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.


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.


Is a Sub 2 Second 0-60 Tesla Roadster Suitable For Road Use?

With the recent revelation that Tesla are giving discounts on their yet to be unveiled new Roadster to Tesla owners with more than 10 referrals, the subject turned to evolving electric performance. More specifically, how much acceleration is too much.

If you’ve seen videos of people scaring the shit out of their family members and friends by doing hard launches in Tesla cars, then you’ll know how violent they are. Even the lowest spec Model S cars have far more acceleration than is necessary, but when you get into the sub 3 second 0-60 times, it starts to become dangerous in my opinion.

With the new Roadster, we’re probably looking at sub 2 seconds for 0-60, which in my view should only be accessible when the car knows it is at a race track / drag strip or in the relative safety of private property.

Unsurprisingly, this view is unpopular with many speed freak Tesla owners and fans other than myself who immediately rifle off a list of reasons as to why I’m entirely wrong. But let’s be honest, the P85D with insane mode was already extremely fast. But now they’ve gone so much further with the P100D Ludicrous. That car is capable of around 2.3 seconds to 60 in ideal conditions. That is crazy enough, but the Roadster as a sports car will be even crazier.

Tesla are trying to be all things to all people with the same car. They want to be the fastest, the safest, the most fun to drive and have the best self driving features. That in itself is a great thing, and as a driver I appreciate that sometimes I want to drive, and sometimes I would love to be driven around by the car. But when it comes to performance and safety, the only way you can truly have both is to limit the performance when being driven on public roads. Tesla cars know where they are and can adjust suspension settings depending on their location. It would be easy to make insane and ludicrous modes location aware.

I don’t think it would be right to do this on current models because owners bought the cars under the impression that they would always have insane and ludicrous modes available anywhere. But on newly built cars that have 0-60 times lower than 3 to 3.5 seconds, I think they should strongly consider making those modes track only. On current cars, they should take a more serious approach by strongly promoting these modes as designed for track use, rather than goading drivers into potential dangerous driving by asking if they want their mummies. It’s funny, but probably not the best idea.

It isn’t entirely unprecedented for Tesla to make changes in this vein. They updated the software to limit the number of ludicrous launches people could do lifetime before the power would be permanently lessened. They also did a similar thing with supercharger speeds for drivers who are very heavy users of rapid charging in order to protect the battery packs.

Something will inevitably have to give at some point. If Tesla don’t act first, then some kind of law will likely be brought in for fast cars in road use. It seems unlikely that authorities will turn a blind eye to extremely fast cars once the focus squarely turns to making autonomous cars and the road network in general as safe as it can possibly be for everyone.

I’m not a killjoy telling Tesla to stop making fast cars. Make them super fast, but be fast on track and keep them sensible on the roads.