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An Interview with Bill Klehm

CEO of eMobillity solutions provider eBliss delivers insight into transport & consumers

Bill Klehm's interview through Ujjwal Dey

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Editor’s Note: In our Weekly Thursday News for October 19th, 2023, we had featured excerpts of global mobility issues. It featured insight into the issues influencing and affecting mobility and EV from Bill Klehm, CEO of eMobillity solutions provider eBliss.

Refer that news article by clicking here.

We followed up by contacting Bill’s team. We managed to have an interview with Bill Klehm. Below is the questions we asked and the insight on the same from Bill. 
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Ujjwal Dey: Hi Bill,
I am very grateful for this learning opportunity. I am keen and concerned regarding various aspects of electronic vehicles. These are better understood through my questions in this correspondence interview. These questions focus primarily on US customers, and to some extent on Western European nations and UK. Let’s begin...

Is public transport using Electric Vehicles a feasible concept, considering initial expenditure, required infrastructure and cost of generating electricity—for a nation (USA) that prefers to possess their own vehicle for commuting?

Bill Klehm: I believe this is a question of general acceptance of public transportation rather then electric versus ICE. There are certain parts of the US where mass public transportation makes sense, and many places where it does not. In very dense metro areas like NYC and Chicago where mass transit is heavily used today, there will be a place for electric-powered vehicles. In areas where mass transit is lightly used it will be tough to justify the investment in an electric-powered option.

Ujjwal Dey: Are some States in USA more likely to benefit from EVs compared to others? How bleak is the future availability and pricing of petrol, diesel and CNG / LPG (natural gasses)?

Bill Klehm: Absolutely! In fact, the list of states that will see a huge benefit is relatively short. States with large cities where people have a short commute will see the biggest benefit and quickest adoption. There are many states where EVs will never take hold until the range and charging time are addressed. I think the answer to part one addresses part two of your question. In the US, unlike many other countries, ICE-powered vehicles will have a place for many years to come. Geography and population density relative to geography play a major role in this. The other factor is politics, which might be for a different conversation.

Ujjwal Dey: Some brands seem to believe hybrid is the immediate future. Isn’t hybrid EVs more practical concept to promote to the masses --- in comparison to attempting to sell them a vehicle which may or may not work in another city / highway?

Bill Klehm: The short answer is yes. The problem is they are not as sexy as a full EV. In the US full EV is more about perception than reality - people doing their part for the environment. A hybrid that runs on the ICE engine doesn’t meet the bar most of the time. This is why we believe in adding e-bikes to the American garage. With millions of trips per day being less than 1 mile, an e-bike is a much more practical way for Americans to reduce their carbon footprint.

Ujjwal Dey: People in America have a passionate culture of customization and retro-fitting with aftermarket parts. EV brands seem to deny every scope of such right to customize a ‘property’ owned by the customer. Customers have to depend on authorized accessories. Also, it is no longer about the warranty becoming void through custom parts—the vehicle may not function at all.

Bill Klehm: I don’t see much difference here between ICE and EV. Most of the customization today is done to areas of the vehicle that do not include the powerplant. The reason for this is to not void the factory warranty as you suggest. Wheels, tires, custom colors through vinyl wraps, audio upgrades, etc. are where most of the customization money is spent. This won’t change and could even increase with EVs.
Ujjwal Dey: Right to repair is another concern and culture associated with American vehicle owners. Vehicle owners work on their cars or motorcycles themselves or go to their preferred local garage. Big Tech and EV brands seem to deny this right of a customer who has paid for the product.

Bill Klehm: Again, I don’t see much difference here between ICE and EV. The Right to Repair Act has been around for decades and impacts almost everything we own. A car dealership’s perceived monopoly on repair is often cited as the reason we need this. The reality is however, you can take your car anywhere to be fixed or even attempt to do it yourself, if you dare. In the early years of any new vehicle, new car dealers have a monopoly on repairs for many reasons (warranty, special tools, technician training etc.), not because you MUST take it to the dealer. As models age however consumers rely on dealers less and less. I see this being the same with EVs once they become more commonplace.

Ujjwal Dey: How real is threat of poor cybersecurity, hacking of customer’s EV by miscreants, maybe even ransomware that may shutdown an entire city’s electric vehicles, related infrastructure or specifically a police fleet, ambulance, etc? How dangerous does this seem with consumer’s demand for customization and right-to-repair?

Bill Klehm: There is a lot that is unknown here, but cybersecurity is a problem today with ICE vehicles. An ICE-powered vehicle is still controlled by computers that can be hacked and shut down the vehicle remotely. I see a bigger risk in the charging infrastructure being attacked than the vehicle themselves.

Ujjwal Dey: Should electric vehicles be classified as a ‘service’ rather than a ‘product’? The customer seems to have very limited rights to their EV. It would be more apt to re-brand it as a ‘service’.

Bill Klehm: I don’t believe the consumer has less rights to their EV than an ICE vehicle. With that said I do believe that the landscape of vehicle ownership is changing. Fractional ownership, subscription ownership and more are changing the way consumers own and have access to transportation. While early attempts of this have not fared well, I do believe there is a place for this in the industry.

Ujjwal Dey: Motorsports will not exist if everyone is forced to use the EV as-is from OEM or authorized dealer. Same for outdoor-recreation vehicles. Any thoughts on this significant market that has contributed greatly to innovations in automotive industry in the past? (Imagine the flat-track racing rivalry of Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycles in 1930s and of course people such as Carroll Shelby. No customization? No right-to-repair?)

Bill Klehm: This is a great question. I believe motorsports will always exist. For example, Formula E is starting to take off after a slow start. As far as people customizing or modifying EVs for motorsport it is inevitable. During the dawn of the internal combustion engine, it only took a few short decades before people were modifying street machines for sport. This was without the support of the manufacturers in the beginning, but eventually car companies realized the power of motorsports and they now play a huge role in it. This will not go away. The car companies will be racing EV’s in my lifetime. 
Ujjwal Dey: Surveillance used to be a domain of government agencies. Now it seems, hardware and software manufacturers of EVs will have incredible level of private data of citizens. Maybe data of anyone ever associated with a vehicle including family, friends, colleagues, etc. Of course, this is an existing problem for smartphone users and other digital gadgets / apps. Now it is being carried forward onto EVs. How will this be ‘managed’ by government/s or NHTSA? Is the future a SciFi adventure such as Philip K. Dick’s ‘The Minority Report’? Pre-emptive arrests of citizens?

Bill Klehm: This is not something that is an issue solely with EVs or automobiles for that matter. As I mentioned earlier, ICE vehicles are largely computer-controlled today, no different than an EV. And with things like over-the-air updates connecting the vehicle to the web, they are the same risk as any electronic device we own.

Ujjwal Dey: Lack of awareness and education about ‘assisted driving’ is causing serious accidents. They are not ‘self-driving’ cars but treated as such by their owners. Why shouldn’t there be a separate driving license test required for such vehicles?

Bill Klehm: It is incumbent on the manufacturers to produce a safe autonomous vehicle. It is also their responsibility to educate the public on what they offer today. Today we do NOT have any full level 5 autonomous vehicles, yet we use the term “self-driving” which they are not. This is much misinformation on this topic.

Ujjwal Dey: Similarly, explosions caused by poorly designed circuits or poor quality of batteries, are yet another danger experienced by people. Startups in EV are offering innovations but also lacking the responsibility/liability faced by major brands. What are your thoughts on this?

Bill Klehm: While these are serious issues, generally I think people are overacting, especially the media (sorry). You may not be old enough to remember the exploding gas tanks on Ford Pintos, but I am. There have been numerous issues with auto design since the beginning and what we are seeing with EVs is just that. The auto manufacturers will figure this out, hopefully, sooner than later.

Ujjwal Dey: How feasible is recycling of electric vehicles and their components? People seem to exaggerate it to be same as discarded smartphones and laptops – i.e. toxic landfills.

Bill Klehm: This may be the single biggest issue to overcome. Until there is a viable way to recycle (safely) all the components of an EV, I don’t believe they will ever become mainstream.

Ujjwal Dey: How many years till States / cities replace their emergency vehicles such as those operated by police, firefighters, the ambulances, etc with fully electric vehicles with no ICE engine backups?

Bill Klehm: I think the adoption of essential services will follow the mass adoption in general. Until range and charging time can be addressed, I don’t think consumers will widely adopt and I don’t think municipalities will either. Politically there will be some states that take a different view of this and that will be a mistake.

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Bill Klehm, CEO of eBliss
Bill Klehm, CEO of eBliss

eBliss Global is an e-mobility company innovating smarter, more sustainable ways for people to get to where they want to be. Through proprietary technology and an eye ever toward the future, eBliss is reshaping the transportation industry. Each eBliss vehicle is strategically designed to be long-lasting and maintenance-free, with a focus on simplicity and functionality, and is tailor-built for each rider’s specific needs, whether they be commuting, getting groceries, safely transporting families, making deliveries, or cruising with friends.

eBliss is a company that moves people. Led by longtime innovators in the transportation and tech industries and creators of the NuVinci Continuously Variable Transmission, eBliss is disrupting and evolving how we think about everyday transportation. Driven by the conviction that we can achieve a more sustainable, efficient, and healthy world for all, eBliss delivers transportation solutions of the future—today.

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