Articles, Blog

New isn’t easy: Henrik Fisker at TEDxChapmanU

November 18, 2019


Translator: Jakub Staniszewski
Reviewer: Ariana Bleau Lugo To make your dreams come true sometimes seems impossible. Henry Ford knew a few things about that. This shed you see behind me is actually where Henry Ford started about 100 years ago. So obviously, Ford hasn’t always been a huge global international car company. When he started, he obviously didn’t invent the car. Karl Benz did. But he had the idea of bringing the automobile to everybody. And he had the idea of creating the assembly line. Something that was unheard of at that point in time. And when he did it, he actually changed the car industry forever. Those types of things can still happen today. Even though today we, of course, have brands that are so iconic, that are so giant, so overwhelming. If you think about these brands behind me, they have amazing reach all over the world. Coca-Cola distribution, marketing budgets, huge facilities. And I’m sure if you go in a plane and take a trip over Africa, and jump out the plane, the parachute lands somewhere in Africa, there may not be any electricity, no food, no water, but within 5 miles you can probably buy a Coca-Cola. That’s how powerful they are. So, when a guy suddenly had the idea to start another soft drink, which were not just about tasting good, but about getting energy. He was about delivering something different. That was Chaleo that started Red Bull. People told him that was insane, he’ll never going to be able to make it. He knew, or probably thought, it was nearly impossible. But he still took the risk, he still did it. He believed in his dream, he had a gut [feeling] and he went out and did it. Richard Branson, Virgin Airlines. When he had the idea about starting a new airline, that’s not so many years ago. Just think about what it cost to buy planes, to get the licenses. Everyting else is involved. Now he got one license and one plane. And the reason he did it was because when he flew he felt there might be something else we can do for the customer, we could change it, we could make it more fun. Maybe we could make a bar inside the plane where we can get a drink. Maybe get a haircut at the lounge, things that were never done before. And, actually, you can get those things. And he started Virgin Airlines. And today, that’s probably one of the most famous airlines in the world. And the last one: Dyson. Now he invented a new vacuum cleaner because he thought all the current ones sucked. (Laughter) Which they kind of do. But he invented, of course, the one without the bag. And he went around and presented this dream, this invention, to all the makers of vacuum cleaners. And they all rejected him and laughed at him. And said: “This is never going to work.” So what he did was he obviously started it himself. And years later he became the leading seller of vacuums, here in the US and in many other markets in the world. And the same people that rejected him are today copying him. So it shows that it is possible to go out, even today and make the dream reality. It is possible if you take the risk. Now, when I was 8 years old, I was sitting in the backseat of my father’s Saab 96, back in Denmark. And suddenly, I saw that silver Maseratti passing me and I got butterflies in my stomach. And you have to think about it. Denmark is a small socialist country, where seeing something like a Maseratti is like seeing a UFO or Big Foot. It’s very rare. (Laughter) So, that was a huge event and at that point I knew I wanted to do something with cars. I didn’t know if I was going to be an engineer, I didn’t know if I was going to wash cars, build cars, sell cars. I just knew I wanted to do something with that fascinating thing called a car. So what I did was I kept on drawing cars, way beyond my age, so to speak. So in school, instead of taking notes, I kept on drawing cars, just like that notebook you see there. And eventually I had a meeting with a counsellor, when I was about 12-13 years old. And I remember she said, “What you want to be when you grow up?” I said: “I want to be a car designer” and she said, “There’s nothing called a car designer. You can be an engineer.” So it was very discouraging, but I kept the dream alive. I kept on sneaking my drawings here and there. And even through college I did that. Which meant I didn’t do very good in school. But after college I got a job, the closest I could find, a technical draftsman. And even at that job I started drawing cars. And eventually my dad said, “Well, why don’t you write a letter to a car company?” So I did, I wrote a letter to Volvo saying, “I would like to be a car designer.” Because in Denmark, there is no car industry. And Volvo wrote back saying: “Well, look, you don’t have an education, but we can recommend a school in California called Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena.” And they have another branch in Europe, in Switzerland, which is the same school. So I took all my drawings, threw them in my old, rusty Alfa Romeo, which is sort of a European Honda, for those of you who don’t know the car. It’s a little bit better. And I drove down to Switzerland, and got accepted at that school. A few years later, I started at BMW, in Germany, in Munich. And that was really when I started to learn about the car industry, and how complicated it is. And the dream I had about creating my own car company, sort of faded quickly away as I realized it’s hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s very complicated. And I had a very exciting time. I got to desgin BMW Z8, a sports car, which eventually got into a James Bond movie, which was way beyond my dreams. until I saw the film and they cut it in half. (Laughter) But then I migrated to Aston Martin and did a couple of things there. But the point is that I did learn about the industry. And I got to do some fantastic stuff, but I still thought that there must be something more. I realized that the passion I had as a kid, with those exciting cars, looking at the cars I saw in last 20-25 years, little of that passion has kind of disappeared. And you look at some of the three best selling cars today — I am a car designer and I can barely say which ones they are. So what happened in the last 20 years is cars have become more of an appliance. They used to be all about emotion and fun. And they used to be fairly cheap to run. And now they’ve become an appliance. Gasoline is expensive. In some countries you get taxed on them. And on top of that, we start feeling a bit guilty about driving a car. Because it pollutes. They use a lot of gasoline. So I thought to myself, “What if you could create a car, that took all of the environmental aspects, that we know it’s possible and basically unite that with the emotional side of a vehicle. Why [do] electric cars, or small, fuel-efficient cars always have to look dorky?” (Laughter) “Why can’t we make a beautiful, gorgeous car?” So the what-if was really saying, instead of a normal roof, what about putting a solar panel on the car that can help charge a car. You know, when I was working at Aston Martin, like all car manufacturers we would go to Brazil and pick up the wood in Brazil, and bring it back, go over it with a flame thrower, sand it down and put it in the car after it was lacquered. And I said, “What if we got wood from the California fires, we don’t need the flame throwers, it’s already done.” (Laughter) And it sounded funny at that time, but it can be done. So, that was something I thought about. And I also thought about, If you think about how the car is designed, it hasn’t really changed in the last hundred years. When we first developed a car, you saw a car in the single road in the middle of nowhere. And its still how the advertising looks today. You jump in the car and drive around on a free open road. But the reality of course is we sit in traffic, like here, like you see behind me. That’s reality. That’s how a lot of us drive to work every day. So I thought, “What if you could create a car where, when you sit in traffic and you listen to music, your air condition on, you need power. What if it’s just electric? And what if, because you want the freedom, that if you want to drive from LA to Las Vegas or New York or San Francisco, after maybe about 50 miles the gasoline engine turns on and you create electricity while you drive.” Why can’t we do that? So I thought there must be a way we can do that. A lot of people, of course, as you talk about this type of ideas start telling you, “Can’t be done, it’s impossible.” There is doubters. But I still said, “What if?” I decided I was going to take that risk. Now one of the two things that inspired me was, first of all, everybody saying it couldn’t be done. That gave me sort of extra fuel and power. And the second thing was that I thought even the biggest car companies in the world, they still are only run by humans. In fact, any giant companies in the world. (Laughter) They might look giant, but behind them is a human being. And I am a human being and these guys, they need to sleep, eat, and do everything else that we do. And they have the same problems. So I thought, “Why couldn’t I then do it?” That was part of my feeling of being able to take that risk. Now, when you stand on that cliff, and you are ready to jump off into the ocean — And when I did that, I did see an island out there and I felt I could swim there. And as soon as I jumped in the ocean, suddenly that island kept on moving. (Laughter) So it’s pretty clear that it isn’t as easy as it sounds. And “new” is never that easy. But, for those of us who take the risk, and jump in the ocean, I think that doesn’t matter. We still feel that it’s worth to pursue the dream, it’s worth to do it. And one of the reasons for me is because the doubters that are out there they’re rarely the builders. And those who are the skeptics are never really the inventors. And I feel there is a possibility to go against the nay-sayers, take the risk, go out there, and follow your dream and get people behind you. Because there is a lot of us out there that believe that dreams are possible. So with that –Thank you very much. I appreciate it. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)

22 Comments

  • Reply Dan Frederiksen July 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    what if it didn't weigh 2.4ton..
    what if it weighed 0.4ton

    it was a big mistake to design it from opulent decadence and engineering reason was a distant second.
    electric drive only truly shines when you appreciate the engineering like low weight and aerodynamics. otherwise the physics will punish you. you will make a beast of burden and you wont even know it.
    when it ended up at 2.4ton in the name of outrageous design it was doomed. Fisker auto wont survive and will have burned over 1bn$

  • Reply Dante Gonxhja July 7, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    The batteries weigh too much, if you want a 0.4ton electric car then you wouldn't even be able to drive for a mile without recharging. Luxury cars should be heavy so they feel more planted to the ground, more solid. With all that much torque electric engines have 2.4tons is nothing.

  • Reply Dan Frederiksen July 7, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    but that's 100% wrong. a light car needs proportionally less energy to move the same distance. same as an electric bicycles doesn't grind to a halt right away just because it doesn't have a 400kg battery pack. that's stupid.
    light and aerodynamics are the key to EV viability. it makes it so much easier to make it quick. ferrari killing quick. and the battery pack costs so much less.

    think a little. a properly designed car can be made to have over 1000km range on a single charge at under 1 ton

  • Reply Dante Gonxhja July 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    It isn't meant to compete with a Ferrari. What you're describing there is a RACING focused electric car, which the Fisker is not. It's like blaming Rolls Royce for not making lightweight cars and not competing with Ferrari, it's stupid. Think a little.

  • Reply Dan Frederiksen July 7, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    he's a decent designer and brave and right to have chosen electric drive but brilliant is perhaps overstating it and they are not here to stay. if you actually look at the facts you will see the chance of survival is virtually zero.
    they have burned through a billion dollars and are selling very few cars, no where near enough to pay their expenses let alone with surplus to pay new development. they are super dead and Henrik knew this at the time of this talk

    he went heavy and decadent. mistake

  • Reply Dan Frederiksen July 7, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    sigh. moron.
    that it's quick doesn't mean it has to be for racing. is the tesla roadster for racing?
    electric cars can have ferrari beating acceleration for free. your everyday car.
    and it should because that really gets attention and humiliates the idiots who still make combustion engine cars.

  • Reply Dante Gonxhja July 7, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Are you a fucking idiot or are you just trolling? You were talking about the car being ultra light, that's only needed for racing. A road car doesn't need to be 0.4, there is no road car that weight 0.4 tons you idiot. We all know how awesome the Tesla Roadster is, with it's terrible mileage and long charging times. A luxury kar like the Fisker Karma is aerodynamic and has as much torque as a Veyron. It's not possible to make it weigh less with that many batteries.

  • Reply Dan Frederiksen July 7, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    no I'm a polymath genius. and I know what I'm talking about. you do not.
    I have wide and deep engineering knowledge. enough even to make the power electronics for electric cars. I fully understand all relevant aspects of the engineering.
    you are a mindless product of ignorant intuition and your stupidity is compounded by grossly misplaced confidence

  • Reply Dante Gonxhja July 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Yes and you are clearly showing your intelligence by calling people morons on YouTube. Great job your parents will be proud.

  • Reply Dan Frederiksen July 7, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I am merely making accurate observations about your behavior. you are the wicked one. you hate the truth and you hate accountability and because of these poor choices you make it impossible to be civil with you

  • Reply Dante Gonxhja July 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    I was merely saying that a 0.4 ton electric car is not possible. Say whatever you want but that shows how intelligent you are.

  • Reply Dan Frederiksen July 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    that you have never thought about it before doesn't mean it isn't possible

  • Reply Dante Gonxhja July 7, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    It's not possible, even the Ariel Atom weighs 600kilos which is just 4 wheels and an engine.

  • Reply Dan Frederiksen July 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    if you could soften your heart and listen to reason I could show you that indeed it is very possible despite what you think you understand about the ariel atom

  • Reply Dante Gonxhja July 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    My heart is ready for you, show me. Enlighten me, I'd love to be proven wrong because I'm not against car innovation but I just don't see how that's possible.

  • Reply Dan Frederiksen July 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    as your first step, look up the GM Ultralite. then come back and tell me you have new understanding of how light cars can be and that you now understand how wrong 2.4ton is.
    I can then tell you about how it can go even further down and how your intuition that batteries are so heavy that it is impossible is wrong.

  • Reply AaronGrooves September 14, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Loved the story of how he came to be a car designer. I only have one question: what's an idear? 0:34 lol

  • Reply Andrés Bastidas February 17, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Dude,
    The GM Ultralite doesn't weight 0.4 tons… if weights 1.42… 1.4 ! you sir, have miserably failed.

  • Reply Dan Frederiksen February 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Wow. That is a ton of gross mistakes you just made.
    The GM Ultralite weighed 635kg, I never said it weighed 0.4ton!
    And you confused 1400 pounds with 1.4 ton..
    You want to try that again? Maybe some apologies..

  • Reply Hammond Think December 5, 2015 at 4:12 am

    Tesla's Elan Musk actually stole Fisker's vision, and made it more feasible.

  • Reply Oliver Lavermicocca March 28, 2018 at 12:49 am

    The comments of people saying things cant be done… and now looking at it in 2018 xD its alright you non believers i hope you understand peoples visions now

  • Reply Sauradeep Dhar November 28, 2018 at 7:17 am

    So called my motivation, sir.

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