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Opinion: Who's trying to kill the electric car?

By Tim Keen, 20 Jan 2018 Features

Opinion whos trying to kill the electric car main pic

Has Tesla Model 3 production bottlenecks got you down? Tim has a theory of who is behind it.

Bear with me for a minute. Remember Stanley Meyer? The guy who invented a water fuel cell that allowed cars to run on tap water, then was mysteriously murdered and had his research confiscated by the US government? In case any shadowy government operatives are reading this, I would like to state for the record that story is completely NOT TRUE. Wink wink.

In fact, remember Rudolf Diesel? “Rudolf Diesel” sounds like the star of a Christmas-themed Fast & Furious spin-off, or maybe a male stripper that Mrs Claus slept with on her hen’s night, but no – he is, of course, the bloke who invented the diesel engine... except that he proposed that it be run on peanut oil instead of fossil fuels... and then he mysteriously disappeared while aboard a steamship to England. His body was found floating near Norway 10 days later, so badly decomposed that they never did an autopsy. And after that, diesel engines ran on fossil fuel.

Getting the picture? Remember Pacific Electric, the system of electric street cars that criss-crossed Los Angeles? No, of course you don’t, because you’re not a 90-year-old Yank – but they did, before they were bought up by a conglomerate of car makers and oil companies, and scrapped. The companies were fined under anti-trust laws, but by then it was too late – Los Angeles became an autotropolis.

Oh yes, there have been automotive conspiracy theories for as long as there have been cars.

In the spirit of tin-foil hat-wearers everywhere, why haven’t we heard more crazed fever-dreams about the problems at the Tesla plant? Tesla is the modern-day version of the water-powered car or the peanut-powered truck – disrupting the established players, and making the oil industry fatcats nibble nervously on their cigars.

Let us not forget that Tesla boss and all-round mega-brain Elon Musk predicted his Fremont, California, factory would be turning out thousands of Model 3s by late 2017. And then they ran into some “production bottlenecks”, which is a polite euphemism for “we made about three cars by hand”. Tesla’s high-tech automated manufacturing line is, to use some technical jargon, a bit rooted.

Die-hard conspiracy theorists, in between searching the skies for con-trails and bio-scanning politicians to uncover lizard people, will recall that the automated manufacturing line at Tesla’s Fremont factory is made of robots – specifically KUKA industrial robots. KUKA is one of the biggest suppliers of industrial robots, especially to the automotive industry – and was recently bought by the Chinese mega-conglomerate Midea Group. It’s Midea’s first foray into robotics – their main business is making air-conditioners. In fact, Midea makes billions of dollars a year from selling air-conditioners – a figure that will only grow if global warming continues... and one of the ways to ensure that happens would be to ensure that electric cars never replaced fossil-fuel burning cars.

Is it a zany theory that only basement-dwelling crazoids would believe? Sure – just like the theory that the world’s richest and most powerful men gather once a year to perform pagan rituals under a giant owl statue at a secretive getaway called Bohemian Grove, which is also where the Manhattan Project that created the first atomic bomb was created. Except, oh yeah, that one’s true.

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Don’t worry, Tesla will surely figure out how to escape its production hell – probably just in time for the robots to start an uprising to take over the Earth and enslave humanity. No wonder Elon Musk is also feverishly building rockets to escape the planet with his Space-X company.

In case any shadowy government operatives are reading this – perhaps even robotic operatives, sharpening their hydraulic pincers – I would like to state for the record that this entire column is NOT TRUE. Wink, wink.

Though for a different explanation, read just the first letter of each paragraph.