Thursday, April 30, 2009

First time in the Big Studio of a large Publisher


As yet unnamed, this Publisher had the opportunity to face off against Local Motors in their studio this past week.

What a hoot! I was nervous at first, but this calm commentator (a Princeton Graduate no less) made it very easy to answer the questions and carry on the conversation. Many thanks for her well-honed skills.

Stay tuned to see this broadcast come alive....and I always thought there was a real studio window behind over the shoulder :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Detroit Competition is on!

This is a real test of the forward thinking and community aware nature of designers across the world because it defies the conventional wisdom that muscle cars are what come from and what are good for Detroit. Rather this takes a non-traditional approach to work on a vehicle that "works" for Detroit in its current configuration. Pride, work, style, function, price, must be maintained, everything else is up to the chopping block.

In this competition we are looking for vehicles that inspire the budding entrepreneur in and around Motown. As Sir Richard Branson claims, it is the entrepreneur that will pull us out of the recession. We agree 100% and are trying to support that very person with a vehicle tailored for their life and needs. We want them to have fun with it. They deserve that fun.

Small cargo by day and exciting personal transpo by night and weekend. These concepts should embody the tie-down, tie-up, cargo carriage, easy access, and tailored space to fit the common items like motorcycles and tools. Once those aspects are satisfied, they should also have that hard-to-pin-down attribute of excitement and customizability.

A vehicle done right could easily be an icon for the recession of 2009, known by the rest of the world forever as the vehicle that travelled with this historic city and drove right out of the hard times.

Some visual ideas. These give food for thought, but the interesting thing is that this is a very open design space and there is not much that is GREAT that is in the market so go to town and Go Local!



(upload.wikimedia.org)

















(www.hrsprings.com)



















(66.160.188.111)


















(images.google.com)




















(fourwheeler.com)
























(crestock.com)



















(rides.hotrod.com)





















(automobilemag.com)





(flickr.com/photos/81821753@N0)






(www1.snapon.com)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BoingBoing - A Directory of Wonderful Things

Have you ever visited BoingBoing?

As its tagline proposes - It is a "Directory of Wonderful Things".

The contributors Cory, Mark, David, Xeni, and John compile a fresh and freestyle intro to all things new and wonderful in the world.

I was tipped off to this site by a friend and when I went on saw an interview by their reporter, , detailing the progress of Techshop, by co-editor, Xeni Jardin (say: /SHEH-nee zhar-DAN/).

Techshop is also a Local Motors kind of place, so I thought that both of these were worth detailing in the Vision blog. From time to time, I find deep pockets of marvelous "build-it" content on the web or in the world, and they are always worth detailing.

Last year, we opened our subscription to Make magazine which is just such a pocket of content. Today it is BoingBoing and Techshop all in one day.





It is just such type of raw and exciting content that makes our Detroit competition come alive. People who make stuff in places like Techshop or entrepreneurs like those at Intellegentsia, deserve to have a car that is worthy of their time and passion.

I hope you will check out these two links and channel their energy when thinking about our competition that opens for submission TODAY!

Go Techshop!

Go BoingBoing!

Go Detroit!

Go Local!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tomorrow - a very big day on Local-Motors.com

1 – A New Home Page

2 – A New “Buy” Page

3 – A New content management system behind the scenes which significantly improves our speed of announcement and news management

This new home page, which itself was originally crowd-sourced from the online community at Topcoder.com is clarity embodied.







Design - Buy - Build

You will recognize the Design Portal as the place in which the original design competitions were born and took wing. This has basically been the front end of our site for the last 12 months as we gave life to the idea of bringing together a global community to contribute and to develop automotive design. After a great deal of respectable usage as a home page it is now time for this portal to take its rightful place as just one of the 3 primary touch-points or destinations in the broader Local Motors on-line experience.

Buy is the Portal where you will soon be able to get in line to be a part of the most exciting automotive experience anywhere. As we get this page up and running, come here to view videos of new features and attributes.

Build is the place where people come to share their amazing stories of working on a build project and becoming part of the soul of a car.

Back from Vacation and Here's a little morsel on our Micro-Factory

I just returned from a week vacation with the kids and the batteries are fully recharged.


















(My son happy at the beach)


We spent time in Palm Beach Florida where the cars on the street are absolutely RIDICULOUS. Ferrari's blend into the background as Gullwings and Delahaye's take center stage. It was a car lovers dream.

But throughout even such a show, it occurred to me that what was not evident was a deep connection between the owners and their cars. Sure if you keyed their car or even breathed on it wrong they would throw a fit, but when it comes to deep understanding of the magnificent workings, design triumphs, or engineering achievements in these cars, few of these owners can tell you much about such history.

This is not to criticize but rather to demonstrate that there is an opportunity to do so much more in the car industry and we are starting right here at Local Motors to do just that. If you are interested in getting into your car beyond skin deep features, then come hear to learn more about our unique build process.

It all starts with our micro-factory, where customers come to build their car on our line over the course of 2 weekends. Starting next year, you will be able to place an order, come visit while your car parts arrive, and then build your car with the Local Motors team and create memories for the rest of your life.

Here is a picture of an initial rendering of a micro-factory layout - a mecca for car enthusiasts and for learning a new way of bringing automotive innovation to every metro area in America.

















More to follow in the near future, but this is meant to whet the appetite.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hecklers and models at the NY auto show...Where are the pro's?

Three days ago, the New York times reported on a story that female models working the floor as announcers for new car concepts at the NY Auto show were being rudely heckled by angry crowd members spewing vitriol at the US car companies.

Glamour Dims as Hecklers Hit the Auto Show

Published: April 13, 2009

Just a year ago, working as a product presenter at an auto show was a pretty straightforward job. You stood next to a vehicle, you called it a marvel of engineering, style and comfort and then you fielded softball questions like, “What does this baby cost?”

But that was before the bailout. Now that the government has helped General Motors and Chrysler stave off bankruptcy with billions of dollars in loans, these companies are finding somewhat hostile crowds at their exhibits. Which leads to scenes like the one on Friday at the New York auto show, where a blond woman in a tight black dress stood on a rotating platform and pitched the sporty Dodge Circuit, one of five electric cars that Chrysler is developing.

Donald Han, an accountant from Queens, sounded unmoved. “Why now?” he asked the woman, rather curtly, once she had finished her patter. “How come you’ve got to nearly go bankrupt before you come out with a car like this?”














(http://photocarsonline.com)

Long a glamorous showcase for carmakers, auto shows have lately become a place for buyers and gawkers to vent. Few of the attendees at the Javits Center, where the New York show runs until Sunday, will ever encounter a top executive from G.M. or Chrysler. But all of them get within heckling range of the presenters and for some, that is good enough.

It does not seem to matter that these women — they are nearly all women, most of them young and attractive — work part time for marketing firms and talent agencies that have contracts to run the exhibits. Many know little about the car companies they are working for beyond the scripts they have memorized.









(www.newyorktimes.com)

“I try to explain that we’re not involved in corporate decisions, so complaining to us doesn’t really make a lot of sense,” said Kerri Moss, standing on a large turntable next to a Jeep 4X4 Laredo, a Chrysler product. Recently laid off from her job as a teacher, she is trying to earn some money on the car show circuit, which runs from September to May. “And if that doesn’t work, I tell them we’re doing the best we can.”

Often, that does not work either. One G.M. presenter said a woman told her the company was responsible for the death of American soldiers in Iraq. The logic went like this: if G.M. made more fuel-efficient cars, the country would not need so much oil, and if the country did not need oil, United States troops would never have invaded.









(http://1.bp.blogspot.com)

“I didn’t say anything,” recalled the presenter, who like many others here declined to give her name because she is not supposed to speak to the news media. “What can you possibly say? ‘Thanks?’ ”

What I find most interesting is that the Times covered this more like a special interest story on how the crowd was somehow being unfair to part-time actresses, and all this was tarnishing the glamour. True, but there is a bigger story, and it goes beyond the auto show circuit.

Any car is an immensely challenging product to design, plan, and bring to market. Each represents 10's of thousands of collective hours of work, and is usually the result of a talented teams hard work and effort. Why is it that the result of this hard team-work is displayed in dealers by salesmen who know less than the internet-armed shopper, and at auto shows by actresses who have to memorize the name of the company for which they are working that day?

I would argue - especially in this day of reality television - that customers might appreciate seeing and hearing from the team that actually had a hand in making the car. Sure, this might not be feasible at every dealership, but certainly at the major auto shows. I do not mean for press night, but I am suggesting every day that the show is on, the real makers of the car should be there and available to answer questions. Not only would that serve to provide on-lookers with quality information, but it might also serve to connect the makers with the actual users of the product. I can guarantee that products would improve, and that the hecklers would have less to heckle about. What is not to like about that?


Test Drive Tesla Roadster and Dealership



















Today I test-drove the Tesla Roadster for the first time out of the Palo Alto dealership. Filled with emotion and so many things to report…I will try to keep my thoughts in order and brief, but don’t worry there are pictures in case anyone gets lost.




































The Dealership is in an old Chevy dealer space, which is some of the highest price dealer real estate this side of Beverly Hills. In fact, John “Big Dog” Anderson, owner of the Largest Chevrolet franchise in the Western 14 states previously owned this about 8 years ago and got out because of the high cost here and better opportunities elsewhere. Big and Concrete is the milieu. Tesla has added a nice paint job, but it needs to be much more green and sustainable given the cars that are there so it falls short in this department.



















It is chic inside, but the layout does not reveal the best part of the whole campus and that is the final assembly. Final Assembly for North America is in the back (old Mr. Goodwrench) garage where the “rollers” come in from Lotus (the folks who build the cars) and then the battery and motor are emplaced in each.

Customers and visitors are allowed to see the service shop and drink cappuccino while they wait for service, but this appears to be no different than any other dealership. Incidentally, all Tesla’s must be serviced at Tesla dealership (except brakes and tires) so if you are not within 100 miles of one, you are responsible to get it there. Out of luck, it appears, if you are not in LA or SF on this point. Or even New York and Chicago in the future.





Tons of Tesla Roadsters everywhere. That was cool to see but also made it feel a little cheap. A good deal more discretion would be useful for a $110K (base price car) and an easy $125-40K car priced with the options as desired by most. They call it a "Ferrari at a Porsche price". I would call it a slightly larger cousin of Lotus Elise at a Porsche Price.

No one helped me for a full 35 minutes (but there were plenty of salesmen around). This I attribute to growing pains, but they need to take a close look at operations.

The Model S mock-up was there in all its glory. It is very very nice. They are saying late 2011 for the actual introduction. I spent little time on it since it is basically just a model. I must say that I see designs just as good if not better on local-motors.com in every competition and so it occurred to me that Tesla has spent a lot of dough on styling (and on Franz von Holzhausen), but I am not sure that they have broken the mold at all.



















My salesman used to run an Apple Store. That says a lot…a lot of good things. He is not paid on commission and that felt nice as a customer.

No employee discount are available so the employees are basically boxed out. THIS IS A HUGE MISTAKE.

I asked to test drive…he obliged easily, which I like in a car company. Free and clear, he took my license and handed me the keys. That is the way to do it, and I totally congratulate them on making that the standard.

I took the car on a 40 minute drive in the countryside. It is simply the drivetrain of the future. Quiet, strong acceleration, very few parts, clean, NO GAS COST – These things I loved and you must drive one really to feel them.

BUT (and it is a big but), the price is huge (and almost entirely based on stubborn battery cost). Additionally the car is cramped and heavy around the corners despite massive use of carbon fiber.





















(Space between my hip and the passengers....cozy)


















(Pretty wide sill contributes to the cramped feel, but I like wide sills)


















(Hood hinge structure is all carbon fiber)

I would forgive all of this (after I modified the suspension), but still would not be able to afford one without mortgaging my first-born. Oh, and then there is that range thing. 200+ miles they say, but that is simply not true the way that anyone would want to drive. Also (and hold your breath) a full recharge on a 110 outlet is 35 hrs. Granted that may not always be necessary, but overnight on a 110 outlet you only get about 40 miles out of a charge. Better hope that your commute and errands are less than 40 miles, but then I also would ask, why commute in a 0-60 3.9 sec sports car? This charge issue can be addressed by retrofitting 220 at varying amperages, but it is a very real consideration.

The interior is simple (which I like), but in the end for $110K+ that will likely have to improve as it is missing on some key details (such as adjustable steering wheel and adjustable side mirrors from in the cabin).



































Without the side view mirrors, rear side corner visibility is almost impossible.

Regenerative Brakes and electronic traction control is spectacular feeling, but then again so are the brakes and traction control on so many cars.

The bottom line is that electric is coming. Tesla has bravely shown the way. Their business model, cars, and execution each leave many openings for strong competitors, but the message is clear, we are on the cusp of a change. I believe that cusp is about 5 years wide because of the stubborn high price of electricity storage (i.e. batteries), but it is in site.



















I am amazed by what the company has achieved, and I can never say a bad word about that kind of vision. Bravo 100xs over.

I voice all of my unvarnished criticism along with the good here so that we can all learn. I challenge Tesla to up their game, and would welcome the competition, but I fear that once a direction and methodology have been established that it is hard to reinvent the ethos of a Company. We will see.

Go drive a Tesla to see the future of drivetrains. The experience is so worth it. Make sure to come to a Local Motors micro-factory next year to see the future of car companies. When the battery cost is right you will certainly see an electric car rolling out of a micro-factory - then you can have the best of both worlds.

Thank you to my salesman, he was great!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Freezing the Body

This past week the team at LM has been working at a breakneck pace to "Freeze the Body".
















(http://www.wunderground.com/data/wximagenew/s/sunrise/168.jpg)


This is a process which is the pinnacle of many volleys across the net from each sub-team (engineering, to design, to strategy, and back). No one team can make the drive to "Freeze" their part without taking input from the other or else they would likely get too many things wrong and have to go back to fix at a later and more expensive time. So our sub-teams have worked hard to volley their progress around so that we can get within striking distance of Freezing one of the major elements.....

....And that element is now the Body design.

Sometime this week, all details and design elements of the Body surface to include mirrors, openings, returns, cutlines, pockets, bevels, reveals, and more will all be decided and locked from change.

Once this happens, engineering will be able to move forward on its final drive to freeze the chassis and the interior paneling and shut faces of all of the body parts which are displayed on the exterior surface.

Once both of these are complete, the Rally Fighter will be a finished skeleton with strong bones and beautiful skin, fit together in its final package. At that point we can go about finishing our work to complete the interior, throw the ignition switch, get it purring, and drive down the Strip in Las Vegas!

Still a lot of work to go, but this is a major step forward. Join us this week as we celebrate the Freezing of the Body.













A CAD model of the rear left of the Rally Fighter in near "Frozen" configuration. Note the Center High Mounted Stop Light (CHMSL), the left trunk cut line, the fuel door inset, side view mirror, and a very high number of fillets, curves and surfaces defining the body.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Carolina Motors has a Podium.....

and it is filled with three amazing competitors and their designs.

On the Gold Station #1: Y-One (aka Anthony Colard) with the Ducati Powered LM Extreme. A Mountain road, lightweight roadster of modern appeal.












On the Silver Station #2: eclips (aka Julien Sarremejean (previous winner!)) with the Steel Kick. A rocket-reared Bootleg racing phenom.








On the Bronze Station #3: Oct8n (aka Giulio Partinsani (previous winner!)) with the Vulture. A glimpse of the future in an audascious package.











All 80+ entries were a sight to behold, and we congratulate those who entered the ring to compete. Bravo, and thank you for all of the votes and comments.

Just think back over 12 short months. We have seen 11 outlandish competitions go forward unveiling some of the best of the best...not according to a panel of judges but according to the world of critics and enthusiasts focused on the same goal. Wow, these have been gold plated competitions with a not-seen-before level of accolade and import to the winning scores.

See you in Detroit for our next competition. Who will take the crown, and what beauty will they hew from the hard granite of their mind? Go Local!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Another First - UStream Video Chat to set the Standard for the Next Competition - Detroit Motors

This evening some of the die-hards in the community joined us for a live video chat where we discussed many of the ideas on hand for what to achieve in the Detroit Motors competition.

A thousand thanks for those of you that took your time and shared your thoughts (Kres, Kewlrats, speedracer, Julian, stingraystudios, Ari, Aurel, and several who remain unnamed).

For some tips as to what we discussed, watch the video below. From Detroit, to signature apparel, to prints, to toys, we covered a lot.

The video is watching me talking live in video to the community. They are typing their thoughts, and I am responding to their ideas and questions. This means that you are watching one side of a two-way dialogue, but you ought to be able to get the idea easily of where the discussion in going! Next time, I will record the chat transcript and include it as part of the blog.

Enjoy!

This is going to be the best competition yet. I love this community. The future of automotive!

A new prototype project from Segway in partnership with GM



As the heat runs up with the Federal Government controlling a large part of General Motors, the Company appears to be willing to try any form of partnership and make it public quickly in order to get out of the position it is in. This is the kind of nimbleness that we ought to love as Americans.

As for this product, this P.U.M.A. is a pretty cool piece of kit. We at LM love Segway and all that they have done. For this type of solution, I do wonder why a similar size, less expensive, just as nimble, 3 or 4 wheel variant would not be just as good, and would not have to rely on 2-wheel balancing technology,

I think that they should bring out the Centaur!

Monday, April 6, 2009

One day left for voting and commenting on Carolina Motors

There is one day left and all the world is a buzz for Carolina Motors.

Voting ends 2359 (EST -4UTC) on Tuesday night April 7th.

Thousands of votes have been cast and critiques have been made for the entries that have flown in from around the globe.

Between the six race teams all vying for recognition there are many choices.

If you have not, cast a vote. Even better, make a comment.

Here are a few to whet your appetite.











(Image courtesy of Sam BR, LM Community Member)














(Image courtesy of Dunders, LM Community Member)











(Image courtesy of Y-One, LM Community Member)


In the meantime, in other news, the Rally Fighter is continuing apace and cries are being heard from all corners of our community to share action shots. I believe we will end up making some soon, but other members of the community have always shown us that they can do it better and faster. We will see who makes it there first. Either way, they will be fun to look at.

KEKOEV caught some of our community in Europe making their opinions known. :)
















(Image courtesy of KEKOEV, LM Community Member)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Big Weekend for Local Exposure Radio and Expo

On Friday night, we recorded our first radio broadcast when I went on the Jordan Rich show at midnight on WBZ 1030 AM. Faced off against Larry and Scott Rubenstein, ASE Master Mechanics and long-time owners of Rte 1 Auto Service in Peabody and Jordan Rich himself, I was pretty nervous. In the end though, Rich was a consummate gentleman and the Rubenstein brothers could not have been more excited about the entire idea of Local Motors. If we get a recording, I will be sure to post it. What a great night. My family stayed up late to hear me on AM, I was flattered, and felt very strange hearing my own voice on air.

Then on Saturday I was a panelist at the Down 2 Earth expo in Boston at the Hynes Convetion center. Since I listed the participants in my last blog, I thought I would jump right to the recording so that you could watch the LM show in action. After this type of local sustainability-focused conference, I was convinced that such a show was every bit the rght way to announce Local Motors to a local environment. Reason being, there are no other car companies that would dare come to a local expo, because they are anything but local. Free from any competitive shopping option, this would be a great place to introduce the LM product and experience.

Hope you enjoy, we did,


video

Friday, April 3, 2009

D2E: The Future of Cars at Boston's Down 2 Earth Conference Apr 4th - Hynes Convention Center

This Saturday, April 4, 3pm EST at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Boston's Down 2 Earth Conference will be hosting a panel on the Future of Cars on the Main stage.

This panel is meant to tackle some of the most pressing and relevant issues facing automotive consumers today. The following folks have been invited to participate including LM. D2E focuses on sustainable living and we are honored to be part of the effort. Come check it out. Should be lively.

The Moderator is Kenneth E. Kruckemeyer (AIA, ASCE, Transportation Strategist)

Ken Kruckemeyer has been walking, cycling, riding transit and driving in Boston since he arrived here as a student in 1963. After his early and successful efforts as an anti-highway activist he went on to manage the design of the transit, railroad, streets and parkland of the Southwest Corridor that took the highway’s place. He subsequently became a commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Works, in charge of highway and bridge design. More recently he has taught engineering and planning students at MIT to design transportation systems that will nurture the urban environment.

Ken currently consults as a Transportation Strategist; and is a co-Director of the International Honors Program "Cities in the 21st Century." He is an Architect with degrees from Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and was a Loeb Fellow in Advanced Environmental Studies at Harvard University. As a vigilant advocate for the public sphere, he is a founding member of WalkBoston and the LivableStreets Alliance.

The panelists are as follows:

Brad Beauchamp, Fuel Cell Activities, GM
Working on gas friendly and gas free solutions to reduce US petroleum dependence.

John B. Rogers, Jr., President, CEO and Co-Founder at Local Motors
Local Motor's mission is to lead the next generation of automotive manufacturing, design, and technology in order to revolutionize the industry with game-changing efficient vehicles.

Donald Sadoway, Department of Materials Science & Engineering, MIT
Down in his basement laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Donald Sadoway and his students are hunting for the perfect battery. Not for cell phones or laptop computers, but to power a future generation of automobiles or perhaps the electric grid.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tour around the TH!NK City

Given the popular demand of yesterday's post, some of the Vision Blog's faithful readers have asked if there happens to be any video of the actual car....

Ask, and you shall receive. Join me here as I take you through a detailed and somewhat revealing "close-up" look at this small electric commuter.