What a week! You’ve probably heard the big news already: GM says it’s going all-electric by 2035, an unprecedented commitment from an iconic US OEM. That will certainly put some pressure on other major car-makers, including Ford, which just announced plans to launch its electric Mustang SUV in China. Meanwhile, President Biden says he wants to electrify the federal government’s vehicle fleet, although he has yet to suggest exactly how. Another thing no one has quite figured out: how do we pay for roads in a world where people aren’t paying for gas? In the realm of public transit, Amtrak says it needs (a lot) more money, Uber thinks trains and buses are allies, not competitors, and South Florida is finally getting more Brightline. Also coming to the Sunshine State: air taxis!
General Electric Motors: No, GE & GM aren’t merging. Rather, the automaker pledges that all of its motors will be electric by 2035. Furthermore, it promises to make its global operations carbon-neutral by 2040. GM is kicking off the effort with plans to spend $27 billion over the next five years on 30 different EVs. Next Sunday — during the Super Bowl — GM will give America a glimpse of this EV future in two 60-second ads, one of which touts its overall EV focus and another highlighting the soon-to-be-released Cadillac Lyriq crossover EV. That 2035 timeline aligns nicely with California’s recent mandate that all cars sold in-state be EVs by that same year. Great to see GM and CA playing nice these days…
And an EV for Uncle Sam: President Biden says he wants the federal government’s massive vehicle fleet to be all-electric, but he has yet to offer a timeline nor a detailed plan to get there. Uncle Sam currently has 645,000 vehicles: the U.S. Postal Service alone has about 225,000 and the military owns another 170,000. Biden says he is committed to having the entire fleet manufactured domestically, a big boost to Midwest manufacturing interests (and, hey, nice for the Democrats). We’re cheering these efforts on, but federal agencies aren’t exactly fast-moving in the best of times.
But how will we pay for roads in an all-EV America? Pete Buttigieg, now one step closer to officially being the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, acknowledges some tension between the Biden administration’s push for EVs and its multi-trillion dollar infrastructure plan. Right now, federal transportation projects are largely funded by the federal gas tax. Buttigieg says the U.S. needs to find a new revenue source. Yes it does.
More than an American phenomenon: EV enthusiasts in China will soon be able to buy the Mustang Mach-E SUV, to be manufactured in China by Changan Ford. This is part of Ford’s ongoing “Best of Ford, Best of China” campaign to gain ground in a growing market where it has traditionally struggled. As is the case in the U.S., Ford believes its path to success in China is through luxury vehicles and SUVs. Though it hasn’t made nearly the same EV commitment as GM, Ford is spending $11.5 billion on EVs through 2022 and plans to release an EV version of the F-150 later this year.
GM + Navistar + OneH2 = fuel cell trucks: GM’s ambitions aren’t limited to battery electric, as it announces a partnership with Navistar, the Chicago-based trucking manufacturer, to develop hydrogen-fueled long-haul trucks. The fuel technology comes courtesy of OneH2, a privately-held hydrogen fuel group based in Longview, N.C. Navistar is taking a stake in OneH2 as part of the deal. The trio say they want these new zero-emission trucks on the road by 2024. Adding to the partnership, long-hauler J.B. Hunt has agreed to test the new trucks along key interstate highway routes.
Uber makes nice with transit: The ride-hailing giant publishes a whitepaper forecasting the future of mass transit and how its technology can help. It imagines a future in which transit agencies partner with Uber or similar providers to fill in the gaps left by fixed-route transit services. Ideally an agency could save money by replacing unproductive routes (such as those serving low-density suburbs or those operating late-night) with subsidized ride-hailing.
Pushing back on Uber’s vision, Comotion friend David Zipper notes there are already real-world examples where this experiment hasn’t worked out as well as hoped…
Amtrak looking for love: Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn pens an open letter to Congress with five big asks, beginning with more money — we’re SO surprised — to shore up its pandemic-battered budget. Flynn also says it’s time the passenger rail operator has its own trust fund, similar to that of the Highway Trust Fund, to make it easier to pursue long-term projects. Right now, he says, Amtrak is at the mercy of the unpredictable political whims buffeting the annual Congressional appropriation process.
Is this the key to affordable EVs? Sila Nanotechnologies, the Daimler-backed Silicon Valley battery materials manufacturer, raises $590 million to build silicon-based anodes it believes will make EV batteries lighter, safer and less expensive. Lithium-ion batteries using these anodes instead of traditional graphite are already 20% more efficient, says the company. With a little more tinkering, Sila believes it can push the advantage to 50%. The cash infusion from the Series F round led by Coatue Management brings the company’s valuation now stands to a cool $3.3 billion. Exciting.
Brightline to Boca: Brightline, the privately-owned passenger rail service running between Miami and West Palm Beach (and next year to Orlando), will break ground in March on a new stop in Boca Raton, the wealthy coastal community. The $46 million station, partially funded by a $16.5 million federal grant, is scheduled to open mid-2022. You know we’re bullish on the future of transportation in Florida…
Uber drivers get their day in court: A federal court allows a class action lawsuit to proceed on behalf of 4,800 California Uber drivers who accuse the company of illegally denying them expense reimbursements and itemized pay statements. Although Uber is no longer required to provide these benefits after the passage of Prop 22, these drivers are going after the company for withholding them when they were required to provide them by state law. Meanwhile, labor groups are trying to get the California Supreme Court to overturn Prop 22.
Son set on South Beach: Miami’s fledgling startup scene gets a significant vote of confidence, as Softbank commits to investing $100 million in firms based in, or relocating to, South Florida. The capital will come from the internet and investment giant’s existing funds (including its Latin America Fund) and makes it very likely that the next great mobility company brings its talents to South Beach.
The Enzo Ferrari of EVs? Croatian business magnate Mate Rimac’s dreams of building the world’s premier electric sports car may soon be a reality. At long last, the Rimac C_Two hypercar, first unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 2018, is going to market, albeit in a very limited fashion. The plan now is to build 150 of these 1,914 hp electric sports cars that can do 0-60 in two seconds and boast a top speed of 258 mph. The $2.4 million cars will first be available in Dubai, where they are sure to make a statement.
Way mo’ or way less than Tesla? Elon Musk hits back at Waymo CEO John Krafcik, who recently told a German publication that Tesla’s AV ambitions will amount to no more than a “really good driver assistance system.” Ouch. Without elaborating, Musk says on Twitter, “To my surprise, Tesla has better AI hardware & software than Waymo.” This spat should be real fun to watch.
Flying taxis coming to Florida: Lilium, the Daimler-backed German aviation startup building eVTOLs, is partnering with Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial to build 10 “vertiports” serving the Sunshine State’s major metro areas in the coming years. Lilium says its five-seat aircrafts are zero-emission, travel five times faster than a car and can go 186 miles on a charge. It’s still not clear when the air taxis will be up and running or how much a ride will cost.
Baidu too: The Chinese search engine giant is the sixth group to be approved for autonomous vehicle testing on public roads in California (after Zoox, Waymo, Cruise, Nuro, AutoX). Baidu has been allowed to test AVs with a safety driver in California since 2016 – but now it can deploy cars entirely unmanned in NorCal’s Sunnyvale as long as it sticks to roads with speed limits under 45 mph and stays out of the rain.
Lime gets into mopeds: The San Mateo, Calif-based shared mobility provider is expanding beyond its trademark scooters and e-bikes by offering electric mopeds in Washington D.C. and Paris. For now it’s just a pilot program, with 600 vehicles in D.C. and an undetermined number in Paris. Lime will be using the same mopeds as NYC-based Revel, manufactured by China’s NIU. They’ll be capped at 28 mph. With the faster vehicles, Lime may be able to attract new customers, but it also runs a greater risk of serious accidents. Revel, after all, temporarily suspended its service in New York after three users died in crashes.
The year of the scooter SPAC? Like many other transportation startups, Bird and Lime, two of the world’s largest micromobility operators, are considering going public via SPACs. The prospect of additional cash is particularly alluring as they try to recover from huge drops in ridership (and revenue) during the pandemic. Bird is already closing in on a deal to refinance $100 million of debt.
Three wheels and a remote control: Spin, the Ford-owned micromobility operator, introduces a completely new type of e-scooter: it’s got three wheels, which should make it a little sturdier. Perhaps more importantly, it includes remote positioning software from Dmitry Shevelenko’s Tortoise that allows operators located half-way around the world to move the scooters if they’re illegally or dangerously parked. The new vehicles, which will debut in Boise, Idaho this spring, may be attractive to local governments tired of dealing with scooters blocking sidewalks.
Yonkers shows the way: The mayor of Yonkers, N.Y., a city of about 200,000 outside New York City, calls on neighboring cities to embrace e-scooters the way his city has. Bird scooters, which the city authorized five months ago, have been a great mobility option during the pandemic, says Mayor Mike Spano, but they are not permitted in surrounding municipalities. Intergovernmental collaboration is key to get people out of cars, he says. We wholeheartedly agree.
The Harvard Business Review looks at one of the key advantages Tesla has over other automakers racing to make EVs: charging infrastructure.
TransitCenter and Remix offers a simple and compelling solution to combating climate change and racial inequity in the U.S.: federally-funded increases in transit service.
Bloomberg CityLab takes a look at how the nostalgia-fueled revival of New Orleans streetcars may come at the expense of those who need public transit the most and also delves into a lawsuit in London aimed at pandemic-era “open streets,” which the plaintiffs argue are a burden on disadvantaged groups.
A Ford (retirement) Fiesta: Dearborn’s long-time global design head Moray Callum is set to retire, after 38 years designing iconic autos that include the Explorer, GT, and forthcoming Mustang Mach-E. He’s succeeded by Anthony Lo, who’s inbound from a stint as VP of Exterior Design at France’s Renault.
Route yourself to a new career: Shared-ride meets public transit startup The Routing Company is putting its recently raised $5 million to good work, as it’s looking to hire a Director of Global Operations, as well as engineering and biz dev wizzes. One added bonus – these jobs are remote-work friendly!
Sign on the DOTted line! Excited about the new administration in D.C.? Then head on over to the Department of Transportation’s careers page, where there are hundreds of job openings, not just in the District but across Colorado, Massachusetts, California, and more.
Have a job listing that’s perfect for the CoMotion community? Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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