Wird das Elektroauto wahr?

Ein schon etwas älterer (März 2009) Tech-Newsletter der NYTimes enthält ein langes, spannendes Interview mit einem Unternehmer, der große und revolutionäre Ideen zum Thema Elektroauto hat. Und es tatsächlich schaffen könnte. Anscheinend gibt es schon eine Menge Finanzierung und Verträge mit einigen Regierungen, unter anderem Dänemark, wo wir die Teile vielleicht schon Ende 2010 bewundern können.

Zunächst ist es lustigerweise eine neue Art Unternehmer, in einem gewissen Sinn könnte das jeder von uns sein:

DP: Now, you don’t strike me as a guy with a lot of car experience. Why is everybody buying into this vision that you, a software guy, are bringing them?

SA: Well, I’m more of an integration guy. So if you think about it, even though I was at SAP, SAP is about understanding the art of technology, the software part, but also understanding the processes of business. And if you look at what I did in the past, I managed teams who brought about a 100 products a year. We had labs in 25 countries around the world. Very, very complex solutions that drove the largest companies on earth, including car companies. What I bring in is that understanding of complexity of both the technology and the economy.

When you look at the problem mobility with a fresh set of eyes, sometimes you find solutions that the guys who are sort of locked in the inertia of day-to-day business–have missed.

Dann eine pessimistische Perspektive auf den Erfolg der Hybrid-Autos:

DP: What do you think about hybrid cars?

SA: Well, the most successful hybrid car in the world, Prius, is roughly around 1 or 2 million cars. Out of about 750 million cars. In other words, we’re having 0.0 percent effect on oil consumption.

During those 12 years, we added 200 million gas cars. We’re moving really slowly if we’re gonna go to hybrid! What you need to do is you go to zero: zero emissions, zero oil. And you have to scale it to infinity, if we really want to make a difference.

Und dann kommt das neue Geschäftsmodell:

DP: Explain how this is different from all the failed electric car programs that have come before.

SA: Most of the car efforts were done from within the car, and assuming that there is no infrastructure change at all. It’s as if people were trying to build cars, but skipping over the gas station.

We started from the infrastructure. We came up with an electric car that would have two features that nobody had before. 1) The battery is removable. So if you wanted to go a long distance, you could switch your battery instead of waiting for it to charge for a very long time.

And 2) It was cheaper than gasoline car, not more expensive. Because you didn’t buy the battery. You paid just for the miles and for the car.

DP: So what will you guys make? What will you do?

SA: We sell miles, the way that AT&T sells you minutes. They buy bandwidth and they translate into minutes. We buy batteries and clean electrons–we only buy electrons that come from renewable sources–and we translate that into miles.

DP: What are we talking about here? What’s the infrastructure you’re building?

SA: We have two pieces of infrastructure. 1) Charge spots. And they will be everywhere, like parking meters, only instead of taking money from you when you park, they give you electrons. And they will be at home, they’ll be at work, they’ll be at downtown and retail centers. As if you have a magic contract with Chevron or Exxon that every time you stop your car and go away, they fill it up.

Now, that gives us the ability to drive most of our drives, sort of a 100-mile radius. And that’s most of the drives we do. But we also take care of the exceptional drive. You want to go from Boston to New York. And so on the way, we have what we call switch stations: lanes inside gas stations. You go into the switch station, your depleted battery comes out, a full battery comes in, and you keep driving. It takes you about two, three minutes–less than filling with gasoline–and you can keep on going.

Dafür muss in der Tat einiges passieren. Wobei der Verweis auf die aktuell anlaufenden Stimulus-Pakete meiner Meinung nach viel Sinn macht. Wäre eine gute Möglichkeit, das Geld sinnvoll auszugeben. Ach, wäre!

DP: But it sounds like you’re talking about a parallel universe, where there are hundreds of thousands of charging spots and switch stations. There aren’t any.

SA: Well, that’s what we’re building. If you think of our first location in Israel, we will have about a quarter of a million charge spots before the first car shows up. Just like you wouldn’t buy a cell phone on a network that wasn’t built yet. You have to first build the network. And then let the cars come in.

And so we put a massive investment in big infrastructure projects: Green jobs. A new electric infrastructure for cars.

Kann man Autofahren anschauen wie Mobiltelefonieren?

DP: How will it work for a subscriber? Specifically?

SA: Most of what we’ve done is try to make it convenient. We don’t want you to pass a credit card when you charge the car. We don’t want you to pay every time you switch the battery. We looked at it from the angle of convenience.

And so we’re probably gonna see three different pricing models. In some places, you’ll see it sort of as pay-as-you-go, very much like a gas tank. I mean, if you think about it, a gas tank is sort of the prepaid phone-card model of cars. You come, you buy 400 miles, you drive ‚em. You buy another 400 miles.

So they’ll be something like that in the base package. There’ll be a fixed number of miles, plus a surcharge if you go more than that–1,500 miles a month or something in that range. And then there’ll be the all-you-can-drive model. You pay one-time fee, you and your family can drive as much as you want on that car.

And we like those guys the most. Because effectively, what they do is they take the drivers who consume the most oil, and spew out the most pollution and CO2 emissions, off the road first. ‚Cause if you come and tell people there’s a flat fee, then the guys who drive the most, the extremes of the extremes, think you’re crazy, and they’re the first ones who come in and jump. So it’s a self-selection process of the guys who we want to get off the road first.

So richtig?!

What we also do is, if you’re committing to driving a long distance–for example, if you’re committing to 20,000 miles a year–we give you a discount. And a discount can be sometimes $50 a month, sometimes $100 a month, towards the car. In other words, we pay for your financing of the car. And so you get a car that’s actually cheaper than its gasoline equivalent, depending on how many miles you commit. You can go all the way down– and in the case of people who drive a lot, like taxis–all the way down to zero.

DP: Free car? If you sign up for the maximum minutes plan?

SA: This is Oprah for everybody. Right? (LAUGH) It’s, „You all got a free car!“

Abschließend noch, warum wir in Europa das schneller erwarten können als die armen Amerikaner:

DP: Oh. And– do you have any idea how much that might cost?

SA: It depends on the price of gasoline in the market that we’re coming in, because we’re replacing gasoline miles. So if you’re in a country where gasoline is at $7, $8 a gallon, which is what Europe is right now, the cost of a mile is much higher. If you’re in the Bay Area or in Hawaii, you’re paying a lot less per mile. So we need to be competitive with the price of gasoline in the location. That’s why Europe has a significant advantage over the U.S. in getting these kinds of solutions in place.

Das vollständige Interview enthält noch einige spannende Details zur technischen Umsetzung und zu den politischen und Lobby-Hürden, etwa Widerstand aus der Ölindustrie (der anscheinend aus eigennützigen Gründen gar nicht groß ist).

Das Video ist auch lustig, und man sieht den charismatischen jungen Multimillionäre mal aus der Nähe:

Datum: Montag, 27. April 2009 1:09
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