The automotive world, as we knew it, is done.

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Posted by sass | Posted in Electric Vehicles | Posted on 29-05-2015

The automotive world turned modern societies on their heads with the advent of propulsed mechanical transportation over 100 years ago. The very first vehicles were in fact electric, yet then morphed into internal combustion engine models as that technology developed far quicker than did battery storage. Electric could simply not compete, and thus began the first transformation in the automotive industry.

After over sixty years as the dominant method of propulsion, companies began to experiment with two important issues in the automotive world. One was the issue of gas efficiency. Struck by the oil embargo following the Arab-Israeli war, car makers were ordered to make their vehicles more efficient, in order to reduce dependency on foreign oil. Second was the issue that people were maxing out their bank accounts and living on credit. No longer willing to fully pay for a depreciating asset up front, the automotive industry again evolved into a financial model vs a manufacturing model. It outsourced much of the manufacturing to third parties while become purely a finance, marketing, design and final assembly set of companies.

Enter the resurgence of electric, as battery technology began to be the recipient of much attention and funding. A couple of false starts with EV1 by General Motors and others, led to Toyota launching its Prius and Camry lines with batteries capable of a few kilometres at a time. This was then followed by Nissan launching the very first mass-market electric vehicle, while GM answered with its range-extended Volt.

The next disruption came at the hands of a company that nobody knew before, simply because it didn’t exist…Tesla. Having visited the Tesla factory in early 2012 in Fremont, California, I was very impressed by how “non automotive” my whole visit was. For all I knew, the robots could have been building fridges instead of cars. The office was more in line with modern technology company “open office” concepts than any of the ones I had visited in 2009-2011 in Detroit during the days I worked for another start-up I had co-founded in Michigan. This felt different and I knew they were going to do incredible things.

As with everything else, disruption is not welcomed by all. This is a car which has no universal joints, ball joints, muffler, radiator, oil nor fuel required. It just is so radically different that most automotive veterans will recognize few pieces of it when its brought down to its chassis level (as one can see in many Tesla showrooms). Oh and yes, lest I forget…there are no dealerships. Tesla owns 100% of its network in most countries (with very small exceptions in smaller Asian countries where it just doesn’t pay). So not only a radically different car, but a radically different way of “selling”.

As Tesla was launching, so were new services named “car sharing”. Essentially, the millenial generation asks itself which it would rather invest in…a lease for five years or a vacation NOW and for every year! It sees cars as a service, and so reacting well, service companies such as Car2Go, DriverNow, Communauto and others launched to satisfy that market niche. Next came UBER, initially as a “people delivery service”, and now we see them naturally moving into areas of former “fedex” territory for parcel transport.

So the entire automotive world is being challenged by two factors: a move towards more environmental technologies and a definition of transport as a service rather than an asset.

We will continue to see evolution in each of these segments and at some point, energy will be brought into the mix. An electric car uses 80% of its energy to move it. A gas car, only 30% at best. The rest is spent heating, cooling or just staying still. The move towards greater efficiency isn’t only in time management, its also in how we manage energy.

As we see this move, look towards two distinct changes. For one, car companies will own their showrooms and use dealers as service centre providers. Since dealers hardly make any money selling cars, they will accept to be this so long as their territory is protected. Second, you will see energy companies partnering with car makers to be able to employ the huge amount of energy stored in vehicles for all sorts of uses to help their power grid health and thus further minimize the need for fossil fuel generation.

This is not your father’s Chevrolet (to coin the phrase in many ads). We are about to see transformation in the automotive world no less radical than when gasoline took over from electric. On a personal note, its sweet to see this happening during my living days, and I’m proud to say that by the end of June, my visits to the gas station will be fewer and far between.

Zero Emission Laws Make a Difference

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Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Electric Vehicles, Energy | Posted on 16-05-2015

Recently I’ve participated in a series of discussions regarding the viability and results of passing Zero Emission laws. For those that don’t know what these are, about 10 States in the USA have passed such laws regarding what percentage of electric vehicles must be sold in a state by car companies. They either make the quota or pony up substantial dollars when they don’t. Part of why Tesla reduces its losses each year is because other car companies must buy “carbon credits” from them for each car they produce.

In Quebec, at this time, there is a debate about how to proceed with such a law in order to force car makers to bring more inventory to the market. The view is that car makers (other than Tesla) are slow-boating sales in Quebec which clearly they do. For example, neither VW nor Mercedes make their EV’s available in Quebec. They sell them in “compliance states” where they are forced to do so first. Eventually, we may see those cars here, but it will be a long time coming.

Several associations which are organized for the purpose of promoting electric vehicles take differing views. Electro Mobility Canada doesn’t believe in consequences for car makers. Even the EV association of Quebec (AVEQ) used to be against such measures, again through a partnership with a car company which was offering incentives to its members. They have since switched their views. Frankly, I don’t really care what the associations believe. Any EV association which does not fully back laws either by helping to craft or promote them, is beholden to forces which are counter to its original intent. Management of these groups should reconsider their views, lest they become irrelevant to the discussion.

Personally, my view is that incentives for car dealers (who lose service revenues with EVs), salespeople (who must spend far more time educating customers about EVs) and consumers, should all be incented financially. Car makers who are not exclusively making EVs will also take far more time than the market may want. Therefore I would exclude them from any discussion (except for Tesla which supports such laws). The car makers provide a conflict of interest which is obvious to all. They will lobby to slow down most Zero Emissions initiatives unless its something which does not include any consequences for low or no sales of EVs.

Some people point to Norway as an example of how to promote EVs. No consequences to car makers and tons of sales. Well hold on a second…you pay gigantic taxes to buy a gasoline car in Norway and the price of gas is off the charts due to high taxes. If those people were being honest, they’d admit that the population of Quebec is not going to accept to pay double the sales taxes on cars or gas than Ontario. Just not going to happen.

This is why I won’t join any association which does not fully back a Zero Emissions Law. Now we can have differences of opinion of what that law should be doing, yet I have no time for assocations which do not clearly support one version or another.

My personal preference is to combined incentives with consequences. Car makers who put NO EVs into the market, should pay a flat rate per car. The fact that they’ve chosen to stay out of the EV market is their decision and their consequence. I say give them two years following the passing of a law to get up to the sales needed. They will promote cars accordingly, assign marketing budgets to make it happen, and ensure that inventory is easily accessible. If after two years a car company has not reached the agreed numbers, they start to pay. This gives them time to prove that consequences are not necessary, while holding them to a “fire” which ensures that they do all necessary to achieve reasonable levels of sales.

Final word…I am against the politicization of the discussion. I’ve read facebook posts where people blame the federal system and say that an independant Quebec would be cleaner and free to pass such laws. Baloney. Quebec could pass such a law today if it wanted. It just have to have the votes in the National Assembly. I wish people wouldn’t use every excuse under the sky to make it about Canada. This is about a choice of how to ensure clean air and pure water for our children. Let’s make the right choices.

Walking the Talk of Clean Air…

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Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Electric Vehicles | Posted on 25-04-2015

There is a drive in Quebec (pun intended) for a zero emissions law which would force car makers, much like in 11 states in the US, to sell a minimum number of electric vehicles as a percentage of sales in order to help reduce carbon emissions caused by transportation.

This proposed law penalizes car companies that don’t meet the standard. I happen to feel that an incentive approach would work better for the following reasons:

1. Consequence-based action is only OK in the void of alternatives which incent positive behavior.
2. We can rally car dealers, salespeople and car buyers to be on the same team with the right financial and other incentives (car pool lane, lower registration costs).
3. The majority of Quebecois (and Canadians) don’t believe we have an environmental problem.

To me the critical point is the last one. “Fix a pain point” is the term used by venture capitalists when urging entrepreneurs where to look for something worth investing in. The fact that we don’t feel the pain here is a major deterrent to politicians getting behind a zero-carbon initiative which penalizes participants who don’t reach a certain threshold. Given this reality, my belief is that if we incent car salespeople by a fixed commission bonus per EV they sell, car dealers with a fixed margin bonus per EV that rolls off their lot, and consumers with a variety of incentives being financial and other, we can be far more effective in achieving the same goal.

There are many lobbies that will fight a zero-emissions law which penalizes, namely: car makers, big oil, etc. We can get rid of their objections by focusing on positive change and consequence to changes in behavior.

While the end goal remains the same, we may simply differ on how we believe it can be achieved. As for me, I’m glad to report I’ve finally taken the Electric Vehicle dive and plan to recharge it using solar energy on the roof of my next home this summer….

When the road meets the roof…

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Posted by sass | Posted in Climate Change, Community, Electric Vehicles, Renewz, Solar Technology | Posted on 23-03-2015

renewz established a phrase long ago, “road to roof”. This was meant to convey the possibility of energy and transportation to meet and work in concert, something never before possible with gasoline powered vehicles.

Today, much research is being conducted on how mobile power vehicles can work in concert with grids (micro, nano, macro, whatever…) to manage energy. We have concepts such as “transactive energy” being touted, where energy is a currency, bought and sold on spot and future markets just like any currency exchange. Will bankers who specialize in currency be the energy managers of the future? Their skill sets in managing currency swaps would certainly be an interesting asset for companies engaged in such power/energy transactions.

And what to make of consumers, who will be driving those electric vehicles capable of bi-directional power, where the reserves in the cars could be used either to power their homes, provide emergency backup in times of grid-outages or even play in the concerto of power management on the grid, offering the potential to car owners to make money off their cars rather than see dwindling value through their depreciation. You getting a picture of an energy and transportation mix in the future that looks nothing like our past?

We can therefore not be surprised when companies like Virgin, Apple and Google are getting into the transportation game. We can understand why Tesla’s Elon Musk has a vision of mobile and stationary power, working hand in hand with rooftop solar, become more important than the distribution companies who will be simply become conduits, like a highway, or if they are really ahead of the curve, learn to manage the whole concert with the various players providing the tools to create, manage or store energy.

The future of clean power is bright and inescapable. I don’t look at it from purely a climate change optic, that would be slightly thin in view. Rather we should consider how we can empower areas that have no grids, that have no capability of stable power, so that communities everywhere can tomorrow have clean transportation mated with reliable, local, storable and clean renewable energy sources. That’s the future I have dreamed of and why every who knows me understand what I mean when I say that I’m living a dream…

Renewz partners with Europe’s most innovative carport designer…

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Posted by sass | Posted in Electric Vehicles, Renewz | Posted on 03-05-2012

Today we announced a partnership with EIGHT Gmbh & Co. KG, led by Mr. Christoph Roessner, Managing Director, and maker of the Point.One solar charging station.

ICONIC doesn’t do justice to the design, created by LAVA architects and DesignToProduction process managers. Its all aluminum body is built to enhance the brand image of any organization which places one on its property.

Copy of the press release can be found on this link.

Renewz is alive…

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Posted by sass | Posted in Electric Vehicles, Renewz | Posted on 03-05-2012

The baby is born. We launched our first website yesterday. Its just a beginning. Many staged improvements will be brought to bear in the coming days and weeks. By the end,you will even be able to build to order your own solar car port, place your own artwork (if desired) and then pop out the quote. Easy as pie…

Copy of the press release found on this link.

Solar Powered NASCAR to all electric race…

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Posted by sass | Posted in Electric Vehicles | Posted on 21-04-2012

…when you say? Sooner than you think.

Click on this CNN link to see the reality of today. NASCAR powered by solar panel farm and then led by the Ford Fusion Hybrid pace car….now that’s a game changer! Nascar will donate 10 trees to replace in Missouri. Hard for the interviewer to imagine an electric vehicle racing around NASCAR..yet its happening this year!

When we can get America’s favourite car race to go “green”, then you know that change is beyond the point of no return. What are you doing for Earth Day 2012?

Lessons from the new iPad Launch…

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Posted by sass | Posted in Electric Vehicles, Leadership | Posted on 09-03-2012

Well the latest iPad (number three) just launched, and once again Apple has moved the bar.

Not only do they have the best finger pulse on the market, they are creating it. Brand, ecosystem and hardware working hand in hand to create the ultimate user experience each and every time. With such a complete approach to the market, any company will thrive as they do.

Perhaps therein lies the lesson that Coda Automotive seems to have learned in the Electric Vehicle space that other more stodgy car makers have yet to embrace. With sales of the Chevrolet Volt stagnating (we can notice they have ramped up the advertising), what I believe is their missing link is the dealer side makeover. Its one thing to put up solar charging canopies and wind generators, its another to help former gasoline car salespeople turn into true green marketers. For some its possible, for others not even necessary. Yet I always hope that people look the possible and not the necessary.

I believe that people like Coda and Tesla are changing the face of automotive retail. I do think that BMW i gets it in their “Active E center” approach. What I’m hoping is that someone in the marketing departments of the American car makers pays heed and makes the decision to help their brands continue to move towards greater ecosystem approaches and brand elevation.

The changes to the marketplace are not the question. Its the reaction to those changes by the big three that will truly determine their success in this new reality.

Sass

 

 

 

Solar Charging structure has chance to win eco award..

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Posted by sass | Posted in Electric Vehicles, Solar Industry | Posted on 29-02-2012

Solar charging structures were nowhere near the radar of “eco friendly” products just a few ¬†years ago. Now that they’ve blossomed and tied themselves into the emobility initiatives across continents and car companies, they are starting to be noticed.

One company, EIGHT GmbH of Germany, has their design up for an ECOSUMMIT award. If you click on this link, you can see it and even vote for it by clicking on the LIKE button at the top right hand side.

Please take a look and vote if you can (you must have a Facebook account to do so).

Sass

 

 

It’s all about the battery for EV adoption…

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Posted by sass | Posted in Electric Vehicles | Posted on 27-02-2012

Most technologies improve incrementally. So when a company claims to be able to double performance, people listen.

In California just such a company is now claiming that it can double range for electric vehicles its battery technology. If fact, he world has just changed immensely. If not, just another pipedream or some promoters plan…we will soon find out!