Car Companies Admit Their EV Plans Aren’t Enough

TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 6: Actor Woody Harrelson from the film “Go Further” sits on the roof of a tiny electric car at the film’s after party during the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2003 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 6: Actor Woody Harrelson from the film “Go Further” sits on the roof of a tiny electric car at the film’s after party during the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2003 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)
The Morning ShiftAll your daily car news in one convenient place. Isn't your time more important?

If you think people are going to just line up for electric Ford F-150s next year, you’ve got another thing coming. Hell, even Ford knows it. All that and more in The Morning Shift for March 30, 2021.

Advertisement

1st Gear: Auto Industry Calls For Government Support

We’ve seen waves of EV interest come and go. That’s Woody Harrelson doing the splits on top of one in 2003 promoting his movie about individual responsibility to save the environment. What EVs have not done is made a serious change in American consumer habits, still accounting for a sliver of the car market here, Tesla included.

Car companies know that needs to change, and they don’t want to foot the bill. They want government help, and two industry groups and the UAW signed on to a letter to Biden calling for it, as Reuters reports:

The letter urged Biden to back significant government tax incentives and subsidies for manufacturing and buying EVs and boosting federal government fleet EV purchases.

It called for government grants to automakers and suppliers “to reequip, expand, and establish facilities” for EVs and components and to “accelerate the domestic manufacture of batteries, power electronics (and) electric motors.”

The letter encouraged developing “U.S.-based supplies of critical minerals (extraction, processing, recycling), battery and fuel cell manufacturing” and new government efforts to boost hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

As a candidate, Biden pledged to invest $2 trillion in infrastructure spending, including fixing highways, bridges and airports; encouraging fuel-efficient vehicle manufacturing and installing 500,000 EV charging stations.

The letter noted there are currently 100,000 public charging outlets nationwide.

It’s easy to see this as a call for a handout, but I have to side with the car companies here. No matter how desirable individual EVs are, we need to seriously step up our messy charging infrastructure and heavily subsidize EV prices if we’re going to see mass adoption.

2nd Gear: Read My Lips: No Higher Gas Tax

What Biden won’t do is bump up the gas tax or charge people per mile, as Reuters reports:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Monday the White House will not propose hiking gasoline taxes or a new vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee to pay for a proposal to massively boost infrastructure spending.

Advertisement

Nobody likes either of these taxes in principle, no matter how much you argue over if it’s regressive or not to help fund infrastructure maintenance. Just tax rich people and use it to pay for the roads, man.

3rd Gear: Another Smartphone Maker Linked To New EV

I really do not think of electric cars being a moneymaker (Tesla took years to turn a profit) but talking about making electric cars certainly helps a stock price or two. No surprise, then, that we have another hat in the ring, as the Financial Times reports:

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is joining the electric vehicle gold rush, pledging to pour $10bn into building a smart car over the next decade.

The Beijing-based company said on Tuesday that it would put in Rmb10bn ($1.5bn) to its initial phase of investment, without specifying a time period.

The push makes Xiaomi the latest tech company to join the stampede into electric vehicles, with search giant Baidu earlier this year announcing it would launch a new marque with carmaker Geely, and US tech group Apple reportedly considering a similar move. 

Advertisement

I do love this Gold Rush narrative in that pretty much nobody made any money actually panning for gold. Selling miners blue jeans? That’s where the big bucks were.

4th Gear: Volvo Boosting Its Parental Leave Policy

This is a sweet one from Volvo, as Automotive News reports:

Volvo employees in the U.S. and China, where the automaker has expanded rapidly by opening vehicle production plants in the last decade, stand to significantly benefit.

In the U.S., Volvo employees were previously offered six weeks of parental leave at 100 percent of their salary. Starting next month that rises to either 19 weeks at 100 percent or 24 weeks at 80 percent of their salary.

In China, mothers have a minimum of 14 weeks of paid leave while fathers, on average, only get one week. Volvo previously offered dads in China 15 days of leave at their full salary. That number will rise by more than a factor of 11.

Advertisement

Volvo is courting talent, I guess, from my generation that’s reaching having-kids age. Should we expect more 1990s retro paint schemes on Volvo cars, too? Is teal due for a comeback?

5th Gear: Today In Idiotic SPACs: This Flying Car

We have talked before about how special purpose acquisition companies are making a bubble out of automotive startups, but nothing has been as clearly dumb as this flying car one. From Bloomberg:

Qell Acquisition Corp., the special-purpose acquisition company started by former General Motors North America President Barry Engle, is taking German electric-aircraft startup Lilium public through a reverse merger.

The deal will list Lilium on the Nasdaq and values the combined company at approximately $3.3 billion, according to a statement Tuesday. Lilium will bring in proceeds of $830 million, including about $380 million in cash currently held in trust and $450 million from private investments in public equity.

Qell is making a high-stakes bet that Lilium will succeed in the nascent business of small electric aircraft. The startup intends to get its planned seven-seat vertical takeoff and landing craft completed and ready to launch commercial passenger service in 2024. Later, with additional funding, the Munich-based company plans to build a 16-seat model to move passengers across congested cities at rates competitive with high-speed rail. Bloomberg News reported the companies were in talks earlier this month.

Advertisement

Flying cars are the clearest signal you can send that what you’re doing is bullshit and you know it.

Reverse: Government Motors Deserves A Comeback

Advertisement

Neutral: How Are You?

My pea shoots have started sprouting, which is a nice sign of spring rejuvenation around here.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

DISCUSSION

pmb2012
NEBcruiser

The problem with “just tax the rich people” is that eventually, and far sooner than you think, you run out of other people’s money. The only equitable tax is a consumption tax. If we’re going to pay for “infrastructure” we should start with maintaining and repairing what we already have. Since you’re so concerned about hurting “rich people” and helping not “rich people”, we should worry about the crappy roads that damage cars.

Let entrepreneurs worry about building charging stations. Gas stations have made plenty of people a lot of money over the years, surely a wise group of people will build charging stations as electric vehicles proliferate. Until then, spending taxpayer money to build scores of EV charging stations is just spending money to make easier the lives of a tiny sliver of people driving around very expensive cars.