I’m almost at a loss for words. Since I wrote my comprehensive 100,000 km (62,137 miles) piece on all the practical details on owning a Tesla Model 3 last year, my premonition of the global transition to electric mobility getting trivial and making me forget all about it is manifesting. Closing in on 100,000 miles and 5 years of ownership, the world has changed and there is little more to say. However, I still have a few words, for anyone willing to listen.
Precisely 110 years after the fabulous Detroit Electric I experienced a couple of years ago was built, its purpose is being fulfilled. Why do I think 2023 is the year that we will forget about the EV revolution? Well, I won’t bore you with the numbers (other than maybe that Tesla Model Y just beat VW Up’s 10-year-old 1-year record of 13,000 units sold in Denmark). EV sales are exploding, even with much higher average sticker prices. We are on our way up the steepest part of the S-curve. The same kind that plows, book-presses, steam machines, cars, telephones, washing machines, televisions, computers, and thousands of other appliances have traversed since humans made the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers some 10,000 years ago.
It seems to me that the narrative is shifting from a technological perspective of the marvels of battery, drivetrain, and software innovations — to the end game of scaling with the horrors (or bliss if you like) of whole industries being disrupted. Under the guise of “supply chain challenges” we were supposed to believe that the old fossil-based transportation industry would be back with a vengeance. Indeed, some of the legacy incumbents will have us believe that products of the old era will still be sold 10 years from now. The incomprehension and repetition of the “Kodak moment” is mind blowing, yet expected, I suppose.
Who will buckle? In my relatively uninformed opinion, any manufacturer of passenger cars based on internal combustion technology and part suppliers thereof, will be gone in 10 years, even while trying to transition to electric. According to relatively well informed Tony Seba who has analyzed technology disruptions for longer than most, the time it took to get from 90% horse and carriage in 1903 New York to 90% automobile was only 10 years. We are now at 2% of all vehicles globally being fully electric, not market share, but actual EVs on the road.
The incumbents are talking about slowing EV demand, and are announcing these days that they are postponing and scaling down on EV manufacturing. This will cement their doom, and accelerate the growth of those at scale on electric only. We don’t even have to include elusive technologies like autonomous ride-hailing to see this at this point. Good ol’ manufacturing efficiency is enough to get the ball rolling.
Gone are the days of EV novelty. More than half of passenger cars sold in Denmark in September were electric: 48% BEV, 8% PHEV, 42% gasoline, 2% diesel. This is what disruption looks like. Closing in on the leveling out on the S-curve a few years from now, and the fossil-fueled cars will be a novelty. It makes me wonder, what will we be talking about next? I have a hunch: Prosperity.
When we talk EVs, we tend to think it’s mostly about a new kind of personal ownership of an appliance that will take us from A to B, but it’s not. It’s only the A to B part that matters. Firstly, at scale the cost of EVs will fall to such lows that was never possible with ICE vehicles simply due to differences in complexity and fueling infrastructure, thus making personal transportation affordable to maybe an order of magnitude more people on earth on this premise alone. Secondly, if autonomous transportation as a service becomes reality, everybody on Earth will be able to afford the transportation needed to not only sustain themselves, but also to seek a better future.
If you grew up in a place where it is possible to at least take the bus reliably every day to the nearest town to work, go to school, or trade, you may not intuitively appreciate fully the way the world is about to change. If on the other hand you grew up in a village so far away from any reliable infrastructure that it is impossible to even think about a daily routine outside of living on the soil under your feet, you will probably intuitively understand what this would mean. You might not believe it would ever be possible, but I strongly believe this is in fact what is happening. This is why the everyday talk about EVs as personally owned transportation appliances is getting less interesting to me. Something much larger is happening. Changes that can end wars.
When the world’s information, energy, and transportation systems become cheap, abundant, and distributed, prosperity will spread. At some point in the future, I think sooner than most others will believe, there will be much less fighting over land and resources in general, and for the first time in human history we might finally achieve what we really and truly want for ourselves: Peace.
I could have ended it here, and most of you would have thought, what a douche, what does he know about what the don’t-haves think? He lives in one of the richest countries of the world, drives a Tesla, and thinks he knows anything? Well, yeah, I can understand you would think that. It just so happens that at age 12 and again at age 16 I lived in rural Africa with my mother and sister, and my mother was the new global citizen type who didn’t think twice if she had to attend some important meeting in Europe for a few weeks, so she would leave my younger sister and myself behind in the small village with 50 miles to the nearest phone. Taken care of by trusted neighbors who would make sure we were ok. We attended local school and had friends at the very lowest levels of this planet’s human hierarchy, and those not dead today are still my closest friends. I know what they dream about, and it’s not war.
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