We had a good mix of mobility news this week. In car news, Polestar unveils a pricey electric SUV, VW plows $2.4 billion into an autonomous driving effort in China, Sony and Honda team up to deliver entertainment-packed EVs by 2026, Sono previews its no-frills solar-powered car, Alabama gets a battery recycling plant, and people are making a killing buying and immediately re-selling new EVs.
There’s some big transit news too. Germany considers making its experiment with near-free public transit permanent. Indonesia prepares for Southeast Asia’s first high speed rail line, courtesy of China’s ambitious “Belt and Road” initiative. And don’t forget bikes: the success of Denver’s generous e-bike rebates is inspiring other cities around the country to consider similar programs.
VW makes a big autonomy play in China: The German auto giant enters a joint venture with Chinese chip maker Horizon Robotics to develop advanced driver assistance programs for VW cars in China. VW plans to invest roughly $2.4 billion into the venture.
Sony and Honda seek entertaining EVs: The two icons of Japanese industry team up to deliver EVs in the U.S. and Japan by 2026. Their goal is for their vehicles to offer Level 3 autonomy “under limited conditions” and Level 2 autonomy in urban environments. Sony is promising a subscription-based entertainment system that the companies hope can offer a significant revenue stream – and differentiate the offer…
Indonesia’s bullet train, courtesy of China: The first high speed rail line in Southeast Asia will soon connect two major Indonesian cities, Jakarta and Bandung – cutting the travel time from three hours to 40 minutes. The rail line is part of China’s international “Belt and Road” initiative, the ongoing effort by Beijing to expand its influence around the globe by investing in infrastructure in 150 countries.
Polestar’s new SUV: The EV maker unveils its first SUV, the Polestar 3, priced at a cool $84,000, a big jump up from the $48,400 for the Polestar 2 sedan. The new vehicle’s 300 mile range is probably more than enough for most prospective buyers, but it still falls short of the 372 mile range the company was bragging it would offer just a few months ago…
Germany pushes for near-free transit: After a summer experiment where people could ride any train or bus for a monthly fee of just 9 euros proved wildly successful, Germany is considering making a similar policy permanent. The proposal being discussed is not nearly as generous, but 49 euros a month is still a heck of a bargain for unlimited national transit access. The only issue left to resolve: where does the government get the money to pay for it?
Battery recycling plant opens in Alabama: Li-Cycle, the Canadian recycling company, opens up its fourth North American plant: a 100,000 square foot facility in Alabama that can process up to 10,000 metric tons of lithium-ion battery materials a year, or enough to build 20,000 EVs batteries.
Giving driverless cars eyes –– literally: A team of researchers in Japan have proposed equipping autonomous vehicles with googly eyes. Not only would the unique design alert pedestrians to the fact that the car is driverless, but pedestrians could rest assured that the car “sees” them when the eyes move to “look” at them. Creepy, but hey.
Sono unveils solar EV: The German EV maker shows off a prototype of its five-seat $25,000 hatchback that is partially powered by the sun. The automaker is planning to release the car in Europe, but it is testing out its appeal in the U.S. market. The low price is made possible by a relatively spartan interior.
Motional’s robo-taxi strategy: TechCrunch interviews Akshay Jaising, VP of commercialization for Motional, the big Hyundai-Aptiv joint venture, about the company’s long-term vision for autonomous driving. Among other things, Jaising views partnerships with existing fleet operators, such as Uber, as more practical than trying to develop a vertically integrated robo-taxi service, a la Waymo or Cruise. He also appears skeptical of Motional’s technology making it into personal vehicles anytime soon.
The tremendous success of e-bike rebates: CityLab takes a look at Denver’s wildly successful e-bike rebate program, which offers discounts of up to $1,700 per e-bike on a sliding income scale. The program is one of a number of climate-related initiatives funded by a 0.25% sales tax that voters approved. Some preliminary data from program beneficiaries suggests that e-bikes offer governments a very cheap way to dramatically reduce transportation-related emissions.
Pete Buttigieg’s important choices: The Washington Post examines how Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s choices in spending the $1 trillion infrastructure law will influence mobility for generations. Although much of the funding is doled out through existing programs to the states, Buttigieg has the power to direct tens of billions of dollars in support of his priorities, many of which clash with the car-centric mindset that has long ruled the Department of Transportation.
The EV flipping frenzy: The supply chain challenges that have led to high prices for used cars is particularly pronounced for EVs. As a result, even people who bought an F-150 Lightning or the new electric Hummer with every intention of driving it cannot resist the big profit available to them on the secondary market, where cars often sell for tens of thousands of dollars over the MSRP. The automakers, unsurprisingly, are not pleased, and some are putting in place policies aimed at discouraging quick flips.
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