Ford is pretty happy with its electric vehicle sales so far, automakers warned that new tax credits could jeopardize EV sales in the U.S. and Baidu will launch China’s first self-driving taxi service. All that and more in The Morning Shift for August 8, 2022.
1st Gear: Ford Thinks it’s Winning the EV ‘Arms Race’
Ford’s EV rollout has been going pretty well so far. Despite the odd recall for failing roofs and dodgy wiring, the firm’s electric incarnations of the Mustang, Transit and F-150 Lightning have proven popular. Now, CEO Jim Farley has said the firm is shifting its EVs “fast as we can make them,” as it witnesses “overwhelming” demand for the new models.
Its success in the space means the Blue Oval is now eyeing up its electrically-powered competitors in what Farley calls the EV “arms race.” According to the Detroit Free Press, Farley believes Ford has the capacity to top both legacy automakers and EV upstarts. The site says:
“Public response and years-long order banks will allow Ford to ‘grab an outsized share of the rapidly growing EV market,’ Farley said. ‘We have a clear path to reach a run rate of 600,000 EVs by the end of next year. And that will lead to a foundation to 2 million by late 2026’.
“Early sales data indicate Ford is a serious contender, he said.”
If Ford can ramp up its production of EV at this rate, it could bode well for the firm. After opening new sites and increasing capacity at existing factories, Tesla says it will hit annual production of 2 million units next year. And Ford, having only delivered its first EV almost two years ago, could hit that target shortly after.
In stark contrast, American stablemate GM has taken a wildly different tact when it comes to flooding the market with EVs. Sure, the Bolt has been a solid seller for a few years now, but the firm took its time designing all new electric cars and trucks that will hit the market in the coming months and years. The DFP adds:
“Whether Farley’s comments were directed at GM doesn’t matter, GM spokesman Jim Cain told the Free Press. ‘The real question is where will we all be in a year, two years, five years or 10 years. We wouldn’t trade our position with anyone’.”
So far this year, GM has delivered 7,674 battery-powered vehicles split between the Chevrolet Bolt and Hummer EV pickup. Ford, meanwhile, has sold more than 30,000 EVs between the Mach-E, F-150 Lightning and the electric Transit.
2nd Gear: Tax Credits Could ‘Jeopardize’ EV Targets
Lawmakers in the U.S. passed a new bill yesterday that will expand the tax credits available for new electric vehicle buyers. But, the new rules come with a whole heap of caveats that many automakers aren’t happy about.
According to Reuters, a group representing legacy automakers such as General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen warned that the new $430 billion bill could “put achieving U.S. electric-vehicle adoption targets for 2030 in jeopardy.”
The new bill includes a $7,500 tax credit for EV buyers here in the U.S., but to qualify the car you buy must be assembled in North America. This means that as soon as the law comes into effect, many EVs would be ineligible for the grants. Such models include the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 and the Subaru Solterra.
The law also includes stipulations against Chinese-made components. After 2023, vehicles with batteries that use Chinese components might not receive the credit. According to Reuters:
“‘Unfortunately, the EV tax credit requirements will make most vehicles immediately ineligible for the incentive,’ said the Alliance for Automotive Innovation’s chief executive, John Bozzella, adding the bill ‘will also jeopardize our collective target of 40-50% electric vehicle sales by 2030’.”
The wording of the new bill is all there to try and promote manufacturing here it the U.S. At present, firms such as BMW, Toyota and Hyundai all have factories here in North America, but build their EVs at plants overseas.
If they want to entice American buyers in by applying these tax credits to their cars, they’ll have to find a way to start assembling more models stateside, and quickly.
3rd Gear: Baidu Cleared for China’s First Self-Driving Taxi
It sounds like self-driving cars might not be a year away anymore. That’s because Chinese firm Baidu has been granted permits to begin offering rides in its autonomous taxis without a safety driver at the wheel.
According to Engadget, Baidu has been granted permits to run a fully driverless taxi service in China – making it the first company in the country to obtain such permissions. The site reports:
“Back in April, Baidu received approval to run an autonomous taxi service in Beijing, as long as there was a human operator in the driver or front passenger seat. Now, it will be able to offer a service where the car’s only occupants are passengers.
“There are some limits to the permits. Driverless Apollo Go vehicles will ferry paying passengers around designated zones in Wuhan and Chongqing during daytime hours only.”
The service will operate in a five-square-mile area in Wuhan’s Economic & Technological Development Zone (WHDZ) and a 12-square-mile region in Chongqing’s Yongchuan District.
While there might not be a backup driver at the wheel in case things turn south, Baidu has built a heap of safety features into its autonomous taxis. These include methods of monitoring redundancy, remote driving capability and a safety operation system.
The step forward for Baidu and its self-driving operation has been a long time coming. After clocking up countless miles of testing with safety drivers in place, the firm unveiled its next-generation robotaxi, which came with a removable steering wheel.
4th Gear: Lawmakers Investigate Self-Driving Regulation
While China is gearing up to launch fully self-driving taxis, the U.S. still hasn’t sorted out the legislation that would govern such tech. To try and rectify this imbalance, two members of the House of Representatives are launching a bipartisan effort to revive legislative efforts to boost self-driving vehicles.
According to Reuters, representatives Robert Latta, a Republican, and Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, are creating the bipartisan Congressional Autonomous Vehicle Caucus to try and educate lawmakers on the technology. The site reports:
“‘We’re working hard to find that common ground to get something that we can pass,’ Dingell said, adding the United States must update motor vehicle safety standards written decades ago assuming human drivers are in control and ‘cannot afford to have a patchwork of laws either across 50 states’.”
The pair hopes that new legislation in Washington can help promote American-made self-driving tech. As such, they are hoping to engage with members of government from across the country as the laws will one day “affect everybody.”
Rules around self-driving cars have had a pretty tumultuous time in the Senate. In 2017, the House of Representatives passed legislation that sought to increase the adoption of self-driving cars, but the bill never passed the Senate.
5th Gear: Tesla Buys More Nickel
As Tesla looks to ramp up its electric car production at its six factories around the world, the firm is in dire need of new sources for the essential materials it needs to build enough batteries. The firm recently said it could hit production of 2 million cars a year from 2023, so needs to source enough lithium, nickel and other elements needed to build sufficient battery packs.
Now, the firm has signed a $5 billion deal with nickel processing firms in Indonesia to source more of the materials it needs. According to Reuters:
“Southeast Asia’s biggest economy has been trying to get Tesla to set up a production facility in the country, which has major nickel reserves. President Joko Widodo met with Tesla founder Elon Musk earlier this year to drum up investment.
“‘We are still in constant negotiation with Tesla ... but they have started buying two excellent products from Indonesia,’ Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said in an interview broadcast on Monday.
“He said Tesla signed a five-year contract with nickel processing companies operating out of Morowali in Sulawesi island. The nickel materials will be used in Tesla’s lithium batteries.”
But the deal hasn’t come about without its fair share of criticisms. Prior to the signing of Tesla’s five-year deal to buy nickel from Indonesia, environmental groups called on the firm to look for other suppliers of the metal.
In July, environmental and human rights groups wrote a letter to Tesla boss Elon Musk urging him to avoid investing in Indonesia’s nickel mining industry. They warned that such investment could lead to “mining-induced environmental devastation and harm to Indonesia’s indigenous communities.”
Reverse: And We Still Haven’t Done Anything About it
Neutral: Daniel Ricciardo Hasn’t Been Fired, Yet
For the past week, I’ve woken up every morning and checked if the happiest man in F1 still has a job. And today, he does. Australian racer Daniel Ricciardo hasn’t been dropped by McLaren just yet, despite rumors swirling that he’s about to be ousted in favor of Oscar Piastri.