Tesla Battery Swap: CARB’s Bridge To Nowhere

Tesla and California’s Air Resources Board are standing by the controversial “fast refueling” credits that are directing as much as hundreds of millions of dollars to the California-based electric car maker for its little-used battery swap capability. At the same time, both Tesla and CARB admit that battery swap has not shown much promise and CARB staff tell Daily Kanban that they tried to completely eliminate the credits out of concern over Tesla’s “gaming” of the system only to be overruled by board members. The tension between Tesla and CARB’s defense of ZEV credits earned by Tesla’s battery swap capability and their apparent lack of optimism about the technology going forward confirms the fundamental concerns that surfaced in Daily Kanban’s initial investigation: battery swap credits seem to have done nothing to advance the cause of ZEV adoption, Tesla appears to have gamed the credit system for huge financial gain, regulators show little interest in ending Tesla’s obvious abuse and the public remains under-informed about the entire situation.

[Continue Reading]

Why CES Scares Auto Writers

 

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” ~Hunter S Thompson

Yes, Virginia, CES is the Most Important Auto Show. Want to know why? Because it isn’t a car show at all. I know, I know…. this is confusing stuff. Hang out for a minute though, and all will be explained.

[Continue Reading]

The Car, The Phone And The Platform

Who needs a car to do this?

Who needs a car to do this? (courtesy: General Motors)

I remember the first flashes of the technological blossoming we are currently living through, in the five formative years I spent growing up just South of California’s Silicon Valley. Though we were hardly a technology-focused family (the television was kept in a wardrobe), my dad already had his first 8086 “laptop” PC by the time we moved to Los Gatos in 1987. Some time around second grade I remember a friend showing me something called “Prodigy,” which he claimed had allowed him to “accidentally” place an order for a bulk volume of dog food through his home computer. But the most convincing evidence that we were living on the cusp of a glorious future was my father’s Mercedes 300E. I was, of course, to young to truly appreciate the car itself, but inside the leather-scented bank vault of its interior were hidden great technological wonders of the age: a Sony Watchman portable TV and a car phone. To my young mind, such extravagant connectivity was undeniable proof that we already living in the future.

More than twenty years later, it’s remarkable how far those then-high-tech talismans were from the actual future. Both television and telephony are rapidly being subsumed by the internet, the cathode ray tube is as dead as the eight track and having either a telephone or a television physically attached to your vehicle is absurd in the modern technological environment (with the possible exception of the flip-down video system babysitters offered in minivans and CUVs). Though Dad’s early 90s TV executive toolkit was a harbinger of our hyper-connected, screen-centric, distracted driving-plagued age, it was a vision of the future seen through a glass, darkly.

The revolution in connectivity and computing power of the last twenty years has long since wiped away the Watchman and car phone (not to mention Prodigy), and increasingly consumers find themselves distracted from their cars by high-tech devices, both in the literal sense and in economic and cultural terms. For automakers already navigating intense global competition, finding relevance in the information age (or at the very least, an accommodation with it)  is a critical challenge to long-term viability.

[Continue Reading]

General Motors Ushers Australia Into The Post-Industrial Age

You just keep me Holden on...

You just keep me Holden on…

Amidst the copious news General Motors has made over the last week, one fully-formed and profoundly important story is doggedly evading the notice of the press. Overshadowed by the end of US Treasury ownership and the promotion of GM’s first female CEO, the demise of The General’s Australian unit Holden should not be overlooked. Not because the phenomenon it demonstrates is new… in fact it’s nothing more than the latest example of the GM standard operating procedure that has helped devastate local governments across America. Rather, the tragic turn of events in Australia sends a sharp warning, every bit as poignant as the recent bankruptcy of Detroit, to the American taxpayers about the company they rescued.

The Government Motors endgame is only just beginning…

[Continue Reading]

Blind Spot: The Coming Of The “Digital Car”

curbsideclassic

A good friend of mine, a brilliant dev/ops guy with several successful startups under his belt, option-trades Tesla’s stock when he’s not developing cloud systems and social platforms. Like many successful tech workers, this friend has an unshakeable faith in technological progress which underpins his support for Tesla. “Look,” he tells me when I suggest that Tesla’s stock valuation is wholly unmoored from its fundamentals, “new technology takes over and transforms everything. We see it again and again in other sectors, why wouldn’t it be the case for cars?”

His favorite example: the transition from film to digital photography. “Sure, it was crazily expensive to develop… but it matured rapidly, took over the market and nobody looked back. Why wouldn’t electric cars be the same?” Attempting to answer his question got me thinking: what would it take to fundamentally revolutionize the auto industry to the extent that digital revolutionized film? More specifically, what would the “digital” car look like?

[Continue Reading]