Why Bitcoin-Mining May Be Elon Musk's Next Big Problem...

If you thought Tesla was burning cash now, wait until this latest scheme goes mainstream...

As EcoMotoringNews.com reports, some creative Tesla owners came up with a way to make a few bucks from their parked EVs: Cryptocurrency mining.

This raises questions that shouldn’t just be aimed at bitcoin mining, or even electric vehicles.

For those unfamiliar, cryptocurrencies only work because there is a network of distributed computing that processes the transactions. To reward those offering the computing power, cryptocurrencies give fractions of new bitcoins to those who did the work of running the network. This is referred to as “mining” bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. This was an expensive and power-hungry task that could wear out computer components much faster than usual.

Initially, many doing this used high-end graphics processing units, but as the money earned per device diminished, miners turned to specialized computer units, called ASICs, to do the task faster with less electricity. But the units are still not free and they still can use kilowatts of electricity for a handful of them. To reduce the overall cost of running mining computers, some miners put the computers throughout their homes to act as small space heaters and reduce their heating bill. Others run their rigs on solar panels to avoid a monthly power cost.

Any source of electricity you don’t have to pay the normal rate for, or that you don’t have to pay for at all, is an opportunity for miners to increase their already thin profits. Teslas and other EVs have free access to power at many charging stations, so it was probably only a matter of time until somebody decided to plug their mining computers in.

One member of the Tesla Owners Worldwide on Facebook suggested the idea, possibly in jest. Then another owner went ahead and did it, posting a photo of his setup (above). Some members suggested that his setup could pull as much as 3 kilowatts of power and would probably require the vehicle’s air conditioning to be on for cooling. Other members raised ethical questions.

Is it stealing to use the power for something other than driving?

On the one hand, this could be a good way to offset the cost of owning an electric vehicle. On the other hand, it lowers the efficiency of the vehicle and increases the environmental impact. But then again, the mining was going to be done somewhere anyway, so does it really? Will many EV owners do this? Will they do it at places they were going to charge anyway, or will there be opportunistic fleets of EVs blocking up charging stations to make a quick buck? How will charging station owners respond?

But really, these questions shouldn’t just be aimed at bitcoin mining. Computing power is going to be in higher and higher demand going forward. Self-driving cars are already running on graphics processing units like bitcoin miners once all used. Infotainment systems are getting more and more powerful, and that power needs to come from somewhere. Mobile devices used by passengers are going to need more and more power to charge. Even beyond that, there are “V2H” systems that can run a house on an electric vehicle’s battery, and that goes far beyond the tiny bit of power needed to run a few mining computers.

And these questions shouldn’t just be applied to electric vehicles. Many of these power strains will apply to hybrid, regular gas and regular diesel vehicles. Alternators, the parts that charge most car’s 12v batteries, are already a big part of the car’s fuel consumption. Ecomodding hobbyists have gained as much as 15% fuel efficiency by removing them, and that amount is only going to grow as more demand is placed on it. Some companies are suggesting waste heat recovery to generate the electricity needed for the future.

When we look at these wider power issues, it becomes clear that bitcoin mining is just a drop in the bucket. Even if a large number of EV owners did it, it would still be nothing compared to the other computing future cars will eventually be doing. Where that power is going to come from is a good question we shouldn’t just be aiming at the odd bitcoin miner.


Cognitive Dissonance tmosley Tue, 11/28/2017 - 12:23 Permalink

Was doing some reading this weekend about serious amateur Bitcoin mining.One guy built this huge 'garage' in his back yard devoted entirely to his humongous and growing Bitcoin mining adventure. He had to get the power company out there to bring in a new 2000 AMP 3 Phase Power drop at his house to power the 'garage'.Then a jealous neighbor called the 'authorities', specifically zoning and building inspectors, and they shut the operation down.Non compliance with building and zoning.Ouch. Guy must have drop well over $150,000 into the venture. Last I read he was moving the venture to a commercial/industrial park out of town and using the 35 x 50 'garage' for his lawn mower.LOL

In reply to by tmosley

bluez shitshitshit Tue, 11/28/2017 - 15:39 Permalink

Why not explain some basic facts about electricity? Some conventions: symbol for voltage is "E"; symbol for current  (in, say, "amps") is "I";  symbol for power (in, say, "watts") is "P"; symbol for total energy (in, say, "watt-hours") is "Wh"; symbol for time is "t". Seems like a lot of symbols, but it's all dirt-simple! The energy released in a "system" is measured in watt-hours (Wh), so if it takes one "standard lump of coal" to generate one Wh, it will take two "standard lumps of coal" to generate two Wh. And two identical space heaters will use twice as many Wh an one will. Simple.And, the power (P) used by a space heater is directly proportional to the heat it releases. And the energy it uses is the power it uses times the length of time it runs. This simply means Wh = P*t. And this power is always found to be P = E*I. So then, the total energy used is always just Wh = E*I*t. Neat huh?Electricity in wires is pretty much like water in pipes. If we have two turbines driven by water in two identical pipes, with water at the same pressure, they will produce twice as much power as just one would. Also, a turbine driven by twice as much water pressure as another (again the pipes are the same size) will produce twice as much power as the latter one will. And this is where we get P = E*I. So electric current (I) is directly analogous to amount of water flow, and electric voltage (E) is directly analogous to amount of water pressure. Cool, huh? (OK there are tons of devilish little details and standards that industrial electricians know, like "root-mean-square" and "single phase/ three phase" and "line loss", and it goes on forever.)So anyway, long, long ago, I worked for a company that made real heavy duty machines they sold to the government, and they told me that these things ran at 440 volts (government and big industry likes 440 volt machines). I said "all that electricity must be really expensive". "Oh no" they said. When you get your electric bill they say they charge for "kilowatt hours" (simply thousands of watt-hours or Wh). But it's a lie! You see, your electric meter does not really measure watt-hours, it really only measures the amount of current! But your voltage is only (nominally, but not exactly) 110 volts, while the Big Boys are using 440 volts. Recalling the watt-hour equation Wh = E*I*t, you are getting 110*I*t watt-hours, while the Big Boys are getting 440*I*t watt-hours. So if the current (I) were the same, they are only paying 1/4th as much. Some racket huh?Oh and here's another (bonus) neat scam. I know (not directly of course) of this black-hat hacker who hacks remotely into thousands of high-end gaming Windows "slave" computers, and instead of just stealing their credit cards, he simply uses their ultra-fancy video cards to mine Bitcoin, which get sent back to him. Virtually no electric bill worries at all!

In reply to by shitshitshit

Teja bluez Tue, 11/28/2017 - 16:47 Permalink

Hey, that is a new conspiracy theory! Worth upvoting you although it is clearly totally gaga.Or, on a second thought, maybe not - the Europeans usually have 240 volts, so of course they pay less than half for electricity than the Americans. Lucky people! And if you buy batteries, which have 1.5 volts, you pay quite a lot of money for a little bit of electricity, but that is now also explained by comparing prices per Ampere-hour.I wonder how the power companies cope, though - when they trade electricity between themselves, they use 10'000 volt power lines. Paid for by Ampere, this would create interesting business opportunities.Maybe one should try to invent a "transformator", converting 10'000 volt into 110 volt and, like magic, multiplying the amperes by almost factor of 1000! But I guess that is science-fiction.

In reply to by bluez

shitshitshit IH8OBAMA Tue, 11/28/2017 - 12:42 Permalink

it's just like using heating fuel to power your diesel engine (it's exactly the same thing besides the color of the fuel itself, and on purpose).Given the same fuel is sold at 2 different tax rates, people using heating fuel are severely prosecuted, should the police find out. And heating fuel carriers report how much fuel went to which home etc, to make data mining more efficient.I can't imagine how wouldn't this be any different for electricity...Or: you could sell the kWh for electric cars at charging stations at a higher price than residential rate and that would fix the issue. This would only be faire because thes stations cost some subsidised money... 

In reply to by IH8OBAMA

True Blue IH8OBAMA Tue, 11/28/2017 - 13:32 Permalink

Exactly! "Teslas and other EVs have free access to power at many charging stations"TANSTAAFL -There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch; somebody or somebodies are paying for it, and I strongly suspect that the somebodies are you and I.And I love how they imply that removing your alternator and using coal to charge your battery is somehow 'good for the enviwonment.'"Ecomodding hobbyists have gained as much as 15% fuel efficiency by removing them"

In reply to by IH8OBAMA

No Time for Fishing Solosides Tue, 11/28/2017 - 15:03 Permalink

I find it a little hard to believe that there will be an epicnemic of people who can afford a Telsa deciding to invest hundreds of hours of their time at charging stations to steal electricity. When you plug your Telsa in at the charging station the system verifies you are entitled removing entitlement from abusers is easy enough capability is already part of the process. 

In reply to by Solosides