Reference vehicles and calculations for my ‘Apple Car’ model

Below are some of the cars I have used to inform my speculations on the size, shape and characteristics (performance and ‘smart’ technologies) of the Apple Car.  I have also included the scale calculations for the models I used in my earlier piece.  Together, this data informs my reasoning in the articles posted here and here.

Toyota i-Road Concept Car

Toyota has not released full specifications on this vehicle, but they have allowed several test drives mainly for the automotive media since the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

Toyota i-Road demonstrating 'active lean' technology

Toyota i-Road demonstrating ‘active lean’ technology

Development status: Working concept car

Length: 2,345 mm

Width: 870 mm

Height: 1,455 mm

Wheel base: 1,695 mm

Tire size: (Front)80/90-16 (Rear)120/90-10

Minimum turning radius: 3.0 m

Occupancy: Japan:1   Europe:2 *1

Curb weight: 300 kg *2

Powertrain: 2 electric motors

Maximum speed: Japan: 60km/h   Europe: 45km/h *1

Cruising range on a single charge: 50 km*3

Battery type: Lithium-ion

  • *1 In accordance with European regulations for vehicles in the i-Road’s category
  • *2 Vehicle weight without occupants or cargo
  • *3 Target distance when traveling at a fixed speed of 30 km/h

Comments: The Toyota i-Road is the closest concept I have seen to what I think the Apple Car, or some other motorcar ‘disruptor’ will look like.  It is primarily designed for solo transport (but fits 2 at a pinch – an adult passenger can tuck behind the driver with knees akimbo).

To make this product more ‘accessible’ and ‘desirable’ I imagine Apple will seek to improve the following:

– Appearance of safety: Although the i-Road already has an airbag in its steering wheel, perception matters.  Perception of safety could be influenced perhaps by adding smoother curves and reinforcing around the side to bring it in line with nearly the thickness of a conventional car door – say 10cm.

– Convenience: A hidden issue with motorcycles, bicycles, electric bicycles, scooters etc is that they all require some degree of ‘preparation’ by the riders as well as on-going maintenance.  By ‘preparation’ I mean, for example, putting on protective equipment such as helmet, protective riding leathers, high visibility clothing, locking (e.g. to a nearby pole, as bicycle stands are relatively few and far between), charging, turning on/off safety equipment e.g. flashing lights, helmet storage, strapping of cargo/luggage.  By maintenance, motorcycles and bicycles require considerable maintenance relative to a car.  Taken together, these issues form a ‘sub-conscious’ impediment to many prospective users of those modes of transport.   A future micro-vehicle should be able to easily overcome these issues.

– Comfort (seating & ride): For a vehicle of this type to appeal to people of all ages and physical abilities, the seat would need to be softer and more ‘plush’ than the cheap, thin vinyl seats provided on the i-Road, though not as substantial and soft as a car seat.  Some suspension would also be expected.

– Comfort (noise levels): Some effort will go into sound suppression, although making it too quiet will make this vehicle dangerous to pedestrians.  Electric motors of the size used here tend to have a high-pitched whine which will be difficult to suppress in any case, although road noise could be reduced by more sound and temperature insulation.

– Comfort (protection from elements): Expect this to be high on an Apple Car’s list.  A major inhibitor to people using motorcycles, scooters and bicycles more often is the level of physical comfort and protection from the elements.  To serve as a commuter vehicle, it must enable people to arrive at work without being sweaty, drenched, hot, cold or exhausted.

– Comfort (entertainment system, ‘smart’ technology):  This is a given in a proposed Apple Car, considering Apple’s known foray with CarPlay and Apple Maps.  Ease of integration with Apple products and sophistication of smart technologies would be one of the key differentiators of an Apple Car to future competitors, such as the i-Road.

– Performance: For the vehicle to succeed in the First World markets, it would need to be more versatile than purely a ‘last mile’ commuter (e.g. to the shops and transport hub).  Rather, the vehicle should be able to be used on the highway ‘at a pinch’.  Consequently, increasing top speed to 80-110km/h would be likely.  It is likely these performance improvements will be possible considering the 6-10 year span between the i-Road’s debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show and the Apple Car’s earliest launch date.

– Price: No price has been provided by Toyota, but a price under $10,000 has been suggested.  This would bring it in line with the critical threshold I believe it would need to achieve to provide a sufficient ‘value proposition’ in the mind of the consumer.

 

EO Smart Connecting Car 2

The EO smart connecting car 2

The EO smart connecting car

Technical Details

 

Size: 2.58 m x 1.57 m x 1.6 m; Or rather 1.81 m x 1.57 m x 2.25 m (The indication of the length of the vehicle depends on the type of tire / tyre section. The values have been recorded with tires of type 200/60 R 16 79V.)
Weight: 750 kg
Power supply: 54V – LiFePo4 battery
Speed: 65 km/h (40 mph)
Actuation/ Engine: 4 x 4kW wheelhub motors; 10 x longstroke-Lineardrive with 5000N 1 x Folding Servo
Sensors: Hall-effect as well as string potentiometer sensors for angle and length measurementStereo-Kameras at the front and at the back32-Line Lidar for 3D-scans of the environment6 ToF 3D cameras for near field overview
Communication: CAN-Bus RS232 RS485 LAN

Comment: The EO Smart Connecting Car demonstrates (or at least conjectures) the types of technologies that would be important in solving important ‘jobs to be done’ e.g. parking and traffic (through it’s convoying/platooning idea).

 

General Motors EN-V 

One of the EN-V concept car variants

One of the EN-V concept car variants

Specifications

Dimensions:

Jiao (Pride)        1,500 mm (L) x 1,425 mm (W) x 1,640 mm (H)        [59” x 56” x 64.5”]

Xiao (Laugh)      1,540 mm (L) x 1,420 mm (W) x 1,770 mm (H)        [60.5” x 56” x 69.5”] Miao (Magic)             1,520 mm (L) x 1,405 mm (W) x 1,635 mm (H)        [60” x 55” x 64.5”]

Overall Track:   1,150 mm [45”]

Weight:

Jiao (Pride)             400 kg [880 lb]

Xiao (Laugh)           410 kg [900 lb]

Miao (Magic)          415 kg [910 lb]       

Chassis Platform      210 kg [460 lb]

Body Construction:           Painted carbon fiber

Closures:                 Front access (single door, with polycarbonate glazing)

Seating:                  2 passengers side by side, fixed bucket seats

Chassis Construction:      Magnesium casting (lower chassis)

Aluminum box (battery and gearbox housings)

Stainless steel (guide rails)

Wheels and Tires:              MC 120/70R17 on 17” x 4” wheels

Performance

Top Speed:                    40 km/h [25 mph]

Range:                     40 km [25 miles]

Energy Consumption:       70 Wh/km [125 Wh/mile]

Turning Radius:         1.74 m [68.5”] wall to wall diameter

Propulsion System

Motor Type:           Brushless DC motors for propulsion, braking and steering

Power:             440 Nm (max. torque) and 18 kW (max. power)

Battery Type:        Lithium-ion phosphate (air cooled)  

Output:              3.2 kWh and 5 kW (regenerative braking)

Autonomous Systems

Sensors:         Vision, ultrasonic and Doppler sensors

Wireless:          5.9 GHz dedicated short-range communication and GPS

Autonomous Functionality

–       Automated retrieval, via app-linked smart phone

–       Automated door opening, via app-linked smart phone

–       Platooning

–       Infotainment options (geo-locating other vehicles, audiovisual information)

–       Web-conferencing (social networking)

–       Collision avoidance between vehicles

–       Object detection

–       Automated parking, via handheld device

 

2016 Morgan EV3 specifications[1]

The Morgan EV3. Note, I think Apple would use a more conventional four-wheel layout should it attempt a micro-car.

The Morgan EV3. Note, I think Apple would use a more conventional four-wheel layout should it attempt a micro-car.

Development status: Mooted for production some time this year. Debuted at 2016 Geneva Motorshow (early March 2016)

Year: 2016

Make: Morgan

Model: Three Wheeler

Horsepower @ RPM: 62 (46.2kW)

0-60 time: 9 sec.

Top Speed: 90 mph

Weight: <500kg

Passengers: 2 adults, side-by-side

Battery pack: 20kWh lithium battery

Range: 150 miles on a single charge (241km)

Dimensions:

Price: (Estimated) US$38,375 to $42,640 (NB: Morgan is a ‘prestige’ car maker)

 

2013 Renault Twizy specifications[2]

The 2013 Renault Twizy. It has recently been suggested with two electric motor configurations.

The 2013 Renault Twizy. It has recently been suggested with two electric motor configurations.

Smart Fortwo electric. Note how heavy this is at over 800kg.

Smart Fortwo electric. Note how heavy this is at  880kg.

Specifications

Development status: Concept car

Year: 2013

Make: Renault

Model: Twizy

Passengers: 1 adult

0-60 time: 6 sec.

Top Speed: 68 mph

 

 

2013 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Specifications

 

SPECIFICATIONS:

Production status: In production since 2009 (2nd generation model)

Year: 2013

Make: Smart

Model: Fortwo

Price: € 18910

Engine: 55 kW

0-60 time: 11.5 sec.

Top Speed: 78 mph (125.5km/h)

Passengers: 2 adults, side-by-side

Specifications for the Smart Fortwo in non-electric configurations:

Production 2014–present
Body and chassis
Body style 3-door hatchback2-door cabriolet
Related                         Smart Forfour (C453)Renault Twingo
Powertrain
Engine                         0.9 L turbo I31.0 L petrol I3
Transmission 5-speed manualtwin clutch automated manual
Dimensions
Wheelbase 1,873 mm (73.7 in)
Length 2,695 mm (106.1 in)
Width 1,663 mm (65.5 in)
Height 1,555 mm (61.2 in)
Kerb weight 880 kg (1,940 lb)

Specifications from Wikipedia for 3rd generation Smart Fortwo electric engine:[3]

Power: peak power output of 55 kW (74 hp)[5][28]

Torque: 130 newton metres (96 lbf·ft)

Top speed of 125 km/h (78 mph)

0 to 100 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in 11.5[43] seconds and 0 to 60 km/h (0 to 37 mph) in 5 seconds

Battery capacity: 17.6 kW·h lithium-ion battery by Deutsche ACCUmotive[44]

Range: 145 km (90 mi)

Miles per gallon equivalent: 122 MPGe city, 93 MPGe highway, 107 MPGe combined[45]

Artificial warning sounds for pedestrians automatically activated in the U.S. and Japan, and manually activated in Europe.[46]

 

Kyburz eRod

Specifications (translated from the Kyburz website using Google Translate)

The Kyburz eRoad electric kit car

The Kyburz eRoad electric kit car

Weight: 570 kg (incl. Bat.)
Battery: 18 kWh, 100 V / 180 Ah
Power: 40 kW / 140 Nm
Range: 100 – 130 km
Drive: brushless AC motor on the rear axle
Braking recuperation: switchable
Helmet compulsory: No

Price: US$28,000 unassembled. US$38,000 assembled.

Comment: The eRod is almost twice the width and 25% longer than what I expect a future disruptive vehicle would look like.  However, it does have the tubular frame I anticipate will be key and helps illustrate the sparseness of the underlying chassis that the ‘future car’ might have as its underpinning.  Recall, Gordon Murray’s ‘iStream’ car manufacturing methodology that seeks to scale the types of methods used in the manufacture of Formula 1 race cars.  Note, the weight would need to be significantly reduced (to about 2/3rds or 400kg) – probably through super-strong composites.  An enclosure for passengers is a given.

 

Specifications for Mini Cooper S

I used a Mini Cooper remote control car as a model for illustration purposes.  The Mini Cooper S has very similar dimensions, and they are provided here for reference.

Mini Cooper S

Mini Cooper S

Production 2006–November 2013 (Hatch)2009–present (Convertible)
Assembly Plant Oxford, Cowley, England
Body and chassis
Class Supermini
Body style 3-door hatchback2-door convertible
Layout FF layout
Related Mini Coupé, Mini Countryman, Mini Clubman
Powertrain
Engine 1.4 L Prince I4 (One)1.6 L Prince/BMW N16 I4 (Cooper)1.6 L Prince turbo I4 (Cooper S)1.6 L Peugeot DV6 diesel I4 (Cooper D and One D)2.0 L BMW N47 diesel I4 (Cooper SD)
Transmission 6-speed, automatic or manual
Dimensions
Wheelbase 2,467 mm (97.1 in)
Length 2007–2010: 3,698 mm (145.6 in)2007–2010 S: 3,713 mm (146.2 in)2011–2014: 3,729 mm (146.8 in)
Width 1,684 mm (66.3 in)
Height 1,407 mm (55.4 in)
Kerb weight 1,150 kg (2,535 lb) (Cooper)1,210 kg (2,668 lb) (Cooper S)
Chronology
Predecessor Mini (R50/53)
Successor Mini (F56)

 

Honda Accord dimensions:  The Honda Accord is used as an example of a typical ‘family sedan’.

Honda Accord 2015. Our proxy for a 'typical family sedan'

Honda Accord 2015. Our proxy for a ‘typical family sedan’

Dimensions
Wheelbase Sedan: 2,776 mm (109.3 in)Coupe: 2,725 mm (107.3 in)
Length Sedan: 4,862 mm (191.4 in)Coupe: 4,806 mm (189.2 in)
Width Sedan: 1,849 mm (72.8 in)
Height Sedan: 1,466 mm (57.7 in)Coupe: 1,435 mm (56.5 in)
Curb weight 3,193 lb (1,448 kg) sedan[51]

 

Calculations from Mini Cooper remote controlled car model

Actual Mini Cooper S dimensions: 3.7m long, 1.68m wide, 1.4m high.

Mini Cooper remote control car model dimensions: 200mm long.

The remote control model Mini Cooper I used to give a sense of scale

The remote control model Mini Cooper I used to give a sense of scale

 

Calculation of scale ratio:

(Actual length) 3700mm to (Model length) 200mm = 37:2 = 18.6:1 ratio.

Therefore width converts to: 90mm

Therefore height converts to: 76mm

Hence, the speculated dimensions of ‘future car’ converted to 18.6:1 ratio are:

 

Unscaled dimensions of the Apple Car:

Length: Approx 1.5 to 1.6m

Width: Approx 1m

Height: Approx 1.5 to 1.6m.

Scaled dimensions of the Apple Car:

Approximate Length: 81-86mm

Approximate Width: 54mm

Approximate Height: 81-86mm (can be lower, but it means for a very reclined seating position, possibly requiring seat adjustment technology)

Apple Car Model Dimensions used in photographs:

The roughly-to-scale Apple Car model we used.  Assembled from my 4 year old's Duplo.

The roughly-to-scale Apple Car model we used. Assembled from my 4 year old’s Duplo.

Length: 96mm (1.79m)

Width: 58mm (1.08m)

Height: 72mm (1.34m)

 

 

 

[1] http://www.topspeed.com/cars/morgan/2016-morgan-ev3-ar172651.html#main

[2] http://www.topspeed.com/cars/renault/2013-renault-twizy-f1-concept-ar153883.html

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_electric_drive#Third_generation

 

Specifications of the Apple Car

In this piece I drill deeper into speculating what the Apple Car may be like, contemplating its likely specifications and performance characteristics, based upon existing cars.

Following on from my piece that sought to describe the physical parameters of the Apple Car, in this piece I go one step further (too far?) and attempt to apply performance characteristics to the Apple Car. Using specifications from existing and upcoming micro-cars (REFERENCE LINK), I attempt to extrapolate the likely possible specifications for a future ‘disruptive’ micro-car[1], scheduled for 2019-21 release.[2] The existing micro-cars that I referred to, and their specifications can be found on the next blog post here.

For the purposes of our exercise, we anticipate that the future ‘disruptive’ vehicle will have the following characteristics:

Passengers: 1 adult (with some type of convoying technology required to link other cars of the same type, either ‘in-line’ or side-by-side.) In Australia research suggests that over 90% of trips only carry the driver.[3] But note, that percentage would count a trip to drop off the kids at school as 2 trips, with one of those trips, the return trip, likely to be only 1 passenger.]

Dimensions: Not much bigger than an electric wheelchair – perhaps slightly longer and wider for safety reasons and cargo capacity i.e. Length: Approx 1.5 to 1.6m; Width: Approx 1m: Height, Approx 1.35 to 1.6m (similar to a Mini, 1.4m, or ‘Smart Fortwo’, 1.56m)

Weight: Less than one quarter the weight of a conventional family sedan, or 300-450kg; Less is more due, to the weight of batteries. I anticipate it to use super-strong lightweight materials like carbon-fibre, perhaps custom-made for the ‘Apple Car’ similar to Gorilla Glass or the gold alloy used in the Apple Watch. Note, the Morgan EV3 is said to be less than 500kg and will be larger than this vehicle. I therefore anticipate it should be capable of reaching 2/3rds to 80% of its weight. However, it is also likely to have more ‘mod cons’ than the Morgan EV3 (e.g. a ‘hardtop’ roof; air conditioning; entertainment system; ‘smart’ technologies/sensors etc, which might take the weight from say, 400kg to 500kg.)

Engine: 30kW to 55kW (I anticipate it to be similar to the electric Smart Fortwo, or slightly less to give it similar performance but with lower weight.)   Weight calculation: [Est. 400kg + 100kg (large male) = ] 500kg vs [880kg +100kg (large male)] = 980kg. Consequently, I anticipate a 30kW engine could have the same performance specifications as the electric Smart Fortwo. Elsewhere I suggest that those performance characteristics are all that are needed.

Battery capacity: Approximately the same as for the Smart Fortwo i.e. 17.6 kW·h lithium-ion battery by Deutsche ACCUmotive[44]

Range: Approximately 200-300km. This should account for more than 95% of trips.[4] 145 km (90 mi) range is available from the electric Smart Fortwo. Note, the range could be much higher considering the anticipated reduced weight of the proposed Apple Car. Consequently, it may be possible to have a smaller battery, reducing weight considerably. I think the weight/battery/performance/range equation will be a very well optimized balance.

Top Speed: Not capable of doing much more than maximum speed limit in most Western Countries’ i.e. 125 km/h (78 mph). This is the top speed of the electric Smart Fortwo. This speed was chosen because Apple has a strong tradition of not competing in ‘specification wars’, eschewing adding specifications for the sake of them, and instead aiming for qualitative benchmarks. For example, its iPod was not the smallest music player, nor the music player with necessarily the largest memory. Instead it went for ease-of-use. Likewise, the Apple Car will not be built for the purposes of drag-racing conventional motor cars. It just needs to get the passenger/driver from A to B.

Price: Comfortably below multi-passenger micro-cars, with multiple Apple Cars being about the same as a mid-luxury family sedan (e.g. Honda Accord) i.e. Sub US$13,000. Preferably under US$7-10K. Note, because it’s only a single passenger vehicle it may need to be substantially cheaper than most of the two seaters to provide a convincing ‘value proposition’. This is also why the ‘convoying’/platooning capability described in the earlier article is so important. There may also be economic pressures for this vehicle to be a subscription vehicle or some other business model of usage/ownership. (See other article on ‘Thinking behind Apple Car speculation’). Most micro-cars are sub US$15,000. It may be possible to achieve price ranges below US$10K with sufficient economies of scale e.g. Dediu’s suggested ‘1 million car’ mark for an Apple Car to be ‘meaningful’.

Smart Technologies: Pontooning/convoying’ technology will be important to allow for the Apple Car to disrupt the family car. An example of this concept is given for the EO Smart Connecting Car 2.

The EO Smart Connecting Car 2 imagined in 'convoying' mode

The EO Smart Connecting Car 2 imagined in ‘convoying’ mode

 

 

[1] Due to the highly speculative nature of this article, I am attempting to cover my bases here. Perhaps if Apple doesn’t make this, someone else will???

[2] According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) the Apple Car is scheduled to be released in 2019. Dediu notes this usually means the product would be available to the public one year later (2020) at the earliest. More recently, Tim Cook, when asked about the Apple Car did not deny the rumour, but instead implied it was a lot further away than people were expecting, saying: ““Do you remember when you were a kid, and Christmas Eve, it was so exciting, you weren’t sure what was going to be downstairs? Well, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while.” Source: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/tim-cook-on-apple-car-its-going-to-be-christmas-eve-for-a-while-2016-2?r=US&IR=T

[3] http://chartingtransport.com/tag/car-occupancy/

[4] http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/efficiency/stop-worrying-your-electric-car-will-have-plenty-of-range and http://jalopnik.com/the-chevrolet-bolt-will-be-a-200-mile-electric-tesla-fi-1678649485

What will the Apple Car look like?

This article provides a playful look at what the Apple Car might look like. For the (slightly) more serious reasoning on how I came to the parameters of the possible Apple Car, please click here and for the performance characteristics click here. For the specifications of existing micro-cars I used as reference points to inform the parameters, please click here.

Duplo model courtesy of my 4 year-old daughter

Is this what the Apple Car might look like? (Duplo model courtesy of my 4 year-old daughter.)

In this piece, I seek to flesh-out and illustrate the likely ‘envelope’ and specifications of the Apple Car. In an earlier post, I described the broad characteristics of what I imagined the Apple Car to look like, drawing upon the thinking of well-known Apple observer and analyst, Horace Dediu.

Primary Parameters for the Apple Car

Together, Dediu’s criteria and my own reasoning pointed towards the primary characteristics relevant to visualizing and specifying the Apple Car as being:

  • A small vehicle, likely a ‘microcar’ or ‘autocycle’
  • It would fit only one or two people – we will assume one person here
  • It was a given that it would use a large amount of ‘smart’ technology e.g. autopilot, collision prevention, auto-balancing/leaning technology etc., but only that likely to be available at its speculated time of release in 2019-2021.
  • It would likely be electric
  • It would be unlikely to compete with the specifications of a conventional vehicle, making performance trade-offs to more specifically focus upon the job to be done (taking a person from ‘A’ to ‘B’)

    A comparison of a (very) rough scale model of the Apple Car to the contemporary Mini Cooper. In the photograph, the stack of Duplo blocks at top right is a rough proxy for a 1.75m (5’8″) person. For my calculations on the models and scales click here.

Dimensions of the Apple Car

Consequently, I arrived at the following dimensions for the future Apple Car (assuming of course, one is ever made):

Length: From 1.2 to 1.6m long or comfortably less than half the length of the average modern family sedan[1]. An important criteria is that the vehicle can park ‘nose to kerb’ and not be wider than a conventional car.

Width: Approx. 1 metre; or more than half but less than 2/3rds the width of the average modern family sedan. This is to enable the division of the regulation traffic lane into two, hence potentially doubling the carrying capacity of existing infrastructure.

Top view of a scale Apple Car model to the Mini Cooper. Note: Four Apple Car’s could be linked together in a 2x2 pattern and be roughly the same width and length as a family sedan. No more arguments over air-conditioning temperatures!

Top view of a scale Apple Car model to the Mini Cooper. Note: Four Apple Car’s could be linked together in a 2×2 pattern and be roughly the same width and length as a family sedan. No more arguments over air-conditioning temperatures!

Height: 1.35-1.6m or around 10-15cm less than the average modern family sedan. Note this dimension is one of the most constrained due to the assumption of a normal seating position. Going too far from a normal seated position risks alienating many people (the old, inflexible, tall, overweight, unfit, unusually proportioned etc). Historically, this is something Apple has sought to avoid.

Side-on view of a (roughly) scale Apple Car model to the Mini Cooper. Note, having owned a Mini Cooper, the seating is quite low. It will be difficult to push much below the 1.4m height of the Mini Cooper, unless the driver’s position is reclined steeply.

Side-on view of a (roughly) scale Apple Car model to the Mini Cooper. Note, having owned a Mini Cooper, the seating is quite low. It will be difficult to push much below the 1.4m height of the Mini Cooper, unless the driver’s position is reclined steeply.

Figure 5. Rear view of the Apple Car model compared to a model Mini Cooper

Rear view of the Apple Car model compared to a model Mini Cooper

[1] For comparison, the Honda Accord is 4.86m long. See the blog post here for the vehicles I have used for reference.

Marc Tarpenning 2013 talk – A summary of thoughts from Tesla Motor’s co-founder

As I have noted elsewhere in this blog, some in the car industry remain skeptical of Apple’s ability to make a great car. Their reasoning is essentially, since Apple has no history in making cars they can’t appreciate the difficulties in making a car. They are mainly software engineers and mobile phone engineers and won’t understand the important mechanical aspects and all other important things in making a great car. This 2013 talk by Marc Tarpenning, one of the co-founders of Tesla Motors, shows how a group of archetypal ‘Silicon Valley types’ did just that. Their cars have won many major car awards.[1]

Some interesting thoughts and statistics from the talk:

Why he formed Tesla Motors: Tarpenning sought to solve a large world problem.  As a firm believer in ‘Peak Oil’, he thought the electrification of cars would be a worthy problem to solve.  Noting the failure of earlier electric cars, he reasoned that one issue was the misdiagnosis of the true market for electric cars.  Rather than poor people seeking to save on petrol, the experience of the GM Volt and Toyota Prius was that the buyers were mostly wealthy people who were seeking a ‘green’ car as a type of status symbol.  Thus, he diagnosed the ‘job to be done’ as being to provide wealthy people with a ‘green status symbol’.

– Efficiency/Sustainability of Electric Cars: Early on he answers the question ‘Why electric cars?’. Answer: They are much more efficient than petrol. Interestingly, he calculated that even electric cars recharged by coal power plants are better than petrol in terms of efficiency of resource usage.

– Batteries are getting cheaper (and better): Batteries have gotten 7% cheaper every year for many years.   Near the end of his talk he also mentions this decline in price may accelerate due to the ‘sheer amount of money they are putting into this thing.’ By ‘thing’ he means, for example, the Tesla ‘Gigafactory’[2] and various other large manufacturing facilities that are starting around the World.

– Most car manufacturing is outsourced: In answer to the doubts about whether a newcomer can make a car, the obvious retort is that most of the car business as we know it today is outsourced.  What most car manufacturers actually do is just the internal combustion engine – thus the car company’s internal vested interests and politics against electric. The car manufacturers have mostly outsourced the rest.  E.g. Transmission is outsourced.  Styling is frequently outsourced, I already knew things like brakes, suspension, electrical, entertainment systems etc, are outsourced.

– Incumbent car industry inertia – It’s ‘worse than he thought possible’: In response to a question asking how quickly he thinks the incumbent car industry will adapt to change, he is quite clear.  He describes them being ‘worse than he thought possible’.  He explains the internal politics that occurs within such incumbent car companies.  From the above point regarding outsourcing, we can see that all that remains of most incumbent car companies is the internal combustion engine engineers.  Tarpenning argues that the internal resistance comes from car companies belated realising they sacked the wrong people.  They got rid of their electrical engineers (through outsourcing), and now would have to admit they were wrong and rehire them.

– Battery companies reawakening by Tesla Motors: Battery companies such as Panasonic and Sony thought their addressable market was to sell 7 battery cells per person (e.g. one in the mobile phone, one in the tablet, etc etc). Tesla Motors advised them that their customers would need 7000 battery cells just for one Tesla car. What happened next is kind of funny.

– Tarpenning isn’t always right: Tarpenning got the oil forecast wrong: He got the oil forecast wrong, saying we’d reached ‘peak oil’.  The oil price plummeted below the US$60-70/barrel he said it cost to drag this stuff out of the ground. He did not anticipate that about 2 years later, OPEC would slash oil prices to drive out US CSG oil production. The move by OPEC also might be seen as a prescient move against the electrification of cars, which would severely reduce demand for oil. In the US, they use 28% of their energy to move people and goods.[3] Personal vehicles use 60% of that 28%, and buses and trains use 3% of that 28%.

– Where Tarpenning is putting his money: Note also where Tarpenning and his Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard have invested their money – to an electric motorcycle maker called Alta Motors (formerly BRD Motorcycles) which they did in 2014 (Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2014/10/01/brd-motorcycles-raises-4-5-million-to-ship-its-all-electric-racing-bikes/).  Readers of this blog will already know that I believe disruption of the automotive industry will come from the ‘lower tiers’ of the personal transport vehicle, probably from a vehicle that the incumbents deride as not a threat. Of course, the more obvious play for Tarpenning and Eberhard is to simply do to the motorcycle industry what Tesla Motors did to the sports car industry. However, with the Redshift, released in October 2014,[4] carrying a 5.2kWh battery weighing 70 pounds (approx. 32kg), producing 40hp (roughly 30kW) we are talking about a power plant that is already capable of powering a ‘disruptive’ micro car at acceptable performance specifications as we have envisaged in other posts (e.g. top speed of 110km/h, range >150km etc). Their bikes sell at US$15,000 so we imagine that the greater economies of scale achieved by a consumer motorcar, when compared to a luxury sports bike, it would be possible to bring the price of a ‘future car’ below the critical US$10,000 mark.

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_Motors#Model_X

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gigafactory_1

[3] http://needtoknow.nas.edu/energy/energy-use/transportation/

[4] http://www.autoblog.com/2014/10/17/brd-now-altha-motors-reveals-new-redshift-electric-motocross-bike/

How Government Investment in the Culture Economy Led to a Billion Dollar Industry

What burgeoning team sport phenomenon awarded over AU$20 million in prize money[1] this past August to a team of 5 players where the youngest broke onto the international competitive scene last year at the tender age of 15, and the oldest is nicknamed ‘Old Man’[2] at a mere 27 years of age?

Here are some clues: Its players, bear nicknames like ‘Piglet’, ‘Faker’ and ‘Amazing’, its 119 pound (54kg) stars can mysteriously burn-out[3] at the age of 21[4], and its audience is already measured at 137 million people around the World. [5] Team names include ‘Evil Geniuses’, Cloud9 and fNatic.

I’ll give you just one more clue: The team is made up of what would typically be considered the least athletic people alive – geeks.

By now, most male readers under 30 will know what I’m talking about. The rest of you are probably scratching your head at this perversely inverted world where pimply nerds are sports heroes and worshipped by legions of female fans. [6]

The phenomenon in question is eSports in which computer gamers play against each other, frequently online, and at the elite level, in the flesh at stadiums including the Wembley Arena.[7] The game that awarded over $20 million in prize money is DOTA 2[8], a computer game that allows multiple players to compete online in a virtual battle arena, or a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) for short. DOTA itself is an acronym for ‘Defence of the Ancients’, which is in turn, a spin-off of the extraordinarily popular ‘real-time strategy’ game[9], World of Warcraft 3 published by Blizzard Entertainment. The ‘2’ in Dota 2 refers to the fact that it is the second official version by Valve Corporation which produces and distributes games.[10]

But DOTA 2 is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ‘eSports’. Other games commanding multi-million dollar prize pools include League of Legends, Call of Duty and Smite.[11] These are just a few of the video games played competitively, described as ‘massively online battle arena’s’ or MOBA for short.

People from all corners of the ‘connected’ Earth play eSports against each other making it, in some ways, even more international than soccer/football where players are restrained by travel and passports to play against each other. Of course, in the interest of fairness, and to make their competitions a compelling live event, most competitions at the elite level require players to compete at the same venue on the same equipment live before an audience of screaming fans. Nevertheless, the purely online competitive component has its sophisticated leader boards, through which some child star players have emerged like ‘overnight’ sensations.[12]

Its nerdy star players look so much like you would expect a professional video gamer to look, it makes any parent wonder about the future health of their boy– or their girl.[13] Hailing from all the ‘nerd’ classes; pimply, deathly pale, skinny or overweight (but never physically well-developed), bespectacled, greasy-haired, Asian (even 2 of the Canadian DOTA 2 world champions ‘Evil Geniuses’ are of Asian descent) it is perhaps not surprising considering professional teams have coaches and rigorous training regimes,[14] big brand name sponsors,[15] as well as billionaire owners and backers,[16] just like ‘real’ sports teams.

What has this all got to do with the title of this article?

Here’s a hint. The ‘Super Nation’ of eSports is South Korea[17] where the micro-momentary expression of a pro-gamer losing to the upstart wunderkind, Faker, has its own meme page.[18]

In an impressive display of government intervention triumphing over the free market, the Korean government made a conscious decision nearly 20 years ago to promote its ‘soft power’.[19] Frequently the historical whipping boy of its near-Asian neighbours, China and Japan, and with a mere fraction of the people of those populous giants, Korea’s government felt it needed to somehow compete with its historical ‘big brothers’. During this time, not only did it provide universal superfast broadband, but it sponsored the development of its key cultural industries, including film, television, popular music, and of course, gaming. The rest, as they say, is history.

[1]Source: http://www.esportsearnings.com/tournaments/12894-the-international-2015

[2] http://evilgeniuses.gg/Profile/13,Fear/

[3] http://www.kotaku.com.au/2015/02/one-of-league-of-legends-best-players-gets-benched/

[4] http://lol.gamepedia.com/Piglet

[5] https://www.superdataresearch.com/blog/esports-brief/

[6] http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/13035450/league-legends-prodigy-faker-carries-country-shoulders

[7] https://www.google.com.au/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=sse+arena+wembley+wikipedia&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&gfe_rd=cr&ei=GBgnVozSJdDu8wfqg7gQ

[8] http://www.playdota.com

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real-time_strategy

[10] The history of how DOTA 2 came to be it itself an interesting illustration of the power of the crowd-sourcing phenomenon, where a fan of the game, known only under the ‘handle’ (alias) of Eul, kicked off a chain of successive iterations by even more fans adept at programming.   Ultimately, Valve commissioned the last in this line of fans, ‘Ice Frog’ to help build their official version of DOTA 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_of_the_Ancients#Development ; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_of_the_Ancients#Sequel

[11] http://www.esportsearnings.com/tournaments

[12] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_%22Faker%22_Sang-hyeok

[13] All-female eSports teams exist e.g. Girls HK, Team Siren, and presently, a select few, earn respectable prize money: http://www.kotaku.com.au/2015/08/hong-kong-gets-its-first-all-female-league-of-legends-team/ ; http://team-dignitas.net/articles/blogs/No%20Category/3465/Call-Your-Shot-What-Do-You-Think-Introducing-Team-Siren ; http://www.esportsearnings.com/players/female_players . However, they are still a minority in eSports: http://www.polygon.com/2014/5/27/5723446/women-in-esports-professional-gaming-riot-games-blizzard-starcraft-lol

[14] http://www.liquiddota.com/forum/dota-2-general/462152-coaching-in-esports-a-comprehensive-look

[15] http://fortune.com/2014/07/24/esports-sponsors/

[16] http://dota2.gamepedia.com/Invictus_Gaming

[17]http://www.pcworld.com/article/2036844/why-gamers-in-asia-are-the-worlds-best-esport-athletes.html ;

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/20/technology/league-of-legends-south-korea-epicenter-esports.html?_r=0

[18] https://www.facebook.com/H2K-Ryus-face-memes-480179422135007/ . The original expression can be seen at around 13 seconds in at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPCfoCVCx3U

[19] http://www.creativetransformations.asia/2014/05/the-k-pop-factory-phenomenon/

The Inventor of ‘Disruption’, disrupted?

In my post detailing my thinking on the Apple Car I touched upon how Clayton Christensen – the person who is attributed as having coined the term ‘disruption’ in the post-Internet age – himself does not believe Apple is ‘disruptive’ according to his own definition.

The following article from TechCrunch details issues with Christensen’s definition, suggesting the definition itself, has been ‘disrupted’.