Why I Bought an Electric Vehicle

I originally published this post in March 2017, while I was still living in Canada. My car recently turned one year old, and I am as happy with it now as the day that I bought it. Lately, a lot of people have asked me about my experience owning a Volt, so, I decided to re-publish this post. I’ve inserted updates along the way in orange. I hope it helps! 

I bought my first car! It’s a 2017 Chevrolet Volt LT and I am very happy with it. I will admit that the Volt was not my first choice – that honour goes to the Tesla Model S 100D – but it was definitely the best choice. Here’s why:

Range

At the time of purchase, my commute was 63 km of highway driving each way. At that time, the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3, had not yet been released for the Canadian market, leaving the Model S as the only true electric vehicle with enough range to meet my need. Being financially prudent, I decided that a pure EV was not an option.

That opened the door for the Volt. The Volt is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which means that it has an extended electric range in addition to over 500 km of conventional range. In the summer months, April – October, I easily get 70 km of electric range cruising at 120 km/h on the highway. In the city, that range is well over 100 km due to regenerative breaking. In the winter months, November – March, I see about a 20 percent reduction in range compared to the summer months. This completely normal decrease in range has many causes. Not only do powertrains loose efficiency at lower temperatures, but increased use of climate controls and increased rolling friction due to snow and winter tires also play significant roles. What is important to remember is that conventional vehicles also loose efficiency in the winter months, sometimes on the order of 20 to 30 percent as well. Now that I am living in California, I don’t see any drop in range during the winter months.

Charging and Fuel Costs

A full charge on my Volt costs me $1.60 – no I didn’t miss any zeroes! When I was commuting 126 km per day, I spent approximately $100 per month on gas and $40 per month on electricity. In other words, I saved approximately $60 per month on fuel! Now that I no longer have that commute, I haven’t put gas in my car for seven weeks. Now that I am back to work at Tesla, I have my car charged for free! I haven’t paid for fuel, gas or electric, since I went on a road trip to Oregon in August. 

In order to effectively charge my Volt at home I had to hire an electrician to purchase and install a charger. I bought this one. After government incentives, the total purchase and installation cost of the charger was approximately $900. Using this 240V charger I get a full charge in approximately 4 hours. Without it, a full charge takes approximately 13 hours through a typical 120V circuit.

Maintenance

Although maintenance costs didn’t make or break my decision to buy a Volt, it’s interesting to note that I have owned the car for almost seven months, have driven over 17,000 km, and I still haven’t needed any maintenance – not even an oil change. The car has an onboard system that indicates when an oil change is needed and I still have 46% of my oil life! 16 months and over 25,000 km in and I still haven’t needed maintenance. Oh, and I still have 24% of my original oil life.

Price

After taxes, fees and incentives, my Volt cost me just under $34,000. There are a lot of good cars on the market in that price range but the Volt was the best option for me. Its aesthetic isn’t winning any awards but it’s a fairly good-looking car inside and out. It’s comfortable, silent and has a tonne of room in the hatch for storage. As a bonus, it has some cool toys like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the ability to monitor and control the car through the myChevrolet app.

The truth is, most drivers are now able to purchase an electric vehicle with few, if any, changes in behaviour. For those still unable to purchase an EV or unsure whether they want to, the Volt offers the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet. If you do, I’m sure you will very quickly find that you’re ready to take the dive.

A Theory of Human Motivation

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published “A Theory of Human Motivation”, in which he proposed a hierarchy of basic human needs.

HierarchyofHumanNeeds

The Physiological Needs – Air, Water, Food

The Safety Needs – Order, Stability, Protection

The Love Needs – Belongingness, Affection, Sexuality

The Esteem Needs – Freedom, Self-Assurance, Significance

The Need for Self-Actualization – Purpose, Potential

By arranging these needs in a hierarchy, Maslow posits that the most fundamental need will consume our consciousness until such a time that it is satisfied. Then, and only then, will the higher needs emerge in series. Thus men are destined to want perpetually because there is no limit to the satisfaction of some needs.

Breaking Down Apple’s Special Event (9/12/17) – Part 5

5. iPhone

During his keynote, Tim Cook declared that the iPhone X “will set the path for technology for the next decade”. He’s embellishing.

While both the iPhone 8 and iPhone X have features that will be critical to the technology of the next decade – wireless charging, augmented reality applications and facial recognition/tracking – they aren’t the first.

He should have reserved that line for use if Apple ever releases augmented reality glasses –  which I hope they would call “iGlasses”.

All things considered, I would give the Apple Special Event on 9/12/17 a grade of “B”; good, but not what I would have expected of the world’s most valuable company.

 

Breaking Down Apple’s Special Event (9/12/17) – Part 3 & 4

I will be releasing my “Breakdown of Apple’s Special Event (9/12/17)” as a series of articles. Part 5 will cover iPhone. Enjoy!

3. WATCH

WATCH Series 3 has cellular! I have historically been an WATCH hater but not anymore; I knew that the vision for the product was to have cellular capability so I refused to buy hardware that didn’t support it.

So how did Apple enable cellular on WATCH? According to Chief Operating Officer, Jeff Williams, cellular was enabled by two space efficient innovations: embedded SIM (eSIM) and display-integrated antennas. These innovations allowed the casing of WATCH to remain unchanged from Series 2, except for a minimal depth increase of 0.25 mm.

WATCH Series 3 is a game-changer. I believe that the improved hardware will push WATCH into the early majority phase of its lifecycle. Increased demand will attract developers to create even more attractive apps, leading to an aggregation cycle that will be near impossible for any smartwatch, or watch for that matter, to compete with.

product-adoption-and-life-c

4. tv

tv can now support 4K and HDR. 4K is an image resolution; it defines the level of detail displayed in an image. HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a colour resolution, it defines the level of detail displayed in the colours within an image. For example, both sides of the image below feature the same image resolution but the left side has dramatically better colour resolution.

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 10.14.12 AM

The tv 4K alone will not allow you to watch 4K HDR content; you still need a 4K HDR display – typically priced upward of $1000. Even then, the only 4K HDR content you will get for free are Apple’s aerial screensavers and your own photos and videos – as long as they were shot on devices with 4K HDR resolution. Additional content will require subscriptions or iTunes purchases and a home internet package that will support the increased data of 4K HDR content.

Breaking Down Apple’s Special Event (9/12/17) – Part 1 & 2

I will be releasing my “Breakdown of Apple’s Special Event (9/12/17)” as a series of articles. Part 3 will cover the WATCH. Enjoy!

Over 10 years have passed since Steve Jobs first unveiled the iPhone on January 9, 2007. He was one of the great characters, and that was one of the great product launches, of all-time. Apple will never be the same without him.

That said, Apple is still Apple. To quote Jobs himself:

There’s lots of ways to be as a person. And some people express their deep appreciation in different ways. But one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there….So we need to be true to who we are, and remember what’s really important to us. That’s what’s going to keep Apple, Apple; if we keep us, us.

Last Tuesday, Apple kept being Apple; they made wonderful things and put them out there. Here’s a breakdown of what was announced:

1. Apple Park

The event was the opening of the Steve Jobs Theatre, the first building to be unveiled at the new Apple Park. Many have been quick to criticize Apple for spending approximately $5 billion on the new campus, but I am not one of them. Apple has been the source of a lot of good in the world – both directly, through their products and services, and indirectly, through what they have enabled artists and developers to create.  They deserve a beautiful and inspiring place to work that reinforces everything that makes Apple, Apple.

2. Retail

Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail, Angela Ahrendts, emphasized that Apple’s flagship stores will increasingly become more like “town squares” – featuring public outdoor spaces in addition to indoor forums. Apple will not officially rebrand its “Stores” as “Town Squares” (What would they call Apple Town Square?). Truthfully, most Apple Stores will remain relatively unchanged from the first, which revolutionized tech retail in 2001.

Too Far Taylor

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Taylor Swift has started publicly promoting the release of her 6th studio album, reputation. In the process, she and her team have employed quite a few creative strategies to better sell her brand. Their most interesting development, in my opinion, is TAYLOR SWIFT TIXSM.

Taylor Swift is committed to getting tickets into the hands of fans…NOT scalpers or bots. So she’s collaborating with Ticketmaster #VerifiedFan to create an exclusive program to help YOU get the best access to tickets in North America, in a really fun way.

In recent years, scalpers have increasingly been using computer programs (bots) to sell out tour dates in seconds. They then sell those tickets on secondary markets for multiple times their face-value, profiting on the spread between their purchase and resale prices. Ultimately, the tickets end up in the hands of the fans but not before they have grossly overpaid for them. Obviously, this is an issue from a consumer prospective but it is an even bigger issue for artists and their investors. Sure, there is the ethical issue that scalpers are realizing the majority of the profit on an artist’s performance, but the real issues are multiple layers deeper. For the sake of brevity I won’t take you all the way down the rabbit hole but just think about this: if you didn’t have to pay $500 per ticket to sit in the nosebleeds at an artist’s show, but instead could pay $100 to sit in the lower bowl, would you be more willing to pay $15 for their record? How about $50 for their T-shirt?

10 months ago, Ticketmaster launched its VerifiedFan program. I used it to get tickets to an Ed Sheeran show in July. It works…for now. Essentially, Ticketmaster uses the personal information you provide when registering for your account to verify that you are a human and not a bot. It doesn’t stop a human scalper from signing up, getting VerifiedFan tickets and then flipping them on the secondary market. Fortunately for fans, this is a lot more work to get a lot fewer tickets if you are a scalper accustomed to purchasing tens or hundreds of tickets through a bot.

The innovative aspect of Taylor Swift Tix is the development of a way to ensure that the most enthusiastic fans receive priority tickets. That is an idea that I can get behind. Unfortunately, Taylor and her team got greedy in the execution.

After your registration is complete, you’ll officially join the line and unlock access to the Taylor Swift Tix portal. The portal will serve as your main destination to participate in boost activities. Activity boosts will come in all shapes and sizes. Watch the latest music video, purchase the album, post photos and engage on social media. Check the Taylor Swift Tix portal for the newest boosts and activities you can do everyday. When you participate, you may boost your opportunity to unlock ticket access in your selected city. Your standing may change as more fans join and participate in activities. You can participate in boost activities at the start of registration and continue until we lock the line on Nov 28.

If you register for Taylor Swift Tix (which I did, purely for research purposes of course…) you’ll notice that “boosts” are ranked based on their impact to your place in line for tickets:

Screen Shot 2017-09-03 at 3.09.46 PM

The greed lies in the “High” row. Boosts from album pre-orders are arbitrarily limited to 13 – Taylor’s birthdate and favourite number – and there are NO LIMITS on boosts for merchandise or album purchases. Since there are no monetary limits on the most impactful boosts, there exists a scenario where fans engage in an vicious cycle of spending until the November 28th deadline. Remember, there is no defined amount of money that a fan can spend to guarantee themselves tickets; that depends on how much money the other fans in their city are spending.

To make matters worse, tour dates, ticket sale dates, ticket costs and ticket limits have not yet been announced. Until they are, fans are spending an unbound amount of money to put themselves at the front of the line for an unknown number of tickets, at an unknown cost to be purchased at an unknown date for a show sometime in the future. What!?

In the existing system it is possible that a family could spend $400 on boost activities thinking that they will receive 4 tickets, each valued at $200. That equates to a cost of $300 per ticket. Taylor and her team could then set a ticket limit of 2 per account and announce that the cheapest ticket is $400. Now, 2 of the family members don’t have tickets and the remaining 2 tickets are valued at $600. In an even crueler world, they are going to be on vacation the day of the show. Now, they either sink the $400 they spent on boost activities or they purchase the tickets and sell them to friends or on the secondary market for at least $600 each to break-even. Neither of those options stop someone from reselling for a profit or ensure whoever gets the tickets is a fan.

The point is, this program is flawed. The good news is that it isn’t too late to improve it. Here’s what I would do:

  1. Tour dates, ticket sale dates, ticket costs and ticket limits need to be released.
  2. A monetary limit on merchandise boosts and a quantity limit on album boosts, regardless of type, need to be applied. I estimate appropriate limits to be 1 album purchase and around $100 in merchandise per ticket.
  3. A Taylor Swift Tix resale portal should be set up for verified fans. If a verified fan needs to sell their tickets, they can sell to another verified fan for face-value.
  4. Returns/refunds should be made available to those who would like to change how much they have already spent on boost activities given the new information.

This is a lot of work and expense. As a result, I don’t expect any of these changes to be implemented for the North American tour. However, if they are made for the world tour, which I am assuming will be announced shortly, we would have a much more equitable system and Taylor would still realize more revenue from each fan than she has in the past.

I give Taylor and her team a lot of credit for a solid idea and a lot of good work building out the infrastructure for Taylor Swift Tix. Unfortunately, it only takes a few bad decisions to derail a lot of good work.

Aside: I have already written too much for this week but it is curious that streaming was omitted as a boost activity; think about why that might be. Maybe I’ll publish my thoughts in a future post…

Safe Injection Sites

On August 12, a group of activists calling themselves the Toronto Harm Reduction Alliance (THRA) opened an unauthorized pop-up safe injection site in the city’s Moss Park after a string of 3 opioid related deaths in the preceding 24 hours. The site offers information about drug use, sterile equipment, supervision by medical professionals and, if needed, overdose reversal medication to opioid users.

In May, Parliament approved Bill C-37 – streamlining the application and approval process for safe injection sites. Subsequently, in June, Health Canada approved 3 sites for Toronto to be opened in the fall upon completion of their construction. Despite recent progress, the THRA insisted that we, as a society, can’t wait any longer for the approved sites to open; with the number of opioid related deaths we are experiencing, we can’t afford to.

All evidence I have been able to find suggests that the activists at THRA are good people doing a good thing. However, if I was in a position of authority at Toronto City Hall, I would not have allowed their pop-up to remain operational; doing so sets a precedent that the lawful approval process is negotiable.

Toronto isn’t the first city in Canada to turn a blind eye to an unsanctioned safe injection site – Vancouver allowed one to remain open last year – and they, unfortunately, weren’t the last. The precedent set in Vancouver and Toronto gave activists in Ottawa the confidence to open a similar site just this past Friday. This is dangerous. We are dealing with the control of illicit drugs and the administration of health care here. Just because the evidence suggests that the existing pop-up sites are doing good doesn’t mean that the next one will. It shouldn’t be the job of our police forces to track down and supervise these sites to ensure that they are administering their services properly.

In response, Health Canada and Toronto Public Health opened an approved temporary safe injection site, announced they would speed up the opening of all three permanent sites, and widened the distribution of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone to public health staff, community agencies and first responders. This is a beautiful response and it wouldn’t have happened if the THRA hadn’t set up their pop-up in Moss Park; but that is as far as they should have gotten.