So there we were, one warm Saturday morning in Amsterdam Zuid, our car parked in the car park where less than a year ago there had been a Skoda dealership. We got out of the car, and Jesse straight away gave us a wave from the showroom. It was with a huge smile on my face that I walked in, and there it was: a revolutionary new product – an iPhone on wheels. That was the moment when I felt it like never before; this was not about buying a car, but about my firm belief that you yourself can change the world.
The XC60 had to go
I am not really a car enthusiast. This may sound ridiculous for someone who drives a Volvo XC60 and has just bought a Tesla Model S; nevertheless it is true. What I am is a gadget freak who likes well-designed products.
In early January an XC60 was waiting for me at the Volvo dealer. I had chosen it the previous summer because my current lease contract was coming to an end and I wanted a good, spacious car in which you could drive 50 000 km a year in comfort with three small children in the back; all requirements that were certainly met by the Volvo.
However, after a month or two, something began to niggle – there was something not quite right. The car standing on the drive was not what I was looking for in a car. But what exactly was the problem? First I thought it was the price – the lease payments, the tax liability of 25% and 550 euros a month for fossil fuel all adds up to a lot of money.
But what seemed to be even more important was that it just didn’t feel right. The idea is completely out of date – spending so much money every month for a traditional, uninnovative car. And this in a world in which business models are changing from ownership to continuous access. It just wasn’t right – the Volvo had to go.
Ownership versus access
Up to ten years ago, it made complete sense to own your own CDs and DVDs. You simply bought them. However, Itunes, Spotify, Netflix and all the rest changed that. They chose a model in which, for a monthly payment, you can enjoy constant access to music or films, wherever you are – another dimension of possession.
Now apply this idea to the car market; so many cars that are not used each day; so many people who get in debt to buy a car; so many cars that carry one person when they are often made for five; so much fossil fuel used unnecessarily. Now, what if you could have constant access to mobility rather than owning your own car? Big changes are already taking place in the large cities, because why buy a car if you can always use one through Uber and Greenwheels?
If I lived in Amsterdam and could cycle to work I would seriously think twice about the need to buy a car, just as I no longer do with music. However, Uber does not yet have any plans for the village I live in, and I live 100 km from my work, so from a practical point of view it’s not going to work. But the day will come, thankfully.
When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor — Elon Musk
Tesla, revolution not evolution
Little by little, I started to share my ideas. There was no rush, but I wanted to find a solution to my luxury problem that I would be happy with. A friend and colleague asked me what I thought of the Tesla: ‘that would be something for you’, she said, ‘100% electric and a nice design too’. Like a sponge I began to read about it: a range of 500 km on a single charge, a Google Maps sat-nav system, seven seats, no buttons but one big screen with which to control the car.
I became more and more enthusiastic about the car by the day, but also began to read more and more about the company behind the car and its founder, Elon Musk. As an entrepreneur, I was sold. This was no car that was evolving based on an existing model, but a car travelling its own, revolutionary, road. It was innovation, not improvement. Tesla shows that things really can be done differently, and that electric cars do not need to be a niche market.
All the arguments not to drive an electric car are negated by Tesla. Whereas the average electric car has a range of 30 km, with the Tesla it is more than 500 km. In addition, the company is rapidly putting in place its revolutionary Supercharger network. This allows you to charge your car to 85% in 35 minutes, free of charge for Tesla owners. Imagine if Shell was to start producing cars and allowed anyone who owned a Shell car to fill up for free; it’s inconceivable. If you then also make your patents open source and increase the warranty retroactively, then I believe you are miles ahead. Many companies could learn from it.
Note: the Tesla also has significant financial benefits. My personal situation is detailed in this spreadsheet (in Dutch); please feel free to use it.
As an entrepreneur, I believe in heroes; not to compare myself with but as a source of inspiration. And Elon Musk has rapidly moved to the top of my list of heroes. This probably doesn’t mean much to him, but to me all the more. I have now read hours of articles and interviews, and can’t get enough of them. He started with Paypal and now owns SolarCity, Tesla and SpaceX, achieving what few people can. But what inspires me most is his vision and the way that he follows his dream. He dares to think big, and to act on it too.
When Henry Ford made cheap, reliable cars people said, ‘Nah, what’s wrong with a horse?’ That was a huge bet he made, and it worked. — Elon Musk
When I was 22 years old – about 12 years ago – I told a friend that I really believed that anything was possible. As an example, I said that if I wanted to play for Ajax, I would make it happen, as long as that was what I really wanted. He didn’t agree, and thought it was pretty funny: wasn’t I much too fat and too old already? I laughed it off and quickly changed the subject, but I felt differently, very differently, and I knew I was right.
Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk give me that same feeling again; the feeling that it is possible to change the world, however small or large the change. All you have to do is really want it, and that is why I became an entrepreneur.
Back to the showroom
So there I was; my first test drive in a Tesla. And it drove beautifully. Everything was right. Although I have to say, it could have handled like a golf cart: my choice was already made. Call me naive; call me a dreamer, but two weeks later I had made a down payment for a black Tesla Model S. It’s not reason, it’s emotion, and no traditional car brand can match that.