The industry that makes parts for car companies is worried about electric cars making them obsolete. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 28, 2021.
1st Gear: Auto Suppliers Worried About Losing Jobs
I have my suspicions that switching to EVs won’t cost any jobs in the auto sector, as car companies will pretty quickly figure out how to go from making a relatively small number of relatively complex gas-powered cars, with all of their pistons and timing chains and so on, to making a relatively larger number of relatively simple electric cars, which have only a handful of moving parts.
I, of course, am far from an expert. The actual experts fear that they’ll lose jobs, as Reuters reports:
The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (EMMA), which represents more than 1,000 vehicle suppliers, told a Senate Commerce subcommittee on transportation that the Biden Administration should continue to set regulatory requirements that ensure suppliers keep working to improve internal combustion engines.
“If we move too quickly to a fully electrified fleet we could lose 30% of the supplier jobs in this country,” said Ann Wilson, MEMA’s senior vice president of government affairs. Auto parts manufacturers employ about 560,000 people in the United States.
There’s no real need to argue the point one way or the other. France is already committing to a jobs promise for its national auto industry rapidly switching to EVs, and America could, too.
2nd Gear: Ford Getting Closer To Making Its Own Batteries
Speaking of, Ford is marching towards its own battery production here in the States. It’s part of a process we’ve known about since late last year, and it just got another $185 million, as Automotive News reports:
Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it’s investing $185 million in a research lab for electric vehicle battery development as it moves closer to manufacturing its own cells.
Called Ford Ion Park, the 200,000-square-foot facility in southeast Michigan will have 150 employees and be capable of designing and manufacturing battery electrodes, cells and arrays at the pilot level. It’s planned to open by the end of 2022.
“We’re already scaling production of all-electric vehicles around the world as more customers experience and crave the fun-to-drive benefits of electric vehicles with zero emissions,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer, said in a statement. “Investing in more battery R&D ultimately will help us speed the process to deliver more, even better, lower cost EVs for customers over time.”
See? More, lower cost EVs. Even a current Corolla is going to look absurdly complicated in 10 or 20 years.
3rd Gear: Turns Out Germany Has Lithium, Too
Another weird side of the rise in EVs is we will be going from exploiting the world’s oil resources to exploiting its lithium resources. This is often pretty clearly horrible for anyone living near lithium mining, as we’ve seen down in the Atacama region of Chile. Western commentators have been pretty glib about it, Elon included, but what if lithium exploitation was taking place in one of the most regulated and environmentally conscious nations in the West?
With this in mind, looks like Germany has a whole bunch of lithium, as Reuters reports:
Straddling an area 300 kilometres (186.41 miles) long and up to 40 kilometres wide, the Upper-Rhine Valley in the Black Forest area of southwestern Germany holds enough lithium for more than 400 million electric cars, geologolists have estimated, making it one of the world’s biggest deposits.
It could reduce the reliance of the German car industry, also located in southwestern Germany, on imported lithium and early-stage talks are under way with the auto manufacturers.
But skeptics question the economics and are also troubled by possible local opposition, which can be more vociferous in densely-populated Europe than in remote Australia or the deserts of South America that have been the source of lithium supplies to date.
If we’re ever going to get environmentally friendly lithium extraction, it’s going to happen in Germany. Maybe it’s good we’ll have a model for how to do things right.
4th Gear: VW Wants To You To Unlock Options For A Fee
Another side effect of electric cars is that they’re heavily software-oriented, and that means a lot can be done to them with over-the-air updates. If you can update a car OTA, you could also lock or unlock various other features, range included, as we’ve seen with Tesla already.
That’s one of my least favorite aspects of EVs, and since Tesla has gotten in on it, no surprise that VW is getting into it, too, as Autocar reports:
Volkswagen’s new flagship model, which it’s developing under the codename Project Trinity and is due in 2026, will spearhead the firm’s next generation of bespoke electric cars with a focus on offering long-range, semi-autonomous driving – and it will change the way that cars are bought.
The Project Trinity model will be sold in largely standardised form, with only a handful of hardware options made available to customers. Buyers will then be able to buy and ‘unlock’ the features they want through the car’s software. New features will also be offered for sale and downloaded through over-the-air software updates.
I look forward to hacking my car to get more range only to have my warranty revoked.
5th Gear: No Public Transit Is Hurting Our Vaccination Drive
With vaccine apartheid keeping other countries from getting a way to fight COVID, we in America are having our own struggles not so much making the vaccine as getting it in everyone’s arms. While we can worry about the Joe Rogans of the world telling people not to get it if they can, we have another problem of those who want it not having a good way to get it, as the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis lays out in a new blog:
Vaccinations are offering restored hope, but questions remain about whether transportation access will restrict an equitable vaccine distribution strategy. According to Pew, millions of people who may be higher-risk for contracting COVID-19 also don’t have a reliable transportation option to a vaccine location. Older adults, medically frail individuals, and those living in communities hardest hit by the pandemic often overlap with those with limited transportation access.
Vaccination campaigns across the U.S. are addressing these transportation challenges. In Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Denver some programs are offering door-to-door vaccine distribution. These vaccine distribution programs may be the ticket to address the fact that COVID-19 has disrupted all forms of transportation, and particularly harmed the vulnerable in a number of ways. UC Davis research on the impacts of COVID-19 shows that the pandemic has exacerbated income inequalities.
Basically, our total drive to make everything in America accessible only by car is cutting into our ability to get the vaccine to people who don’t have access to a car or can’t drive. Our lack of proper public transportation is killing us.
Neutral: How Are You?
This porch now has a tomato plant on it. I wish it well.