America keeps gaining ground in the march to an all-EV future: one in ever 20 new cars Americans bought in Q1 was an EV, the largest share ever. And while Tesla is still dominant, other OEMs have made dramatic gains. Foxconn is gearing up to make EVs for Fisker and Lordstown at the former GM plant it just bought in Ohio. And investors are feeling slightly more optimistic about Rivian after it lost slightly less money than expected in Q1.
And yet, major challenges persist. While supply chain challenges are driving up the cost of all cars, they’re hitting EVs particularly hard. And then there are the looming infrastructure challenges. Building hundreds of thousands of chargers may solve one problem but create another by overloading America’s decrepit electrical grid.
In other news, Cincinnati may go nuclear on e-scooters, Gogoro expands its battery-swapping scooter network into Israel, a survey shows Americans aren’t thrilled by the prospect of driverless cars, Uber defeats an effort by activist shareholders to force it to disclose its lobbying, and investors keep pouring money into unprofitable battery startups.
Finally, the world reaches another depressing climate milestone. But there’s a glimmer of hope: kitty litter.
EV registrations are soaring: EV registrations in the U.S. were up 60% in the first quarter of 2022, even as overall car registrations were down 18% from a year ago. EVs now account for 4.6% of the overall market, an all-time high. Tesla is still way ahead of everyone else, accounting for 113,882 of the new registrations, but other EV makers are picking up steam. Kia increased its EV sales 8x to 8,450, while Ford saw its EV sales nearly double to 7,407 and Hyundai’s quadrupled to 6,964.
Foxconn gets a plant: The Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant completes its $230 million acquisition of a former GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio owned by the troubled EV startup, Lordstown Motors. Under the terms of the agreement, Foxconn will take over the employment of 400 Lordstown employees and will collaborate with Lordstown on producing its long-planned electric truck, Endurance, with plans to deliver it to select customers in late 2022.
Make room for Fisker: Shortly after buying the Lordstown plant, Foxconn announces that it will also use the 6.2 million square foot facility to build Fisker’s second vehicle: the PEAR Urban Lifestyle EV. The PEAR is an ambitious play to make an affordable mass-market EV; Fisker says it plans to enter production on the five-seat crossover in 2024 and offer it at just below $30,000. Whether that project ever comes to fruition may have a lot to do with the success of Fisker’s first EV, the Ocean, scheduled to enter production in November.
Rivian only loses $1.59 billion: Rivian lost four times as much money in Q1 than a year ago but that’s actually better than analysts expected, prompting a small rally for shares of the EV startup after months of steady decline. After manufacturing 2,500 vehicles in the first quarter, Rivian has to produce ten times that number to hit its annual target for the rest of the year. The company warns that supply chain constraints might make that tough…
Uber defeats proposal to require lobbying disclosure: Uber shareholders narrowly shoot down a proposal to require the ride-hailing service to regularly disclose its lobbying activity and spending. However, the measure got 45% support, a big improvement over last year, when it only revceived 30%. The proposal came from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union that traditionally represents truck drivers and has sought to organize ride-hailing drivers. The Teamsters argue that the lobbying spending would be an important indication of the extent to which Uber depends on favorable government regulations to prosper.
Cincy has had it with scooters: Transportation officials in Cincinnati say they are considering shutting down scooter-sharing entirely. They say they’re tired of people riding them recklessly, parking them in unauthorized locations and using them in “criminal activity.” Hmm. Wait till they hear about cars.
Americans still wary of driverless cars: A survey by AAA finds that only 18% of Americans believe automakers should focus on developing fully autonomous vehicles, while 78% say they’d prefer improvements to existing autonomous support features. Meanwhile, 85% say they wouldn’t feel comfortable riding in a fully autonomous car.
Gogoro goes to Israel: A month after merging with an SPAC, the Taiwanese group that makes electric mopeds and battery-swapping technology expands into Israel. Gogoro will be placing its battery-swappers at gas stations operated by Paz, an Israeli energy corporation.
Another grim climate milestone: The Scripps University of Oceanography at UC-San Diego measures the highest level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ever. The 421.37 parts per million beats the previous record set in May of last year, 418.95.
…but kitty litter will save us: Researchers at MIT created a compound out of zeolite and copper –– basically the same ingredients as cat litter –– and found that it breaks down methane in passing air, potentially offering a way to significantly reduce carbon emissions from mines
The cost of the EV materials shortage: A Wells Fargo analysis estimates that materials shortages are adding an average of $3,300 to the cost of an EV, while another estimate by Barrons pegs the figure at about half that. These increased costs chip away at the real or perceived advantage that high gas prices offer EVs.
The genius of Japanese rail: Transit blogger S.Y. Lee takes a (very) deep dive into the massive rail system that Japan built to serve Tokyo and its rapidly growing suburbs in the decades following the Second World War. It’s a must-read for any mega transit geek.
America’s grid ain’t ready for the EV revolution: Reuters looks into the tremendous challenge that widespread EV adoption poses to America’s outdated electrical infrastructure. For instance, if a few days of freezing temperatures can knock out the lights in Texas, how will that state’s grid be able to handle the additional demand of millions of EVs? Some industry experts estimate that it will take $2 trillion of investment to get the grid to where it needs to be to support an all-EV future.
Betting on battery startups: Despite losing lots of money and facing stiff competition from established behemoths like Panasonic and LG Energy, battery startups continue to enjoy enthusiastic backing from investors.
Where are the driverless cars? We need to know: Jack Stilgoe, a researcher on the Driverless Futures Project at the University College of London, says it’s important that AVs be easy to identify as they increasingly join human-operated cars on the street. AVs are not simply better versions of human drivers; they operate completely differently. They lack the years of cultural awareness that guides us as we negotiate with other humans sharing the right-of-way.
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