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Eike Decker


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Oh boy

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"To get a sense of what problems may occur, here is a list of the most common vehicle repairs from 2015:

1. Replacing an oxygen sensor — $249
2. Replacing a catalytic converter — $1,153
3. Replacing ignition coil(s) and spark plug(s) — $390
4. Tightening or replacing a fuel cap — $15
5. Thermostat replacement — $210
6. Replacing ignition coil(s) — $236
7. Mass air flow sensor replacement — $382
8. Replacing spark plug wire(s) and spark plug(s) — $331
9. Replacing evaporative emissions (EVAP) purge control valve — $168
10. Replacing evaporative emissions (EVAP) purging solenoid — $184

And this list raises an interesting observation: None of these failures exist in an electric vehicle.

The point has been most often driven home by Tony Seba, a Stanford professor and guru of “disruption”, who revels in pointing out that an internal combustion engine drivetrain contains about 2,000 parts, while an electric vehicle drivetrain contains about 20. All other things being equal, a system with fewer moving parts will be more reliable than a system with more moving parts.

And that rule of thumb appears to hold for cars. In 2006, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimated that the average vehicle, built solely on internal combustion engines, lasted 150,000 miles.

Current estimates for the lifetime today’s electric vehicles are over 500,000 miles.

The ramifications of this are huge, and bear repeating. Ten years ago, when I bought my Prius, it was common for friends to ask how long the battery would last — a battery replacement at 100,000 miles would easily negate the value of improved fuel efficiency. But today there are anecdotal stories of Prius’s logging over 600,000 miles on a single battery.

This increased lifetime translates directly to a lower cost of ownership: extending an EVs life by 3–4 X means an EVs capital cost, per mile, is 1/3 or 1/4 that of a gasoline-powered vehicle. Better still, the cost of switching from gasoline to electricity delivers another savings of about 1/3 to 1/4 per mile. And electric vehicles do not need oil changes, air filters, or timing belt replacements; the 200,000 mile Tesloop never even had its brakes replaced. The most significant repair cost on an electric vehicle is from worn tires.

For emphasis: The total cost of owning an electric vehicle is, over its entire life, roughly 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of a gasoline-powered vehicle.

The most significant cost of driving is still the driver.


But that, too, is about to change. Self-driving taxis are being tested this year in Pittsburgh, Phoenix, and Boston, as well as Singapore, Dubai, and Wuzhen, China.

And here is what is disruptive for Big Oil: Self-driving vehicles get to combine the capital savings from the improved lifetime of EVs, with the savings from eliminating the driver.

The costs of electric self-driving cars will be so low, it will be cheaper to hail a ride than to drive the car you already own.


If you think this reasoning is too coarse, consider the recent analysis from the consulting company RethinkX (run by the aforementioned Tony Seba), which built a much more detailed, sophisticated model to explicitly analyze the future costs of autonomous vehicles. Here is a sampling of what they predict:

* Self-driving cars will launch around 2021
* A private ride will be priced at 16¢ per mile, falling to 10¢ over time.
* A shared ride will be priced at 5¢ per mile, falling to 3¢ over time.
* By 2022, oil use will have peaked
* By 2023, used car prices will crash as people give up their vehicles. New car sales for individuals will drop to nearly zero.
* By 2030, gasoline use for cars will have dropped to near zero, and total crude oil use will have dropped by 30% compared to today.

The driver behind all this is simple: Given a choice, people will select the cheaper option."

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Interesting concept... never thought about this, but it has plenty of different consequences and options...
A new startup is finding a way to grow crops indoors economically in the context of our current supply chain infrastructure, and with more tasty and nutritious varieties than are currently available through that infrastructure. Several things are coming together to let them do this, including substantial drops in the cost of LED lights, machine learning for placement of towers and lamps, and vertical planting allowing use of gravity to distribute water rather than pumps. The dense production (much much more produce per ft^2 than farms) allowing them to put production centers very convenient to grocery distribution centers, getting the produce to groceries much faster. That in term allows them to use varietals that are optimized for taste and nutrition instead of shelf stability (and just getting them to stores faster improves the nutrition). And being indoors means that they can minimize pests to the point where they can control them with ladybugs, avoiding pesticides.

I think there are a lot of implications to this, many positive, some disturbing.
+ It sounds like this is riding several technology curves (LED light, machine learning, IoT), so it's only going to get more efficient.
+ It's all technology all the time (the plants roots aren't even in dirt, but a plastic growth medium made from recycled bottles), which may give it an "eww!" factor, but I suspect does produce nutritious, clean plants.
+ As it evolves, this technique could substantially raise the carrying capacity of the planet, which is good because AIUI convention farming with fertilizers depletes the soil and I've been concerned that'll take us to a place where we suddenly have no ability to feed the people on the planet.
+ However, the same result means we'll have less incentive to get a handle on our population growth. (Though simply getting countries through the demographic transition to wealthy societies will help here.)
+ And the same thing gives us much less incentive to take care of the environment.

So: Modified rapture?? :-} :-J

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How long will the "old dogs" allow this to happen?

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