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Again, we’re struggling to come up with a show. There just isn’t ANYTHING happening at the moment that we can find ANYWHERE. All online forums, blogs, and other EV news sources are MORIBUND.

Oh, I guess Coda has shipped two cars. And Wheego has sold 36 EV’s in the past year and the company president has announced that that’s just what he wants and just what he planned all along. He’s been reading too many Volt press releases. The Volt production line is currently shut down.

And so doing my normal early Friday morning perusal of the wires and press releases and blogs, trying to find some gems for your consideration this week, there was NOTHING. I mean NO news.

Chris Paine of course produced “Who Killed the Electric Car” and of course this year’s documentary “Revenge of the Electric Car” which he graciously previewed at our EVCCON in September. One of his favorite recharge stops is BURNING MAN in the Black Desert. Now a 50,000 person annual event with a hideous and growing set of laws and regulations, he did deliver a talk there that basically said that if no one buys these electric cars during this “window” change is not going to occur.

He was basically acknowledging the same phenomenon we predicted nearly two years ago – very meager sales. His take is that the consumer is not sufficiently dedicated to the cause. My take is the value proposition presented is poor and the consumer is no dummy when it comes to counting their ducats.

At this point, the excuses have all rung hollow and faded away. The “next month in Jerusalem” talk is pretty much over. And the finger pointing has begun. According to Lutz, it’s conservatives using the Volt as a political football. To others, it is proof positive of range anxiety. It’s another Obama plot.

And as that dies down, we are left with….nothing. No news. No commentary. No developments. ALL the press release announcements from those NOT actively producing a car fall prey to the wait and see what happens to the Volt and Leaf. You will find all those firm plans can just as easily be changed with another press release.

I find Nissan’s announcement of new models and the $9900 ChaDemo fast charger heroic in the breech. I’m actually starting to pull for this gutsy little French dwarf with the Italian suit and shoes. In the face of a total meltdown of a couple BILLION dollar bet, he’s talking “double down.”

I again predict the Tesla Model S will re-energize the thing, but add FURTHER confusion when they come out selling well. Ironically, the numbers won’t be much different. But for them to sell 10,000 cars in a year will be viewed as a blowout victory, where for Nissan to do the same thing is viewed as a horrifying train wreck of a failure. Expectations. It’s all about expectations.

Note that all along I’ve been talking about VALUE PROPOSITION. Not PRICE. They are different things.

A $100,000 car is of course expensive. If it comes with 120 lbs of gold bar in the trunk – it is a good value proposition. You can stop off, sell the gold for a couple of million, and keep the car.

A $32,000 car is not very expensive. Of course, if it is a dead clone of a $19,000 car, but electric, not a good value proposition.

As an ENTIRELY new model, on an ENTIRELY new production line, ENTIRELY manned by people who have never been in the automobile business, the odds of Tesla delivering a functional car that doesn’t crater itself Fisker fashion are pretty slim. I will predict the issues with the Tesla S will be modest and software related. And within a year of introduction, this car will be touted as one of the greatest sedans ever designed worldwide of any kind and any power train. And sell perhaps as many as 20,000 in 2013.

That’s going to further stun the pundits, along with the 44% short sale in TSLA stock who wind up with their panties around their ankles, and entirely out of altitude, airspeed, and ideas at more or less the same moment.

Fear. Uncertainty. And doubt. How ironic that the companies seeking to sow it are now the ones reaping it. FUD.

Meanwhile we struggle for life. We should be overrun with advertisers at this point. We have built a great following of some great viewers all pretty passionate and engaged in the sport of divining the next great movement toward galvanic magnetic propulsion. This should be ENORMOUSLY attractive to advertisers unless I know NOTHING about publishing.

We had one vendor run an ad for six months and experience great growth. They then dropped the ad. Growth slowed. And their conclusion? They have reached MARKET SATURATION.

I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. This is the most absurd situation I can recall facing.

We’ve been doing some little experiments. Recall that I had a little trouble with getting my very excellent braided straps from Australia because of the shipping charges. Oh EV works hosed up one order because of a change in size of the terminals on the 400Ah cells they were unaware of. But the real issue was huge shipping.

So we sourced the straps ourselves and of course came up against the problem that they wanted to sell us one BRAZILLION straps, and we needed 75. Interesting experiment here. We can’t get them stateside for less than $20. Let’s go ahead and ORDER the brazllion. The shipping IS substantial but for some reason NOT what it is from Australia. And we’ll offer the straps to our viewers.

We sold out of the straps in two weeks. We reordered ANOTHER brazillian and we’re looking at a third order at the moment. The guy selling them to us wants us to look at his tinned copper cable terminals as well.

We found this little Ampere Hour meter that had actually been DISCONTINUED. We talked the guy into importing them again and we wrote a little manual for it. Cast the goofy Chinese shunts into some nonconducting resin so you could mount it, added a 12v-12v converter to close the door on any isolation issues, and we sold OUT in 10 hours.

We reordered 20 of them. We have four left. I’ve ordered 32 more.

I guess I’m not having the same problem justifying advertising on EVTV that my advertisers are. What’s going on?

It’s true, that some of our viewers have just been curiously supportive. I’m not sure they NEED braided straps right now, but they will and they wanted to show the flag. We appreciate it. Ironically, I had an order for the METER from AUSTRALIA and he’s a little butt hurt over the $134 shipping charge – Fedex and UPS being within a dollar of each other. I don’t know how to tell him that’s where we started…..

And now I have Matt Hauber of EVWest calling to take me to task for COMPETING with them as a dealer. Wait a minute. We never HAVE had any dealer advertisers. What’s with that. Why would I worry about competing with them?

MORE comically, I get on YouTube, and this onetime EVTV intern has started his own series of videos under the EVWest umbrella. What’s good for the goose is NOT good for the gander? Actually they are not bad. You might have a peek. Very hands on, how to, just like he learned here in Missouri. He even kind of labors to mimic my labored Pall Mall limited breathing and talking style.

But it puts me in mind to fulfill his phears. What would EVTV look like as a dealer? We’re not stepping on any dealer toes as we’ve never HAD any dealer advertisers. And the same component developers who are very shy about a commercial contract are EXTREMELY generous to their “dealers” often ceding a huge markup.

I have to tell you, I don’t quite get the dealer thing in the first place for some of these companies. Understand that I was more or less famous for an editorial I wrote in the very early 1990’s where I predicted the worldwide wholesale collapse of dealer networks because of the Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web.

When the dealer web site and the manufacturer’s website are geographically separated by one click of the mouse, the whole house of cards kind of comes tumbling down. If you took the dealer markup and split it, the manufacturer gets half more profit and the end user gets a lower price. What happens to the value add from the dealer? What WAS the value add from the dealer?

For a dozen years since, as hundreds and HUNDREDS of these networks have gone down in flames just as I predicted, the chant has been the same. SERVICE, SERVICE, SERVICE. And the end user has gone for the same thing instead, PRICE, PRICE, PRICE. And in every case I’ve examined, the problem was the dealer wasn’t DELIVERING the service.

The relationship was based on the manufacturer believing the dealer brought them sales from the local area. And in those days indeed dealers stocked product as well as spare parts, made repairs, etc. It all made sense.

With the Internet, the manufacturer is empowered to deal with customers directly, wherever they are located physically. With UPS and Fedex, items can be shipped overnight, products returned, etc.

Local John Deere dealer, Cape Girardeau Missouri. Case in point. Sells John Deere lawn mowers. It gets to be spring, and I take mine in for repair. The guy looks me RIGHT in the eye – “twelve week backlog buddy.”
WTF. I’m not going to NEED a lawn mower in August champ. In fact, he was rude about it. I felt like I was intruding even ASKING him to repair a lawn mower I’d bought from him a year before.

Feet don’t fail me now. It’s off to Walmart.

One year later, I run into him in a restaurant. He’s lamenting that at age 50 he has lost his dealership – everyone’s buying at Walmart or Online, and he has to start all over. Where are they going to get SERVICE he bleats plaintively. I bight the last inch of my tongue off completely and roll it around in my mouth. “Twelve week backlog buddy”. Had he WANTED to provide service, he simply would hire a couple of extra mechanics for the spring season. He wasn’t to be bothered. He’s unemployed.

What service? The manufacturer drop ships the product and answers most of the questions. Very little value add going on out there that I can see. And it’s easy to add. How about writing some INSTRUCTIONS to go in the box guy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ordered parts and received them, with NOTHING in the box. I can’t even tell what the part number is.

So we have a new world changing technology trying to reinvent distribution networks of the 1950s.

I understand my 500 new A123 cells are in St. Louis being held up by DHL as usual. Should be here in a day or two. We’ve added these to the EVTV store at $31 each. Yes, I know that’s more than what I paid. Duh.

Fortunately, it also covers the $1985 shipping and the $450 Paypal surcharge. And we’ll have to repackage them to go out. We intend to offer them for those viewers that want 8 or 16 or 32 or something to play with, test, experiment with, etc. After they have that all worked out, it would make sense to go through the angst of dealing with the Chinese directly for larger numbers. But this will work well enough for our viewers to get to play with them and test them and see for themselves before committing to a larger order. And yes, we’ll unapologetically make a couple of ducats per cell on the deal.

The other thing on my mind these days is that March was about when we kicked off the idea of an Electric Vehicle Conversion Convention last year. We got quite a surge of signups. We sincerely hope and plan for a larger and better convention this year. Registrations are $595 again this year, with a discount to $400 between now and 1 June. IF you bring a car, we will discount that to $99 each for up to two people per car recognizing the not inconsiderable expense of shipping a car out here. Ask those that did last year if it was worth it. THey had a blast. To register:

As noted last blog entry, David Kidd did a fascinating little 30 minute documentary on EVCCON 2011 I found quite engaging..



Bottom line is that I think we are facing a great future of unlimited potential with thousands of very interesting and passionate people engaged in a holy mission to change the world for the better, at least when it comes to energy usage. That there are a BILLION cars on the road as of July 2010, and each could be made 7-8 TIMES more efficient at energy usage while doing the same job is a HUGE benefit to mankind and the wobbly little blue marble we ride on. I’m neither dazed nor confused and in fact energized by excitement as to all the good things to come.

Feet don’t fail me now…..

Jack Rickard