Tesla Doubting and Big Rigs

Tesla's original model, the Roadster

Tesla’s original model, the Roadster

Range Anxiety. It is the number 1 reason that fewer people own all-electric cars. I’ve heard comments like this for years:

Weight, cost, space are my only concerns. Versions/hybrids are currently running with success. I see a combination of a small diesel powered generator, battery and electric motors being the most viable and easiest to achieve in the near future. Having to charge every 600 miles? Getting infrastructure for CNG has been tough enough, imagine the banks of charging stations needed, drivers have a hard enough time finding parking for breaks. 34,000 lb. payloads might be a little skinny.

This response was from an article about Tesla’s upcoming semi rig.

I think a fundamental assumption was made that someone else has to build the charging infrastructure. Tesla doesn’t wait for that. Currently, there are over 2600 chargers in over 370 locations in the United States. There are plans to double those in 2017 alone. And I ain’t talking for semis. Or, at least I don’t think I am.

I live in the “black hole” of Tesla charging stations. Arkansas does not have a single one, nor are there any in western Tennessee. It is easy to be myopic regarding Tesla when an MSA of 300,000 plus has probably less than 10 Teslas on the road, and the nearest Supercharger is 100 miles away. Arkansas is also a black hole for other things, but even Mississippi has more superchargers.

But those in the rest of the country see them all the time. I counted 5 at a traffic light stop during a visit to San Jose. I’ve seen them used as Uber and pizza delivery cars. I heard that one is being used as a food truck in Portland. (Ok, I don’t know the food truck one is real, but it feels true.)

Hybrids Are Not Part of the Plan

I Googled “why didn’t tesla start with building hybrids?” and found this post on Quora. The takeaway from Ernie Dunbar is that “…they didn’t want to fuck around.” Indeed, that is precisely why. Hybrids are an interim solution to the all-electric, solar-powered future.

It is also why those in the transportation industry should take notice how quickly all of this has happened. It stems from failing to question generally accepted conventional wisdoms. Lockheed-Martin could not believe an individually financed company could unseat them at NASA. But SpaceX did.

Ford and GM (maybe not Ford, now) probably don’t think that Tesla can unseat them as the largest auto manufacturers in the United States. I know that Blackberry never saw Apple coming, then went through their denial stage until their death. Steve Ballmer at Microsoft ridiculed Apple for getting into the phone business. People told me in the Eighties that personal computers would never be in someone’s home. A whole slew of people thought letting Donald Trump run the country was a good idea.

True industry disruption occurs when someone questions conventional wisdom and starts with “first principles“. Why can’t we re-use rockets? Why do we have to wait for others to roll out infrastructure? Why can’t roofs be made from solar cells, instead of mounting them on top? Why do electric cars have to look like shit?

Electric power has gobs of torque. Battery technology is constantly improving.

Sure, the first ones may only go 600 miles and only have have a payload capacity of 34,000 pounds, but the Tesla roadster (a “hacked” Lotus) was released in 2006, but by 2012 – just 6 years later – Tesla released a new-from-the-ground-up 4-door legitimate all-electric card that outsells most full-size luxury sedans to this day.

Tesla went back to first principles to question design, engineering, manufacturing, everything. For the upcoming Model 3, they even skipped a build prototype stage that conventional manufacturers use to test actual manufacturing processes with disposable manufacturing lines and vehicles. Saved Tesla months in getting the Model 3 to market, and will probably revolutionize auto manufacturing.

The internal combustion engine is dying before our eyes. 20 years from now it will be a quaint thing that will be nostalgically remembered like rotary dial phones. Only car aficionados and collectors will be interested in ICE cars. Electric will be too mainstream and a “no brainer”.

CERN and the Invention of the World Wide Web

CERN and the Invention of the World Wide Web

Recently I visited Europe, and the high point of the trip was my tour of CERN (wikipedia link).

After trying unsuccessfully to register for a tour, I decided to just go for it, and when I arrived at the visitor center, the group just leaving had extra space so I joined up.

High-energy particle physics probably bore most people, but for me, it was nerd heaven.CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid

The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) facility is where the detector and control room are. I was able to go underground. Here is a selfie of me with the 2,000 ton detector:

CMS Detector

Birthplace of the World Wide Web

What many people don’t know is that the World Wide Web was invented at CERN by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Not the Internet (the WWW is just a part of the Internet). Here is a photo of the first World Wide Web server (sorry about the low-quality, but it is housed in a weird globe), which is another remarkable footnote of computing history – Steve Jobs’ NeXT computer:

First WWW server at CERN


Al Gore and the Internet

Since we are on the subject, Al Gore did not proclaim to “invent” the Internet. What he did do is help create and nurture the Internet. That is in fact, true. When asked what distinguished him from his challenger in the 2000 Democratic Presidential nomination, he stated this:

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

As Vice President, Gore was in charge of promoting and developing the “Information Superhighway” and launched a number of initiatives that without a doubt placed him on the list of people that helped create what we know today as the Internet. Don’t believe me?

Vint Cerf (“Father of the Internet”) and his colleague Bob Kahn, who actually did create the Internet (along with others; it was a world-wide group effort) wrote this in response to the critique and ridicule of  Gore’s statement, which they felt was unjustifed.

Some Excerpts:

Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the Internet and to promote and support its development.

…But as the two people who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore’s contributions as a Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time. [Emphasis mine]

The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and promoting the Internet long before most people were listening. We feel it is timely to offer our perspective.

As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship.

As Vice President Gore promoted building the Internet both up and out, as well as releasing the Internet from the control of the government agencies that spawned it. …Gore provided much-needed political support for the speedy privatization of the Internet when the time arrived for it to become a commercially-driven operation.

No one in public life has been more intellectually engaged in helping to create the climate for a thriving Internet than the Vice President. Gore has been a clear champion of this effort, both in the councils of government and with the public at large.

The Vice President deserves credit for his early recognition of the value of high speed computing and communication and for his long-term and consistent articulation of the potential value of the Internet to American citizens and industry and, indeed, to the rest of the world.

When the fathers of the Internet verify his help, it is real. So please give credit where credit is due.