The price of lithium is through the roof. The other headlines this week make it easy to understand why: Ford is tripling its production of the Mustang Mach-E, GM announces plans to begin producing the electric Chevy Silverado, VW announces three EV partnerships as part of its multi-billion dollar EV transition, and Solid Power, a solid state battery startup, goes public via SPAC.
Raising some eyebrows in the world of autonomy is DeepRoute-Driver.ai, which claims to have a Level 4 system available for only $10,000. Meanwhile, Mercedes says it will soon be offering a Level 3 system to buyers of its S-Class sedans in Germany.
Lithium gets pricey: The cost of lithium has risen dramatically in the past year as the race for EVs heats up. According to research firm Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, the price of lithium is up 240% this year. However, analysts believe prices could fall again once the investment and technology catches up with the demand. The chemical itself is not in short supply, but there has not yet been nearly enough investment in facilities to produce battery-grade lithium compounds.
A Solid IPO: Solid Power, the solid state battery manufacturer backed by BMW and Ford, has a strong first day on the NASDAQ after merging with a SPAC. The move generated $543 million for company — which CEO Doug Campbell says is essential for funding R&D of its batteries through 2026, when they should be commercially available. Solid state batteries, which lack the liquid electrolyte found in most EV batteries, are lighter and safer but are currently cost-prohibitive. Getting them to a lower price point could be a game-changer in the industry.
VW’s trio of EV partnerships: The world’s largest automaker announces three EV partnerships on the same day. First, it’s doing a joint venture with Brussels-based Umicore to provide cathode materials. Second, it’s investing in startup 24M to develop batteries with semi-solid electrodes. Finally, it has a contract with Vulcan Energy to provide lithium in a way the companies claim will be “carbon-neutral.”
GM wants American magnets: The Detroit giant strikes a deal with Las Vegas-based MP Materials to mine and process rare earth materials into magnets that are a key part of EV motors. MP already owns a mine in Mountain Pass, Calif. and plans to build a new processing facility in Fort Worth, Tex. Locking down a U.S. source of rare earth metals helps insulate GM from the effects of trade tensions between the U.S. and China, where most of the metals currently are mined.
Making moves in Michigan: In the coming years GM plans to invest $4 billion to manufacture EVs and EV batteries in its home state.
Another remote year for Lyft: The ride-hailing company announces that its office workers will be allowed to work remotely through all of 2022, even as the company’s offices reopen in February. The company did not describe the move as motivated by the new Omicron variant or the recent rise in Covid cases; it said it wanted to continue offering employees flexibility.
More e-SUVs coming: Ford says it will triple production (to 600,000 units a year) of the popular Mustang Mach-E by 2023, while GM announces it will begin production of the electric Chevy Silverado, its top-selling pickup truck, the same year.
Uber challenging for trans drivers: An LA Times investigation highlights some of the challenges transgender people confront trying to drive for Uber. The ride-hailing company often blocks people from signing up because it interprets major changes in their appearance as fraud, such as photos taken pre-transition.
The $10,000 solution: Chinese-backed startup DeepRoute-Driver.ai says it has a Level 4 autonomous driving system available to automakers for only $10,000. It likens its technology to the L4 offerings of Waymo and Cruise but boasts that it is much cheaper. We’ll see…
Army robots go commercial: Maryland-based Robotic Research, a company with a long history of supplying autonomous technology to the U.S. Defense Department, raises $228 million in a Series A round to fund its expansion into commercial products.
Mercedes moves to Level 3: The luxury automaker announces plans to launch a Level 3 system next year in Germany, where it has been approved by regulators. The system, Drive Pilot Level 3, will be available in S-class sedans. In the beginning the system will only be available on about 8,000 miles of highway in Germany, but that will likely change as Mercedes continues to map more roads and test the software.
Scandinavia sours on e-scooters: Initially hospitable to shared e-scooters, Scandinavia’s largest cities have put in place strict regulations and in some cases outright bans in response to complaints about cluttered sidewalks and scooter-related injuries and deaths.
Fire hazard? Saying that e-scooter batteries present too great a risk of fire, London’s transit agency bans passengers from bringing the devices onboard buses or trains. The decision follows a number of fires apparently linked to e-scooters in the city’s transit system.
The Verge reports on efforts by nonprofits and local governments to make e-bikes affordable for low-income people.
The Washington Post looks at how “charging deserts” will inhibit EV adoption in minority communities in the U.S.
Bloomberg CityLab offers an “anatomy of a bad road.”
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