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.

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.

“Recomposition”

With every wake or funeral I attend, I become more uncomfortable with the way we bury and remember our dead. In North America anyway, there are two main ways that bodies are prepared for burial – embalming and cremation.

When a body is embalmed, bodily fluids are removed and replaced with a formaldehyde-based chemical solution that delays decomposition. Then, the body is dressed and cosmetically prepared by styling the hair and applying make-up. On the other hand, when a body is cremated, it is incinerated in a chamber heated to 1000°C. The remaining ashes are then collected and ground into a fine powder.

Neither of these processes are at all safe for the environment – formaldehyde is a proven carcinogen and fossil fuels are burned to heat cremation chambers. To make matters worse, the prepared remains are then placed in metal, wood or stone boxes and buried underground or in a mausoleum. The amount of resources – money, material and land – that are poured into modern burials is absolutely ridiculous. Please don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the need to honour our dead, but there must be better ways to do so.

Every organism produces and consumes nutrients in order to live. When it dies, and decays, the organism’s nutrients are released into its surroundings.  Humans are no exception. Unfortunately, the modern practices of burial and cremation do not allow our nutrients to be returned to the environment. In cremation, nutrients are consumed by fire, while in modern burial, the casket and burial vault prevent most nutrients from being released into the soil. If we were instead buried in a simple shroud or wooden casket – as we were in the past – we would effectively be recycled into the earth.

So why did we move away from this method? As far as I can gather, there are three main reasons: it was thought that modern caskets were aesthetically superior, would protect against grave robbers and would protect soil and groundwater quality near cemeteries. I believe that only one of these – the protection of soil and groundwater quality – may be a legitimate reason for supporting modern burial in this day in age. However, The World Health Organization has found that even with modern burial methods, soil and groundwater around cemeteries is contaminated. In fact, the formaldehyde in embalming fluid and the metals in modern caskets arguably pose a greater risk to soil and groundwater quality than the products of natural decomposition. Further study is required to know for sure.

Researchers at the University of Western Carolina are conducting this research as part of their Urban Death Project. They are researching the effects of “recomposition” – their system that transforms bodies into soil through natural decomposition. The whole process would look something like this:

When a person dies, their body is transported to a morgue for refrigeration. It is kept there until funeral and/or burial plans can be made. The body is then placed in a simple shroud or wooden casket and transported to the “recomposition” site. My vision for the “recomposition” site (the Urban Death Project has yet to release a rendering) looks something like the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. The burial ground (above) is separated from a public park (below) by a retaining wall marked with the names of all those buried there. Over time, the bodies become a part of the soil which is used to grow memorial gardens.

Image result for vietnam monument dc

Hopefully, the Urban Death Project’s testing is successful and these “recomposition” sites are deployed by the time I “go” because, in my opinion, the existing options aren’t working for anyone – living or dead.

Alright…I’ll Write About Uber

Until now, I have resisted writing about Uber because their issues have been well-documented without my help, but last night Travis Kalanick resigned as CEO, seemingly leaving “his” company without a leader.

Though he did lead the company’s growth for the last 7 years, Travis Kalanick did not create Uber. The idea for Uber was conceived by Garrett Camp, the current Chairman of Uber’s board of directors. Camp is a 38 year old, Canadian software engineer turned entrepreneur. He founded his first company, StumbleUpon, in 2001 while earning a Master’s degree in software engineering from the University of Calgary. He sold StumbleUpon to eBay in 2007 for $75 million but remained CEO until stepping down to “work on other ventures” in 2012. Those other ventures are Expa and Uber.

Camp hired a private driver while CEO of StumbleUpon. He developed Uber in 2009, as a way to make the service more affordable – sharing the car, and the cost, between a number of his friends. Because he was committed to StumbleUpon at the time of Uber’s founding, Camp brought on Kalanick as an “advisor”. To that point, Kalanick had dropped out of a computer engineering and business economics degree at UCLA and co-founded two peer-to-peer file sharing businesses – Scour.net, which filed for bankruptcy to protect itself from a lawsuit, and Red Swoosh, which was acquired in 2007 by Akamai Technologies for $19 million. Although he served as CEO of Red Swoosh, Kalanick did not become Uber’s first CEO. He hired a seemingly less qualified candidate, Ryan Graves, who he then replaced less than a year later.

Now, Uber is looking for its third CEO. This might be an opportunity for Garrett Camp to step into an acting role while the board searches for the right hire. They are reportedly also searching for a COO (Chief Operating Officer), CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) and independent board members. Marissa Mayer would be an interesting hire as COO – bringing another woman, but more importantly, more technical and managerial experience to the boardroom table.

Although he has resigned as CEO, Kalanick has not resigned from Uber. He retains his seat on the Uber board, his super-voting shares (giving him, Camp and Graves additional influence) and his 12 percent financial stake in the company. This resignation could end up being more like the leave of absence announced on June 13 if Kalanick can recover from his disastrous year, both personally and professionally.

Whole Foods Market: Past, Present, and Future?

In 1976, Whole Foods Market co-founder, John Mackey, dropped out of college and moved into a vegetarian co-op in Austin, Texas. Two years later, at the age of 25, he raised $45000 from friends and family to open his own natural foods store. The original store was called “Safer Way” – a deliberate attack on the grocery giant Safeway. The store was on the main floor of an old house that John bought with his then girlfriend and co-founder Renee Lawson Hardy.

In 1980, Safer Way partnered with competitor Clarksville Natural Grocery to open the first “Whole Foods Market”. From 1984 to 1992 Whole Foods took on venture capital to fuel expansion to Dallas and Houston. Then in 1992, Whole Foods Market went public, giving them the capital to expand across the United States, Canada and the U.K. through acquisitions, while continuing to open new stores from the ground up.

Today, there are 465 Whole Foods Markets across the United States accounting for just 1-2% of the nation’s grocery revenue.

On June 16, it was announced that Amazon will acquire Whole Foods Market in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $13.7 billion. For the time being, Whole Foods Market will continue to operate stores under their brand and John Mackey will remain as CEO.

Amazon’s mission statement reads: “We seek to be Earth’s most consumer-centric company”. Arguably, their actual mission is to be Earth’s most consumer-dominant company. If you want to take a cut of all economic activity, you need a foothold in groceries as the category accounts for about 20% of consumer spending. That is why Amazon has been experimenting in the space for over a decade, first with Amazon Fresh and more recently with Amazon Go.

Amazon’s key to control the consumer market though is Prime. With Prime’s reliability and convenience, Amazon has created a moat around consumer goods that doesn’t depend on price because customers don’t even bother to check anywhere else – that is except, maybe, the grocery store. Eliminating the opportunity for Prime customers to be reminded that other retailers sell consumer goods, potentially at lower prices, is just another reason for Amazon to get into the brick-and-mortar grocery game.

The Amazon acquisition is almost certainly the unfortunate death of Whole Foods Market. Amazon has no passion to be a grocer let alone a natural foods grocer. They are a services company that is purchasing a $13.7 billion tactic and they aren’t done yet.

Let’s decompose the process a consumer goes through to purchase groceries:

  1. They must decide what they want to eat
  2. They must create a list of the required ingredients
  3. They must take stock of what they have in their pantry
  4. They must purchase the list of outstanding items
  5. They must transport the groceries from the retailer to their home

Even with the purchase of Whole Foods, Amazon has only addressed the last 2 elements of the consumer process. I’m interested to see if they target a meal planning company like Platejoy, to control the remainder. After all, if your mission is to be “Earth’s most consumer-centric company” you might as well own it all.