By on December 19, 2007

jason-calacanis.jpgAfter listening to TWiT (This Week in Technology) co-host John Dvorak nearly choke to death on a cashew, for two minutes, I persevered to hear Jason Calcanis (founder of Autoblog) say that he's done his part for the world by ordering a Tesla Roadster. To his eternal credit, Dvorak interrupts Calcanis mid-mantra to ask "When are you going to get delivery?" "I think ahhhhh they're going to start in the second quarter." Claiming he's got the "inside dope," Calcanis says the production delay's down to Tesla's desire to get the "best possible transmission." "They went through three possible transmissions. The first one would have been good enough; they're just being kind of obsessive about it." The Corvette-owning internet entrepreneur goes on to say the Tesla "costs nothing" to run "because you're doing it off electrical." More credibly, he's going to put some solar panels on his garage and maybe even buy a thirty grand windmill so he can be "100 percent off the grid." Calcanis was a bit late to the party– only putting down a $5k deposit– but he's told Tesla's he's ready to jump in with the full whack if and when one of the first 100 proto-customers drops out. Oh, and the free market will solve global warming in ten years, because everyone wants to drive an electric car. You can't buy publicity like that. Nor should you. [thanks to whippersnapper for the link]

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54 Comments on “Tesla Birth Watch 12: Autoblog’s Calcanis Passes the Kool-Aid...”


  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Ah yes, make some bucks and prove to the world how environmentally responsible you are. Today’s version of the hair-shirt. RF, are you putting in an order already? Should be ready by the time TTAC goes big bucks.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    I think the Tesla is pretty sweet, what with it’s stainless steel body panels and gullwing doors. I’m so excited about buying one I’ve already contracted w/some Libyans to score some plutonium…straight up trade for peanut brittle.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    Sammy, you got the peanut brittle deal? Mine still want the nuclear bomb. Got any pinball machines laying around?

    RF: I can sympathize with the co host. I got my ass kicked by a pistachio the other day. Also, I want to know Calcanis’ provider. My electricity bills are obscene.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    They should be about as collectible as DeLoreans in a few years. I saw a DeLorean a few months ago with only 3000 miles on it, a real hanger queen only driven twice a year. The problem is spare parts for a car out of production for 27 years that never really sold well to begin with. Jay Leno will probably get one and with his machine shop will keep it running.

    After the transmission story plays out we will hear Tesla is looking for the best radio units, or even superior A/C systems. Just like the doctor in Jurassic Park “spared no expense, only the best you know!”

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    I heard it has a “Cyclop’s Eye” for added safety while turning. I hope they start selling aftermarket upgrades soon. I want to get mine now so I can install them a soon as my Tesla is delivered.

  • avatar
    Chaser

    Sure is easy to make enivronmentally-correct purchases when you’re filthy rich. At least the Prius is priced within reach of an honest man.

  • avatar

    “There isn’t a man in a mansion, that an accurate pen can’t puncture.” – Greg Lake, ELP

    Much as we like to poke at them, it really doesn’t matter what the rich do, or drive – there aren’t enough of them to matter much. The far greater numbers of us in the middle classes are determining how fast we use up the fossil fuels and change the climate.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I always got the impression from the bloggers on Autoblog that they were dirt poor. Perhaps that’s why the owner is rich, I just figured the main blogger was the owner, go figure.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Steve_S, AutoBlog was sold to AOL, and probably not for peanuts.

  • avatar
    jasoncalacanis

    OMG you guys are brutal!

    Yes the Tesla is waaaaaaaay to expensive and yes I can afford to buy one… but that’s not really the point is it?

    The fact is the Tesla is a first step in the way toward getting 100% off fossil fuel. They, and others, will have 20-30k options for folks in the coming years.

    Putting up a windmill or solar panels sounds crazy today with the price and all, but so did having a personal computer 30 years ago… heck, having a global discussion about cars and self publishing like we’re doing right now was insane to think of 15 years ago!

    One thing I’ve learned in my years in the technology business: things move faster and get cheaper then most people predict.

    Everyone will be able to afford solar and wind technology in 10 years… and everyone will be able to afford an electric car in 5-10 years. That means in in 15-25 years the entire US market could move off gas powered cars.

    I’m not some green freak… I drive a Corvette after all! (and the way I drive burns a LOT of gas for that matter!).

    However, I’m smart enough to see the writing on the wall: the energy problem is going to be solved in our life time.

    In fact, if we had a president who gave a Sh#$%@#$T about the environment we could solve it in 10 years by spending the billion from iraq on tax credits for folks who buy electric cars and solar panels.

    rock on!

    Jason
    http://www.calacanis.com

  • avatar
    jjdaddyo

    By coincidence I was listening to this podcast today, and when I heard Calicanis go into his Tesla plug and Dvorak start his semi-skeptical questions, I was thinking “It’s too bad Farago isn’t on this podcast to grill Calicanis about Tesla”.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    JC: That means in in 15-25 years the entire US market could move off gas powered cars.

    Nope, I’ll still use my gas powered cars, thanks!

  • avatar
    jasoncalacanis

    When I get my Tesla Farago can come to Los Angeles and drive it around town like a madman… now that would be a fun podcast!

  • avatar
    jasoncalacanis

    Virtual Insanity: The keyword in that sentence was *could* — as in it is possible if folks got behind the movement.

    Of course some folks like you will die with their gas powered cars… which is fine. As they say “paradigms don’t die, people do.”

    Fact is this next generation looks at gas-powered cars and SUVs in a very negative way. young folks think hybrids are cool and taking care of the planet is cool…. it’s nice to see a generation of folks growing up thinking that there are things that are more important than their own selfish needs… no?!

    That being said, I’m going to have a hard time giving up the ‘Vette. I’m probably going to keep it… there’s nothing like 400 horses with the top down on the PCH.

    j

    PS – I think that hybrid cars/electric cars will come with solar/wind home installation kits INCLUDED in our lifetime. Imagine that… buy a Prius/Tesla and get enough solar/wind power to be OFF THE GRID! Crazy I know… but the 150k setup is going to get cut in half every 18 months or so until it hits 30-40k. That’s like 5-7 years from now.

  • avatar

    I’m all for renewable energy, but I still doubt it is going to create enough juice for all of us to drive full-size EVs and live in the exurbs.

    Somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 wind turbines would be required to replace one PA coal-fired generating plant.

    Ultimately, manufacturing is powered with fossil fuels, so we’d better start making all those solar panels right now.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    Donal, no problem. We can just stick ’em all in Teddy K’s back yard. Wait…

  • avatar

    jasoncalacanis:
    young folks think hybrids are cool

    That’s not what market data is showing. Forbes has results of a Scarborough Research survey that shows hybrid owners are “23 percent more likely than the average car buyer to be older than 50.” JD Power shows “the percentage of consumers considering a purchase of a hybrid vehicle dropped from 73 percent down to 60 percent among those 16 to 25 years old between 2006 and 2007.” Looks to me like young folks aren’t as enamoured by hybrids as many people think.

  • avatar
    minion444

    Jason,

    I almost spit my quad venti late all over my windshield, driving my dirty MKV Jetta through Brooklyn, listening to you on TWIT.

    If you are soooooo concerned about the enviorment, by a bike or walk! What energy does it take to make and dispose of those batteries. Does a HAZMAT team need to be deployed when it bursts into flames?

    Come on, You grew up in Brooklyn. I am sure you know how to use mass transit or walk. You could even catch up on reading with your KINDLE! lol

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    JC: Fact is this next generation looks at gas-powered cars and SUVs in a very negative way. young folks think hybrids are cool and taking care of the planet is cool

    I’m 23, so I would consider myself a young folk. I don’t have a single hybrid anywhere on my dream car list. Hell, on my short list when I was buying a new car, there were no hybrids. None of my friends want hybrids. I think man made global warming is a scam, and I don’t think I’ve ever owned a car for more than a week before taking off the cats and such.

    And based on every single hybrid I’ve seen being driven around in my area, I would agree with the posted data. I don’t think I’ve seen a single person under 35 in one. Hell, when I was back up at college, not a single student owned a Prius or Insight.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    When I get my Tesla Farago can come to Los Angeles and drive it

    “When” you get your Tesla, Farago may be driving another kind of EV…..a “Rascal”.

  • avatar
    cjdumm

    Props to Mr. Calcanis for posting here and bearding the lion in its own den! He shouldn’t be the target of our barbs anyway.

    We’re not categorically angry at successful car-blog editors; in fact we love ours here at TTAC. We’re just fed up with automotive hucksters like Delorean, Bricklin, etc., and fed up with Vaporware of any kind.

    I hope we’re proven wrong, but the Tesla roadster is starting to look like Vaporware, and its promoters are beginning to smell like Bricklin and his ilk. Just like the Vector supercar and that funky turbofan-powered air car (of Popular Mechanics fame) the Tesla promises so much and delivers…well…nothing, at least until an ever-receding ‘next quarter’ arrives and the unspecified ‘production bugs’ are ‘worked out’.

    The Tesla gang know full well that they could dispel our skepticism by allowing a little sunshine (and a few journalists and investors) inside the virtual Kremlin of secrecy that is their organization. For their own reasons, they’ve chosen to keep their cars close to the vest and communicate mainly by carefully parsed press releases and softball interviews.

    So we remain teslagnostics, awaiting proof.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    jasoncalacanis :
    December 19th, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Fact is this next generation looks at gas-powered cars and SUVs in a very negative way. young folks think hybrids are cool and taking care of the planet is cool…. it’s nice to see a generation of folks growing up thinking that there are things that are more important than their own selfish needs… no?!

    Those young people are probably deluding themselves then. Unless they’re very poor, their lifestyles are nowhere close to being environmentally friendly or sustainable. But I have to say that my little brother and his friends are the most environmentally friendly people I know, living on under $10,000 a year in an anti-corporate, anti-consumerism way. Those hippie types have been around for decades though!

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    1996MEdition:

    The ride would be about ten minutes long. After that, I think we would be at the point where the sun consumes the earth.

    For the Mazdaspeed3 owners in here…The Cobb Access Port will be out before the Tesla.

  • avatar

    Me good. Car good. Dr. Frankenstein bad.

    Ah, the Tesla is such a silly car. Thousands of batteries, torque that chews transmissions, too lightweight for safety — and a real energy glutton to boot in order to deliver the speeds that are part of its allure.

    Saving energy means saving energy … whether the source of motive power is hydrocarbons, hydroelectric or whatever. If you do get yourself a zero-energy house, or one that contributes additional energy for your car, then do whatever you want with it. But ten years down the road private car ownership will be as popular as the person at the next table blowing smoke in your eyes, the way that energy, raw materials costs are trending — and that’s not even factoring in the consequences of global warming and what that will do to modify our likes and dislikes.

  • avatar
    steronz

    Virtual Insanity:

    Is that about the same time Duke Nukem 4 comes out?

  • avatar
    jasoncalacanis

    cjdumm: I understand being skeptical… I’m a journalist by trade. However, Tesla and Musk are the furthest thing from Delorean/vaporware.

    I know Elon very well for a long time… the dude built PayPal and has a half billion dollar contract with NASA to put rockets in space and to replace the SpaceShuttle.

    If you can put rockets in space for NASA you can build an electric car… in fact, building an electric car isn’t really the issue. The issue is building a business out of the electric car market.

    Tesla will get it done… the fact that they are taking time to get it right AND Being transparent about it is a sign that they CAN be trusted.

    I’d be worried if they were saying “it’s all good!” the fact that they are up front about the transmission problems is a GREAT sign to me. I don’t want to spend $120k on the car and have the transmission blow out…. I’d rather wait and extra 6-12 months and have something solid.

    Anyway, this is a great discussion and yøu guys know much more about cars than I ever will… however, I know business VERY well. This is a great business that’s goig to do VERY VERY well. There are a lot of rich folks (as the study referenced above points out) who will drop 50-100k on an electric car to make a point. Like hundreds of thousands of people like that…. tens of thousands in California alone.

    If Tesla makes a car that works even modestly they will be SOLD OUT for years to come just based on the fanboys/eco crowd.

    If they make a great car and get the price below 50k they will EXPLODE with sales I predict.

    best j

  • avatar
    Chaser

    Calacanis> Tax breaks for electric cars? We’ve already established that you’re filthy rich! :)

    Seriously though, I’ll give you credit for jumping in the mix on TTAC. Good luck with that!

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    Sternoz,

    Yeap, right around that time. At least it would be a ten minutes well spent. Duke Nukem, riding in a pure EV, and tuning my Speed3 before the bright light in the sky says, “Dinner time.”

  • avatar
    Wulv

    Wait, people actually listen to Dvorak when it comes to technology? Wow, that seems mind boggling to me.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    I’ve never even heard of the show, but then again, I’d take anything I hear on a show called “TWiT” with a grain of salt.

  • avatar

    Jason: Thanks for posting on TTAC. My biggest problem with your comments re: Tesla is NOT your enthusiasm for alt propulsion vehicles. The majority of people on this site share your desire for cleaner (cooler?) world, and a reduction in America’s dependence on imported oil. But the site is dedicated to telling the truth about cars. And the truth is that Tesla is not advancing these aims by over-promising (to be charitable) and not delivering. They have been anything but transparent in their dealings with the press. The car has never been submitted to any independent testing agency. And they mislead people with "EPA" mileage claims (the EPA doesn't rate EVs) and unverified range claims.  In fact, the “pay not attention to that transmission/range/fire hazard behind the curtain” discrepancy between Tesla's hot hype and cold hard reality harms the cause of EV supporters. You’re obviously free to support Tesla’s ambitions with your time, talent and money. But when you either repeat or fabricate the fallacious idea that their transmission problems are due to being persnickety– rather than running head-first into genuine engineering obstacles– you might want to think about putting down the Tesla Kool-Aid. When it comes to alt propulsion vehicles, it’s best to be from Missouri. Before you up your deposit to 100% of sticker, just look them in the eye and say “show me.” That’s what we do in these parts, day in and day out. And thanks for the offer of a ride in your Tesla. While I would be glad to hoon around in it, I’d much prefer to time the charging cycle from empty, then aim it East and see how far we get on a single charge. Yes?

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Most people are okay with the rich spending their money on frivolous things like expensive electric sports cars that use inordinate amounts of energy and resources. It’s nothing compared to a private jet! Just don’t try to tell us that it’s being done for the sake of environmentalism! Seriously, go live in the house with my hippie brother and his friends and see what it’s really like to live with as minimal of an environmental impact as a semi-normal North American life can allow.

  • avatar

    Thanks for joining in, Jason. From what I’ve seen in my years in the technology business, vaporware only appeases the powers that be for a short period of time. As you know, IT project/product management is a totally different animal than Manufacturing.

    Its not that I don’t want to agree with your claims, but the things “we” promise to our customers would get “us” fired in any other industry. Not to mention the number of times we have project slippage and software patches to fix our failed/nonexistent promises.

    Mass production leads to mass acceptance: like you mentioned, the history of the PC is a great example. But–more to the point–history is littered with failed low-volume automakers and alternative fuel experiments that aren’t sustainable outside of a bubble. This isn’t the PC, and its problems have been repeated many times over. And not much has changed over time.

    And, of course, TTAC won’t be holding its breath this time around, either.:-)

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Calacanis: “Everyone will be able to afford solar and wind technology in 10 years… and everyone will be able to afford an electric car in 5-10 years. That means in in 15-25 years the entire US market could move off gas powered cars.”

    “but the 150k setup is going to get cut in half every 18 months or so until it hits 30-40k. That’s like 5-7 years from now.”

    You would be hard pressed to back up those statements. Wishful thinking.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Autoblog Green reports that Tesla will be producing the initial batch of roadsters with 1 speed transmissions with the option to replace it with the 2 speed unit. Something about less acceleration but no problems with long-term durability, no word on effect on battery range.

  • avatar
    jasoncalacanis

    Paul: Moore’s law is fairly constant. I might be off by 1-2x but probably not more than that. In fact we could easily bring solar and wind to every home in America *if* we had the will. Clearly we do not at this time, and I blame that on the natural human condition to ignore problems until they are on the brink AND an administration that seems to be obsessed with spending money as fast as they can print it (a VERY non-republican, conservative thing to do).

    Given that our government is not taking a leadership role on these issues, and individuals are not going to come out of pocket in a major way (I know i’m in the minority in terms of spending money on such things), it’s up to entrepreneurs to take the lead.

    There are LOTS of interesting solar companies as well out there making HUGE improvements.

    I think part of the issue here is that the folks on TTAC are from the automotive industry which typically moves slow and fracks stuff up, and I’m from the technology industry where we typically move faster and with massive innovation.

    The car business is going to become a technology business in my mind. When it does a lot of the assumptions that come with lame/slow car companies is going to go out the window.

    All the issues? No… but many.

    Of course, what do I know… I’m a guy who builds websites. :-)

    best j

  • avatar

    jasoncalcanis: I think part of the issue here is that the folks on TTAC are from the automotive industry which typically moves slow and fracks stuff up, and I’m from the technology industry where we typically move faster and with massive innovation. The car business is going to become a technology business in my mind. When it does a lot of the assumptions that come with lame/slow car companies is going to go out the window. And there you have it. It’s this combination of ignorance and arrogance– and a failure to address legitimate criticisms (remember that transmission claim Jason?)– that informed Tesla from the word go, and accounts for their ongoing inability to meet their deadlines.

  • avatar

    Jason: Moore’s Law doesn’t explain why the electric motor lost to the gas motor back in the late 1800s, and why battery technology never narrowed the gap. Actually Moore’s Law applies to the IC engine and the electronic controls regulating it.

    I think part of the issue here is that the folks on TTAC are from the automotive industry which typically moves slow and fracks stuff up,

    Uh, except many of us are in the IT industry. And we outta grow up before trying to school the car business.

    Not that IT doesn’t do a lot of things right, but their business model doesn’t work in terms of the durability, functionality and compatibility crucial to the manufacturing sector. So many IT folks are content with selling the ASCII equivalent of the rusting, zero content, cracked engine block Chevy Vega…or a Tesla Roadster.

    Everything can be fixed later with a patch, right? If it works for Windows Vista, it’ll work for the Tesla.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Moore’s law does not directly apply to PV. And projected cost reductions in future PV cells are misleading: Although cell prices are projected to drop from about $3/watt today to $1.44 in 2013 (much less than Moores’ law), that doesn’t tell the whole story. Today’s cost to install PV is $9/W, which includes the $3 for the cell, $2 for assembly, $1 for inverter, and $3 for installation. Drop the cell price to the projected 2013 price of $1.44, you still end up with an installed price of $7.44/watt, a whopping 13% reduction! Perhaps a bit more can be wrung out of the assembly/inverter/installation costs, but not to achieve a truly significant reduction.

    PV is wonderful, but it has its limitations, at least for the time being. The timeframes you talk about for everyone affording solar powered cars, etc. are, unfortunately, not realistic.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    jasoncalacanis :
    December 19th, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    I think part of the issue here is that the folks on TTAC are from the automotive industry which typically moves slow and fracks stuff up, and I’m from the technology industry where we typically move faster and with massive innovation.

    I’m in the telecom business. Voice communications has always had reliability and quality of voice at the forefront. The IT industry is destroying this model with buggy and poorly designed replacements that look good on paper but don’t pass muster in the real world.

    I’m certainly an advocate of modern technology but too many move too fast before they understand what they are doing.

  • avatar

    Jason – thanks for joining in. I hope you can take the heat on TTAC, I would love for you to stay in the kitchen. If you stick around, please offer your insights throughout the Tesla birthing process. Even if people disagree. Consensus leads to the death of intellect.

  • avatar
    jasoncalacanis

    Well, certainly starting any new car company is an EPIC undertaking. It’s not the same as software or the internet for sure… any time you’ve got real parts and people’s lives in the balance you’ve got a MUCH different approach.

    That being said, I think there is going to be a new era of startup based cars/bikes/scooters/three wheeled cars/etc. that are going to try and push the transportation industry. It’s a huge market opportunity… as is solar/wind/etc.

    I’m a big fan of the power of free markets/entrepreneurs… will this change the car industry?! well, it’s been a long time since someone has changed the industry right? So, to me that means we’re overdue for some change.

    I also want to get one of these Matra MS1-Electric Motorcycle/Bike things…. and yes, power it by a windmill. ;-)

    The eternal optimist to your proverbial pessimist,

    j

  • avatar

    Toyota has changed the car industry in quite massive ways, and are bent on continuing to force change on the lazy majors.
    Hybrid Synergy Drive is one thing, their up-and-running and quite efficient Fuel Cell engine at low p.s.i. is another.

    I’m a great supporter (both in IRL and in mind) of EVs – but that probably handicapped me from the get-go as far as Tesla’s hype was concerned. There were too many incompatibles there — and I was personally offended by the “don’t worry, if you’re rich you’ll be able to drive as fast as you want when others can’t” implication of their spiel.

    Their technology is a strange mix of HSD technology and the capacitor charge vehicle that BMW was working on. By trying to achieve a major boost off the bat with their battery pack, they wish to provide amazing acceleration out of the block. But the low weight requirement is giving them a hard time, as it means they are aiming for mechanical parts that are insufficient to tackle the forces involved. (And believe me – there’s a reason why Formula 1 banned hybrid engines, those forces are awesome.)

    I was disappointed by how TEDsters at the latest Monterey gathering embraced the Tesla, thinking that crowd would be able to see through the hype – instead they were ordering Teslas as a badge of honor.

    If you want to support alternative energy that is here, will have an enormous impact and is set to take off as a share, put your money into nanosolar.com — and put their product on your roof. (I haveno connection with the company, beyond empathy.)

  • avatar

    Stanford’s Nanowire Battery

    Just as nano is having an impact on solar panel technology, it is also set to transform battery technology. This breakthrough by Stanford researchers may provide the compact yet powerful and safe battery packs EVs need:

    http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2008/january9/nanowire-010908.html

    Stanford researchers have found a way to use silicon nanowires to reinvent the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power laptops, iPods, video cameras, cell phones, and countless other devices.

    The new version, developed through research led by Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. A laptop that now runs on battery for two hours could operate for 20 hours, a boon to ocean-hopping business travelers.

    “It’s not a small improvement,” Cui said. “It’s a revolutionary development.”

  • avatar
    mastermik

    maybe Tesla will stand to benefit from those new Li-based batteries being developed for GM (volt) and the other bigwigs who can afford the R%D costs. I’m sure they’ll come up with a better solution than Tesla’s 900 lb gorilla of a battery pack.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    When small start up companies without experience in a market beat established players it is typically because of complacency on the part of the incumbents. That isn’t the case in this market. The global automotive industry is intensely competitive with many serious players and a wealth of seasoned engineering and manufacturing talent on the payrolls.

    Tesla has not developed any significant technological breakthrough which they can use to get a real edge. Instead they are attempting to be a smarter integrator of existing art than the established companies are able to do. If the ADD management in Detroit were the only other factor in the market then Tesla might have a shot, but they must also contend with the likes of Toyota and Honda.

    The chances that some wanna-be car builders from Silicon Valley’s software and electronics companies are going to be better integrators of available components than anyone else does not pass the smell test. Right now the excuse is “transmission problems”. Guess what, experienced automotive engineers would have known long before now if there was a major problem with the chosen transmission.

    GM, Toyota and Honda have all put vehicles on the road with advanced all electric power-trains and they still know more about it than Tesla does. The recently reported transmission problem is not the last major show-stopper we will hear about from these folks.

    Maybe by the time they get it sorted out we will have already moved to Segway scooters as the primary mode of personal transportation :). Remember when the high-profile Silicon Valley types were falling over each other proclaiming that invention as the next big thing in personal transport? They even gave it the code word Ginger and IT. Bah humbug.

  • avatar
    whippersnapper

    Jason,

    I can understand what may inform your thinking to suggest that TTACers are from the automotive industry (I’m not, I assume most aren’t, Robert can confirm or deny) and therefore can’t get with the innovation focus and cycle time of the tech industry. However technology is based on physics and it tends to have the odd rule or 3.

    The real problem with EV’s is the energy density of batteries, even Li-ion compared to gas. This is the same issue that hampers hydrogen and other alternative fuels. That means you either need a lot of batteries (think no space to store anything and a bunch of weight plus prohibitive cost) or accept tedious performance and range.

    Nice idea though. As others have stated, no-one is against the technology, just the hyperbole.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    I am involved in the auto industry, albeit on the wholesale side. However, even if I weren’t I would take serious consideration with that comment. I can list countless examples of cars that have totally revolutionized the industry and technology as a whole.

  • avatar

    So Jason, did you or did you not hear from Tesla that their first transmission was “fine?”

    Personal accountability is the first step towards embracing the truth.

  • avatar

    Jason: The eternal optimist to your proverbial pessimist,

    Now, Jason…there’s a big difference between a pessimist and a pragmatist. But that doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to your optimism on next Tesla patch.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “Moore’s law is fairly constant. I might be off by 1-2x but probably not more than that. In fact we could easily bring solar and wind to every home in America *if* we had the will”

    Moore’s law is the observation that the number of transistors per unit area of integrated circuit increases at a rate of about 2x per 2 years. I made my career as a production engineer in semiconductors, so this is something I know a lot about. When exactly Moore’s law will bottom out is the subject of great debate, but physics tells us the trend will not go on forever. But more to the point, Moore’s law says absolutely nothing about the cost-per-watt of making solar electricity or wind power. Solar cells have been in production for about as long as microprocessors have, but have not enjoyed anything like the same cost and performance increases. This isn’t because of government inaction either. There are a whole lot more subsidies for solar power than for computers.

    In fact, today’s explosion of integrated circuit powered gizmos is responsible for a huge increase in demand for electricity to power the devices, drive the energy hogging semiconductor factories and cool the heat resulting from all this stuff. The consequences of Moore’s law have in fact been an environmental disaster so far.

    “I think part of the issue here is that the folks on TTAC are from the automotive industry which typically moves slow and fracks stuff up, and I’m from the technology industry where we typically move faster and with massive innovation.”

    Ah yes, Silicon Valley Hubris. It gets people in trouble all the time, but at least here in the Valley nobody will remind you in five years about your last frack-up.

  • avatar

    I think part of the issue here is that the folks on TTAC are from the automotive industry which typically moves slow and fracks stuff up, and I’m from the technology industry where we typically move faster and with massive innovation.

    The car business is going to become a technology business in my mind. When it does a lot of the assumptions that come with lame/slow car companies is going to go out the window.

    As someone in IT, who has a massive respect for manufacturing (and especially the engineering behind it), I have to take issue with that.

    For one, the standards of acceptable product are completely different between the two industries (and, as the Big 3 learned, when the Japanese showed up, that can eat you alive). In my few years (5 on the dot) in software, the amount of quality that is truly assured is absolutely astounding in any product I’ve used or of which I’ve witnessed development upon. Astounding in that things are driven entirely by delivery dates and customer pressure and ignore meeting standards or even requirements of the customer, much less assuring that the damn thing works, much less works well.

    It’s fortunate that there are enough standards in place to prevent (in theory) a complete hazard from being delivered to customers in the auto industry. I’m sure damn near everyone who owns an internet-connected computer and a mobile phone also owns a car, and if the same standards of quality were applied to their car and computer/mobile phone, how do you think any similarly complex (Measured by manhours? By “moving parts”? Take your pick) piece of software would compare? How many years has it taken for Windows to become a reasonably well-made OS? How much engineering effort has Oracle taken to keep their database at the level of stability, performance, and security that they’ve held while expanding their feature set? When was the last time a Google, or an Amazon, or an eBay, or a Yahoo, or a YouTube experienced an outage? When was the last time a consumer hard drive from one of the major manufacturers failed on you? Dropped calls with your mobile provider? A “smart” device locking up, malfunctioning, or just plain dying on you? And these are top-tier, cream-of-the-crop products, not newcomers who are promising to be the latest revolution. Not that cars are without problems, but as good as the talent in the tech pool is, reliability hasn’t been a focus when it comes to consumer-level items (except MAYBE silicon chips from the top-level vendors).

    While the complexity of software has spiraled, and things have gotten a lot better in a relative sense, look at something standardized such as CSS. I’m no web designer, but when I did work on doing some CSS (2001-2003), wow. Just…wow. 4 different browsers, 4 different results, 2 basically unreadable, 1 passable, and 1 was spot-on. And this took how long to get sorted out? They appear to work well now, at least. And this is just a presentation part of a browser; arguably the most important piece of a rather simple puzzle. Granted, there are atrocious websites out there for browsers to deal with, but well-formed, standard-compliant tags should be easy to interpret correctly, and display correctly. And I should trust the tech industry to correctly tell me what speed I’m going, when fines and safety are in play? No thanks.

    Tesla is playing the tech startup game in the manufacturing industry, and they’re showing their youth. Delays of the type that Tesla’s encountered sound amateur compared to the majors, and that’s understandable. Since they’ve yet to deliver a car to a customer (And no, the one that Elon gets doesn’t count as a customer), they’re still amateurs.

    As enamored as I am with an EV Elise, I’d be much less skeptical of Lotus making the whole EV (as English as they are) than the founder of PayPal. Faster moving tech may be, but their “massive” innovation is hardly bigger than the automotive sector, or any other manufacturing sector for that matter. What the automotive industry lacks in speed, it makes up for in quality, even at the lowest rungs (I’m looking at you, VW). And that’s not a trade-off I, or most consumers are willing to make. Good thing they’re experimenting on people with a disposable $100k for a toy that still has yet to form from the vapor.

    Now if Larry and Sergey (and/or John Carmack) were behind it…

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Oh, and the free market will solve global warming in ten years, because everyone wants to drive an electric car.

    Perhaps that will take care of the extant global warming on Mars and Uranus too. But let’s suppose for the moment that climate change is anthropogenic, resulting from human-instigated CO2 release into the atmosphere. If that’s your worry, everyone driving an electric car isn’t going to change circumstances.

    The UN-IPCC is calling for human-induced CO2 emissions to decline by 50% from 2005 levels by 2050. That’s a 14,000,000,000 metric tons reduction. The LA Times, citing Lawrence Livermore, US Dept of Energy, US Department of Transportation and Oak Ridge Lab, estimates that conversion of the US automotive fleet to 100% Prius-grade hybrids will save a mere 337,000,000 metric tons. Let’s say we go 100% electric cars. Let’s even be unreasonably optimistic and assume 100% of such a fleet is charged exclusively by solar and wind powered electricity. So perhaps another couple hundred-million metric tons of CO2 emissions are saved. Still not much of a dent if the IPCC’s targets are taken seriously. extrapolate worldwide and private transit still pales.

    By contrast, once again proving that the leverage is in the fixed location emitters, replacing all US coal-fired generating plants with some combination of solar, wind, wave, hydro and nuclear alternatives would save 2,142,000,000 metric tons of Co2. Doing same in China would about double that. Doing same in India is good for 791,000,000 metric tons. Extrapolate globally, and this lever gets larger and yet still, that 14,000,000,000 metric tons reduction is out of reach. Carbon sequestering could make the same contribution, without actually replacing the means of power generation.

    Of course, we know that conversion to electric cars will not result in a purely-green-powered fleet. Especially in less wealthy places where burning coal will continue to be cheaper and more accessible than personal solar.

    Climate change and carbon reduction for hope of mitigating warming is not a compelling reason to buy a Tesla car. It’s a feel-good gesture at best. Currency strength (weakness), international politics, economic leverage and local real pollution concerns might be. But for now, any mass conversion to electric cars will simply transfer the pollution burden from one place to another. L.A.’s air might get cleaner, but Utah residents might have a different view of it until that great conversion to sun, wind and sea comes.

    I want to like the Tesla car. As a current and past owner of very quick cars, I like that it’s aiming for the 4 second club as a sports car, though that’s completely irrelevant to it as an environmentally-friendly conveyance. It looks ungainly for a $100,000 car, with slightly distorted proportions draped over its Lotus bones. I expect the car to come in heavy. But the primary concern is that nearly 30 years working in various sectors of the technology business, many in Silicon Valley, lead me to be skeptical of that industry’s mindset for human factors and life/death consequences of failures, not to mention long-term maintainability. I’d have more confidence in General Electric taking seriously Andy Grove’s suggestion that they, as the naturally-capable disrupter, build an electric car.

    Some of the most reliable software in the world is used in today’s automobiles, resident in the many distributed digital systems in cars. Large-scale consumer companies that have come to rely on embedded systems have developed solid digital and electro-mechanical systems that are software-controlled and operate to utility standards. Most of what comes out of Silicon Valley, does not. And in this case, mechanicals, chemistry, ergonomics, electronics, power generation and storage, aerodynamics, vehicle dynamics all have to be integrated into an innovation that becomes a manufactured product.

    I recall that in 1980, Triumph mounted its new solid-state ignition pack directly on the distributor. It seemed a compact, efficient thing to do. And in the early era of solid-state ignition, how tough could it be to be sure it worked? The only problem was that unpredictably, the solid state ignition pack would stop sending spark if it got too hot. Yup, you could be in the rapid lane doing 80 and suddenly, completely, lose power in traffic. Wait 10 minutes and the car would start again. But run for how long? Could be minutes, hours or days. The terror wasn’t in the starting or the 10 minute wait (no, wait, there was that one time I had to coast off the highway into an unfamiliar neighborhood in Newark at 3am…) but in the involuntary cessation of forward motion. How many such problems lurk in a multi-system Tesla car developed by automotive newbies in “Beta-release” Silicon Valley? By the way, wouldn’t you know that you’ll need a seriously robust transmission for a 4 seconds electric car, while the idea is still only pixels in Powerpoint???

    Phil

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Is that about the same time Duke Nukem 4 comes out?

    I nominate that TTAC now dub the Tesla “Tesla Forever”.

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