All-electric vehicles and their continued integration into the mass marketplace topped our stories this week on Gas2. As always, Tesla’s subversive marketing (they rarely advertise, instead just announcing the next innovation) made a lot of headlines, as the all-electric car company moved its focus quickly from the newly released Model 3 to announcements about the upcoming Model Y. But electric cars cannot alone shift the transportation sector to reduced emissions levels — all-electric commercial trucks will have to join the trend. And they must, for in Europe they contribute 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Think about the transportation sector in the U.S….
In the news, too, this week was the announcement that Mazda and Toyota have entered into a limited partnership, with speculation pointing to the collaboration yielding an all-electric vehicle for a shared catalog. Such meetings-of-the-mind have the Koch brothers nervous, for their newest video slams EVs as a way for wealthy people to receive subsidies at the taxpayers’ expense. (You have to watch this video, as they fail to disclose their own enormous white privilege as they cast white males as culprits in an EV conspiracy.)
Finally, advance videos of the unprepossessing 2018 Nissan LEAF have leaked and attracted much speculation. Will the newly updated version be prettier, more technologically savvy, and hold a longer charge? This is known, Khaleesi: the LEAF will continue to be an affordable EV option for the average Jane and Joe.
Here are those stories about all-electric vehicles, their potential to improve air quality and mitigate climate change, and more on this week’s edition of “The Gas2 Week in Review.”
Contradicting his own recent statement that the upcoming Model Y would be built on a unique chassis in a new factory, Tesla CEO Elon has been curtailed by his “executive team” and has acknowledged that the SUV will be based largely on the Model 3 and feature a variation of the falcon-wing doors. Those doors are iconic markers for the Model X. The Model Y is expected to muster demand of a million cars per year, which exceeds the Fremont factory’s current capacity of a half million cars per year. With Musk hoping to introduce the Model Y in 2020, the announcement for Model Y production facility will soon be another media-grabbing headline for the all-electric car maker.
While headlines from Tesla seem to capture most headlines and alternative transportation imaginations lately, the real focus of clean transportation advocates is on electric trucks. Commercial vehicles or heavy duty trucks, in Europe, for example, make up less than 5% of vehicles but contribute to almost 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. The International Energy Agency believes keeping global temperature rises below 2º Celsius depends, in large part, upon the electrification of some 600 million vehicles worldwide. Half of these vehicles are trucks. When truck fleet owners begin to look at the cost for miles traveled over two years with an electric van versus one powered by petrol or diesel, it seems likely that the financial benefits will promote a rather quick shift to all-electric trucks.
Mazda and Toyota’s new financial partnership will include the construction and joint operation of a new U.S. manufacturing facility that is purported to cost $1.6 billion and to employ an estimated 5,000 workers. The plan is join forces to manufacture Toyota Corollas, a new Mazda crossover SUV, and, likely, an electric car. Without the R&D budget necessary to introduce EVs into its catalog, Mazda’s marriage with Toyota will allow a smaller company with an excellent reputation for building reliable cars to combine with a much larger company that has forged alliances with other Japanese car makers, built a factory in Mexico, and invested heavily in fuel cells. Each company is also keenly aware of the need to enter the all-electric market — and quickly— if it wants to stay competitive.
If the Koch brothers and their subsidiary called FuelingUsForward are to be believed, “millionaires and billionaires have a favorite new toy.” And we consumers are getting “stuck with the bill” for electric cars. According to this newest video, which is intended to sabotage the incremental acceptance of all-electric vehicles into the general public, “90% of electric car subsidies go to wealthier households who make well over six figures.” And — as if the Koch brothers are advocates of gender equality — the video goes on to say these individuals who get all-electric subsidies are “younger, wealthier, and overwhelmingly men.” The video attempts to dampen an opposition argument that the high-end luxury car market is largely patriarchal by stating that Tesla Model S owners comprise a larger percent of that niche. But then the most audacious doublespeak occurs: “Electric car subsidies are a massive transfer of wealth from poor to rich.”
Their rhetoric turns to glimpses of “families who struggle to get by,” claiming that “most people can’t afford an electric car.” Blaming “tax dollars hard at work” as the culprit that helps “rich people collect up to $10,000 in subsidies,” the video reminds us that “everyone has the right to buy whatever car they want.” But then, in a really odd juxtaposition of filled-to-the-brim hedonist yachters, the video supports us if we don’t “want to pay for the wealthy’s new toy.” Please watch this video and join the conversations that separate the fact of the initial introduction of all-electric vehicles into the upper class and the slow but steadily affordable selection of EVs coming to your local community auto showroom.
Sure, the Koch brothers’ subsidiaries would like us to believe that the all-electric vehicle market will always be geared to wealthy, spoiled white guys, but lots of media people-in-the-know think otherwise. A case in point is the newest report out about the September release of the updated Nissan LEAF: it will be a much improved car, with longer range, more connectivity, and the availability of Nissan’s latest PROPilot Level 2 autonomous driving software. With most other details still hush-hush, it is known that second generation LEAF will feature e-Pedal — one pedal that controls both acceleration and regenerative braking. And, yes, Koch brothers’ propaganda aside, the 2018 Nissan Leaf is expected to remain an affordable compact hatchback.