Let’s start with the good news: Sweden has discovered a massive deposit of rare earth materials that could reduce the global EV industry’s dependence on China. Also, if you’re looking for an EV, Tesla just slashed prices again. At this rate, they’ll be giving them away for free by summer.
In less good news, John Kerry tells guests at the World Economic Forum he is not confident that the world will get its act together on climate change before things get really bad, especially for Africa. And yet, unlike many environmentalists, he believes that the United Arab Emirates hosting the COP28 climate summit is a sign of progress.
Plus, a study from MIT raises concerns about the environmental implications of autonomous cars, embattled EV maker Lucid ends 2022 on a positive note, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi is back in business, Pete Buttigieg’s tenure as transportation secretary has become a subject of intense partisan disagreement, and Parisians will decide in May whether to kick scooters off the streets.
Sweden’s big discovery: A state-owned mining company says it has discovered Europe’s largest known deposit of rare earth materials in far northern Sweden. The company, LKAB, estimates the deposit is over 1 million tons, but cautions that it will likely be more than a decade before it can be mined due to the lengthy environmental studies required by Swedish and European authorities. It’s welcome news for western nations eager to reduce their reliance on China, which currently dominates the global rare earth supply.
Didi’s back: The Chinese government authorizes Didi, China’s largest ride-hailing service, to begin registering new users again. This comes a year-and-a-half after the government banned the service from domestic app stores, citing concerns about its handling of customer data. The crackdown hit just days after the company went public on Wall Street. Several months later, it announced it would delist from the NYSE and list in Hong Kong instead.
Paris to vote on scooters: Parisians will decide by referendum whether to continue allowing scooter-sharing, announces Mayor Anne Hidalgo. The 15,000 scooters on the streets of Paris have polarized residents of the French capital. The referendum, set for May 2, would not apply to privately-owned scooters.
Kerry’s the party pooper in Davos: John Kerry, the Biden administration’s special envoy on climate change, tells attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos that he believes the world will eventually achieve a “low carbon” economy, but not before feeling some of the most dire consequences of climate change. Worse, the countries that will be hit hardest by global warming are worst-positioned to deal with the damage. “Of the 20 most affected countries in the world from [the] climate crisis, 17 are in Africa,” he said. He also cast skepticism on the net-zero pledges large companies are making. “And you and I, we know they don’t have a clue how they’re going to get there. And most of them are not on track to get there.”
Can the UAE host a climate summit? Barely a month after the conclusion of the scandal-plagued World Cup in Qatar, environmentalists are kicking up a storm about plans to hold a major climate summit next-door in the United Arab Emirates. Not only is the UAE a major oil exporter, but its climate envoy, Sultan Al Jaber, is also the head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. John Kerry says his experience makes him the perfect fit, since he recognizes “it needs to transition,” but others argue the UAE’s stated energy goals do not align with a serious effort to combat climate change.
More price cuts at Tesla: The EV maker continues to cut prices around the world. In the U.S. it dropped the price of its vehicles by between 6-20%. The price of the base Model Y fell from $65,990 all the way down to $52,990. It similarly slashed prices for cars in Europe and China. In some countries, the lower prices may make the cars eligible for subsidies that will make them even more affordable. For instance, now that the Model Y only costs 44,990 euros in France, it is subject to an additional 5,000 euro credit applied to any vehicle for under 47,000 euros.
…and more spending in Texas: Tesla files permits to add 1.3 million square feet to its Gigaplant outside of Austin, Tex. It estimates the addition will cost $717 million.
A glimmer of hope for Lucid: The luxury EV maker produced 3,500 vehicles in Q4, or just under half of the 7,180 it made in 2022. That’s a far cry from the 20,000 it projected at the beginning of last year, or even the 12,000 to 14,000 it projected after lowering expectations in February, but it’s still slightly better than the 6,000-7,000 projection it came out with in August! Like a number of other prominent EV SPACs, Lucid’s value has plummeted in the past year due to its struggles to deliver amidst supply chain disruptions.
MIT study raises question about AVs and the climate: A statistical model created by MIT researchers suggests electric autonomous vehicles won’t be a win for the climate due to the enormous computing power necessary to run AVs. The findings underscore the importance, say the researchers, of computing efficiency. The model was based on 1 billion autonomous cars running for an hour a day, a situation that won’t be a reality for many, many years, if ever.
An ethical dissection of Autopilot: Christopher Cox of the New York Times Magazine examines Tesla’s adventures with autonomous driving software and ponders the worldview that allows Elon Musk to shrug off its shortcomings, even when they prove fatal.
Paris’s big choice on scooters: TechCrunch digs into the debate over scooters roiling the City of Lights, where three companies currently operate 15,000 e-scooters. While the French capital has done more than just about any other city to shift away from cars in recent years, many of its political leaders have grown weary of scooter clutter and believe that there are plenty of cheaper, safer and greener transportation options for people to use. And yet, the data are clear: scooters are very popular.
Secretary Pete’s winter of discontent: Politico explains the end of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s honeymoon running what is typically a low-profile federal agency. A series of high-profile disruptions to air travel, however, has Democrats on the defensive about the party’s rising star.
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