There are a few constants in the car world: Everyone buys trucks when gas gets cheap, everyone buys compacts when it’s expensive, and everyone always complains new BMWs have lost their edge. Not included in that list are EV subsidies, which are as fickle as they come. But they do work. All that and more in The Morning Shift for September 9, 2020.
1st Gear: EV Sales Up In Europe Even In Pandemic
Nothing disappears quite as quickly as government support for EVs, which can come and go with each changing administration. When they’re around, though, they get the job done, as the Financial Times reports from that faraway continent of Europe:
As registrations of petrol and diesel cars in Europe fell one-third year-on-year in June, EV sales were up almost two-thirds over the same period, according to JATO, a supplier of automotive data. In the UK, sales of new electric cars doubled in August despite the overall car market declining 5 per cent, according to official figures.
Berlin announced a €130bn stimulus package in June, which included a €6,000 subsidy for EVs and a temporary VAT cut. In France, an €8bn plan to revive the country’s motor industry announced in May included incentives for buying EVs. “We are [also] seeing brisk growth in markets like Spain and Italy, which were far behind EV adoption until 2019,” says Mr Irle.
Some 414,000 EVs were sold in Europe in the first six months of 2020, up 57 per cent from the same period last year, according to EV-Volumes — the first time sales in Europe outstripped those in China in at least five years.
“China has so far led the electrified vehicles race in terms of supply and demand because of incentives and support from governments, but this year we have seen a change and Europe is leading the race,” says Felipe Munoz, global analyst at JATO.
The subsidy program that would really get EVs going would be a higher gas tax, but that’s maybe a conversation for a different time.
2nd Gear: We Still Have No Idea If/When Hydrogen Is Going To Take Off
I’ve been waiting my entire adult life for hydrogen cars to come off the fringe, and it looks like I’ll still be waiting, as the FT also reports:
In July, Berlin revealed its National Hydrogen Strategy, earmarking €9bn for investment in the technology, which transport minister Andreas Scheuer said would give the local automotive industry “fresh prospects for the future and help secure a great many jobs”.
The VDMA, which represents Germany’s mechanical engineering sector, says hydrogen investment offers the country — which lags many Asian economies when it comes to battery cell technology and solar expertise — a unique opportunity.
“We are still in pole position globally here and can map the entire value chain in Germany and Europe,” says Hartmut Rauen, the organisation’s deputy general manager.
Wait, €9bn invested? What am I talking about! I’m sure that vastly outstrips EV development.
With VW alone spending €33bn on developing more than 70 battery electric models over the next few years, the industry — which is also investing in the rapid expansion of the charging infrastructure and battery cell production — can hardly afford to simultaneously develop hydrogen vehicles, the BEM argues.
Oh. So car companies are dumping all their money into EVs at the moment and putting hydrogen on the back burner. Cool.
3rd Gear: Tesla Has A Way Of Suppressing Sexual Harassment And Racial Discrimination Claims
Tesla has a troubled past with employees making claims about workplace racism, and it appears that those claims have been greatly suppressed by the company itself. One investor is trying to change that, as Bloomberg reports:
When Tesla Inc.’s shareholders gather September 22 for their annual meeting, Kristin Hull will have roughly three minutes to make the case against the company’s use of mandatory arbitration for employee sexual harassment and racial discrimination claims.
Hull is the founder and chief executive of Nia Impact Capital, a social impact fund based in Oakland, California that invests in several sustainable energy companies. Tesla is its biggest name and among its largest holdings. Late last year, she filed a first-of-its-kind proposal for a Tesla shareholder resolution. The ask: for the board of the Palo Alto, California-based electric-car maker, which has over 60,000 employees globally, to prepare a report on its use of employee arbitration.
Most people who work directly for Tesla sign away their rights to a trial. Hull wants to know how many discrimination and harassment cases go to arbitration, how much that’s costing the company, and investors, and the demographics of those bringing the claims.
“We are in this to win this,” said Hull during a socially distant interview in Oakland’s historic Preservation Park, near Nia’s office. “It’s the issue of our time, and it’s a Civil Rights issue. Elon Musk can’t be given a pass for that with the company he runs.”
For all of its talk about free markets and laissez-faire operations, Silicon Valley does seem to put a lot of work into silencing its workers. I wonder why!
4th Gear: Uber Has $800M Lying Around For EVs, I Guess
Uber and GM are partnering up for discounts on Chevy Bolts, which is nice, I guess, but strange that Uber seems to have a lot of money lying around for helping its drivers get EVs. From the Detroit Free Press:
General Motors is partnering with Uber to offer discounts to Uber drivers, providing a $2,400 to $2,750 discount for them to buy a Chevrolet Bolt vehicle and 20% off vehicle charging equipment. The Bolt’s starting price is about $37,000. Uber also has negotiated discounts with other companies ranging from 10% to 50% off for its drivers to charge electric vehicles in different locations.
Altogether, Uber plans to spend $800 million on programs to help hundreds of thousands of drivers switch to electric vehicles by 2025.
[…]While Uber’s commitment states it will work with drivers to make the transition more cost-effective and profitable for them, “we know that we can’t let up the pressure to see this commitment through in a way that benefits drivers,” said Rebekah Whilden, campaign representative with Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All. “We need all hands on deck from companies to tackle pollution, combat the climate crisis, and commit to equitable labor standards.”
Indeed. The money is good, but I would rather see Uber spending money to treat its drivers like full employees.
5th Gear: Ford Up First In Canadian Union Bargaining
We have previously reported that Unifor (the Canadian auto workers’ union) has been getting ready to flex. Now we know Ford is the first one up to bat, per the Detroit Free Press:
If negotiations with Canadian autoworkers falter, Ford could face a strike.
Unifor, the union representing Canadian autoworkers, has picked Ford Motor Co. as the company it expects will set the pattern bargaining for the Detroit Three and possibly as a strike target. This does not mean the company will face a strike, but it’s something the union could call, as the UAW did in its 40-day nationwide U.S. strike against General Motors last year.
Neutral: What Car Should Be An EV?
Certainly there are many existing EVs we don’t get in America but should. (The Honda E jumps to mind.) But are there any cars out today that you think would make more sense as an all-electric car? I would put every Rolls-Royce on that list, if it were me.