Power & Light District

Daily Disruption Headliners

May 03, 2018

Every now and then, I get a burr in my saddle and just have to vent. Here's my latest take on the struggle to make the world more EV-friendly from my home in America's heartland.

Today no excessive verbage, just let the scorecard of change tell the story

China takes the lead
The Shanghai Auto show shows so many refined electric autos, it is hard to state the sheer magnitude of the advancement going on in the Chinese Auto market. A lot will not make it, but dozens of new remarkably improved offerings in quality, almost ready for global market offerings are at the threshold of conquering global markets. To underestimate the position change, and how China came from quite a bit behind to way ahead in a very few years, is to make a foolish underestimation. China's Auto industry is about to make their mark on global markets, the quality gap is being rapidly addressed, and will be resolved in a handful of years. Trump is 100% right to address balance of trade issues now before the floodgates open with Chinese Autos hitting global markets.

Sprint back in play
For at least a half decade we have said that the same fundamentals that have had Sprint in merger discussions before, would rear their imperative dynamics again, putting Sprint into play. The negotiations are underway, this will be most impactful on Johnson County. The devil is in the details of control and confidence of having fundamental building blocks to securely execute the rest of Softbank's strategy. If Son can be satisfied to that effect, he doesn't care so much about pipes alone, not too far from commodity purposes as long as he has a reliable go forward. This T-mobile German, Softbank Japanese axis is in play. We have said many times, that if our region does not cement strategic value positioning with Son and Softbank, then Sprint is vulnerable.

Softbank, and the rest of the story
In the last few months Softbank has secured a major investment in lithium assets, taken a leadership investment in pool optimization and simulation software concern, scaled up autonomous efforts with Navya in Japan, renewed negotiations with T-mobile to reduce capital exposure while preserving bandwidth confidence. Besides that they are a global leader in robotics, and as AI comes to fruition, they are well poised to be a lead player in the game. How well did our region play the strategic opportunity of Softbank, you be the judge.

Electric Bikes won, now a little story to back that up
The Super Techs of China have invested billions in bike share schemes. In Germany over 50% of the new bikes sold now are electric, as Germany goes so goes Europe. Uber just spent around a billion to get key position in electric bike share multi mode segment. Ford is moving on their mobility initiative on multimode in San Francisco, while they de-emphasize sedans. Notice this happened without a knowing article regionally really capturing the dynamics underway. Of course we are missing in action on this, we have been talking about the need for small testbeds related to multimode for a half decade, the world moved, KC not so much. Bosch was a catalyst, the 21700 cell format for advanced batteries is about to be another. Wait until you see what we show in the Fall. :)

Little Norway, hitting on 55% of new units
Norway crossed the threshold of 55% of vehicles in new registration being electrics or electric hybrids, Things are working just fine. Of course they made some investments and had purpose in doing this. Clean, quiet, self reliant, and working very well, thank you. How do we compare, answer for yourself.

Sedans lost, mobility won
Honda has a brilliant new Accord, car of the year. The problem is sedans are not selling well. Meanwhile Ford is moving away from sedan category, with minimal footprint of investment, sustaining just the Ford Mustang and the Focus platform. Crossovers and Suvs, trucks and such are the game. FCA is de-emphasizing cars, Cadillac the same. The world changed here without a whistle and it was fast.

Google and Apple go to 100% solar
Google and Apple are now powering their operations with 100% solar. They emphasize that solar costs no more than other options, and have the data and experience to back that up. Regionally we find ways and reasons to impede solar. Google and Apple represent a new generation, they live up to their brand and their customer's perceptions of what their brands are about or put themselves at risk. Note recent tech industry black eyes, if they don't walk the talk they get a comeuppance. Regionally how we doing on enabling solar with smart policy and genuine effort to expedite and emphasize, not. This is a black eye on the chamber, on the utility regulators, on the regional politicians, forces much bigger than what is going on locally in our bubble are in play globally, and solar will win. Reasons for caring, read the next piece.

Missiles are flying in the Middle East, oil prices are up, 200 Russians got vaporized by the US forces
Russia has moved their chess pieces to near the border with Israel. How Russia loves to be the cheap spoiler, part of Putin's warped reaction to the US taking advantage of Russia in the break up of the Soviet Union and resentment at faded glory. Meanwhile China has grown to 8X the size of the Russian economy. Does the US push Russia into China's arms, do Russia and China challenge the US? Israel now has to contend with a Russian, Syrian, Iranian presence at their doorstep. Trump says he wants to get out of the region, think of the existential concern Israel must have about that. This story is not over, this dynamic is not stable. Macron is impressing me every time he speaks, Merckel looks stale by comparison. Last time we went into recession a major oil shock in conjunction with a real estate bubble melt down imploded our economy. Have we learned our lessons, nothing good fills vacuums in the MIddle East, and threats grow where you are not ensuring they do not.
Syria is broken, and the fix will be long and complicated.

Economics and conflict, by the numbers
We are on our way to spending 9 trillion in the Middle East, some of our threats to allies are more concerning now than before we spent that money. We misplay this way, then misplay that way, and let Russia be the cheap spoiler. Israel with the Russian Superpower (military only) at the gates, is more vulnerable than I have seen in my lifetime. How did this happen? It is a good time to be in the rocket business. New ways forward are necessary, and we need to help real solutions get on the table, again Macron impresses. The US had a hand in getting Israel so dangerously exposed. Like it or not we live in interesting times.

Amazon Commentary
Trump has made criticism of Amazon, some on target, some capturing frustration but not getting the details right, part of that is correct, part of that is not. Amazon can be criticized, and debate is healthy. They execute superbly, some of their advantages should probably be level set. To hinder Amazon while Alibaba is operating at full tilt is not in our national interests. Interesting how Walmart who ran the table of monopoly conduct, is now saying Amazon should be limited. Trump has some instincts that are correct here, some that are wrong and less than nuanced. Note, Amazon is hitting new highs, much of their execution has nothing to do with unfair advantages, but instead are all about disruptive excellent execution. Fix the tax advantages, fix the delivery issues with the post office, do not though expect Amazon to be mediocre or to take their foot off the gas of disputation. Disruption from tech is about to become a dominant theme in the economy, as if it isn't already. Brilliant leadership, huge markets to capitalize on, great execution chops. Get ready for Amazon to engage Pharma, healthcare, groceries, transit, transportation and frictionless logistics, the next generation of Quick Trip competitors, all at once. If you see how big the research and development budget is, they are applying all of that towards breakthroughs with game changers in all these segments.

Autonomous is going to overwhelm
Google, Apple, GM/Cruise Automation testing fully autonomous at scale. Navya sold out on annual commitments, trials going exponential compared to last year. Does this mean we should be having full speed, highway, mixed operational scenarios, no. It does mean there is no reason to not have fixed route shuttle pilots will high confidence in controlled environments. Softbank is doing a lot with Navya, just not with us. We have talked about the Kansas City connection to Google and Softbank and GM/Cruise before. The idea of pretending the usual machinery is doing a great job on autonomous is preposterous. and should be called such. Of course the river city narrative has us as the best in all the land, oh frog hop. The Tsunami of disruption is at the gates, and we are all going to get wet.

In closing this random walk through the headlines, incredible breakthroughs are all around us, as are new challenges and competitors. Just because we don't see them in our day to day, doesn't mean they won't visit us in impact. Google came out with new annual letter, formally saying what they think AI means to the firm, and how they are intending to win there. How many proof statements do people need to see to get disruption is about to change the game. Disruption should be expected, planned for, enabled, shaped, or others will and we will lose. And this is just a week's stroll through current events. China is organized, on the move, of great purpose, unified, and not stuck in placating the status quo. Now they are graduating 5x or more engineers than the US. They have students testing three classes ahead in mathematics than US students. Do we need at Sputnik or a Pearl Harbor, more likely we face a gentle peel the onion challenge until the mantle has passed, with us fragmented, distracted, polarized, complacent, and inactive with purpose. Think making more sausage with the usual machinery of bureaucracy is going to have us a leader, competitive, or even effective and efficient, it won't, now you have basis of comparisons, measure against the leaders.

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