COO.

Kelty was most recently senior vice president of operations at indoor vertical farming company Plenty . But he was best known for his time at Tesla, where he was a considered a critical link between the automaker and battery cell partner Panasonic.

“As part of Sila Nano’s advisory board, I’ve seen the results of the breakthrough battery chemistry firsthand and I could not pass up the opportunity to take it a step further and lead the company’s automotive partnership efforts,” Kelty said in a statement.

The company said Monday that additional $45 million in investment came from Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, bringing its total funding to $340 million. Earlier this year, Sila Nano secured $170 million in Series E funding led by Daimler AG.

This latest investment and expanded leadership team comes as the company, which is valued at more than $1 billion, aims to bring its first batteries to market.

Sila Nanotechnologies has developed a drop-in silicon-based anode that replaces graphite in lithium-ion batteries without requiring changes to the manufacturing process. The company claims that its materials can improve the energy density of batteries by 20% and has the potential to reach 40% improvement over traditional li-ion.

Here’s what that all means.

A battery contains two electrodes. There’s an anode (negative) on one side and a cathode (positive) on the other. An electrolyte sits in the middle and acts as the courier that moves ions between the electrodes when charging and discharging. Graphite is commonly used as the anode in commercial lithium-ion batteries. However, a silicon anode can store a lot more lithium ions.

The basic premise — and one that others are working on — is this: by replacing graphite in the cell with silicon, there would be more space to add more active material. This would theoretically allow you to increase the energy density—or the amount of energy that can be stored in a battery per its volume—of the cell.

Using silicon also helps reduce costs. In the end, the battery would be cheaper and have more energy packed in the same space.

The company says its innovative approach can be used in consumer electronics like wireless ear buds and smartwatches as well as electric vehicles and even energy storage for the grid.

The company started building the first production lines for its battery materials in 2018. That first line is capable of producing the material to supply the equivalent of 50 megawatts of lithium-ion batteries, Sila Nanotechnologies CEO Gene Berdichevsky, an early employee at Tesla who led the technical development of the automaker’s Roadster battery system, told TechCrunch back in April.

Sila Nanotechnologies said Monday that it will continue to ramp up production volume and plans to supply its first commercial customers in consumer electronics within the next year. The company said it also plans to go to market with battery partner Amperex Technology Limited and automotive partners BMW and Daimler.

Elon Musk predicts Tesla energy could be ‘bigger’ than its EV business

Tesla CEO Elon Musk forecast that the company’s energy business will eventually be the same size as— or even bigger than — its automotive sector, the latest sign that the company plans to put more time and resources to scaling up its solar and storage products.

It could be bigger, but it will certainly be of a similar magnitude,” Musk said during an earnings call Wednesday. The company surprised Wall Street by reporting a return to profitability in the third quarter.

The bulk of Tesla’s revenue is generated from sales of its Model S, Model X and Model 3 electric vehicles. In the third quarter, automotive revenues were $5.35 billion. The company doesn’t break out revenue generated from solar, energy storage or other products and services. However, the total revenue in the third quarter was $6.3 billion, which gives some indication of the size of automotive compared to its other businesses.

Tesla’s energy and solar businesses languished for nearly two years as attention and resources were directed to the Model 3. That diversion of resources included redirecting battery cell production lines meant for its home Powerwall and commercial Powerpack energy storage products to the car because the company didn’t have enough cells.

“We had to do it because if we didn’t solve the Model 3, Tesla wouldn’t survived,” he said.So, unfortunately that shorted other parts of the company.”

Now, the company is committed scaling up energy storage and solar. Kunal Girotra, who initially joined Tesla in 2015 as a senior product manager for Powerwall, was promoted to senior director of the company’s energy operations.

In the third quarter, Tesla installed 43 megawatts of solar, a 48% increase from the previous quarter. Solar installations are still 54% lower than the same period last year.

Energy storage deployments have continued to grow, reaching an all-time high of 477 MWh in the third quarter, according to earnings posted Wednesday.

Part of this new effort includes its solar roof tile product, which was originally unveiled in 2016. Musk said that a new, third iteration of its solar roof tile will debut Thursday afternoon.

Electric vehicle charging software EV Connect raises $12 million

EV Connect, the Los Angeles-based company that sells software to manage electric vehicle charging, has raised $12 million in a Series B round led by investors Mitsui & Co. and Ecosystem Integrity Fund.

The company has raised $25 million to date.

EV Connect’s cloud-based platform has an open standard architecture that is designed to be hardware agnostic. In other words, EV Connect aims to provide a variety of hardware vendors a way to monitor, manage and maintain charging stations.

The end goal is to push the industry away from a closed and fragmented system to a more open one, according to EV Connect CEO and founder Jordan Ramer.

EV Connect has a two-tiered approach. The company provides and manages 1,000 electric vehicle charging sites through its EV Connect network. EV Connect has a smartphone app to give drivers of electric vehicles real-time access to charging station status.

Its also sells a cloud-based software platform that businesses can customize. Clients include Yahoo!, Marriott, Hilton, Western Digital, Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York Power Authority.

As part of the round, Mitsui and EV Connect have agreed to develop new business models around EV charging infrastructure. EV Connect plans to work with Mitsui on various applications of EV charging to lower the cost of charging and maximize its utilization, including fleet and energy management solutions, Ramer elaborated to TechCrunch in an emailed response.

“We strongly believe that EV Connect’s infrastructure management technology accelerates the electric vehicle revolution in the energy and power industry where Mitsui has many assets and access to partners,” Kazumasa Nakai, the COO of Mitsui’s infrastructure projects business unit, said in a statement. “Our unique engineering capabilities, in conjunction with EV Connect’s cloud-based EV infrastructure, will enable us to develop new business models to solve the challenges EV infrastructure currently pose for energy management companies.”

Nomad’s new Base Station Pro offers a taste of what Apple’s AirPower had promised

Accessory maker Nomad already offers a couple of excellent wireless chargers that work great with Apple and other Qi-compatible devices, but they’re introducing a new one that could be their most versatile yet. Using technology provided by partner Aira, called “FreePower,” the new Nomad Base Station Pro will be able to charge up to three devices at once placed in any orientation on its surface — cool both because of the three-device simultaneous support and the fact that you don’t have to make sure the gadget you’re charging is lined up exactly right on the charger, as is typically the case.

This is pretty similar to what Apple’s AirPower promised, before its unfortunate demise. The hardware similarly makes use of a matrix of multiple charging coils, which interlink to offer charging capabilities across the surface of the Base Station Pro. Perhaps intentionally, Aira’s website URL is “airapower.com,” one letter off from Apple’s shelved first-party accessory.

Nomad’s charger inherits the same aesthetics of the company’s existing chargers, which means you get a black soft leather surface for putting your devices on top of, and the surrounding frame is made of slate-gray aluminum. The charger should look and feel very premium, if Nomad’s other Base Stations are any indication.

The Base Station Pro supports charging speeds of up to 5W each, which is not the max supported by the iPhone or other devices — but according to Aira co-founder Jake Slatnick, that’s not actually much of a limitation at all.

“An interesting detail that we’ve learned through benchmarking is that our 5W output charge time is comparable to other 10W advertised chargers,” Slatnick explained via email. “It turns out, as soon as the phone starts to heat up, the charge speed slows down significantly, usually below 5W. The 7.5W+ chargers seem to only last at those speeds for a few minutes. We think the performance right now is on par with everything else and that it shouldn’t be noticeable to most users.”

The Nomad Base Station Pro supports up to three devices, all at 5W; you could use it to charge say, two iPhones and AirPods with Apple’s wireless charging case all at once.

Nomad also includes a 27W USB-C charger with Power Delivery in the box with the Base Station Pro, and a USB-C cable to connect to the charger. This probably will be a fairly premium-priced piece of hardware, but we’ll find out for sure when pre-orders begin in November.

The one significant way this differs from what Apple was building, at least for Apple fans, is that it doesn’t provide charging for the Apple Watch. Nomad has a Base Station model that offers an integrated Apple Watch charger, but of course with that you’re not getting the “place anywhere” overlapping coil design built for this new model.

Kickstarter darling EcoFlow Delta battery generator is not what it seems

The Delta EcoFlow is a new battery generator available on Kickstarter with incredible claimed features. Most are true, some are not.

Device like the Delta offer incredible battery storage capacity. Designed for more than just recharging phones and tablets, these can run refrigerators, pumps, power tools and medical equipment. They’re great for emergencies, camping and general use where power is not available. Similar devices have been on the market for some years so I was eager to verify EcoFlow’s claims.

The EcoFlow Delta can recharge from a wall outlet to 80% in an hour. It’s amazing. The GoalZero Yeti battery of a similar size takes 25 hours. This capability means the Delta can be used and then reused more than competitors.

The device is currently on Kickstarter where it quickly acquired over $2 million from over 2,000 backers. The device’s features listed on the Kickstarter page are clear, but after testing a pre-production unit, I found several of these advertised capabilities and features misleading or false.

The Delta is the latest product from EcoFlow. The company’s founder, Eli Harris, says it’s “The world’s strongest battery generator.” I found the Delta to be a competent battery generator with similar capabilities to competitors but it’s hampered by loud fans.

In short, if you need a battery generator that can recharge much faster than others, the Delta is a great option. Otherwise, the GoalZero Yeti makes more sense for most people.

Battery generators are a safe and more portable option than their gas counterparts. There are no harmful fumes or fuel allowing them to be used indoors, nearer the appliances or tools. Most often (though not with the Delta) they’re silent, too, making them perfect for a camping or hunting companion.

In real-world operation, this quick recharge time could come in handy. Say, on a construction site or in an emergency incident where power is still available, but out of reach of an extension cord — situations where loud gas generators are generally used. While the Delta is louder than other battery generators, it is not as loud as a gas generator.

The Delta battery comes packaged with a warning that the battery must be fully charged before use. I generally ignore warnings, but I followed this one and immediately plugged it in. Instantly, fans whirled to life and the screen popped on displaying the current charge levels and how long it would take to get to 100%. The Delta was at 30% and would take 45 minutes to fully recharge. It worked as advertised and 45 minutes later the battery was at 100%.

Recharging the Delta battery was a noisy affair. The fans are loud and continue to run after the battery is fully charged. Compared to a GoalZero Yeti, this was a shock. The Yeti is silent where the Delta is not. I keep a Yeti 1400 in my basement, plugged in and ready to use. But with the Delta, even when the battery is fully charged, loud fans still run presumably to keep the unit cool. EcoFlow says the shelf life on the Delta is over a year where the GoalZero Yeti is six months. To me, I would rather have the battery constantly plugged into power so I know it’s ready to go when needed.

The Delta recharges without an AC power inverter (a power brick); it uses the same sort of cable as a desktop PC. The company says by passing through the inverter directly, the Delta can increase charging speed to more than 10 times the traditional AC to DC adapter cable. This also means it’s easier to replace a lost charging cable.

The Delta is much lighter than competing products and its design makes it easier to move. EcoFlow says it’s rugged, and it feels the part. Even my pre-production sample feels tough and ready to go to work. Large rubber pads keep the battery in place and the tough plastic feels more durable than competing products.

There are a handful of plugs and outlets around the device, including USB, USB-C and six AC outlets. It’s a lot and similar in capacity to large gas generators. Most battery generators have much fewer AC outlets, though I’ve often supplemented the capability with small power strips.

IMG 0544
Kickstarter Beware

The Delta is currently on Kickstarter for pre-order and exceeded its goal. I fear a good amount of backers will be upset to learn several notable advertised features are false or misleading.

The Delta is not silent. Under operation, either recharging a cell phone or running a power tool, loud fans run on both sides of the battery. These fans run when recharging the battery, too — even when the battery is fully charged. The Kickstarter page and video lists throughout that the Delta produces no noise.

ecoflow delta

These fans detract from the appeal of the Delta battery. They’re loud. You have to raise your voice to speak over them. Because of these fans, I wouldn’t take the Delta camping or use it in the backyard for a quiet get-together. During power outage situations, I wouldn’t want to sleep near it. But I would use it for power tools — like EcoFlow does in one of its demo videos.

Only one of the four videos on the Kickstarter page allows potential owners to hear the Delta battery. The third video on the page shows the battery powering a hammer drill. Six seconds into the video, the drill stops running, and the battery’s fans are audible.

There are a handful of competing batteries that operate without noisy fans. I’ve taken GoalZero’s Yeti batteries camping and they’re great despite their heft. They’re truly silent and can still recharge from solar panels and car batteries. I’ve used battery generators from Jackery, too, and those are also silent.

I spoke with Ecoflow CEO and Founder Eli Harris during the run-up of this review. He was clear that Ecoflow’s main competitor is not other large batteries, but rather small gas generators available from Honda and others. And that makes a lot of sense. Those are the best selling generators available and widely used for emergency and convenience. These small generators are loud, and the Ecoflow Delta is quieter than those options while still offering most of the power capabilities.

When asked why the Kickstarter page is misleading, he said “that fallacy has never been called out” and he would check with his team about the use of “superlatives and blanket statements.” Three days later, the Kickstarter page still lists the false claims.

EcoFlow claims the Delta battery can run a variety of power tools, including drills, circular saws, power washers and welders. I found this capability hit or miss. Despite some tools being under the claimed amperage and wattage of the Delta battery, the battery wouldn’t power my small or large circular saw or power washer. EcoFlow also claims the battery can recharge a Tesla; it doesn’t recharge my Chevy Volt.

Many tools require extra power when starting up, and I found most of these surge requirements to exceed the capabilities of the Delta battery. This is the same with other batteries like the GoalZero Yeti. In fact, I couldn’t find one tool in my workshop that the Delta powered and the Yeti did not; they worked the same for me, and I have a lot of tools.

Don’t mistake what I’m saying. The EcoFlow Delta has impressive capabilities mainly around its recharge capabilities. This makes it an attractive option for the right use. It’s compact and solid. It has a lot of outlets and is easy to move. This could be a lifesaver in emergency situations where a person still has access to power.

The Delta has some downsides just like other battery generators. It doesn’t offer a dramatic increase in electrical output over competitors so don’t expect this battery to power larger devices. Don’t expect a silent operation, either. This massive battery is loud though, I admit, that’s a relative term. It’s louder than other battery generators but less loud than a gas generator.

I would rather have a silent battery generator that recharges slowly versus a noisy, fast-recharging battery. I use my battery generators camping and around the house when the power goes out. The Delta makes sense on a construction site or on the scene of a natural disaster. I just can’t get over the loud fans.

Startups Weekly: Upfront Ventures bets on a bus service

Hello and welcome back to Startups Weekly, a weekend newsletter that dives into the week’s noteworthy news pertaining to startups and venture capital. Before I jump into today’s topic, let’s catch up a bit. Last week, I profiled an e-commerce startup Part & Parcel. Before that, I wrote about Stripe’s grand plans.

Remember, you can send me tips, suggestions and feedback to [email protected] or on Twitter @KateClarkTweets. If you don’t subscribe to Startups Weekly yet, you can do that here.

Startup Spotlight: Landline

Some startups build space ships that will one day send us all to Mars, others put their time and energy into improving 350 year old infrastructure.

Landline, the operator of a bus network in the Midwest, is one of the latest companies to raise venture capital. The business has closed a $3.85 million round led by Los Angeles firm Upfront Ventures, with participation from Mucker Capital and Matchstick Ventures. The company is actually based out of LA, too, but has completed its initial launch in Minnesota, where there’s greater demand for short-term bus travel.

Landline isn’t just a few buses with startup branding. Founder and chief executive officer David Sunde tells TechCrunch a ride on Landline is booked through its partner airline Sun Country Airlines. A traveler pays Sun Country one fixed price to get them from the bus pick-up point to their final destination. The goal is to help those who live far distances from airports save money and to make the experience of busing more enjoyable.

“It’s all meant to be at the level of reliability that you would expect from an air carrier,” Sunde tells TechCrunch. “We don’t want people who get on the bus to be surprised or upset — we want it to be a seamless experience … The perception of bus travel in the U.S. is negative. A big part of our mission is to get people comfortable on buses again as a viable alternative to air travel in certain markets.”

For those of you wondering, have these people ever heard of Greyhound? Landline says they wont compete with Greyhound because of the more than 100-year-old transportation business’s focus on long-haul trips. Landline will specifically focus on connecting those in rural communities to airports, particularly regions where there aren’t already bus routes that conveniently access the airport. Can’t say I’m particularly bullish on this one but the startup is very early and transportation is a massive market ripe for disruption.

“Our vision is completely integrated multi-modal travel,” Sunde added.

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IPO Update

WeWork has delayed its IPO following questions surrounding its corporate governance and the ultimate value of the company. The co-working business says it expects to go public by the end of the year. Airbnb, for its part, filed a press release this week confirming its plans to go public in 2020. We don’t know much about the company’s plans, but we wouldn’t be too surprised to see the home-sharing decacorn pursue a direct listing.

Postmates, the popular food delivery service, raised another $225 million at a valuation of $2.4 billion in a round led by the private equity firm GPI Capital this week. The financing brings Postmates’ total funding to nearly $1 billion. The company filed privately with the SEC for an IPO earlier this year. Sources familiar with the company’s exit plans say the business intends to publicly unveil its IPO prospectus this month.

To discuss the company’s journey to the public markets and the challenges ahead in the increasingly crowded food delivery space, Postmates co-founder and chief executive officer Bastian Lehmann will join us onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt on Friday October 4th. Don’t miss it.

VC Deals

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Learn from top VCs at TechCrunch Disrupt

A whole lot of VCs will be joining us at TechCrunch Disrupt.

We’ll have a16z general partners Chris Dixon, Angela Strange and Andrew Chen for insight into the firm’s latest activity. Seed investor Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures and Redpoint Ventures general partner Annie Kadavy will show up to give founders tips on how to raise VC. Y Combinator’s Michael Seibel and Ali Rowghani will join us with advice on how to get accepted to their respected accelerator.

Plus, GV’s David Krane, Sequoia general partner Jess Lee, Floodgate’s Ann Miura-Ko, Aspect Ventures’ Theresia Gouw, Bessemer Venture Partners’  Tess Hatch, Forerunner Ventures’ Eurie Kim, Mithril Capital’s Ajay Royan and SOSV’s Arvind Gupta will be on deck to comment on the respective fields.

Disrupt SF runs October 2-4 at the Moscone Center in the heart of San Francisco. Passes are available here.

#EquityPod

This week, the lovely Alex Wilhelm and I welcomed Kleiner Perkins’ Mamoon Hamid, known for his investments in Slack, Figma, Cameo and more, to riff on upcoming IPOs and debate the scalability of D2C brands. Listen to the episode here or watch us on YouTube.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify, and all the casts.

The man behind Tesla’s Powerwall is now pitching an all-in-one power management system for homes

Arch Rao, the former head of product at Tesla who was behind the company’s Powerwall home energy storage is system, is back with a new company pitching energy management and efficiency for homes.

SpanIO is looking to upgrade the electrical fusebox for homes with a digital system that integrates into the existing circuit breaker technology that has been the basis for home energy management for at least a century. 

Rao and his team are looking to make integrating renewable power, energy storage, and electric vehicles easier for homeowners by redesigning the electrical panel for modern energy needs.

“We packaged the metering controls and compute between the bus bar and the breaker,” says Rao. “Energy flows through the panel through a breaker bar and the breaker bar has tabs that you slot your breakers into… that tab is usually a conductor. We have designed a digital sub-assembly that packages current metering, voltage measurement and ability to turn each circuit on or off.”

The technology is meant to be sold through channels like solar energy installers or battery installers. The company already has plans to integrate its power management devices with energy storage systems like the ones available from LG .

Initially, Span expects to be selling its products in states like California and Hawaii where demand for solar installations is strong and homeowners have significant benefits available to them for installing renewable energy and energy efficiency systems.

For homeowners, the new power management system means that they have control over which parts of the home would be powered in the event of an outage. The company’s technology connects the entire home to a renewable system. Using existing technologies, installers have to set up a separate breaker and rewire certain areas of the home to receive the power generated by a renewable energy system, Rao says.

That control is handled through a consumer app available to download on mobile devices.

SpanIO is backed by a slew of early investors including Wireframe Ventures, Wells Fargo Strategic Capital, Ulu Ventures, Hardware Club, Energy Foundry, Congruent Ventures and 1/0 Capital, and intends to raise fresh cash for before the end of the year. Rao said the round would be “in the low double digits” of millions.