Is the pandemic over?

England’s approach to COVID restrictions this January is very different to last January. It’s also worlds away from how European neighbours are reacting.

Many countries are now imposing tighter travel restrictions, and implementing lockdowns, while England (and to some degree the UK) is moving in the opposite direction.

For example, the “red list” of countries has been scrapped, as has the need to get a pre-departure test when travelling. Isolation periods have also been reduced and were masks not mandatory in indoor public spaces, you could be mistaken for thinking the pandemic was over.

England’s libertarian approach comes as the country’s infection rates hit an all time high. One in 15 people in the UK had COVID in the last week of December. Not since the pandemic started, or in the last year, in the last week! 🀯

So why is the UK making these decisions?

Do the statistics offer any justification for these changes?

Last year I posted several articles looking at the UK’s COVID-19 data and exploring the effectiveness of vaccination. Things have changed a lot since, so here’s an update.

UK COVID-19 Stats

The UK is now 90% vaccinated. Nine in 10 people aged 12 and over have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Around 80% are “fully vaccinated” having had two doses, and around 60% have also had a booster (or third) jab. πŸ’‰

While hospitalisations started to rise quite rapidly at the end of the December, they’re also still nowhere near to the 40k numbers we saw last January.

Why is this?

There are many reasons, but the two biggest seem to be: Vaccinations and Omicron.

Vaccinations

Vaccination has undoubtedly helped to weaken the link between infections and deaths. Despite there being around 3 million more infections in December 2021 than January 2021, there were around 30k fewer COVID related deaths.

This chart shows that link between cases and deaths.

December 2021 COVID-19 cases aligned to deaths

You can see last year in weeks 44 and 45 (January 2021) cases and deaths hit their peak – I’ve used this as the baseline maximum, 100%. Until week ~60 (May 2021) cases and deaths were fairly well aligned, cases went up, deaths went up. However that link has been slowly weakening. Since May 2021, cases have risen and fallen, with deaths hardly moving, and that’s in no small part thanks to vaccinations. By May 2021, around 1 in 3 people were fully vaccinated and 2 in 3 had had at least one dose.

In week 95 (the last full week I have data for) deaths were around 11% of January 2021 levels, while cases were almost 190%. The virus no longer has the same ability to kill as it once did.

N.B. Cases shown aren’t positive tests, but the ONS infection study estimates. Deaths are those within 28 days of a positive test, by date of death. Deaths have been moved forward by one week, to better align them to cases.

Omicron

The other contributing factor is Omicron. In the last month, UK COVID cases have been rising exceedingly fast. This is in part due to the more infectious Omicron strain of the virus.

5th of January 2022 COVID-19 variants by countryAt the start of December 2021, around 1% of UK cases were the Omicron variant, with Delta making up the vast majority of all cases. Last week, 96% of all cases were Omicron. That’s insane growth! Omicron took over as the dominant strain in around 2 weeks, almost wiping Delta infections out in the space of a month.

You can explore this more with this fantastic tool by Our World In Data – the University of Oxford.

Omicron appears to be easier to spread, more dominant, but less deadly. The levels of Omicron in the UK are surely also helping to keep deaths low – compared with if all cases were the Delta strain.

Do the statistics justify fewer restrictions?

So do the statistics give us confidence that England’s approach at the moment is well founded? To a degree, yes. It’s unclear if the decisions have been made based on science, or politics, but so far at least, England’s libertarian approach looks like it offers a good balance between freedom, autonomy and safety.

The more cases there are, the greater the risk of mutation. That could be seen as a concern, but mutation lead to Omicron defeating Delta, which (so far) hasn’t turned out to be a bad thing.

Is the COVID-19 pandemic over?

With more global cases than ever before, it’s undeniable that COVID-19 is still very much a pandemic. But, if we’re able to live with the virus in general circulation, without mass deaths or hospitalisations (just like we do with flu each winter) there is hope, that we may be nearing the beginning of the end of the period where COVID ruled our lives.

Live in hope. ☺️

Why Tesla will be the biggest company of this decade

This is going to sound nuts, but I believe the most important company of this decade will be a “car” company. Specifically Tesla.

But why?

Here are my thoughts.

Tesla’s Mission

“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

That’s a direct quote from Tesla’s website. It’s what their founder, CEO and Technoking (yes, that really is his title! πŸ˜‚) Elon Musk believes, so much so, that Tesla’s patents are open-source – the goal being so others can benefit from the advancements Tesla have made.

Elon believes that even with access to Tesla’s intellectual property, competitors still won’t be able to compete, thanks to the companies software and manufacturing excellence.

The first step to becoming a great organisation is having a mission people truly care about and believe in. In my book, there aren’t many missions stronger than trying to make the world a better place to live.

Tesla’s diverse business(es)

It’s a great misconception to believe that Tesla is a “car company”.

  • It’s a sustainable energy company, selling solar panels and solar tile roofs β˜€οΈ
  • It’s an energy storage firm, selling Powerwalls and Megapacks to individuals, businesses and countries! πŸ”‹
  • It’s a utilities provider, powering homes and businesses ⚑
  • It’s a battery pack and cell manufacturer, working on it’s 4680 cell technology for the cars of the future πŸ”‹
  • It is also a car company, building, assembling and selling the fastest, most efficient electric cars on Earth! 🌍
  • It’s a vehicle manufacturer, developing a pick-up (Cybertruck) a lorry (Semi) and an ATV (Cyberquad) πŸ›»πŸš›πŸοΈ
  • It’s in the servicing industry, providing the parts and labour required to maintain all Tesla products πŸ› οΈ
  • It’s a rapid-charging network, with more than 25,000 Supercharging stalls globally ⚑
  • It’s an insurance provider, providing cover for those driving it’s cars πŸ“„
  • It’s a software company, designing it’s own mobile apps and the in-car interface βš™οΈ
  • It’s an AI robotics firm, developing the code for Full Self-Driving (Level 5 Autonomy) and the Tesla Robot πŸ€–
  • It’s a supercomputer manufacturer, building the most powerful computer of all time, to support it’s AI πŸ–₯️
  • It’s a currency trader, holding Bitcoin and selling in multiple currencies around the world πŸ’±

All-in-all, Tesla has a huge number of areas of speciality, and is vertically integrated to the extreme!

Tesla aims for the moon, in EVERYTHING it does

Tesla has a culture of being the absolute best in class at everything they do. Tesla doesn’t settle for second best, if they commit to something, they’re aiming to be the best.

They didn’t just aim to make a fast electric car, they aimed to make the fastest production car in the world – and they did!

They wanted to build safe cars, and they really did – when released, the Model 3 was the safest car the NHTSA had ever tested! The Model Y received top marks too.

NHTSA Tesla saftey

They aren’t satisfied with a Gigafactory, they’re aiming to be able to produce 10 terawatt-hours of battery capacity by 2030. VW is a leader in electrification among the legacy automakers, “boldly” aiming for 240 gigawatt-hours of capacity by 2030. Tesla is aiming to produce that (and another 10gWh) from their new Berlin factory alone… in the next few years!

They aren’t aiming for gold standard driver assistance aids, they’re working on fully autonomous vehicles, which are already 10 times safer driving than a person. Entertainment centres on wheels, with Netflix built-in, and no need for steering wheels.

They aren’t even satisfied with the cars as they are when they sell them, so they’re constantly tweaking, enhancing and upgrading them with free, over-the-air software updates. Extras include: entertainment upgrades like the YouTube app and Fallout Shelter game; Sentry mode, a security camera recording system; power boosts and range improvements; faster charging speeds; mapping upgrades and charge station updates; and much, much more.

The entire fleet provides data to Tesla and their neural nets are constantly learning and improving features, be that airbag deployment safety, automatic wipers sensitivity or full self-driving accuracy.

They weren’t happy welding individual parts together, and now use a Gigapress/gigastamp, which speeds up production and improves quality – stamping car bodies out like toy cars! This helps them to produce a car every 2 minutes!

They have Elon Musk

Whatever your opinion of the man, he’s a visionary, with extraordinary determination, and the ability to galvanise a cult-like following. He’s had huge success in the past with Zip2 and X.com (which became PayPal), and his current companies are doing pretty well too!

In September, SpaceX sent four regular people into space. They orbited the Earth for 3 days, higher than the ISS and higher than any human has been since we went to the moon. The Starlink satellites are rolling out rapidly, offering high-speed, low latency internet globally.

Having multiple companies which can integrate and share knowledge is a huge bonus. For example, what other car manufacturer is able to send a car into space – like Elon did with Starman in his Tesla Roadster.

His approach to a problem is to make the product ten-times cheaper through relentless efficiency and looking at the problem in a new way. One example can be seen at SpaceX, the view there was that throwing a rocket away after each launch was a big contributing factor to its cost. Elon often likens it to throwing away an aeroplane after each flight, it’s madness! So SpaceX engineered self-landing rockets, a phenomenal idea, cost saver and huge achievement!

Musk also owns The Boring Company, which is creating tunnels under major cities to enable significantly faster transportation – another service Tesla cars could benefit from.

The knowledge sharing across his companies is a huge advantage, Tesla’s competitors just don’t have.

Footnote

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few months now, and started working on it in September. This was before Tesla’s huge Q3 deliveries and financial results, and the massive stock growth which followed – making them the 6th biggest company (by market capitalisation) in the world! It seems like these developments further support the thinking that Tesla will be the biggest company in the world this decade.

EV Charging 101

Following Jonny’s electric vehicle charging article, here’s everything you need to know about charging an EV in Europe – from someone who’s driven one since 2019!

You’ve Bought Your First EV πŸ”ŒπŸ”‹βš‘πŸš—

Fiat 500e Convertable
The convertible Fiat 500e

First of all, fantastic work, you’re awesome!

Thanks for making a great decision and welcome to the future!

So charging, that’s something you need to do now… no more dinosaur juice for you, you’re EV all the way!

πŸ›’οΈπŸ¦•β›½πŸ’₯

⬇️

β˜€οΈπŸ’¨πŸ”‹βš‘

But how do you charge?

Types of Charging

Charging is really a lot simpler than you’d think, there are just two types:

  1. AC – Slow and Fast charging
  2. DC – Rapid charging

AC Charging

Slow Chargers

A slow charger uses AC power. Alternating current (AC) is what comes out of your plug socket at home.

In fact, plugging your car into a Schuko/3-pin plug, is an example of slow charging.

The charging lead (often called a granny charger, because of how slowly it charges) plugs into your home socket at one end and your car at the other. Some chargers and cars enable you to select how many amps to pull. A Tesla can pull between 5 amps and 10 amps from a domestic socket. You might want to vary the amperage if your house has poor electrics, or if you’re trying to use what your solar is generating.

Hyundai Kona Electric Charging
Hyundai Kona Electric

So how much charge can a home plug socket provide?

10 amps x 230 volts = 2.3 kW (kilowatt)

The Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus has a 50 kWh battery pack, so on a 3-pin plug in the UK, you can charge half the battery (or 25 kWh) in 11 hours. That’s over 100 miles topped up on cheap, renewable electricity while you sleep.

Fast Chargers

Fast charging also uses AC power. If you get an EV chargepoint installed at home, it is likely to be a 7.4kW fast charger.

This would enable you to completely “fill” a Model 3 from empty to full in a little under 7 hours.

Fast charging speeds are limited by the cars onboard charger. This converts the AC power into DC power, to feed into the car’s battery.

Charging by AC and DC

Some BEVs (battery electric vehicles) have powerful onboard chargers, like the Renault Zoe, which can charge at up to 22kWh. The Model 3 has a 11kW onboard charger. Some cars are limited to slower speeds, like the VW e-Up! limited to 7.2kW AC charging.

Many supermarkets and retail parks have fast chargers onsite – which are often free! Spending 60 minutes in the supermarket can give you ~40 miles of charge.

DC Charging

Rapid and Ultra-Rapid Chargers

Rapid (and Ultra-Rapid) charging uses DC power. This means the power can be fed straight into the battery.

Rapid chargers can charge from speeds of 43kWh, to speeds upwards of 350kWh!

If you’re on a long road trip, you’d use a rapid charger to top-up the battery at super speed!

The Tesla Supercharger network is an example of an ultra-rapid charging network. Many Supercharger stalls now have 250kW chargers! A Long Range Model 3 can charge at up to 250kWh, which is over 1,000 miles an hour!

Using the Supercharger network, you can top-up 200 miles of range in 15 minutes. That’s 3 hours of motorway driving in the time it takes you to visit the toilet and get a cupa tea.

Rapid chargers tend to be more expensive than Slow and Fast chargers, but they can deliver power at much faster speeds.

Rapid chargers are sometimes supported by battery storage, to ensure consistent supply and the cleanest possible energy. Here’s a video of the GridServe charging hub from the awesome team at Fully Charged.

Charging Plugs

European charging connectors are also really simple now.

European AC connectors for Slow and Fast charging are:

  1. Type 2 (AKA mennekes)
  2. Type 1

European DC connectors for Rapid charging are:

  1. CCS (AKA Combo 2)
  2. CHAdeMO

CCS and Type 2 use the same plug design – CCS is basically a Type 2 plug with an extra two pins.

A CCS plug (left) and a Type 2 plug (right)

Both have been the standard socket in Europe for some time now, with CHAdeMO and Type 1 slowly being phased out.

Some charging posts have more than one type of connector – using the right one for your car will ensure you get the best speed! For example, using a Type 2 charging lead will charge much slower than a CCS lead – if your car has both sockets.

Many charging units can charge more than one car at a time, but not all, so it’s worth checking beforehand.

Generally speaking, Slow and Fast chargers (away from home) don’t come with a charging cable – you plug your own in. Rapid chargers however always come with a cable – be that CCS or CHAdeMO.

Finding a Charger

The UK has more charging stations than petrol stations, so it’s not difficult to find a charger. To help you out (in the UK) Zap-Map have a fantastic live, interactive map! PlugShare is a similar map, which covers most of the world!

How many chargers are there within 10 miles of your home?

I bet it’s more than you thought!