When you read this, I will be on my way up London (if not already there) to take part in the Extinction Rebellion uprising to drag climate change back to the top of the political agenda. This is something I feel extremely strongly about.
I’ve been going on environmental protests, and supporting environmental issues for about thirty years, after first reading a book on topic when I was at university. Over the years I’ve been that guy giving out leaflets in the street, writing angry letters to politicians and businesses, and that guy who stands outside government buildings holding banners and hoping to affect some sort of minor political change through direct action.
Technically I’ve been guilty of breaching a number of laws doing this, even risked arrest under anti terrorism laws (widely mis-used against peaceful protesters in the UK). I’ve been filmed by the police and asked to give me name, but never arrested or charged yet.
Today, along with many thousands of people, I’ll be in London trying to cause as much disruption as possible to drag this issue to the forefront of the political debate. This will likely involve a LOT of disruption, a LOT of police. There will be a lot of arrests, certainly hundreds. It will be a big deal, and its happening all over the world, not just in London. I *probably* wont take any risks that mean I’m arrested and kept overnight, but you never know…
I’d like to bust a few myths on this topic.
Firstly, not all environmental protesters are unemployed hippies. There are ALWAYS some people who show up with dreadlocks and bongo drums. You cant stop them. There are always people who try to twist the whole climate change message into being anti-capitalist, or a far-left agenda, or link it to a number of other issues. This is a small, minor, hardcore set of people who tend to get on TV, and tend to describe themselves as spokespeople, regardless what the rest of us think.
I’m a 49 year old company director in a software company. Not a hippie, not unemployed, have never played the bongos, definitely not anti-capitalist at all. I’m concerned about climate change because its happening RIGHT NOW and if you read about it, its FUCKING TERRIFYING. I am scared. I think this is way scarier than terrorism, or brexit, or inequality, or bio-terrorism. I am not doing this because I care about squirrels, or have a passionate fear for future generations. I’m doing this because if I don’t, its going to ruin my life, along with yours.
The best time to prevent climate change was about twenty years ago, when people like me used to bang on about it. Everyone ignored the issue (and they still are), so now the situation is absolutely critical. This isn’t something we sort out after brexit or after trump. It has to be sorted out immediately, and drastically. This isn’t a problem for your kids or your retirement, its a problem right now, this year.
Which means that this, being the last big environmentalist protest of the year is basically the last chance to protest before ‘shit gets real’ and everyone wakes up to how bad things are. This is the last chance to force governments to take real action. Not ‘£10 million subsidies for some EV charging points’ but dramatic economy-spanning action. We can’t be doing crazy shit like expanding heathrow airport, or fracking. Those are literally suicide. We need to tax airline fuel NOW, we need to increase fuel tax NOW and we need drastic, huge incentives for constructing more renewable energy, and switching cars, trucks and buses away from petrol/diesel.
In theory, I shouldn’t care so much. I’m 49, have had a good life, have no kids, earn a very good income, and sensibly bought a house on fairly high ground. We even have a well, and some land to grow a small amount of food (not enough). I can afford an electric car without subsidies, and I could afford a doubling of food prices. However…most people are not in this position, most people are fucked.
And if you only remember one thing from this blog post, let it be this: That climate change is very likely going to decimate crop production. That means vast increases in food prices. Likely food rioting. Not food rioting just in ‘the developing world’ but everywhere. Imagine the cost of the weekly food shop in the UK doubled in 2 years, think about the implications for poverty, law and order, immigration and the kind of extremist right and left-wing groups that will come to power in the chaos.
Climate change isn’t just about warmer summers or colder winters, its about a dramatic economic shock wave starting at food production and sweeping through the whole economy, destroying political consensus and social stability as it does so. Its already started.
I’ll be in London today because I could not possibly explain to future me what I could have done on this day that was somehow more important.
Yup, no games content here, just a brain dump of why I am so bullish (positive) about the prospects for tesla (Stock ticker: TSLA). Written in July 2019, 2 days before Q2 earnings release.
I own a Tesla model S, 85D AP1, from late 2015. Its the most amazing car I have ever owned. Its actually the most amazing *thing* I have ever owned, in terms of being so-far-ahead-of-the-competition-its-laughable. I smile every time I drive it, and I am *not* a car geek. I don’t know valves from torque from spark plugs. Here is my car:
In case you are unaware, Tesla is a US-based manufacturer of electric cars. They are the ONLY large company that is 100% dedicated to making electric vehicles. They are publicly traded on the new York stock market, and the CEO is Elon Musk (of spacex / boring company /t witter-personality fame). One interesting fact: despite widespread criticism by various old-school car company CEOs, as of this writing, Elon is the *longest serving CEO* of a major car company who is still in their job. So yup, he has more experience than the current GM/Ford/Nissan/Renault etc CEOs.
There are two strands to my case that Tesla is vastly undervalued as a stock (currently about $250). The first strand is the products, the second is the company. Lets start with the products.
The Tesla roadster is a now legendary car that by modern standards is kinda *meh*, but at the time proved something dramatic: you could make an electric car that accelerated and moved like a sports car and was FUN. Until then, electric cars were a joke. Slow, stupidly short range, unsexy, useless. The roadster changed all that.
The sequel to the roadster was the model S (I have one!) and it absolutely transformed everything. if you want to know how much, lets start with the fact that it recently got motortrends ultimate car of the year award, marking it as the most significant car in the last 70 years. Not the most significant sedan, or US car, or electric car, just the most significant CAR. No easy feat.
The model S has jaw-dropping stats coming out of its frunk. Mine is the relatively slow one (85D) that can only do 155mph and 0-60mph is 3.75 seconds. What a slouch. The current P100D with ludicrous mode does it in 2.275 seconds. If you aren’t into cars, a good comparison would be a car that does it in a slower 2.8 seconds such as this:
Thats a Lamborghini Aventador LP 750-4 SuperVeloce that retails at $493,000, slower than a Tesla model S costing about $135,000. If you are wondering why lamborghini is still in business, don’t ask me, I’m as confused as you are. Oh BTW the Tesla comes with autopilot, over-the-air updates and is an ELECTRIC car versus the gas guzzling monstrosity in orange pictured above.
So yup, they are fast, and thats amazing for an electric car right? but probably only go to the shops and back? A model S can go 528km NEDC rated without charging. So yup, no problem. I can just about drive my old, shorter range model from my house to London and back without charging (although I top it up at a service station when I grab a coffee anyway as its super convenient and free (early buyer!).
So the car is super fast, and super long range, but are they safe? can an electric car possibly be safe? Yup. Actually lets look at the safest cars in the world in a list.
Then lets check that yup…your car is way more likely to catch fire if its NOT a Tesla. Oh and youtube will show you a ton of crazy videos of how teslas autopilot software helps it to swerve (safely) out of the way of erratic drivers. Feel free to google for all the images of super harsh high-speed collisions that tesla drivers *walked* away from unhurt.
Thats the model S, the pricey one. they also have an even pricier SUV with unique ‘falcon-wing’ doors, called the model X, and they also have the smaller, and amazing looking model 3, which is about HALF the price of the model S. All are equally insane in terms of value for money, speed, acceleration, safety and range.
Normally, that would be the end of an impressive list of why the company has great cars…but there is so much more (and I don’t want to bore you). The cars have built-in video games (yes really), they have the largest touchscreens in any production car. They have an awesome mobile app you can use to pre-heat or chill your car. You can ‘summon’ your car out of the garage (opening doors as it goes) from your phone and you can control a whole ton of the cars systems using pretty reliable voice recognition.
Yup, as a product, the tesla cars are pretty much unbeatable. So thats one thing on our checklist, the company makes phenomenal products. But what about the company? can it sell any of these things? does anybody want them? will they ever sell them at a profit?
Tesla has had a lot of unprofitable years. A lot. It has basically plowed every penny it earns back into expansion, and not been afraid to raise money to fuel yet more expansion, yet a myth that circulates about the company selling cars at a loss is just flat out false. At the time of writing, Tesla automotive gross margin is 20.2%. Thats a PROFIT on every car by the way, not a loss. The reason the company has made an overall loss in many quarters is due to incredible, incredible expansion. Want to see how rapid:
As it grows, tesla is leaving every other car manufacturer in the world trying to make EVs in the dust. its almost embarrassing now. Take a look at this video: (skip to 1 minute 19 for the model 3s appearance)
Also note that this video is not up to date yet, the next few months show no signs of slowing down.
So yup…they are making a product that is selling well, and its apparently great, but does that mean they can keep up? what about the big established companies that actually know how to make cars…wont they crush tesla?
Well…they are not showing any signs of doing so. The Nissan leaf (version 2) has problems with charging twice in one day. The Audi etron has had battery-issues, and bragged about 20,000 pre-orders (versus 400,000+ for the model 3). The jaguar ipace has brake problems. Lexus is so hopeless they keep referring to their hybrids as ‘self-charging hybrids’ to trick people into thinking their gas guzzlers are EVs… The other companies… busy twiddling their thumbs and making vague promises, but certainly NOT producing EVs in large numbers, not even BAD EVs in large numbers. The market is being absolutely eaten by tesla, at least in the west.
So massive market share, profitable cars, critically acclaimed and no realistic competition… all good reasons to back a stock, but we haven’t even got started.
Teslas advertising budget is ZERO. Absolutely ZERO. And yet they are selling cars as quickly as they make them, so much so that they are opening a new factory (built in record time) in China (The first EVER fully-foreign-owned car venture to get permission for a Chinese factory) to satisfy demand in Asia. There is a long, sustained and incredibly well-funded campaign of FUD, lies and bullshit deliberately designed to kill off the company, and despite that, despite being a relative newcomer to the market, the company has grabbed market share at an unprecedented rate, PURELY by word of mouth. This last part is vital. I run a small business, I would KILL to have a product so good I could sell it without a single penny in advertising.
Want more? Well lets remember that this is a company that not only spends NOTHING on advertising, it actually sells its cars direct, cutting out any profit for ‘dealerships’. In some states in the US it is ILLEGAL to do this (land of the free huh?) and even so, people *cross the state line* to buy a Tesla, and then take it home. I’m not even kidding.
By the way, Tesla are the only EV company that has built its own global charging network. You don’t need to use one of those outdated, awful, slow, expensive generic chargers, you can use the tesla superchargers, charging at insane speeds, which the car will automatically route you to (and pre-condition your battery en-route to maximize charging efficiency). BTW the log-in and config process for the charger is…. you just stick the cable in the car and walk off. The system knows who you are, no passwords, no logins, no scanning…its seamless. Think there are only a few of these? think again…
And yet… despite the amazing products, super fast, super safe, super long range, super-selling, decent profit margins..we haven’t even touched on the long term prospects for the company. They have the best autopilot system in use today, and have a steam of serious experts working on full-self-driving. The market is skeptical about this (me too), but the changes of it amounting to NOTHING are minimal, and there is zero chance, given their billions of miles logged with semi-autonomous vehicles already, that *anyone* can beat Tesla to the ultimate self-driving car goal.
Waymo is stupidly valued at at least $30 BILLION, despite only offering self driving in a tiny part of a tiny town in a small state in a single country. This is INSANE.
So yup, lets round off this blog post with all the other stuff that is also going to propel this company at an astonishing rate…
They are working on electric trucks that look set to out-compete every conventional gasoline truck in the world (no small market). They are working on an electric pickup truck to compete very favorably in performance terms with the ford F-150. They are working on a super-car that makes the model S look practically sedate. They are working on solar roof tiles that look incredible, and ALL of these products have already been shown to the public.
Oh…and a new cheaper SUV/Sedan crossover (model Y) that is predicted to sell better than the 3/S/X combined.
Did I also mention Tesla energy, the company that built the largest battery on the planet? or maybe I forgot to mention maxwell technologies, the battery-tech company (that tesla just acquired) that gives tesla yet another incredible technological advantage over everybody else making car batteries.
Maybe I should note that the next generation of car buyers are overwhelmingly positive about tesla. They are the iphone generation, they understand touchscreens and plugging in devices to recharge them. They dont get excited about the smell of petrol engines or dream about doing oil changes. The tech generation wants products designed for them, not for their parents, and the only company in the auto space that even vaguely understands this is tesla. What other car company CEO has 27 million twitter followers? The prudish politicians, and ancient, bitter and angry old car company CEOs who criticize musk for smoking a legal drug have no idea that his target market aren’t shocked, they like the guy, and they love the cars. Nobody does this at a gig with a ford mondeo:
Frankly, looking at the share price of Tesla right now is hilarious. Its the biggest bargain on the stock market by a colossal margin. I’m looking forward to more and more people realizing that.
If you follow me on twitter you will know I bang on about electric cars a lot, specifically Teslas, and why I get angry at the FUD and nonsense spread about them online. Why do I care?
Lets get the disclaimers out of the way. Yup, I own one (A 2015 85D Tesla model S with autopilot 1) and yup, I own some tesla stock. Obviously I am biased because I don’t want people to criticize my purchase choice (I am human) and because I have some financial interest (although TBH thats a relatively minor concern. I have stock in Microsoft and Nvidia too but I don’t bang on about em…). So given those obvious points, why else do I care?
First up..the obvious one. Climate change is real. Its also predominantly caused by humans, specifically CO2 emissions, and if you actually ‘do not believe’ that, then please think about what other widely accepted scientific conclusions you would like to dispute. Maybe you don’t believe in magnetic forces either? or perhaps even gravity? maybe the earth is not a sphere but flat? There is a wealth of scientific consensus on this, and you should not only accept the fact, but be absolutely terrified of the consequences. Don’t think about ‘it getting a bit warmer’ think about agricultural yield collapse, food price spikes, food-rioting, mass immigration, resource-wars and global upheaval. This should scare the crap out of you…
…and one of the things we as individuals can do is switch to a cleaner form of transport, notably: an electric car. They are not practical for everyone right now, but will be very soon, and once you buy one you dramatically cut the amount of CO2 you personally are stuffing into the atmosphere. Its a great way to do your bit.
Secondly…Pollution. EVs not only emit no CO2 at the tailpipe (and electricity grids get greener every day), but also zero fumes or pollutants of any kind. That means cleaner cities, quieter roads (less noise pollution!) and fewer kids with asthma. And the car behind you on the road is no longer sucking up your exhaust fumes and blowing them into the driver & passengers faces. Plus the newer teslas have HEPA filters in that mean the air in the car will be substantially cleaner than the air outside. ideal for polluted cities.
People sometimes repeat some FUD about cobalt, implying its all from congo, and batteries are full of it. Actually its a mere 3% now, and dropping to 0% soon. Plus its dramatically less of a problem than the impacts of oil dependence…
This is the one people just do not get, and will NOT accept…until they own an EV. The caveat here is assuming you have off-road parking at home, OR you work somewhere that has an EV charging point in the car park. (This is getting much, much more common).
Charging an EV is super-cheap (here in the UK I work it out to be just under £0.04 per mile in ‘fuel’, assuming 100% home charging), and actually MORE convenient than owning a petrol/diesel car. The fact is, with an EV, you have a fuel station *at your house*, and it can fill up while you sleep. In some cases you can set the car to charge during off-peak (cheaper) electricity times! The fact that the car charges while you sleep means every day when you get in the car, it has a full battery, so you can drive maybe 200-240 miles before recharging (real-world range in UK).
That 240 sounds low compared to your petrol car, until you realize that petrol car has to go to a special recharging place to get fuel (which costs a fortune), and where you have to stand there like an idiot holding a trigger to fill it up. Oh BTW that fuel is smelly, environmentally damaging and catastrophically dangerous.
On the average day, you do NOT drive 240 miles, and if you *do*, you are likely on a motorway, where you can stop and charge your car (still cheaper than petrol) while you grab a coffee and a donut. Charging speeds are getting faster than ever:
TBH, like 99% of tesla owners, even though I have access to the amazing supercharger network (which the car auto-navigates me to if it thinks I need power), I hardly use it, unless I drive to London and back with passengers in the car. Even then, I don’t *wait* for it, I just pick up an extra 50-60 miles while I have a coffee that I’d have stopped for anyway. No queuing to pay, no holding a pump, no logging in or barcode scanning, just stick the cable in and go grab coffee…
Electric cars have phenomenal batteries. These are NOT the same as the batteries in your mobile phone or laptop. They do not noticeably lose any charge (in fact the range of my car has gone UP since I bought it…thanks free software upgrades over the internet!). You do *not* have to give even the slightest thought to replacing your battery. You will likely need several new batteries for your old petrol car in the same time that you would notice even a minor degradation in your EV range over time. Battery tech in 2019 is amazing.
Holy crap they are fast. You might not care (I only care a bit), but since owning my EV, going back to my wife’s car (lexus CT200H hybrid) feels like driving a horse and cart, even in ‘sport mode’. EVs have instant power, real throw-you back in your seat with some force’ levels of power. For real car-geeks who want something sporty, trade in your petrol-car now, its history.
LOL. Whats that? I’ve owned my car 3 and a bit years now. It had an intermittent screen problem which is being fixed this week (under warranty), but apart from that and a minor thing with one door handle (see above, fixed), nothing has gone wrong. It was serviced once, but TBH it didn’t need it. Annual service? LOL. why? whats going to go wrong? the exhaust (nope)? radiator (no)? the drive shaft? (no)… EVs are actually WAY simpler than petrol cars. They are electric motors, a battery…errr and seats and doors I guess. The maintenance costs on them are *trivial*. Oh and satnav updates are streamed automatically while I sleep. For free, obviously.
Tech like EVs represent tipping-points. Right now they seem niche, but the sales are accelerating FAST, despite a super-well-funded FUD and bullshit campaign by multiple dying industries. Right now finding a petrol station for your old-tech car is easy, ditto a mechanic but that will crossover soon. The future of cars is undeniably electric, and we aren’t far off the point where the re-sale value of a petrol car starts to drop when people realize their next car will be electric, even if they won’t be able to buy one for a few years.
The top 3 safest cars on the planet right now? All EVs:
…oh and no engine in front of you means your body is not crushed in a front impact, plus the whole front of the car is a crumple zone. And the battery in the floor makes them bottom heavy, meaning they *do not roll*. Oh and I nearly forgot the complete lack of 50 liters of highly flammable liquid that just isn’t in an EV. You want a safe car? You want an EV.
Oh and BTW all electric cars are automatics. Learning to operate a clutch and a gear stick is so 1970s. This isn’t a skill we need to bother learning soon. I thought I’d hate an automatic but OMG I love it. Assing around with gears feels like being in some costume drama fiddling with cumbersome stupid old technology for a joke. I don’t miss it one bit.
I feel very strongly about electric cars mostly because there are so many lies spread about them. Mine is my favorite purchase of all time, except perhaps my house, and I’m not a car guy. I still don’t really know what torque is or what any bits of a traditional car do, nor do I care. But I like cutting edge tech that is so cool it makes you laugh out loud.
If you ever get an opportunity to try one, do so. Even the harshest skeptics are won over the minute they drive one.
BTW if you do buy a tesla, using this code ( http://ts.la/cliff7605 ) gets you some free supercharger miles. I already have unlimited for buying an early one, but at the time of writing this earns you 1,000 free miles.
I’m from the UK, and if you are following the news, you may know that following a vote (referendum) to stay or leave the EU, we are soon about to Leave, unless there is a new vote, or its overturned in some other way.
I spent years really disliking the EU as an institution, although I have nothing against Europe or Europeans. It boggled my mind that the EU was run so badly, with a legislature and an executive in different cities, and a parliament that actually MOVED regularly to maximise its own inefficiency. The accountability of MEPs for expenses was laughable, their pay was tax-free (wtf?) and there were numerous examples of corruption, stupidity, and unfairness. I found the whole institution to be an embarrassment.
When the Brexit campaign started up, I found myself persuaded by the economic arguments for remaining. I was a ‘reluctant remain voter’, and voted to stay in. I thought it best to stay, and fight for a reformed EU.
Since then, there has been widespread coverage of the issues, and a lot of news about it, and I’ve read extensively. I am now a fairly passionate remainer, almost entirely for Economic reasons. I understand (and could argue convincingly) the argument for leaving, but firmly believe it would be a bad idea. I could talk for quite a while on the topic.
But here is where it all goes badly wrong…
To be totally honest, I am not informed, educated, or impartial enough to make this decision. I have my own prejudices to be aware of, as someone who is economically not concerned by either skilled or unskilled immigration. I do not fear for my job. Where I live, immigration is practically zero, and unemployment is incredibly low. This part of the UK is barely affected either way. Also if brexit resulted in higher food prices, I could afford it. If the £/$ tanked, I’d actually be BETTER off, as I’m paid in dollars. I have a skewed POV.
Add to this my incredible ignorance on the topic:
I could not (from memory) tell you if immigration went up or down last year, or what that level was. I have no idea if there is more (or less) skilled vs unskilled immigration, or what the unemployment rate is in those industries that attracted those immigrants. I cannot immediately tell you the rate of net tax/welfare contribution from immigrants vs residents, or vs EU/non-EU immigrants. I cannot state with any accuracy the rate of crime in areas more or less affected by immigration.
I did a degree in economics, but I cannot state for sure whether the UK needs more, or less immigration right now, or what effect this will have on interest rates, unemployment, wages or house prices. I cannot make any informed predictions about how any of those values will change over the next decade or two, or how they compare with the equivalent rates in any other comparable economies.
Additionally, I have no real grasp of how leaving the EU will affect UK law, whether it be corporate law, health and safety legislation, monopoly and competition law, tax rates, libel, criminal law or the rights of minorities. I do not know for sure what laws in the UK are dependent on, or bypass / overrule or are overruled by EU legislation, or how than can/will change in either the remain or brexit situation.
From a business POV I have a fairly strong understanding of how brexit would affect the UK games industry at my level, or the UK car industry (through my research for my latest game). I have zero idea the effect on fisheries (which could be hugely beneficial), medical (or other) research, education (esp universities), the financial sector or manufacturing.
In other words.. I have no fucking clue whatsoever about what the impact will be of Brexit or the impact of remain. Unless you can speak with experience, accuracy, and from memory on all of the above topics (and many more), to be honest, you have absolutely no fucking clue either. None of us do. I’m a game developer, full time (more than full time…) I don’t have time to research all of this stuff in the detail required to truly make an informed decision.
I am going with my gut feeling when I GUESS that remain is best, and so are you, regardless if you are pro or anti brexit. Unless you are a full time researcher, academic or civil servant working in a multi-discipline committee that looks into this stuff, you are as clueless about the real details as me.
And yet we vote.
How can this work?
By all means give me a vote on broad priorities, based on gut feeling and general emotion. I am a liberal kind of guy, who favours LGBT rights, personal freedom, equal pay, right-to-choose and so on. I am also an economic freedom guy, who is pro-business, generally small(ish) state, progressive but reasonable taxation, etc. I am an environmentalist.
But ask me to make finer-grained decisions on the technical policy making? ha! no! I have no idea. Like many of you, I *think* i know how to do it, and have great fun making and playing award-winning video games about this very topic! But i’m increasingly worried that I cannot be relied upon to make informed, sensible decisions about intensely complicated political or economic issues like Brexit.
If playing Democracy teaches you anything other than ‘compromise is often good’, it should teach you that ‘holy crap this stuff is complex, and very hard to predict’. Why are we trusting mere voters to make this sort of decision? I am arrogant enough to consider myself educated, informed, interested, analytical, and a good person. I don’t trust ME to have opinions on this, let alone someone whom none of those words apply to.
And it will get worse. Climate change, and our response to it, is not a ‘gut feeling’ issue. Its hugely complex. Should we allow GM food and support nuclear power? How should we legislate to protect our privacy in an internet-of-things age? what can we do to prevent automation creating vast inequality? how do we legislate 3D-printed guns? how do we defend society from malicious use of drones? how do we balance security vs freedom in air travel? and the big insane ones like ‘what do we do when true AI is created’? and ‘what if nanotech makes the current economic system collapse’ or ‘should we ban human cloning’? What do we do if antibiotics stop working (possible) or quantum computing renders cryptography obsolete overnight? These issues are HUGE.
Imagine the shitstorm if we actually make contact with alien life? How the fuck will we handle decisions in a situation like that?
They say Democracy is the worst form of government, apart from all of the others. I reckon we need to make sure that when we talk about democracy we don’t get lured into thinking direct democracy and referendums are as good as representative democracy. I don’t think direct democracy works now, and I think its only going to get way way worse…
The really scary thing to me is that everybody THINKS they are informed enough. None of us are. This is dangerous.