Success Mantra!

Who is most successful in life?

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After my previous blog “Titbits” my friend Subhash suggested that we should analyze the life’s successes vis a vis, education, studies, ranks earned and being a “scholar” during school/college times. One of the definitions of success is the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status. In Asian culture in recent times, there has been a big emphasis on taking good education, it may be in their own country or in other countries. There is a general thought process that education changes a human being and the human becomes more cultured, sophisticated and becomes a better person.  

Does it really happen that way? In most cases, it does happen. But how do you measure success? Is fame the pinnacle of success? Does amassing wealth make you successful? Do all these things take you to upper most layer in the society? Frankly there are no clear-cut answers because there is no real definition of success. One thing is always said that a person appears more successful if he or she is a good human being too! What is important, a good human being or a successful human being? It is important to be successful good human being!

In certain areas of life like sports, entertainment education or the lack of it has not apparently come in the way. If we take examples of Sachin Tendulkar, Priyanka Chopda, they have been at pinnacle of their careers in sports and acting. They have both been good humans, they got themselves trained for being excellent in language and general behaviour. On top of that they are extremely successful commercially! They have been in their field of excellence since a very early age of 16 to 18 and never had time to take “education”! Another important aspect is that they are successful for a long duration. But this does not mean that everybody should not get educated as it did not matter in these two cases.  

Another famous case of a college drop-out is Bill Gates. But he was a drop-out from Harvard! Getting admitted to Harvard itself is success! But looks like he had urge and drive to do something more than completing his degree and rest as they say is history! Recently he has been sharing his wealth of billions of dollars for well-being of human race. He is also encouraging other rich people to share wealth for betterment of society, in general. Yes, Bill Gates can be said to be one of the most successful persons, living. 

Then there was famous rivalry between Tesla and Edison, both scientists. Both have invented so many things that it is difficult to say who was better. But from the history that I have read, Edison had more business sense than Tesla. Edison was a cut throat competitor whereas Tesla was a naïve person. Edison monetized his inventions quite well but Tesla never did that. Edison was all the time trying to see if Tesla could be commercially ruined! But to me Tesla was more successful with his one invention! He invented that A C current was better than D C current (invention by Edison) in real world. This is a difficult case to judge, commercially Edison did much better than Tesla, invention wise  probably both were at par. As human being Tesla was better than Edison. Friends, it’s your take to decide who was more successful! 

That brings us back to the thought that we had in the first place. Does education make a person successful? In our school and college times, there have been colleagues who were successful in getting very high grades all through. After completing education, different areas of work was chosen by different people. Some reached pinnacle of their chosen path but it appears that in most cases the so called “toppers” did not remain “toppers” in real life! Many times, the path to success is also dependent on “being at the right place at the right time”! It also depends on grabbing the opportunity when it comes knocking on one’s door! Those who did this have been really “successful” in life. 

Being at the pinnacle of chosen path makes one successful but being a good human being adds to that success. But I have seen many “successful” persons who in real have been average in what they could achieve. But they have marketed themselves with the authorities who matter. The success in public sector areas and having done the right “marketing” with authorities have earned some people with national accolades like “Padma” awards in India. Some have been so strong in “marketing” themselves, that their mediocre achievements or pseudo achievements remain hidden!   

How to compare success in area A and area B? A friend became MD of one of largest company in India. He also continues to be a very good human being. So, he definitely achieved great success in life. Another friend started a manufacturing unit and manufactures world class products, again a very good human being! If we compare the two, then who is more successful? It is very difficult to judge. Both have worked in different environments in private sector. Both were classmates but were not known to be “scholars” in college days. Another person, a known “scholar” in college times became top boss of one of the India’s premier educational institute. He was always in touch with Govt bosses because of his work. He was awarded with a “Padma” award. This person was recently heard giving a speech about education policy and was found to have put forth average thoughts. Who is successful among the three? I don’t know.  

Success is not dependent on whether one is successful in private sector or as an entrepreneur or in govt sector. Success is independent of the field you are in. It could be business, sports, art, job, armed forces, scientist, social worker or a politician. You must do a great job in what you do and remain a good human being even at the pinnacle; you must retain humbleness and show empathy for others. To be successful in life, one needs to be sincere, consistent, must have perseverance, must be able to take others with you.   

How you achieve these parameters, defines your success. More successful or less successful are comparisons done by others. It is probably impossible to compare success in two different fields. It is not possible to compare a great gymnast with a great scientist! People will always compare between brain and the brawn! Like in studies it is always said that those who are good at Math are very smart. I don’t think so. One who is very at good music is equally smart in his own field!  

This discussion and comparisons are unending; but one thing is sure that the world becomes a better place with successful people. But this success should not be a “marketed” success, it is the success of the human who has contributed to the society, keeping core values intact. But one thing is sure that “success” list is not the same as list of successful candidates declared after college, school level exams. It gets mixed up and many a “back benchers” end up at the top!  

 

I am the best!

Going up the value chain is the only option!

Our Tera Firma is full of smart people. In last 50 to 70 years the innovations, evolution of technology has gathered momentum which is far swifter than what happened in previous 2000 years. This has happened because of the people who besides being smart, innovative were humble too or may be some of them were not! They knew that any idea that becomes popular may easily get pushed aside by a better idea or a product. Maybe some of them hardly had any choice as one can’t stop advent of new things especially in technology area. 

Digital cameras is a classic case of the  inventor  being  flat  footed.   Digital  cameras  were  invented  by  Kodak ,  the  pioneer  in  cameras  and  films.  They  invented  the  digital  camera  but  apparently  forgot  about  it. Later Cannons and   Konicas  of  this  world  just  blasted  Kodak  out  of  business  by  bringing quality, reasonably priced digital cameras in the world in large volumes. By the time Kodak woke up it was too late! They went into bankruptcy. Now these same digital cameras are being included in cell phones. These cameras in cell phones, are becoming better and better. So, what is the future of digital cameras as we know them? Honestly, it is difficult to judge but is it possible that digital cameras will come with a SIM card in future or we may have cell phones with better and better cameras. I am not talking fantasy. Recently I read that Jio, Mukesh Ambani’s company is bringing out Laptops with SIM cards with the idea of always being connected. Then do you need WiFi? I don’t know what this will do to the current market conditions. However, there are already cheaper hotspot devices, with 4G, available in the market. For a fee of Rs.400/ per month this hotspot can be connected to 10 devices. Then will we need SIM card for an individual Laptop? This is how the technology is changing swiftly. All the current and new players in the market will have to come up with their own variations to ween away customers towards their technology!  

Electric Vehicles, especially cars, were considered as niche products in the market and maybe people thought that they were competition, at US $ 100,000/ price, to high end cars like Mercedes, BMW and Audi. This was only a couple of years back. Besides Tesla, other car makers are also showing nimbleness. They have already come with their own EV’s and going strongly in bringing EV’s in mass production.  The other car makers already know how to manufacturers millions of cars, so once they master Electrical drive train technology at a competitive price, things will change drastically. What will happen to today’s drive train industry? We don’t know. But there is a good chance that this industry will become sunset industry. Maybe 20 years? I have had a discussion with couple of friends who are running allied industries in auto field. They are worried and are already thinking in terms of change over. Their nimbleness will help them. But a few others are still saying that EV’s is a passing fad! For their sake, I hope they are right but my mind tells me otherwise. They are “I am the best” types.

We see similar case in Indian IT industry. Our IT business was started by doyens of IT industry. They have done a fantastic job of bringing India on world IT map. Indian IT business grew by leaps and bounds and has created technology culture in India. They also created large number Indian millionaires and now billionaires. Their contribution has helped India in other sectors! They have made India confident too. But during last few years there have been signals, that this model of service providers is not going work for a long time. Indian companies need to go up the value chain. These companies on Nasdaq are officially described as “Providing technology consulting, application, system integration and engineering services” that means these are service industries. In India, they call themselves as software  companies.  It is with this false nomenclature they have started thinking that are software product companies.  They started the culture of people sitting on bench, as per demands of their customers. For those who don’t know the meaning of “sitting on bench” this is what happens. The customers ask the service providers to ensure that additional 20% people are assigned to the project but they have no work. If the project is of 2 years duration,  then   these 20% folks have no work for two years.  What culture have we developed? Should we not be going away from this method? 20 is a substantial % to be forced to remain idle. This according to me is poor management, in crude language run by bean counters. Is profit the only motive? What about the career of 25/30 year old young people? Once they get used to this life, they would be happy to remain idle, if possible, all their life!

Once there was a meeting between a doyen of IT industry with CEO of an American company.   The American company is a world’s top end product company employing 5 thousand people   where as the Indian company employs  1.5 lacs people.  Out of 45 minutes meeting the doyen talked for 40 minute and the CEO for five minutes. Both their turnovers are same. Doyen never felt it necessary to find out how the same turnover is achieved with so few people. He must have got same opportunities to talk with many such people world over but probably, “I am the best attitude” has kept the thought process where it was ten years back. I hardly read any news about this company trying to go up the value chain. Attempts made by a new CEO were brought to null by the doyen with his “Expert” knowledge! In such fast changing world, even a year or two of sluggishness, can put a company under severe strain; but maybe these “Limited” companies are “personal limited” companies even though share holdings of the doyens are low. Going up the value chain, what is that? I know how to run this company. “I am the best.”

All the best to Indian IT industry and hope better sense will prevail at some stage. I have seen enough small companies which have made software products and are up the value chain. Typical case is “Tally”. They have made an ERP suitable for India and millions of copies have been sold. Quick Heal is another company that comes to mind. Their security products have become well known. For both these companies their Profit/Turnover per employee is pretty good. If these smaller companies can do it why all the service giants  cannot do it? They have mountains of cash reserves. They don’t know what to with it. Is it the proverbial  Ostrich’s head in the sand?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

 

 

Game Changer or Disruption!

EV is going to be new beast compared to todays cars!

Cartesla-eckh-01

 

I have been writing about Electric Vehicles; for updates I keep on talking to people in the industry, read on the net and am lucky enough to have someone in Tesla to update my understanding of EV’s. I am no technical expert in this field but I can feel that something big is definitely happening. Hope I am able to see some of these major changes in my lifetime. I was lucky to be part of two such events, Internet and Cell phone. These two disruptions have  changed the way our world has been operating! When Jaya was in the US for her MS, 1980-8;  talking to each other on phone, needed a lot of coordination. We did not have phone at home. So, she would write to me the timing when she would call, that too at someone else’s place. If we were lucky she could get through after ½ hour delay! By next year, I am told that cell phones can be used during the flights too!  That is game changer!

In IC engine cars, the Engine has been the heart for more than 100 years, and car performances have been defined by the quality of the engine! Then the quality of the overall car is said to be better when the exhaust system and engine jointly released least amount of pollutants. Of course, now exhaust parameters are mandatory world over. By 2023 these parameters will be so tough that company like Volvo has already declared that they have decided not to develop any new diesel engines post 2023, as development of the same will not be cost effective! Plus, cities and countries are slowly banning diesel cars to be driven within their boundaries.

The drive train today, is placed physically in between tyres, from front bumper to rear exhaust system! This whole drive train is being replaced in EV’s, (as shown in pictures above) so what will decide the quality of EV’s? What is the Engine for EV’s? The Motors, the electronic controllers, battery pack, inverter and  gear. So, the car which travels more distance per charge, which accelerates faster will be a better car, all are zero emission cars anyway! No, it is not that simple! This is just the beginning of the car revolution! The batteries will have better charge storage per unit area, they may cost lesser and lesser over a period of time but this becomes  commercial aspect. To me battery packs are petrol tanks! Better battery only increases the capacity of the “new petrol tank” and distance traveled per charge!

Major parts in the new drive train for cars are going to be the software and the sensors that are going to be there in a car, besides the battery pack, motors and ECU’s. Around 2010, some vehicles had software with about 10 million lines of codes! In 2016 it is supposed to have increased by 15 times to about 150 million lines of code! The software is related to car autonomy, safety and infotainment related codes. But this is going to change even more drastically over period. The whole system might become  a computer in the car! The car recalls will not be because of faulty clutch or a gear box it will be because of software glitches and sensors!

The cost of software currently in large cars can be about 10% of the Bill of Materials but is likely go up in next 10/12 years to 30%! So, this is going to be the first game changer. What happens to current vendors of engine parts? As the population of EV’s starts increasing, the population of new IC engine cars is going to come down! Instead of one set of vendors, who make drive train parts, new set of vendors from IT industry and electronic industry will take over! So, need for physical RM will start getting replaced by “products” which cannot be seen by naked eye! Players who are currently tier 2 or tier 3 vendors may start becoming tier 1 vendors. At the same time car manufacturers may stand on the toes of Operating system vendors so that they can control the distinct facilities they can offer. This cannibalization is already being observed in case of battery manufacture! Vehicle manufacturers themselves are producing battery packs now. In IC engine cars, batteries have a small functional role whereas in EV’s it is going to be the new “Petrol”! OPEC, I am sure is already having sleepless nights or nightmares!

It looks like software will follow the path of infotainment innovations, autonomous driving capabilities, intelligent safety devices which will be able to work even if some part of software fails! The software will integrate with hardware in the form of sensors! This my friends, is going to be future drive train! The whole system over a period will be of increasing complexity which will need newer and newer algorithms and will generate such a huge data that all the data generated from these cars will have to be stored to cloud! One important aspect of new drive train is temperatures; these are almost at room temperature compared to IC engine cars where exhaust temperatures can go upto 600 deg c! This normal temperature in “New Engine” will allow usage of lot of electronics, sensors, software and ECU’s.

What do we foresee? Basic car with body, trim, seats etc which will keep on changing as is happening now. But it is the “New Engine” in the form of sensors, software, ECU’s and cloud computing that will change the car and make it a different beast than what we see today!

First and foremost will be the infotainment area which will have full connectivity with our single “communicator” which is currently our cell phone! It will have all these functions plus, music, internet hookup, reverse drive screen, automatic parking capabilities. This will use cameras in place of mirrors and it will also be the GPS display screen! What new functionalities will be added is anybody’s guess! Next consolidation will be ECU’s. Currently, there are 8 to 10 of them per car. These will be consolidated over a period, to one or two ECU’s which will handle all functionalities . The “real engine” will be controlled through these ECU’s along with other systems like wipers, window regulators, AC’s and so on. Next important aspect is, each vehicle will generate so much data that storing the same can be an issue. So, all this data will be transferred to cloud. This data can be used for analysis, diagnostics, on improving performance of the vehicle. This will be real life data and give the car makers real life continuous flow of information; product improvement cycles will be much shorter! In most cases in future, product errors will be related more to sensors and software. Software errors can be updated easily by releasing patches to all concerned cars as these cars will always be connected!

Another game changer will be what is going to happen to car service industry! Cars will go to workshops only for sheet metal work! Or small odd jobs! This will also affect vehicle manufacturer’s spare part sales; we know that drive train component manufacturers, will go down over a period! These components will exist only for old cars as no new cars will not need their products!

Another new area that will come up is third party software products! We really don’t know what these products are going to be! Most of the products will be available for passengers, as the driver naturally cannot use them while driving. Oh, I forgot we will have driverless cars at some stage, then all are going to be passengers. So, possibilities are simply unlimited!

I could write on and on and on! Let us wait and watch; there have been car racing games for computers. But now you will be having computers which drive real life cars on real roads! That too on their own! As a game changer or major disruptor of business, it’s a great thing for humanity. But for those who are in business of making current drive train components, it’s going to be a nightmare. As my friend had rightly said during a discussion, “I am ok with this change because it is for my next generation to handle this and not me because real inflexion point could be 2030, by that time I will retire!”

 

And The winner is….

Crystal gazing of EV scenario in India!

InternetGenie

Pramod somehow managed to make Internet Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “I want your frank opinion about Indian Electric Vehicle scenario, your favourite subject.” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to the question asked.

As usual Genie kept on talking. Pramod,  only a few months back, there was not much clarity about EV’s in India, but you had once said that Indian EV scenario depended mostly upon the international companies who have a large market share in car segment in India. Their current share must be around 75%. Mahindra had their foray in EV since some years back but have hardly got much traction. But suddenly the scenario has changed. It appears that many people have been working on EV’s, secretly. Last month Tata Motors grabbed an order of 10000 EV’s from a Government department for supply within one year. Pramod, this was a surprise for all! There is a story in today’s papers that Tata has invested US$ 900 million in Tesla Competitor, “Faraday Future.” This could be the secret of Tata getting ready for mass production, with “Tiago Electric?”! This indicates that both Indian companies Mahindra and Tata are well ahead of the pack for the Indian operations as their EV’s have reached production level.

What will be the situation in 2022, Pramod, five years from now? I know that Suzuki and Toyota have come together in India. Suzuki will produce EV’s for themselves as well as for Toyota, in India. Technology for EV will be provided by Toyota. These two have already joined hands with Denso, a Toyota group company, for manufacturing batteries, in Gujarat. So, this group will be the first to have their own batteries in Indian market! This will give them cost advantage. They are talking of their EV being available in India from 2020.

Honda is talking of EV in India by 2019! Hyundai has not said much but I am sure they will be around the corner! Nissan Renault is quite ahead in the global market for EV’s; if they decide to come to India, they have the wherewithal. But main India strategy has to be pricing as usual, quality must be good anyway! That is where Suzuki and Hyundai will have advantage over others as they are successfully doing this for so many years. But Pramod, don’t forget that Tata has reached mass production level already in 2017! So, they will have advantage over others!

Pramod there is breaking news below! 

https://auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/passenger-vehicle/cars/pm-narendra-modi-to-unveil-fleet-of-400-tata-nano-electric-for-a-cab-aggregator/61754665

NanoElectric

Pramod, I saw just now in Economic Times that PM Modi will inaugurate a fleet of 400 EV Nanos for OLA, in Delhi on 28th November! Looks like Tata Motors have hired Usain Bolt to learn how to make a clean start against all competitors!

There is not much clarity in heavy vehicles and buses. Goldstone Infratech from Hyderabad appears to have reached mass production stage as they have orders from Himachal Pradesh transport for 25 buses, the buses have already started plying; they also have orders from BEST, Mumbai for ten buses. In Mumbai, buses will run 220 km per charge and in Himachal hilly area the buses will run 110 km per charge. It is too early to predict more  as none of the others have said anything.

GoldstoneBus

Pramod, what about infrastructure for charging? Well, Suzuki-Toyota combine have said that they will invest heavily in this area too. Government of India is also going to invest heavily in infrastructure. Oil companies, Indian Oil/BPCL et al have said that they will jointly put up the battery plants and invest heavily in charging infrastructure! They already have petrol pumps all over India along the roads! Things look reasonably good in infra area ! Now Pramod, I want you to stand on the stage and call the winner by saying, “And the winner is…”

Pramod, I want your reply on this as I know that you have strong views!! Pramod just could not keep quiet. He said, “Under Indian conditions, Tata Motors turned about to be the dark horse! Mahindra has been around for some time. But Suzuki Toyota could be the force the to recon with!  “

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp, Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. ” Pramod, don’t forget Hyundai!”

 

 

Auto Industry 2040?

Auto Industry Circa 2040. where will it be?

WOW! MMG! DISCO! These could be names of some of the leading auto component industries in the year 2040! Why have I selected the year 2040? Simply because everyone is talking of this year for introduction of electric cars in a big way; from this year onwards, the real downward trend in manufacture and use of IC engines in the cars, as we know them today, will begin. I am simply assuming that the cars will be available, similar to the cars of today. Masses of cars will be driven by humans, they will have a steering wheel and a power plant/train to give them. They will have some form of braking, electrical system handling various functions, wheels and body with fuel storage area, air conditioning and so on! Things inside could be fancier with more and more entertainment, superior navigation abilities, drivers may become more stress free as cars systems will be able to understand many things and may take over some functions from humans. Internet of things (IOT) will allow things that are not even thought of today.

This is part of evolution of human race but this could be culmination of major change that is taking place currently. The “new” car industry is putting its toddler’s steps today. Evolution is nature as everything in this world is always evolving! Basic driver for these changes is computers and computer chips. The car industry will be using different chips and will capture lots of data data generated by various systems. This data will be in endless loop and will allow cars to function more and more efficiently.

What will be the difference in the cars of today and those in 2040? Today’s power plant, the Engine & Drive train will be replaced by Batteries and Motors. Today’s drive train, gear boxes etc will be just be not there. The exhaust system as is known today will be simply not be needed because there will be no IC engine, both Petrol and Diesel. Gear box and the whole system is really not needed because their function can easily be handled by Electric Motors. Even today, in electric cars, there is a single gear which reduces the RPM to what is needed to drive the car at allowed speeds!

There are many companies that are manufacturing the components that are discussed above. These components may become redundant over a period of time due to introduction of electric cars. Bosch, Denso, Continental, Valeo, Aisin Seiki are some of the major players that manufacture the cluster of these components. These companies together manufacture products worth US $200/ billions every year.  These products may comprise of 40% to 70% of their current turnover. The giants must be already studying the questions that have come to my mind. How are they handling these questions? I am sure it’s a tough call to all of them though they have the where withal and deep pockets to handle difficult situations. Some have started making navigation products, some are making parking assist, camera -related systems. But suddenly new names are being heard in these discussions as vendors. CISCO, NVIDIA are some of them. Some are direct vendors to car makers and some are vendors to components manufacturers.  Where is the real scope for new development and business? Battery packs, battery charging technology to increase per charge distance that the cars can travel today! All other developments that are computer related can also happen in IC engine cars too! TESLA is already building a giga factory for their Battery Packs! So will the “new” component business be taken over by Car Manufacturers? Suzuki, Toyota and Toshiba are coming together in India for big battery plant! What happens to smaller manufacturers of these components? Will they survive the major change? Will “WOW! MMG! DISCO!” replace them? Only time can tell.

In car making, after a long time, new name TESLA, started coming into prominence. TESLA came mainly for the new product offering. It appears that technology like fashion goes round! Till first two decades of last century, IC engine based transportation was not very popular. Trains used steam, cars used electric power plants; but battery technology could not catch with the then needs. Hence IC engine cars and trains became popular. From the existing car manufacturers, some are already manufacturing electric cars more than what TESLA is producing. On top of that they have a running profitable business producing IC engine cars. But one thing is for sure they have the humility and know where they lack. Look at what Volkswagen Brand CEO Deiss has to say about TESLA! 

VOLKSWAGEN brand CEO Diess has said that VW which manufactured 5,987,800 cars last year has to catch up with Tesla which produced 83922 cars last year. “Tesla belongs among the competitors which has abilities that we currently do not have,” Diess said in the interview with “Inside”, a publication for VW employees. Around half of Tesla’s engineers are software experts, while at VW’s core brand it is a much lower proportion, Diess said. Tesla has good electric motors, a fast charging network, autonomous driving technology, internet connectivity, and a new approach toward vehicle distribution. “This shows that we need to significantly improve. We can do this. We measure ourselves against Tesla quite deliberately. Our goal: Using our abilities not just to catch up, but even to overtake,” Diess drives an electric VW Golf.

 Current giants have ready infrastructure and eco system to make and sell millions of cars. They of course lack Electric car eco system as mentioned by Diess above. Their main struggle will be recharging stations for electric cars; but TESLA is also going face the same problem! The question arises if TESLA, a loss making company, a start-up, survive? Let’s look at the startups from the Silicon Valley and the west coast, who really made it big in computer industry sunrise era. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple they all became very big with the products/services that never existed before. TESLA is pitted against the giants for making existing products where the main “driver” is only a different technology! That’s a huge disadvantage. Fighting against giants, who have woken up a bit late, like Mercedes, Honda BMW, Toyota, GM, Ford, Fiat, Hyundai is going to be very very tough for TESLA! Some of these giants are also going to suffer or may merge! My take,Continental TESLA may cease to exist  by 2040 or even earlier as it is known today! Takeover? Maybe! 

 

Electric cars, are they round the corner?

Definition of inflection point: a point on a curve that separates an arc concave upward from one concave downward and vice versa. The term inflection point was first used by Andy Grove in his book “Only the Paranoids Survive”. Inflection point can be there in anybody’s life on in business cycle of industry. It indicates the total change in scenario or make and break situation. The diagram showing point of inflexion.

 Inflexion point

I visualize a major point of inflexion in automobile industry in near future. There are different views floating regarding when the Electric Cars will be mass produced. The year mentioned fairly regularly is 2030! That’s not really far! Why this is going to happen and whether it will happen at all will be based on many factors. Currently volume of Electric cars manufactured world over is not significant. But Nissan, BMW, Ford, GM, Mahindra in a small way and of course Tesla are already making electric cars. I have heard that Toyota plans to come up with a full electric car by 2019.

 2016electric cars predictiongraph

This is the forecast sale of electric cars as percentage of total car sales, for the year 2016 but I could not get the real figures. Japan at 9.7% is highest in the number of total cars produced and China at 0.9% is the lowest %. France, Great Britain, Germany, USA, South Korea, Spain are there in between.

 What will give the boost? What factors are going to push this production? When will the momentum gather for switch to mass production? When will the point of inflexion be reached? Main factors considered in usage of automobiles are its price, fuel cost, car driving  range, parts cost and main is the cost of ownership. Besides this battery charging infrastructure is going to be the most important aspect that will make or break this change.

 Price factor for electric cars appears to be in reasonable control even without mass production. In the cost of electric cars “Engine & drive train” needs be brought down; all other things remain same. When Tesla started producing cars, people looked at it as Elon Musk’s fancy! Tesla is working like a start-up but it is somehow managing to survive financially. Now they are also coming up with an affordable sedan. Slowly big giants like BMW, GM and others have woken up. Initial experiment started with Toyota’s Prius hybrid. Thinking was to just increase the fuel efficiency of existing car system and Prius hybrid was the first successful attempt. But it was definitely a minor change in thinking and not the game changer like fully Electric car. As per current thinking even  in India, Government has increased the Tax on hybrids. When asked, the minister said, “When Electric cars is the future why bother about hybrids!” Electric cars will of course need Government support by way of lower taxes to make them attractive for buyers. Government support will also be needed for battery charging infrastructure.

 Second factor is the cost of fuel. With many shocks offered by Petroleum politics, world has been looking to go away from fossil fuels. Plus the world has woken up to climate change and is aggressively looking to control pollution. Cars are known to be major pollutants. Stringent control is being sought on exhausts from cars. But this will happen only in newer cars, old polluting cars cannot be wished away. Volvo has made a statement that the cost of manufacturing car systems to match pollution norms in 2022/23 will be so high that they will stop making diesel engines. To overcome pollution issue, Germany has declared that by 2030 only electric cars will be manufactured in Germany. To achieve this target they will really have to work hard but German car makers have the technology, financial clout, will and wherewithal  to achieve this target; they are working very aggressively. Best non-polluting fuel obviously is electricity. But cost of producing electricity was a major factor hindering its usage in cars using battery banks and of course the cost of batteries. Solar and wind energy seem to be galloping ahead of other sources to make electricity cheap. Classic example is Germany. On a day in 2016, 85% of electricity produced in Germany, was from non-conventional methods.

https://energytransition.org/2016/05/germany-nearly-reached-100-percent-renewable-power-on-sunday/

With abundance of cheap electricity, on that day the rates of electricity went in negative in tendering process! Recently, California produced 67% of electricity, on a particular day,  by non-conventional methods causing serious disruption in electricity pricing mechanism! World over including India, Solar and other non-conventional methods are very aggressively pursued. By 2030 it looks like world will easily achieve the goal of cheap fuel in the form of electricity!

Currently when we travel by car, we do not think how much distance we are going to travel. This is because fuel infrastructure is fully established world over. Whenever needed, we just refuel and move ahead. This is not going to be so easy, at least today, in electric cars. There are two major points. First is charging stations and second is charging time. Both need to be vastly improved. Charging time is evolution of technology, in cell phones rapid charging technology is already available so maybe it’s a matter of time when we get this in car battery charging. Charging infra of course has to come up but when number of electric cars increase, the infra will come up. The range per charge is also the matter of technology so hopefully it will rapidly increase. Similar to what we do today, while driving long distance, we should be able to stop for coffee and wash room break and get batteries recharged. Lo we are on the way! 2030 very much possible. But my take is that this will happen faster in Europe, Japan & Korea because such things are national policies and are easier to implement  in these areas because of the smaller size of the nations plus most of European nations are developed nations.  In geographically large countries like US, Canada and China plus India, this change may happen region wise or state wise starting with highways. City limits will adopt faster as people can charge their cars in their own homes. 

 Replacement parts and cost of ownership are combination factors. In the electric cars, drive train, exhaust systems as we know them today, will simply be not there being replaced by battery packs, motors & drives. Less number of mechanical parts is going to definitely reduce the repairs and servicing cost. This factor has nothing to do with 2030. As the cost of ownership comes down, more people will be interested in driving electric cars.

 Another major change is going to be the nature automotive components industry. When major systems like drive trains & exhaust system are not needed, current manufacturers will find in a drastic reduction in parts needed by industry; over a period these will be only needed in old cars. With a mandate to supply parts for ten years, 2040 will be the last straw on the back of the Camel for this industry assuming by 2030 electric cars will be used in large numbers. How will current component manufacturers of these components handle change? Will they start making parts needed for electric cars? Do they have the technology? Only time can tell? How will Bosch’s, Conti’s, Denso’s and Valeo’s of this world handle the situation only time can tell. I am sharing one important information about change that has already happened. Nvidia Graphics, www.nvidia.com  producing chips and cards with their GPU technology are already vendors for Toyota, Mercedes, Audi, Honda, BMW, Volvo. This is because of rapid increase in usage of onboard computers to perform various functions including self-driving cars. Five years back, I am not sure if Nvidia name was much known in automotive world! Point of inflection? Yes my friends this is the point of inflection and in this business jungle, snipers in the form of technology are hiding! You never know when you will get your bullet! Yes, my conclusion,” ELECTRIC CARS ARE COMING IN A BIG WAY BY 2030”!

 

 

 

I am getting a Toyota Prius!

One of the most important aspect of human civilization is that nobody can stop the technological advancements. Technology, the right one, is simply unstoppable. Humans do not change and they most of the time feel that so and so technology cannot become popular. There are very few visionaries who can guess, predict what can happen after a couple of decades. Initially when any technology comes the cost of its implementation as well as usage is always very high. This cost does come down with increased volume.

Let us consider the scenario in solar energy globally. Germany recently on a particular day produced, 85% of its total electricity produced, by Solar. The energy market in Germany runs like a trade market and the rate at which power is bought by distribution companies is based on demand and supply. On that particular day the rate went below zero! California on one day recently produced 67% of its electricity by Solar. US being a very large country will take a long time to reach Germany’s level as a country but it will happen in pockets. India & China are galloping fast towards solar energy in a big way.

If we think about steam engines and trains, initially people were just curious and felt that trains cannot compete with carts pulled by animals. Once the fear in people’s mind reduced, time of travel decreased and more and more people started travelling in trains and rest as they say is history. My first travel to USA was in 1981 and I had paid US $ 1076/ for return journey. Even today we pay hardly more than that in Dollar terms, for return ticket to USA. Why this happened? Because of safer, faster, larger airplanes increased the volume.

Cell phone is another classic example of technology that made it a disruptive device! When I first got my cell in late 90’s the cell phone was quite heavy, almost ugly, and it cost Rs.16/ minute to receive and make calls! In twenty years Cell phones have become sleek, they are much more powerful than computers specs ten years ago! Ten years ago GB was a word very rarely used even in computers. On top of that making calls is now free! Technologically in 20 years cell phones have gone places! Who would have thought of these changes? In the initial phase cell phone was the so called rich person’s toy. The beauty is that land line telephones have been there for more than 100 years doing same basic work that cell phones do, talking to each other. But other than becoming sleeker, land line phones did not change much in technology. Hence the landline phone population is on the wane world over.

Next classic battle that I visualize is between IC engine cars and Electric/Hybrid cars. The usual naysayers are saying that the current car companies are so powerful that they will just not allow this to happen. What are the parameters that will come into picture? Current volume of Electric/Hybrid cars is miniscule and their yearly volumes are nothing to write home about. So what is it that is needed for the picture to reverse, if it does! Fuel costs is one important parameter. Petrol/Diesel costs have come down from highs of US$ 150/ per barrel and have stabilized around US $50/. The original cartel led by Arab countries is finding it difficult to keep high rates due to new people coming in, huge American & Canadian reserves which were not known even ten years back, have suddenly become available. Their cost of production of extracting oil is also coming down. The fear of Petroleum products simply getting exhausted from the world has gone. So fuel cost may not be THE thing that will trouble current cars. But on the other hand, the cost of producing electricity is definitely going down fast. As more and more countries including India go strongly after solar energy, this cost will come down further. The countries which have lot sunlight round the year can become major players in producing next “Petroleum” for cars. Along with this wind energy is also playing a major role. One thing is for sure compared to petroleum products “Sunlight & Wind” are definitely never going to get exhausted. What all this will also do is pollution levels caused by burning Petroleum products will also come down. On top of this when more and more Electric/Hybrid cars get into use pollution levels will further go down.

Largest component of Electric/Hybrid cars is battery pack. Tesla is already building a Giga battery factory in Nevada where they will be able produce battery packs for five hundred thousand cars a year, at naturally very low cost. Already, Tesla is talking of producing cars that will be only slightly more expensive than sedans. Another limitation currently is the distance the car can travel with one charge. In cell phones  already fast charging systems have come, so I am sure it will happen in Electric cars too! So maybe when you have coffee break or wash room break, you can recharge your batteries. Once these cars are reasonably priced people may use such cars the way we use scooters in India, to travel smaller distances. For last hundred years there has been not much improvement in battery storage technology, compared to other fields and same is the case with IC engine cars. I am sure in batteries the break through is just round the corner! If automotive technology had improved as much as electronics, a car would have travelled round the globe in one liter of fuel!

If we summarize this battle, cost of production of fuel (electricity) to charge the electric cars is going down, cost of battery packs is going down ( it is like engine price going down), battery pack capacity will slowly start going up like some Tesla cars go beyond 350 km per charge, pollution improvement is a bonus. On the other side Volvo has already declared that they will not produce diesel cars from 2023 because cost of using technology for pollution compliance will go up exponentially. Volkswagen has already claimed that they will not produce IC engine cars beyond 2030. In India Suzuki & Toyota have joined hands to manufacture hybrid cars for Indian market. Suzuki and Toshiba have joined hands in India to build Lithium Ion battery mega plant. In USA GM and Ford also have big plans for electric cars. BMW i3 model electric car was quite visible when I last travelled to USA. Along with that a lot work is being done by Google and Apple in driverless car. I feel that controlling an electric car with computers will be much easier than IC engine cars! Will humanity be able to stop Electric/Hybrid car technology? Only time will tell. But in the end right technology will win!

So my next car is definitely going to be a Toyota Hybrid Prius! There is small issue of money in the bank but I will generously accept it, if someone wants to gift me a Prius! I will put big donor name sticker on the car! Happy (electric) motoring!