I've Got That Open Source Feeling
I want to admit that I am a relative newcomer to the Open Source Revolution. I'm sure it will take me a while to fully transition to this new way of thinking. Having spent decades "doing it the other way" I know I have lots of programing to drop. Already I am enjoying one of the benefits: who you get to tell all about it first.
To be broadcasting intimate details of the design is a little bit like walking around naked: Feeling very exposed but, gee, isn't this comfortable? Also, now we all share the responsibility for bringing this technology to the masses and anyone can just jump in and get busy. No more excuses. Paxterra has done a lot of the hard work I think we've arrived at a very simple solution that is very easy to replicate. I can't wait for the first convocation of Photon S3 derivatives in a of One-design road race shootout. And may the best team win since we can then all use the better solutions.
Open Source Business Models
So what about the "Business Model" and "Open Source Products"? I will admit to not knowing all the answers to this question and perhaps that is why it so intrigues me. I believe because of social networks and crowdfunding great new products will find their business models "on the fly" and can somewhat let go of the question and simply keep people interested in the product to the point that they start to order them.
Here is the basic financial equation I have been attempting to satisfy for most of my R&D career:
Where P is net profit, PV is Perceived Value, and COGS is Cost of Goods Sold. At Paxterra we add the "G factor" so you get: P=G(PV-COGS). G is Green, so the higher the "Green Factor" the greater the actual "profit". Making money is not enough. Products create culture and some of our culture is killing this beautiful gem of a planet. Without a postive G-factor Paxterra would not proceed with a project no matter how much Perceived Value is created. Positive G-Factor will ensure support from the masses.
Rules of the Road
Here is the greatest distinction I can think of between other Open Source ideas such as Linux or IBM Compatible Hardware and automobiles: Technologies such as Computers have very specific requirements for the Operating System to function; get a bit in the wrong place and the whole thing crashes. The roads, highways, and interstates don't care about little things. If you follow the rules of physics your vehicle will function perfectly on the roadway even if it accomplishes this in a unique fashion. With the exception of a few countries that drive on "other side", the worlds roads all have the same "operating system". Therefore while software developers can only address a handful of hardware/ software platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, GPRS, Palm OS, GPS, etc.) there can be thousands of vehicle ventures all using their own, unique "operating systems". Many winners instead of the usual two or three were used to getting in technology. I expect there will be thousands of small and large ventures that build products, or re-configure existing ones, for popular Open Source Electric Vehicles. Who wants to make fenders?
Thus far Paxterra has been funded by a few individuals who saw the potential to create a new kind of vehicle and helped get it to this stage. We are very close to putting the final touches on the Drive Train and Frame/Suspension and beginning our on-road tests. From here on I see the funding coming from fans of the concept, those interested in starting their own venture using the technology, as well as eventual customers who go through the remaining development process with us and secure a place in line when production starts as their reward for support. ( I know I want one).
As we are now preparing for our first online funding effort and it brings to mind a successful one that I was involved in: The Cindy Sheehan led protest at the Bush ranch in Texas in 2005. I joined Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, Texas at the entrance to George Bush's Pig Farm a week after she got there and stayed until Katrina hit and Bush flew off to go golfing in San Diego. As the momentum grew the money started flowing in through PayPal. We went from bags of potato chips to a full field kitchen, huge tent, stage, sound system, trailers, buses, trucks, you name it. I don't know the exact numbers but it was a great example of relatively small donations creating a huge difference due to the sheer volume of "pent up need for Peace".
Doing The Right Thing
When it comes to alternatives to oil fueled vehicles I believe there are those who will throw a few bucks our way just hoping we win. The payback is in knowing they are doing the right thing and making a statement. Also, they can order a vehicle when production starts. Usually we wait for products to be produced by the major manufacturers. In the case of our vehicles I don't think we can wait any longer. Major motorcycle, car, and truck manufacturers are completely wedded to the combustion engine. They have been dragging their feet for decades and, in the case of GM, actually killed a great design by an engineering team led by a hero of mine, Paul MacCready. We don't need the "powers that be" anymore. Let's go in a completely new direction and make them come over to our side. Jobs and Wazniak did this with Apple Computer, we can do it with Paxterra.
I'm more interested in a world that works than what sells—Paul MacCready