Perhaps more than any president in recent memory, President Joe Biden is trying to use the power of the federal government to steer money towards U.S. manufacturing. Last week his administration announced new rules requiring contractors to increase the percentage of domestically-sourced materials in transportation projects and it awarded a $2 billion loan to a Nevada company that manufacturers battery supplies.
Even as government and companies pledge to transition to low-carbon mobility, fossil fuel emissions from transportation are rising and will continue to do so in the absence of “radical innovation,” says a sobering new report from our friends at UP.Partners. More sobering still: an analysis from the Census Bureau finds that 3.4 million Americans were forced to leave their homes last year due to natural disasters, many likely linked to climate change.
In some cases, “radical innovation” may take us backwards on climate. David Zipper, for instance, worries the relaxation offered by autonomous vehicles will prompt people to drive more than ever –– powered by computers that require massive amounts of energy.
On the bright side, there is Denver’s wildly successful experiment with e-bike vouchers. Now if only we could get U.S. transportation engineers to build roads that people want to bike on…
Biden unveils proposed new “Buy America” rules for infrastructure: The Biden administration releases proposed new rules requiring U.S.-made building materials in federally-funded infrastructure projects. The bipartisan infrastructure bill that Biden signed in 2021 directed the administration to develop thresholds for certain materials to be considered “Made in America.” Under the proposed guidance, some 60% of the value of these materials must be sourced from the U.S., increasing gradually to 75% by 2029.
The good & the bad in mobility trends: A report by UP.Partners, the Los Angeles-based VC firm focused on mobility innovation, highlights a number of positive developments in mobility trends, including steadily lower costs. The study notes, however, that despite the increased focus from OEMs and governments on climate-friendly mobility, carbon emissions from transportation will continue to rise in the absence of “radical innovation” or aggressive action by governments.
Uncle Sam loans battery recycler $2B: The Department of Energy offers Redwood Materials, the fast-growing Nevada-based battery recycling firm, a $2 billion loan to jumpstart production of battery materials. The company is planning to build a plant near Reno, Nev., that will support the production of 1 million EVs a year. The loan is part of Biden’s plan to bolster domestic manufacturing in the EV industry, which is heavily reliant on China.
Rolls Royce rolls into electric air mobility: UK eVOTL developer Vertical Aerospace and Rolls Royce have both scored funding from the UK government to develop electric aircraft technology. Vertical is getting $37 million to build a propulsion battery system that can be used in aircrafts, including its own, while Rolls is getting $99 million to develop a liquid hydrogen combustion jet engine.
Joby flies over another milestone: Joby Aviation, the Santa Cruz, Calif-based eVOTL OEM, becomes the first eVOTL service to clear the second of five stages needed for certification by the FAA to operate commercially. The company says it is still on track to launch commercial passenger flights in 2025.
A fourth traffic light color? A report from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers recommends developing a fourth traffic light color –– white –– for autonomous vehicles. In a future where AVs make up a large portion of the vehicles on the road, traffic lights should be programmed to recognize their presence and switch to a white light, sending a signal to human drivers that they should simply follow the AV in front of them. In situations where human drivers predominate, the traffic lights will revert back to the familiar tricolor system.
Uber turns a profit despite ride-hailing: Uber reports a net income of $595 million, but the profit is tied to its investments in other businesses, rather than the record-breaking 2 billion rides it provided. Company leaders say that 2023 is the year they expect to finally turn a profit on its core business.
…meanwhile, Lyft keeps losing: The world’s second largest ride-hail service reports a net loss of $588 million, twice what it lost in Q4 the previous year.
An eVOTL for farmers: Ryse Aero Technologies, an Ohio startup, is developing a one-seat electric vertical takeoff aircraft that it plans to market to farmers, who often have to drive and walk long distances to address a blight in the middle of a massive agricultural property. A personal flying vehicle might prove more efficient…not to mention more fun.
E-bikes create new bikers: Denver can’t keep up with demand for its e-bike voucher program. The 860 new vouchers it released in January were snagged in 20 minutes. More importantly, a new survey of voucher holders shows that many of them (30%) report never using bikes for transportation before and participants reports replacing an average of 3.4 car trips per week due to their new e-bike.
Climate displacement has already come to America: New research released by the Census Bureau shows that 3.4 million Americans were forced by natural disasters to leave their homes at some point last year; about half a million did not return. It’s a stunningly high number for a developed country, and climate experts say we should expect things to get worse.
A 19th century warning on AVs: In Fast Company, David Zipper argues that AVs may pose a serious threat to the environment. First, the massive computing power required consumes an enormous amount of energy. Second, by making car travel even easier, allowing people to kick back on their phones or even doze off, AVs could end up inducing a lot more driving. He points to the Jevons Paradox, a phenomenon first noted by Williams Stanley Jevons in his 1865 book, The Coal Question, where he observed that innovations in coal mining that initially reduce the price of coal simply end up increasing demand and, ultimately, the price.
America’s traffic safety crisis is about design, not funding: Writing in the Hill, Jeff Speck, a city planner and author of “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time,” argues that the $1.9 billion the Biden administration has earmarked for safety improvements won’t make much of a difference if America’s transportation engineers continue to design roads for maximum speed. Among the design hacks engineers regularly eschew: intersections with four-way stop signs lead to far fewer fatal crashes than stoplights.
The narrowing price gap between EVs and ICEs: It’s not just Tesla lowering its prices. Increased competition, lower costs for certain raw materials and, of course, generous government subsidies are poised to make EVs about as affordable as ICEs, reports the New York Times. Perhaps the most important factor in the decreasing costs is that, as they gain experience, automakers are simply getting better at making EVs.
Sign up for the MIT Mobility Forum: Our good friends at the MIT Mobility Initiative announce a series of forums over the next three months for faculty and researchers to present their findings and take questions and comments on a wide variety of mobility topics. All of the web forums are free and open to the public. Check out the list of forums and sign up here.Enjoy the Week in Review? Get it delivered directly to your inbox by signing up for the CoMotion>>NEWS newsletter.