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PIE, Gas v. Electric, and a Unicorn

February 12, 2019

When you come to PIE, you bring a world of experience to share. You also bring issues to solve. Whether it is curb congestion, revenue collection, enforcement, your customer’s attitude toward parking, or confusion over technology, they are all on the table at PIE 2019.


It seems that we all have something to give and something to take. That’s what our four days of the Parking Industry Exhibition is all about. We want to give you the opportunity to learn from the contemporaries you will meet there, and give them the opportunity to find out how you have solved the problems they bring.


Educational systems give us a structured way to exchange information, to focus on areas that will help us in our lives, and to acquire skills needed as we pursue our careers. Continuing education programs provided by both institutions and by organizations create the opportunity to keep current on what is happening in our career fields.


The parking industry provides a more informal approach to sharing information through its three national and numerous regional events. When you attend an event like PIE, you can immerse yourself in parking. The result will be solutions, both for your problems, and for those of others.


Come to PIE – solve problems and become a solution.


 


Gas v. Electric


A year or so ago I commented on an article that posited that a high-end BMW actually created the same or less pollution than a Tesla. I didn’t get much response, probably because most folks thought I was nuts.


Today, we see another article, this time in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where one Jonathan Lesser actually claims that electric cars are worse for the environment than gas powered cars produced today. You can read the original article on parknews.biz.


He notes that studies by the Energy Information Administration show that gas powered vehicles built today compared to those in the 60s produce less than 1 percent of the pollution than their elder cousins. He also states that when you drive an electric vehicle, you have the get the electricity from somewhere. And that electricity is most likely produced by fossil fuel. To wit:


What I (Lesser) found is that widespread adoption of electric vehicles nationwide will likely increase air pollution compared with new internal combustion vehicles. You read that right: More electric cars and trucks will mean more pollution.


That might sound counterintuitive: After all, won’t replacing a 30-year old, smoke-belching Oldsmobile with a new electric vehicle reduce air pollution? Yes, of course. But that’s also where many electric-vehicle proponents’ arguments run off the road: They fail to consider just how clean and efficient new internal combustion vehicles are.


As for that electric car: The energy doesn’t come from nowhere. Cars are charged from the nation’s electrical grid, which means that they’re only as “clean” as America’s mix of power sources. Those are getting cleaner, but we still generate power mainly by burning fossil fuels: natural gas is our biggest source of electricity and is projected to increase. And coal, while still declining, will remain the second-largest source of electricity for some time. (Third is nuclear power, which doesn’t generate emissions but has other byproducts that worry some environmentalists.)


Ah, the famous law of unintended consequences. Very few of our vehicle fleet is electric. However, if the government has its way, that number will change. The feds and state governments are subsidizing electric vehicles in a big way. Lesser says that those subsidies actually go to the wealthiest of us, those who can afford high-priced electric cars. The poorer among us bear the financial weight.


It’s not just the subsidies, but also the charging stations that will have to be put into place. People who buy electric vehicles can afford to live in homes that have charging stations and can use solar to keep them charged. 


However, the electric grid must be enhanced to cover the times when solar doesn’t work (night, cloudy, etc.). Everyone who uses electricity will pay for that enhancement. That means people who don’t drive electric vehicles will pay to support the infrastructure for those who do.


His position, like mine, is to let electric cars stand on their own. No government subsidies. As is typical, the government’s position is contrary to what they are trying to do.


Note: Just to be clear — I love electric cars, particularly the Tesla, perhaps the finest vehicle made today. I’m all for charging stations in garages for them. It’s just that the Tesla owner should pay for the electricity and infrastructure to charge his vehicle, just as gasoline fueled vehicle owners do. Elon Musk has received nearly 3/4 of a Billion dollars in government subsidies. Don’t you think that’s enough?


 


Mythical Horses


When one refers to a Unicorn today, it’s not a mythical horse, but a high-tech startup that is now worth over a $billion. It seems we have one of these creatures in the parking industry.


Startup (well, five-year-old) ParkJockey has wowed Japan’s Softbank and along with Mubadala Capital, has received funding of about $800 million. They have used the money to buy Impark and Citizens Parking, thus bringing their value up to in excess of $1 billion. And a Unicorn is born.


I reached out to ParkJockey co-founder Ari Ojalvo to talk about all this, and he begged off, noting that he was uber busy right now and saying he would love to have an interview after the first of the year. I completely understand. If I got a Christmas present like that one, I would be a bit busy, too.


This is consolidation on a grand scale. Two major parking operators with a total of nearly 4,500 locations being rolled together by a company that has technology that can, ostensibly, change the way garages are managed. ParkJockey not only has an app for parkers to use for reservations and to gain access to the garage, but also the software to enable garage management to reduce staff and provide data to bring a new look to garages nationwide. 


And they don’t have to convince an operator or owner to try their product, they can simply install it in their own locations and go from there.


I know I have greatly simplified this all in the last graph, and will learn more when I speak to Ari, but I think I’m close.


I have received a number of calls from operators across the fruited plain asking about ParkJockey. Who are they? What does their software do? Yikes, are we prey?


I hope to have some answers next month.


In the meantime, what does having a “unicorn” appear in our fantasy world mean? My best guess is that we will see more of this. We have already seen funds pour tens of millions into existing companies and those companies using that money to buy competitors and tangential businesses (can you say Passport, Parkwhiz, and T2?).


Plus, we have PaybyPhone and ParkMobile owned by major multi nationals. This isn’t your grandfather’s parking industry any more.


This means there is big money around. And when there is big money, it tends to be spent on acquisitions. That’s the way to grow quickly, and venture money thrives on quick growth.


I don’t know what kind of sounds Unicorns make, but I doubt it it’s a quiet whinny.



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