Tesla co-founder and former chief technology officer JB Straubel believes that OEMs don’t really seem to know what it takes to get the switch to electric vehicles right.
Speaking with startup investor Jason Calacanis as a guest on his “This Week in Startups” YouTube show, Straubel covered several topics, including how some OEMs have declared their complete dedication to EVs without assessing the many implications of that switch, most importantly supply chain security.
Basically, he believes that legacy automakers’ statements about going all-in on EVs might not necessarily be realistic.
“So many different OEMs, countries, factories, customers are leaping into EVs. Making these huge announcements, saying that they’ll be fully electric this decade or the next. They haven’t, I don’t think they’ve done the math fully. What that entails on the supply chain and tracing it all the way back, literally all the way back to the mines. You need to do that, or else, you know, you haven’t really fully solved it. It has the feeling to me of kind of like a giant overbooked flight.”
Without providing names, he then explained the analogy with the overbooked flight where the passengers are the OEMs all wanting to become fully electric.
“All these people like, ‘Oh, this is great. We’re all gonna go to that new place. We all wanna go there. It looks great. Sweet. Let’s all go on the plane and go.’ Everybody’s saying that we all wanna go there at the same time. Meanwhile, we have to sort of build the planes to get there; we have to figure out how to sequence everyone… The figurative runway is like the time to do all this, and it can all get sorted out over time. But obviously, we’re trying to do this fast as a society and as a species.”
Earlier in the interview, he admitted that he was quite surprised in 2012 that OEMs did not make a serious shift to battery-electric cars after Tesla proved with the Model S that a great EV could be done.
“I’m still amazed at the skepticism there was. Even after delivering those, we kinda imagined, I imagined, that people would see this and go ‘Clearly this is the future. This is all gonna work.’ All the car companies are gonna copy this immediately, and we’ll have to go really fast to figure out how we can carve out a niche. And it just didn’t happen. Customers loved it. It was a runaway hit with reviewers and magazines and customers, but the copying and market change didn’t happen.”
Check out the above video for the full discussion that revolves around JB Straubel's Redwood Materials battery recycling business.