A bipartisan group of moderates in the U.S. Senate is offering a compromise infrastructure plan that includes nearly $600 billion of new spending. Although the group says the deal will focus on “core” physical infrastructure, they’re not offering many details about how much spending is targeted at specific categories, such as roads, bridges, transit and energy systems.
Uber and Lyft have drastically increased prices in the past year. Is it because they’re short on drivers… or just short on profits? Their Chinese counterpart, Didi, coming off its first profitable quarter, is looking to raise $10 billion in a widely-anticipated public offering. Also raising prices in response to skyrocketing demand: bike manufacturers.
As usual, the electric news keeps coming, including a David Beckham-backed startup that is electrifying classic cars … and garbage trucks. Elon Musk claims the new Model S Plaid can do 0-60 in under 2. Swedish battery-maker Northvolt raises big bucks as it tries to dominate the European market. The U.S. looks to allies for lithium in hopes of avoiding dependence on China.
A potential infrastructure deal: A group of 10 senators –– five from each party –– unveils a compromise infrastructure package designed to represent a middle ground between the massive proposal pushed by President Joe Biden and the much smaller offers made by GOP leaders.
The compromise includes $1.2 trillion over eight years, but just under half ($579 billion) would be new spending. The details of the plan remain vague but it focuses solely on physical infrastructure and does not include the big boosts to social programs that were in Biden’s proposal. In a statement, the group says the bill will “modernize our nation’s infrastructure and energy technologies,” so perhaps we should anticipate investments in renewable power. But it’s not clear yet whether there will be significant money for electric vehicles.
The deal also does not include any increase to the corporate tax or individual income tax. The group has raised the prospect of paying for the new spending by allowing the gas tax — which has not changed since it was set at 18.4¢ in 1993 — to at least rise with inflation.
But the agreement among these 10 senators is hardly a guarantee the bill can get through Congress. It will need 60 votes to get through the Senate and there may very well be opposition from Republicans who think the plan is too costly or too focused on green technology and from liberal Democrats who think the deal does not represent the type of meaningful change that America and the world need.
Uber & Lyft raise prices…why? An analysis by Rakuten Intelligence finds that fares for Uber and Lyft are 40% higher than a year ago. One obvious explanation is that the companies are having to spend more to lure back drivers, many of whom have ditched ride-hailing during the pandemic or have less incentive to work due to unemployment benefits. But another explanation may be that Uber and Lyft, after years of heavily subsidizing fares in an effort to build the biggest network, are raising prices in an effort to finally turn a profit.
Didi readies IPO: Didi, the mammoth Chinese ride-hailing firm, is looking to raise $10 billion at a $100 billion valuation in a soon-to-be-announced initial public offering on the NYSE. Despite boasting nearly 500 million annual users in 15 countries, Didi, like its American competitors Uber and Lyft, is still not profitable. However, in the first quarter of the year it reported a net income of $837 million…so maybe there is money to be made in ride-hailing after all.
Oh Lordstown: CEO Steve Burns steps down from embattled EV startup Lordstown only weeks after insisting to investors that the company’s recently-disclosed cash problems did not spell doom. His resignation coincides with a report released by a board committee that says the company submitted inaccurate information about pre-orders of its trucks.
What an all-EV world will take: BloombergNEF estimates that EVs will account for 70% of the world’s cars by 2040 even if governments take no additional measures to support the transition away from the internal combustion engine. However, the study says that in order to get to net-zero emissions from cars by 2050, the public sector has to step up with additional incentives. Electrifying commercial trucking may be one of the heaviest lifts and will require prodding, either in the form of restrictions or rewards that encourage EV adoption. But for trucking, we do think H2 is the long-term answer…
In case 2020 wasn’t bad enough: New data shows U.S. traffic deaths increased 7% last year (to 38,680) even though Americans drove 430 billion fewer miles than the previous year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests the big decline in congestion due to the pandemic prompted drivers to take greater risks, such as speeding, forgoing seatbelts and driving drunk. It’s the largest increase in traffic fatalities since 2007. Not good, people.
Don’t trash this idea: Until recently UK-based Lunaz was focused on converting classic luxury cars into even more expensive EVs. Now it’s expanding into a more practical domain: electrifying commercial vehicles, such as garbage trucks. It says that its conversion process will restore a used dustbin lorry to “like new” conditions — but at a substantially lower cost than what it would take to manufacture a new electric truck. And in case you care, David Beckham has a 10% stake in the company!
More money for Northvolt: The Swedish battery-maker raises $2.75 billion in a round led by Goldman Sachs and VW, bringing its total valuation to $11.75 billion. The big cash infusion comes as the company sets its sights on an ambitious target of 150 GWh of battery production in Europe by 2030. The company, which already has $27 billion worth of contracts with major automakers and energy storage providers, markets itself as greener than the competition because its manufacturing processes are powered by renewable energy. It says its batteries have an 80% smaller carbon footprint than those made with coal-powered electricity.
Auto news at Apple: The tech giant hires Ulrich Krantz, co-founder and former CEO of EV startup Canoo, to help it build an autonomous, electric car. Krantz also led BMW’s EV division. Watch this space.
Gratuitous speed: Elon Musk claims the new Model S Plaid, which will retail for $130,000 and is only available to 25 lucky customers right away, can go from 0-60 mph in under two seconds. Is that really necessary? Yes, he says: “We’ve got to show that an electric car is the best car, hands down.” Uh, ok.
U.S. looks to allies for EV materials: In hopes of reducing America’s dependence on China for lithium, the Biden administration is looking to “allies” that can provide lithium and other minerals key to EV battery production. A 250-page report outlines a strategy for engaging with other countries, such as Canada and Finland, to import materials that can be processed domestically.
Air dinos buy into eVOTL: British eVOTL startup Vertical Aerospace announces 1,000 pre-orders of its five-seat aircrafts. Customers include American Airlines, which purchased between 250-350 and Virgin Airlines, which ponied up for 50-150. The startup is aiming for its vehicles, which it claims can travel up to 200 mph with a range of up to 120 miles, to be operating commercially by 2024.
Archer’s autonomous two-seater: Archer Aviation, the Silicon Valley eVOTL startup, unveils a two-seat autonomous aircraft that it will use for testing as it works towards its goal of offering commercial piloted flights by 2024. Even though its goal is to offer piloted flights, the company says an autonomous aircraft is more convenient for the testing process. Explains Archer’s Eric Wright: “You can look at the response that the aircraft has to the inputs, from an autonomous standpoint, much quicker, much more efficiently.”
In case Google Maps doesn’t cut it for AVs: Scale AI, the San Francisco-based machine learning and AI provider, is working on a mapping product for driverless vehicles. CEO Alex Wang is not yet divulging the details of the product he plans to unveil in coming weeks, but says the focus is on providing maps that offer even greater annotation and are even more quickly updated to reflect existing conditions than existing services.
Waymo works in Texas: The AV startup’s trucking arm partners with J.B. Hunt, a major transportation and logistics company, to transport freight along I-45 between Houston and Fort Worth. The goods will be delivered in Waymo’s autonomous trucks but a safety driver will be present at all times.
Bike inflation: Bike manufacturers and retailers are raising prices in response to booming demand for two-wheel transportation. Between March of 2020 and March of 2021, U.S. bike sales were up 77% and the average per-bike price buyers paid was up 27%.
Not humming Birds, but humming Voi’s..: In response to concerns about the challenge e-scooters pose to the blind and visually impaired, Sweden’s hot micromobility group Voi is installing a humming sound in some of its vehicles in three U.K. cities: Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool. At least some advocates for the blind say that’s not enough.
Bloomberg CityLab explores the high cost of America’s wide streets.
Forbes spotlights the big role women leaders are playing in the AV industry.
The New York Times bids adieu to the “millennial lifestyle subsidy” that venture capital offered via Uber, Lyft, AirBnB and other sharing economy services that have never turned a profit.
62 roles in 6 locations: That’s what’s available at Aurora Innovation, the autonomous trucking company that is poised to go public via SPAC any day now. Jobs are available in San Francisco, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Mountain View, Calif. and Bozeman, Mont.
Fix the world bike shortage at Trek: It’s a great time to work in the bike industry. Not only is business booming, but there’s clearly still room to grow, as demonstrated by the struggles the industry is having responding to the record demand induced by the pandemic. Trek, the Wisconsin-based bike brand, has jobs galore around the U.S. and in Europe.
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