Book Review: Insane Mode – by Hamish McKenzie

Tesla has changed the landscape of the automotive industry. Musk, through sheer vision and will, made that happen. Other people certainly could also have done it, but it would have taken longer. The large automotive firms, like Toyota, Daimler-Benz, BMW, GM, Ford, Nissan, all could have started the revolution, but they didn’t. Just like Checker Cabs could have become the Uber, but didn’t. It takes vision and grit to make a revolution happen. Musk had both, the started something unique, he started something big. In the the end, Tesla might not succeed, but the movement will certainly survive and there will be electric vehicles everywhere.

In Insane Mode, McKenzie guides us through that revolution and gives us the back story. He also shares some of his own thoughts and vision on just what an impactful revolution the electrification of automobiles actually brings, and how much it will change the way we live, work and play.

Insane Mode will change the way you think about electric vehicles. If you have an enterprising mind, it will make you ponder where you might apply your own ingenuity in the tremendous opportunities the near future offers.

Tesla Autopilot

The Tesla Model S is an app with a car attached. Today was the first day that Model S owners could upgrade their car to drive itself. That’s the way to build a car. This is American ingenuity. American jobs.

Protectionism Never Works – Very Long

Daimler Benz uses Tesla’s batteries and their powertrain for their electric cars. Toyota uses a Tesla motor. Consumer Reports rated the Tesla Model S higher than any car it ever reviewed. Automobile Magazine and Motor Trend named it the Car of the Year in 2013. It exceeds 200 miles on a charge, and getting better. The Tesla is here to stay.

Yet, Texas decided that consumers cannot buy it in their state, since Tesla does not subscribe to the dealer-based business model, where dealers, which Tesla considers unnecessary middlemen, simply mark up the product. So any Texan that wants a Tesla has to travel out of state to get one.

The ride-sharing company Uber provides a superior service and an alternative to taxicabs. When you request an Uber car on your smartphone, you see where the cars in your area are. It tells you when it will arrive. You see it coming toward you on a map. You also see a picture of the driver, his or her name, a picture of the car coming for you, the make and model, and the license plate number. When you step into into the car, which usually comes faster than advertised, you greet the driver by name, he already knows your name and has your number. If he had trouble finding you he already called you. You get your ride and when you are done, there is no worry about the price. It’s set by the system. There is no tip. You need no cash or credit card. You simply get out of the car and the fare shows up in your account seconds later. No flagging cabbies. No strangers behind plexiglass walls. No racket with prices. The prices are better than cabs.  No hassles with tips. Much safer for both the ride and the driver, since both are registered by the system. It’s a truly superior service.

Yet, in New York City, they are now going to “study the impact of Uber” before they will allow it to grow. Well, of course it’s going kick taxicab butt! The day of the taxicab racket is over. In New York City, you have to have a “Medallion” to drive a cab, which costs more than $1 million. With Uber, you just sign up.

Protectionist regulation, like in the example with Tesla and Uber, never work, at least not very long. The new service or product, if truly better, will blow the old established ones away.

Why is there Netflix? Why are we not streaming Blockbuster into our televisions?

Why aren’t we uploading our pictures to Why do Instagram and Flickr even exist?

Why aren’t we buying our books at and all our products at Why was Amazon able to rise?

Why is Google a verb? Why don’t we “Excite” or “Yahoo!” or “Alta Vista” or “Bing?”

Why don’t we buy our music at instead of at iTunes?

Because in every case, the old stodgy institutional company was not nimble enough to realize what was happening to them until it was too late, and the newcomers provided superior products.

Good luck, Texas, with your trying to keep Teslas out of the state and propping up your car dealers.

Good luck, New York, holding up the medallion-based taxicab culture.

Good luck, protectionists!




Book Review: Elon Musk – by Ashlee Vance


The subtitle for this book is Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.

There are not many people in history that have created a billion-dollar company. The odds against are astronomical. Elon Musk has created several billion-dollar companies, and right now he is running two of them simultaneously. That is utterly astounding. What does it take to do that?

This biography describes who Musk is and how it came about that he was able to accomplish what he did. It starts with his childhood in South Africa, his rocky upbringing and unfortunate family circumstances. He landed in Canada with the proverbial few dollars in his pockets and started working hard, taking menial jobs and trying to be creative. And he made it big. He is now one of the icons of high-tech business in the world. And he has only just started. As I write this, he is only 44.

The biography of Elon Musk is required reading for anyone who wants to start a business.

I have started a business, and run one, and am still running one. Elon Musk started his first business after mine was already established, and he built Tesla and SpaceX long after I was already rolling along. There is a lot I can learn from him.

Reading this excellent biography by Ashlee Vance was a good start.

Rating - Four Stars

Test-driving a Traditional Gas-powered Car

Assume we didn’t have cars. To go to the store, you would have to go to the barn, bring out your horse, put on the harness, attach the harness to the wagon, then get on the wagon and “drive” the horse to town. Just getting ready to leave is a major production and takes a lot of time. Keeping a horse is very expensive. When you are used to cars, going back to a horse would indeed be challenging and frustrating.

Now imagine for a moment that electric cars are now the standard. What would it be like to go back to a traditional car?

Traditional or hybrid cars have anywhere from hundreds to thousands of moving parts. There is no engine with coils, cylinders, valves, spark plugs, distributors, alternators, belts, crank shafts, water pumps, gas pumps, carburetors, transmissions, fans and exhaust systems. An electric car, according to Tesla, has about a dozen moving parts. There really are only the wheels, the steering mechanism, brakes, and an electric engine the size of a watermelon between the rear wheels.

Here is a hilarious story of someone doing just that: looking at a traditional car from the standpoint of the customary electric one.


Michigan Bans Tesla Stores

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law effectively banning Tesla Motors  from selling its cars in the state. After Texas, Arizona, New Jersey and Maryland, Michigan is the fifth state to do so.

I cannot figure out what problem all these laws are trying to solve. I can go into an Apple store and buy an iPad directly from the manufacturer. I can go into my local gallery and buy a painting from the artist. Why can’t I buy a car from the manufacturer, if there’s a store right there?

They are arguing that it is good for consumers by protecting them.

From What? From Tesla?

I see this as protectionist laws. Our lawmakers, obviously “purchased” by the car dealer lobby, are trying to make sure that the middleman get his cut, it’s as simple as that.

If you have to have laws keeping others out of your market, if you have nothing more to offer in your business model that gives consumers some value in the process of “dealing” with you – pun intended, then you truly have a business model that sucks and you’re on your way out.

Check typewriter manufacturers, travel agents, video rental stores, water-bed stores and Kodak.

Fortunately, the free market doesn’t put up with that very long, and it finds a way around that.

Just wait and watch.


Banning Tesla

New Jersey, after Arizona and Texas, has banned the sale of Tesla cars under the excuse that it’s for ‘consumer protection.’

Here is a creative, innovative and game-changing company that invented a unique product, brought it to market, manufactures that product in America, creating American jobs, and they are banned from selling their product on three states so far.

What happened to the free market trumpeting that we keep hearing from the conservative side? The market apparently is self regulating when it comes to oil pipelines, coal power plants, cattle ranches, corn farmers, natural gas drillers, insurance companies and banks.

But when a new car company arises that builds the highest ever rated car we need the government to regulate where and how it can sell that car?

It’s ludicrous. People who want to buy a Tesla in New Jersey will simply travel to another state to get theirs. And then come back over the George Washington bridge. When they stand in traffic, their engines will be off, and they won’t be polluting.

Tesla will succeed in spite of scaredy-cat regulatory protectionism.

Tesla to Open Battery Factory in the U.S.

The electric car company Tesla announced that it is going to build a $5 billion battery factory in the United States. Candidates for the location of the factory are Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are among the states. The finished batteries would be shipped to Tesla’s assembly plant in Fremont, California. The factory will cover 500 to 1000 acres and employ up to 6,500 people.

I predict that in about ten years from now, the greatest contribution of Tesla will not have been the manufacture of a new type of car, even though that’s how they make all their headlines today. Tesla’s biggest contribution will be the advance of battery technology, which will fuel (pun intended) many of our devices besides cars and trains. New battery technology is ever more critical on our way to energy independence and, more importantly, the advance of totally renewable energy.

Having more efficient, less expensive capability to store energy is paramount to our effort to cut ourselves off from fossil fuels.

Go Tesla!


Texas Bans Sale of the Tesla

The Tesla Model S is changing how we think about cars.

It was the first electric car to win Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.

Then John Broder, the New York Times journalist for automotive published a bad review which caused an uproar, partly because he intentionally depleted the battery by driving in circles in a parking lot, as alleged by Tesla. Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, wrote a blog post to that effect on Tesla’s site.

Then the Model S received an unprecedented 99 out of 100 rating from Consumer Reports.

Most recently, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it’s also the safest car ever.

This might just be the most revolutionary car in history, and it’s conceptualized, designed, built and marketed in the good United States of America. We’re manufacturing again, and it’s something phenomenal.

So why does the state of Texas ban its sale and why are several other southern states trying to do the same?

Because Tesla does not want to sell through the dealer network. To buy a Tesla, you buy it directly from the company, without hassling with dealers, their markups and all the overhead that comes with it. All Tesla cars cost the same.

Imagine a wondrous place like a Tesla store where you can go, test-drive a car, make your payment and drive away. No haggling. No hidden costs. No other car-dealer tricks. It’s somewhat like the Apple store for cars.

Suddenly the car dealers get all nervous.

This is what Bill Wolters, the president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, said:

This happens all the time. Someone wants an exception to the franchise laws. If we made an exception for everybody that showed up in the legislature, before long the integrity of the entire franchise system is in peril.

Heck, I did not even know there WAS a franchise system! Now I get it. The car dealers had it rigged all along. They have an artificial barrier, something like a country club, that is protected by laws keeping everyone that does not play by the same rules out of competition. I had no idea I can’t just start building cars and selling them.

It does not seem to matter that a new company on the block gets to sell American goods, create American jobs, move America forward in the world. Bought-off politicians are suddenly eager to cut this job creator off at the roots because it puts their franchise system in peril.

If you have to protect yourself behind legislation or regulation to compete, you’re already dead. I would recommend reading of a little Ayn Rand to the Texas Automobile Dealers Association.

I am rooting for Tesla, the company that needs to win this battle, and shake up the good network of car dealers. This is good old American disruption on its way.

One of my reader asked if anyone ever heard of a Tucker? There were only 51 Tuckers built before the company folded. The reader implied that Tesla was going to go the way of Tucker. Did he know that in June 2013, Tesla sold 1425 vehicles. In California, Tesla sold more cars than Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mitsubishi, Porsche, and Volvo. Tucker? Really?

Now when can I afford one?

CO2 Emissions due to Electric Vehicles

We cannot argue with the fact that Tesla has been in the headlines lately for several reasons. First, they announced that the company would be profitable this year and was on track paying back government loans earlier than planned. Second, they got the 2013 MotorTrend Car of the Year award.

Tesla Model S

Opponents argue that electric vehicles, since they are powered by the public grid which is largely fueled by coal, emit twice the amount of CO2 that gasoline vehicles spew over their lifetime.

It turns out that this claim is incorrect, yet I admit that it is definitely not a simple calculation, and depending on the outcome one likes, one could come up with different results.

An electric vehicle in 2008, charged from the public grid, emitted indirectly 115 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven whereas a conventional U.S. gas-powered car emitted 250 grams of CO2 per kilometer, mostly out the tailpipe.

As the U.S. power grid is converted away from coal to wind, solar and other alternative and renewable power sources, this ratio got better with every year that has gone by since 2008 and it will continue to do so in the future.

In addition, Tesla is installing supercharging stations on major highways, where their cars can be re-charged halfway in 30 minutes – for free – giving a range of another 150 miles. The stations are completely solar-powered. Zero emissions when going to the superchargers.

30 minutes is a long time on a road trip, but the strategy of locating the stations near restaurants, shopping centers and other attractions allows customers to plug in their cars, go to lunch, get coffee and come back for another 2 hours of driving.