We may have a deal! It looks like there is enough support in both parties to get an infrastructure deal through Congress that will provide $587 billion of new spending on roads, bridges, public transit, water systems, the electric grid and broadband. And that’s despite President Biden’s gaffe, where he momentarily suggested he would only sign the bill if it were accompanied by additional legislation that Republicans uniformly oppose. There is still plenty of debate in store about the contents of the bill, which remain vague, and there’s still no guarantee it will pass. Stay tuned…
A lot of EV news this week: EV sales are way up over pandemic-ravaged 2020 but hybrids are still far ahead. Some, though, are advancing forecasts for an EV-majority world by five years. In good Tesla news, the company plans to open up its international charging network to other cars. In bad Tesla news, the Chinese government is requiring it to recall nearly 300,000 cars over concerns with the company’s autopilot feature. Chinese EV-maker Xpeng is listing in Hong Kong, a possible signal that it’s hedging against the threat of a U.S. crackdown on Chinese companies.
In the AV world, driverless trucking startup Embark is going public via SPAC and Toyota-backed robo-taxi startup Pony.ai is considering doing so as well. Another driverless trucking company, Kodiak Robotics, is getting big bucks from BMW, while another robo-taxi startup, WeRide, is getting more money from Nissan.
Biden’s compromise conundrum: Capitol Hill observers appear cautiously optimistic that there are enough votes in the Senate to approve a bipartisan infrastructure package — despite a verbal slip by President Biden that threatened to undo weeks of negotiation.
After standing in front of senators from both parties and announcing his support for the deal, which includes $579 billion of new infrastructure spending, President Biden said that he would not sign the bill unless it was accompanied by another bill that includes trillions of additional dollars in spending opposed by Republicans. The only way such legislation could make it to his desk would be if Senate Democrats used the “reconciliation” process to evade the typical 60-vote threshold.
Republicans cried foul: what is the point of painstakingly negotiating a compromise that can garner 60 votes if Democrats will simply push through the more controversial spending later? Biden quickly backtracked, saying that his comment had been misinterpreted. The key Republicans involved in negotiating the deal have not yet renounced their support…stay tuned.
The challenge Biden faces is that there are liberal Democrats who want him to give up on negotiating with Republicans and instead focus on pressuring moderate Democrats to pass transformative legislation. There is some risk that some liberals will refuse to support the compromise infrastructure deal if they are not assured of additional spending on health care, green energy and other progressive priorities.
EV compromise: It looks like the deal will not include anything close to the $174 billion in EV subsidies proposed by Biden, but the negotiators have agreed to include $7.5 billion for EV charging stations. That’s expected to be a big boost for automakers who have not yet built their own charging networks. A recent analysis by McKinsey estimated that there needs to be $11 billion spent on chargers by 2030 to support a robust EV market. This investment could come from the private or public sector.
Big Tesla recall in China: The U.S. EV giant now has to recall nearly 300,000 cars in China over concerns that some drivers were accidentally activating the vehicle’s “autopilot” feature, prompting an unexpected acceleration. The recall does not require owners to turn in their cars — the software fix can be done remotely.
Volvo gets a LiDAR: The Chinese-owned Swedish automaker says its electric XC90 SUV will feature a liDAR sensor and autonomous driving computer by Nvidia. Both of these features will be “standard” and will enable certain autonomous safety features, such as automatic braking and blindspot detection. However, owners who want the next level of autonomy, including hands-free driving, will have to pay extra for an update.
EV sales way up: New data compiled by Zpryme, an energy research firm, shows that 204,012 EVs were sold in the U.S. in the first five months of 2021, more than double the number sold during the same period in 2020 (92,541). Car sales are up overall, but not nearly to that extent. Tesla accounts for just over half (54%) of the EV sales so far.
2033 – it’s around the corner: A new report by EY says EV sales will surpass ICE sales in Europe, the U.S. and China in a little over a decade. That’s five years sooner than the global professional service firm had previously forecasted. EY revised its projection after considering new environmental regulations in China and Europe, the aggressive promotion of EVs by the Biden administration and a general increase in interest among consumers for zero-emission cars.
Ford loses CTO to Amazon: Ford CTO Ken Washington, who has worked for the automaker since leaving Lockheed 2014, is moving to Amazon to become vice president of software engineering. In recent years, the auto industry has found itself competing with big tech firms for employees with expertise in AI.
Hybrids still way ahead of EVs: There are still more than twice as many hybrid cars as battery-electric vehicles in the U.S., according to an analysis of new vehicle registrations in April. BEVs accounted for 2.4% of registrations, while hybrids accounted for 6.1%.
Pictures & paint save lives: Dash cam company Nexar is teaming up with Blyncsy, a movement and data analytics firm, to identify needed repairs — potholes, fading paint — on America’s 4.1 million miles of highways. Blyncsy’s Payver technology scours through the images captured by the Nexar dash cams to spotlight problems that local and state governments need to address. At least one government agency — the Utah Department of Transportation — has entered into a partnership with the companies.
Zoox zaps car sickness: Some people get sick at the mere thought of sitting backwards in a moving vehicle, but Zoox, the Amazon-owned AV startup, insists that its bidirectional autonomous van will not upset sensitive stomachs. It points to its active suspension system and electronically controlled braking system, which it says will lead to smoother stops and much softer jolts from potholes and the like.
Tesla says it will share: In a disclosure to the Norwegian government, the EV-maker says it plans to open up its unrivaled network of EV chargers to non-Teslas in the near future. It currently boasts 25,000 fast-chargers at 2,700 stations around the world.
Xpeng’s second primary home: The Chinese EV-maker, already listed in New York, has also listed in Hong Kong — raising roughly $2 billion in the process. The “dual-primary listing” means the company will be overseen by regulators in both the U.S. and Hong Kong. The move appears aimed in part at hedging against the risk of being delisted in the U.S. as a result of new auditing rules aimed at foreign — particularly Chinese — companies.
Covid dashes automakers’ dreams in India: Automakers have long eyed India, where there are only 27 cars per 1,000 people, as a major growth opportunity. But as the virus continues to rage there, international car manufacturers are dialing back expectations. Industry analyst LMC Automotive projects 3.17 million car sales in India this year, compared to 22 million in China, a country with only a slightly greater population.
So who’s the copy cat? In a lawsuit filed in April, eVOTL startup Wisk Aero claimed that rival startup Archer Aviation swiped trade secrets acquired from a former Wisk employee. But in a new court filing, Archer argues that it shared information about its aircraft with the Wisk employee, who then shared those plans with Wisk before switching companies. Huh? It will be interesting to hear what the employee says…
BMW invests in AV trucking: Kodiak Robotics, a Silicon Valley autonomous trucking startup, is getting some backing from BMW i Ventures, the venture unit of the venerable German automaker. Kodiak, which claims it can achieve commercial autonomous trucking for a fraction of the cost of rivals like Waymo and TuSimple, says the new funding (the figure remains secret) will be focused on continuing to test its vehicles — both in California and Texas — to prove that they are safer than human-operated trucks.
Embark to go public: Autonomous trucking startup Embark announces plans to go public via a SPAC, at a $5.2 billion valuation. Embark, which provides AV software as a service to trucking companies, will merge with Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp II, a blank-check company.
Nissan doubles down on WeRide: Chinese AV company WeRide has raised $600 million in the past five months, including a recent $310 million funding round led by China Structural Reform fund and The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. The same auto alliance pumped $30 million into the startup last year. WeRide now has a valuation of $3.3 billion.
Pony may go public: Pony.ai, the Toyota-backed AV startup, is considering going public. The Bay Area-based startup is looking for capital to fund a commercial autonomous ride-hailing service.
Shell shells out for scooters: The oil giant partners with charging station operator Swiftmile to install charging stations for e-scooters in Berlin. The 25 charging “hubs” around the city will offer enough charging capacity for up to 200 scooters at any time.
A tough ride: Spin, the Ford-owned micromobility startup, has released its first e-scooter manufactured in-house. The Spin S-100T was built to be the “toughest scooter out there,” says Maxime Verron, VP of product at Spin. Hence the “T” in the name. A more durable scooter will hopefully not degrade and need to be replaced as quickly. The cost of repairing and replacing scooters is one of the top challenges preventing scooter operators from becoming profitable.
Bloomberg CityLab examines how the federal government’s failure to align housing and transportation policy has undermined public transit in most U.S. cities.
The New York Times has a list of the best and worst cities for cyclists.
An iconic experience: iconmobile, the global innovation and experience company, has open positions at its six different international locations: Santa Monica, Detroit, Munchen, Shanghai, Ingolstadt. They’re particularly interested in UX/UI designers with automotive experience.
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