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Hyundai Is Getting Screwed Here

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A good Wednesday morning to you all, but especially to Autopian publisher Matt Hardigree, who turns 40 today [Ed Note: It was yesterday – MH]. Please wish him well in the comments, and let him know he barely looks a day over 38. We’re celebrating around here by doing Matt’s favorite thing in the world: talking about EV tax credits, e-fuels and ChatGPT in cars for the morning news roundup.

Hyundai, Kia Are Losers In Revised EV Tax Credit Scheme

Kia Ev6
Kia EV6

It’s my personal belief that the Inflation Reduction Act’s EV provisions are a good thing, for they’re already proving extremely effective in both modernizing how the tax credit scheme worked and building a homegrown car and battery production infrastructure. But there are winners and losers in every game. So far, the winners here are the EVs that happen to be built in America, for buyers cannot secure the tax credits of up to $7,500 unless the car’s final assembly is completed here.

The losers are Hyundai, Kia and Genesis. You have to feel bad for those guys; they rolled out some of the best EVs in the game, saw rising sales and seemed poised to be one of Tesla’s most fearsome competitors. Unfortunately, they are all, for now, built in South Korea, so they don’t get tax credits anymore. The LA Times had a whole story about this recently. Hyundai Motor Group has—or thought it had—a pretty good relationship with the Biden administration, but it got burned in the end.

The new U.S.-focused credits are having an immediate effect on sales, reports Automotive News today. (So are the price cuts instituted by Tesla and Ford, to be fair.) Experian data for new-vehicle registrations shows that the Koreans are already taking a hit:

The top eight EVs in January were all made in North America, including three models from Tesla, two from Ford and the newly surging VW ID4 crossover that began production in Chattanooga last year.

Hyundai’s imported Ioniq 5 crossover fell to ninth place from seventh place for full-year 2022. Kia’s Korean-made EV6 was no longer among the top 10 EVs in January, after coming in eighth for 2022, according to Experian.

[…] New registrations for all EVs in January captured 7.1 percent of the U.S. light-vehicle market at 87,708 units, compared with 4.3 percent a year earlier at 50,338. New registrations for all light vehicles regardless of fuel type stood at 1.24 million, Experian data showed.

That last bit is awesome news, actually. EV sales are up! We love to see it, folks.

The Hyundai Motor Group isn’t taking this lying down, obviously. The upcoming Genesis GV70 Electrified will be built in Alabama, so it’ll qualify for tax credits. The company is also making big investments in EV and battery production here, and it has the scale and power to set that up relatively quickly. But these things don’t happen overnight.

Insert The Hindenburg Joke Of Your Choosing Here

Photo: Toyota

Other people you should feel bad for today include Akio Toyoda, outgoing Toyota CEO, hydrogen evangelist, EV skeptic and avid motorsports fan. He was supposed to race a hydrogen-powered Corolla race car at Japan’s Super Taikyu series this weekend, but unfortunately, the car went up in flames instead. More from Automotive News:

The modified Corolla race car caught fire during testing because of a leak in a hydrogen fuel line.

No one was hurt in the March 8 accident, and the driver managed to escape the vehicle after an emergency failsafe kicked in, Toyota said in a briefing on Wednesday.

But technicians will not be able to get the car ready in time for its debut at a five-hour race in Japan’s Super Taikyu series scheduled for March 19 at the Suzuka Circuit in western Japan.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda had planned to take a turn behind the wheel in the race as part of his push to promote clean-burning hydrogen combustion technologies as one route to achieving carbon neutrality. He has raced cars with hydrogen-burning engines since 2021.

Granted, it’s not like gasoline and battery-electric cars don’t have fires. But it’s still a bummer of a way for Akio to go out before he retires from the CEO job. Or maybe not. I get a sense the dude will just spend most of his free time doing track days, as some guys do with golf when they retire.

How BMW Views E-Fuels

2024 Bmw X5 M Competition Profile

E-Fuels are getting a lot of attention lately as the German auto industry has a “Wait a minute, what the actual fuck” moment as it realizes the implications of the EU’s possible ban on internal combustion cars after 2035. That very likely could have a huge impact on its auto sector jobs, so certain German political parties are making a last-minute bet to save the engine business. Porsche, in particular, is making a big investment here as it seeks to preserve what it has, even as it also makes a big push for more EVs soon.

Over at Road & Track, former Roadshow/CNET Cars boss and friend of the site Tim Stevens has a great explainer on how this stuff could work, complete with a trip to Chile to personally test Porsche’s e-fuels. It’s a good read and essential if you want to understand this better.

My take is that this technology certainly has potential, but it’s also in its infancy; this is like a Hail Mary play with five seconds left in the game, not a viable powertrain strategy that could keep engines running forever. (Plus, e-fuels still burn carbon in engines; they are only technically carbon-neutral when they’re made with expensive, complex direct-air carbon capture technology.)

Porsche wants to do this so it can save the flat-six. Understandable, but maybe not in line with reality. So where does BMW stand on this? In this short Reuters dispatch, CEO Oliver Zipse says they’re more plausible for use in existing cars, rather than new ones:

“The main impact of e-fuels is on existing fleets, not in the regulation of new vehicles being hotly discussed in Europe,” Zipse said.

“We aren’t discussing the existing fleet. The only opportunity to make a difference there is e-fuels. I agree strongly with the colleagues proposing that, particularly because our motors are prepared for it,” he added.

He has a point there, and I’ll tell you why. If the collective goal is ultimately to decarbonize passenger car emissions, forcing car companies to only make EVs by a certain date doesn’t solve the problem of all the ICE cars currently on the road right now that will be in service for decades to come—not to mention all the new ones due out in 2024, 2027 and so on. So Zipse says that e-fuels could be a good option to replace gasoline for all of the existing ICE cars on the road, as we transition to (presumably) battery power. But nobody should believe we can magically save the climate by making everybody buy a $65,000 EV tomorrow.
I’ll take Zipse more or less on good faith here because BMW’s actually doing a lot of interesting things on the sustainability front. And it’s fair to criticize eventual ICE bans as not doing enough to address existing car emissions. But Porsche seems to be suddenly hinging the future of engines on this stuff, and if it wanted to do that, it maybe should’ve started 20 years ago.

Not Quite ChatGMC Yet, I’m Afraid

Cadillac Celestiq Show Car 18
Photo credit: Cadillac
You probably saw all the headlines about General Motors integrating generative text AI like ChatGPT into its cars soon. It turns out that was a little overblown by the media, as tends to happen with new technology. Here’s GM spokesman Stuart Fowle clearing things up for the Detroit Free Press:

GM spokesman Stuart Fowle said the company hasn’t confirmed any specific plans to deploy an AI voice assistant at this point, but that the company’s software engineers are studying the space.

“As part of its growth strategy, General Motors views digital software and services as a core market where we intend to lead within the transportation sector. The Ultifi software platform the company will deploy this year will enable a new era of software-defined vehicles with digital experiences that can grow and evolve over time,” Fowle said, noting that the shift won’t just be about the evolution of voice commands.

How this blew up so much, I do not know. Possible use cases include prompts that tell a driver how to change a tire in case of an emergency, or vastly more advanced AI-driven virtual assistants for cars. Is it possible this stuff will catch on in vehicles? Sure, maybe. I have no idea.

But the whole auto industry is reeling a bit after the reality check we saw last year from autonomous cars, specifically fully driverless robo-taxis. We’d all do well to take a deep breath and not assume every piece of brand-new tech is The Next Big Thing That Will Change Everything®.

Don’t even get me started on crypto, either.

Your Turn

Do you think generative AI has any sort of role in cars? If so, what would you like to see it do?

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73 Responses

  1. “My take is that this technology certainly has potential, but it’s also in its infancy; this is like a Hail Mary play with five seconds left in the game, not a viable powertrain strategy that could keep engines running forever….

    ….But Porsche seems to be suddenly hinging the future of engines on this stuff, and if it wanted to do that, it maybe should’ve started 20 years ago.“

    I’ve been working on synthetic fuels with OEMs for over 15 years. This is not a new way of going carbon neutral. However governments are now taking carbon neutral transport seriously (albeit by banning a technology rather than banning fossil fuels because of being knee-jerking idiots), so a solution that doesn’t involve replacing almost every car already on the planet is finally getting some publicity.

    This is not a technology in its infancy, this is a technology that’s been ignored for decades because fossil fuels are cheap.

  2. “That last bit is awesome news, actually. EV sales are up! We love to see it, folks.”

    I come the Autopian for humorously informative piss-takes of of the automotive world, not this sort of blindly devoted EV bias. There’s been way too much lately for me in the Morning Dump. It had been great until recently but I haven’t voiced my concern until now, so consider this strike one for me.

    1. The Autopian has got to be the most realistic outlet for EV news and opinions out there that I can think of. Believe it or not, some people like EVs and want to see the premise succeed. Nothing wrong with that. But this website has made it pretty clear that EVs are still somewhat in their infancy, with benefits, drawbacks and questions that still need answering.

      The only thing blind here is a kneejerk reaction to any positive vibes towards EVs with THAT’S STRIKE ONE!!! It’s exhausting, and reads like an Instagram comment. We do better here.

    2. Sorry for triggering you. But two things: one, the EV stuff is where much of the news is in the auto industry these days, full stop. And this is a roundup of industry news. You can probably see where I’m going with this.

      And two, just a few paragraphs down I go into why EV mandates and ICE bans aren’t a panacea for pollution issues like people think they are. That’s not exactly what you’d call blind devotion, is it?

      1. No need to apologize, I’m an ass for allowing myself to be triggered. I support EVs for appropriate use cases but the political momentum behind the adoption of them exceeds current realities (reliable, readily available fast charging with the convenience & safety of gas stations being the most glaring imho). After reevaluating your writing I see I am mistaken in thinking you’re a blind EV cheerleader and for that i apologize. Cheers!

  3. Regarding Hyundai/Kia… when I last checked, they couldn’t produce BEVs fast enough to meet demand anyway. So I’m gonna guess they’re gonna have to build a BEV plant somewhere in the NAFTA/USMCA region. Or they can just convert their existing plant in Alabama that is currently cranking out ICE vehicles. like the Santa Fe and Elantra.

    Regarding Toyota and that stupid hydrogen race car:

    Regarding AI in cars… for the purposes of conversation, no. For self driving and figuring out the best route to take, yes.

  4. Not much sympathy for Kia and Hyundai given the two-year waitlists for the Ioniq 5 and EV6 here in Canada. We still have an incentive program that those cars qualify for, so they could simply redirect their US-bound production up to Canada and sell every single one of them without throwing cash on the hood.

  5. Any US automotive enthusiast site that makes a big push for EVs (a flawed, unsustainable technology with zero infrastructure that drives up vehicle cost and weight while tearing the environment an new hole) raises some major red flags. Unless every future EV is the size, weight and price of a Citroen Ami, the EV business remains a Wall Street pump & dump scheme that is another nail in the coffin for anyone in America who really loves cars. We talk about these things like politicians talk about widening highways. Change everything, fix nothing.

  6. I think BMW’s comments on e-fuels makes sense. They can help lower the carbon footprint (if not the tailpipe carbon emissions) of the existing ICE/HEV vehicle parc.
    They don’t solve the problems of trying to meet future regulations for new vehicles, particularly in Europe with Euro 7 emissions standards around the corner. Meeting Euro 7 cold-start NOx requirements will be difficult, expensive, and likely add some inconvenience (the need to wait for a catalytic converter to pre-heat before starting the engine), whether the fuel is fossil-based or something else.

  7. EV tax credits are nothing but a redistribution on taxpayers monies. And the folk that can afford the current brace of pricey EVs don’t need a tax break. Use the money for infrastructure.

  8. I think about 90% of “new tech” for automobiles developed since approximately 2010 should be shitcanned. Call me when they invent something new for cars that’s actually, you know, an improvement.

    We have crested the hill of peak useful car tech and are barreling down the other side into a morass of tech solutions in search of a problem.

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