Side Views

Proton should go electric, and fast – OMG!

Who is Elon Musk? In 2012, Musk was awarded with the Royal Aeronautical Society's highest award, a gold medal.

He was listed one of Time Magazine's 100 people who most affected the world in 2010. In February 2011, Forbes chose him one of "America's 20 Most Powerful CEOs 40 And Under”.

Musk is the billionaire South African-born Canadian-American business magnate, inventor and investor, currently the CEO and CTO of SpaceX and CEO and Chief Product Architect of Tesla Motors.

He was an early investor in SpaceX, PayPal, Inc. Tesla Motors, and Zip2, and is widely considered a co-founder of each. He has also envisioned a conceptual high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop.

SpaceX's first two launch vehicles are the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, and its first spacecraft is the Dragon.

In September 2009, SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded liquid-fuelled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit. SpaceX was awarded a US$1.6 billion Nasa contract on December 23, 2008, for 12 flights of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, replacing the Space Shuttle after it retired in 2011.

Tesla Motors first built an electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster, with sales of about 2,500 vehicles to 31 countries. Tesla began delivery of its four-door Model S sedan on 22 June 2012 and unveiled its third product, the Model X, aimed at the SUV/minivan market, on 9 February 2012.

Model X is scheduled to begin production in early 2015. In addition to its own cars, Tesla sells electric powertrain systems to Daimler for the Smart EV and Mercedes A Class and to Toyota for the RAV4 EV. Musk was able to bring in both companies as long-term investors in Tesla.

Proton Holdings Malaysia

A new executive chairman has taken over at Proton, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Perhaps after 30 years, it is good to evaluate and take a fresh perspective on future development.

In terms of Blue Ocean strategy, the field of lightweight electric automobiles powered by solar technology certainly qualifies. Can Dr Mahathir think about this field, please? It is just possible that he already has people looking into this. If not, I reproduce the statement published yesterday by Elon Musk.

“Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.

"Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

"When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors. After Zip2, when I realised that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.

"At Tesla, however, we felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

"The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.

"At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all.

"Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.

"We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.
Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard.”

Dear Tun,

This is a real opportunity for Proton. I believe Malaysia has a developed composite manufacturing base.

If Proton can combine its auto manufacturing assets, with Malaysia’s lower-cost composite design (especially carbon-fibre) and manufacture, and use Tesla’s zero-cost electric car patents, there may be a strong future ahead.
Malaysian–made 100% electric, strong light-weight vehicles combined with manufacture of the batteries, fast-charger stations and high-capacity solar panels, can aim to be the green private transportation of choice of the future with the smallest possible carbon footprint in the world.

However, isn’t it time for Proton to move away from the pro-Bumi stance exclusively and to start thinking pro-Malaysia and start “attracting and motivating the world’s most talented engineers” as Elon Musk said yesterday?
Imagine the impact that will make! There are already other top Malaysian institutions such as Bank Negara and Petronas which are highly meritocratic so why not Proton?

Thinking Malaysia first trumps thinking any particular ethnic group first. This may be the hardest thing to do, but it is the way forward that makes the most sense for all of us.

It’s a tough choice. Give up cherished notions or we’re going to miss the bus. But we know you can make the tough choices. – June 13, 2014.

* OMG! reads The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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