It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

Greenpeace smears an Air France plane in March, 2021
Greenpeace smears an Air France plane in March, 2021
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)
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France just voted to ban all short-range domestic flights that could be covered by train instead. It’s a healthy reminder that all of this — our world that prioritizes cheap air travel, car commuting, the cheap and fast destruction of our planet — doesn’t have to be this way. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 12, 2021.

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1st Gear: If You Can Take A Train, You Can’t Take A Plane

This is the key aspect of France’s flight ban: The only ones cut are trips that already have an alternate means of more efficient travel by train. As Reuters reports:

French lawmakers voted late on Saturday to abolish domestic flights on routes than can be covered by train in under two-and-a-half hours, as the government seeks to lower carbon emissions even as the air travel industry reels from the global pandemic.

The measure is part of a broader climate bill that aims to cut French carbon emissions by 40% in 2030 from 1990 levels, though activists accuse President Emmanuel Macron of watering down earlier promises in the draft legislation.

The vote came days after the state said it would contribute to a 4 billion euro ($4.76 billion) recapitalisation of Air France, more than doubling its stake in the flagcarrier, to shore up its finances after over a year of COVID-19 travel curbs.

Reuters goes on to note that an alternate version of the ban would have cut everything four hours and under, not two-and-a-half.

The train aspect is what bums me out. I would love for a quick and easy train down to, say, Spartanburg, SC, to go check out BMW’s fleet of historic vehicles down there. If I take Amtrak, though, it’s 14 hours. If I fly, it’s a two-hour shot to Charlotte and then a 50-minute hop to Spartanburg. America is not really ready for this kind of action.

2nd Gear: Battery Battle Gets A $1.8 Billion Settlement

Battery manufacturers LG and SK have buried the hatchet, as Reuters reports, with LG dropping its case against SK and SK paying LG $1.8 billion in a case about stolen battery secrets. The reason any of this is of any kind of news is that the Feds dropped the hammer on SK with a 10-year ban in the States, making slight exceptions for Ford’s upcoming electric F-150 and VW’s upcoming ID electric cars. Then SK reminded everyone that it had a factory planned for Georgia and everything changed. Reuters has a convenient history of the affair:

In the bitter two-year dispute, LG lost to SK in a bid for VW orders, then accused SK of stealing trade secrets by poaching nearly 80 of its employees. LG filed a complaint against SK in 2019, and both sides hired numerous lawyers and consultants to make their case to the Biden administration.

The ITC in February sided with LG after the company accused SK of misappropriating trade secrets related to EV battery technology. It issued a 10-year-import ban but allowed SK to import components for batteries for Ford’s EV F-150 program for four years, and VW’s North American EVs for two years.

In March, SK vowed to walk away from the $2.6 billion Georgia battery plant, which is under construction, if the ITC decision was not overturned. LG said in March it could handle the battery needs of automakers if SK abandoned the Georgia plant.

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It’s good that we put the petty questions of “ownership” of ideas behind us for the greater good of increasing EV development and national battery production, right?

3rd Gear: Vinfast Wants To Go Public

Vietnam’s most interesting carmaker wants to rake in $2 billion by going public, as Bloomberg reports:

Vingroup JSC is considering a U.S. initial public offering of its car unit VinFast that could raise about $2 billion, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

The biggest carmaker in Vietnam is working with advisers on the potential offering that could take place as soon as this quarter, the people said. An offering could raise as much as $3 billion, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private. The company is seeking a valuation of at least $50 billion after a listing, one of the people said.

At $2 billion, VinFast’s IPO would be the biggest ever by a Vietnamese company after Vinhomes JSC’s $1.4 billion first-time share sale in 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The carmaker could also become the first Vietnamese company to list in the U.S. if successful.

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Vinfast is most famous for sticking a Chevy V8 in a BMW SUV, which is the most America-friendly car I can possible imagine right now.

4th Gear: Ford Exec Has Time For Working On Harley Board Of Directors, Apparently

It’s fairly common for high-profile execs to sit on boards of other companies, I’m just surprised that Ford’s Jim Farley has time for anything these days beyond “figuring out how to put out a new car that isn’t half-baked,” let alone wade into the troubled waters of Harley-Davidson. Farley must be a glutton for punishment. The Detroit Free Press lays out the news:

Ford CEO Jim Farley, owner of two classic Harley-Davidson motorcycles, has agreed to serve on the board of the Milwaukee-based company.

[...]

“It’s also good for Ford, another chance for us to learn from one of the best,” [Farley] said. “This is a legendary American brand with a proud global history and enduring values. Like Ford, they now want to transform how people move, including new customers —through always-on relationships, new technologies and must-have products and services.”

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Both Harley and Ford are American vehicular icons that are making the transition to EVs, so maybe there’s something there.

5th Gear: Cruise Is Going To Dubai

Autonomous vehicle developers love working with corporate-friendly governments in climates where the roads are perfect and it never rains. This is why we’ve seen a lot of testing in the American southwest, and that’s why I’m not surprised about Cruise sending robotaxis to Dubai, as Reuters reports:

Dubai’s Road and Transit Authority and Cruise said in a joint statement that Cruise will deploy a limited number of its purpose-built Cruise Origin vehicles in the emirate in 2023, making Dubai the first city outside the United States where Cruise will operate. By 2030, Cruise and Dubai’s transit authority said they plan to have 4,000 self-driving taxis in operation. Cruise will be the exclusive robotaxi service provider in the emirate until 2029.

Cruise and GM executives have said Cruise will launch its commercial service first in the startup’s hometown of San Francisco, before expanding elsewhere. The company on Monday did not say when it plans to launch its rides for hire service in San Francisco, saying that will depend on when the company’s automated vehicles are deemed safe.

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Reverse: Famous Matra Djet Owner Takes Flight

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Neutral: What Else Should We Ban?

Today, short flights. Tomorrow ...

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

DISCUSSION

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