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经济学人:埃隆马斯克的超级工厂

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Elon Musk's gigafactory

埃隆·马斯克的超级工厂
Assault on batteries
向电池产业进击
Better power-packs will open the road for electric vehicles
更高性能的电池必定能促进电动汽车的发展
THE author of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, E.L. James, has mused at length about a billionaire inflicting punishment in her bondage-based bestseller. As the recipient of one of the first right-hand-drive versions of the Tesla Model S to hit Britain's roads, personally handed to her at an event in London last week by Elon Musk, the carmaker's wealthy boss, she is clearly attuned to billionaires dishing out pleasure too. The “range anxiety” that afflicts other electric-car owners has been minimised in the Model S by packing it with lots of batteries; the agony-inducing cost of filling up at the petrol station need never bother Ms James again.
在情色性虐小说《格雷的50道阴影》里,作者詹姆斯费尽心思地塑造出了一位喜欢对别人施加惩罚的亿万富翁。然而,当她从富有的车辆制造商埃隆·马斯克本人手中接过一台新车,一台首次登陆英伦半岛的右驾驶席版本特斯拉S型轿车,显然地,她也会开始习惯于另一种亿万富翁的形象——给别人带来快乐。特斯拉通过对S型轿车大量加装电池,使得一直折磨着广大电动汽车车主的“里程焦虑”问题变得微不足道;相应地,令人恼怒的油站等候时间从此不再是詹姆斯女士的麻烦之一。

Other all-electric cars, costly and with limited ranges, have proved a hard sell. The models from most mainstream carmakers still look and feel like gimmicks. Tesla's main achievement is producing a car which can be judged credibly alongside any fast and expensive petrol-propelled saloon. But the Californian company's long-term growth prospects, and the widespread adoption of electric cars, are both dependent on a big drop in battery costs. Tesla's next mission, to begin making a cheaper, mass-market electric vehicle in 2017, will rely heavily on ambitious plans for a new battery “gigafactory” in America.

出于经济性和行车里程的限制,其他制造商的电动汽车都很难卖得动,而且现今汽车市场上的大部分主流制造商所推出的电动车依旧让人感觉只是噱头。而特斯拉电动车最主要的成就,是做到了能够毫无疑问地和市场上任何高速、昂贵的汽油轿车相比肩。但这家总部位于加州的制造商所追求的长期增长目标,以及市场对电动车的广泛接纳,都有赖于电池成本的大幅降低。特斯拉想要在2017年推出更廉价更大众化的电动汽车,而这一任务的成功与否取决于公司在美国的宏大计划—建立新电池能源基地“千兆工厂”。
Batteries are the priciest bit of electric cars. Mr Musk, a founder of PayPal and a serial tech investor, claims that his come much cheaper than those of other carmakers. Although Tesla has designed the powerpacks and their associated circuitry, each of them contains up to 7,000 standard lithium-ion cells of the sort found in laptops. The firm is said to buy more of these sorts of cell than all the world's computer-makers combined.
电池是电动汽车的组成部件里最昂贵的。PayPal的创始人以及科技领域的投资者马斯克先生,则宣称他的电池比其他的车辆制造商要便宜得多。虽然特斯拉公司已经设计好了自己的电池组以及相关的电路构成,但每一份电池组都包含了7000块相当于笔记本电脑使用的标准锂离子充电电池。据称,特斯拉准备采购的电池数量,比全世界其他车辆制造商所需要的总数加起来还要多。
Tesla argues that purchasing a common item in volume gives it a big advantage over other carmakers that have opted to commission custom-designed battery cells. It reckons that its battery packs, including their power-management and cooling systems, currently cost it less than $300 a kilowatt-hour of storage capacity, about half the costs of its rivals.
特斯拉公司强调,这种对普通物件进行大量采购的交易行为可以使自身在同行当中有很大的优势,公司可以选择去定制生产专门设计的电池。据特斯拉估计,包含动力管理和冷却系统在内的电池组,目前每千瓦时的容量就能够节约300美元的成本,相当于比同行们要便宜一半。
The gigafactory, which will eventually turn out batteries for 500,000 vehicles, should cut their cost by another 30%, according to Tesla (see chart). Mr Musk reckons that two-thirds of that saving will come from scale alone—the new factory will double the world's lithium-battery output—with the rest down to improved manufacturing technology. If Tesla makes good on its promise, electric motoring could finally take off. Sanford C. Bernstein, a research firm, reckons that when costs drop below $200 a kWh, battery-powered cars start to become competitive with conventional ones without subsidies. The gigafactory could bring Tesla close to that.
据特斯拉的资料显示,最终他们的“千兆工厂”将会为50万辆电动汽车提供足够的电池,并且他们能够另外再降低30%的生产成本。马斯克先生预计上述的成本下降空间里,有三分之二是单独取决于规模效益—这家新工厂将会使全球锂离子电池产量翻倍;而另外的三分之一则取决于生产工艺的技术提升。如果特斯拉能够实现自己的诺言,那么电动汽车或许真的能够最终取代传统汽车。据调查公司斯坦福·伯恩斯坦估计,当电动汽车的能源成本降至每千瓦时200美元之时,电动汽车便能在没有补贴的情况下与传统汽车竞争。“千兆工厂”或许能够助特斯拉一臂之力。
Yet some analysts doubt Tesla's claims both of its current battery costs and its ability to cut them drastically. UBS, a bank, notes that raw materials account for 70% of the price of a lithium battery, making the scope for savings limited. And even if the factory does turn out lots of cheap battery cells, that will not be enough. Paul Rivera of Ricardo, an engineering consultant, reckons that the key to increasing range and performance, while cutting costs, is to improve the efficiency, size and price of the electronics that manage the power, along with overall vehicle weight. Tesla does not have the same advantages in these areas as it has with its batteries.
然而,不管是从现有电池的成本,还是从大力降低电池成本的能力出发,一些分析师都在质疑特斯拉的豪言壮语。瑞士联合银行提出,锂离子电池的成本构成当中,70%取决于原料供应,而这就造成了电池成本下降空间有限。就算特斯拉的新工厂真的能够开始提供大量的便宜电池,也远远无法将其带向成功。一位工程咨询师,Ricardo的保罗?里维拉认为,在成本削减的情况下,提高行车里程和行驶表现的关键在于改进电器设备的效率、尺寸和价格方面的问题,而总体车身重量也是一个不可忽略的因素。在上述方面,特斯拉并不像其在电池领域一样有着足够的优势。
At a cost of $5 billion, which Tesla will share with Panasonic of Japan, its current battery supplier, and other partners, the gigafactory is a big gamble. But the company will surely get a good deal by playing off Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and Nevada, the states that want to host it. And if electric-car demand stalls, the huge output of cheap batteries could feed the market for distributed generation—storing energy from solar cells and discharging it when it is needed, helping consumers to go “off the grid”. Mr Musk, a self-confident man whose other projects include establishing a colony on Mars, is unlikely to be put off by the gigafactory's doubters.
特斯拉与其目前的主要电池供应商日本松下集团,以及其他的一些合作伙伴,将投入50亿美元去实现“千兆工厂”计划,进行一次豪赌。但无论如何,特斯拉都能在亚利桑那州、德州、新墨西哥州和内华达州的竞争之间尝到甜头,因为这些地区都希望该工厂能够落户到自己的地盘。同时,如果电动汽车的需求停滞不前,那么巨量的廉价电池能够给分布式发电市场提供足够的原材料——从太阳能电池当中储存能源并且在有需要的时候给电池充电,使得消费者能够摆脱“电网”的束缚。作为一位想要在火星上建立殖民地的人,自信满满的马斯克先生不太可能会被新工厂的质疑者所阻挡。
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