a recent business trip took me to california’s silicon valley.

approaching sfo
approaching sfo

this entry consists of the bits and bobs i saw, heard and thought about during the 5 days i spent in america.

since everyone in the us has to be hyped, pumped and ready for the fun, i thought it would be a good idea to blend in and get a fitting picture taken for my visitor badge!

wow! escorts? definitely!
wow! escorts? definitely!

for me (and probably most europeans for that matter), america remains a puzzling place. nsa revelations and all the cyber defense babble (which was, after all, why i was visiting) aside, the bigger is better mentality, not knowing the exact price of items at shops, fox news and their “headlines”…and not knowing the difference between switzerland and sweden (no kidding, even in 2015!) baffles me and is an excellent starting point for many other blogs on the internet – emissionless.ch is not a political blog nor do i in any way want to suggest that any form of social organization is better than any other, so…

back to things relevant to this blog!
energy and mobility: the bigger the better! ad-wise, trucks rule.

still unsure on “why you need a truck”? i can help!

just check out this ad! (and who doesn’t want to appeal to “rich housewives”?)

anyway – i arrive sunday late afternoon, just in time for super bowl XLIX. still no fan of any type of (spectator) sport, the representative of the company i was visiting insisted we go to a sports bar and join the action after checking into my room.

checking in was uneventful except for one small detail (besides the hot tub) on the hotel compound overview map i was handed during the process:

overview of my hotel > something grabs my attention!
overview of my hotel > something grabs my attention!
a charging station! let's go and have a look!
a charging station! let’s go and have a look!
most places have at least 2 parking spots with chargers
most places have at least 2 parking spots with chargers

2 type 1 chargers @ 32A – the plugs were unused and dirty. the infrastructure just beside the charging point looked archaic. huge on/off levers for each of both phases – anyone could stop charges at any time.

back to super-bowl xlix…

the game was on about 20 screens all over the huge sports bar and all the fans made it pretty clear which team they were supporting.

super bowl night!
super bowl night!

the only thing i usually am interested in are the advertisements. some companies spend dozens of millions just for a few minutes on-air during the game.

the ad i liked most was from bmw 🙂

after the game everyone got a good dose of patriotic messages. 🙂


my next few days consisted of lots of powerpoint and white boarding with some senior management and execs of the company i was visiting – we all agree that the current state of cyber space offers exeptional potential for it-security-related products and services . ’nuff said.

the day before my last with the company, however, from the terrace of their hq i spotted something very relevant to this blog!

a parking lot full of ev's!
a parking lot full of ev’s!

i took a mental note to head down to the parking lot next morning – this would probably be a good moment to catch some fellow ev-drivers for a friendly chat.

next day, before heading back to work (& checking out the parking lot), i headed to the “international house of pancakes” for breakfast.

being born and having spent parts of my childhood in canada, a stack of pancakes smothered in maple syrup is my favourite breakfast (besides a full english with tea – since having parents from the uk and austria does tend to leave some marks here and there, too > we’re going to touch on my austrian favourites during our upcoming trip – TDB2015 – later this year.)

international house of pancakes
international house of pancakes

the menu was full of delicious (but huge) dishes. looking around one could have got the idea that my fellow guests hadn’t eaten in a week! having decided on and waiting for the smallest 3-pancake stack with some coffee (which i didn’t finish), my attention went to the orders which were served up around me – massive amounts of fried food…for breakfast. i checked out the nutritional information of some of the dishes and was surprised that IHOP was happily referring to a 2000-calorie-a-day diet whilst offering some breakfast dishes at 2000+ calories! wow. even i with my humble stack was at 470 calories and more than i actually was able to manage that morning.

after breakfast i headed to the parking lot to check out the infrastructure.

55 parking spots with chargers
55 parking spots with chargers

just minutes into looking around a first fellow ev-driver pulled up, plugged in his car and we started chatting.

a few more ev-drivers joined in and i was able to learn a few things:

  • parking spots are provided for free
  • energy is provided for free
  • car purchases are subsidized
  • these drivers were mostly not ev-drivers out of conviction
  • technically, they don’t really know anything about their cars
  • they all love the ride
  • they mostly have a second, larger car at home for anything else than the commute (trucks)

so, why did they then decide to get an ev?

because it helps the planet? because helps your country to be less dependent on oil? is technically interesting? costs overall less than a traditional ice-based car?

the answer is easy: traffic!

silicon valley commuter traffic is bad, very bad. getting to work and back home can literally take hours. for this, it seems, car pool lanes were created on which cars with more than one person on board can get past gridlocked traffic – since the introduction of ev’s, this rule was amended to allow single-passenger ev’s to use this lane, too. this – according to the people i spoke to (certainly not a statistically representative sample) helped the over-average adoption of ev’s in california.

i must concede: this change of legislation has definitely contributed to california being a place where you see ev’s very often. and i like it – a lot! let’s just continue changing the minds and winning the hearts of everyone still not yet there. 🙂

i continued looking around and am quite sure, we’re going still have to wait some time in europe to see something similar!

ev parking...
ev parking…
even more ev parking!
even more ev parking!

…and an even rarer occurrence!

handicapped EV-drivers!
handicapped EV-drivers!

still, even if all cars were ev’s in america, other things need to be taken care of, too:

complementary water in my room was from … norway!

artisanal? norwegian?
artisanal? norvegian?

utter craziness … and the water was horrible! in switzerland, we’re blessed with extremely clean water coming from every tap – usually, this water is better than any bottled water could be: taste neutral and rich in minerals (and no fluoride)

after 5 days, it was time to check-out and yet again, i was confronted with an interesting proposition which i had never thought about: returning my room key-card when leaving! really?

sounds north korean: let's re-use room keys!
sounds north korean: let’s re-use room keys!

i spent my last afternoon/evening downtown san francisco, wandering about and stumbling across a very small deli run by people i instantly liked – i went on to order one of my favourite dishes in such a context: a pastrami sandwich. it looks messier than it is – and taste-wise: yum!

in the same deli, little hand-painted pictures gave friendly suggestions to the undecided. one of them was particularly fitting!

ah, america, on one thing we definitely agree!
ah, america, on one thing we definitely agree!

at the sfo airport lounge, sipping on my g&t, i was already looking forward to my trusty TWIKE, parking for free at zrh airport and waiting for me patiently, ready to take me back home in style 😉

i’ll be back, visiting the usa again soon, end of march 2015. this time round it will not be california, but nevada. let’s see how things look there… stay tuned!

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