What a week. The Austin-based editor of CoMotion NEWS was fortunate enough to retain power all week (and water most of the week), but millions of others in the Lone Star State were left in the cold and dark for days after a severe cold snap overwhelmed the state’s electrical grid. The usual suspects are unfairly blaming it on renewables, when in reality the problem was a lack of preparation for extreme weather. The lessons from Texas will hopefully also help utilities better prepare for an era of increased electricity demand as society shifts from ICEs to EVs. But enough about Texas….there’s also big news from Chevy, which has unveiled its two new EVs, one of which has hands-free driving and both of which appear to have caused Tesla to lower its prices. Meanwhile, Instacart becomes the latest gig economy giant to raise prices after Prop 22, the controversial ballot measure that it told California voters would keep prices low. In D.C. Congress is making moves to put in place new regs for AVs, New York is finally allowing scooter-sharing and you may now be able to pay for parking or bus passes through Google Maps. Oh, and a Mars landing.
Paying the cost to (not) be the boss: Instacart, the San Francisco-based grocery delivery service, becomes the latest gig economy business to raise prices to pay for new worker benefits approved as part of California’s controversial Prop 22. Customers will now see their service charge increase from 5% to 8%; those with monthly subscriptions won’t be affected. Instacart is one of a number of companies that backed the measure, which freed Uber, Lyft and similar services from treating gig workers as full-fledged employees but committed them to provide an increased minimum wage and certain benefits, such as accident insurance and a stipend to pay for health care. Companies told voters Prop 22 was necessary to avoid price hikes, but with Instacart’s move, every group that bankrolled the proposition has now raised prices. Meanwhile, Instacart also appears to be making moves to downsize their workforce by replacing human shoppers with robot-driven warehouses.
UK says Uber drivers are workers: While the TNC and delivery companies may be hoping to replicate their Prop 22 success in new locales, it looks like they’ll have no such luck in the UK. A four-year legal battle ends in defeat as the nation’s Supreme Court rules that drivers are workers entitled to minimum wage and other key labor regulations. This also means that Uber will be subject to a 20% VAT on fares. It’s not yet clear how Uber will react to these added costs, but price hikes are likely in the cards.
Plane and simple money for trains: A new policy expands the number of rail projects eligible for funding from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. To qualify for funding from two key FAA programs, roads and rail projects must show they are intended specifically for airport passengers and employees, rather than the general public. Previous administrations interpreted that to mean that a rail line only qualifies for funding if it terminates at an airport. The new guidance says that rail lines are eligible as long as there is an airport somewhere on the line. This is great news for transit connectivity in general and means that proposed projects like Newark’s new airtrain may also serve poor neighborhoods that have long been starved of transit. Unlike, says, the situation you see across the Hudson River, where JFK’s airtrain seemingly taunts South Jamaica with a two-mile long station-free jaunt.
The everyman EV? On Valentine’s Day Chevy releases a new version of the Chevy Bolt EV and introduces its first all-electric crossover: the Chevy Bolt EUV. Chevy is offering the 2022 Bolt for $31,995 –– a $5,500 drop from the 2021 model. The EUV is only a tad dearer: $33,995. Both cars have a range of roughly 250 miles and can get 90 miles of charge in about a half hour –– better than the $40,000 Nissan Leaf Plus but not nearly as good as Tesla.
Is Tesla feeling threatened? Is it a coincidence that Tesla reduced prices days after the Bolt was unveiled? Tesla cut the price of the Model 3 by $1,000 (now $38,190) and $2,000 off the Model Y (now $41,190).
…but keep in mind: Consumers will likely pay far less than sticker price for Teslas or Chevy EVs if the GREEN Act passes. Proposed by Democrats in Congress, the bill raises the number of vehicles that qualify for the tax credit to 600,000 per manufacturer, a potentially massive boon to Tesla and GM — both of which have already surpassed the current 200,000 cap.
Why bother selling cars? At least for now, Tesla’s $1.5 billion investment in Bitcoin has likely generated more profit for the company than all of the cars it has ever sold in its history. Contrary to what many on Reddit would like to believe, supportive tweets from Elon Musk do not guarantee that Bitcoin will continue to go up.
The race to 1,000 km: China’s EV industry is fixated on developing cars that can go 1,000 km (621 miles) on a single charge. Such a range would allow someone to drive from New York to Cincinnati without having to juice up along the way. Nio says its new ET7 sedan will do it, while battery-maker CATL claims its new solid-state battery pack will get you 1,000 km after just 10 minutes of charging! Suffice it to say, the claims have drawn plenty of skepticism…
Out of gas in Europe: Ford says it’s ditching gas-powered vehicles in Europe. By 2026, America’s second largest automaker will only offer European customers electric and plug-in hybrid cars; by 2030 only battery-powered EVs will be available. In some ways, this makes sense. Not only is there greater political pressure in some European countries to phase out ICEs, but gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks are not nearly as important to Ford’s business there as in the U.S.
Now you can pay for transit or parking via Google Maps: In addition to helping you beat traffic, Google Maps will now allow you to pay the meter and buy transit tickets directly through the app. The parking feature will be available in over 400 U.S. cities, while the transit feature will be accessible in roughly 80 cities around the world.
Magyarország : Hungary announces a new plan to increase transit ridership 80% by 2040, with major investments planned in the Budapest area. If all goes to plan, the 16 new rail stations will save the average user 15 minutes per trip, prompt 12% of the city’s 1 million car commuters to switch to rail and reduce C02 emissions by 60,000 tonnes a year.
Lucid’s SPAC grows near: The luxury EV maker is close to a deal with Churchill Capital IV Corp that would allow the company to go public at a $12 billion valuation. Churchill, overseen by investor Michael Klein, has seen its value triple since word of its talks with Lucid leaked in early January.
CoMotion NEWS has got the views: Get to know Japan’s maglev marvel in “Chuo Shinkansen | Demystified” – a lively video tour of the super fast train set to link Tokyo and Osaka.
Alliance for informal transportation expands: The Global Partnership for Informal Transportation (an initiative of CoMotion, NewCities, and Agile City Partners) welcomes the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities as a partner in an effort to improve and support informal transportation systems around the world. Both groups have extensively researched the informal transport services of major urban areas in the Global South.
An urbanist DOT? Those who long for a less car-dominant future have a lot to love about the direction U.S DOT appears to be moving under President Biden. Not only is Biden a confirmed train fanatic, but Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says roads are “not just for vehicles” and Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg ran the NYC Department of Transportation, where she aggressively reallocated right-of-way from cars to buses and bikes. Speaking at CoMotion LIVE earlier this month, Sarah Kaufman, head of NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation, said the new administration reflects a “new urbanist perspective” that contrasts with U.S. DOT’s traditional focus on big roads for big cars. ENR weighs in on the subject as well.
Cash for cars: Goldman Sachs creates an auto-tech joint venture, as the finance giant looks to cash in on the SPAC boom that’s lifted all sorts of AV, EV, and LiDAR companies to new heights.
A new frontier for Level 2: The Chevy Bolt EUV will feature Super Cruise, GM’s Level 2 autonomous driving software that is currently only available in Cadillacs. The feature is intended mainly for highway driving; it is available only on the roughly 200,000 miles of “compatible” roadways in the U.S. and Canada. The fact that such technology, which was previously only available in fancy luxury vehicles, can now be found in a Chevy, is an important milestone in the history of AVs.
Push for new AV bill in Congress: Legislation establishing new rules for AVs may be one of the few things that a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate can agree on. Leading members of both parties are eagerly responding to calls from the auto industry to put in place regulations that facilitate the growth of the AV industry. However, whether they can agree on the details, which are likely to prompt scrutiny from industry and consumer advocacy groups alike, is far from clear.
Waymo giving rides in SF: Roughly half a year after making its driverless ride hail service available in Phoenix, Waymo is beginning to offer rides in San Francisco, a far more ambitious endeavor given the city’s crowded and complex street network. For now the company is simply testing it out on employees — it may be a while before the service is available to the general public.
Subscription boom continues: Revel, the New York-based mobility startup best known for its shared electric moped service, is now offering New Yorkers e-bikes for $99 a month. Free maintenance, including such trifles as flat tire fixes, is available on-demand to subscribers within 24 hours. Something to watch for is whether Revel is able to keep up its maintenance commitment. It’s certainly not unheard of for bike shops to offer “free maintenance” they are unable to deliver in a timely fashion …
Scooter-sharing coming to the Bronx: New York City is debuting its first e-scooter sharing service this spring, with 2,000-3,000 scooters available in a northeastern section of the Bronx. It’s not yet clear which scooter operators will be licensed to participate or when the program might be expanded to other parts of the city. This is a big deal for the Big Apple, which has proven particularly resistant to shared scooters, despite having a bike-sharing program for years. In its defense, unlike many of the other cities that have eagerly embraced the devices, New York has the most robust public transit system in the nation.
Washington State pushes e-bike tax break: As lawmakers in Washington D.C. push for a major federal e-bike tax credit, state legislators in Washington state are poised to exempt e-bikes from the state’s 6.5% sales tax. The proposed bill offers an exemption for any new e-bike purchase along with $200 in related equipment, such as helmets, locks and lights. It wouldn’t be surprising to see similar pushes in other cities and states around the country.
New York Times columnist Farhoo Manjoo identifies a big problem with electric cars: they’re still cars. Uh, yes.
CNN offers some amazing photos of last week’s Mars landing.
The Syracuse Post Standard explains why, contrary to what many Texas Republicans have been suggesting in recent days, wind turbines can work perfectly fine in very cold temperatures.
Texas Monthly talks to Ed Hirs, the energy economics expert who has been warning Texas officials for years that the state’s electrical grid was vulnerable to an extreme weather event.
MTAers safe, for now: With finances starting to improve, New York’s MTA is able to avert the planned layoffs of over 9,000 transit workers. The agency warns, however, that if fresh funding isn’t secured from the Biden administration, those jobs could soon be back on the chopping block.
Lucid dreaming: The Newark, CA based automotive upstart likely has a lot of job applications headed its way, as eager engineers and salespeople look to cash in on the company’s upcoming SPAC. Fortunately for you, the company still has plenty of job openings – with 638 positions available at its HQ and in showrooms across the country.
Swing your way over to a new career! Our friends at Trapeze Group do noble work, underpinning the operations of many transit systems across the country. Now you can join them, with job openings in both the U.S. and Canada.
Have a job listing that’s perfect for the CoMotion community? Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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