If the reveal of an electrified, hybrid Chevy Corvette didn’t already persuade you this morning, the world is electrifying. It’s doing it fast. The normal barriers are disappearing. We’re going to look at four stories from just the last 24 hours that build a case for a world trying to electrify as fast as possible.
Exhibit A: The EU Is Trying To Counter US Electrification Rules As Fast As Possible
It’s not a secret that the Europeans have been upset with the United States for passing the Inflation Reduction Act, which makes building electric cars and their batteries in North America basically a requirement to be competitive. Fail to do that, the law says, and your cars probably won’t qualify for EV tax credits in America, and could thus become uncompetitive. Quelle tristesse.
For all the talk of how dysfunctional the American system of government currently is it can move fast if it so desires. The European Union, on the other hand, is run by a highly deliberative body that sits atop numerous bureaucracies that range in manner from France’s laxly organized civil service to Germany’s technocracy. Change can be slow.
After watching numerous automakers announce battery plants in the United States, the EU is moving to speed things up lest they lose out on a generational change. A lot of this is detailed in this Associated Press piece (“EU leaders discuss subsidies to counter Biden’s green, EV plans”) and I’d like to highlight the reactions from European leaders especially:
“We need to send a strong message that we will act to safeguard our industrial base. It is crucial that the EU remains an attractive place to invest, innovate and produce,” EU Council President Charles Michel said Monday in Stockholm.
And when French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire strode into EU headquarters in Brussels soon after, he let it be known.
“We need a shock,” he said, to simplify the EU’s subsidy approval rules. They force companies to struggle through arcane state aid regulations for too long to obtain the investments needed for cutting-edge breakthroughs, he said.
This is key. Even if the EU poured a ton of money into subsidies, as they seem willing to do, accessing these subsidies is much harder than in the United States. Clearing this barrier would be a huge boon to industry and research.
Exhibit B: Ford Is Backing Off VW EV Partnership
When two automakers share a platform it typically means that the profits and volume they expect for this vehicle do not justify complete ownership. Ford, for instance, is unlikely to ever share the F-150 with another automaker. Toyota and BMW, though, are fine to save costs by developing the relatively low-volume Supra and Z4 together. It can also mean that one automaker partner doesn’t have the requisite capabilities needed to produce a vehicle. And sometimes it’s both.
A few years ago, Volkswagen and Ford agreed that they’d make two new small EVs using Volkswagen’s MEB platform (the same one that underpins the VW ID.Buzz and ID.4). That car isn’t even out yet and Ford’s already reportedly jumping from the deal, at least according to German trade pub Automobilwoche (story via Automotive News) :
After launching two new all-electric EVs based on VW Group’s MEB electric-only architecture, Ford will use its own technology for future electric cars.
VW’s MEB platform was a transitional technology for Ford and using it saved the company at least two years of development time, Martin Sanders, Ford’s e-car development manager in Europe, told Automotive News sister publication Automobilwoche.
Ford is spending $2 billion to convert its factory in Cologne, Germany, to build two MEB-based cars, while ending production of the long-running Fiesta hatchback there.
When automakers take their ball and go home, you know the ball has value.
Exhibit C: Hertz Wants To Rent 25,000 Electric Cars To Uber Drivers
Increasingly, if I’m getting picked up by an Uber or a Lyft it’s a Tesla that’s coming to get me. In Europe, that’s about to be the case as Hertz and Uber announced they’d extend their U.S. program of renting EVs to drivers across the Atlantic Ocean. From their press release:
The partnership is a key element of Hertz’s strategy to build one of the largest fleets of rental EVs in the world and Uber’s industry-leading commitment to become a zero emissions platform in Europe and North America by 2030.
The partnership in North America has already benefited tens of thousands of drivers on the Uber platform. To date, nearly 50,000 drivers have rented a Tesla through this program, completing more than 24 million fully-electric trips and over 260 million electric miles.
The European expansion of the partnership will begin in Hertz Europe’s London base in January 2023 and aims to expand to other European capitals, such as Paris and Amsterdam, throughout the year and beyond. Further details will be announced in due course.
Despite talking about Teslas, their press shots show a Polestar 2.
Exhibit D: EV Charging Disproportionately In Wealthy, White Neighborhoods
To the surprise of absolutely no one, a report from Axios found that charging for electric cars was easier to find in whiter and wealthier neighborhoods:
Majority-white tracts are about 1.4 times as likely as majority-non-white tracts to have a charger, while tracts with chargers are about 1.14 times as wealthy as those without them, according to our analysis of the 35 U.S. cities with the highest share of EV sales nationwide.
The study looked at U.S. Census tracts and found that majority-white tracts in Philly, for instance, were 3.9 times as likely to have charging stations as non-white tracts. This isn’t universal. Dallas and San Francisco had a relatively equal distribution of chargers.
While the content of the study is entirely unsurprising, the existence of the study itself is noteworthy. EVs have long been the easy playthings of the wealthy, but the concern over the democratization of charger access shows there’s at least a desire to see this change.
What was your last Uber or Lyft? What was your last rental car?
Photos: VW, EU, Newspress, Hertz