Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What is Detroit's Strategy?

One of the world's leading automotive journalists just wrote a piece titled,
"Shooting For Last Place" at Forbes
that talks about strategy.

It's an excellent discussion of the tactics pursued by the Bid 3 in early 2008, but I argue below that "tactics" are not "strategy."

Jerry, very courageous in tackling one of the most important yet misunderstood business concepts that plagues the auto industry today: strategy.

In simple terms, the strategic problem is how to get from analogue to digital.

Kodak struggled with this from film to digital cameras. Hollywood and New York struggled with this from Napster to iTunes while Apple became one of the most powerful in the world. All the computer manufacturers struggled with this from IBM all the way to Dell. Even your industry Jerry, media, has struggled with the print news to YouTube's dominance. What's the common theme???

Cost cutting tactics such as laying off the most expense part of running a business or lowering the cost of sales channels like Dell did with the highly doubted in the computer maker shakeout are simply tactics.

Strategy is almost always confused with tactics. Detroit is focused on tactics while strategies ebb in and out with various technologies, such as hydrogen hype, hybrid phenomenon to plug-in doubts. Employees and technology comes and goes, strategy is like a ship's keel.

The bottom line is that tactics are worthless without a solid strategy.

Did Dell pursue laying off or cost cutting as a strategy? No, Dell pursued the toughest strategy, a combination of two of Porter's generics: 1) cost leadership (the ONE automaker that can make cars cheapest not cheaper) 2) differentiation (something special customers pay more for) to sell directly to the customer and 3) focus or niche (dominating a small piece of the market).

Dell's goal from Michael's (from dorm room to #9 richest American in 2007) autobiography, was to lower customer costs and increase service. This is sometimes referred to as, "best cost," and often misunderstood. Toyota just about has it, but any loss of service of cost of building any car will hurt. Dell succeeded even though the service subsided over the years.

The key is that you've got to build cars as cheap or cheaper than anyone else. Dell was able to get days inventory down from weeks to eight days in his book, and it's probably lower today. This is often misunderstood as the lowest prices. An example would be Wal-Mart vs. K-Mart. Wal-Mart can move and track a pallet of anything cheaper and BETTER than any other supply chain in the world! That's cost leadership, just like Toyota executives that eat ramen instead of sushi on international business trips!

What are average days inventory for the auto industry?

Most businessmen know that a day's inventory can
translate into millions of dollars of cost savings.

Compared to Dell at 8 days, I've heard 20 to 40 is good
and during the rise of the Prius, it went negative as people
placed orders, just like shopping at and waited
for their hybrids to be delivered to the local dealership.

The lock is that your quality is also above industry standards because you are delivering 2) and/or 3). For Dell, that was not only the products, but the 24/7 real-time advantage of linked to a supply chain that ran just in time and cost accounting that only purchased things when they were already sold. In short, "build to order" or "direct."

Could you imagine if an automaker pursued the impossible "best cost" strategy with the goal of lowering the cost for the customer while delivering the BEST quality and service.

The Big 3 did this once. After Ford invented the assembly line just as Dell invented direct, Ford held costs down to help the masses open up American roads. The goal was social change and not just hiring more people or creating more dealerships. Those were tactics behind the philosophy distilled into a very clear strategy: "best cost."

Jerry, you are absolutely right in that any automaker "caught in the middle" of strategies is doomed for last place. Porter confirms this happening in industry after industry shakeout. Especially when technology matures and a new curve comes along. Firing people or closing dealership WILL NOT get an automaker to a strategy.

Stuck in the middle strategy is pursuing tactics with no strategy. For example, thinking you can be the ONLY automaker with the LOWEST (NOT LOWER OR LOW) costs and NOT LOWEST PRICES!!! Word of advice to Detroit, forget about COST LEADERSHIP and 1), leave that up to Toyota, India, China, Korea, etc.

What about strategy 2) and 3). This is a different story! We know that American quality is higher than expected; this is a business ace! You can build a strategy around "something special" such as high quality large trucks, BUT EVERYTHING has to be special, not just the truck. The employees need to feel special, the factory has to ooze special, the suppliers top of the heap, and in the end the price, yes it's high, but customers are happy with special products backed by special service. So the dealership in this case, would only service trucks, and do it better than Toyota, Nissan and anyone else.

What about 3) focus or niche. Porsche is a good example of differentiation strategy, very clear culture, goal and DNA, and guess what, tactics like human resources and dealerships becomes a no-brainer tactic. Small market, proud world-class employees and R&D, high prices, and lots and lots of profits. Enough to try and buy out the 5th largest company in the biggest business in the world. This would be like Tesla buying Chrysler and not the other way around. How can this be??? A clear strategy setup by Porsche decades ago.

1) chopping heads

This tactic only supports low costs if you can replace those heads with people that can build cars cheaper than ANY OTHER automaker in the world. Otherwise, the new employees better know how to make something special or have specialized knowledge of a market niche, let's say electric vehicles.

2) closing dealerships

This tactic only supports low costs ONLY if you can run dealerships CHEAPER THAN EVERY OTHER AUTOMAKER. As far as differentiation, maybe if you're the first to be able to develop the direct model for cars, but are customers ready? Toyota did sell half a million Prius without a test drive sight unseen... How about niche? Closing dealerships MIGHT WORK if they are consolidated and moved into specialized markets. For example, shut 80% of the dealerships leaving only those in electric vehicle markets open to become the industry's top service provider for maintenance and repair of ALL electric vehicles from Golf Carts to Teslas to Volts.

When Detroit finally gives up its quest for revenues and is forced to focus on profits, there is only ONE WAY TO SURVIVE = A VERY CLEAR AND SIMPLE STRATEGY that everyone from the line worker to the greeter at the dealership can understand and take to heart everyday!

Making cars cheaper than everyone else, making special cars and making cars for a specific market are the only generic strategies available according to Porter. Only the brave can dream of mixing these into best costs and those stuck in the middle will die in the digitization of the world's largest business!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

All About Electric & Hybrid Cars Nugget

This post is one in a series where I capture
"nuggets" of information from books
that we can also use for our references
or to back up our arguments.

In All About Electric & Hybrid Cars by Robert J. Traister
Copyright 1982 by TAB BOOKS, INC, Blue Ridge Summit, PA

on pages 82-88 discusses controlling the speed of electric motors.

This is a very expensive and important topic
and was actually the bottleneck for Toyota
in developing the 80 G21 designs into the
Hybrid Synergy Drive that came may failures
and years later. The most expensive was the
decision to start a factory to manufacturer
power controllers because they could not source them.

Traister writes from an engineering perspective
and explains how the "gas pedal" works in electrics and hybrids:

Rather than controlling the amount of air that enters a gasoline engine,
turning off and on the electricity to the motor depending on where the
gas pedal is describes pulsing or controlling the motor so you can drive.

Traister cites silicon-controlled rectifiers (SCRs) as the best devices
because they are highly efficient (95%). Compare that with burning
gasoline one of every four strokes (25%). Remember that electric
motors and batteries have been described as 90% efficient in my
interview with a Tesla Motors VP.

PROS = Secret Black Box
Although the SCR has no moving parts, it can clearly be wired
or programmed to perform differently. I believe that nearby is
where you will find billions of dollars of R&D monies invested
over the next 100 years of digital car development.

Probably in the system controllers that tell the SCR
WHEN, which way and what to do,
both in terms of hardware and software.

CONS = Cost
In 1982 dollars, Traister quoted SCR choppers for 400 amps
for the do-it-yourself electric or hybrid vehicle builder at
$750 to $3000 each.

Even back in the day, Traister agreeed with my silver bullet R&D hypothesis
of controllers over batteries by closing the chapter with,
"Much research and development is presently underway by various companies in the motor controller field. A listing of some of these manufacturers can be found in the appendices of this book."

The list was long 25 years ago and I've taken the time to list the names of organizations from Traister's 1983 Appendix E here ON CONTROLLERS: Brewer Associates, Cableform, Inc., Curtis Instruments, Dart Controls, Inc., EHB Systems, Inc., Electric Motion Control Corp., Electric Regulator, EVC Inc., Fengler Controls, FMC Corporation, General Electric Company, General Power Corporation, H.B. Electrical Mfg. Co., Inc., Propel Inc., RH Electronics, Robert Borsche Corporation, Ross Engineering Corporation, Sevcon, Siskiyou Energy Systems, Soleq Corporation, Uniparts Inc. and Unitron Corp.

Now that's a much lower profile yet arguably more important
list than what you see today, and Secret Black Boxes are
just as hidden even though the end product has blossomed.

The list has grown much larger into many different lists today
and one of my favorite is the Automotive X Prize Teams.

It's amazing to see so many digital auto entrepreneurs
with so few patents and hard core controller understanding.
If I was getting into the digital auto game, I would make sure
my team knew about every controller patent out there as
well as every competitor using a controller to drive a car,
then only then, could I successfully plot the tactics to win.

Because if Toyota has a $1,000,000,000.00+ head start on SCR and controller R&D,
what company in their right mind could ever catch up. It doesn't matter if we're
talking about the next great battery, electric cars, hybrids or digital cars,
if you don't have hundreds of patents in your Secret Black Box,
you had better get a license or buy a company fast!!!

THANK YOU Traister for
spending several pages laying out a basic explanation for
tomorrow's "gas pedal" in a world accelerating the use of electrons.

So the next time you pick a stock or judge an electric car company,
criticize a hybrid or start up your own digital automaker,
take a good hard look under the hood of the Secret Black Box.

It's the big black or silver looking thing under every hood
in plain sight with special words like Hybrid Synergy Drive
hiding billions of dollars, thousands of paychecks, hundred of patents
and the basics of what will drive the digital automotive revolution for years to come!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Which Business Score Counts???

at Martin's Tesla Founders Blog
there is a very lively debate
on how to keep score of a business.

Most of the businesses are automakers
and the products are usually cars.

The majority camp believes that products are what matter
and the minority camp (that myself and Martin subscribe to)
value business systems as more important than business products.

In Built to Last by two Stanford Professors,
the argument is deepened further,
akin to "clock building" vs "time telling."

Clock building is focusing on things in your company's DNA,
like for Toyota, kaizen, or values like frugality that help
employees on business trips order ramen instead of sushi.

Telling time is like making a MP3 player because everyone else is.

The hybrid and electric vehicle is much like the iPod for the world'
largest business and companies are all over the place in searching
for strategies: some are product based and few are systems based.

but let's save that for another blog, sorry...


One of the most lively debates appears under Martin's posts on Kaizen.

In response to my question," How many patents does the Tesla Roadster have compared to the Prius?"

TEG wrote:
"Here are some examples:" and proceeded to list some important details that obviously costs his voluntary time!

FIRST OF ALL TEG, I would really like to say THANK YOU for going out of your way to do some research and answer my question. That is very kind of you!

You have taught some of the value of a blog (as I'm new to this system, although I've been scribbling for decades)...

Back to the question about patents related to the topic of kaizen.

As Martin and I try to hit home over and over, it's about the business system and much less about the product.

Kaizen is simply one example, and it DOES NOT mean that anything Toyota touches is golden. Anyway, that system had roots in Deming's work, who had also worked with Ford. So, yes you need a team AND a system, but I argue, system first, most argue team first...

Martin said:

"A lot of you seem to miss my point. Kaizen applies to the way you run a factory, work with suppliers, negotiate contracts, structure the company, etc. The whole point is to encourage evolution so that your business gets better over time and learns from its mistakes.

I am talking about evolution of business processes."


SO IF WE ARE COMPARING companies and technologies under the system approach, how do we keep score???

Traditionally, we measure sales, or consumer acceptance. That to me only measures the products, half the battle. After all, a company is a collection of resources working in a unique system.

What about measuring the system???

I would argue that the patent trade war is a good place to start.

What is a patent anyway???

Well, is it not the result of several failures???

Trial and error inside of a business system.

If so, than the number of patents is a great metric for evaluating business systems (companies), especially startups that don't have customers yet.

BACK TO TEG's hard work on Tesla vs. Toyota patents. FIRST OF ALL, it's unfair to compare these two business systems, Toyota is a collection of hundreds of businesses and thousands of suppliers and tens of thousands of employees, while Tesla is a startup.

BUT, I was very curious to see if anyone out there knew that the G21 project that failed through 80 car designs to accidentally land on the Prius and filed 650 PATENTS ALONG THE WAY!!!

The bottleneck for the most successful digital automobile every produced was the high voltage controller. Even Silicon Valley knows little (has far fewer patents on than lo voltages) about high voltage.

Toyota plowed $1 billion into a secret factory head up by an engineer that started his career scrubbing catalytic converters 30 years prior, churning through the system of Kaizen, where failure in R&D is acceptable. Up in Northern Nagoya, the guy built the brains that became the Hybrid Snergy Drive. The product WAS NOT the goal, it was a system to run the first Prius because no supplier could come up with enough high quality controllers.


So the reason I keep bringing the Prius into the picture is that VERY FEW people understand how many failures occured and how the Toyota system worked through those with a rush deadline for the Kyoto Protocol. The managers and engineers hated each other on the project.

The other misunderstanding is that people calculate the $1 billion dollar factory into just the Prius and don't realize it's a system that will probably last until Toyota's last day.


Toyota ($1 billion high voltage controller secret factory and 650 patents that became the Hybrid Synergy Drive)
GM's how many patents on E-Flex
Tesla's how many patents on energy management
Mitsubishi's how many patents on in-wheel electrics
Ford's (300+ related to the Escape hybrid) how many plug-in controller patents

Where we can get a scoreboard of patents on the high voltage race to the digital automobile???

PS I'm not asking for patent search help, as this is not an engineering scoreboard, think ESPN that reports the score on each of the sports systems running. Just the area of patents and number by company.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Supply and Demand for Automotive Talent

Here is a quick Literature review for a project I'm working on that will survey the landscape for doctoral students in America studying advanced automotive technologies. This is to test a hypothesis that exacerbated demand by consumer behavior, energy, environment and other macro-forces will NOT be met by the pace of researchers coming out of schools qualified to work on systems engineering to design tomorrow's digital vehicles. Geography will play a major role, including nationalism. In the war between Detroit and imports, Japan is pursuing an in-house strategy while the Big 3 follow an out-sourcing strategy. If the automobile industry moves towards a built to order direct model, such as Dell assembling computers after they are sold, the R&D strategies for the world's largest business may become the most influential key success factors.

Automotive Education at the Doctoral Level


A Survey of Automotive Education at the Doctoral Level in American Universities

John E. Acheson

Community College of Southern Nevada

A Survey of Automotive Education at the Doctoral Level in American Universities

Automotive research is the world’s largest Research and Development (R&D) effort. In Natural Capitalism, Hawken and Lovins (1999) emphasized that automotive transportation is the world’s largest industry. In a Washington D.C. speech at a National Press Club Luncheon, Jim Press (2006), the highest ranking non-Japanese executive to ever earn a seat on Toyota’s Board of Directors, added

It’s the largest manufacturing industry in the nation…responsible for one out of every 10 American jobs and generates nearly 4% of the nation’s GDP. The U.S. auto industry spends more than $15 billion ($22.7 million per day) on Research & Development, more than any other manufacturing industry. We buy more metals, plastics, rubber and textiles than any other business including more computer chips than even the computer industry!

American doctoral students researching automotive technologies are studied in this paper. It is hypothesized that the supply of this primary R&D input, human resources, will be strained in coming decades. As macro-forces including consumer behaviors, governmental policies, energy economics and environmental issues exacerbate demand for automotive R&D, the author investigates if the number of graduates will keep up. The following literature review reveals geography as a key variable in the location, direction and careers of RnD doctoral graduates.

Where does the manpower come from? It’s widely known that college graduates supply the majority of human resources for R&D efforts. According to Landis & Svestka (1983), engineers are an important national resource in which the supply and demand of manpower ensures economic growth: demand is driven by economics, supply is simply linked to an appropriate number of graduates.

In an article that researched American higher education, Folger (1972) studied the relationship between the supply of college graduates and manpower. He concluded that shortages and surpluses occur frequently in America and found weak links between the number of graduates and job openings. In other words, supply rarely responds to demand. Folger’s work supports the hypothesis that there could be a growing shortage of automotive engineering graduates because demand is increasing while supply grows slowly.

One of the gaps in supply and demand is geography. Cassola (2007) believes that graduates choose to stay in the same states as their schools even though the advanced manufacturing degrees he studied were “hot commodities.” M.E. (2007) described geographical ties at Clemson: the proximity of industry and academia is an important part of Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research’s vision to be “the premier automotive and motorsports research and educational facility in the world”. It’s no surprise that the center is located 45 minutes away from campus, centered in one of America’s leading automotive industry research clusters. Michelin’s donation of tire machinery is a concrete example of the importance of geography (M.E., 2007). In a study testing the hypothesis of American workplace attitudes at a Ford’s River Rouge Plant, Southworth & Stepan-Norris (2003) found that “geographic separation shaped class-based identity.”

In the auto industry, national identity appears to be an instrumental R&D variable. The national origin of the R&D armies in the trade war between Detroit and Japan could play a very significant role in business survival. According to author Hughes (2006), automaker supply chains are highly nationalistic. The majority of American automakers rely on thousands of supply chains linked to R&D centers based in the United States. In other words, R&D efforts are often outsourced to suppliers.

Acheson’s (2006) research shows that leading Japanese automakers maintain advanced R&D facilities in their home countries. Unlike American rivals, Toyota performs R&D in-house usually in Japan. To help build the electronic brain that controls electricity for the one million Toyota hybrids on the road like the iconic Prius, Toyota invested $1 billion a secret factory tucked into the hills North of Nagoya. Takeshi Yaegashi known as the “father of the hybrid” stayed with a single automaker from college grad to industry changing technology. His work cleaning up smog devices started decades before his ground-breaking hybrid R&D (Fairley, 2004). 30 year careers at the same company, may give Japanese automakers a competitive advantage in advanced automotive technologies. At Honda, Sato (2006) made clear that all Honda employees were hired for life: forbidden to work for any other automaker, even after retirement.

The literature review reveals that geography could be one of the most important variables in studying the supply and demand of human resources for the world’s largest R&D effort. These findings suggest that the study could evolve into a model that predicts a gap in the supply of doctoral graduates vs. demand for automotive R&D manpower.


Acheson, J. (2006). The Hybrid Phenomenon. Copyrighted masters thesis, San Francisco State University, San Francisco.

Cassola, J. (2007). More than spinning their wheels. Techniques: Connecting education and careers. 66, 16-18.

Southworth, C. & Stepan-Norris, J. (2003), The geography of class in an industrial American city: Connections between workplace and neighborhood politics. Social Problems, 50, 319-348.

Folger, J.K. (1972). The job market for college graduates. The Journal of Higher Education, 43, 203-222.

Hawken, P. & Lovins A. & Lovins, L.H. (1999), Natural Capitalism (Boston, New York, London: Little Brown and Company), 22.

Hughes, K.H. (2006), Are the wheels coming off the American auto industry? Chronicle of Higher Education. 52.

Landis, F. & Svestka, J.A. (1983). The demand for engineers –- projections through 1987. Management Science Quarterly, 29, 455-464.

M.E. (2007). Parking garage at Clemson’s University’s automotive research center. University Business. 10, 20.

Press, J. (2006). Toyota North American Press Room: Speeches, July 18, 2006, retrieved from, accessed August 15, 2006.

Sato, M. (2006). The Honda Myth, New York: Vertical, Inc.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who will win the Lithium race?

Automakers spend more on R&D than any other industry. For example, Toyota spends 10 times more dollars than Apple. Getting to the Prius cost $1 billion and getting to the next digital transportation breakthrough is costing more.

The race to marry Lithium with automobiles is attracting top talent, global money powering new technologies with promising futures.

Just as entrepreneurs and corporate American filled the analogue to digital wake that Napster left in the music industry, venture capitalist and the largest organizations in the world are racing to R&D the iPod for the auto industry.

I wonder who will sell me the automobile that can drive across the digital divide and set the standard to accelerate away from the competition...

Start your Lithium teams and then engines (ranked in random order)!!!

  • Team Volt: Sequoia, GM, A123
  • Team VW: 360 million euros to develop Li-ion batteries by Bosch, Evonic Degssa, Li-Tec, STEAG Saar Egnergie including 60 million euros from the German govt. (Automotive Engineer, Dec 2007, Vol. 32 Issue 11, p 47)
  • Team Nissan: NEC Lamilion Energy, A123, SAP AG
  • New Enterprise Associates, BlueRun Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and DFJ
  • Team Ford: GE, $30 million R1, $40 million R2 for A123, Sanyo
  • Team Phoenix: Al Yousaf, Altair
  • Team GM: Cobasts, Johnson
  • Vincent Bollore/EDF/$52.8M BatScap/Continental AG/BMW/Pininfarina/BlueCar
  • Team Mitsubishi: GS Yuasu, Lithium Energy Japan, MiEV
  • Team Tesla: $37M Musk/VantagePoint Venture Partners, Technology Partners, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson/$105M Tesla
  • Team Fisker: $10M Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers/Quantum
  • Team Zenn: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers/EEEstor/$25M Zenn/Lockheed
  • Israel Corp., Morgan Stanley, VantagePoint Venture Partners/Renault Nissan/Israel's Ofer Shipping Holdings/$200 million R1 for Project Better Place

Who's making Lithium batteries?

This is probably the next biggest question out there. There are basically two tactics: research and develop in house or play suppliers against each other. Toyota has assembled hundreds of engineers to work on Lithium in house while GM has pit two battery-makers against each other to race the 2010 deadline.

This list will change often so feel free to suggest any additions or changes!!!

Li Batterymakers
Advanced Battery Tech
Contental AG
Danionics (iPod)
Deeya Energy
EEStor ($2.5M Zenn + Kleiner etc.)
Johnson Controls
KW Energy
Lithium Energy Japan
Lithium Technology Corp.
Maxwell Technologies
Phostech Lithium
Nissan-NEC Lamilion Energy
Sanyo Energy
Tesla Energy Group

Who's making Lithium autos?

I've been putting together this list of automakers for quite awhile now. When possible I like to link directly to an automaker's Lithium technology that's on or closest to the road, but if not available, I provide a link to some news about the technology.

Also, there's a possibility of having to go to an overseas website, like Toyota for example, that has been selling small Lithium light hybrids in Tokyo for quite awhile now. Those are called Vitz aka Yaris hatchbacks with options called the Intelligent Package. These are marketed at urban women and Toyota has quietly been selling about 10 Lithium autos per month to be the first automaker on the road.

Li Automakers

AC Propulsion
Azure Dynamics
BYD Auto
Commuter Cars

Hybrid Technolgies
JR East
Lightening Car
Loremo AG
Roth Motors
Venture Vehicles
Visionary Vehicles

Sunday, February 10, 2008

How to study Lithium?

To Patrick, Assistant Editor
The Futurist by the World Future Society

I have a hard time finding out anything about the back end of Lithium
and am pretty much following the breakthroughs in applications,
such as Stanford's Dr. Cui using silicon to 10x Lithium potential.

To me, I believe that driving is the most expensive,
dirtiest and dangerous choice we make everyday
and the potential to clean up our accelerating fleet
outweighs any mining issues.

BUT a holistic full-cycle article from mining
to electric car battery including dust to dust
well to wheel and environmental impact
is the only way to argue one over another.

I do support Lithium applications for making mobility more efficient,
but in the end, it will be up to the consumer to choose the iPod
for the automotive industry struggling with a digital future,

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Dear Director of Stanford's Global Climate & Energy Project


Acheson, MBA

9353 W Twain Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89147 | (415) 290-7767 | (702) 476-3293 | |

February 9, 2008

Prof. Lynn Orr, Ph.D., Project Director

Global Climate & Energy Project (GCEP)

Jerry Yang & Akiko Yamazaki Environment & Energy Building — 4230
473 Via Ortega
Stanford, CA 94305

Dear Dr. Orr:

Thank you for the email announcing your Five-year Anniversary Special Event. Congratulations on such relevant and timely research. I am very interested in attending the event, but have relocated to Nevada from San Francisco and won’t be able to make it.

I’m writing to thank you for your publically available information, and ask a few questions. At your GCEP website under [Research], I am grateful for the reports “Advanced Transportation” and “Batteries for Electric Vehicles” as well as at the Presentations available at the Advanced Transportation Workshop summary under [Events].

It’s great to see interdisciplinary research bringing together energy and transportation. Are you integrating the ground-breaking research over at Terman? Have you considered Dr. Yi Cui’s recent breakthrough in Lithium? How will the new CarLab’s mission to “radically rethink the automobile” fit into your GCEP vision?

The reason I’m asking these questions, is because I cited your center (see Statement of Purpose) as a research example of the many projects that have taken place between automakers and Stanford over the years. Toyota’s massive contribution to GCEP intrigues me and I’m very curious about their expectations and research requests from GCEP.

I have been so impressed with the timely world-class automotive related research at Stanford’s that I recently applied to the Management Science & Engineering’s doctoral program to pursue the dream to continue my Master’s research.

I would like to thank you again for your team’s hard work and inspiration!


John Acheson

Enclosure Stanford Statement of Purpose

Friday, February 8, 2008

Future Drive Nugget

This post starts a new series where I will
capture "nuggets" of information from books
that we can also use for our references
or to back up our arguments.

In Future Drive by Daniel Sperling
Copyright 1995 by Island Press, Washington DC
on pages 53, 54...

Professor Sperling of UC Davis,
advanced automotive transportation expert states,
"The most advanced batteries of the future will probably
never exceed 4 percent of the energy density of gasoline.
This does not mean that electric vehicles are inherently inferior, though."
"First, the 4 percent figure overstates the difference,
because electric vehicles are likely to be at least
four times as energy efficient as comparable ICE vehicles.
Thus future batteries will be closer to 16 percent
of the energy density of gasoline."

Dr. Sperling makes an excellent point in that
comparing technologies should be done holistically.
After all, a battery is more comparable to a gas tank,
and gasoline is more comparable to let's say the type
of battery, such as Lithium or Nickel.

So to compare apples to apples, we have to consider
at least tank to wheel, which measure energy loss
from filling up to turning the wheels.

From that perspective, Dr. Sperling's future prediction
just got outdated by Stanford's Dr. Cui's work on Lithium
at the nano-level. By looking at tiny fibers of Lithium
many times smaller than a human hair, Dr. Cui found that
as we charge and use our Lithium batteries, the Lithium
fiber starts cracking. Imagine your head of hair getting
more brittle by the day and finally unable to hold a charge.

So if Dr. Cui's work is the beginning of a quantum leap forward
in Lithium energy density, Dr. Sperling's prediction drastically
underestimated the energy density potential of batteries.

But his point in incorporating the efficiency of the electric motor
to the apples to apples comparison is VERY important. One cannot
compare gasoline to batteries or even the chemistry without considering
that a typical gasoline four-stroke engine can only produce power
with one stroke for a theoretical maximum of 25%. Electric motors
are far superior, and I interviewed the VP at Tesla who firmly
answered that his motor was at or near 90%.

So I absolutely support Dr. Sperling's metric above of "four times."
From a tank to wheel analysis, if the electric motor is four times
more efficient as the internal combustion engine, then to compare
apples to apples in terms of fuel, the electric fuel only needs
to be 1/4 as powerful as gasoline for the same performance.

Of course we are ignoring things like electric cars can be lighter
with high voltage safety equipment like repelling bumpers,
and that the current electric grid is terribly inefficient,
if we add Dr. Cui's work of 10x on the Lithium side
to the four times in Dr. Sperling's Future Drive,
we come up with 40% times four which is a SUPERIOR TECHNOLOGY!

In other words, from an apples to apples comparison,
only looking at two similar cars, one Nano-Lithium electric
and the other high-octane gasoline,
the electric actually has more energy.

This result goes against almost any article,
comment, analysis or comments you'll see
anywhere in media, on the internet and from the mouth.

If Dr. Cui's nano-Lithium is brought to market,
there is theoretically more muscle in his electric car
than almost any of the muscle cars built over all time!

Thank you again Dr. Cui and Dr. Sperling
for your world-changing work, after all,
I believe that owning and driving our
cars and trucks is the most expensive,
dangerous and dirtiest choice we make

John Acheson

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Line Graph and Pie Chart

Figure 3.1 Auto Theft in America

Department of Justice, 2000

Figure 3.2 Diversity in American Colleges

Source: Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, 1997

Technical Communications 1

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hybrid Showers

In response to my father's passion for
lo technologies accomplishing high functions,
I responded to Jay Leno's article on the
last and most cleanest steam hybrids titled,
"Jay Leno's Garage: A Case For Steam"


This brings to mind the small boilers that run Japan vs. the large water heaters that sit around America. There's billions of these hybrid devices powering every modern home providing hot water for showers, washing dishes, clothes, brushing your teeth, etc.

My Japanese wife complains every Winter night (we live in Las Vegas) because she takes showers late (in Japan most everyone bathes at night and washes their hair in the morning) and the incoming water into the heater is so cold, the equilibrium is lost within a minute or so. Very inefficient, but in America, natural gas has been relatively dirt cheap until recently...

In Japan, they run Doble designs everywhere, from showers to washing the dishes, the power plant is a small backpack sized steamer that can burn your hair off. It's either on the wall right above the sink, or right behind the bathroom pipes. Very different from the huge tanks that require a separate room in most American applications of this old world wasteful technology.

The downside for American usage of this more efficient technology, is that the company would get sued to many times from non-precise consumers and there's not enough volume to satisfy our big lifestyle.

On the other hand Jay, you might be right about the emissions and impact issue. With steam or even super steam (the technology that powered WWI and the industrial revolution) we might be able to digitize Doble's idea and run a car more efficiently AND cleaner.

I'm wondering how the efficiencies compare to the 20% ICE and 40% diesel or gasoline hybrid?

How efficient is the Doble? Is it cleaner than a Prius?

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