Looking Out - The Podcast: Ep. 10

There’s been a flood of news these past weeks about the slowdown in EV sales.

Challenging market conditions and the high cost of funding the transition to EVs is giving manufacturers cause for pause. Tesla is halting work on further factories, and GM and Honda scrapping a partnership to produce affordable EVs, for example/

Meanwhile, Mercedes EQ models are sat unloved and unsold on dealer lots, and the Chinese are struggling with overcapacity.

So what the heck is going on?

Is this just the expected chasm between the early adopters and the early majority of consumers in the EV adoption curve?

Or are there more fundamental issues with the product, sales, and service being offered by OEMs that will make that chasm so much harder to cross?

Click Read more’ for the transcript


Note: This transcript is machine-generated and may contain some errors.

[00:00:00] Drew Smith: EVs are coming whether or not you asked for them or earned them. He said, there’s too much of a price premium, especially at the top end of the EQ lineup and almost no lease support.”

[00:00:10] The executive said the EVs lack the lust factor of Mercedes gasoline powered flagship models such as the S Class sedan and AMG GT Coupe.

[00:00:19] Our cars need to be want cars, he said. The S Class has maintained good loyalty because it’s aspirational, and EQS is not something that most people aspire to own. And,

[00:00:32] Joe Simpson: Ooh, well that’s quite brutal.

[00:00:36] Drew Smith: I’m Drew Smith.

[00:00:38] Joe Simpson: And I’m Joe Simpson.

[00:00:39] Drew Smith: And welcome to Looking Out The Podcast, uh, auditory sidekick to the newsletter in which we connect the dots across the automotive industry, mobility, design, and culture.

[00:00:52] Joe Simpson: And coming up in this episode 10 and our third episode on YouTube, we’re going to have a chat about everyone’s favorite subject, EVs.

[00:01:04] Are EVs about to go mainstream or, as some recent articles are suggesting, are they about to hit the buffers

[00:01:12] Drew Smith: It’s interesting when you think about, um, just how all in the automotive industry has gone on EV and, and it felt like it was happening very, very slowly and then all at once. And

[00:01:28] Joe Simpson: you consider where we were ten years ago, or even five years ago, to where we are now.

[00:01:41] Drew Smith: It looks, say, in China, for example, like it’s an unstoppable force. Like, what is it there? It’s like 30 percent penetration at this point?

[00:01:49] Joe Simpson: Yeah, and I think, and Europe is kind of around, I think, 15%, but then there’s some markets that are way higher. Norway’s up in the 80s, Sweden’s in the 40s, the UK is kind of, I think, about 18%. Um, but then that contrasts quite starkly with certain places, right Drew? Right. Mm.

[00:02:10] Drew Smith: Well, so my home country, which, to be honest, in the global scheme of things, is a bit of an irrelevance, uh, we’ve only got 8 percent penetration in Australia. Um, I mean, that’s against a backdrop of, essentially, zero, sort of, government… Real government subsidies to, to, to, to speed adoption and the fact that we still don’t even have emission standards in Australia.

[00:02:35] So it’s very, very easy for manufacturers to sell low cost, high margin vehicles here, um, and, and get away with it. But what’s really surprising is, especially given the sort of the environment around subsidies is that in the United States, they’re still only at 6 percent penetration in that market.

[00:02:57] Joe Simpson: So that’s even worse than Australia, which appears to have no support and, you know, pretty much no network. And as you say, is kind of a, a bit of a special market in its own right.

[00:03:09] So what’s going on in the US? Um, we can see in recent news that, um, Uh, expensive EVs like the Mercedes EQS are sitting on dealer lots for quite a long time. I think it was 84 days is the average time an EQS spends on a Mercedes dealer lot in, um, And then last week we got this, uh, quite surprising and strange bit of news, um, which is a study, uh, conducted by S& P Global Mobility, which said that when we look at, uh, take, um, electric car owners today on a whole, um, only just over 50 percent say they’re likely to buy another electric car for their next purchase.

[00:04:02] Um, now, if you look at Tesla owners, it’s actually over 70%, but considering the way that most markets weigh people or groups like the EU as a group, but are, you know, we’re mandating a change to this, it suggests we’ve got a little bit of a kind of a challenge or a sort of, um, a little bit of a problem coming if people who are driving EVs today are saying, well, I’m not sure if I’m going to buy one, um, next time.

[00:04:34] Um, and I think it’s worth unpacking a little bit about what’s going on and maybe putting a few of our cards on the table.

[00:04:42] Um, I’m quite happy to sit here and say I am a huge EV convert. Um, I have had several. I had my first EV in 2016. We currently have two EVs on our drive. We don’t have an internal combustion engine car. And yet, I’m also one of those people that after my first EV, a BMW i3 in 2016, We, um, after the lease on that ran out after two years, we went, uh, back to an internal combustion car. Um, So, I’m kind of living proof of someone perhaps that’s like, um, the people who are being surveyed in this, uh, S& P Mobility Report.

[00:05:23] Drew Smith: Well, perhaps I should put my cards on the table and say that I own a V12 powered Mercedes, a V8 powered Mercedes, and a three cylinder Volkswagen Up! Um, I have not yet been tempted over to the EV side, except, except, when I started throwing around the idea of buying a BMW i3 and, uh, you know, kind of took that off the table here in Australia simply because, A, the purchase price is too high for somebody like me who, who likes cheap old chod, um, and, and also the, the insurance costs in this country were, were absolutely enormous, but I think, I think to put that aside, one of the things that, um, I’ve noticed in Australia and, and, and perhaps why we’re not seeing the level of adoption in this market that you might expect is actually the, what you’re able to buy from manufacturers is still extremely limited,

[00:06:26] Joe Simpson: Right.

There’s still not enough variety in the EV market

[00:06:27] Drew Smith: We don’t have in this country yet a replacement for like direct replacements for what have typically been the most popular sort of vehicle typologies. You Yes. You know, Tesla Model 3 and Model Y as they are in many parts of the world are the best selling electric cars here, but they, they kind of require people to make a bit of a typological jump in what is ultimately quite a conservative market. There’s nothing in the pickup space here, um, that that’s widely available yet. You know, there are thousands of Hilux’s and Ford Rangers and even kind of now Chinese entrants uh, into the pickup space being sold every month. And yet there’s not a, a, a meaningful EV option.

[00:07:16] And then if you look at say a traditional, uh, OEM like Volkswagen, if you want to buy into something like Um, uh, an ID.3 or an ID.4, you’re actually having to make a fairly significant downgrade, I would argue, in terms of the traditional qualities that people associate with the Volkswagen brand when you buy one of these, these new cars. Because let’s be frank, you know, ID3, ID4, they’re not super appealing products when assessed on the traditional merits of the Volkswagen brand. Be that exterior design, interior design, perceived quality, functionality.

The cost of batteries as a percentage of the car

[00:08:04] Joe Simpson: And I think this leads us into the kind of… the the kind of elephant in the room with electric cars, Drew. One of the reasons we, um, wanted to talk about it on this show was there was a very interesting, um, uh, infographic published by the Visual Capitalist, uh, which talked about the cost of an EV battery and how much of a percentage, uh, that was compared to a regular car.

[00:08:37] And just the quite staggering level, um, I, I’m, I’m guessing that a lot of people who listen or watch us do work in the industry. So they have some understanding of the, you know, the purchase price or the sale price that a car kind of goes on the market for versus what it actually costs the OEM to build.

[00:08:58] Um, and if we look at that today. Um, you know, most car makers don’t make a massive profit on the vehicle they sell, you know, sort of 8 percent is considered good in the industry. Um, and with an internal combustion engine, when you look at your kind of, uh, material bill for that car, it’s a really tiny proportion.

[00:09:18] So then we get to this cost of an EV battery, and we start to see things like, well, uh, Tesla Model S, which has been around for quite a long time. The battery in that car costs about $12,000. Um, it’s 13. 6 percent of the vehicle’s overall cost.

[00:09:36] The battery in the upcoming, um, Ram Rev, the, the electric pickup truck from, uh, Stellantis Ram, which is a massive battery, huge battery, 229kWh. $25,000 for that battery from LG. Uh, it’s 31 percent of that vehicle’s overall cost.

[00:09:58] And even as you say, in the example you gave us, the ID.4, Um, in the lower size battery version of that, Um, the 62 kilowatt hour battery from CATL Uh, Visual Capitalist reckons $8,730, representing 23 percent of the vehicle’s overall cost.

[00:10:24] And when I’m saying cost, remember here we’re comparing what the battery costs versus what the vehicle sells for.

[00:10:32] Um, so when you look at it more in terms of what it’s actually going to cost to build as the OEM, the battery is a much, a much bigger, um, percentage. And what, what this is doing in the market is creating some really… unusual and I think difficult dynamics because as you said, where do you go? You can obviously choose to transfer that extra cost on to the consumer and make the vehicle cost more but we can see You know that when you start 50 60 70 thousand euros, the amount of people that can afford a vehicle, a new vehicle that costs that much, it does tail off.

[00:11:24] Um, so if you’re passing that bill on, then you’re kind of giving somebody or you’re asking someone to pay a lot more for the representative size of vehicle compared to an internal combustion one. So the other option you can take is to try to strip cost out of other parts of the vehicle and we can see quite clearly with something like the Volkswagen ID.3 and ID.4 that’s exactly what Volkswagen have done.

Cost and availability of finance as a barrier to adoption

[00:11:49] Drew Smith: Well, and I, I guess the other thing is I, I, if, if you go, if you go down the, okay, well, we’ll pass that cost onto the consumer route. How, how is your average kind of premium car consumer typically gonna be buying their car? Well, they’re gonna be buying it on finance, right? So they’re not gonna be paying you know, 60, 70, 80, 000 euros up front, typically they’ll be arranging some kind of finance package to, to, to, to get that car on their driveway.

[00:12:25] Yet, if you look at, um, sort of finance costs, uh, and these are some figures out of, of the U. S. Um, you’re looking at anywhere between 12 and 23 percent interest. On a, on a, on a typical auto loan. So 12 percent if your credit is absolutely squeaky clean and 20, 23 percent if you’re essentially considered subprime. Uh, and those loan terms are running generally for, for six plus years. So the, the cost of borrowing to cover the purchase of a vehicle is extremely high.

[00:13:07] And coming back to, coming back to the, the, the Mercedes example that you talked about, um, there’s a quote in a piece by Jalopnik, um, from a dealer, um, talking about the, the EQ models. Um, And they say:

The lack of desirability in EVs

[00:13:26] Drew Smith: the EVs are coming whether or not you asked for them or earned them. He said, there’s too much of a price premium, especially at the top end of the EQ lineup and almost no lease support.”

[00:13:37] The executive said, and this ties back into the decontenting part of the conversation, the executive said the EVs lack the lust factor of Mercedes gasoline powered flagship models such as the S Class sedan and AMG GT Coupe.

[00:13:50] Our cars need to be want cars, he said. The S class has maintained good loyalty because it’s aspirational, and EQS is not something that most people aspire to own. And,

[00:14:03] Joe Simpson: Ooh well

[00:14:04] that’s quite brutal.

[00:14:06] Drew Smith: I mean, that’s coming from a, you know, that’s coming from a dealer. But if we think back to, you know, my experience with the EQS SUV a couple of weeks ago.

[00:14:15] And, you know, this is coming from somebody who owns a W140 Merc and an R129 Merc. Like, I was, I was absolutely appalled at what Mercedes were trying to pass off essentially as a, as an S class grade, um, vehicle.

[00:14:34] And, you know, I, I, I feel for the manufacturers who are trying to walk this line. But I have to imagine that particularly amongst long term S Class owners, when they jump out of an S into an EQS, like, a lot of this stuff is going to be very readily apparent to them. And, as the dealer said, the desirability factor of these vehicles is just not there.

[00:15:02] Joe Simpson: I think… There’s a kind of and yet to this for me. Which is, um, From my perspective, You drive an EV, I think in 99 out of 100 circumstances Driving an EV is better. It’s quieter. It’s smoother. It’s more relaxing. Generally, right now, they’re faster. Um, there are less things to go wrong. Fewer moving parts. And, I think, there’s two kind of, um, big questions that sit around this relative to what you just said about the EQS and quality.

The EV is a car, but not as we know it

[00:15:51] Joe Simpson: One is that as we move to electrified vehicles, I think there’s a real opportunity to change the form factor of the car and really start to explore what you can do with a car and not just how a car looks, but what you can actually do within it. Because there’s potentially a lot of freedom with the architecture and what you can do with the interior room.

[00:16:21] And. I think the other aspect is that I think when you look at the Chinese market, and I think this will become the case probably everywhere, that you fundamentally, when you move to an electric car, you’re changing some of the kind of the rules of engagement and the meaning of a car. And right now the problem is that one of the main, sort of, uh, values of a car is the freedom.

[00:16:50] Freedom to kind of go anywhere, anytime, almost like for an item. You stop for a few minutes, you put some fuel in it and you carry on. And the problem with an EV is that it kind of calls that a bit into question because of the whole charging equation. But I think that will be resolved over time. Faster battery charging, longer ranges, better network.

[00:17:14] But the more interesting side for me is that when you start to plug a car in, actually the meaning of the car, what benefits it brings, what it should do, start to change. It starts to map mentally more to your phone. If you fundamentally are plugging something into a cord, uh, something in the wall, you start to think about what else could it do? What else should it do? What other things should it integrate within my life?

[00:17:42] And I’m saying this partly because I don’t think we’re anywhere there yet. We’re right at the start of the curve of how this change in propulsion might change the meaning, role, and sort of, um, I suppose abilities that a car can have.

How the Chinese are reinventing the car and the Europeans are not

[00:18:01] Joe Simpson: I compare it sometimes to almost like we’re just in the kind of post Model T era if you compare it to internal combustion. And I think when you look at China and some of the Chinese brands and what they’re doing, they’re really rethinking actually what the car is, how it integrates with other digital parts of society, their kind of almost like super platforms.

[00:18:23] Um, and. Also, what kind of things you do in the car, how long you stay in the car, how it is as a space when it’s not moving. And some of them are actually starting to kind of reinvent almost like the car based around use cases and quite specific use cases. And so I, I put that almost forward as an argument for why the electric car is very, very exciting.

[00:18:46] And I think we’ve got some key challenges now. I’m not denying that. Um, particularly this one around cost when you throw into it, the kind of interest rate rises. But I think there’s opportunity there that hasn’t yet been really explored. And that maybe as, uh, petrolheads and people who enjoy driving, and you said, you know, some of the cars you have, and I have some history of cars similar to that, that it’s very easy to dismiss.

[00:19:12] And I think that’s, that, that’s quite, uh, if I’m honest, I think that’s a certain age, generally male, generally Western view. And if you talk to some other people in the world, they have a very different view.

[00:19:24] Drew Smith: Hmm. Right. So, so… So, what I find surprising then is, I mean, in some respects, I don’t find it surprising because, you know, I’ve worked in the guts of the industry and I know how, sort of, to some extent, how legacy auto works, but that legacy automakers are doing such a terrible job of actually, demonstrating these new value propositions to us. Um, because all we’ve got at the moment is, um, the comparison of an EQS to, uh, an S class. All we have at the moment is the comparison of an ID3 to a Golf

[00:20:17] Joe Simpson: a Golf. Mm.

[00:20:19] Drew Smith: Right? Um, And that leaves us as consumers really struggling to understand the real world benefit, um, for a, a really substantial increase in cost and a really substantial decrease in, in some cases in, in terms of, you know, the extent to which I can enjoy that vehicle.

[00:20:47] I hear you. I, I do believe we’re right at the start, but the lack of imagination and, and I can understand why, why we’re in this position, you know, we talk, we talked right at the beginning of the show, how we’ve kind of gone from zero to nothing very, very quickly.

[00:21:05] And I think legacy automakers have very much been caught on the back foot by the transition, um, and just trying to keep up.

[00:21:14] Joe Simpson: Yeah.

[00:21:14] Drew Smith: But for those European companies, if they don’t very quickly start transitioning into, okay, what are, what are the freedoms, um, that EVs enable us from a design and packaging and positioning perspective?

[00:21:34] Um, and, and how do we start expressing those freedoms in new ways, in compelling ways? You know, all this talk about kind of China stealing the lead. It’s only going to become ever more entrenched.

[00:21:50] Joe Simpson: Yeah, I think what you’re talking about is something that many people are aware of, that Legacy OEMs are set up to make a thing, as we’ve said in a few shows now, plop out of a factory at the end of a process and thinking about an ecosystem and thinking about how you integrate into an ecosystem and make your product more valuable, make it more, term I don’t like, but sticky.

[00:22:20] So it’s actually kind of, you know, it actually. becomes more useful again. Um, and actually does things like not just, you know, it can save you time. It can save you money. it can kind of make something that’s easier to share and to use to others, but it actually can also bring you kind of joy or give you kind of access to things that maybe will be shut off to internal combustion engine vehicles over time.

[00:22:49] That’s, that’s valuable. And I think automakers and legacy automakers are not very well positioned to, um, sort of, work on that and pull that together as a kind of experience ecosystem. Because that’s one part and what goes with it is, you know, we talking and we came into this based on cost. I will caveat this by saying your mileage may vary.

The total cost of ownership argument

[00:23:15] Joe Simpson: I think we have to, if, if, or if, if EVs are really going to take off, you have to start looking at total cost of ownership and not just, uh, upfront price.

[00:23:26] It is. Way, way cheaper here, and with the circumstance I have in Sweden, to have an EV. I was putting about, um, 2, 000 sec, that’s about 160 Euros of fuel, into my last internal combustion car I had here.

[00:23:45] The last bill I got for charging, for like the same period of time, was… Just under 500 sec. Now, that’s a set of circumstances that are potentially a bit unique to me or potentially specific to Sweden. I would say that they are You know, I know the cost of electricity has gone up, but it’s still broadly day to day If you can charge at home, or you can charge at work.

[00:24:11] The total cost of ownership in terms of running that vehicle is going to offset over time some of the initial purchase cost and theoretically, at least, with less mechanical moving parts, there’s less to go wrong in an EV. So, in terms of maintenance, again, potentially a different story.

[00:24:32] But right now, I think what you’re holding up, I will totally agree with. The automakers are not really set up to kind of help consumers really, uh, make sense of and gain from this. You know, at a basic level, a lot of them are still just charging the same price for servicing an EV and servicing an EV as regularly as an internal combustion engine car. It simply doesn’t need as much stuff doing to it as regularly. So why are you charging the same service prices?

[00:24:58] Drew Smith: Why are you charging the same service prices? And, and, uh, It’s about, it’s about how effectively the industry is able to communicate those, those benefits. You know, to shift people out of a, a way of thinking that we’ve been inheriting for, you know, kind of 120 years. Like the, the infrastructure and the mental models are so well established at this point.

The reckoning of the Munich motor show for Germany

[00:25:30] Drew Smith: One of the things that we talked about was how at the Munich show, the Chinese showed up. I

[00:25:39] Joe Simpson: Yeah.

[00:25:39] Drew Smith: even, even Tesla showed up at the Munich show, which is, is, is unheard of on the home territory of, of the German industry. And, know, sometimes we can think about threats as, as being rather abstract.

[00:25:55] Um, in that circumstance, the threat was no longer abstract. It’s right there. It’s right there in front of you. And it, it, I, I can imagine that if you were at that show and you were walking from, say, Nio’s stand to Volkswagen’s stand, uh, as an executive at Volkswagen, it would have put in very sharp relief.

[00:26:17] Joe Simpson: Mm hmm. I think there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of media report that the last Shanghai show, I think it was earlier this year, was the first one that many auto execs had gone back to China after COVID, three years away. And it was almost like that behind closed doors, the Chinese had, you know, ran and made hay while the sun was shining.

[00:26:41] And then many Western auto execs had gone back in and had just a, oh, fuck moment, where, you know, what the Chinese are doing is impressive.

[00:26:50] But it’s worth saying in the context of this conversation, one of the reasons they’re now trying to go or pushing so hard into Europe is there’s oversupply in the Chinese market. The Chinese market is slowing, stagnating. They have interest rates, you know, rises as well. So they need to find an outlet for that production that they’ve now kind of geared up. And so many of those Chinese brands are already kind of wholly electric brands.

The emerging used EV market

[00:27:14] Drew Smith: What, what’s your, what’s your take on how the used market, whether you have a point of view on it at all, but I’ll put it out there, like how, how the used market is developing? Because, you know, there’s, there’s the stories of, um, Tesla, for example, withholding huge numbers of vehicles from, from, from the secondary market on lots, um, in order to try and keep, um, the retained values up, um, and yet when you look at data from the US market, the depreciation curve on them is, is absolutely enormous.

[00:27:53] Joe Simpson: Yeah, it’s a very tricky one to answer because I’m not an expert in this. What I know is that yeah, right now the depreciation curves look, I mean, I fancy a Porsche Taycan in a couple of years. If those depreciation curves continue as they’re projected to,

[00:28:10] Drew Smith: So long as the battery packs been replaced,

[00:28:12] Joe Simpson: well, but that’s

[00:28:13] Drew Smith: recalled, haven’t they?

[00:28:14] Joe Simpson: I think there’s.

[00:28:18] There’s a thing about, um, you know, and this, this wraps, the last part of the conversation wraps into this. How do you, um, how do you kind of control that? Because really, you know, you need to kind of take some ownership of the second and third owner you want to, because what you want to do, I guess, is give people the peace of mind that the battery pack isn’t you know, shot.

[00:28:47] Now, I, I think it’s fairly common knowledge, what we’re seeing with effectively 10 years of EVs on the road is that actually the battery packs are degrading at a rate which is much slower than people might think and might project.

[00:29:06] Uh, Teslas with 500, 000 miles on them still have over 70 percent of the original capacity.

[00:29:12] Well, most cars are only designed to last for a couple of hundred thousand miles. So, if you’re able to still have, you know, I guess there’s a second or the third owner, you’d be expecting the battery still to have 95%, 98 percent maybe if it’s original, um, you know. I was looking at five year old i3s again, actually the other day, and you can get reports on them and they were all at 99, 100 percent original capacity.

[00:29:39] So I think there’s a thing about, there’s not actually necessarily a problem there. I think there’s a thing about reassuring consumers that it’s like, it’s not going to fail or that it’s not going to just deliver poor range.

[00:29:51] Drew Smith: What, and I guess, I mean, at least from, from my understanding, and you may know better than I, there’s, there’s currently no sort of standardized reporting across manufacturers, you know, like there is for, for, for fuel economy. When you, when you buy a new car, there’s, I mean, you know, whether you believe the figures or not, there is at least kind of a standardized reporting across manufacturers and across products that allow you to make an assessment of, of, of the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.

[00:30:23] And of course we do have that, we do have that in terms of energy efficiency of EVs, but, but when the battery, um, Is such a significant component when it comes to considering the ongoing longevity of an ev. Um, it feels like there needs to be some standardized way of, of being able to understand how much life is left.

[00:30:48] You know, with an internal combustion engine, you’d put it up on the stand, you’d take a look at the oil, uh, you’d look at wear and

[00:30:55] Joe Simpson: I at the service history.

[00:30:56] Drew Smith: you know, like you’d look at the service history we don’t currently have. A way of, or an easy way and a, and an easily comparable way of doing that with EVs.

[00:31:07] Joe Simpson: As I understand it with most EVs, it’s fairly easy if you’ve got the right diagnostics and software to plug in and get a battery health check report. And I have started to see that more, but if I was a dealer trying to sell these things, I think that would be the thing I would be, be trying to hold up.

[00:31:23] Um, and I’d be trying to check. Um, so I think once we get that. There will probably be a sort of stabilization of the used market, but I think the bigger thing is, and it goes back to the kind of, you know, early days of EV, Henry Ford Model T point, I think the way that the consumer, the average consumer thinks about it right now is we are at this early phase.

[00:31:47] So if I buy one now, in three, four years time, that is going to be very outdated technology. is the perception. Or I will be able to buy a car maybe for the same price as I, you know, let’s say I spend 40, 000 now, in three years time I’ll be able to spend 40, 000 and I’d be able to get a car with much greater range.

What is enough range?

[00:32:08] Joe Simpson: That might be true, there are kind of, I think there are advances coming, Toyota announced this week that it thought it had managed to productionize solid state batteries, there’s a move in some parts of the industry towards LFPs, Tesla using LFPs which are much cheaper, um, but I wonder, like, what’s sufficient range?

[00:32:31] You know, I know that the cars I have now are totally sufficient to me and I drove one of them across Europe from Sweden to the UK last year and it was fine. Yeah, sure, I planned it. I know what I’m doing. I’m in the industry. But I don’t, I’m not looking for a car that offers double that range. I just don’t need it. That would just be hauling a massive, huge, heavy battery pack around most of the time that I don’t need.

[00:32:54] But right now it’s a confidence for consumers, you know, we’re still kind of, we’re not even an early majority, I would say, of how much range do I need and can it cover my edge cases? And that’s not just going to be the battery technology that covers that.

[00:33:10] That’s going to be the charging network, and I think a lot of people are starting to say, it’s not that we have a range anxiety problem now, it’s that we have a charge anxiety problem, and particularly in the US, I think that’s where we’re seeing the problem. The network is so flaky, uh, uptime is so poor, that that is probably what is driving much of the hesitation among people. I don’t necessarily think it’s the battery technology per se.

Techno-materialism as a way to understand the race for range

[00:33:37] Drew Smith: There’s another, there’s another slant on this that kind of popped, popped up in my mind as we were preparing for this show. So I’m, uh, I’m a bit of a fan of Cal Newport. Um, if, if, if, You haven’t heard of Cal Newport. He writes on the topics of deep work and deep living and he’s even written a book called A World Without Email, which sounds like fucking Valhalla to me. Um, it would just be heaven.

[00:34:07] Uh, but he, he talks about sort of this philosophy of techno materialism. And this idea that we have, as consumers, become so used to buying something, um, simply because the specification looks better.

[00:34:28] Right. I’ve, I’ve just bought an iPhone 15 Pro Max because it has a five times optical zoom. Now, in the back of my mind, I made a justification for that, that, okay, as somebody interested in photography, it would be interested, interesting to have a phone with five times. I mean, I just bought the best because that’s what somebody in my position has the privilege of being able to do.

[00:34:53] Um, You know, I bought a long range EV because it allows me to go further than I could reasonably need to. We, we’ve kind of bought into this idea that, well, the next best thing must be better for us, therefore I should have it.

[00:35:10] Joe Simpson: I mean, it’s a fundamental of consumerism, right? I’ve gone from a TV that started at like, uh, 22 inch, 30 inch, 40 inch, now at 60 or 70 inch, and it was 4k, and now it’s 8k, and it’s like, it’s just… It’s like, it’s like basically a kind of more is better argument. And then at the same time with technology, we’ve had Moore’s law where broadly, you know, kind of the power, the, the storage space, whatever was kind of, you know, sort of doubling kind of with, with, you know, every sort of incremental step of time.

[00:35:48] So we expected things to improve over time as well.

[00:35:51] Drew Smith: Well, and, but, but I guess the interesting thing that, that, that Cal posits is that quite often we buy these new pieces of technology which, you know, The very nature that they have progressed in their capabilities and capacities tells us, we think, that we should be more satisfied to own them, and yet, in many cases, uh, we actually wind up somewhat disillusioned.

[00:36:17] Um, you know, I’ve gone from an iPhone 10 to the iPhone 15 that I’m recording on, and frankly, I hate it as a device. I, I really hate it. It’s so big and it’s so ugly and yes, it has a five times zoom, but, but for 99. 95 percent of the things that I use my phone for, and I’m increasingly trying to do less with it it is a categorically worse device. It’s interesting if you look at, um, uh, sort of review aggregation for iPhone, um, it peaked, In terms of the number of four and five star reviews, it actually peaked at iPhone 12 and with every succession of, every successive generation of iPhone, that’s gone down and it’s, and, and, you know, iPhone 15 is the lowest.

[00:37:09] What, what’s interesting I think about, you know, so Cal puts on one side, um, techno materialism, he then suggests, um, You know, techno humanism is the counterpoint, and this is where he, he, he’s careful about the term, or, or suggests caution, because it is a term that is used by the transhumanist as well, which is a whole other ballgame that I don’t want to get into right now, but it’s this idea that, um, rather than prioritizing the material gains, of the technology that we, that we buy and use.

[00:37:48] How do we shift to a mindset of understanding, sort of, how they improve the human experience, um, that we have. And this is where it gets really interesting to come back to your point, circling all the way back to how the Chinese are rethinking use cases. So… And, and, and how we use a car and what it actually means and what role does it play in our life?

[00:38:18] What role does it play more broadly in culture?

[00:38:23] And, you know, if I think about the Li Mega, which,

[00:38:30] Joe Simpson: I’m glad we mentioned that.

[00:38:31] Drew Smith: photos of which have, have, have been coming out, that feels like it could be, You know, the start of a radical reimagining of what a car means and how it brings people together and taps into this idea of third space.

[00:38:51] Now, of course, there are going to be heaps of people who are like, well, it’s still a privately owned vehicle and it’s fundamentally an extremely selfish and resource intensive thing. No argument for me. Like, absolutely no argument from me. Um, And, and you could therefore argue that, okay, well, we’re starting at the wrong, starting place in terms of thinking about what a car should be, but, but still, it seems to me that there’s evidence of, oh, what if this thing was about human experience rather than simply just more is more for the sake of more?

[00:39:27] Joe Simpson: This is a bit what I’m trying to get at. I’ve been a bit provocative tonight in terms of some of the things I’ve said.

[00:39:35] Drew Smith: Really?

[00:39:36] Joe Simpson: not, I’m, I’m not necessarily into the idea of like, car as hyper connected, always on, um, sort of device on wheels, shall we say. And when you were, while you were talking, I was reminded of the Dacia Manifesto concept, which we saw last year at the Paris Auto Show.

[00:40:05] Drew Smith: the cute little sort of off roady thing with sleeping bags for

[00:40:09] Joe Simpson: roading thing, quite skeletal, quite, well, very minimal. And I think, This is what excites me about electric cars. There’s, there’s a world of possibility and range of possibilities that sit within them. And the Dacia was one extent, which was actually it said, what do you need? It said, actually, we don’t even necessarily need doors.

[00:40:36] Um, it said, you definitely don’t need tons of screens and, you know, let’s not even get into the whole kind of like the impact of electronics on the environment, but, um, you know, it was a kind of you bring your own screen. It was a kind of car is almost like, uh, outdoor shelter. And it was also sort of in that context it was about. Where has the car actually taken us culturally, or has it allowed us to discover us as people, as humankind, to go places that we’ve not been before? And where do you want to go? And rather than kind of going off the beaten track as a way of sort of conquering and destroying the world, actually treading really lightly and quietly.

[00:41:20] And then maybe when you get there, having this thing that’s actually a resource for you, so it can power things. It can keep you alive. Um, I know that Ford and Tesla and people have all kind of held up this sort of, I mean, Ford do it quite actively with the F 150 Lightning of the car as kind of power bank, so in the sort of scenario of a power cut, you can feed power from the car to power your home.

[00:41:49] And an F 150 Lightning can power it for three days. Now I’m talking about extreme… Sort of scenarios here, but I do think that it’s fascinating that actually we’re talking about, um, the ability of a vehicle to allow us to think about, you know, what role does it play in the world? And, and you said, you know, the Li Mega as a kind of you, you said, yeah, but it’s still a private car still something that is, you know, fundamentally, it’s for kind of a very elite top portion of society.

[00:42:20] And yeah, absolutely. And at the, at one level it’ll be like cars are always going to be bad, own cars are kind of a problem. But while they’re going to be here, what about if we thought about making them as useful as possible, what if we thought about making them as things that were resources. What about if they became covered in solar panels so when they’re sat still, which they are most of the time, they’re actually collecting energy, or the immense amount of storage power that is there in the battery can be used to connect and balance the grid so that we don’t have to build new power stations, and that’s a reality.

[00:42:56] Or that the immense amount of computing power could be hooked up, and when they’re plugged in, potentially used for projects that weren’t just about them driving. But it was, you know, the sort of like, wider computing power projects and things that we need computing power for in the world. It’s about starting to make the car something that can give something back socially. Perhaps there’s a slight penance for all the damage it’s done to the world socially and environmentally.

[00:43:23] Drew Smith: that’s why we’re here, isn’t it, Joe? To talk about all of that stuff?

But what about the Cybertruck?

[00:43:27] Drew Smith: You know, thinking about the car as a force for good or indeed evil, we had intended to, uh, talk about the Cybertruck on this show. Uh, but looking at the clock, we’ve made it to 50 minutes and, you know, I think we should probably give ourselves a bit of a break, um, and leave you, dear listeners and viewers, hanging. Um, because it’s fair to say that, you know, there’s a lot to be said, uh, on the topic of the Cybertruck. And I think it’s really interesting to sit it against a lot of what we’ve been talking about in this show.


[00:44:05] Drew Smith: Uh, as always, it’s been a pleasure to have you with us. Um, if you liked the show, uh, please forward it on, leave us a review. Drop us an email. Uh, we had some really lovely emails from, from you after the last show on, on, on the Century and, and the nature of criticism. And it was just so awesome for us to, to read those and, and to see how we’re connecting with you.

[00:44:33] So thank you very

[00:44:34] Joe Simpson: absolutely. And for those of you, we haven’t got back to, we have read the emails. We will get back to you. Um, I’m sorry. I have been slightly kind of overwhelmed

[00:44:45] Drew Smith: you’ve been thinking about the Cybertruck, Joe.

[00:44:47] Um, for more about this, the topics in this show, uh, obviously if you’re on YouTube, we’ll pop some links, uh, in, in the, in the space below the video. Um, or you can take a look at our website, lookingout. io, uh, where we’ll also have the. Um, the links that we’ve been talking about in this show.

[00:45:09] Um, Looking Out the Podcast, uh, was written and presented by Drew Smith.

[00:45:15] Joe Simpson: and Joe Simpson.

[00:45:17] Drew Smith: This is Drew Smith and thank you for listening and watching.

[00:45:21] Like, fucking, fucking hell, Drew. What?

[00:45:26] Joe Simpson: about your bags, at least your eyes appear to open properly rather than your having eyelids that appear to be having their own stroke, you know. Maybe

[00:45:36] Drew Smith: dear.

[00:45:37] Yeah.

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November 23, 2023