I realize that I may be guilty of "not getting with the program" on this whole electric car business, but does anyone else scoff at the idea there will be 100,000 Better Place cars on the road in 2010 or Tesla’s at every stoplight anytime soon?
Agassi, who spent months studying his venture, makes an interesting observation about the valley and the Motor City. "Detroit is a car manufacturing center. I think what we’re looking at is not something that can be done in a normal way. . . . It needs an Internet approach, a Google approach."
I’m generally an optimist but I really wonder about who is smokin what when I start reading things that apply the simplistic logic of "Silicon Valley does tech, tech changes everything, lot’s of money going into alternative energy, therefore SV will be the next Detroit".
First of all, neither of these companies is manufacturing cars in the traditional sense of auto companies do it today. The Tesla (which looks like a real blast to drive, I see them around town every so often) is a Lotus Elise chassis retrofitted with a new power and drivetrain system and technology licensed from AC Propulsion. Better Place isn’t manufacturing anything as far as I can tell, the premise appears to be a distribution system innovation dependent on some yet to be revealed electric car fleet emerging.
I admire the ambition of the people who build these companies, and even more so the investors who step up with the capital to make it possible, but having said that I would like to see some actual accomplishments in the marketplace of commerce and not just in the marketplace of ideas before we crown ourselves the next center of the automotive industry.
Lastly, the technology press that covers these companies displays a spectacular amount of ignorance about what is going on in the broader automotive marketplace. Car companies from Germany to Japan are investing billions of dollars, euros, and yen in new automotive technology, which by the way has proven to be expensive and time consuming to do irrespective of how many smart people are working on it.
It my view that the only certainty in clean technology right now is that we’ll end up with a whole bunch of ethanol plants in the middle of the country, and for years to come we’ll still be generating the overwhelming amount of our electricity from coal.