It’s starting to look like President Biden will settle for an infrastructure deal much smaller than the $2.25 trillion dollar proposal he had floated in the spring. Eleven Republicans have joined dozens of Democrats in the Senate in support of a compromise that would include just under $600 billion in new spending and focus exclusively on physical infrastructure. But some liberals are threatening to hold out for something bigger and better. Elsewhere in Congress, a Senate committee shot down legislation aimed at bolstering the AV industry.
Meanwhile, the EV arms race continues, with GM upping its 5-year EV investment to $35 billion, just a few weeks after Ford committed to $30 billion. Speaking of Ford, it just purchased a startup to help it manage commercial EV operations — and its luxury brand, Lincoln, is coming out with its first EV in time for its 100th birthday next year. The lead auto trade association in China is projecting EV sales in the world’s largest car market to grow even faster than ever over the next five years. Canoo has picked a site in Oklahoma to manufacture its e-vans. Despite all of its troubles, Lordstown says it will begin production on a vehicle this fall. We’ll see…
Infrastructure deal may have the votes: 11 Republicans in the Senate announce support for the infrastructure deal proposed earlier this month by a group of moderates from both parties. That means there are enough votes to advance the legislation if 49 of the 50 Democrats agree to support it. That is hardly assured, however: a handful of liberals are threatening to oppose what they view as a woefully inadequate package. The White House has signaled openness to the deal, even if the roughly $600 billion in proposed new spending only amounts to about a quarter of his original $2.25 trillion proposal.
Details remain vague, but the deal focuses exclusively on physical infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, broadband and public transit. Republicans insist they will not support any increase in the corporate or income tax. Those supporting the deal have left the door open to raising the gas tax, but that idea has been shot down by Biden and liberals, including Bernie Sanders, who said he will oppose any package funded through “regressive” user fees, such as an increased gas tax or a new fee on EVs.
Even as members of both parties edge closer to a deal on a package dealing with traditional physical infrastructure, the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats are holding out hope that many of the proposed investments that were left out of this deal can be advanced in a separate, multi-trillion spending plan. However, that plan will encounter the same challenges that Biden’s original proposal met in the Senate, where a few moderate Democrats are hesitant to support a major spending plan without Republican support.
GM charges up EV plan: The auto giant increases its planned five-year investments in EVs. It now says it will spend $35 billion through 2025, up from the $27 billion commitment it had made last fall. With the new plan, it is staying ahead of its top Detroit rival, Ford, which last month announced a plan to pour $30 billion into EVs in the same timeframe.
Canoo picks an OK plant: EV-maker Canoo announces plans to build a manufacturing facility near Tulsa, Okla. The “mega microfactory” is scheduled to open in 2023. The electric vans that Canoo plans to deliver to market in late 2022 will be made in Holland by a contract manufacturer.
Workhorse sues Postal Service: Workhorse, the Cincinnati-based EV manufacturer, is suing the U.S. Postal Service, accusing the agency of not seriously considering its bid for a multi-billion contract to provide USPS with new vehicles over the next decade. The company awarded the $6 billion deal, Oshkosh Defense, has only promised that 10% of the 165,000 vehicles it will provide over the next decade will have EV drivetrains, although it has vaguely alluded to the possibility of converting ICE vehicles to EVs.
China’s big EV forecast: The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers projects that sales of new-energy vehicles in China will rise 40% each year over the next five years. The group projects there will be 1.9 million sales this year and 2.7 million in 2022.
Lincoln goes electric: The iconic luxury brand will celebrate its 100th birthday next year by releasing its first EV. As part of parent company Ford’s five-year $30 billion investment in EVs, Lincoln has committed to half of its vehicle sales being electric by 2025.
Ford buys Electriphi: The automaker acquires Electriphi, a San Francisco startup whose software helps businesses monitor and manage their electric vehicle fleets, for an undisclosed amount. The 30 Electriphi employees will be absorbed by Ford Pro, the automaker’s commercial vehicle division. This is part of Ford’s long-term strategy to get into EV charging and services; the company has said it wants to generate $1 billion a year from charging alone by 2030.
Chinese authorities scrutinizing Didi: Chinese regulators are investigating whether ride-hailing giant Didi has engaged in illegal anti-competitive practices and whether its pricing structure is transparent enough. The legal scrutiny comes at an inconvenient time for Didi, planning an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange later this summer.
Get your story straight, Lordstown: The embattled EV maker says it will begin manufacturing an electric truck in September. New CEO Angela Strand, who stepped into the role after the abrupt resignations of CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez, says the plan is to deliver the trucks to customers early next year. Building on her optimism, President Rich Schmidt said the company had “firm orders” for vehicles, a statement contradicted by a clarification the company later submitted to the SEC: “”Although these vehicle purchase agreements provide us with a significant indicator of demand for the Endurance, these agreements do not represent binding purchase orders…” Ah, right.
Race to the future: It’s been six years since 2015, the year in which, according to Back to the Future Part II, we would all be driving flying cars. We’re still a ways off from that, but entrepreneur Matthew Pearson has brought us a step closer. Two years ago he founded one startup, Alauda Aeronautics, to manufacture what he describes as flying race cars, and another startup, Airspeeder, to organize and oversee the races. The first three races will take place this year and feature remotely-controlled Alauda Mk3s. The plan is for the 286 lb vehicles, which travel up to 124 mph, to be piloted in races next year.
Where transit has returned, and where it hasn’t: A look at the six largest public transit agencies in the U.S. shows that three (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia) have either maintained or returned to pre-pandemic levels of service, even if ridership remains much lower than before Covid. The agencies in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington D.C., however, are still running far fewer buses and trains than before the pandemic. Less frequent service means that there are now fewer jobs within a 45-minute transit trip
Senate committee rejects AV regs: The Senate Commerce Committee rejected legislation aimed at making it easier for automakers to deploy AVs on U.S. roads. An amendment authored by Sen. Jim Thune, R-S.D., and Jim Peters, D-Mich., would allow federal regulators to exempt up to 15,000 AVs a year from certain requirements for passenger vehicles, such as steering wheels and other human-specific safety measures. The number would rise to 80,000 after three years. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., cited a number of recent crashes involving autonomous vehicles, in opposing the amendment.
Thune afterwards blamed the amendment’s failure on opposition from the Teamsters union, which represents truck drivers whose jobs are threatened by driverless vehicles, and plaintiffs attorneys, who have raised concerns about who should be liable when an AV crashes.
FedEx gets an AV partner: The delivery giant is partnering with Nuro, the Silicon Valley autonomous delivery startup founded five years ago by two former Google engineers. FedEx hopes to begin using Nuro’s self-driving delivery robot to move parcels short distances within cities. This is not FedEx’s first foray into autonomous delivery; it has done limited testing of sidewalk deliveries with its own SameDayBot.
Cruise gets credit for robo-taxis: The GM-backed AV startup scores a $5 billion line of credit to finance commercial robo-taxi operations. It does not expect to begin mass production of its self-driving vans until early 2023, but it plans to manufacture a small fleet of roughly 100 to test this summer. The money comes through GM’s own finance arm.
Oxford Circus bans cars: The famous London plaza will soon be off-limits to the automobile, freeing up the space for pedestrians, bikers and transit users.
Micromobility leads on EV adoption: A report from BloombergNEF finds that 44% of the world’s two-wheel and three-wheel vehicle sales are electric, compared to about 4% of passenger car sales.
Bloomberg CityLab wonders how cities can reclaim the roads from delivery vans.
The New York Times has an in-depth investigation into the collapse of a metro in Mexico City that killed 26 and injured many more in May.
Manage micromobility in Seattle: The Seattle Department of Transportation is looking for someone to oversee the city’s bike and scooter-sharing programs.
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