Hello readers. You may have heard that EV entrepreneur, disrupteur sauvage and tweet connoisseur Elon Musk is having a “difficult time,” currently. Which is bad for electric vehicles and the optimistic pursuit of capital in the face of our impending doom, only one of which I really care about.
The good news is I have a plan: replace Elon with me. I got this.
I’ve followed Elon’s story for some time. I, too am an electric vehicle specialist with a strange accent and an attraction to goth women who make electropop bangers. In fact I also am a goth woman with experience wrangling difficult pop stars, so I can do a classic twofer here.
Fortunately, I have also been extremely online throughout my entire 20s and 30s so far and can safely say that I have already done all my bad tweets — and then some. It is with supreme confidence I can put myself forward as a dashingly roguish but ultimately safe pair of hands to steer forward the change the automotive industry needs, without headbutting a delivery line or calling anyone a pedophile.
Unfortunately I don’t have loads of business capital (yet!) so although I am obviously ideally placed to take on the mantle of being an eccentric, battery-powered magnate who doesn’t play by the rules I will need some rich people to give me a lot of money to be able to do so.
In light of this, I present to you my dead-serious business plan for making the next Tesla with me (your “emotionally unstable but in a kind of relatable way that generates goodwill, rather than litigation threats, union breaking and destroying the share prices” CEO) at the helm.
Here’s the plan.
We’re Not Going To Build Our Own EVs
This might be a step too far off the deep end of disruption, I know but listen up: we don’t need to.
And there’s a lot of reasons that’s good news. For a start, in the west we are shit at it. We’ve spent so long refusing to entertain the concept of a move away from petrol and diesel that the best manufacturers are struggling to deliver a basic hatchback.
No, friends: we’re going to buy them. There are more than 400 electric vehicle manufacturers in China, following a $15 billion credit scheme to promote new energy vehicle manufacture. Successful manufacturers like NIO and Byton are already breaking out into Western markets and indeed, expanding in Silicon Valley at a pace Tesla would love to. In a move to quash its horrific air pollution, China’s government is pushing its market hard toward EVs, and we need to get in on some of that.
We don’t need that kind of scale of operation—we just need somewhere willing to sell us a steady stream of decently-ranged vehicles. Or even the designs to them and the batteries, which are smaller to ship and production can then be in-sourced to somewhere European (or near enough) about to find itself out of a car making role.
The Chinese firm gets a huge publicity boost, we look like the ingenious VC pioneers we are, the rest is all profit. If that sounds overly simplistic for an international manufacturing pitch then you’ve clearly not seen entrepreneurs in action.
We’re Going to Learn Norwegian
Norway is seeking to phase out the sale of new internal combustion engine cars in the next decade. Same in the Netherlands. Given how cars’ product cycles are planned, the last time I spoke to a representative from a manufacturer about this, that might as well be “next week.”
It’s true, Norway and the Netherlands don’t represent the biggest markets in Europe for new vehicles. Which is just as well, since right now we can’t get EVs (and certainly not fuel cell vehicles) off the production line fast enough to meet the demands of larger countries. But there’s a lithium ion gold rush here. Yes, we might not have the fastest cars or the quickest charging or the least annoying dashboard but that’s never stopped anything being sold if it’s relatively reasonably priced and there. Which an awful lot of other things imminently aren’t going to be.
The Netherlands new car market was worth over €13 billion last year. That’s a lot. To build and get a slice of that before 2025, when suddenly you’ll be handed it on a platter? Invaluable, the sort of thing any rank capitalist would jump at. Not to be subliminal but: give me your money.
We’re Going to Market to People Who Actually Buy Cars
Listen up, potential investors, I’m going to drop a swear during my pitch to make sure you’re aware how deadly serious and edgy I am.
Some un-self aware motherfuckers are trying to market to people who want to go to space but can’t quite afford the full dick stand-in rocket program themselves. No. Those people are a.) weird — space is fucking enormous and terrifying and b.) few and far between.
You know who’s really buying cars? Millennials are finally catching up after years mired in debt and particularly slammed by the Great Recession, but more than anything, it’s your mum. Your mum wants a car that will get from A to B and be easy to park.
Most cars travel hardly any distance. An EU study found that people in most countries make about two trips per day, with an average daily distance well under 100km — under 50km in the UK. So no worries about range anxiety, in reality and we don’t even need to bleat on about that.
What we need to do is show that plugging in your car is as easy as plugging in the smartphone your children insisted you have, except actually much more familiar in terms of usability. We get mommy bloggers to try them out for school runs. We get whoever the Dutch equivalent of Fern Britten is to bomb one down a dual carriageway for a luncheon meetup in Rotterdam. We show them as a nice refuge during a stressful, rainy pickup from football practice. We state very clearly that they do not catch fire. We invest in the damn charging infrastructure where it needs to be.
They don’t need to be a kitted-out two-ton monster with LED screens everywhere like a particularly newfangled Death Star, we just need to convince people they can buy one and it can work.
I, a greying and increasingly middle-aged woman who just wants to get home and have a glass of wine, am in fact exactly who you want at the helm of this.
And How Much Does This Cost?
Well, how long is a piece of string? If many of your venture capitalists fund my desire to present TED talks pointing out the electric vehicle industry needs to sort its shit out, pronto then we could have a half-billion Euro supply chain trotting across the old Silk Road before you can say “Caucasus.”
In reality, the scheme is so bleeding simple I am astonished no one — not least, say, the beleaguered Faraday Future — has come up with it already. If not, consider this my patent on this business model and get ready to hear from my lawyer, who is definitely not my cat.
But the serious point of all this, aside from the fact I would make a brilliant, eccentric thought leader, is that there’s about to be a genuine shortage of cars in Europe. Cars that meet these tough regulatory requirements just looming on the horizon.
Either we have to start importing batteries and drive trains and converting existing vehicles — which is a good solution and the most carbon-optimised way to do things but presents its own problems in terms of maintenance and expertise — or we have to get ready to not have cars.
Millennials are, for the most part . We’ve moved to cities and live cheaply and can’t afford children, but the generations before us are going to run into serious problems of adaptation. Which is particularly juicy, as they are the ones that have money and who are vastly more likely to buy a new car.
Think of your mum, give me several million dollars.
Hazel Southwell is a freelance motorsport journalist. She officially lives in London and unofficially on the departures side of Heathrow Terminal 2. She has one cat.
(This piece was originally published on Medium.com. It is reproduced by me with my own permission, like a boss.)