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.


Are Most EV Drivers Climate Deniers?

I’ve been part of my local EV owners group for getting on for a year now. Who do I see there? Well, mostly older people with disposable income. Buying 2 ton cars from Tesla and others. They have petrol cars as well, big detached houses, go on far flung holidays etc. It’s not enough to have an EV and solar on the roof, and a Zappi charger. There are some Leafs, some Zoes, Niros and Konas etc, and then there’s me with my “cheap” Smart ForTwo EQ. A bargain at £17,000 for my fellow poor millennials. If you don’t live at home, you probably can’t afford it.

What people in the group tend to talk about most include the new electric cars coming out, cost savings over fuel, 0-60 times, and charging infrastructure. Things that I care deeply about, some of which are the main reasons I bought an EV: climate, pollution, congestion, cycling, micro mobility and more, basically never come up. Unless I bring them up. Even autonomy and RoboTaxis have never been mentioned to me at least, once again, unless I bring them up.

I’ve watched Bjørn Nyland on YouTube since 2013 when he got his Model S. I think I was a little late but I went back and watched the videos I’d missed, and haven’t missed one since. I commented on a recent video of his road trip, and in particular one where he was in Bern. He met multiple followers who had flown around the world, and I made a comment questioning this American guy’s sustainability credentials.

The response I received from Bjørn took me by surprise to say the least. It was scathing. He brought up meat, enjoying life(?) and flying, which is the one thing I actually brought up in my comment. Because obviously flying has a gargantuan impact on your footprint. I’ve watched many videos of Bjørn flying around the world and eating meat, often in the same video, and said nothing. He has brought up the issue of Tesla drivers littering superchargers, and the problem of food waste, so he’s doing a lot of good. And you can’t argue with what he’s done in selling hundreds of people on EVs they might not have bought otherwise. I just hope he keeps progressing and carries on taking the next steps, because that will send a huge message to his 150,000 subscribers.

As EVs have progressed and gained somewhat mainstream traction, it seems as if they’ve lost their way in terms of the message they’re sending. While I understand why Tesla have focused on straight line performance as a way to attract petrol heads and other non-environmentalists, with the other automakers it’s a different story. They refuse to compare EVs to fossil counterparts, refuse to talk about their pollution reducing aspects in many cases.

Luckily, Tesla are about much more than just acceleration times. RoboTaxis, Trucks, Solar, Storage, eBikes? (fingers crossed). But regardless of whether or not Tesla do an eBike, I feel like it’s becoming ever clearer that micromobility is where the real action and change is right now and going forward. So many form factors, so much innovation, and it’s so simple. We just need to open our minds up to a new way of getting around. And also open up to the idea of better quality vehicles, not just £300 scooters that can be dangerous on our bumpy roads (once they’re actually legal). Once we do that, the opportunities are almost limitless. I just wish people would talk to me about these things for once, not just the other way around.

To go back to the title of this post, I don’t think most EV drivers are deniers. But the majority are most certainly not environmentalists. I think the true environmentalists are about to shun car ownership entirely, shun big detached houses and flying. Among other things.