Tesla is on a roll and just won a 'Nobel prize of design'

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, with a Powerwall system. Picture: Getty Images

Tesla just beat bitcoin, Google’s self-driving cars, inventions startup Quirky and 1116 other potentially world-changing projects in the running for the world’s biggest design award.

Its latest product, Powerwall, was one of five winners of the INDEX: Awards, the €500,000 biennial competition which recognises “life-improving design”.

Previous winners include iTunes, Raspberry Pi and Tesla’s own Roadster in 2007. This year, 1123 nominations were received from 72 countries.

Tesla is still glowing from the boost its Model P85D got from a recent review in Consumer Reports, which said it was “the best car it’s ever tested” in its 80-year publication run.

“The car defies the laws of physics,” reviewers said, before giving it a raw score of 103 – on a scale that only goes up to 100.

INDEX recognised the Powerwall as the winner in its Community category. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the arrival of the solar-powered rechargeable lithioum-ion battery on May 1.

It works like an energy “piggy bank”, storing clean energy during the day for use at night.

The other four big winners just announced include an app that promises to teach you a new language in 34 hours, a smartphone retina scanner, a vertical farming system and a visionary approach to cleaning up the world’s oceans.

46 finalists made the penultimate cut. According to INDEX:

Some of the key challenges represented in the finalist pool were digitalisation, sustainable living, energy, health and education. We also saw a number of new and traditional trends such as biomimicry, crowdsourcing platforms, initiatives to democratise learning and teach new skills as well as some great solutions to address our biggest environmental challenges.

Here’s the five winners:


Aims to break down the largest barrier to widespread uptake of solar power by storing it for use at night.

Available now, the system “consists of a solar panel installed on the roof, a battery to store surplus electricity, and an inverter to convert solar electricity generated into the alternating current to be used by your appliances”.

DUOLINGO (USA) – Play and Learning

Named iPhone App of the Year, TechCrunch’s Best Education Startup, and Google’s Best of the Best two years running, Duolingo’s big promise is that it can teach you to converse in a different language in under 34 hours.

Importantly for the INDEX judges, it’s also free to anyone with an internet connection and is by far the best universal translator for any web page.


Scientists say they’re closing in on eradicating blindness forever, which right now afflicts an estimated 285 million people. The WHO says four out of five of them could have avoided it with proper diagnostic help.

Using a cheap plastic clip and a smartphone, Peek Retina allows almost anyone to look at back of the eye and submit a scan that shows signs of cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and nerve disease.

THE OCEAN CLEANUP ARRAY (Netherlands) – Community

Founded by 21-year-old engineering student Boyan Slat, the Ocean Cleanup Array is a self-sufficient system of floating barriers positioned at the centre of ocean “gyres” which gather a large proprtion of the estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic added each year.

Slat’s research team estimates a 100km array could eliminate up to 42 per cent of rubbish from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within 10 years. They aim to deploy the first array in 2020.


A low-carbon solution for eliminating the need to transport fresh produce into urban areas via increasingly long trips to farming regions. Each farm consists of 38, 9-metre tall vertical towers which rotate to capture maximum sun, and use just 0.5 litres of water each per day.

They’re already producing goods for Singaporean supermarkets at an average cost of just 20 cents more per kilogram than imported produce.

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