Home » West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin Is In A Fight With Hyundai Over EV Tax Credits

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin Is In A Fight With Hyundai Over EV Tax Credits

Tmd Manchin 2

Today’s Morning Dump takes us on a wild ride from West Virginia to South Korea, France to Japan, Australia to Iceland, and Ingosltadt to the ski slopes.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

West Virginia V South Korea In The EV Tax Credit Cup

Tmd Manchin

Now that France v. Argentina is behind us, it’s now time to focus on the next great battle: West Virginia versus South Korea (and Germany and Japan). Most foreign car companies are not super pumped about the Inflation Reduction Act because it requires replacing the current battery supply chain (which relies heavily on places like Russia, China, and Venezuela) with one that’s based in “friendlier” places. It places an emphasis on U.S. manufacturing of cars and components.

The main enforcement mechanism in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for encouraging companies to redevelop the battery supply chain is with the up-to $7,500 tax credit that buyers can get for buying a qualifying car.

Besides Tesla, the most successful group of EV brands in the United States by sales (and, arguably, reputation) are the South Korean trio of Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis. These brands, all under the Hyundai Motor Group umbrella, are therefore extremely keen on continuing to get these types of tax credits. The South Koreans are not happy with the law and reportedly view it as a betrayal of President Biden’s commitment to stronger bilateral economic cooperation between the two nations.

A feature of our system of government is that, while the legislative branch passes the laws, it’s the executive branch that enforces those laws. Automakers, both foreign and domestic, have been calling on the executive branch to broadly construe some sections of the law.

It’s another, often less useful feature of our system of government that one or two senators can hold up the entire functioning of the country whenever they want, which is why the opinion of Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who it’s worth noting has historically represented the interest of the fossil fuel industry, is so important. Machin was key in passing the IRA, and he is not pleased about all this “interpretation” stuff. You can read his letter to US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking her to strictly interpret these laws. Here are some highlights:

As the sector responsible for the largest portion of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, there is no question that we need to be doing all that we can to reduce emissions in the transportation sector. That is why there were several provisions in the IRA aimed at not only increasing the domestic manufacturing of cleaner vehicles, but also helping consumers and businesses enter the clean vehicle market.

Unfortunately, I have heard that some automakers and foreign governments are asking your agency for a broad interpretation of 45W that would allow rental cars, leased vehicles, and rideshare vehicles (such as those used for Uber and Lyft), a huge piece of the U.S. vehicle market, to be eligible for the full $7,500 commercial vehicle credit as a way to bypass the strict sourcing requirements in the 30D Clean Vehicle Credit (30D). If these vehicles are deemed eligible, I can guarantee that companies will focus their attention away from trying to invest in North America to meet the requirements of 30D and will instead continue with business as usual, putting our transportation sector further at risk. The 45W credit, as the name implies, is intended only for commercial use and your department must follow congressional intent and release guidance that would ensure 45W will not be used on vehicles that will be leased, rented or used for ridesharing purposes.

I’m just gonna take that whole first paragraph in good faith, even though I’m not certain that Senator Manchin’s voting history is particularly a persuasive argument for his belief in the importance of reducing greenhouse gasses.

The second paragraph is a big question: Does a car leased to Uber count as a “commercial” vehicle? Senator Manchin says nope. Automakers say yep. From a Bloomberg report:

The push [for reinterpretation] was coming from the likes of Rivian and Hyundai, as well as the government of South Korea. They encouraged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, whose department has until year-end to finalize details of how the IRA is implemented, to allow leased vehicles to qualify as commercial vehicles. Hyundai and South Korea suggested rental cars and ride-share vehicles also ought to be included.

Because tax season is coming up the Treasury will announce their determination on December 31st.

Ultimately, this pits Joe Biden and his agenda against what he needs from allies. Is it better to piss off Joe Manchin and risk getting nothing done or, with a fractured House of Representatives, better to assume nothing’s getting done anyway and make your allies happy so they keep giving guns to Ukraine?

We’ll see in 12 days.

Renault Gonna Keep On Renault-ing

Tmd Senard

Let’s keep doing that thing every week-or-so where we catch up on Renault to see if they worked it out with Nissan.

If you haven’t been paying attention: Renault is the smaller company, owns 43% of Nissan, and has the voting rights that come with the majority shareholder’s position. Nissan, the larger company, owns 15% of Renault, and has no voting rights within Renault. Conflict!

Nissan and Renault (and, technically Mitsubishi) have been trying to work out this conflict since the formation of their partnership. There have been promising signs the last few weeks or, at least, promises of promising signs.

This week there’s a minor hopeful sign in that, according to Automotive News Europe, Renault Group Chairman Jean-Dominque Senard and CEO Luca de Meo are being invited back to continue to serve in those roles. While it may seem like small potatoes, Renault has engaged in corporate reshuffling in a way that makes the rulers in the “Game of Thrones” novels seem downright placid by comparison. Clearly, Renault thinks it’s this pair that’s gonna work it out:

Senard reportedly has a good rapport with Renault’s Alliance partner Nissan, and in the months after Ghosn’s arrest repeatedly flew back and forth to Japan to reassure Nissan executives of Renault’s commitment to the partnership.

It’s not clear anyone can make this work, but the last guy who tried had to get wheeled out of Japan in a speaker box so the standards are fairly low.

Here’s The Audi Activesphere Concept

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The graphic designers at Audi didn’t seem to make a big effort in concealing the Audi activesphere concept, which should go a long way to explaining that it’s probably a real concept and not some thinly disguised production car. I just adjusted the curves in photoshops and, lo, there it is.

So, what is this thing?

The Audi activesphere concept provides ultimate freedom and is the perfect companion for ambitious outdoor adventures. Whether it’s water sports, skiing, golfing or challenging mountain roads – the activesphere concept offers ultimate variability for all activities. While the concept car combines extraordinary elegance with outstanding off-road performance, its communication technology creates a unique experience – beyond the car itself.

The four members of the Sphere family – skysphere, grandsphere, urbansphere and activesphere – present Audi’s vision for the premium mobility of tomorrow. The concept vehicles are united not only by a fascinating design, but also by the electric drive and the design for the possibility of automated driving.

It’s an EV crossover concept with skis. Neat! The company calls it the “activesphere” in lower-case, which is annoying.

Report: 2023 Is The Year Of Low Carbon Aluminum

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Engineering an efficient, carbon-neutral car is no easy task. Even if you could make a car that runs purely on electricity harnessed from solar panels on the roof, well, you still have to manufacture it.

In theory, a lightweight and efficient car will use some aluminum, which is both light and strong while also being easy to manufacture. The downside is that aluminum is more energy intensive to produce than other common metals.

If aluminum is produced using renewable energy then it’s considered “low-carbon” aluminum and is probably better the environment. There was a dip in low-carbon aluminum production during 2022, but Reuters is reporting that 2023 should see a comeback in the material.

Automakers are taking note, and starting to incorporate more of the material:

Electric vehicle (EV) maker Polestar has started to use green aluminium as part of a project to create a vehicle with zero emissions from every aspect of production, teaming up with Norway’s Norsk Hydro (NHY.OL), which uses hydro power to produce much of its metal.

Polestar said it pays slightly more for green aluminium, partly due to the administrative costs of changing suppliers, but did not say how much more.

“The cost per reduced kg of CO2 emissions when shifting to green aluminium is still significantly lower than many other ways of reducing raw material emissions,” a company spokesperson told Reuters.

It’s worth noting that BMW and Audi are also engaged in low-carbon aluminum products so expect to see more if it in the coming years.

The Flush

It’s Manchin v. The World, who do you think will win? Who should win?

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Photos: U.S. Senate, Renault, Polestar, Audi

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37 Responses

  1. Regarding Nissan… If Nissan doesn’t like how things are, then what they need to do is get the cash to buy some or all of Renaults stake in the company.

    But for one reason or another, they don’t want to do that.

    They can be crybabies all they want… the fact is that Renault swooped in when Nissan was nearly bankrupt in the late 1990s… which is why things are the way they are.

    Personally I think Renault needs to be a little less nice about things with Nissan’s management.

  2. Speaking vaguely of low-carbon aluminum, time for some unsolicited fun facts about aluminum! And yes, I did rip all these facts from the Bill Bryson book I finally finished reading over the weekend. Have a fun Monday, everyone.
    *It’s the fourth most common element on the planet.
    *The discoverer of aluminum himself vacillated between calling it “aluminum” and “aluminium,” so we can probably all stop yelling about the correct spelling now.
    *Since it was a relatively rare and fancy material back in the 19th century, the US almost ended up with an aluminum covering on the Washington Monument.

    1. I believe that at one point it was rare enough that it rivaled silver and maybe gold in value.
      Imagine showing off aluminum jewelry and claiming you’ve got your bling on (or whatever the hell kids say these days)

  3. The interests of a single rich white dude, his handlers, and the 39th most populous state in the country should not supersede the needs of the rest of the country and humanity in general when it comes to fighting climate change. The end. It’s genuinely unfortunate that the slow death of the coal industry has upended so many lives and as someone who’s spent a decent amount of time in West Virginia and seen the economic and social woes the state is dealing with first hand, I genuinely feel for residents of the state and understand why they keep electing Manchin.

    But what can we do? The climate crisis is real and slowly but surely moving away from fossil fuels is necessary for our survival as a species. It’s not really up for debate at this point. You can either get with the program or wait to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Seems like an easy enough call for me.

    Sorry…I lean left on a lot of issues *ducks* but I absolutely cannot stand Manchin. Him and his handlers’ selfishness and greed is just disgusting to me. Choosing your own personal wealth over the best interests of humanity in general is beyond the pale. History will not remember this man fondly.

    1. Manchin is correct on this one and I do not know why the article portrayed him as opposing the administration on this either. The only people who want a toothless enforcement of the made in the US requirements are the car companies, the Biden administration is pushing requirements like this as part of their own domestic strategy. I think the author, and commentators too, are making a misguided snap judgement that a position supported by Manchin=bad.

      1. The big question, which the commercial credit sidesteps, is whether the US-made requirements are in line with our free trade agreements. Basically, it seems like no one wants to address the actual question of trade with Korea, largely because Korea just wants a stop-gap while Hyundai/Kia build their big plant.

        I don’t know how to address it without opening up a whole other can of worms, but their active investment in US manufacturing getting them a grace period would be an ideal situation, as it would acknowledge both the goal of increasing domestic production and the trade agreement. But we also have agreements with Japan. Toyota, Honda, and Subaru may not have any big EV plant projects coming, but they HAVE some US production in general. And they might be able to shift final production of some EVs over here, so they might push for a similar exception.

        International politics and trade get messy.

        1. Admittedly, on the “foreign entity of concern” issue, the answers are even trickier. Do lithium processors need to separate US-bound production and specifically account for the sources? Or can they just ensure they get enough from the right sources to account for US lithium? Will non-US companies cooperate with strict auditing to prove they have enough from approved sources?

          Ford is right to want clarification and categorization, though perhaps overstepping in asking that foreign entities be removed from the concern list.

      2. I dunno, personally I’m in favor of the policy in general but think it is too strict as written. There should be a longer phase-in period and a more generous allowance for products made by our nation’s allies.

        I think it’s probably legitimate that automakers can’t really comply with the new rules over the kind of time frame they were given, and I think we should be less protectionist against other countries which A: have labor and environmental protections equivalent to or better than our own, and B: are our strategic partners, geopolitically speaking.

        I say this as a renewable energy professional and climate warrior, and also as someone who cares about human rights, national security, and an international order based on the rule of law. I’m OK with the overall idea behind the policy, but think it’s too harsh.

        So that’s at least one person.

        1. I think a problem here is that expanding the definitions of commercial vehicles might have unintended effects (sort of like the light truck vs passenger vehicle EPA stuff just leading to significant production of large SUVs and pickups instead of fuel-efficient vehicles). I do agree with Manchin that this is not the way to improve things.

          That said, he’s not coming in with ideas for how to compromise on anything, largely because he doesn’t want to find a solution.

            1. Arguably, they do. The waitlist for a Ford Lightning is still massive, EV6 and Ioniqs command significant markups from many dealers, and Rivian can’t make theirs fast enough. The new version of the tax credit adding both income and price restrictions seems to be an attempt to get companies to bring down prices and help make EVs more accessible to a broader range of consumers.

              We use tax breaks, subsidies, and incentives to encourage/discourage a lot of things. EV adoption is one of those at this point. I’d rather see spending to increase access to public transit and a push for EVs in use cases that have greater impact (garbage trucks, school buses, local delivery routes, etc.), but this makes sense if trying to encourage automakers to offer more affordable (and US-made) EVs.

      3. I agree with you here. We need manufacturing jobs, and we need to reduce our financial dependence on countries who are certainly not our allies, and this does both. It certainly feels weird to agree with Manchin, but if this gets the coal and mining industry onboard with reduced greenhouse emissions, good.

  4. Ah, the Manchins. ‘Ol “Papa Roadblock” Manchin making sure coal is protected while daughter Heather has fun with the Mylan Epi-pen price gouging scandal. Truly some of the best.

  5. “It’s another, often less useful feature of our system of government that one or two senators can hold up the entire functioning of the country whenever they want”

    This has nothing to do with our system of government. It barely even has anything to do with the one or two senators who do this.

    It’s entirely a property of the pair of groups of 48ish senators who dig their heels in on policies that don’t have wide support (my definition of “wide” here is a VAST majority. 70+%) from the public.

    Democracy is a system under which the majority wields the power to oppress minorities. The fact that you can’t squeak something through the senate is how our representative republic mitigates this uncomfortable and inconvenient truth behind the best system of government we’re currently aware of. The reality is that the vast majority of us agree on the vast majority of things. If you don’t want one or two senators to be able to hold up the works all you need is for the other 98 or so senators to stop being horrible people and focus on the stuff we agree on rather than the wedges they’re trying to use to make sure they can get the stuff they know damned well huge number of us don’t agree on.

    In the meantime, the one or two senators refusing to go along with partisan things are the heros, not the villains. If you don’t think so, consider the fact that they tend to be moderates from the minority side in the areas they were elected from. Would you like the world better if you replaced them with the other side of the ticket? Because that’s the real other option.

  6. “Low carbon aluminum”
    First I’ve heard of that. I hope it isn’t as much green-washing bullshit as it sounds like.

    Aluminum is aluminum forever, though, unlike plastic. If everyone recycled all of their aluminum, would that not be much greener?

    1. It’s been a while since I looked into it, but aluminum has historically been very energy intensive to produce. So using renewable‘s to power the production and calling it green would make sense to me, assuming that’s what’s going on.

  7. “The second paragraph is a big question: Does a car leased to Uber count as a “commercial” vehicle? Senator Manchin says nope. Automakers say yep.”

    Gods. This is just so much pointless idiotic political theatre instead of actual governance or good faith, as usual. The United States is just a failed state with better window dressing.

    Look. It’s this fucking simple. Is the vehicle a fundamental element of commercial activity? Is it plated and taxed as a commercial vehicle? If yes, then it’s commercial. If no, then it’s not. If Uber is putting livery plates and commercial registrations on sedans, then they’re commercial vehicles. End of debate.

    “It’s not clear anyone can make this work, but the last guy who tried had to get wheeled out of Japan in a speaker box so the standards are fairly low.”

    Nobody can make the marriage made in hell work. Just have the ‘Red Wedding’ already. The longer they keep up this facade of ‘cooperation’ and ‘friendship,’ the worse the inevitable explosion is going to be. Especially since everyone knows Nissan and Renault fully intend to dump Mitsubishi in a ditch as soon as they’re sure they can’t possibly follow them.

    “So, what is this thing?”

    Another pointless exercise in vanity which has no relevance to anyone in the real world. Including the engineers involved. Oh yay, more ‘self-driving’ bullshit.

    “If aluminum is produced using renewable energy then it’s considered “low-carbon” aluminum and is probably better [for] the environment.”

    As someone who somewhat regularly deals with materials purchasing like this, look. It’s just more greenwashing bullshit. Aluminum takes a shitload of electricity to make. It takes more than the cabinets I build, and the numbers on those invoke things like ‘arc flash hazard.’
    Roughly, it takes 13.20kWh/kg for aluminum. Which basically means for each kilogram of aluminum you’re making, you’d need 3x 5kW wind turbines as an example. That seems reasonable doesn’t it? Except that’s not how you make aluminum. You make it by the literal tonne (metric, you heathens.) So what you actually need is 13.2 megawatts per tonne, and the largest smelter in the world is Vedanta in India at 1.75 MILLION tonnes per year. That’s roughly 23,100,000,000kWh or 23,100,000MWh. Sounds horrifyingly large, because it is. Vedanta running at capacity would consume the total output of 5 large nuclear power plants for a year.

    Obviously not all smelters are that large (or anywhere near it,) so for like a 70,000 tonne facility (about 1,000,000MWh) then a large turbine farm absolutely can do it. But that’s not where their aluminum is coming from. It’s coming from India and China, because that’s orders of magnitude cheaper. And they’re not running it on wind farms; they’re running it on cheap low grade coal and the like.
    And most of these smelters have their own on-site power plant. Vedanta (BALCO) in fact brags about their onsite 2,010MW generation. (Which covers most of their demand.) They are super proud of ‘contributing progress for India.’ No mention of their catastrophic contribution to climate change with their coal fired plants. (You can literally see the coal mounds in their promo photos.)

    I’m actually familiar with Hydro Husnes (Norsk Hydro) because Hydro is one of the few smelters that makes both microchannel stock and precision drawn tubing suitable for my applications. They absolutely can do it, but they’ve got hydroelectric and it’s only 185k tonnes per year max. Everyone else, especially India and China? Yeah. It’s about as green as burning your trash in open pits.

    It’s Manchin v. The World, who do you think will win? Who should win?

    See above, re: classification. With regards to Manchin as a person? The only reason anyone puts up with him is because he’s got name recognition that’s keeping very literal Nazis out of the seat. (No, seriously. His challenger in 2018 was WV’s AG and spent literally all his time suing the EPA over literally everything and then tried to block certification of the 2020 election results. Oh, and he’s also been bribed to look the other way on pill-mill lawsuits more than a few times.) Manchin’s antics have been fucking up governance for years.

    But as per usual, the assholes will win and the rest of the world will suffer for it.

  8. “If these vehicles are deemed eligible, I can guarantee that companies will focus their attention away from trying to invest in North America to meet the requirements of 30D and will instead continue with business as usual, putting our transportation sector further at risk.”

    The main players here are the Korean cars. Hyundai and Kia were working on starting US manufacturing of EVs BEFORE the credit change. It’s disingenuous to claim they will not invest due to a broad application of commercial vehicle credits.

    “As the sector responsible for the largest portion of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, there is no question that we need to be doing all that we can to reduce emissions in the transportation sector. That is why there were several provisions in the IRA aimed at not only increasing the domestic manufacturing of cleaner vehicles, but also helping consumers and businesses enter the clean vehicle market.”

    Also an odd statement, given that doing all we can to reduce emissions and doing all we can to protect US manufacturing are a bit at odds here. If he wants to be honest here, he should acknowledge that reality. The portions that help people enter the clean vehicle market are ALSO aimed at increasing domestic manufacturing. Odd that he considers them so separate when he was instrumental in keeping them connected. (Not actually odd, of course. It serves his purposes to frame it as two separate things here.)

  9. I get why Hyundai and other foreign OEMs are upset over the IRA, buuuuuuut, fuck ’em. The point of the act was to bolster American supply chains and jobs. Sorry about you profit margins, Hyundai, sucks to suck or whatever.

    1. I wonder what the scorecard is for protectionist legislation actually helping the American consumer.
      I’d take a wild guess and say that it’s been a net negative.

  10. I read that Audi thing three times. I still have no clue what it says or what the picture is showing.

    Then again, I don’t get NFTs, pre-ripped clothing, or SUV GTs either.

    1. Well, I can’t explain the first two, but grand touring SUVs? Don’t knock it till you try it.

      Major downsides of course are fuel mileage (lolno.) But the very idea of a grand tourer was ‘load up your stuff and go for a long drive at speed.’ Most modern mid-high end SUVs are more or less built exactly for that. Except being an SUV, now you have room for the luggage, the kids, and a camper or boat behind it. Plus all 5032985 devices everyone just has to have.
      And that room can also be translated directly to more luxury, something AMC started with the Wagoneer. Laugh all you like, but people didn’t just love the Wagoneer because it was good in snow and off-road. It was good at those, and much more importantly, didn’t ask them to give up car things like comfort and convenience in exchange. That’s what sold people on it. Go through the worst muddy trail to the ski-resort without giving up your air conditioning, your shag carpet, or your plush seating.

      And seriously. Try to cram the traditional ‘nuclear’ family with 2.5 children and their luggage into a quintessential ‘grand tourer’ like the Bristol 401 or Aston Martin DB4.

      SUVs are simply the (somewhat) natural direction of evolution.

  11. If you’re leasing your car from Uber, it probably needs to be registered as a commercial vehicle. Beyond that, I hate to agree with Manchin, but I don’t consider rental cars to be commercial vehicles.

    1. What?
      Could you parse that, please? A car purchased by a rental agency is explicitly acquired solely to exchange use of it for money: no matter how I look at that, it seems to me to be a commercial vehicle. I’m not trying to start an internet fight here: genuinely curious about how you come to your conclusion.

      1. I tried to ask the same question but gave up because I overcomplicate everything. Yes, though. Seems to me that if a vehicle is bought by a business for the purpose of helping that business do what it does, it should count as a commercial vehicle.

      2. A rental car is a commercial vehicle for a couple of years, sure. And after that? It’s resold and no longer commercial. Maybe they need to pro-rate, say with a 12 year lifespan, it’s 2/12 a commercial vehicle. So instead of a $7500 credit, give them a $1250 credit.

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