Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The E-W CSH: A disaster for London and Great Britain. Apparently

Last week TfL voted in the E-W CSH.

From the perspective of liveable British cities, this is significant event. It means that Londoners crossing the city by bicycle will be able to do so, confident that they will reach their destination alive. At least once they get to the CSH.

That guarantee "cross London alive" is the same guarantee that the city extends to anyone driving, taking the tube, a bus, or a train across London(*). A guarantee that was not, until this week, available. Until now: hope.

(*) Pedestrians. You are still fucked by TfL and Westminster Council.

If you look at why cycling in London is restricted to the city centre, to bold people (usually 20-25, male), it is that: only people bold and confident would cycle through London, usually with a compelling reason such as "didn't want to wait sit in traffic jams or pay to be crushed in the tube every day". Which is why cycling in the suburbs is less than in the busier, riskier, city centre. There's millions of commuters in London. It only takes a small fraction of them to be bold enough to cycle and you end up with the peak-hour numbers London gets today.

The credit for this should be spread wide. A unified front pushing segregated cycling, rather than vehicular cycling advocates hoping for safety in numbers. If the cycle lane achieves its expected success, then the VC advocates will have little to say. The London cycling bloggers and the reporters in BBC, the Times, the Evening standard and Guardian kept cycling and its safety mainstream. Everyone who protested, saying "this is unacceptable!"

The effort everyone put in to get so many businesses behind it has also to be viewed as critical -it stopped the campaign being viewed as "the metropolitan elite cyclists" vs "the businesses of London".

That is, unless you are the Canary Wharf company, the GMBpro union, the London Taxi Drivers Association and delivery companies, all of whom appear to be using the same text: too sudden, need a trial.

Which as Cyclists in the City notes is not a coincidence.

Canary Wharf appear to be leading the attack. One possible justification is for their CEO's drive to work. There's a more generous one, which is: if it increases the effective distance of Canary Wharf from the City or Westminster, then it potentially reduces the value of Canary Wharf. Is it really going to hurt them? No. It's what it represents: change.

Change that they are not in control of.

The vote signifies the establishment losing a control of the City of London. Arguably, it represents this establishment, the elite of the Baby Boomers, discovering that their power is over, generation X, Y and the Millenials setting the agenda.

Last week, Schroeders published a report arguing that peak car was a generational shift in lifestyle and hence transport; that repeat sales to baby-boomers to result in a static market.

The CSH is open to baby-boomers: it'll be open to anyone. Only, the elite of the baby-boomers don't want to cycle, they're not dutch. They are happy with their motorised lifestyle -apart from the congestion and delays, obviously. The CSH is a complete attack on their way of life: something that represents the future, shows that the future is not the status quo -and that this future is being designed by others.

They feel threatened, they don't want it, and presumably expected to kill this. Except they haven't. They've tried the classic tactics: discreet words in people's ears, off the record briefings and lobbying at party conferences. Not only has it failed, that lobbying and briefing itself has shown up the old guarded. Canary Wharf's management are tainted.

Which is why, presumably, Canary Wharf itself didn't personally email the TfL board. Instead they appear to have drafted the letters for others to send. It's notable here that the timing is similar, they all had the email addresses of the board, and there's a few recurrent phrases. "laudable" is a key one, as "its sweet but unrealistic to care about the lives of cyclists". There's also that classic "environmental impact" phrase. It's not the cyclists causing the pollution problems, so stop trying to make them or TfL feel guilty about it. No organisation that drives diesel vehicles in city centres is in a position to complain about the environmental impact of cycle paths. Then there's the introduction, which usually starts with "support in principle, however..." ,as a way of making clear they don't support the idea if it comes anywhere near them.

Let's look at the letters that came in.

Jan 29th: Federation of small businesses. Welcomes work to improve cyclist safety. However... Makes the point that 3 months is hard for them to plan around it. Of course, they've really had 6+ months.

Jan 30th: Dr Leon Mannings, Motorcycle Action Group. Cites PhD, then "greatest level of new constraints on vehicular road use ever to be imposed anywhere in the UK". (Clearly Leon's PhD missed the "what is a vehicle?" section). Assumes that motor traffic is inelastic/only going to rise, CSH will cause congestion, air-pollution and misery for all.

"The laudable objectives are to improve safety for riders of a mode that currently facilitates around 3% of transport by road in London, and to deliver a dramatic the centre. [Dr Manning uses city-wide numbers, not c-zone numbers, to minimise cyclist percentage]"

"However...laudable...the negative impacts on the other 90+% of road users will be greater than poosal in the history of UK transport policy...moreover increase congestion and environmental and economic problems."

...Discusses impact of safety to motorbikes, segues into motorcycle based paramedics/police and how lives are threatened. More specifically

this scheme as currently proposed will increase the risk of injury of death for PTW riders -and significantly resuce the avantages that PTW's offer for essential journeys

Leon could have made a better argument focusing on the safety of motorbikes. As it is, his "biggest UK transport changes, restrictions on vehicular movements and congestion & pollution" claims make him sound like he hates the very idea of cycle paths.

Jan 30th: British Beer and Pub Association

This organisation comes over as odd. No organisation claiming to represent supermarkets, chip shops and kebab vendors has criticised the proposals. Yet those businesses need to unload their products. The BBPA claims to represent owners of 40% of pubs and 90% of the beer produced. This implies that they are the beer manufacturers with their tied/owned pubs. These are not the independents and the microbreweries.

"support the improvement of road safety for all road users in London and elsewhere, however"..."100 delivery accounts"..."dangerous to cyclists"..."and to delivery staff who will need to cross busy cycle lanes". "pub businesses will be affected as it is conceivable that distributors will find it simply too risky to deliver"

"we support cycle superhighways but feel there should be a hold on development until there's a resolution"..."cycle superhighway safety from deliveries"

Then they propose: a trial with removable markings.

The behaviour of this organisation has to be called out as outstandingly bad. They are arguing that the fact that they don't know how to deliver beer over a cycle path as a reason to halt the most transformational cycling project in Britain. And, given their objection is to delivering beer over any cycle path, they are against segregated cycle paths in Britain. What do they want instead? Presumably they want shit-paint cycle ways which their vans can park in. For years they've been doing that, yet only now, as safe cycling routes get delivered, do they suddenly start claiming to care about cyclist safety.

They could do some research here. Two obvious tactics spring to mind.
  1. Look at their member list, identify any who have major NL or CPH operations and say "find out what they do". Heineken UK, for example. Or Carlsberg.
  2. Ask cyclists: "would you prefer sharing a lane with an HGV, or have to deal with some vans delivering beer across the path?"

But no, they call for an immediate halt and the bollocks "trial with cones" story. That won't offer tangible safety, won't get serious takeup, and will let them say "it's a failure: stop it everywhere". Should cyclists boycott pubs in retaliation? No: only the big brewer's beers and their tied houses. Look up members of the the society of independent brewers and drink their beers at independent pubs. Indeed, that could be a good national protest couldn't it: a "cyclists don't let friends drink BPA-member's beers" 

 Feb 2: CBI
"support in principle"..."want more information for planning", All well and good, until the phrase "any threats to London's transport network must be fully communicated in advance". What the fuck?

The CSH is considered threat to London's transport network? And of course they close with "balanced network for both motorists and cyclists". Fine. Let's count the number of roads with safe cycling facilities, the number of roads without them: and push for balance. The CBI have said that balance is what they want, so lets call them out on it. For every lane-mile of road within then M25 ring, cyclists deserve the equivalent. Anything else would be an unbalanced network. From that perspective, the E-W CSH constitutes a fraction of the lane capacity of the Chiswick Flyover: there's going to be a lot more cycle paths out there before balance can be achieved.

 Feb 2: GMB Professional Drivers Branch

This is clearly the diesel-head part of the GMB trade union. This branch doesn't like change. "request your reconsideration" ... "major flaws"..."increased journey times", "increased emissions" Notice how its always people on bicycles that get blamed for "increased emissions".

Nobody driving a diesel vehicle in the city has the right to blame the cyclists for their increased NO2 emissions.

With the exception of black cab and red bus drivers, everyone had a choice of what kind of engine to drive. Don't blame the cyclists for GMB pro members going for diesel. They eventually get round to concluding that it "could prove disastrous on the economics of London and indeed of the whole of the UK". This is potentially the first time that anyone has accused a cycle path of threatening the economics of Britain.

Feb 2: Freight Transport Association and Road Haulage Association
This is the letter known to have come from Canary Wharf. "support the superhighway approach in principal", "improve safety for cyclists"..."however"..."a sensible balance between the needs of different road users". OK. Let's have some balance. Here are some basic needs of different road users.
  • Londoners on bicycles: get home alive.
  • Londoners walking: get home alive.
  • Londoners not walking or cycling: get home alive.
This is currently unbalanced. The people not on bicycles or foot don't have to worry about dying before they get home. That puts the "sensible balance" needs into perspective doesn't it?

If you oppose safe cycling options in the city you are saying "your journey time matters more than the lives of others" Their letter goes on to talk about deliveries, emissions, costs etc. But assuming that the whole letter was ghost-written by Canary Wharf, who gives a fuck what the rest of it says. It's just Canary Wharf choreographing opposition with a list of talking points.

Feb 2: UPS

Notice this flurry of emails on Jan 2? Often with that opening phrase "we support in principle". These could all be a sign that Canary Wharf management provided the bullet points to use when drafting a message.

Here's UPS's "not opposed in principle"..."but are concerned"..."damaging impact on our operations"..."will ultimately hinder business growth in the capital" Got that: the barrier to business growth in London is UPS's delivery timetable. Delay that and London will fall. Therefore the UPS delivery schedule is more important than the lives of cyclists.

Feb 2: Association of Internation Courier and Express Services ..."supports TfL's objective to ensure that cycling in London is safer and where possible to ensure properly segregated lanes". This is calm, balanced request for some time to help get their issues about more delivery space resolved. Of all the letters, this is the one that does not imply that the CSH will destroy London. Even so, that, "where possible" is a warning sign.

In contrast, the RAC foundation:

Feb 3: RAC Foundation Argues that the 38M investment will cost London 200M, and that it is real damage to "bus users, business and commerce in the heart of a world financial centre which is a vital engine of economic prosperity for the UK economy." There's not even a mention of saved lives. There's no "We support it in principle, however..". The RAC foundation has just come out and argued against it on economics. If ever anyone felt that the RAC foundation cared about people: if you cycle, they don't. They care about press and TV, are happy to make press events to discuss a future of self-driving cars, but don't care about the live of of cyclists, today.

Feb 3: DHL "we support your work", "however we share the concerns of the FTA and RHA". As it arrives a day after, they may have just been cc:'d a copy of the FTA/RHA "canary wharf" letter, rather than had this drafted by canary wharf.

Feb 3: London Chamber of Commerce
Want more details on economic impact. No mention of cyclist safety.

There you go: CBI views this as a threat to the London transport network, GMB Pro a threat to the entire country. Brewers and Pub association a threat to the very existence of pubs in his country. And the RAC foundation: they don't give a fuck about cyclists and use the "economic prosperity of Britain" as their argument against.

The good news: their letters didn't stop the vote. The briefings failed, the "lets have a trial" arguments dismissed.

Nor did the people who sit on the board -and didn't need to bother with the letters. There's no emails from the LTDA, nothing from Canary Wharf itself. With their members on the board: no need.

Yet something profound happened instead. The people who have influence changed. And the old guard? They may have just pissed off Boris. Who may be leader of the Conservative party in six months, while still Mayor of London.

While the vote went through, it's highlited the difference between that old guard and the future inheritors of the city. The business "spokesman" organisations: CBI, London Chamber of Commerce -they come out as particularly out of touch, criticising the moves as if the CSH project is not for the benefit of the staff of its member, or indeed its customers.

Every organisation that came out in support of the CSH needs to check their membership of these organisations, then get in touch and say: you didn't speak for us. Ask them to start qualifying your statements or change their position, because they are not representative of the future economy of London.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Tesla vs Dinosaurs, the new Apple vs Nokia

We recently argued that car manufacturers were essentially engine manufacturers, or more precisely, engine factory manufacturers —and that e-cars rendered  obsolete their core skills
  1. Designing petrol/diesel engines that deliver "acceptable" performance, fuel economy and pollution numbers, engines that are cost-effective to manufacture.
  2. Designing manufacturable vehicles around these engines, with the features needed to allow that engine to translate into movement: transmission, steering, braking, air intakes, exhausts, cooling.
  3. Having a cost-effective supply chain with 3rd party suppliers capable of on-demand supply of everything needed for those vehicles.
  4. A service chain capable of bringing in the cars & their motors for local service, with supplies available on a timely basis. Servicing and parts are a long-term revenue stream, especially pre-emptive annual services.
We also claimed the centre of the automotive universe had moved from Detroit and Southern Germany to Silicon valley

To back this up
  1. Ford announce their "innovation center" in Silicon Valley. Google is sucking them into a new orbit. 
  2. More press on the "surge" of electric cars, motor manufacturers saying "more must be done to encourage this". Except in the NL, where the number sold actually fell. In a city with safe cycling and functional public transport, electric cars are a distraction.
  3. Schroeders publish an investment analysis which argues that Peak Car has arrived in the west. Sales in the EU US and elsewhere will be replacements, especially to the (ageing) baby boomers, who will need autonomous vehicles to adapt to their age and to introduce planned obsolescence to vehicles that would otherwise outlast their remaining years.
  4. The Register review a Tesla Model D, a four-door family hatchback e-car that can out accelerate a Ferrari if desired. A car whose per-wheel motors under software control deliver optimal traction for the conditions and operation. A car whose large battery delivers range; a battery the car is built around for handling. The reviewer notes that a Nissan Leaf has an out and back "journey range" of 25 miles. The Tesla: 200. Out and back trips work. No more plugging in to recharge every night.
  5. The register compare it to the Porsche Panamera "c-zone exempt" hybrid and say you'd only choose the latter if you cared about the branding . Their Panamera view highlights how Porsche are behind in battery engineering, and have a convoluted mechanical transmission mode for performance alongside 
  6. The register review a "Renault Twizzy" e-car and sneer at its sheer uselessness.
  7. Tesla push-out an over-the-air software update their P85D cars that cut the 0-60 speed from 3.2s to 3.1s, While this number is fucking irrelevant except as a status symbol amongst the wealthy, the fact that Tesla can do this upgrade in software tells Porsche, BMW, Ferrari: this is the future. The fact that they push it out to all their existing customers adds insult to the injury. They also release a youtube video showing how their per-wheel electric drive delivers better snow traction than "all-wheel drive", just to let their competitors SUV units know that they are next.
Tesla have shown that the core skills of the future are radically different:
  1. Designing batteries which charge fast, hold charge across temperatures, can discharge on demand.
  2. Designing charging systems to charge those batteries fast.
  3. Building out the charging infrastructure. Whereas the existing motor industry demands more government concessions: free parking for e-cars, bus-lane access, etc. Tesla build performance charging stations as their solution to the range problem. With cars that can do 300-400 miles per charge, Tesla don't need that many, especially if a 15-30 minute recharge is all that is needed.
  4. Designing full size, everyday cars which make the battery an integral part of the vehicle, a vehicle built from the groundup around motors which can provide per-wheel traction and 0.60 performance on a par with even more expensive sports cars. 
  5. Integrating battery charge management with instrumented vehicles and wireless communications, so that giving all owners of the P85D car a performance boost is an automatic feature "Good morning! your car just got faster"
As a result, the Tesla model S wins the best ranking ever for a car by the US Consumer Reviews magazine.

The existing manufacturers, the dinosaurs, have a problem. Their existing plant is obsolete, their existing skill base obsolete. And they are not the cool places to work for if you want to build future transports. Would you rather help Renault do the Renault Twizzy 2 or go to Tesla, help build their next cars, and maybe earn a sabbatical on Space-X to work on space launcher management.

The existing car manufacturers are the new Nokias.
  1. They need to recuperate the sunk costs of those factories by continuing to build  and sell p- and -d cars. 
  2. They need to sell replacement cars to their declining customer base in the west
  3. They know that most cars are used daily for short-range commutes
  4. They know that pollution and congestion means that p-car and d-cars are being viewed as unwelcome in modern cities.
  5. They have to target the emerging economies with variants of their existing models, using the hand-me-down factories.
So they've all had the same idea: "let's sell electric cars as the number two car in a two-car household! One they charge up every night and use for commutes. We can then sell the "open-road-luxury tourer/crossover SUV" as the long-range toy!"

Except they've been so good at producing small petrol cars that they can't produce e-cars to compete. They have to keep costs down by (a) retrofitting the batteries and electric motors into vehicles that are built for combustion engines with transmissions, exhausts, air intakes and the like, and (b) skimping money on batteries.

Fitting small batteries keeps costs down, and while it meets the range of "most" journeys, it adds journey anxiety, —and is still very, very expensive. Furthermore, e-cars still have a key disadvantage. If you are driving one you still end up in stationary traffic wondering where you will park that day. Every evening you need to remember to plug it in somewhere to charge.

So what do the manufacturers do? They send their lobbyists to the government and say "we need lots of charging points for our limited range vehicles", "we need money to help build battery factories", "we need you to subsidise every e-car otherwise they won't compete with the combustion cars (dinocar?) we make", and of course "can we let them drive down bus lanes?"

Now consider
  1. Nokia's most successful phone. While it helped the developing countries, it did nothing for Nokia, which now only exist as a unit within Microsoft. 
  2. Apple, who in sheer volume of smart phones sold do not dominate the market, make 50-70% profit on an iphone, and the majority of the smart phone profits.
  3. Apple, despite selling only a fraction as many laptops as the PC vendors, take all the profit from that business.

Apple have shown that if you can produce the most compelling products —you can get the majority of the profits. And that technology and its packaging lets them do it in the markets they compete in.

Tesla have the potential to do something similar —especially if they can move fast, to be the rapid mammal against the lumbering sauropods.

You can talk about e-cars and people will say "they are too expensive", to which you can agree "yes, those 20-mile range leaf toys are useless all round." Irrespective of motor type, it's the wrong transport option for a city. And with such limited range, its useless outside of a city. Which makes them fundamentally useless.

There's always the hybrid option, "the best of both worlds". For today's car manufacturers, it leverages their existing skills in engine and transmissions, and adds a battery and regenerative braking to it. But go look at that Porsche Panamera review and think "nobody would seriously design a vehicle like this if they had a clean slate". A petrol engine and transmission, as well as a battery and motors? At least Toyota have pure electric motor transmission in their Prius designs. 

Hybrid cars like the Prius may compensate for the inability of the existing car manufacturers to produce compelling electric cars, but all they are doing is retaining all the limitations of a combustion engine (engine block, cooling, lubrication, fuelling, exhaust, pollution management, serviceability) and adding the problems of an e-car (battery placement and management, motor management, effective regenerative braking). And, by having both kinds of engine in the same vehicle, your luggage capacity is in trouble: the longer the electric range, the less stuff you can carry.

It's a stop-gap solution for companies that aren't in a position to go fully electric.

But it is all they can do while they struggle to catch up. They need to build the skills Tesla has, build the manufacturing plant and supply chain, the software for managing engines and batteries and the experience in building vehicles out of them —experience where Tesla are now three cycles ahead on a development process that is iterating far faster than modern "5-7 year" car model cycles. They also have a sales channel, the dealership model, that is no longer relevant in a world of online sales, apple-style direct sales stores and continuously instrumented vehicles. Yet that dealer channel is one of their assets they don't dare abandon, because without it, they can't keep reselling their existing models.

Which brings this article back to the subject of peak car.

Today's manufacturers, the dinosaurs, need to resell cars to their existing customers at a 1:1 rate. Households moving from two cars to one don't do that. They aren't in a position to make or sell electric cars at the price point they sell cars for today, low-end electric cars suck and hybrid cars are clearly stop-gap toys. 

They are in trouble. Nokia management holding an iPhone saying "what are we going to do now?", while a subordinate says "we still have the market share!"

Tesla don't need that market share.

Tesla don't need 1:1 replacement sales of the existing automobile fleet to keep their plant busy and repay massive government loans.

What Tesla need is what Apple has: the profitable bit of the business. 

Which explains how they are working.  They are producing cars that get great consumer reviews. Now, rather than go down to that "e-car for the commute" business, they've gone up to compete with the sports cars, creating a brand image. Tesla are making Tesla cars desirable, with the fact that they electric an incidental detail; no more relevant than whether its a petrol or diesel engine in a BMW 5-series. What you are buying the car for is not the ability to recharge it after 20 miles, but the ability to fill it with luggage, your entire family, then go for a long journey —overtaking those BMW 5-series cars you get stuck behind when needed.

Nokia: meet Apple
Dinosaurs: that little thing at your feet? It's called a mammal.
Combustion engine manufacturers? We've got some bad news

Incidentally, Tesla have two charging stations in South Gloucestershire. One close to the M4/M5 Cribbs Causeway interchange, one off the A4174 and in range of those north-fringe commuters who make the mistake of living somewhere in extended-M4/M5 congestion commute zone.