Just as there are as many ways to fool ourselves into making decisions towards sustainability as there are ways to actually acheive sustainability, there are as many ways to fail at achieving sustainability on the manufacturing side of the equation as there is at the final product side of the equation. So far we are falling way to short of the mark to make a substantial difference in our impact on the finite resource biosphere we call Earth, or worse yet, in reality, we end up making products with the intention of doing good and that something ends up having a negative impact. Luckily there are just as many ways to approach the business model from an ECE perspective to actually effect total positive change. We can plant forests instead of cutting them down, we can harvest annual plants that utilize minimal water needs to create the cushions for our seating. We can make things more durable and reusable and all the while run a successful business. That is what is to be illuminated here.
The normative business model is based on destruction, obsolescence and disposability, instead, the ECE perspective creates a business model based on creation, restoration and bio-compatibility. The ECE business model recognizes with utmost authenticity that there is nothing short of a battle unfolding between the high resource consumption of the modern lifestyle and the inability of a finite resource biosphere to provide indefinitely and inexhaustibly the resources required to fuel the machine we call modern life. This is a conflict between our wants and nature, and NATURE WILL WIN. So, this makes it imperative that we address the way forward wholistically. The manufacturing of a product must be as refined as the product itself in regard to its relationship with sustainability.
Hypercars are astronomically expensive. So, the idea of developing a hypercar level of quality and intending to make that available to the general public is difficult, if not impossible. But, if this can be done in any way, I would choose to develop the highest form of the vehicle first, in order to exemplify the concept in it highest form and then back-engineer the vehicle into more and more affordable configurations that still meet the ECE standards of waste stream reduction. Tesla started with the Model S and worked backward to the lesser expensive models. This has been a concept that I have considered the most reasonable path forward for a long time now. Finally, someone with the means to make it so, utilized this concept and it has been proven successful.
The reason for this is to attract the financial resources to develop the manufacturing infrastructure to create the ECE-inspired engineering in the first place and simultaneously reward those that made the initial investments with something that is completely extraordinary. No doubt that a vehicle constructed out of copious amounts of titanium would be a costly endeavor and a costly end product. But, in the process of delivering a product of such an exceptional build quality of the likes never before achieved would be cutting a path through the jungle for others to follow. If for no one else but ourselves at ECE. But, in time others will have no choice but to follow because the efficiency that we will achieve will make all other processes obsolete.
Another thing to consider is the issue of exclusivity. For example, once the initial hypercar level vehicles are constructed and the team, the factory, and the tooling exist to construct these vehicles then other more generally attainable versions can be conceived and executed. Instead of titanium bodies, there can be aluminum bodies. Instead of titanium fasteners (nuts and bolts) stainless steel fasteners. Instead of CNC machined aluminum suspension components stamped steel but zinc galvanized instead of painted suspension components. Instead of hand-stitched interiors, mass-produced interiors can be conceived. But the patterns, the form factors, and the engineering will have already been thought through to a great extent.
This is where exclusivity comes into play. For example the Ferrari 308/328, the classic Magnum PI car that everyone knows is a perfect example to illuminate this point. Once the vehicle (in this instance we are referring to a Ferrari 328) was refined and brought into its final form of the 328, it was refined to the extent that it is still to this day, decades later, a relevant, capable and comfortable (GTS) grand touring sports car. The design is timeless and is globally recognizable. So, what if Ferrari never stopped the production of that car? It would mean that now there would be millions of the 328 produced. Nearly anyone who wanted one would be able to have one. At first, they were exclusive to a degree where only the wealthiest of the wealthiest could acquire one. Ferrari made more of the 308/328 than any other car that they have ever produced, and out of all of the desirable Ferraris because of this, they are the most affordable and therefore attainable of the Ferraris other than the Mondial. But, that is apples to oranges because the desirability of the Mondial is not there. So, even though the car is desirable it was produced in sufficient quantities that there is enough market saturation to make them more attainable to individuals other than the absolutely most wealthy.
So, now take this a step further and recognize that if the 328 had continued in production for all these decades, just how incredibly refined the build process would be. How incredibly refined the supply chain would be. Take this yet another step and consider that if the entire vehicle was developed and engineered from the get-go to be as salvageable and reusable as possible, then at an industrial level the vehicles would be upcycleable in an efficient and cost-effective manner that the accessibility would expand even further.
It would take time to get there to that point, but in the end, the total accessibility, functionality of the total manufacturing process, and total waste steam mitigation would be completely redefining of the manufacturing sector and most importantly the earth compatibility of this process would be a total game-changer. A disrupter in the best of ways if you will. You would have a product that would be of exceptional quality that would be affordable to anyone that had the resources to at the very least afford a newer or even a brand new car off the lot.
Is it less expensive to take a switch that is engineered to be able to be rebuilt and refurbished than it is to make a new one from scratch? Say for example the switch is your standard engineered obsolescence headed to the landfill at the end of its life plastic switch that is in 99.99% of all the cars on the road. Then compared to a switch that has an internal mechanism that is engineered to be cleanable and serviceable and the knob designed so that it is of not only a tactile and effective knob but of just the correct shape so that it can be resurfaced in a batch vibrating polisher with thousands of others and they come out of the batch vibrating polisher ready to be reinstalled with almost no labor at all, then you can have a gorgeous aluminum switch instead of a cheap disposable plastic one that will be financially attainable. But, it has to be thought out from the beginning to achieve this goal of attainable quality and at the same time precipitously achieves the over-arching goal of waste stream reduction.
It should also be noted that the sheer amount of components that can be made reusable in a reasonably cost-effective manner should not be underestimated and for the most part already exist in one form or another. Automobile drivetrains of any propulsion system are full of hoses. These hoses transport cooling and lubrication fluids throughout the vehicle. All of these hoses can be made from stainless steel braided lines. In a standard model of design, all of the hoses are rubber plastics or harder plastics and are clamped at the ends to seal them. The act of clamping the hose only serves to degrade that component even further. Whereas, a braided stainless steel line has threaded fittings that are made of aluminum (referred to as AN style threaded fitting) and can be threaded in and out of their intended position literally forever. Even a vehicle that was in service for decades and would finally be ‘worn out’ these lines can be put through a very basic cleaning system like a combination of laser and ultrasonic cleaning and will not only be essential as new in how it looks but would without any difficulty and loss of reliability serve again for decades more to come.
Nothing mechanical lasts forever. I have always found it to be a peculiar cliche that accompanies the automobile, one that is so often repeated in regards to mechanical devices, but directed towards the automobile more than I hear for any other product is the saying, “These trucks, cars, (insert any mainstream manufacturer) last forever!” Its almost like at some deep level we know what a environmental drain automobiles are and in an effort to cover our shame we claim that some of these machines will last forever. Nothing mechanical lasts forever, some things can be made to last longer than others, but ultimately in order to make the biggest impact we have to strive to strike a balance between cost and durability, but, even more importantly the ability to service components that are usually considered consumables.
All of this is predicated with respect to the basic tenets of sustainability and that is the three R’s. Reduce, Reuse, and lastly Recycle. This is not a random order of operations. First, we must reduce, then as much as possible reuse and lastly only when all other options are exhausted do you consider recycling. Recycling is a very energy-intensive process. Recycling is so energy intensive that it is not economically viable for the most part. The effect of all of this is that we are filling up our landfills and our oceans with garbage.
There are businesses all around the world that make a living doing restorations. But, never before has an automobile been conceived from its inception to be on an industrial scale a restorable and upcycleable product. Upcycling should not be limited to a handful of market-driven desirable vehicles. This same model can be applied to anything ultimately, be it a blender, a vacuum cleaner, or an automobile. This is the way to cohabitate on a finite-resource biosphere, not poison our own nest, and at the same time maintain a modern standard of living.
Another caveat of this business model that I want to address is in relation to the idea of the modern standard of living. We have become normalized to the revolving door of products and upgrades. Every year there is a new Iphone, that is so minisculey and incrementaly better than the previous edition that it is clearly brought to market only for the purposes of creating demand out of a perceived futility, but not of a genuine futility. For the ECE business model to work the idea of upgrades will have to be re-envisioned. In order to have parts fit from one year to the next, from one decade to the next will require that there not be any modifications unless absolutely necessary. Only in instances that there is a major advance in a technology that is so substantial that a new model is warranted would such a reimagining of the product be warranted.
We have developed the automotive platform to a level of refinement at this point that it is possible to create a truly quiet, comfortable and safe vehicle that is going to meet all foreseeable standards for a long time to come. Even if there is a revolution in powertrain technology there is no reason that the basic form factor of the vehicle could not be adapted. It is completely reasonable to remove an internal combustion engine and replace it with an electrified powertrain. There is no reason at all to do away with the vehicle as a whole. That is why designs like the Ferrari 328 or the Classic Series Land Rover and the timelessness that they represent will need to be captured in this vehicle. Surprisingly, so much of what makes the design timeless is actually due to the materials chosen and not solely the aesthetic in and of itself. They are not thin, flimsy, plastic-covered machines. Have you ever noticed how when a fast food chain building shuts down that it instantaneously looks dilapidated and just plain sad? But, architecture from hundreds, even thousands of years ago can still look regal and inspiring. This is due to quality in equals quality out.
Have you ever noticed how in Sci-fi movies cities are usually displayed with homogeneity? This is due to the fact that you come up with functional aesthetics and you apply it across the board for the sake of efficiency. Deep inside us we know this. Make the same supreme quality for a long time, do it at the highest standard out of the gate as possible and leave it alone. Industry and the process of making things, as in the mining, trucking and shipping of raw materials, processing that ore, distilling of the crude elements and then processing that into a base material such as aluminum or the many different types of plastics. These materials then have to be packaged and shipped and refined yet further into products, which then have to be repackaged and shipped again, account for a huge amount of the CO2 that we are generating and as well the waste-streams that we need to mitigate. By creating a product and not changing it engineering it to be rebuildable with industrial efficiency you create a cascade of supply chain efficiency and therefore product accessibility that we need to bring to all manufacturing in order to be a successful and equitable species.