Volvo Has The Right Idea

Volvo was working with EV designs back in the 1970s.
Volvo was working with EV designs back in the 1970s.
Photo: Volvo
The Morning ShiftAll your daily car news in one convenient place. Isn't your time more important?

Subsidies for EVs work ... until they don’t. What you need is something stronger. You need to go ahead and just ban fuel-burning cars, and Volvo is ready for it. All that and more in The Morning Shift for December 2, 2020.

1st Gear: Just Ban Gas-Burning Cars Already

There’s no way to make real, lasting policy change by dangling government incentives that might vanish the moment that politicians who create them are flushed from office. You need something stronger. I’d argue for investing in public transportation myself, but I can’t be particularly mad at new proposals to ban cars that burn fossil fuels. Volvo doesn’t seem bothered either, as noted by the Financial Times:

The chief executive of Volvo Cars will say that a ban on sales of petrol cars would be a better way to push groups to go electric than offering subsidies for battery vehicles.

Hakan Samuelsson will tell the FT Future of the Car Summit on Wednesday that the internal combustion engine is “a technology of the past”, and welcome the UK’s pledge to phase out sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

“No one can build a successful and profitable business by relying on incentives,” he will tell the virtual conference.

“While temporary incentives can help encourage industry to develop in the right way, it could be more efficient for governments to set a clear agenda towards an electric future.”

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As ever, if the real concern is the environment and cutting emissions now, then, well, I don’t see why we don’t just ban fossil-fueled cars at the moment and figure things out from there.

2nd Gear: Hyundai Is Moving Beyond Its Half-Assed EVs

Hyundai’s EVs have been relatively common, affordable and attractive. What they haven’t been is particularly desirable, and now Hyundai is over them, as the Financial Times reports:

The plan, announced on Wednesday, comes after Hyundai said in October it would recall 77,000 of its Kona electric vehicles due to problems with battery cells. Since summer last year, there have been about a dozen more Kona fires, which prompted investigations into their cause.

Hyundai and its affiliate Kia Motor said the EV platform would help cut costs and expand the brands’ EV line-ups. The automotive group has said it would unveil 23 new EV models over the next five years as it aims to sell 1m EVs a year by 2025. 

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The main problem with Hyundai’s EVs is that they’re just gas-powered car designs modified to accept batteries and electric motors and everything else that comprises an EV drivetrain. Going ground-up is the way to do things properly, and I’m glad that’s how things are moving forward.

3rd Gear: They’ll Say Anything

Speaking of fickle allegiances in government-industry relations, the players in the auto industry that jumped into bed with Trump are now happy and eager to work with Biden, as Reuters reports:

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, representing General Motors, Volkswagen Group, Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and most major automakers, said after a meeting Tuesday that it “looks forward to engaging with the incoming Biden administration ... to advance the shared goals of reducing emissions and realizing the benefits of an electric future.”

“The long-term future of the auto industry is electric,” Alliance CEO John Bozzella said in the statement. “We are investing hundreds of billions to develop the products that will drive this electric future, and we are committed to working collaboratively to realize the unprecedented change in infrastructure, consumer support, and grid resiliency that will be required to make our common goal a reality.”

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Did all these companies learn some kind of lesson over the past four years, or are they just throwing in with every administration no matter what? I’ll leave that question to you.

4th Gear: No Decision On VW Boss

For some reason (the botched launch of VW’s ID products, I figure) VW has been getting very antsy about its EV-forward CEO, Herbert Diess. He’s been urging his company to commit to him, and it seems like that’s not exactly happening, per wire reports published in Automotive News:

A supervisory board panel ended a three-hour meeting without a concrete proposal for defusing internal tensions over Diess’s desire for a contract extension and more dramatic changes at the automaker.

More talks are required ahead of a meeting of the full supervisory board next week, according to people familiar with the outcome of Tuesday’s gathering.

[...]

Diess had demanded a vote of confidence in his reform efforts by asking for an early contract extension even though labor leaders at the company opposed the move.

VW declined to comment.

“The executive committee will not be pressured into a decision, there is no rush,” one of the people familiar with the matter said, commenting on the potential contract extension.

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I would not be super jazzed to be Diess right now, but also if I were Diess right now I would be rich as shit. I’d probably quit on the spot and just drive on the autobahn for the next couple of months.

5th Gear: Elon’s Emailing Again

Elon loves emailing his employees, telling them to now, by god now, start working harder. Harder!! Daddy Elon needs his billions!!!!

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These are rather low-key emails, all things considered, but they sound very dramatic in the press, particularly when they go out in stories like “Musk urges Tesla staff to pinch pennies, buoy surging shares,” from Bloomberg. It’s saucy to hear of the second-richest man in the world demanding some dudes in Fremont kick it into high gear for him to make more money, but again, the email itself is sorta boilerplate boss stuff:

Musk urged employees to stay focused on cutting costs and prevent a reversal in Tesla’s soaring stock price in an email sent Tuesday to employees as the company works to meet a target of delivering half a million cars this year.

“When looking at our actual profitability, it is very low at around 1 percent for the past year. Investors are giving us a lot of credit for future profitability, but if, at any point, they conclude that’s not going to happen, our stock will immediately get crushed like a souffle under a sledgehammer!” Musk wrote in the email viewed by Bloomberg News.

[...]

“Much more important, in order to make our cars affordable, we have to get smarter about how we spend money,” wrote Musk. “This is a tough Game of Pennies, requiring thousands of good ideas to improve part cost, a factory process or simplify the design, while increasing quality and capabilities. A great idea would be one that saves $5, but the vast majority are $0.50 here or $0.20 there.”

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Reverse: The EPA Is Either Way Younger Or Way Older Than You’d Think Given How Much (Or How Little) It’s Done

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Neutral: What EV Would You Buy If You Had To Buy An EV Right Now?

As far as my personal budget is concerned, I’m probably ending up with a Changli, otherwise I’m hunting Facebook Marketplace for a Zap.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

Come on, Jalopnik writers. I expect you understand why we can’t “just ban fossil-fueled cars at the moment” and this is just a troll. The problems with this statement, in no particular order...

  • Infrastructure: there is nowhere near enough electric charging infrastructure built up yet. Where will people charge their cars and bikes? We just had an article here about the new HD motorcycle not being able to get to a charger, and when it did, the charger didn’t work properly. I’ve personally experienced this frustration when trying to charge a Tesla I was using for a commercial shoot out in the middle of Arizona. This is a HUGE problem that will take years to remedy.
  • But wait, people can just charge at home! But no. My old apartment building here in DC had 4 chargers for 500 apartments (and roughly 200 cars). I now own a home here in DC, but it’s a townhouse and I have to street park. Where do I plug in my car? Sometimes I can barely find a spot on my block, much less a spot anywhere near an electric charger...which doesn’t exist.
  • Supply chain issues are going to be huge. Retooling factories and building up battery supply chains will also take years of work. Do you think we just have these batteries lying around somewhere? We can get Jeff from the production line to pop over to Costco and pick up all the D batteries they have in stock and stuff them into the F-150?

I’m for getting more electric cars on the road. I love my manual turbo wagon and my manual mid-engine sports car, but my partner...she doesn’t care. She’d love a Leaf or a Tesla or whatever she doesn’t have to worry about, but until we fix the problems above, banning gas burning vehicles overnight is a fever dream.