I think we could call Julian Cox’s main presentation (he gave a couple) during our Berlin Cleantech Revolution Tour conference the keynote presentation of the conference. It was an eye-opening presentation (even for me) on why the Tesla Model 3 could be the key electric car that upends the global auto industry — and, no, this is not just about the ~400,000 reservations that have been placed for the car. You can watch most of it below, or you can skip the video and read on, where I will give you a hint of what he said but further encourage you to watch this video.
Julian started off his talk highlighting some fun facts regarding and defining technology disruptions, which he notes have always happened within the lifetime of one person and almost always happened with 20–30 years. Julian touched on the story of Kodak as one of many famous examples of a large company shooting itself in the foot by inventing the technology that went on to kill the company — with forward-looking implications for the GM EV1 and the Exxon invention of the lithium battery.
Regarding electric vehicles, Julian notes that Chevron bought the patents for the nickel-metal-hydride battery used in the GM EV1 and then stuck it on a dusty shelf to prevent progress. But something less well known is that ExxonMobil invented the lithium battery, in the 1970s. The exact chemistry for ExxonMobil’s battery was not really suited for production, but the company patented the lithium battery anyway … and that patent didn’t expire until the year 2000. After the patent expired, of course, is when commercial lithium-ion batteries enabled lower-cost and more-practical portable electronics like cell phones and laptops to take off. Julian also talked about other developments in the battery space, such as research that discovered how to make them rechargable, that was also critical.
That essentially led into a discussion of whether the Tesla Model 3 was a better and cheaper vehicle than any ICE car. For that, Julian compared the base Model 3 to the similarly priced and performing BMW 328i in numerous ways. For this segment of the presentation, I think you should just watch, starting at 12:10 in. (Though, really, I think you should set aside time to watch the entire presentation anyhow, since it includes numerous fascinating points.) As part of the Model 3 vs BMW 328i comparison, he also explains why it’s relatively pointless to make autonomous self-driving cars using internal combustion engines (non-electric cars), which includes an interesting tangent on Uber that has seemed obvious for a long time but is widely unacknowledged. Other brief tangents Julian goes on concern the convenience of home charging, the transition from horses to cars, the Chevy Bolt, and the mechanism of sub-prime leasing by which the disruption of the auto industry via EVs will most likely destroy incumbent auto companies (rather than incorporate them in an industry in transition). He discusses these matters in unique and I think useful ways that should be eye-opening to many people — especially the tangent on that last point, which was pretty eye-opening for me because of the details presented.
At 41:30 in, Julian examines total cost of ownership for the Tesla Model 3 vs the BMW 328i vs the Toyota Corolla. Yes, the Toyota Corolla! This segment, again, is really worth a watch. Check it out if you haven’t yet done so!
Footnote: Julian, while unapologetic for systematically dismantling the fabric of society, has asked me to say sorry on his behalf to the great John B. Goodenough for getting tongue tied and calling his LiCoO6 Cathode an Anode and referring to him as James. Other than that, Julian assures me everything appears to make sense as intended.