The infrastructure package is not advancing as quickly as Sen. Chuck Schumer would like — but it’s certainly not dead yet. One roadblock: some Republicans think it’s not right that only 80% of the proposed transportation funding would go to highways.
On the technology front, a new study shows that electric cars are far more climate-friendly than ICEs, even when powered by dirty grids. Daimler becomes the latest automaker to issue a bold EV pledge, further isolating Toyota, which this past week argued that the increasing focus on BEVs may not be the best approach to climate change. Rivian is building a new plant and Lucid shareholders (finally) approve a SPAC merger. Finally, with announced plans to offer semi-autonomous rides in Miami and Austin, Lyft, Ford and Argo.AI take a big step towards making robo-taxis a reality.
It’s not over yet: All 50 Senate Republicans voted against a motion to advance a proposed infrastructure package on Wednesday, blocking the bill from moving forward. But negotiations over the package continue, and it’s possible there will be another vote Monday that will gain the necessary 10 Republican votes to advance.
Hungry, hungry highways: One issue Republicans are raising in infrastructure talks is how much of the money allocated for transportation projects is for public transit vs. highways. Democrats have proposed sticking with what has long been the staple formula in federal transportation legislation: 80% for highways and 20% for transit. But Republicans now say that that split is not fair … highways need even more, they say. Even in a nation that has woefully neglected public transportation for generations, the increased hostility towards mass transit from the GOP is a sign of how geographically polarized U.S. politics has become; very few Republican members of Congress represent urban areas that benefit from transit.
In an apparent attempt at compromise, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del, a close ally of the president, said he would be willing to significantly scale back transit spending in the package. However, other Democrats have threatened to pull their support if transit funding is dialed back.
Yes, EVs are better: A study by the International Council on Clean Transportation, the same research group that in 2013 alerted federal regulators to VW’s diesel emission coverup, finds that EVs produce much lower emissions over their lifetime than conventional cars, even in areas where the electric grid is largely powered by coal.
…but according to Toyota: In a widely-shared and hotly-debated blog post, the Chief Scientist of Toyota argues that hybrids and plug-in electric vehicles may be a more effective way to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change than battery electric vehicles –– at least in the near-term. Gill Pratt, also CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, says that we are not “maximizing the benefit” of the world’s battery resources by making cells that are able to power cars for hundreds of miles when few people need that capacity on a regular basis. Nevertheless, Pratt admits to owning (and loving) a Tesla Model X.
Toyota stands out among the world’s auto giants in its refusal to make a bold BEV pledge. Late last year CEO Akio Toyoda dismissed talk of an all-EV world, suggesting Japan’s electric grid couldn’t handle it and that EVs were actually worse for climate change.
Daimler going electric: Although it stopped short of the concrete pledge made by many other automakers, the parent company of Mercedes Benz says it expects spending on traditional combustion engine vehicles to be “near zero” by 2025. It plans to invest $47 billion in EVs between 2022 and 2030 and will, along with partners, build eight battery plants.
Hoosiers pony up for chargers: The state of Indiana offers utilities $5.5 million to build EV chargers throughout the state.
Rivian’s second plant: The Amazon-backed EV startup announces plans to build a second assembly plant. The new facility will produce batteries as well as its yet-to-be-released electric trucks and SUVs. The existing plant is in Normal, Ill.; it’s not clear where the second will be. The Irvine, Calif-based company has pushed back the release of its first two vehicles, the R1T truck and the R1S SUV, from July to September. The truck will retail at $67,500 and the SUV for $70,000. Amazon has already ordered 10,000 vehicles.
Archer free to fly…for now: A federal judge denies eVOTL startup Wisk Aero request for an injunction against rival startup Archer Aviation. Judge William Orrick says that evidence of Archer stealing Wisk’s trade secrets is “too equivocal” to justify an injunction.
Anaheim’s Arrival: Arrival, the UK startup that builds commercial EVs, will manufacture electric buses for Anaheim Resort Transportation, the small public agency that offers tourists rides to and from Disneyland and other attractions in Anaheim.
Spam filter can’t stop Lucid SPAC: Shareholders approve EV startup Lucid’s merger with an SPAC a day after the deal had to be postponed because not enough voters showed up. Lucid blames the low voter turnout on oblivious retail investors and the possibility that the email notification to shareholders got caught up in spam filters. The stock began trading Monday morning at $25.24 a share under the ticker LCID.
Autonomous Lyfts in Miami: Lyft is teaming up with Ford and Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based AV software startup, to offer semi-autonomous rides beginning later this year in Miami. The plan is to expand the offering to Austin, Tex., in early 2022. The Ford Escapes will all have a safety driver behind the wheel at all times and customers will be able to choose whether or not they want the semi-autonomous experience.
Da Burgh is da place to be: The capital of Appalachia is becoming the capital of autonomy. Waymo, Google’s AV subsidiary, is opening up offices in Pittsburgh, where engineers will work on developing Driver, the company’s autonomous driving software. Other AV startups in the Steel City include Argo AI, Aurora and Motional. Like its parent company, Waymo’s main offices are in Mountain View, Calif. It has offices in Hyderabad, India as well as San Francisco, New York, Dallas and Phoenix, where it operates a fleet of robo-taxis.
Senators introduce e-bike tax credit: Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz introduces legislation to offer Americans a refundable tax credit of 30% of the cost of an e-bike purchase, with a maximum refund of $1,500. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives. It’s not clear whether the proposal has a good chance of being included in other legislation, such as the bipartisan physical infrastructure package or the $3 trillion “human infrastructure” spending package that Democrats hope to pass separately.
Superpedestrian buys Navmatic: Superpedestrian, the e-scooter firm based in Cambridge, Mass., acquires Navmatic, a software startup that Superpedestrian says will improve its ability to “detect and correct rider misbehavior.” By tracking the scooter’s location with extraordinary precision, the system, Pedestrian Defense, can respond immediately to bad behavior or mistakes, such as riding on sidewalks or the wrong way down a one-way street, and either alert the rider or force the scooter to slow down or stop. In this video, the company explains how it works.
Here come the cheap e-bikes: As the e-bike industry matures, we’re starting to see more options for under $1,000. After building a $999 folding e-bike last year with funding from an Indiegogo campaign, Fiido, an e-bike manufacturer, is now releasing an even cheaper one ($898), which was also crowdfunded. Over in China, tech giant Alibaba just released a $750 three-seat e-bike.
Yahoo News explores some of the troubling environmental implications of lithium mining on some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems.
Autoweek talks to industry observers about the tremendous increase in battery production needed to meet the ambitious EV goals announced by automakers.
Amply Power releases a new white paper highlighting the economic benefits of a transition to EVs due to reduced health costs.
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