As electric vehicles continue to grow in popularity, Tesla has become a true leader, becoming the number 1 selling car in America. But Tesla’s impact extends far past the confines of its own business operations; it has inevitably motivated other companies like Rivian, NIO, and others looking to get a piece of the EV pie. What a lot of people don’t know about Tesla though is that although Elon is at the helm of Tesla today, he didn’t really found it; he was a Series A investor. Behind Tesla’s original vision Martin Eberhard, the founder and first CEO of Tesla.
Tesla: Humble Beginnings
Tesla’s beginnings, unlike its current market standing, wasn’t always glamorous. We have to remember that electric vehicles weren’t always a hit. A quick look at history tells us that General Motors had a stint at selling electric cars, but failed. By all means, the technology hadn’t caught up to the point where commercializing electric vehicles was feasible.
That’s why Tesla’s business is an interesting one. Starting out as a startup that didn’t want to create just another sedan, it’s managed to rise above its competition and climb to its position of the best-selling car company in the United States, as of September of 2018.
But to truly understand the roots of Tesla, the Tesla before Elon Musk, the Tesla before all the controversy, you’re going to have to hear it directly from Tesla’s first CEO, and co-founder, Martin Eberhard. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to chat with Martin over the phone to dive deeper into how Tesla got started, learn about the journey that he took since his college years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and how those formative years defined Tesla’s trajectory.
The Days Before Tesla
Steven: Your co-founder Marc Tarpenning didn’t attend UIUC. So how did you two meet?
Martin: We met socially at a party put on by a mutual friend. We liked talking to each other and eventually worked together on a number of consulting projects, and liked each other well enough to do consulting projects (related to automobile stuff). We then started Nuvo Media, the first e-book, in 1996. It was a bit of a jump, but after Nuvo, we started Tesla.
Steven: Let’s go back to your college days. You went to UIUC and studied Computer and Electrical Engineering. What about your college experience compelled you to pursue a career in starting EV companies in the future?
Martin: It was a long progression, really. When I graduated my Masters, I did a lot of on-campus interviews, and I ended up choosing to work at a startup. I liked the company, I liked the people, and although in retrospect it wasn’t the best job offer, that experience got me interested in what startups were. After working at that startup for a while, I left to start my own company (Nuvo). Once we finished that, Marc and I wanted to do something that wasn’t just interesting; we wanted to do something impactful. Conscientious about the environment, we were definitely looking into electric cars – that ended up turning into Tesla.
How Tesla Stood Out
Steven: Back in the day, I think GM was trying to make electric cars as well but wasn’t so effective as far as commercializing. So how did Tesla stand out at the time?
Martin: Although some companies could technically manufacture these cars, there were no companies that were truly good at commercializing them. GM did have an attempt at selling electric cars, they weren’t very successful at it, and ended up dismissing electric cars from their portfolio of products.
Early Learnings at Tesla
Steven: What was your motivation to get started and continue to grow the company?
Martin: Well, at the time, it wasn’t that I really wanted to start a car company; I honestly just wanted a car for myself. When I started Tesla, I was really surprised that electric cars were the most efficient as well. Combining my conscientiousness about the environment with seeing a real opportunity, Marc and I thought that starting a car company, despite neither of us having previously started car companies or working at any, would be a good idea.
Steven: What were some of the early realizations you had being a first-time founder in the auto industry and how did that shape the trajectory of Tesla?
Martin: First, we considered ways to stand out. Firstly, we made Tesla the first car to use AC induction motor, other than the GM EV1. But at the same time, we were also aiming for a different kind of demographic. Not wanting it to just be “just another car,” we deliberately aimed for high quality and wanted to make our cars luxury products. Coupled with its performance, we thought we had carved out a unique niche that other companies, such as GM, didn’t figure out how to capitalize on before.
Steven: After Tesla, you went on to found another EV company, which later became a part of SF Motors. What problems did you see with EVs in your previous experiences that made you want to continue to tackle EVs?
Martin: After Tesla, I worked at Volkswagen for a couple of years. Mainly, I wanted to gain more experience and working at Volkswagen certainly had its benefits. At the same time, though, working at a car company is far different from starting one. Starting a company is nuts. After working at Volkswagen for a number of years, I started InEvit, a technology company. I took the problems that I noticed at Volkswagen and ended up capitalizing on them through InEvit. SF Motors eventually bought us out, and I joined their team soon after. But I was only at SF Motors for a short amount of time before I wanted to start something new again. Although I can’t talk too much about, I started a new company, Tiveni Inc., in this space, and that’s what I’m working on nowadays.
Tesla indisputably changed the automobile industry and opened doors for sustainability that was once believed to be commercially infeasible. Although it’s often interesting to read what Elon has to say on Twitter and of course, recognize his strong work ethic in growing Tesla to the $33.70 billion company that it is today, it’s arguably more interesting to learn how accurate Martin’s vision was over 15 years ago. Oh, and recognize the impeccable execution his team had in those early days.
Martin shows us that risk-taking entrepreneurs are the ones who eventually see their ventures turn into companies that change the world. And in a space as large as the EV market we know today too? He exemplifies that entrepreneurial spirit, dedication, and execution goes a long way
Ecotourism: How Marketers Can Ethically Promote Travel Amid The Climate Crisis
2020 has definitely been off to a shaky start — literally. Since January 1st, there have been over 950 earthquakes in Puerto Rico alone. But in today’s new age of climate change, natural disasters like this are only becoming more and more common. So how can the tourism industry survive without harming our environment further? The answer may involve ecotourism — an opportunity for both marketers and destinations.
Your first thought may be to simply limit travel. But we often forget that many of the countries most affected by climate change-related disasters also rely on tourism to fund their recoveries.
Take a look at the Bahamas, where tourism brings in an annual $4.3 billion — 47.8 percent of their GDP. Without their tourism industry, the Bahamas’ complete recovery from Hurricane Dorian would be dramatically delayed.
And as Australia’s wildfires have merged into a 1.5 million acre “megafire,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison petitioned U.S. leaders to stimulate tourism by downgrading the urgency of their travel warnings.
Luckily, just a few days ago, the U.S. heeded Australia’s Prime Minister Morrison’s pleas to water down travel warnings to ‘Down Under,’ which has now been set to “normal.”
The bottom line? When climate-induced disasters strike, tourism can provide necessary economic boosts.
So as climate change continues to interact with tourism, marketers have an ethical responsibility to present tourism and travel brands within the context of our shifting climate reality.
But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this. After all, we’re talking about an $8.27 trillion global industry with a compound annual growth rate of 2.9 percent. So we’re going to need some creative solutions.
Choose Ecotourism: Don’t Encourage Tourism Where It’s Harmful
To start, marketers should be cautious about where they’re sending tourists. Promoting vacation packages to the Australian Open when Melbourne is shrouded in smoke puts your customers at risk.
Yet marketing other trips could put the destination itself at risk. Take Antarctica, where several new cruise lines have popped up in the last year to shuttle tourists to Antarctica — while it’s still there.
“Climate change is a chief reason for the increased interest in visiting Antarctica,” said cruise travel planner Mary Curry. “We truly don’t know if the region will ever be as magnificent as it is now.”
According to the New York Times, Antarctica cruise bookings have seen a 53 percent spike since 2015. But cruises aren’t helping the environmental situation at all.
As these cruises flood into Antarctica, they bring environmental troubles with them. A day at sea produces just as much soot as a million cars. And cruises dump toxic raw sewage into the open sea. It’s safe to say that cruises are not doing Antarctica or its wildlife any favors.
Let’s not forget to add that at other port city destinations, cruises also squeeze local economies with bullying tactics that create dependency.
So while cruises are still growing in popularity, environmentally and socially conscious marketers should look towards ecotourism and consider driving tourism where it helps instead of hurts.
Instead of Antarctica, why not promote midwinter trips to the Bahamas, where tourist money is needed to rebuild?
Or instead of a cruise, why not promote the ferry from Fort Lauderdale?
Let’s Rethink the Carbon Footprint of Each Trip
Travel marketers are in a unique position of power. They can encourage travelers to think about their trips in terms of the carbon footprint attached. In doing so, they can normalize the practice of choosing travel plans with lower carbon emissions.
Take a trip from London to Western France. A study by Responsible Travel calculates these five days would produce 183.5 kg (404.5 lbs) of carbon dioxide. That’s broken down into food (77 kg), accommodation (26.5 kg), and transportation (102 kg per flight).
The flight for a trip like this, from London to Biarritz, takes about five hours, give or take an hour depending on your layover time in Paris.
That’s comparable to a flight from New York to LA. But going by train, you can get to Biarritz in a little over 7 hours. It costs a couple of hours more — or affords you some extra work and nap time if you present it that way.
It’s a small time difference, and it saves your customer a few bucks: $121 for a train compared with $150 for a flight.
But more importantly, the train ride cuts the carbon cost of transportation in half, bringing the total carbon footprint of the trip down by 51 kg (about 112 lbs) of CO2.
It may not seem like a lot, but that saves the same amount of carbon emissions that the average US citizen produces in a normal day.
Sell Ecotourism For All It’s Worth
Now, let’s be real about something. Climate change is a much, much bigger problem than can be solved by having travelers take trains instead of airplanes.
Nevertheless, knowing that efficient rail travel effectively halves the carbon cost of a trip means that responsible travel marketers should be putting everything they’ve got into pushing rail service over flights.
It’s an easy sell. Trains are roomier. You can get up and walk around. They won’t dump jet fuel on a schoolyard full of children like a Delta flight did this week in LA.
There’s a lot to like. And better marketing can encourage the development of cleaner, cheaper, more efficient rail systems. It’s these systemic changes that have the power to combat climate change.
Tourism has certainly contributed its share to the climate change emergencies we’re now facing, and as the climate bites back, we need to rethink what it means to market travel responsibly.
People aren’t going to stop traveling. But let’s look more towards ecotourism and make sure we’re being mindful of the environment with every trip.
Note: This article was originally posted at Grit Daily by Tina Mulqueen and edited and syndicated with permission.
What You Need To Know About Sustainable Transportation: Obstacles, Progress, And More
The only way to save the planet is to take the road less traveled…literally. With more vehicles clogging up streets and contaminating the air, exacerbated cases of air pollution and travel inefficiency have risen. As a result, the call for sustainable transportation has never been stronger.
The transportation sector is one of the most polluting industries in the U.S. In fact, the EPA ranked the industry as the second greatest producer of carbon emissions. The agency says the country is responsible for half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions—from cars alone.
This is despite the nation owning only 30% of the world’s automobiles.
As human beings venture into this new decade, they’re already going into a world brimming with potential for the future.
So, when revamping current mobility systems, innovation will be the fuel driving sustainable transportation systems into the future.
How Technology Has Improved Sustainable Transportation in the US So Far
Already, major cities from Chicago to Washington D.C. are finding unique ways to ease people off the gas pedal. The more mainstream adoption of bike-sharing services, added bike lanes, and gradual introduction of electric buses are just some examples.
Plus, talk of self-driving cars and companies like Tesla commercializing electric vehicles, makes it seems like the future of sustainable transportation is full of promise.
With all these efforts, it seems like the numbers are reflecting a desire from the public to reduce their footprint. A study from Cox Automotive found that 4 in 10 consumers agreed transportation was necessary, but owning a car wasn’t.
However, despite this, there are still reportedly way too many vehicles on the road.
Last April, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported travel on roads and streets had experienced a 2.5% increase from 2019 to 2018. That’s an estimated 6.8 billion vehicle mile change. So, why is that?
We had the opportunity to chat with Liad Itzhak, SVP of HERE Mobility, a transit hub offering regional mobility options through a cloud-based platform that connects businesses and customers in real-time.
Here’s what he told us.
Obstacles in Reaching Scale
Itzhak identifies traffic and emissions as the biggest issues in sustainable transportation today. This is a problem that is especially salient in urban areas.
“Despite the decline in personal car ownership, there are too many vehicles on the roads today,” Itzhak said. “Another major factor is that the first and last miles of peoples’ journeys are often left unaccounted for and public transportation is not successfully filling these gaps.”
Itzhak says ride-sharing giants like Uber and Lyft are one major reason why cars are still blocking the roads.
He says the two corporations have dominated the market by undercutting prices for regional mobility suppliers, who are unable to compete.
Due to this, it means more cars are congesting the road. Together, Statista found that Uber and Lyft rack in more than 127 million users—and that’s just per month.
As these ride-sharing apps become more mainstream, it also indicates a decrease in public transit reliance. The Sierra Club noted without these transportation services, 60% of Uber and Lyft users would’ve instead opted for public transit, walked, or biked.
The Need to Prioritize Time and Convenience in Achieving Sustainable Transportation
But there’s a reason for this preference. The biggest factor in determining how people get from Point A to Point B is convenience.
Although public transit is almost always the cheaper option, it’s often a lot more costly in time.
Plus, when considering conditions such as the first and last mile problem, people crowding, poor weather, this can be a much more desirable option.
According to CityLab study in Chicago, 90% of rides were faster when opting for a ride-sharing service rather than public transit.
Although many Americans value sustainability and action in combatting climate change, they also value time. Innovation is all about advancing in order to make life easier and more convenient.
So, when finding solutions, mobility providers will need to recognize this human priority.
Increased Commitments to Creating More Sustainable Transportation Options
Many other cities are becoming prominent players in the sustainable transportation space—especially Barcelona and Singapore.
These two “smart cities” have taken serious steps towards achieving more efficient and sustainable transportation within their city.
Some smart city initiatives include heavy investments in public transit and intelligent traffic management systems.
Itzhak says data-driven technology and multiple transportation options are key to achieving this “smart city” status.
Cities like Paris, Oslo, and Madrid have also been implementing new innovations in a commitment to sustainability.
For instance, strict regulations on diesel vehicles and rising gas taxes have been a part of major European efforts to one day become car-free.
To achieve this goal, many cities are investing more in making public transit more available and efficient for its citizens.
“Many cities are making strides towards sustainable transportation…and many are working on their own smart transit solutions,” Itzhak said. “With climate change and urbanization on the rise, they’re under pressure to develop smart mobility systems.”
A Look Forward
It’s easy to say the road to fighting climate change will be a long and bumpy one. However, by employing more innovative solutions prioritizing time and convenience, there’s still hope for a cleaner, more eco-friendly world.
This means that repeating the same patterns isn’t going to cut it anymore. In order for real change to be enacted, it will involve creativity and innovation. With thriving smart cities like Singapore and Barcelona as inspiration, it’s clear advanced technology is the right route to go.
For the human race, time is the most important, nonrenewable resource. As the issue of climate change becomes more urgent, it just goes to show that now is the time to act.
Emily is a Writer at The Rising, a Copywriter for Medius Ventures, a Business student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a former writer for the Daily Illini. For any inquiries or story pitches, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
JetBlue Airways Will Become Carbon Neutral By July 2020, Making It The First In US History
This year, JetBlue Airways Corporation may become the first large U.S. airline to go carbon neutral.
As the quickest way around the world, the airline industry engages with over 4 billion individuals each year. However, it is one of the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Shockingly, a singular commercial flight produces more carbon dioxide than the amount that some citizens produce in an entire year. Taking note of the situation, environmental activists are putting the travel industry under fire and calling out its contribution to climate change.
However, amidst all of the criticism, JetBlue is choosing to step up to the challenge.
In order to do so, the company is set to invest in eco-friendly projects across the globe.
JetBlue Goes Green With Fuel Choices
In a press release publicized on Monday, JetBlue vowed to mitigate emissions and go carbon neutral by July 2020. With expanding efforts, JetBlue can offset 15 to 17 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. This is equivalent to removing 1.5 million passenger vehicles off the road each year.
As the leading project in its initiative, the company will be beginning to use sustainable fuel for all flights outbound of San Francisco. Fortunately, the fuel is already fully compatible with the existing jet engine technology.
Sustainable fuels, or biomass fuels, are any fuels derived from a once-living matter. For example, wood, corn, and other waste from agricultural crops are used in its production. This provides a sustainable solution to fossil fuels being popularly used today.
As of 2018, airplanes produce 11% of all CO2 emissions in the world and significantly contribute to climate change. However, by utilizing this alternative, JetBlue says that they can reduce each flight’s fuel carbon footprint by 80%.
JetBlue Makes Becoming Carbon Neutral A Group Effort
On top of its sustainable fuel swap-out, JetBlue stated that they will continue to partner with Carbonfund.org. As a U.S. nonprofit organization, Carbonfund.org focuses on reducing carbon emissions and creating climate solutions.
The airline company and the nonprofit have been working together since 2008. In the last 10 years, the two have already mitigated more than 2.6 billion pounds of CO2 emissions.
On top of this, JetBlue now has new carbon offsetting partners. Adding to the list, EcoAct and South Pole are working with the company to promote carbon-neutral travels.
Airline Goes Green On Land Too
As part of its carbon offsetting program, the airline company is engaging with projects around the world to mitigate the overall need for jet fuel. Focusing on areas that will opt for eco-friendly, renewable resources, JetBlue is striving to lower emissions in the atmosphere when possible.
Currently, JetBlue announced support of carbon offset projects such as:
- Forest conservation by declining plans that will convert forests for other purposes.
- Promoting landfill gas capture (LFG) and converting it into renewable energy resources.
- Developing solar and wind farms to replace the need for fossil fuels like coal, diesel, and furnace oil.
JetBlue did not disclose the cost of any of its sustainable programs.
Collaboration Pivotal in Becoming Carbon Neutral Industry-Wide
According to JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes, the solution to this problem is a community effort.
“The airline industry is one of the few industries that has collectively committed to an international emissions reduction goal,” said Hayes. “Air travel brings so much good to the world and JetBlue has always been about making our essential industry better. Carbon offsetting is a bridge to, not a silver bullet for, a lower carbon future. Reducing and mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions is a fundamental aspect of our business plan and our mission to inspire humanity.”
Hopefully, JetBlue achieves its mission and inspires others to do the same. If several other companies follow JetBlue’s environmental initiatives, the future of airline travels may be promising.
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