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Posts Tagged ‘Elon Musk’

IMG_4368As fortune would have it I was able to spend much time on two of my favorite things recently: innovative technology and cars. The two have met, the world of cars is transforming in a big way, and my not-so-new-anymore writing charter for KITCO News allowed me to study it up front and close. In the process, I believe to have unraveled the mystery of where the industry, and we as frequent users of cars, are going. After many hours of conversations with people from all camps, and after even more hours of visiting events and reading online material, here is my prediction on what the next twenty or so years will look like:

  • We will not run out of gas. Yes, more people use gas, but more people use less gas than before. Ironically, the melting ice caps will allow us to drill for oil in even more places.
  • Consequently, the internal combustion engine (ICE) will continue to live on for quite a while.
  • However, since we keep changing climate by living the way we do, there is still an urgent need to implement new technologies that reduce our carbon footprint.
  • These new technologies don’t necessarily have to be “sustainable” in the beginning, but using what is always available instead of continuing to burn up precious resources must be the ultimate goal.
  • The majority of consumers is not in the “pioneer” or “early adopter” camps when it comes to changing.
  • This is bad news for any car that’s battery powered. A large amount of people will remain sympathetic but on the fence for a very long time, especially since there is no immediate need to change.
  • Small battery powered cars will continue to struggle with range for a while, meaning they will mostly be used for commuting only. Their market is further narrowed down by the necessity to keep a second car, so to a lot of people they make no sense economically.
  • Large battery powered cars like the Tesla will continue to be expensive for quite some time. Tesla’s Model S has replaced the Toyota Prius as an avatar to a specific demographic subgroup of society: people with a certain level of education, enough money and an overall “sustainable” and “organic” approach to life. Plus, in some cases, the desire to show it.
  • The majority of car producers will move towards designing new models in ways that will allow for an easy swap of power trains.  Customers will not only be able to select between different conventional engine sizes (gasoline and diesel) but also CNG, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery EV and fuel cell EV.
  • This “menu” approach will put them at a distinct cost and acceptance advantage over EV-only concepts like Tesla or the new BMW i-line of cars. In fact, I am ready to predict that unless Tesla keeps pushing the envelope their growth will flatline within a few years. Note that the “new” Tesla X scheduled to come out next year is essentially the same car.

IMG_4316Bold predictions? Perhaps. Except they are not, apart from the last bullet, maybe. The above statements are a -preliminary- assembly of puzzle pieces I gathered as explained in my my opening paragraph. Elon Musk has so far remained elusive to me but I hope to be able to confront him with this scenario one day. As to the other manufacturers, VW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Ford and Toyota are all rolling out “menu” cars already, with other brands close behind. So it isn’t actually a prediction I am making, it’s an observation of what is already happening.

Meaning the future is now, and I like it!

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Tesla S - P85 Only two weeks since my first KITCO blog appeared… feels like ages, and being on a schedule adds just the right amount of pressure to stay on top of things, throw more balls in the air, follow more leads…. a very exciting experience. I noticed that besides of my obvious intentions to build a brand around “technology metals”, there are very personal goals, too. Like meeting certain people who, besides of playing a role in our industry, are entrepreneurs I have admired for a long time. Now I am inching my way closer to them and hope to ask them a couple of questions on technology and the meaning of life one day. My list? For starters, it’s Elon Musk of Tesla and Shai Agassi of SAP / Better Place. The former being celebrated as a modern day rebel who, against all odds, created a car company of a new kind. The latter who, after a charismatic career with SAP, just failed royally with his “Better Place” project despite having all of the world’s wind in his sails. I admire them both and hope to talk to them one day. I seem to have an angle on Elon Musk already (no, I didn’t buy that car – yet) but if any of my readers had a connection that would lead me to interviewing Shai Agassi I’d be very grateful.

That aside, what is it like writing for an actual news organization? I enjoy the services of a lady opening event doors for me which is awesome. There is a page editor who makes my articles look better – I have to get used to that. I mean, how do you improve what’s already perfect?  Just kidding, I learn a lot from him. On top, I get tons of spam e-mail (glad I created a new address for this), random questions from readers who worry about their life’s savings, and a lot of nice feedback from friends, personal and in business. I am looking forward to the next two weeks 🙂

This week’s article is about “Fort Metlock“, a bunker in Frankfurt which Matthias Rueth bought through foreclosure, and turned it into one of the most secure buildings in the world. It turned out I had driven past the building for decades (!) without paying any attention whatsoever…. just an ugly monolith that was completely unremarkable. Since World War 2, the building had served as a music studio and then as the “home” for up to 20 homeless people who were evicted by the City of Frankfurt prior to getting rid of the place. Since you can’t tear it down its uses are limited, and Matthias’ only competition was someone who decided that – since the place was so cheap – he could just seal it, put solar cells on the roof and enjoy the free power.

IMG_0070Matthias told me they removed 100 truck size garbage containers to clean out the place. Putting in flooring, lights, a freight elevator, two 4.6 ton doors and adequate alarm systems was a different matter, and he ended up spending over EUR 900,000 (about USD 1.2M) to convert the building to its present state. On the upside, his insurance company determined that even a direct plane hit would probably not require more than fresh paint (and more garbage containers) to fix the damage, so his premiums are rock bottom. Using modern tools, it takes 24 hours to drill a fist size hole in the wall – the police needs less than four minutes to be on the scene. Matthias has a letter of apology from HILTI, maker of the world’s best drills, because so many of them broke during renovation. So it’s easy to see why he feels good about his investment.

On the inside, despite the beautiful floor and great lighting, the place isn’t for everyone. There is an echo and vibration everywhere, you can feel the 2m walls around you wherever you are, and when the lights are turned off you are in complete and utter darkness – darker than any night is dark. Fascinating and a little scary at the same time.

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