Energy: iPads don’t use much; neither do Gmail users; and will the Model S re-energize Tesla?

The buzzword of the day is “energy”:

• $1.36. That’s the annual cost of charging your Apple iPad — less than a penny per charge, and less than the annual cost of a 60-watt fluorescent lightbulb — according to a new study, which found that the shift away from desktop computers could bring huge energy savings.

The report by the Palo Alto-based nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute calculated that the move toward tablet computers is unlikely to strain the nation’s electricity output, and suggested it may even shrink usage. That’s because more consumers are using their tablet computers to watch videos, play games and browse the Internet, instead of their energy-hogging desktop computers and TVs. A desktop uses about 20 times as much electricity as a tablet.

“These results raise important questions about how the shifting reliance from desktop to laptop to mobile devices will change energy use and electricity requirements for the information age,” EPRI vice president Mark McGranaghan said in a statement.

The report found smartphones are even cheaper: A mere 25 cents a year for an iPhone 3G, and 38 cents a year to charge an iPhone 4. Compare that to the $8.31 for a laptop computer, $28.21 for a desktop computer and $65.51 for a refrigerator.

The study did note that battery efficiency will be a key factor in future energy usage; the third-generation iPads are not as efficient, for example, consuming about 65 percent more power than previous models.

• Another study has found that Gmail users are more energy efficient than Yahoo Mail users — who are both better than AOL users.

The report by utility industry analysts Opower compared electricity usage using 1.15 million utility customers’ email addresses. It found AOL customers use 18 percent more electricity a year — or about $182 more — than Google’s Gmail users.

The numbers make sense when you think about the email demographics. A separate study by found Gmail users to be generally younger, use a laptop and live in a city. Yahoo Mail users had larger homes in the suburbs and were family-oriented, and AOL users (think your parents) were older, had even larger suburban houses, used a desktop computer (see our first item about how much more energy they use) and owned multiple energy-sucking DVRs.

So that’s something to feel good about when you’re checking your Gmail on your iPad.

• Today is the day Tesla Motors launches is new mass-market electric car, the Model S.

The Palo Alto-based electric carmaker has focused previously on niche sports cars, but has high hopes for its new sedan, which will cost around $50,000. Analysts hope a successful rollout will signal a new era for mass-market electric cars. Customers have already pre-ordered 10,000 cars, and Tesla expects to have 80 to 100 cars a day coming off the production line by the end of the year.

The Model S is a do-or-die moment for Tesla, “one they cannot afford to fail,” Jesse Toprak, analyst told the Associated Press.  The company has never made a profit, and has lost about $1 billion over the years. A $465 million federal loan has helped, but the company needs the Model S to bring it to profitability.

Check out later today for the latest news as the first customers get their cars at Tesla’s auto plant in Fremont.


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  • dermbuilder

    I built my own electrical consumption meter, using my digital multimeter as its core. The point is, the amount of power use indicated by appliances labels is not a good predictor of actual electrical use, particularly with electronic products. The label always lists peak consumption, most electronic devices actually use far less than this under actual use conditions. My laptop computer for instance consumes a little less than 40 watts while playing DVD movies. While doing word processing it uses about 30, and on idle, about 15. Motors and heating appliances are what use the most power. Toasting 2 slices of bread for instance, may take more power than your laptop computer uses in 2 hours.