Category Archives: innovative technology

Portland Auto Show’s Dynamic Tension; Consumer Pull v. Dealer Resistance

 (Photo- Thanks to Joe Mayer.  On the right is Oregonian Reporter Scott Learn talking to Charlie Allcock of PGE.  The distinguished looking guy on the far left is me (ha) speaking to Cindy Laurilla, Manager of Real Estate for PGE.)

Okay, I’m tired. I just spent the last four days manning the ClipperCreek Booth at the Portland Auto Show, speaking to consumers, networking with dealers and industry insiders, breathing the air, taking the temperature, trying to keep my mind open to determine “the truth” about where we are as a going as but a small slice of the industry; in Zen Buddhism, this is known as exercising the beginner’s mind.  Before I quickly shift gears into the week, I need to share some observations that we all must process as we continue to promote this technology vociferously.

The first is we need to stop allowing ourselves to be pigeonholed as “green”.

The Portland Auto Show has put our technology in the “Eco-Center” for the past three years.  Our real name is the “Advanced Vehicle Technology Center.” If smoke comes out of your tailpipe in 2013, you are not driving an advanced vehicle.  You are driving old technology and reading yesterday’s newspaper.  To rephrase a Palinism, a putting lipstick on a pig does not make it less porcine.  I thought of this as I looked at the “new” Chevy Corvette.  We need to force our hand.  If we’re paying for exhibiting, we should drive the proper message.  We must be clear that these cars are not about being green, they are about superior driving experience, interactivity, and the future. Should we have booth babes? Ah, I won’t even go there.

The media.  We had an Oregonian reporter, Scott Learn, (whose name seems appropriate for someone in journalism) come to the Eco Center and speak for an hour to many knowledgeable people- including Charlie Allcock of PGE who was recently listed as one of the top one hundred electrifying leaders nationally.  Was he quoted in the article? No.  “Are Electric Vehicles Poised to turn Corner with Public?” was the title.  “Too Pricey.”  “Too much Plastic inside.”(?) “What if we run out of juice?” were all issues stated in theopening paragraphs. But the best line of all, from GM’s spokesmen Kevin Kelly, “The biggest issue here is cost, let’s just be honest.”  Then more than halfway through the article things got rosier and some follow-up comments were hopeful.  Kelly added,  that the cost is dropping and “we’ll see generational improvements and we’re working on those as fast as we can.”  He likened it to other new technologies like cell phones and the range and other performance metrics are ticking up as the costs fall.  So all is not doom and gloom, but we have a lot of convincing- of the media, consumers and dealers- to do.

Tesla needs to be at these shows.  Consumers demand to see the Tesla and the Auto Dealers refuse to let them into these dealer-sponsored shows because they are not part of the “franchise” network but do direct selling.  So what?  This show is about consumers, and the Tesla perfectly exemplifies advanced vehicle technology.  If the Dealers won’t allow Tesla to be present, we should have them (even if its only obliging Tesla owners) rent space at a neighboring parking lot and show people the cars there.  Seriously.

What really continues to frighten me is the fact that Auto Dealers do NOT want to sell these cars.  Walking the main floor, NOT ONE AUTO DEALER HAD INFORMATION ABOUT THE $7500 FEDERAL TAX CREDIT.  Excuse me?  They said such things as, well not everyone qualifies and so we can’t tell them about it. Huh? As someone versed in the art of persuasion, having litigated hundreds of cases in state and federal courts, and having been a consumer for over fifty years, since when is a huge potential savings on a product not critical information for decision making?  The only takeaway is that there is an ongoing force or forces at work the dealership level (and beyond) to NOT sell these cars.  What that source is and what is sustaining it in the face of consumer interest remains to be clearly defined, but it is clearly present.  We must work around the dealers recalcitrance whenever possible.

ECOtality no longer provides free charging stations in the Northwest- whether to promote furtherpublic infrastructure or to give to residential customers.  It happened.  The market is starting to shift and EVSE providers will now have an opportunity to enjoy open competition.  Dealers no longer have the luxury of pointing their customers to one source (because its easy to sell “free”) and the consumer and local electricians will win. Period.

People are infinitely curious about these cars.  The most common questions are- how long do they take to charge?  What is their range?  What do you think of your LEAF? How much does electricity cost?  People have reasonable questions and the dealers are not answering them, particularly about charging.  Members of the EVSE industry and public advocates need to fill this gap.  My main response to consumer questions is for them to drive the cars and see what they think.  Test drive a Volt and a LEAF.  Speak to other owners.  The public is tired of paying gas prices that tap $200-$600 per month of their income.  They are hungry for alternatives.  We should feed them!

Thank your local electric utility (if they show up at the car show with a booth). PGE had a booth all four days with people answering questions, showing customers the LEAF, sharing information.  Your electric utility is your new “dealer” when it comes to advanced vehicle technology.  They have nothing to lose and everything to gain- just like the consumer.  Thank them for putting resources into this movement toward electrified transportation.  They get it.

Comments?  What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

PHEV/BEV 2012 YTD Domestic Sales- Reaching 50,000!

While Obama’s goal of one million EVs on the road by 2015 seems unrealistically ambitious, we are seeing signs that these vehicles are ticking off good sales numbers this year. We should reach 50,000 if December sales stay on track.  Note that these numbers do not reflect Tesla, Fisker and ThinkCity electric vehicle sales.  Portland has received 125 ThinkCity vehicles to date. These figures also do not reflect other types of electric vehicle manufacturer data- such as electric motorcycle sales, light duty trucks and electric vehicle conversions- which all have a bearing on the health and growth of charging infrastructure.

What do you think of these numbers?

Volt Mitsubishi Ford Focus Prius PlugIn Rav4 Nissan Leaf Honda Fit C-Max Energi PHEV
2011 7671
January 603
February 1023
March 2289
April 1462
May 1680
June 1760
July 1849 12
August 2831 403 6082 4228 12
September 2851 36 1652 54 984 12 5589 Sept
October 2961 30 346 1889 54 1579 12 144 7015 Oct
November 1519 42 172 1766 32 1539 26 1259 6355 Nov
December 0 Dec
2012 20828 511 518 11389 140 8330 74 1403 43193 YTD
YTD Total – reported 20828 511 518 11389 140 8330 74 1403
Total Since SoP 28499
Numbers taken from all these sources http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1078919_august-plug-in-electric-car-sales-volt-surges-leaf-static
http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1079543_september-plug-in-electric-car-sales-steady-as-tesla-sells-200-or-so
http://www.usatoday.com/story/driveon/2012/10/01/fisker-karma-tony-posawatz-electric-car/1607095/
http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1080805_november-plug-in-car-sales-volt-falls-by-half-leaf-steady
http://green.autoblog.com/2012/12/04/november-alt-fuel-sales-stay-solid-with-higher-ford-c-max-nissa/

EVs-Medicine that Tastes Good

 

Sometimes even when you arrive late to the party, it’s still hopping, there’s plenty of booze left and no one makes you feel guilty.

I had a chance to test drive the Tesla Roadster, courtesy of Clipper Creek, Inc’s CEO Jason France at their headquarters in Auburn, California.  My  opportunity was an unexpected pleasure and came at a moment when the Tesla S Sedan has been released and is making waves among auto critics, like WSJ’s Dan Neil, as the most amazing car they’ve driven. Period. Tesla is about experiencing road as a joyful blend of clean technology and butt pinching acceleration.  I have to say this car was the most amazing machine I have ever driven…but of course you knew I was going to say that.  More importantly, I believe it has the capacity to alter society’s perception of the electric drive.  I’ve never been in a car before that has a G-force meter.

If Tesla’s experiment accomplishes anything before history marches past this moment, it is its nudging of Americans toward the realization that electricity is fun to drive.  And it comes none too soon as much of the country is wrapped in a stifling hot blanket of heat and humidity, marking the sixth month of record breaking temperatures.  (The Pacific Northwest being the only part of the country seemingly immune for the moment).

I was down to meet the folks at Clipper Creek, a US based charging manufacturer, as I started my role as their Business Operations Manager for the Pacific Northwest, and to learn more about their Level One and Two charging series as well as their plans to make purposeful variations to meet utility smart grid interoperability requirements and higher level charging needs of fleet trucks such as Smith, Via Motors, and eStar electric vehicles. Call me or email me if you would like to learn more about how we can find the right charging station for your application.  I also provide a discount code for folks who call me directly. I find myself incredibly energized and, like Tesla, ready to push the limits of electric vehicle technology! More later…