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The Future of Public Transport Part 1: Why Tesla Hasn’t Made a Bus

Elon Musk recently tweeted that he didn’t believe public transport as it exists today is viable for the future. That’s not due to Covid. He’s always thought that personal public transport is the future. As much as I wish Tesla had made a bus, because it could have made a huge impact by now if they had, I also think he’s correct. Tesla RoboTaxis combined with Boring Company “Loop” systems of tunnels and stations could kill off local traditional offerings. Especially in countries which don’t have very good public transport.

It’s sad when you consider what Tesla could have done by now had they wanted to. But to be fair to them, if the company had gone down the route of making buses back in the Model S early days then they probably wouldn’t have generated the same hype it did and Tesla probably wouldn’t have got to where it is right now.

Luckily we have companies like Proterra whose CEO, former Tesla exec Ryan Popple probably left because he also knew that Tesla wasn’t interested in traditional buses. Companies like Proterra and Arrival will help to keep the bus industry somewhat innovative over the coming years. And combined with EV models from the traditional European makers and the huge Chinese brands that have taken over the industry in the last decade or so should keep buses relevant for a while yet. Yutong and BYD are making a lot of electric buses, but are not really innovating that much in my view. They’re basically making exactly the same buses, just with batteries. And that’s a good thing for the time being. But I don’t think that will be enough in the longer term to persuade people to keep riding the bus when far more advanced mobility solutions come along. And that’s an inevitability.

And this is all before you talk about e-bikes and e-scooters cutting into their ridership. There’s going to be a lot of change in the next decade. I think to keep ridership high, they’re going to have to invest heavily in other aspects of the business like linking in with MaaS, smartcards such as Oyster, and other helpful features to make travelling as seamless as possible for passengers. My local bus company has done it the other way round. They have a pretty decent app with live tracking, digital ticketing and a smartcard for season ticket holders. But no EVs at all. They really need to fix that quickly. But with Covid dragging on forever, they’ll be able to roll out every excuse in the book as to why they can’t ditch diesel. So who knows how this will play out.

In order to talk about trains I need a whole other post. I’ll be talking about Hyperloop and the threat it poses to high speed rail.

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Miscellaneous

Why do Some Parts of the Left Hate Elon Musk?

Tesla Freemont Factory

There seems to be a theme running through the left wing media. Many of the personalities and activists hate Elon Musk. But why? I think lack of knowledge is the key aspect, in addition to believing hit pieces in the mainstream press about him and his companies.

If I were to guess what these people associate Musk with, in no particular order I would say: billionaire, pointless space stuff, fast cars for rich people, abusive labour practices etc.

They’re not going to say sustainability, solar, self-driving cars, battery storage, making life multi-planetary and so on.

This lack of knowledge is really hurting his own brand and while it’s not exactly hurting the company right now, it has the potential to be very damaging further down the line. Especially once the corporate media decide they no longer need to smear him and Tesla and they all of a sudden are his biggest fans because they realise he’s corporate himself. And that could rile up the uneducated Tesla haters even more.

But the thing is, he’s doing corporate in a way people don’t understand. It’s not about greed as it usually is. It’s about making the world a better and safer place. And while he’s not perfect, he definitely doesn’t deserve the shit the he’s having to deal with from certain sections of the left wing. It must be weird being attacked by both left and right at the same time for totally different reasons. Perhaps that’s the sign of a true disrupter.

The guy isn’t perfect, and there are things I wish he and Tesla did differently as well. But when you’re in the public eye, you’re never going to be able to please everyone all the time. Especially when you’re as outspoken as he is. And that brings me on to my final point. Because he’s so active on Twitter for fun as well as for serious things, he makes himself a target in a way no other CEO does. Other manufacturing companies do things far more egregious than his companies ever have or will. But because he’s on Twitter constantly joking around, he winds people up no end.

I think things will settle down in the near future. Once Tesla are established in the S&P 500 and the hit pieces start drying up, and general knowledge about the company increases. But if all else fails, perhaps it would be a good time to do what I’ve been suggesting for a while and build battery electric buses, trains, e-Bikes and micro-mobility devices. I’m going to have a full post on buses soon if you’re interested in my thoughts on that.

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Miscellaneous

I Don’t Feel Like I Identify With Anyone

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Recently I’ve felt very alone in my views on the world. When I look at other people who I agree with on certain things, there are other things about them that bother me. Sometimes a lot. One of the only people I can think of who I agree with on pretty much everything is Greta Thunberg. She understands the immediate danger of the climate crisis, and she understands everything that is required to create a sustainable future. She understands social issues, and she understands economic issues including the fallacy of eternal economic growth.

Perhaps I’m on the autism spectrum as well. It would explain a lot about me and my uncompromising mentality. When she said that hope comes from action, it resonated with me strongly. When I don’t see action I feel deeply depressed and angry with the world. When I see corruption or apathy I despair at what we still are not as a global society.

I’m not one of those eternal optimists who always see the positives. Sometimes there are no positives. You have to have the ability to acknowledge that and take action to make the situation better. If you’re an optimist perhaps you don’t see the problem at all and therefore don’t take any action. Maybe eternal optimists are a big part of the reason we’re in the middle a climate disaster, and all of these far right wannabe dictators are running so many countries into the ground.

I’ve had people complain to me about how the country is or how the world is etc. But they told me that they believe whatever will be will be. It’s all fate. I would obviously counter that by saying if that’s what you’re resigned to, then that’s what you’ll get if you don’t engage with democracy. The bad people keep winning. And maybe stop complaining about how much Brexit sucks now too.

There are so many examples of times where I get frustrated when I’m dealing with people I broadly agree with. On the local Facebook cycling group, people are happy about the council doing next to nothing about cycling, and I come across as really negative, because I know what needs to be done and how fast. People don’t understand where I’m coming from and I just appear to be rude to them.

I commented on a YouTube video about sustainability talking about electric pick up trucks. It’s a channel I’ve subscribed to for years and really enjoy. I used to love electric cars. But because I’m always challenging myself and changing my mind on things, I’m now anti private car ownership (especially large cars). Most EV fans haven’t had the realization that cycling, Micromobility and autonomy are the future, and so I don’t get a lot of support.

The thought of how long it will take before everyone does get on the same page is terrifying to consider. Every day we waste is compounding the situation when we’re already facing a rapidly accelerating increase in temperatures, ice loss, sea level rise, extreme weather disasters etc. I spent 5 minutes this evening just looking out the window at the busy road which is basically back to the usual insane traffic level. The noise of every car just pisses me off at this point. I saw one Model 3 and one BMW i3, and even the two EVs I saw out of the hundreds of cars overall still made almost the same amount of noise due to the tyres. And then one girl on a bike rode past on the pavement, and there was no noise at all. One single cyclist. And not even one pedestrian.

When everywhere you look you see people who think net zero 2050 is a reasonable time frame for action and that we need to replace every single fossil car with an EV, it’s easy to feel like you’re alone. I feel fortunate that there are at least a handful of people out there who truly get it and help me to stay somewhat sane in an utterly mad world. I keep thinking the worst must be over by now, but it keeps surprising me again and again. I just have to pin my hopes on the way back down from the summit of stupidity being immensely faster than the long and arduous climb the last half century has been.

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Miscellaneous

We Should All Live in Premier Inn

I’ve stayed in Premier Inn quite a few times now. It’s a really convenient hotel to stay in and was especially helpful when I was doing EV road trips over the last few years. They’re all very similar in design. The rooms are virtually identical across the board, they’re good quality but not overly expensive, they’re air conditioned (I’ll get back to that) and they offer everything you need for your stay.

But it was only during my most recent stay in one, at the hotel north of the city of Cambridge that I realised I could live there. Of course you would need to have a cooker and therefore some kind of kitchen, but aside from that, it offers everything I need.

The location is great. It’s super quiet and I was able to cycle into the city centre easily with my Brompton using the guided busway path that runs all the way along it. It could have more separation between bikes and pedestrians but coming from the cycling hell that is Worthing, I was just happy to see no cars and a smooth surface. And storing the bike itself was incredibly easy. The rooms have a corner near the window where you can leave a full size bike or several full size bikes. A Brompton can be left there half folded with a huge amount of space remaining.

Even walking the bike through the hotel was easier than I thought. At first I folded it all the way down, but then I realised no one cared if it wasn’t folded, and so I just rolled it all the way through from my room to the lift, which it fitted in easily. And then straight through the lobby and out front. It was just pure joy. The fact that I was so excited by this seemingly simple revelation probably lends credence to my “cycling hell” comment.

The experience of cycling in Cambridge was great. It’s not Utrecht of course, but it’s a long way from a cycling hell, and for me it may as well have been a Dutch city for those few days I was there. But I want to get back to the subject of the hotel itself.

Premier Inns are generally in low to medium rise buildings, and built to a fairly modern design standard. These are exactly the types of dwellings we need to be building to facilitate sustainable living. It’s no longer enough to build 3 bedroom detached houses, equip them with solar panels and a heat pump and then brush your hands together and say job well done.

Real sustainability is living in the smallest area you can with the least amount of stuff you can. Instead of detached houses, it’s about modern apartment buildings with communal gardens. Or better yet, a street with only apartment buildings, with a giant green space connecting them all to help nature thrive. With no car parking, built for cycling. Secure bike parking garages and bike roads (with the ability for RoboTaxis or deliveries of large goods to get in. Not everything can be delivered by cargo bike after all.)

Last September when I was in Cambridge, I was there during a week of extreme temperatures. Fortunately not as extreme as the record setting time earlier in the summer, but it was still stifling every day. The fact that all rooms are individually air conditioned was so crucial during that time.

Every day I would get up early and get out on the bike as soon as I could. I enjoyed exploring the city and the surrounding area, and I aimed to get back to the hotel before midday, or before it got too hot.

And then I basically just relaxed in the air conditioned room until the evening when I went to get some dinner. Had it not been for the AC I would have really struggled to cope with the conditions. So I was really thankful to have it.

We need to immediately start building these types of low rise apartments immediately considering it takes years to design and build them. And we need to ban our favourite 90s style cookie cutter housing estates and limit the disastrous urban sprawl just as fast.

It’s really hard to be positive right now considering everything that’s going on. We can’t even solve a crisis that simply requires staying away from people and wearing masks. So when you then look everywhere and see basically everyone treating the climate disaster in the same stupid way, I don’t know what to do any more. But if people do smarten the fuck up in the near future and want to do something, then making housing look like Premier Inn would be a good place to start.