Weekly Brief: Automakers See US as Ripe for EV Revolution

Toyota is back on the electric vehicle bandwagon.

The carmaker plans to debut two EVs in the US this year and bring them to market in 2022, the carmaker announced last week. While details of the vehicles are scant – we know that one of them will be a crossover, and that’s about it – the announcement is further proof that the American market is shifting dramatically toward electrification. Toyota hasn’t released an EV in America since it discontinued the RAV4 EV back in 2014. In the meantime it has hedged its bets with hybrid vehicles, led by the path-finding Prius. That was fine during four years of Donald Trump but now that Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president and has made EVs a cornerstone of his plan for creating green jobs and enacting climate justice, the conversation has changed.

In the past month General Motors has pledged full electrification by 2035 and Ford has promised a $22Bn investment in EVs by 2025. It’s no surprise, then, to see Toyota rushing to stay abreast of the competition. Back in 2014 the carmaker didn’t put much weight behind its EV efforts. The RAV4 was only available in California. Toyota says that its two new EVs will be available in all 50 states.

Toyota wasn’t the only one making EV headlines last week. Democrats in the US House of Representatives started their push to extend EV tax credits beyond the 200,000 vehicle threshold, which both GM and Tesla have already surpassed. The reintroduced Green Act would set a new cap for EV sales at 600,000 vehicles, with a maximum tax credit of $7,000 per vehicle. Buyers of used EVs would receive up to a $2,500 tax credit.

Kia said that it plans to have 11 EVs on the market in the US by 2026. One of those EVs will not be the new Apple car, however. Rumors swirled two weeks ago that Apple and Hyundai were on the precipice of signing a deal that would have seen an all-electric, fully autonomous Apple Car manufactured at a Kia plant in Georgia. Hyundai says that it is no longer in conversations with Apple.

With the Apple Car out, maybe Hyundai will have more time to focus on a cutting-edge walking car instead. Last week the carmaker unveiled a concept car dubbed the Tiger X-1, whose wheels can operate in a traditional four-wheel drive or can transform into a four-legged walking machine that can traverse extreme terrain. The concept car is loaded with self-driving tech and sensors and has a payload that can carry cargo such as emergency aid to remote locations. Paul Myles has all the details.

Meanwhile Tesla’s Elon Musk sat down on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast and talked about his plans to turn the next generation Roadster into a hovercraft. The Roadster, according to Musk, will come in a standard version that has a conventional rear seat or a SpaceX version that replaces the backseat with cold air thrusters and “a high-pressure carbon overwrapped pressure vessel, something at around 10,000 psi”.  The thrusters and pressure vessel would allow the Roadster to elevate about a meter off the ground, Musk said.

“I want it to hover and I was trying to figure out how to make this thing hover without, you know, killing people.” How Elon Muskian of him. Musk has been known to throw out ideas that never come to fruition in the past, or that take years to find their way into production-ready vehicles. Are rocket thrusters really likely to appear on the next generation of the Roadster, due out in 2022? Of course not. Did he succeed in making me write about his company yet again, thus keeping Tesla perpetually top of mind? Alas, he did.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *