November 29, 2020

SpaceX

Considering that after 17 years, Tesla is only now on the verge of posting its first annual profit, you could say Elon Musk knows how to navigate the long road of taking a business from red to black. But that may not make the struggle any easier when it comes to Starlink, SpaceX’s budding satellite-internet service. 

Customers using Starlink’s beta service pay $99 a month, plus $499 for a starter kit that includes the oh-so-vital phased-array antenna. Now, if you think “phased-array antenna” sounds like something that costs more than $499, you’re right — at least according to three telecoms experts we chatted with. 

They say SpaceX is likely paying thousands of dollars to make each antenna that lets customers hook up to Starlink. And although that kind of subsidization makes sense while Starlink races to capture market share, it’s unclear whether scaling up will bring costs down. That could someday become a proper problem for Musk, and he’s acknowledged as much.

“We are focusing on making it not go bankrupt,” Musk said earlier this year.

Read the full story right here, get more of the week’s transportation news below, and if you haven’t yet, sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox every week.

Oh, and a programming note: We’re busy building our 2020 list of rising stars in the world of self-driving cars. If you know someone under 30 years old who’s helping ditch the human driver (or you fit that description), let us know right here.

Sure, Uber’s been through some tough times, including multiple rounds of layoffs in the past two years. But those inside the company are well compensated for their striving to continually upend the world of transportation. Based on data we pulled from the US Office of Foreign Labor Certification for nearly 30 positions, low six-figure salaries are the norm. And if you can convince Uber to make you a chief scientist, you could bring home $330,000 a year.

The auto industry is preparing to launch scores of new electric vehicle models in the next few years, and every last one will need a big ol’ battery. For battery makers like Panasonic, that means “you need to be making millions of cells a day, and that only supplies a small number of vehicles,” Celina Mikolajczak, the vice president of battery technology at Panasonic Energy of North America, said this week during the Digital Days online battery conference. The solution: more automation on the production line, a more robust supply chain, and suppliers who can produce more raw materials. 

More than 220 electric aircraft aviation startups are developing flight programs to wipe away aviation’s Yeti-sized carbon footprint, zoom over urban congestion, make deliveries, and more. Many will flop. More will fade. A few will soar. To sort it out, we surveyed VCs and experts in the space market who picked out eight to watch.

Everything else: 

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