Is it possible that the simplest and most effective plan to get people to switch from fuel-burning cars to electric ones is motivated by nationalist jealousy. All that and more in The Morning Shift for August 11, 2021.
I was surprised at news today that Italy has just surpassed Norway in EV/PHEVs, given that Norway has been the icon for EVs in Europe for ages and Italy is where they make Lamborghinis:
I was surprised again when I looked up more on Italy’s EV and PHEV sales and found that they were up 123 percent year-over-year back in February. Admittedly, this isn’t the biggest slice of the market, as CleanTechnica summed up in bullet points this month:
- 2019 — plugin vehicles had 0.9% market share (0.6% BEV, 0.3% PHEV)
- 2020 — plugin vehicles had 4.3% market share (2.3% BEV, 2.0% PHEV)
- 2021 (YTD) — plugin vehicles had 7.4% market share (3.1% BEV, 4.3% PHEV)
How did this all happen? Giving people a bunch of money to buy EVs. From Electrive.com in 2020:
The increase in premiums will apply from 1 August until the end of this year – for electric and hybrid vehicles up to a gross list price of 61,000 euros. Specifically, purely electric vehicles will be subsidised with 6,000 euros during this period instead of the previous 4,000 euros. Anyone who scraps their old combustion engine in connection with the purchase of the electric vehicle will even receive 10,000 euros (previously 6,000 euros).
Hybrids with CO2 emissions of between 21 and 60 grams per kilometer will be subsidized with 3,500 euros or 6,500 euros if an old car is decommissioned at the same time. These rates were previously 1,500 and 2,500 euros respectively. The increased incentives are financed partly by the state and partly by the car manufacturers. Germany, Austria and France had previously already initiated an increase in the premium on a similar scale.
This has been in the works since 2018, part of a specific plan to beat Norway, as Automotive News Europe reported at the time:
Italy’s new populist government has a plan to put 1 million electric vehicles on the nation’s roads by 2022 in an effort to go from being the region’s weakest EV market to replacing Norway as its strongest.
Italy has kept these subsidies going in 2021 and it looks like they’re working!
Government money is not always easy to spend, as somehow a Democrat triple majority is ending up with a somewhat compromised infrastructure bill. I was particularly charmed by Transportation For America’s declaration “Senate makes historic investment in yesterday’s transportation priorities.” There are a lot of individual issues with the huge injection of money, all well detailed in this excellent Streetsblog article. My favorite is that we’re kicking $200 billion to highways with no real restrictions on how it gets spent, as the National Association of City Transportation Officials details:
Even as the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that our planet is heading toward an increasingly uninhabitable future, the infrastructure bill passed today by the Senate keeps our nation on an unsafe and unsustainable path. It continues to prioritize building the infrastructure that most contributes to the U.S.’s worst-in-class safety record and extraordinarily high climate emissions: new highways. With transportation as the largest source of U.S. climate emissions, and 80% of those coming from driving, the Senate’s bill goes in the wrong direction, giving a whopping $200 billion in virtually unrestricted funding to this unsustainable mode.
America is really good at building giant highways and anything else feels like turning a container ship around.
What do we mean when we say that Covid is a global pandemic, and not just something that exists on a personal or national level? Everyone working at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant will be getting sent home because of an outbreak in Malaysia, as Automotive News reports:
A new COVID-19 outbreak at a microchip supplier plant in Malaysia has led Nissan to shut down production lines at its large assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn., until the end of the month.
Nissan North America did not disclose the name of the supplier but said that the plant will halt for the weeks of Aug. 16 and Aug. 23. Nissan said it now plans to restart the lines on Aug. 30.
As ever, vaccine efforts need to be seen as a global one, and we must end vaccine apartheid before we can be safe even here at home.
I am in love with this Bloomberg article, which innocently asks why car companies don’t advertise against gas-burning cars, which make up the vaaaaaaaaaast majority of their profits to this day:
I was scrolling through Twitter recently when I came across this promoted tweet from Ford that said: “We’re taking our icons, and making them electric. What else is it going to take for EVs to go mainstream?”
There are many answers to this question. Some of the obvious ones: Make more of them in higher volumes so that you can reach economies of scale. Drastically reduce the cost for consumers. Incentivize dealers to actually sell them. Make it easier to recharge batteries — particularly for people who may live in apartment buildings. The list goes on.
To me there is one answer that is blindingly obvious: talk about the connection between the internal combustion engine and asthma. I’m not a marketing expert by any stretch, but the relationship between vehicle emissions and air quality is clear: vehicle fumes, with a high concentration of carbon monoxide, are considered among the worst pollutants. I remain incensed at Volkswagen, which went to extraordinary lengths to cheat on emissions tests before they were caught by the smog cops at the California Air Resources Board.
I like the article because it does do the job of pointing out that while car companies are promoting EVs, they are still raking in huge chunks of cash from internal combustion. Our current path won’t lead to salvation.
5th Gear: And Also Please Enjoy This Article Explaining How EVs Don’t Erase The Costs Of Car Ownership
Even more astute and innocent is this article, which points out EVs take a lot of time to charge, and if you’re not a wealthy homeowner with a charger in your garage, that means a lot of time spent at charging stations. That means a new burden on the poor, as the Financial Times points out:
Existing EV owners, most of whom are upper-income, don’t seem to mind this extra effort. Why should they. Having cash on hand means being able to splurge on, among other things, a personal garage, which is where most EVs are topped off. If you’re rich enough, you can just set it and forget it. Even if you can’t charge, its likely you also have a second car as backup.
Poor Americans have no such luck, often living in dense urban housing that lacks reliable electricity access, let alone dedicated parking spots.
The proposed solution is a nationwide network of chargers. The US Senate recently clinched bipartisan infrastructure deal that provides $7.5 billion for charging infrastructure along major highways and corridors, the goal being to make charging stations as ubiquitous as gas stations. A related effort aims to promote “equitable” EV recharging through accelerated public investment. But what’s equitable about the rich person charging their car at home while the poor person stands in the rain?
The undercurrent to this article is that all cars put a burden on their owners, and that all of our cities and towns functionally tax people with the costs of car ownership. EVs might not have tailpipe emissions, but they don’t fix any of the problems with cars in general.
I’m not sure any racing driver has more tall tales about them than Tazio Nuvolari:
At a certain point do you ask if government money could be better spent than making EVs all-but free? Or is there no limit to how much you drop EV prices?