Fascinating National Geographic Video: Building the Tesla Motors Factory

Check out this National Geographic video showing the process behind the
construction and assembly of the Tesla Motors factory in Silicon Valley, “a
factory like no other.” The factory is highly significant because it is “the world’s
first manufacturing plant for the fully electric car.” See where Tesla cars are
produced, what the machinery and automated production line look like, and how
factory workers get to ride bikes around the factory!

Watch and enjoy: http://natgeotv.com/ca/megafactories/videos/brand-new-tesla-factory


Great Journal Article from Shifting Currents Interviewee and UMD Professor David Kirsch

This paper, entitled “Technology, environment and public policy in
perspective: Lessons from the history of the automobile,” details the history of the
automobile and its environmental effects in the United States. Kirsch discusses th
e negative environmental effects of gasoline-powered automobiles that had become
the norm in the twentieth century, replacing horse-drawn transportation. The
article highlights the fact that the technological alternatives to gasoline powered
automobiles, steam and electricity-powered cars, would have caused a “different set
of environmental constraints” had they been the norm.

This argument has implications for understanding the possible effects
of the electric car if it does one day become adopted as a mainstream form of
transportation. This article also goes into the electric car industry’s “search for the
Holy Grail,” which is the super-battery, and the history of “blaming the battery” on
the part of both supporters and opponents of the electric car. Kirsch holistically
studies six factors “that contributed to the resolution of the technological battle
between steam, gasoline, and electricity:” infrastructure, relative technology
opportunity, prevailing social and cultural norms, failure of organized interests,
institutions of the state, and the role of historical accident.

A highly recommended read for those looking to learn more about issues
related to unintended consequences of technology and the historical development of
the electric car!

Full citation: Kirsch, D. (1996). Technology, environment and public policy in perspective:
Lessons from the history of the automobile. Technical expertise and public
decisions proceedings. IEEE International Symposium on technology and society,
Princeton, N.J., 21 June: 67-75.

Cooperation or Cause For Concern?

Although there is a lot of cooperation between governments, media, and electric car manufacturers, sometimes these groups butt heads. Recently New York Times writer John Broder published an unflattering review of the Tesla Model S, to which Tesla Motor’s CEO Elon Musk responded with a blog post decrying the review, saying that it was “fake”. We would call Musk’s response anything less than friendly.

Musk referenced data about the car’s usage, from the average temperature to the location and speed of the car when it was making circles in a parking lot. This caused quite the commotion on social media outlets, where many people chose to pick sides on the issue. Were you a Musk or Broder fan after the initial details went public?

This Time article comments on Musk’s introduction of data-driven analysis and question the usage of social media outlets to vent frustration at the outcome of the NYT article. The author claims that, while Broder may have been disingenuous, Musk was equally as bad as calling out Broder’s integrity in such a public forum. This article illustrates that, although cooperation does exist, often times the coexistence of different kinds of organizations leads to very different conclusions.

Tell us: do you think that the spat between the NYT and Tesla was warranted? How does this kind of publicity affect collaboration in the market for electric cars? Do you think that this negative review will make other brands, such as Nissan and Ford, hesitant to have others try out their car?

Path-Dependency and the Electric Car: An Interview with David Kirsch

On Monday, April 8, we had the amazing opportunity to interview

Professor Kirsch

Professor David Kirsch about electric cars, path dependency, and some of the obstacles that American society may be faced with while adopting the fully electric car. Kirsch is Associate Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship in the M&O Department at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. He has also written extensively about the history of the electric car and the necessity for in his book The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History (2001).

During our interview, Professor Kirsch elaborated on many of the obstacles of electric car adoption, including the all too common concerns of range anxiety and infrastructure availability.

Stay tuned for our video with our favorite excerpts from the interview. And thank you Professor Kirsch for your time!