The first electric Porsche
The title is in fact a redundant expression. When I say the first electric Porsche, I’m not talking about the new Porsche Taycan. No, I’m talking about the first Porsche car that just happens to be electric. Yes, you read that correctly: It’s been a 120 years since Porsche launched its first electric car.
Let that sink in for a moment.
What happened in those 120 years? Why have we become a petrol/combustible engine type world?
Well, Ford and Edison could have had something to do with it. Apparently, Edison simply could not make the battery that would have been required to power an inexpensive electric car with Ford at the time producing more cars than anyone else combined. If Ford had adopted the technology, it would have had a much better chance of success. But that was not the only reason, the oil boom coupled with a new road system that extended beyond cities also gave rise to the combustion engine since electricity was still a rare commodity outside of large population centers.
In many ways, oil just seemed the better technology at the time simply because the electric infrastructure didn’t exist. But as it is with every technology, there will be a correction to a new and better technology. The electric car is such a correction.
But with combustion engines well established, making inroads into the electric car has become that much harder. The most popular case to illustrate this is the story of the GM EV-1. GM made a recent attempt at launching a new electric vehicle 20 years ago. It didn’t go well. The most likely reason for GM to do this in the first place was regulatory pressure from the state of California’s environment protection services which started to mandate zero emission vehicles. While GM did its part, it never felt like they were serious about electric cars, however, the customers actually loved the cars. But GM was much too addicted to cheap oil and they were making money on Humvees. Ultimately, they killed the electric car.
Of course, it’s ironic that some 20 years later GM (and everyone else) has now decided to go full steam on electric cars (or full electric on electric).
Obviously, Tesla is the primary driver for this car electrification future. But before we discuss that topic, I’d like to explain a bit the reason for writing this article. We (as a family) jumped into the electric car future with a trip through France. We started with a fully charged Tesla Model X in Zürich and after 4 superchargers ended up in the beautiful Loire valley. For us, this was part vacation and part oil-less adventure but mainly it was important to understand how practical it is to travel by electric car (and also away from Tesla’s superchargers). Our experience has been far more positive than negative. Outside of superchargers, we utilized a network of various charging points and planned our stays and trips with charging in mind. We felt like early car enthusiasts that were looking down on horse & carriage while simultaneously worrying about where to get the next energy-fix. Yes, range anxiety is very real. We’ve experienced it. But we also benefited from driving an electric car. There are designated parking spots for electric cars (for charging) and they are typically located near prime real-estate, so the idea to park and charge at the same time is very convenient. In short, if you have an electric car today, you actually benefit from these things. But this won’t last!
Which brings me back to Tesla - Tesla is the only company that has understood from the beginning that to compete with the current combustion engine cars, your car must match and exceed cars that benefited from the vast infrastructure that had been built up in the last 100 years. While the incumbent car industry has finally said they would go all-in on electric, they haven’t really made a sufficient commitment to infrastructure and to the cars yet. Before we bought our Tesla, we looked at Jaguar, Mercedes and Audi and none of these car manufacturers is thinking beyond the car. And when I say that, I really mean this: we could not have made that trip to the Loire Valley from Zurich with any of these non-Tesla electric cars. And this is the fundamental issue that Mercedes, Audi and everyone else has. Tesla now has over 3600 superchargers at over 430 charging stations in Europe. All the other car manufacturers depend on independent charging stations and I can tell you: your mileage varies with those charging stations. We extensively used them in the Loire region and most are limited in terms of power output - we had to deal with everything from 7 kW/h to 22 kW/h - there are some “fast chargers” that go up to 50 kW/h but they were so rare and so far apart. For example, Ionity has a fast-charging network and I suspect that Ionity might in fact be a good solution but we only saw one Ionity charging point on our trip and it hadn’t opened yet. And judging from their map, they might have only a third of what Tesla has today. And this just sends the wrong message. If the Auto industry really wanted to jump on the electric car, they would have to do so with much bigger ambitions. Think about this: Ionity covers BMW, Daimler, Ford, VW, Audi and Porsche and allows access for other electric cars - so, that’s all the Germans and one big US car manufacturer. Together they pump out millions of cars per year and making the infrastructure accessible to others would require for them to have a multiple (think 10 - 15 times more) of charging stations than the current Tesla count. In short, at this rate, it will take years for these guys to catch up and it will never be as good as Tesla. This is disappointing but clearly reflects the complacency of incumbents with a wait and see approach. Better buy Tesla stock now.