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”.

Average American Scared of Autonomous Cars

A great article by Matt Posky at The Truth About Cars:

”[A] vast majority of surveyed Americans admitted to being “afraid” of riding in an autonomous vehicle while over half said they felt less safe at the prospect of sharing the road with driverless technology.”

“[From] a random sampling of 1,012 adults, AAA found that 78 percent of American drivers surveyed reported feelings of fear at the mere concept of being a passenger in a self-driving vehicle.”

“By and large, every study on current and future autonomous features seems to underscore added safety.”

But hey, shark attacks make the news, although a human being is more likely to die from influenza than ANY type of automobile accident. The stats are questionable, but Elon Musk states that currently Tesla’s Autopilot is 50% safer than human-piloted automobiles.

Tesla’s Grandiose Plans

If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

In the Tesla analyst’s call yesterday, Musk spent time discussing future plans. Underpinning these plans, and something I have been pondering for quite some time, is Elon’s conviction of concentrating efforts on “building the machines that builds the machines”.

Teslerati’s Kyle has a good rundown on the plans. A few excerpts:

The addition of newly minted Tesla Solar production to the Gigafactory model means Tesla will be producing all three of its core product families – Motors, Energy and Solar – in a single factory footprint. Vetting this concept out in Gigafactory 2 will provide a nice blueprint for future Gigafactories as Tesla looks beyond the borders of the U.S. towards international expansion.

Can these devices be designed and built to be so flexible as to be able to build anything? Musk thinks there are orders of magnitude of improvement yet to come from automation and robotics.

Gigafactories 3, 4, and 5:

Tesla casually dropped news that the locations of Gigafactory 3, 4 and possibly 5 would be finalized later this year. The obvious location for #3 is Europe with strong Tesla vehicle sales in the region supported by an ever growing fleet of Superchargers in the area.

To put a final point on the ability to think big, Kyle sums up with this:

Building on just the core need for batteries, a modular Gigafactory allows Tesla to move its production into a region in a single step, establishing local supply chains for raw materials while also cutting costs on shipping batteries, vehicles and solar products at the same time. Batteries and cars are not cheap to ship and this move makes sense on many levels.

Great summary.

I’m thinking at this point, Elon Musk is the machine that builds the machines that builds the machines.

Cord to Enter Production?

From The Truth About Cars, comes a report that the Cord brand maybe be resurrected. The 810 and 812 (“coffin-nose”) models are arguably some of the most beautiful cars ever made.

“…Craig Corbell, a Houston oil industry consultant and Cord aficionado, hopes to start production of new Cords.”

“…it is the iconic 810 model of 1936 that most enthusiasts associate with the brand. Featuring a low-slung, running board-free body, “coffin nose” prow and flip-up headlamps, the 810 (and 812 of 1937) remains a standout in the world of automobile styling.”

“…Corbell wants to have a display vehicle ready for the fall of 2017.”

Must be yellow:

cord-812-sc-phaeton-1937_0

Tips – The End of Uber As We Know It?

cabsI hate cabs. The end of the ride was always uncomfortable. Digging a credit card or cash out of my pocket, then mentally figuring out a tip is unnecessary and frequently uncomfortable. And then, the frequently higher fares.

Uber came along and streamlined this process and made it almost a joy. Once I summon an Uber, that’s it. I know where the car is and how long before it arrives. I know when it arrives. I get in the car, and the driver already knows the destination. At the end of the ride, there is no worrying about finalizing the transaction with grubby cash or clumsy credit card transactions. You simply get out of the car. It’s like getting a ride from a buddy.

Clean, friendly, and frictionless. No need to be crass with money.

Or, at least that’s what Uber led me to believe.

But then I discovered this. Drivers get to rate the passengers. I always thought that if when I unexpectantly throw up in an Uber, my other more frequent uses where I am a normal, friendly citizen would at least keep me in that 4+ star rating. What Uber doesn’t tell you – and won’t – is that the drivers can solicit tips, and some are penalizing you for not tipping.

Now, a new ruling means that drivers can place signs in their cars informing passengers that tips are not included. It might as well say “if you don’t tip me, expect a poor rating, and no Uber driver will ever pick you up again except for the serial killer Uber drivers.”

This almost kills the deal for me. Might as well use Lyft. At least Lyft’s app has a way to add a tip, and that’s a whole lot easier than with the cab’s credit card machine or grubby cash.

Not saying I will not use Uber anymore, but it just lost one of it’s very appealing features. I don’t want to get on a soapbox about the entire cockamamie tipping system, but the idea of the driver being passenger rated that works so well in other businesses like ebay, AND being paid enough to not require tips is a much better system.

Uber appears to being trying to blaze a trail against the tipping system, albeit self-servingly. But right now, the tipping is so ingrained in our society – in spite of it being a remarkable tax avoidance and wage paying-shifting scheme – it is almost considered a right.

And this presumed right will hurt Uber.

S1E1: Phil Votaw, Podcast Interview

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 1.48.04 PMWelcome to Season 1, Episode 1 of the Technology – Business – Culture Podcast where we feature thought leaders and unique perspectives from tastemakers, independent thinkers and others that share a common interest in pursuing excellence in work and life.

Today’s episode feature Phil Votaw, a personal injury attorney in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Phil is well-known in the region, not only for his successful practice, but also for his unique commercials (made by Mike Hart at 5 Star Productions) that catch your attention.

I’ve know Phil since his firm became a client of Kirkham Systems a few years back, and have always enjoyed our discussions. And I can vouch for the fact that “you’ve never met a lawyer like him”.

Phil is energetic, curious and passionate. He is also a recovering accountant, but now only practices law.

This podcast was recorded the day after the launch of the Tesla Model 3, so we just jump right into a Tesla and Elon Musk discussion. You also hear Melanie Radcliff in the background, who will be a guest in an upcoming episode.

Mentioned on the show (none of these are affiliate links, but wish they were):

Elon Musk biography by Ashlee Vance – awesome book. (I recommend reading Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender first. Done this way, you understand that Elon Musk is no Steve Jobs – not that there are any like him – or me – or Phil – anyway.)

Phil’s Movies (IMDB links):
Dances With Wolves
Patton
The Quiet Man
The Green Mile
Blazing Saddles
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Tom’s Movies (IMDB links):
Scent of a WomanAl Pacino Scene (YouTube)
Thomas Crown Affair
Live and Let Die
Glengarry Glen RossAlec Baldwin Scene (YouTube)

Phil’s Music (Amazon links):
Hotel California
Beethoven’s 9th and 5th – Berlin Philharmonic
Macklemore (Artist’s page)
Barenaked Ladies (Artist’s page)
Out of Africa Soundtrack
Dances With Wolves Soundtrack
Billy Joel – Songs in the Attic

Phil’s Books (Amazon links):
Author John Scalzi (Writer’s page): “You can get to his blog by typing the word “Whatever” into Google. No, seriously, try it.”
Author Robert Heinlein (List of books on Amazon)