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Industry experts discuss future of automotive industry, electric cars

Executives from General Motors, Tesla Motors, RelayRides, Streetline and the California Energy Commission discussed the future of transportation in California in a panel Monday. (MATT BETTONVILLE/The Stanford Daily)

With the automotive industry on the verge of major changes due to rising oil prices and increasing emissions restrictions, the Stanford Energy Club’s Energy 360° program brought together experts and executives Monday evening for a holistic discussion about the industry’s future.

“We do a deep dive into energy topics,” said Karim Farhat, president of the Stanford Energy Club.

Energy 360° is a quarterly interdisciplinary program that tries to address all aspects of predominant energy issues, including the technology, policy and business perspectives. The panel featured representatives from longstanding automakers, new entries in the market, new software service providers and legislators.

Panelist Jim McKinney from the California Energy Commission set the scene for the discussion’s importance with statistics about California transportation. According to McKinney, California boasts 26.2 million cars and just fewer than one million trucks on the road. In a single year, the state uses 18.8 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel.

The main topic of discussion at the panel was the question of electric vehicles entering a market previously dominated by internal combustion engine vehicles for over 100 years. Panelist Marc Tarpenning, co-founder of one of the biggest challengers to the major automakers, Tesla Motors, described how battery technology is just reaching the point at which electric cars can be practical upmarket, but the technology is on pace to drop in price.

“Cell phones used to be 10 grand apiece,” Tarpenning said. “Each model of Tesla has been cheaper than the previous one, and it’s going to continue like that for a long time.”

Byron Shaw, managing director at General Motors’ Advanced Technology Office, sat on the panel to discuss GM’s outlook on the future of cars and trucks


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