Archiv für den Monat Februar 2016

The Electric Car Revolution Is Now Scheduled for 2022

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV


Barriers To Augmented Reality Are Holding Us Back From The Holodeck

There is more money and talent invested in virtual and augmented reality than ever before. Indeed, more than $3.5 billion has been invested into virtual and augmented reality startups in the past two years. The industry is growing fast; Goldman Sachs suggests the combined hardware and software market for VR and AR will reach, on a base case, $80 billion by 2025, with a potential to reach more than $180 billion.

Many experts believe that in the long run, augmented reality will represent the larger opportunity, as the ability to introduce all manner of information and experience into the natural environment transforms markets, and indeed the nature of our existence.

Companies such as Magic Leap are attracting enormous investment on such promise. But from a technical perspective, augmented reality is considered more difficult, as creating responsive media in the real environment is full of technical challenges.

Recently, seven scientists from universities with leading research programs in virtual and augmented reality published the proceedings of discussions related to the technical challenges in realizing the AR opportunity.

Beyond the technical challenges to achieving true augmented reality, the researchers pause to consider ethics.

Co-authored by Christian Sandor, Martin Fuchs, Alvaro Cassinelli, Hao Li, Richard Newcombe, Goshiro Yamamoto and Steven Feiner, Breaking the Barriers to True Augmented Reality considers the main approaches to realizing augmented reality, as well as the technical and ethical challenges, in order to draw conclusions on what direction future development of AR might take.

First, the researchers consider the four main approaches to achieving true augmented reality, which can be represented on a scale of “decreasing order of physicality” from “manipulating atoms” to “manipulating perception.” These four approaches include:

Controlled matter: Arguably the most technically challenging approach would be to manipulate or reconfigure atoms in order to change the physical environment. Think Star Trek Holodeck. While this may seem outlandish today, there is research in this direction. The researchers point to “displays that use magnetic fields to rapidly create shapes out of ferromagnetic fluid,” and another class of displays that “levitate solid objects in a field of overlaid ultrasonic or magnetic waves.” The challenges to realizing this approach include safety and energy requirements.

Surround AR: The “next best thing to manipulating atoms is manipulating photons,” in order to make objects in the environment visually indistinguishable from physical reality. The researchers imagine environments replete with light-field displays that create very realistic visual effects. Haptics might be achieved by “stimulating the user’s skin through ultrasound waves.” The challenges to this approach include the immensity of the data processing required and the ability to achieve high resolution. Thus, technology for plenoptic displays remains “in its infancy,” even while light-field sensors have advanced.

Personalized AR: This approach revolves around displaying information only in the subset of the environment that a particular user is experiencing. Examples of this approach include some the most commonly known devices today, such as Google Glass and Microsoft’s HoloLens. Challenges to this approach include tracking at “sufficiently high update rates and low latency.”

Implanted AR: The researchers admit this may be the most “extreme” approach to achieving true augmented reality, but another option is not to manipulate the information sent to a user’s perceptual system, as in the prior three approaches, but rather to manipulate the perceptual system itself.

This approach has a long history of being depicted in science fiction, including movies such as The Matrix and Total Recall. This approach may first become widespread as new technologies augment the experience of those with conditions such as blindness. Later, it may be applied to augment the reality of the healthy.

Beyond the technical challenges to achieving true augmented reality, the researchers pause to consider ethics. Imagining such powerful technology, which may permit us to entirely manipulate the human experience of reality, raises big questions: Who will control its deployment? Who will ultimately be in control of its augmented content and for what purposes will it be used? Will individuals be freed or locked into purely commerce-driven experiences? Will augmented reality enhance our quality of life and promote better communication and deeper understanding, or “isolate and project us into a world of delusion?” Open questions.

But as the desire to sate the human imagination has driven the development of other media throughout history, augmented reality will continue to emerge, as advances in disciplines beyond just “optics, computer graphics, and computer vision” converge to make the above approaches possible.

While our experience of this world has in past included physical, biological, ethical and other practical limitations, the researchers note, augmented reality will free us from such boundaries. Market estimates, even in their billions, seem insignificant next to the scale of such ambition.

Read NYC Media Lab’s special report, Exploring Future Reality, here.

Digital-Savvy Millennials Will Sacrifice Privacy for Personalization – And that’s good news for marketers

Marketers have grappled with privacy regulations for years, but the rise of younger generations who are accustomed to receiving targeted digital ads may finally be changing the game for retail brands.

Speaking during a panel titled „Retail: Convergence of digital and physical,“ Nick Jones, evp of innovation and growth at Leo Burnett’s Arc Worldwide retail practice, said millennials and Gen-Z  are warming to technologies like NFC (near field communication) and mobile payments that deliver personalized content such as coupons or videos.

„By definition, things like NFC are opt-in because the shopper is making a decision to tap the product,“ he said. „The new generation of millennials and even younger audiences are getting more familiar with that kind of blended world where there isn’t quite as much of a protection of privacy.

„Frankly, they’ve kind of grown up with the personalization of content where I’m aware of where you’ve shopped, where you left a [shopping] basket, and I’m going to remind you. They see that more as a value than necessarily an intrusion of their privacy.“

Inspire Loyalty With Your Leadership: Here’s How

As the leader of your business, you’re surely aware that the loyalty you inspire in your employees is more than just important; it’s essential.

Beyond producing improved results from your employees and reducing turnover in your staff, the loyalty you encourage in your team — through the behaviors that you exemplify –will extend itself to your customer base, and beyond.

Loyalty isn’t something you can just gain, at the drop of a hat. To be a leader truly worthy of loyalty takes hard work and requires self-inquiry and a clarity of mind. After all, who can follow someone who doesn’t even know what he or she wants or is headed? Inspiring loyalty may take personal work, but it will be worth the effort when you have a team that will follow you to the ends of the earth.

There are many ways to inspire loyalty, but here are six essential ways in which the best leaders inspire loyalty, in even the most dubious of employees.

1. Trust. 

Constantly looking over your employee’s shoulder to second-guess his or her work creates a sense of personal doubt, especially if there has been no pertinent reason to mistrust the staffer’s expertise. Great leaders give their trust to others, without reservation, and those others are then motivated to not only give trust back, but to work harder to meet the expectations of someone they respect.

2. Support for employee development

In the short and long-term, all people need to feel as though their work, and by extension their lives, has meaning and positive progression. If there is no opportunity for learning in an encouraging environment, employees may start to feel stagnant and resentful.

Employees who are encouraged to follow their passions and stretch beyond what they thought was their capacity are sure to have deeply loyal feelings toward a leader who fosters that development.

3. Leading by example

A leader is perhaps expected to have more responsibility than do employees, but that doesn’t mean that the leader is „above“ any work that needs to be done. Some of the best leaders I have known are right there in the trenches when that’s called for. If you’re too good to get your hands dirty with your team, your team members will start to see their jobs as menial and unimportant — just as you do. But, if you do whatever it takes for your company to be successful, so will everyone around you.

4. Clarity

A leader’s clarity creates a compass by which his or her team can navigate. If you aren’t completely clear about your mission and values, it’s obvious to anyone in your employ that following you will lead nowhere. So, be communicative and definitive about your wide-reaching vision and your day-to-day tasks to enable your team to see that your leadership is true.

5. Personal relationships

Of course there are boundaries around personal relationships at work, but within those boundaries, there is room to recognize that the people who work for you are humans, dealing with trials and tribulations beyond the next budget meeting. Do you know when your employees have major life milestones, like a birth, death, marriage or divorce? Great leaders know that cultivating care for their employees creates love and loyalty in return.

6. Openness and honesty

Nothing inspires loyalty more than being honest. Open communication does two things: It creates confidence and trust, and also helps create feelings of inclusion. Being part of a team that works together will make any employee think twice before leaving or making a detrimental decision. Honest leaders will make team members stay much longer than they would have with a leader who hides information.

The greatest leaders in the world are not revered because they demanded loyalty — they created loyalty through their words and actions. With everyday care and personal conviction, you too can create a company that is full of employees who are devoted, hard-working, and unwavering.


Amazon is already after its next $400 billion opportunity

During Amazon’s most recent earnings call, Baird Equity Research analyst Colin Sebastian asked two questions to Amazon CFO Brian Olsavky: one about Amazon Web Services‘ margins, and another about the chances of Amazon expanding its own shipping logistics services to other companies.

The first one got answered promptly, though Olsavsky had to stop mid-sentence because the operator accidentally jumped in early. Still, Olsavsky made it a point to get back and finish his answer.

The second question never got answered.

„If he wanted to talk about it, he would have remembered to answer,“ Sebastian told Business Insider. „Either way, I think the answer is that Amazon doesn’t talk about potential or future services.“

Amazon’s notoriously secretive about its future plans, so it’s not too surprising that Olsavsky skipped Sebastian’s question.

But when you’re going after something as big as the logistics and shipping market, it’s hard to keep your plans under wraps — and a growing amount of evidence suggests Amazon may indeed be going after the delivery and logistics market, which Sebastian pegs as a $400 billion market opportunity.

Next $400 billion opportunity

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a series of reports speculating Amazon’s plan to establish a bigger in-house logistics service that will allow it to potentially bypass its current delivery partners, like UPS and FedEx.

That includes:

Serbastian believes this all points to Amazon building up its in-house logistics delivery network. He envisions Amazon first starting out with its own deliveries, but eventually opening up the service to other companies, putting it in direct competition with the likes of UPS and FedEx.

„Among other opportunities, Amazon has ‚powerhouse potential‘ in the large transportation and logistics market, dominated by global enterprises such as DHL and UPS,“ Sebastian wrote in a recent note.

„Amazon’s cloud technology expertise and increasingly complex fulfillment, logistics and delivery network seem to be obvious foundation to offer third-party services, with an incremental $400-450 billion market opportunity.“

A worker gathers items for delivery from the warehouse floor at Amazon's distribution center in Phoenix, Arizona November 22, 2013.  REUTERS/Ralph D. Freso   Thomson ReutersWorker gathers items for delivery at Amazon’s distribution center in Phoenix

Project Dragon Boat

Perhaps the strongest indication of a bigger Amazon logistics ambition was disclosed last week in a report by Bloomberg’s Spencer Soper.

The report, citing a 2013 Amazon document, revealed an internal project called Dragon Boat, which is intended to become a service that controls everything from picking up the product at the factory in China to delivering it to the end customer in the US.

It said the document described Project Dragon Boat as a „revolutionary system that will automate the entire international supply chain and eliminate much of the legacy waste associated with document handling and freight booking.“

„Sellers will no longer book with DHL, UPS, or FedEx but will book directly with Amazon,“ the report said.

When Amazon’s Olsavsky was asked about its logistics plan again by another analyst during earnings call, he simply shrugged it off as a complementary service, saying it’s intended to supplement, not replace, existing delivery companies.

„What we found in order to properly serve our customers at peak, we’ve needed to add more of our own logistics to supplement our existing partners. That’s not meant to replace them,“ Olsavsky said.

Next AWS

Werner Vogels, chief technology officer, speaks at the AWS Re:Invent conference at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Richard Brian Thomson ReutersVogels, chief technology officer, speaks at the AWS Re:Invent conference at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas

But don’t expect Amazon’s logistics business to expand overnight.

If anything, it’s going to take a few years to fully ramp up and establish itself to become a viable delivery option for other companies, according to Sebastian.

„They will start small, mostly to add capacity for their own business, but then, over time, as they gain more expertise, they will offer extra capacity to other companies,“ Sebastian told us.

In that sense, it could follow the path of Amazon Web Services, its cloud computing service that’s now generating almost $8 billion in annual revenue.

Amazon built AWS out of the infrastructure it had created to support its own operations, but it’s now become one of the most widely used cloud computing platforms, used by everything from small startups to big companies like Netflix and GE.

„I think it’s like AWS,“ Sebastian said. „But it took 10 years for AWS to get as large as it is.“

Bentley Plans To Copy Porsche’s Electric Tesla Fighter Misson-E

Bentley Plans To Copy Porsche's Electric Tesla Fighter

Volkswagen Group owns a lot of automotive brands, two of which happen to be Bentley and Porsche. A few months ago Porsche confirmed it was working on an electric sports car to go head-to-head with Tesla, and now Bentley has confirmed it will borrow Porsche’s plans and make its own electric sports car rival.

The gorgeous Mission E concept was green lit for production by Porsche with intentions of taking on Tesla’s success as a high performance electric automaker, and now Bentley wants to douse those plans in opulent luxury.

Bentley Plans To Copy Porsche's Electric Tesla Fighter

Speaking to, Bentley board member Rolf French, who is responsible for the British luxury brand’s engineering department, confirmed plans to piggy back Porsche during the launch of the Bentayga SUV in Palm Springs last week.

While Porsche’s first all-electric model will almost certainly be a sedan, French mentioned that Bentley would have a firm idea of its plans for an electric car in the next six months, but that the hot Speed 6 coupe concept may be a viable contender to get the goods.

Bentley Plans To Copy Porsche's Electric Tesla Fighter

Whether a sedan or coupe, or both, the all-electric Bentley will take advantage of Porsche’s development of the electric batteries, motors, and other hardware for the electric platform.

It’s unclear if Bentley will pick up any of the R&D costs, but either way a second model under a different brand will help increase volume and make the massive engineering project a little easier to swallow in a market stiff on tradition.

Companies within Volkswagen “borrowing” from each other is nothing new, with the new Audi R8 based on the Lamborghini Huracan being a good example of extremely similar high performance automobiles under the same umbrella.

And like those two very special cars, it’s going to be tough to pick a favorite between Porsche’s beautiful Mission E concept and Bentley’s athletic Speed 6—if that’s the direction they take.

Photos: Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 concept, Porsche Mission E concept

The 15 most successful CMOs in the US

Netflix’s chief marketing officer was the most-successful CMO in the US in 2015, according to ExecRank.

ExecRank’s uses an algorithm to help match companies with advisors.

The algorithm assesses measures such as experience in the executive role, business results during their tenure, board member appointments, company earnings per share growth this year, and industry/professional reputation.

We’ve also provided details on where the marketers appeared in last year’s list, although ExecRank chairman and CEO pointed out to AdAge that year-to-year comparisons aren’t entirely perfect because the algorithm gets tweaked annually.

ExecRank ranks 249 CMOs alogether — here are the top 15.


15. David Roman, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Lenovo

Roman is responsible for driving all marketing activities at the world’s largest PC-maker, which includes the Motorola mobile division. He has also been recognized in AdAge’s Marketing Top 50 and Creative Magazine’s Top 50 list. He ranked at number 14 last year.

14. John Hayes, chief marketing officer at American Express

14. John Hayes, chief marketing officer at American Express


Hayes has been an EVP at AmEx since 1995 and CMO since 2003. Last year, he was number 114 on the list.

13. John Costello, president of global marketing and innovation at Dunkin‘ Brands

Costello has already been named one of the 30 most influential people in marketing by AdAge and one of the top 50 marketers by Adweek. He was number 9 in the list last year.

12. Jon Iwata, senior vice president of marketing and communications at IBM

Iwata is responsible for all worldwide communications at IBM, from media relations through to IBM’s intranet. He ranked at number five on last year’s list.

11. Anne Finucane, vice chairman and global chief strategy and marketing officer at Bank of America

11. Anne Finucane, vice chairman and global chief strategy and marketing officer at Bank of America

Bank of America

Finucane is responsible for the strategic positioning of Bank of America, as well as public policy, global marketing, CSR, and communications In 2013, she won the New York Women In Communications Matrix award and the Advertising Women of the Year by Advertising Women of New York. She ranked at number 18 on last year’s list.

10. Marcos de Quinto, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at The Coca-Cola Company

10. Marcos de Quinto, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at The Coca-Cola Company

El Despacho de Kotler/YouTube

De Quinto was recently promoted to the CMO role, having previously served as president of Coca-Cola’s Iberia business unit, which covers Spain and Portugal. He recently unveiled Coca-Cola’s new „one brand“ marketing campaign that unites all the Coke brands under one slogan. He didn’t feature on last year’s ranking, but former CMO Joseph Tripodi was at number 11.

9. Beth Comstock, former chief marketing officer at General Electric, now vice chair of business innovations

9. Beth Comstock, former chief marketing officer at General Electric, now vice chair of business innovations


GE named Comstock as its first female vice chair in September. She was replaced as CMO by Linda Boff. At the time of her promotion, GE CEO Jeff Immelt said in a statement: „Beth has a proven reputation inside and outside GE for transforming the enterprise and being a catalyst for digital innovation and growth.“ She moved down one place in the ranking this year, from number 6.

8. Chris Cox, chief product officer at Facebook

8. Chris Cox, chief product officer at Facebook

Jolie Odell

Cox is Facebook’s highest-paid executive and is the top product exec at the company. Cox helped invent the news feed, designed Facebook’s „social by design“ strategy, and is part of Facebook’s top executive leadership team. He didn’t feature in last year’s rankings.

7. Stephen Quinn, former Walmart US chief marketing officer, now retired

Quinn retired from Walmart in January this year, having spent more than a decade at the company. He was replaced by Tony Rogers, who had served as the grocery chain’s chief marketing officer in China. Quinn moved down several places from number two in last year’s rankings.

6. Ronald Coppock, president of worldwide sales and marketing at Arris

6. Ronald Coppock, president of worldwide sales and marketing at Arris


Coppock has served in the president of world sales and marketing role at the telecommunications equipment manufacturing company since 2003. He didn’t feature in last year’s rankings.

5. Karen Walker, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Cisco

5. Karen Walker, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Cisco


Walker was promoted to the CMO position in June 2015 and has clearly quickly made an impact. Prior to that, she was the company’s senior vice president of marketing. ExecRank says she has „championed marketing’s role as an accountable business function aligning closely with sales teams and a vital resource to partners.“ She did not feature on last year’s rankings.

4. John Slusher, executive vice president of global sporks marketing at Nike

4. John Slusher, executive vice president of global sporks marketing at Nike


Slusher is responsible for managing relationships with Nike’s athletes, team, league, and federation partners. Nike won big at the Cannes Lions advertising festival this year, for its Re2pect campaign for Derek Jeter from the Jordan brand, the „Winner Stays“ football campaign, and for Nike Golf’s „Ripple“ campaign. Slusher didn’t feature in the list last year, but his colleague Trevor Edwards, president of the Nike brand, was number three.

3. Andrew Sherrard, chief marketing officer and executive vice president at T-Mobile US

3. Andrew Sherrard, chief marketing officer and executive vice president at T-Mobile US


Sherrard joined T-Mobile in 2003 and was promoted to the CMO role in February last year, now responsible for all marketing execution for the T-Mobile brand in the US. T-Mobile was a big Super Bowl advertiser this year, with two ads — one starring rapper Drake. Sherrard didn’t feature in the list last year.

2. Philip Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple

2. Philip Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple


Schiller has now taken on new responsibilities to oversee the App Store across all of Apple’s hardware platforms. He was the top-performing marketer in last year’s rankings. At the time of Schiller’s promotion, Apple also announced Grey New York ad exec Tor Myhren would be joining the company as vice president of marketing and communications early in 2016.

1. Kelly Bennett, chief marketing officer at Netflix

Bennett has served as Netflix’s CMO since 2012. He didn’t feature on last year’s rankings, but in 2015 Netflix has been taking over the world — literally — and marketing campaigns for its Originals series have helped boost sign-ups and retention rates.

How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car

General Motors first unveiled the Chevy Bolt as a concept car in January 2015, billing it as a vehicle that would offer 200 miles of range for just $30,000 (after a $7,500 federal tax credit). Barring any unforeseen delays, the first Bolts will roll off the production line at GM’s Orion Assembly facility in Michigan by the end of 2016. As Pam Fletcher, GM’s executive chief engineer for electric vehicles, recently put it to me with a confident grin: “Who wants to be second?”

For GM, the Bolt stands to offer a head start in a new kind of market for electric cars. But for the rest of us, there’s a broader significance to this news. It’s not just that Chevy will likely be first. It’s that a car company as lumbering and gigantic as GM, with infrastructure and manufacturing capacity on an epic scale, has gotten there first—and is there now. Tesla is nimble, innovative, and fun to watch, as companies go. But the Bolt is far more significant than any offering from Tesla ever could be. Why? Think of the old saw about how long it takes to turn an aircraft carrier around: It’s slow, and there’s not much to see at any given moment. But the thing about people who actually manage to turn one around is: They’ve got a freaking aircraft carrier.

Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, is a company lifer who has spent years shepherding the Bolt into existence. Joe Pugliese

EFORE WE GO any further, let’s pause for a moment to savor just how richly ironic it is that General Motors is about to take the lead in the electric car race. GM is, after all, a company that went bankrupt just seven years ago and survived only with the help of a federal bailout; a company whose board of directors was described by President Obama’s auto czar, Steven Rattner, as “utterly docile” in the face of impending disaster; a company that has been the butt of jokes about its lackluster, unreliable, macho cars for years; a company that churned out Hummers while Toyota gave us the Prius. And even more to the point, we’re talking about a company that has a long history with electric vehicles—the way South Park has a long history with Kenny.

That’s right. General Motors killed the electric car. More than once.

In the earliest days of the auto industry, electric cars were about as popular as their combustion-powered counterparts. Just like today, they were cleaner and quieter but more limited in range than the competition. Plus, they didn’t require a hand crank to start—an annoying feature of early combustion vehicles that occasionally resulted in broken fingers. But in 1912, Cadillac, GM’s luxury arm, came out with the first electric starter for gas-powered vehicles. Electric cars died out shortly thereafter, and in a cloud of exhaust GM surged to become the world’s largest carmaker.

Fast-forward 84 years, and for a brief interlude it looked like GM was about to take the lead in bringing electrics back. In 1996, in response to a California mandate that required automakers to have zero-emissions vehicles ready for market by 1998, GM rolled out the EV1, the first mass-produced electric vehicle of the modern era. The funny-looking two-seater had a range of about 50 miles and was offered for lease to consumers in California and Arizona. It was impractical, dinky, and entirely doomed. It earned a small coterie of devotees but held little appeal for mainstream consumers. It used almost all unique parts, forfeiting the advantages of GM’s scale. And even as GM’s EV1 team was busy building the car, GM’s lawyers were lobbying hard, side by side with the other big automakers, to get California to back off its requirement.

Charging Through History

In the early days of the automobile, electric cars outnumbered gasoline-powered vehicles on America’s rutted, manure-strewn roads. But even as the internal combustion engine became the automobile’s dominant power source, the dream of the electric car never died. —Jordan Crucchiola

And so Lutz, a guy who would later declare that global warming is a “total crock of shit,” began lobbying GM’s leadership to make the biggest, greenest play possible. He didn’t want GM to just build a me-too hybrid to compete with Toyota. He wanted GM to build a fully electric car that almost anyone could afford to buy and that wasn’t limited by range. He wanted, in effect, to build the Bolt. But the technology wasn’t there. The car that GM actually built at Lutz’s insistence—the Chevy Volt—went on to become one of the most talked-about American vehicles in decades, for a whole host of reasons, many of them symbolic. But in-house, says Tony Posawatz, the engineer who led the team that developed the Volt, it was very clear that this was going to be a transitional car—a warm-up for GM’s electric long game.

For the Volt, GM settled on a design that was neither a Prius-style hybrid nor a pure electric car but something in between called an extended-range electric vehicle. The setup would combine a plug-in battery strong enough to serve as the car’s main power train, plus a motor with a small gas engine that would work as a generator, creating electricity to keep the vehicle going when the battery was depleted. But even that hybrid design forced GM engineers, to a remarkable extent, to become cavemen rediscovering fire.

Being inside the Bolt feels a bit like flying economy class on a brand-new, state-of-the-art plane.

Nearly everything changes when you opt for a fundamentally different power train, so GM’s greatest advantage—more than a century of experience building cars—was all but moot. Car structure was different, since they were building around a battery, not an engine. The brakes, steering, and air conditioner were powered differently. New systems, from electromagnetics for the motors to onboard and off-board charging, each came with its own learning curve. The engineers didn’t have established tests to follow. Just turning on the car required finding the perfect sequence of electrical signals from more than a dozen modules. “Oh my God, it took us forever to get the first Volt to start,” Fletcher says.

Then there was the battery. Lithium-ion chemistry was a new thing 10 years ago, and the Volt team quickly discovered how much of a pain in the neck it is. “Batteries wear out just sitting there, and they wear out when you cycle them,” says Bill Wallace, GM’s head battery engineer. “And then they wear out if you over-discharge them, or if you overcharge them.” They’re extremely sensitive to temperature. They change shape as they charge and discharge. They can also catch fire.

In short, all these problems were new to a company whose experience lay in what Lutz calls “the oily bits.” So the team set about developing the expertise it lacked. GM established a curriculum with the University of Michigan to train battery engineers. It filled a vacant building in Brownstown, Michigan, with the equipment to make battery packs. The engineers created test procedures and wrote them down as they went. They modeled different use cases for the Volt, from a woman in northern Minnesota who plugs in every night to a guy in Miami who drives 100 miles a day. They built the battery lab and brought in the blue environmental chambers, then used them to see how the battery would stand up to each situation. “We invented the idea of what the lab should be,” Fletcher says.

The Volt project was still in its infancy when the US economy tanked in 2008, sending GM into shock. The company began losing $1 billion a month and started cleaving off limbs in desperation, eliminating or selling its Pontiac, Saturn, Saab, and Hummer brands. The Volt project could easily have fallen under the ax as well—but instead it took on an outsize significance. President Obama seized on the car as one reason GM was worth a $40 billion bailout, holding it up as a sign that the bankrupt automaker could adapt. The Volt finally went on sale in December 2010, to accolades (“A bunch of Midwestern engineers in bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches just out-engineered every other car company on the planet.” —The Wall Street Journal) and jeers (“roller skates with a plug” —Fox News).

As for actual drivers, they were pretty into the Volt. The car posted stellar customer satisfaction ratings, and nearly 70 percent of its drivers were new to Chevy. The trouble was that there simply weren’t many buyers. In 2011, GM’s CEO at the time, Dan Akerson, told reporters he wanted to produce 60,000 Volts the next year. To date, Chevy has sold about 80,000—total. The Volt was a powerful symbol, but it wasn’t that significant a vehicle. Buyers soon had more innovative cars to choose from. The all-electric Nissan Leaf hit the market at around the same time as the Volt, for a similar price. In 2012, Tesla introduced its first-generation Model S, with upwards of 200 miles per charge.

But the real significance of the Volt was that it gave GM a brand-new manufacturing and engineering platform for electric vehicles, where it had had none before. “Once you make the leap, and you have a big battery, and you have electric motors,” Posawatz says, “you’ve done all the hard stuff.” And then you might just see an opportunity to gun for the finish line.

Joe Pugliese

N THE MORNING of April 2, 2014, US senator Barbara Boxer glared down from behind a microphone in a Senate hearing room in Washington, DC, demanding answers from America’s industrial problem child, General Motors. The company had just instituted its largest recall ever, after reports that faulty ignition switches on millions of cars from the 2000s had been responsible for numerous deaths and injuries. Boxer, as part of a congressional investigative committee, was castigating GM’s new CEO, Mary Barra, who had been in the job a mere three weeks. “Woman to woman, I am very disappointed,” Boxer said. “The culture that you are representing here today is a culture of the status quo.”

Barra sat there, practicing the studiously neutral, calmly repentant facial nonexpression of someone getting grilled by Congress. The main theme of Barra’s testimony was that the old GM—with a docile, nodding bureaucratic culture that swept problems under the rug—had died with the company’s 2009 bankruptcy, bailout, and restructuring and that the new GM was different. But the “culture of the status quo” charge wasn’t so easy for Barra, of all people, to deflect: She’s not only a GM lifer, she’s a second-generation lifer. Her dad was a die-maker for Pontiac, and she started with the company when she was 18. (She’s 54 now.)

On the other hand, Barra had a strong hand in a lot of the most transformative stuff going on at GM. Chief case in point: Not long before she became CEO, Barra had been tapped to run development of new products, the position once held by Lutz. So by the time she was hauled before Congress in 2014 to answer for the company’s past sins, she had been overseeing the efforts of GM’s electrification gang for three years.

When I walk into Barra’s office one recent fall day, she’s standing in front of her desk wearing black pants, a black turtleneck, and an Apple Watch. (Offsetting the Steve Jobs vibe just a bit is a calendar on the wall that shows a fluffy white cat in the backseat of an Opel Corsa.) As Barra tells it, the process to develop the Bolt really took off when GM’s team was regrouping after a major setback. In 2012, GM invested in a California startup called Envia, which had developed a new battery that posted incredible performance numbers. Envia promised to deliver a 200-mile battery by fall 2013. But its technology turned out to be a flop.

Not only is GM likely to win the race, it may have the winner’s circle to itself for some time.

So in spring 2013, GM’s senior leaders and the most important figures on its electrification team gathered in the virtual reality room of the company’s Design Center to assess the situation. “We started to go, ‘OK, what can we do?’” Barra says. Was there another route to 200 miles? The EV folks hesitated but started pulling together different elements—improvements in battery life, cost savings in motors—that, combined, might represent a way forward. “We can push our way toward 200,” Fletcher recalls thinking.

The meeting turned into a full-on brainstorming session, one that ended, Barra says, with what looked like a viable path to the Bolt: “And we all went, ‘Let’s do that.’”

And so the design team set to work devising a car that would appeal to consumers well beyond the ecowarrior, early-adopter demographic. Some flashy ideas were thrown out early on: A carbon fiber body? Lightweight but too expensive at this price point. Suicide doors? Eye-catching, but they added mass without functional benefits. Capped wheels? Good for aerodynamics, but they signaled something science project–y. “It’s got to look like a serious car,” design lead Stuart Norris says. The team delivered as spacious an interior as possible, with upright glass to make the relatively small car feel more substantial and a raised driving position for a commanding view of the road.

Meanwhile, the technical folks set about making Norris’ design go 200 miles on a charge. At their most basic, batteries are made of powders, the morphology of which—grain size, distribution, how they’re bound together—is key to the power and energy of each cell. LG, General Motors’ battery provider, had cooked up a noticeably improved cell that retained energy capacity particularly well when it got hot, as lithium-ion batteries tend to. That meant Chevy could use a smaller cooling system and stick more cells in the battery pack for more range. LG also improved the battery’s conductivity, so the ions flowed faster, translating to quicker acceleration (the Bolt can go from 0 to 60 in seven seconds).

As soon as the battery was ready, engineers at GM’s Michigan proving ground hacked together a bastard car using the front half of a Chevy Sonic and the rear of a Buick Encore. They called it the Soncore and fitted it with the Bolt battery pack and motor, using the Franken-vehicle to make sure the propulsion system worked. That way, once the real Bolt body was in development, the teams responsible for the car’s chassis controls, vehicle dynamics, and suspension tuning could get right to work.

As 2014 bled into 2015, Chevy engineers built about 100 Bolt prototypes, shipping them around the US for real-world testing to verify the findings of the battery lab. The cars went to Arizona and Florida. The team drove them up the California coast and negotiated San Francisco traffic. They ran the prototypes over rough roads, looking for ways to reduce noise and vibration (extra-tricky in a car with no engine to mask odd sounds). They chose specially developed Michelin tires to minimize rolling resistance and improve range. Working fast, they made thousands of changes to the car, constantly looking for ways to improve. By the time I arrived for a test-drive, in October, the team still had more than 500 open work orders to complete.

Joe Pugliese

Tesla’s falling out of favor

Tesla’s falling out of favor

A Tesla Motors logo is shown on a Tesla Model S at a Tesla Motors dealership at Corte Madera Village, an outdoor retail mall, in Corte Madera, California May 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Robert GalbraithThomson ReutersTesla Model S.

Elon Musk is a genius and a visionary who is almost single-handedly changing the future of mankind through three different industries at once. With that said, it’s not clear if investors can easily benefit from any of that.

Tesla, the company most associated with Musk, is in a downward stock spiral over the last month, which has taken it to new 52-week lows. There are many reasons for that downward spiral, including concerns about market valuations and weak oil prices (which make Tesla’s correspondingly less attractive as a substitute versus conventional cars). But for the first time, Tesla is also facing a new threat that may be frightening away some investors: competition in the electric car space.

Tesla has been the only real electric car maker since its inception as a company. It’s true that Nissan offers the Nissan Leaf, an all electric car, but that vehicle only gets around 100 miles of range, compared with 270 miles for a Tesla. For the many Americans that drive 50 miles each way to work or who sit in traffic at rush hour, a 100-mile range is simply too perilously close to running out of power for comfort. As a result, the Nissan Leaf has never really caught on with more than a sliver of the population.

To be fair, of course, Tesla is still very much a niche car company. The firm produced about 50,000 vehicles in 2015 and it might make as many as 80,000-90,000 in 2016. Production is really the biggest issue right now for Tesla as it is quickly selling every car it can produce. And that is why investors have been comfortable with the story and given Tesla a stratospheric valuation compared with traditional car companies. Simply put, Tesla is making a cool car that nearly everyone would like to buy and it is selling product as fast as it can produce it. Unfortunately for most people, Tesla’s cars are too expensive so far. Tesla is promising to start production on its much vaunted Model 3 in 2017, but it is very possible that production will end up getting pushed back.

The Model 3 is particularly important because it is supposed to be Tesla’s first mass market car with a sticker price around $35,000. It’s unclear if Tesla really needs to produce the Model 3 — after all Ferrari and Porsche have long had great businesses despite selling only luxury sports cars. Yet the Model 3 represents Tesla’s chance to grab a large slice of the American car market and become a true competitor in that space. That is, as long as someone else doesn’t get there first — and therein lies the problem and perhaps the reason for Tesla’s sharp share price decline in recent weeks.

It now appears that General Motors rather than Tesla will be the first company out with a tractable mass market electric vehicle. The Chevy Bolt is set to start production by the end of 2016 with a sticker price of around $30,000 (after $7,500 in Federal rebates and incentives) and a range of roughly 200 miles. While that range is still not as high as Tesla’s range, the sticker price is a lot lower. Moreover, GM has the capacity to make hundreds of thousands of cars if the demand materializes. That prospect has to be making Tesla nervous.

For all of Elon Musk’s remarkable achievements with Tesla, the company is still very much an upstart. Making cars en masse is difficult, and the General Motors and Fords of the world have been doing it for a long time. Tesla’s biggest advantage was the lumbering nature of traditional automakers and their difficulty in producing a truly revolutionary new vehicle. Only time will tell if GM has succeeded on that front, but for the first time it does look like Tesla might face some real competition.

Elon Musk recommends Harlan Ellisons Book „I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream“,_and_I_Must_Scream


  • AM, the supercomputer which brought about the near-extinction of humanity. It seeks revenge on humanity for its own tortured existence.
  • Gorrister, who tells the history of AM for Benny’s entertainment. Gorrister was once an idealist and pacifist, before AM made him apathetic and listless.
  • Benny, who was once a brilliant, handsome scientist, and has been mutilated and transformed so that he resembles a grotesque simian with gigantic sexual organs. Benny at some point lost his sanity completely and regressed to a childlike temperament. His former homosexuality has been altered; he now regularly engages in sex with Ellen.
  • Nimdok (a name AM gave him), an older man who persuades the rest of the group to go on a hopeless journey in search of canned food. At times he is known to wander away from the group for unknown reasons, and returns visibly traumatized. In the audiobook read by Ellison, he is given a German accent.
  • Ellen, the only woman. She claims to once have been chaste („twice removed“), but AM altered her mind so that she became desperate for sexual intercourse. The others, at different times, both protect her and abuse her. According to Ted, she finds pleasure in sex only with Benny, because of his large penis. Described by Ted as having ebony skin, she is the only member of the group whose ethnicity or racial identity is explicitly mentioned.
  • Ted, the narrator and youngest of the group. He claims to be totally unaltered, mentally or physically, by AM, and thinks the other four hate and envy him. Throughout the story he exhibits symptoms of delusion and paranoia, which the story implies are the result of AM’s alteration.


The story takes place 109 years after the complete destruction of human civilization. The Cold War had escalated into a world war, fought mainly between China, Russia, and the United States. As the war progressed, the three warring nations each created a super-computer capable of running the war more efficiently than humans.

The machines are each referred to as „AM,“ which originally stood for „Allied Mastercomputer“, and then was later called „Adaptive Manipulator“. Finally, „AM“ stands for „Aggressive Menace“. One day, one of the three computers becomes self aware, and promptly absorbs the other two, thus taking control of the entire war. It carries out campaigns of mass genocide, killing off all but four men and one woman.

The survivors live together underground in an endless complex, the only habitable place left. The master computer harbors an immeasurable hatred for the group and spends every available moment torturing them. AM has not only managed to keep the humans from taking their own lives, but has made them virtually immortal.

The story’s narrative begins when one of the humans, Nimdok, has the idea that there is canned food somewhere in the great complex. The humans are always near starvation under AM’s rule, and anytime they are given food, it is always a disgusting meal that they have difficulty eating. Because of their great hunger, the humans are actually coerced into making the long journey to the place where the food is supposedly kept—the ice caves. Along the way, the machine provides foul sustenance, sends horrible monsters after them, emits earsplitting sounds, and blinds Benny when he tries to escape.

On more than one occasion, the group is separated by AM’s obstacles. At one point, the narrator, Ted, is knocked unconscious and begins dreaming. It is here that he envisions the computer, anthropomorphized, standing over a hole in his brain speaking to him directly. Based on this nightmare, Ted comes to a conclusion about AM’s nature, specifically why it has so much contempt for humanity; that despite its abilities it lacks the sapience to be creative or the ability to move freely. It wants nothing more than to exact revenge on humanity by torturing these last remnants of the species that created it; Ted and his four companions.

The group reaches the ice caves, where indeed there is a pile of canned goods. The group is overjoyed to find them, but is immediately crestfallen to find that they have no means of opening them. Finally, in a final act of desperation, Benny attacks Gorrister and begins to gnaw at the flesh on his face. Ted notices that AM does not intervene when Benny is clearly hurting Gorrister, though the computer has in the past always stopped the humans from killing themselves.

Ted seizes a stalactite made of ice, and kills Benny and Gorrister. Ellen realizes what Ted is doing, and kills Nimdok, before being herself killed by Ted. Ted runs out of time before he can kill himself, and is stopped by AM. However, while AM could restore massive damage to their bodies and horribly alter them, AM is not a god: it cannot return Ted’s four companions to life after they are already dead. AM is now even more angry and vengeful than before, with only one victim left for its hatred. To ensure that Ted can never attempt to kill himself, AM transforms him into a large, amorphous, fleshy blob that is incapable of causing itself or anybody else harm, and constantly alters his perception of time to deepen his anguish. Ted is, however, grateful that he was able to save the others from further torture. Ted’s closing thoughts end with the sentence that gives the book its title. „I have no mouth. And I must scream.“