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Lies, Damn Lies, and EV Industry Forecasts.

It starts with the rather bald implication that the American public is hungering for electric cars, and that the evil empire is denying them access to them for various vaguely nefarious and republican reasons. This huge, latent demand for a better technology, left unfulfilled and unrequited in the eternal quest for filthy euchre and the ongoing quest for global climactic rape and mayhem.

And somehow lurking in all that is the eternal premise that the wealthy grow wealthy on the backs of the poor working man.

If you could spend a day in my mailbox from THIS end, you’d understand why I’m old, cranky, and overweight.

In truth, the demand for a battery powered electric vehicle, not only in the United States but worldwide, is essentially and statistically zero and always was.

China, a country whose primary means of transportation for a century has been a bicycle, offered a more advanced government subsidy last year for electric cars than the United States and had a whopping 34 takers.

It IS true that those who DID lease an EV1, a RAV4, a Ford Ranger, or a Chevy S10 in the 1990s, probably overwhelmingly wanted to keep them.

Today, the Volt is under siege both as a non seller and a fire hazard. But Volt owners haven’t gotten the word. They love the car. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, it has the highest vehicle owner satisfaction numbers in the business – ahead of the Dodge Challenger and the Porsche 911. Neither beast nor fowl, it uses both gasoline and kilowattage rather indiscriminately.

To know an electric car at this point, with modern Lithium ion cells, is to love one. But almost nobody knows them.

And so we have this bizarre Alice in Wonderland national debate, with almost ALL the voices on ALL sides of it, pro AND con, bereft of any experience with the vehicles whatsoever, and they entirely drown out the plaintive mews of actual owners who have actually owned and driven the beasts for at least two weeks.
Since their experience matches not the preconceived pro OR con notions, there is not really a slot on the evening news for their voices at all.

More annoying for me personally, is the entirely altered nature of business in America. An unintended consequence of the Internet. A decade or more ago, all businesses had telephones and answered them as a matter of course, taking all callers. They responded to electronic mail. And generally, they would sell their products to anyone capable of paying for them, in quantities large or small.

This is actually a necessary mannerism of commerce. Despite the 80/20 rule that all businesses live by, wherein 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers, the 20% age and die. Worse, they merge. And so you have to constantly replenish them from the great mass of unwashed 80% of your customers most of whom are in truth a pain in the ass. Problem being, you can’t tell which of them is going to switch categories on you.

Today, we have whole industries with no phone number. They don’t have a receptionist. Nobody screens the incoming call because no one takes them. E-mail addresses are posted, but no humanoid ever checks that mailbox. The sales process is very much more efficient because it is entirely outbound. There is no incoming over the transom business because there is no one there to take the order.

This is most forgivable in mature industries. Massive hedging in corn futures could be forgiven for being a bit clubby. There are a few traders who have been doing this as a family business for a hundred years or so. Ironically, you can call them and they’ll take the call.

But in young, emerging, technically disruptive businesses, this is pretty much a page of lost opportunity and connections and relationships never made and never fulfilled. In other words, kids playing at having a business – usually with other peoples money.

So it is no great loss to the CEO of Enerdel. That half a billion in investor capital went away because HE was too busy in a business FANTASY to answer the phone wasn’t really his money. And A123 can likewise VERY cavalierly claim to NOT do business with the great unwashed AS they watch their investors stock plunge below $3 – not a problem. OPM.

But the lost opportunities are a treasonous high crime and misdemeanor. Backyard and garage inventors Bill Hewlett, David Packard, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Paul Allen would simply be shut out today because they cannot “qualify” to get a phone call or e-mail returned, much less order a small quantity of whatever it is the companies offer.

So today, we have this ironic situation where we have plunging prices on American lithium batteries that can only be purchased from Chinese traders,which is ok because the American made batteries are really made in Korea or China ANYWAY while the American company is laying off workers in MICHIGAN prior to going out of business and being delisted from the Nasdaq ANYWAY and our main question is will these cells be available long enough for us to bother to design a module/package for sufficient to use in a car.

And if we did, and enough of you purchased the cells, would the cells then remain in production in China to fill THAT backdoor demand even though the original U.S. company went out of business entirely? Oh, did I mention they received $259 million of YOUR tax dollars to do all this? But they will neither sell to you or even SPEAK to you at this point?

American jobs? I’m sorry. Americans don’t DESERVE jobs. They can’t be bothered answering the phone.

Beyond ranting and raving about these developments, we’re basically taking the win on almost everything we’ve predicted for the past two years. It is now becoming evident to everyone that General Motors sales projections, Nissan’s sales projections, and all industry observers sales projections, have been nothing but fantasy confused by the ongoing propensity to offer a bare faced lie to anyone who will listen.

Electric cars offer a serious advantage to those who own them. The problem is those who own them are very few and not part of the national conversation on this topic. So in this Alice and Wonderland world, the only way anyone is going to learn anything useful about a modern electric car is to take a ride with one of the very few who have one. ANd that ironically is the same group that was building their own. The conversion guys generally ARE the low hanging fruit who are buying the Leaf’s and the Volts, and parking them right next to their own efforts at an electric car in the same garage. But that’s what’s happening.

And so the bootstrapping of this technology to the masses is going to be a much longer and much slower process than Carlos Ghosn can imagine I do fear, despite his heroic work in this area. It remains an early adopter market. And will because the American public has learned to rely on information gathered first hand by their own experience. They have over time learned how to tell when the corporate elements of the world are lying …..
…..- you can see their lips moving…..

We continue to work on the Swallow – which is fun with an open VW chassis from 1968. We’re making battery boxes and hooking things up left and right.

Jack Rickard