July 27, 2014

Two wheels and an electric motor

Before the founders of the electric car company Tesla Motors decided to build electric cars, they wondered if the should build an electric motorcycle. But the market for such as bike wasn't as interesting as the market for electric cars. We still don't know if it was a good decision to build electric cars instead of electric bikes - only time will tell. But there are other entrepreneurs who have decided to build machines on two wheels powered by electricity. This is a short summary of a few of these companies.

Faraday Bicycles - This company is building electric bicycles - as defines as two wheels with pedals. They have so far only one model called Faraday Porteur. One interesting side-note here is that before the founders (unrelated to Faraday Bicycles) came up with the name Tesla Motors, they thought about the name Faraday Motors. 

This is the bike's facts:
  • Price: $3500 
  • Speed: - 
  • Range: 20 miles [32 km] of full pedal-assist riding

BRD Motorcycles - This company has been building real motorcycles since 2007 when they made the first drawing. They have two models (so far): Redshift MX and Redshift SM.

Redshift MX:
  • Price: $14995
  • Speed: 80 mph [129 km/h]
  • Range: 2 hours on a recreational trail or a mixed road

Redshift SM:
  • Price: $15495
  • Speed: 85 mph [137 km/h]
  • Range: 50 miles [80 km] on a recreational trail or a mixed road

Lit Motors - When the founder/CEO/CTO of the company, Daniel Kim, was interviewed they argued if Lit Motors is building an electric car or an electric motorbike. The company is actually building an electric scooter called Kubo, but they are also building the C-1 which can be described as a combination of a bike and a car.

  • Price: $6000
  • Speed: 45 mph [72 km/h]
  • Range: 50 miles [80 km]

  • Price: $24000
  • Speed: at least 100 mph [160 km/h]
  • Range: 200 miles [322 km] 

Vintage Electric BicyclesThis is another company that is building electric bicycles - but the bikes look like old motorcycles, thus the company name.

They have only one model (so far) and it's called E-Tracker:
  • Price: $4995
  • Speed: 36 mph [58 km/h]
  • Range: 30 miles [48 km]

Peak Oil - Are we there yet?

It's time to update our charts to see if the world is running out of oil. If you would like to see the old charts, you can find them here: Oil Since 1859

But what's Peak Oil? The basic idea behind Peal Oil is that the world is running out of oil. The geoscientist Marion King Hubbert, who used to work for the petroleum company Shell, developed a curve. Hubbert's curve says that for any given geographical area – from an individual oil-producing region to the planet as a whole – the petroleum production follows a bell-shaped curve. The top of the curve is the important peak. After the peak has passed, the supply of oil will decrease.

The current amount of oil available was estimated to 1 258 billion barrels. As the world consumed 87 million barrels per day in 2010, this oil will last for about 40 years. The co-founder of the electric car company Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, expects this peak will happen around year 2020 and the world will finally run out of oil in 2050. That's why he's building electric cars.

This graph shows the global oil production and that we can see no signs of Peak Oil as the production still grows.

The next graph shows the data but for US only. We can see that the oil production in US peaked in the 1960s, but has begun to increase again because of fracking. We can also see that US is still dependent on importing oil - 2 817 325 000 barrels per year. 

Something else that has happened since last year is the rise of a number of conflicts in and with the large oil exporters. According to Wikipedia, the largest oil exporters are:
  1. Saudi Arabia
  2. Russia
  3. United Arab Emirates
  4. Norway
  5. Iraq

What has happened with these countries since last year? Saudi Arabia is currently not involved in any conflicts, but the new "terror" organization ISIS has said they will conquer the entire Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. Russia's foreign policy is more aggressive (Ukraine), and the "west" has fought back by a number of sanctions. Today, there was a rumor that Russia would fight back against these sanctions by seizing oil assets owned by companies in the west, PB and Shell. United Arab Emirates is on the same map that shows what countries ISIS will conquer. Norway's oil production has declined for a few years, and the country has issued a terror alert. What happens if these terrorists targets the oil industry? Large parts of Iraq is currently conquered by ISIS. But ISIS is exporting oil, but the question is if the rest of the world will buy this oil?  

So No! Peak Oil has not happened - but the supply of oil may still fall. 

July 20, 2014

How to change the world the help of Elon Musk

If you've decided to change the world with a revolutionary company, this article is a must read. Someone else who is changing the world is the entrepreneur Elon Musk. He has founded companies like Tesla Motors (electric cars) and SpaceX (rockets). So maybe you can learn something from how he did it:

The quotes are by Elon Musk

Step 1. Learn by doing. Elon Musk believes you can learn everything you need to start a company. But an education will speed up the learning process. What you need to study is both engineering and economy - Elon Musk studied both physics and economy. 
"I think you could learn whatever you need to do to start a successful business. There are examples of successful entrepreneurs who never graduated from high schools, and there are those with PhDs. So I think the important principle is to be dedicated to learning what you need to know."
"I studied physics and business, because in order to do these things you need to know how the universe works and how the economy works and you also need to be able to bring people together to create something. It's very difficult to create something as individuals if it's a significant technology."

Step 2. Make a lot of money by selling a company you didn't need a lot of money to create. If you want to create a car company, then you need millions. No outside investors will give you those millions, so you need to have them on your bank account. This will probably be an Internet company. Elon Musk founded two Internet companies, Zip2 and PayPal, and he had a car and a few thousand dollars when he founded Zip2. 
"Unless you've got a ton of capital that someone gave you or you've inherited, you have to start a company that requires a small amount of capital. It would have been impossible for me to have done electric cars or rockets right from the start."

Step 3. Find a big problem you want to solve. Elon Musk came up with three things that in the future will change the world. They were: the Internet, space, and how to stop the world from using fossil fuels. 
"I'm not trying to paint myself as some sort of saint. I'm just making the point that the success of the company doesn't change my life. These are the problems that I think are important and need to be solved, and I'm trying to help solve them."

Step 4. Find a solution to the problem by reasoning from a physics standpoint. You can first say that battery packs for electric cars will always be expensive because they have always been expensive. From a physics standpoint, you can break the batteries down into the materials they are made of, and then ask what the value is of those materials on the commodity market. You will now realize the material is not as expensive as the final battery pack, so you just have to come up with a way to improve the manufacturing process.
"I think that physics is a good analytical framework. One of they key things in physics is to reason from first principles. This is contrary to the way most human reasoning takes place, which is by analogy ['We'll do that because it's always been done that way' or 'Nobody has ever done that so it must not be good']. Reasoning from first principles just means that you figure out what are the fundamental truths, and can you build up a conclusion from that? Reasoning by analogy is helpful because it's a shortcut, and is mostly correct, but tends to be mostly incorrect when you are dealing with new things."

Step 5. Recruit experts and students without any experience. Elon Musk wanted students without any experience because they don't yet know what's impossible. Someone with experience may think that you can't build cheap rockets, but a student is easier to convince. But you also need experts that can teach the students (and Elon Musk himself since he didn't have any experience from neither rockets nor electric cars). But how can you recruit experts? What Elon Musk did when he founded SpaceX was to invite experts to a series of meetings where he presented facts. He let the experts discuss the facts until they convinced themselves.
"I essentially led them to a conclusion that they created. It was sort of a Socratic dialogue on a technical level. The essence of a Socratic dialogue is that people wind up convincing themselves. People are much more willing to change their opinion if you're not forcing it."

Step 6. Endure misery. Companies that change the world are solving problems that are extremely difficult to solve. So as you fail, you have to endure misery to not give up. 
"I do think you've got to have perseverance. You've got to stick it out, and the team that you're working with does, too. That allows you to get through a series of issues. It took us four flights to get to orbit at SpaceX. That was kind of grueling."

That's it! What are you waiting for? Go out and change the world! But if you can wait, then you should read more about Elon Musk by reading my biography book

July 12, 2014

The Engineer Update 3

I've improved my Elon Musk biography book called The Engineer. This is the third update. It's not as big as the last update - just a few new sentences here and there. You can find the following:
  • More about Elon Musk's favorite author, Isaac Asimov, and how Elon Musk have been inspired by him
  • More about the co-founder of Tesla Motors, Marc Tarpenning, including how he became interested in the oil industry
  • I found the lawsuit the co-founder of Tesla Motors, Martin Eberhard, filed when he was forced out of Tesla Motors. So I've added a little more information about that
  • Elon Musk revealed in a new interview that Ronald Reagan is his favorite US president, so I added more about why he thought that
  • The longest update is a more detailed timeline where you can get a better overview of Tesla Motor's chaotic history
  • I've also improved the text with the help of a tool called Hemingway 

July 7, 2014

Why lemons are not sour


"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" is a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune. We have touched this subject before in the brief article Why Rejection is Awesome. But we are now going to talk more about it because I've spent a few hours of this summer reading the book The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday.

Ryan Holiday has written several good books, including Growth Hacker Marketing and Trust Me I'm Lying. His new book, The Obstacle is the Way, is maybe his best book so far. It may be easy to understand why we should live by the expression "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade," but it's hard to apply it when we are forced to eat lemons. This is why you should Ryan Holiday's book as it is filled with examples showing how famous people throughout history have made lemonade. 

Why was Thomas Edison happy when his laboratory burned down? How could Abraham Lincoln be so successful despite his deep depression? How could the allied forces on the western front during the Second World War beat the German Blitzkrieg? The book will give you the answers and it is that all of them found a way to turn their lemons into fresh lemonade. 

The basic idea to overcome you obstacles is to accept them as part of your life. When you are out driving with your car, traffic signs seem to always give you a red light and everyone else gets the green light. But that's not true - it's just a feeling that's part of your life. So what we need to do is the following:
See things for what they are.
Do what we can.
Endure and bear what we must. 
What blocked the path now is the path.
What once impeded action advances action.
The Obstacle is the Way.

One of the best historical examples from the book is the life of Rubin "Hurrican" Carter, who was a boxer in the mid-1960s. But his life changed when two males entered the Lafayette Bar and Grill at East 18th Street at Lafayette Street in Paterson, New Jersey, and started shooting. The shooters killed instantly the bartender, a male customer - and a female customer died almost a month later. The court accused the Hurricane of committing these murders and his verdict became three life sentences. 

The Hurricane didn't break down. He realized no one could take away the choices he had even though he was in prison. He refused to be angry - because being angry wouldn't make a difference. What he did was to spend every second of his time in prison by reading books. He decided he would leave prison as a free and innocent man - and as a better and improved man. 

Nineteen years later, he walked out of the prison as a free man and continued with his life as if nothing had happened. 

(adlibris, adlibris)