Lots of news from China this week. The Wuling Hongguang Mini, the wildly popular tiny EV that’s far outselling Tesla in the world’s largest auto market, is coming out with a new convertible already generating high demand from China’s young city-dwellers. Also in China, Germany’s Volocopter teams up with Geely in the UAM space, while Beijing-based Didi Chuxing, the “Uber of China,” partners with Volvo (also a Geely subsidiary) on robotaxis. Back in the USA, there is a healthy bipartisan push to bolster the AV industry but Democrats are divided about what to do with the GOP’s counter-offer on infrastructure, about a quarter the size of the proposal offered by President Biden. Some Dems believe they should seize the opportunity for cooperation now and push for the more ambitious stuff later — others worry that any delay on the big stuff makes it less likely that it will ever pass.
Tesla posts record profit: The EV-maker posts $438 million of net income in the first quarter of 2021, a 74% year-over-year increase. Total vehicle sales (184,877) were more than double that of Q1 2020.
It’s the Cadillac of EVs: Literally. GM’s storied luxury brand unveils the $60,000 Lyriq EV, hitting showrooms in the first half of 2022 and featuring GM’s EV platform and battery system, Ultium. This is the start of Cadillac’s transition to an exclusively electric brand by the end of the decade. Any new vehicles it releases in the coming years will be EVs.
Toyota updates EV vision: The Japanese auto giant says its first EV, the bZ4X SUV, will be available for purchase sometime next year and that it plans to offer 70 different EVs by the end of 2025.
Where EVs are (and aren’t) selling: An analysis of global EV sales reveals striking regional disparities. China is still the largest consumer of EVs, with 4.2 million on the road, followed by the E.U. (3.2 million) and the U.S. (1.7 million). In most other countries, however, EVs remain exceedingly rare. Only 18,000 EVs have been sold in South America, 1,760 in Russia and 1,509 in Africa.
GOP offers $568B counter-proposal on infrastructure: After criticizing President Biden’s proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure package for its cost and for bending the definition of “infrastructure,” Senate Republicans are offering their own package that deals much more narrowly with brick-and-mortar projects. While Biden has proposed paying for his plan with an increased corporate and capital gains taxes, Republicans have suggested their plan could be covered at least in part by a new user fee for EV owners.
They propose significantly more funding for roads and bridges ($299B compared to Biden’s $115B), more money for airports ($44B compared to $25B) and the same amount for ports and waterways ($17B). In other categories, they proposed less than Biden, such as public transit ($61B vs $85B), passenger and freight rail ($20B vs $80B), broadband access ($65B vs $100B) and road safety ($13B vs $20B). While Biden has proposed $66B for water systems and $45B just to replace lead pipes, the GOP has countered with $35B on water infrastructure and $14B on water storage systems.
Of course, many of the spending categories included in Biden’s proposal are entirely absent, most notably the $174B for electric vehicles, the $400B for in-home care and the $200B for affordable housing, $100B for public schools and $100B to upgrade the electrical grid.
Dems divided in response: Some Democrats think it would be a good idea to pass a more modest infrastructure bill that can earn Republican support before pursuing a separate bill addressing the more controversial items. Doing so will make good on Biden’s promise to champion bipartisanship, they say. Others, however, worry that a second bill only including controversial items may not pass –– all it takes is one Democratic senator to be against.
The birth of a lithium giant: Australia’s two top lithium miners, Orocobre and Galaxy Resources, agree to a $4B merger. The resulting company will be the world’s fifth largest lithium producer. This comes after prices for lithium have soared 100% since the beginning of the year — and investors are betting big that it will continue to rise.
Volocopter goes to China: The German eVTOL maker announces a joint venture with Geely Technology Group, a subsidiary of the Chinese auto giant, to introduce urban air mobility in China.
A great year for electric buses: Despite major declines in ridership and fare revenue due to the pandemic, transit agencies across the U.S. continued to make major capital investments, including replacing ICE vehicles with cleaner, quieter and all-around more pleasant electric buses. The number of transit agencies with zero-emission buses increased by 53% in 2020 –– to 229. The total number of ZEBs on the road increased by 24%.
Honda says all-EV by 2040: Honda becomes the latest automaker to make an all-electric pledge, saying that it plans to phase out gas-powered cars, including hybrids, by 2040. By 2030, it is aiming for hybrids and EVs to account for 40% of sales.
Bosch pushes back on ICE ban: German engineering and tech giant Bosch says proposed EU regulations to ban the internal combustion engine by 2025 are short-sighted. The company is calling on Brussels to consider the implications for employment and to take seriously the prospect of cleaner internal combustion engines running on renewable synthetic fuels made from hydrogen.
Vegas gambles on private transit: The Las Vegas City Council is exploring allowing a private company to build a multibillion dollar 19-mile mass transit system connecting the famed Strip and the city’s eastern suburbs. A consortium of investors have formed an entity, Axios Nevada, that now has two years to develop a for-profit transit proposal that won’t rely on taxpayer support. The company has yet to propose a specific mode, although it has already ruled out bus rapid transit. This comes months after regional authorities gave the OK to plans by Elon Musk’s Boring Company to build a system of tunnels to transport people to key Vegas destinations by autonomous Teslas. What remains unclear about both of these private transportation solutions: how much will people have to pay for a ride? Installing slot machines would be one way, of course.
A monster quarter for the mini: The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, a product of a joint venture between GM, Wuling Motors, and state-owned giant SAIC, continues to dominate the Chinese EV market. After selling 70,000 of the tiny city cars in the first quarter of the year, the joint venture has announced a new model, Macaron, that’s slightly pricier ($5,675) and has a convertible model. The two-door, four-seat car, which tops out at 62 mph, is proving particularly popular with young city-dwellers — with 45,000 orders in just the first ten days. The company says that 70% of its buyers were born after 1990 and 60% are women.
Push in Congress to allow more AVs: An amendment to an appropriations bill proposed by members of both parties would authorize the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to allow up to 15,000 more AVs to travel on U.S. roadways immediately and up to 80,000 three years from now. The legislation would allow these vehicles to disable human driving controls while operating and would exempt them from certain other safety regulations aimed at human-operated cars. The proposal has drawn criticism from consumer safety advocates and may have gotten tougher to advance politically amidst the increased scrutiny of Tesla’s semi-autonomous cars.
Didi picks Volvo: Didi, the Chinese ridesharing app, is partnering with Volvo on robotaxis. The plan is to install its new autonomous hardware system, Gemini, in hundreds of Volvo’s XC90 SUVs. The company says that it believes its enhanced AV system will eventually allow it to remove safety drivers from the roughly 100 robo-taxis it operates in the U.S. and China.
Shared e-bike service comes to NYC: JOCO, a shared e-bike company backed by a number of Fortune 500 CEOs, is kicking off limited service in New York City this week, with 300 e-bikes and 30 docking stations throughout Manhattan. It plans to expand to 100 stations and 1,000 bikes by June. Its prices ($1 to unlock and $0.25/minute) are comparable to Citi Bike, the only other shared biking service in town, but all of its bikes are electric, compared to about 30% of Citi’s. JOCO’s name, by the way, pays homage to the names of the two co-founders: Jonathan Cohen and Jonathan Cohen. Now we know.
GO Sharing looks to expand, diversify: After raising $60 million in a recent round, Dutch micromobility provider GO Sharing says it plans to bolster its existing fleet of 5,000 e-mopeds Holland, Belgium and Austria as well as add other forms of transportation to its app, including electric cars and e-bikes. The path to profit, the company says, is using AI to identify the most profitable locations to drop off bikes and offer incentives to customers to drop them off in locations where they’re most likely to quickly attract another user.
Gogoro makes moves in India: The Taiwanese e-moped maker is partnering with Hero MotoCorp, India’s largest motorcycle and moped manufacturer, to build a battery-swapping network for e-mopeds in the world’s second largest country. In tiny Taiwan, Gogoro has already set up 2,000 stations where riders can charge or swap out batteries; the plan for India is obviously much more ambitious. This comes at a time when the Indian government is trying to reduce urban pollution by coaxing the nation’s millions of moped users to shift to electric.
The New York Times reviews three electric SUVs by VW, Ford and Volvo that are crowding the “green turf where Tesla has dominated for so long.”
Phys.org looks at a fascinating effort in rural Peru to restore “amunas,” an ancient network of stone canals that were built by pre-Incan inhabitants to preserve rain water.
Bloomberg CityLab examines the technologically easy but politically difficult changes to cars that would reduce roadway fatalities.
NoTraffic, YesJobs: NoTraffic, the Israeli traffic management platform, is looking to fill 18 open positions to support its rapid growth. Jobs are available in engineering, sales, marketing and product management.
Uber opportunities: As they emerge from the pandemic, ridesharing services are trying to lure back drivers, many of whom left the apps over the past year. Even if you’re not interested in driving, both Uber and Lyft have plenty of other jobs open all around the world
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