Washington state just out California’d California, some 800,000 Subarus will soon need to visit home, and Ford just added a new exec that will do lobbyist-type things but isn’t technically a lobbyist. All that and more in this TGIF edition of The Morning Shift for April 16, 2021.
1st Gear: Washington State Just Got Real
Washington has passed a bill banning the sale of new gas-powered cars in the state beginning in 2030. That’s five years earlier than California and Massachusetts, meaning Washington’s ban will kick in the soonest of any state’s at the moment. It applies to the registration of any vehicle model year 2030 or newer, so importing a new gas -powered car sold in other states won’t be permitted, either.
However, Reuters says that the bill “isn’t a firm mandate,” and will depend on the state adopting a vehicle miles-traveled tax for 75 percent of its registered vehicles first. Electrek has more details on that below:
It also includes a clause that won’t go into effect until 75% of vehicles in the state are covered by a road usage/vehicle miles traveled charge, where taxes are assessed based on how many miles a vehicle is driven (possibly also with a multiplier for larger vehicles). The bill itself does not provide for this, though there are separate efforts in Washington State to implement a road usage fee.
Road usage fees would replace or supplement a gas tax to raise revenue to pay for roads. The idea is that road usage fees are a more equitable way to raise funds for transport projects than a gas tax.
The concern is that as EVs become more common, gas taxes will fail to bring in revenue. This has forced lawmakers to entertain other options, like mileage-based and weight-based taxes. Those have seemingly been shut down at the federal level for now, though states may have to take matters into their own hands — especially the ones planning to go all-electric by the end of the decade.
The bill passed state legislature but is still awaiting Democratic Governor Jay Inslee’s signature to become law.
2nd Gear: …But This Could Go A Number Of Ways
What will happen if more states follow in Washington’s footsteps, on an accelerated path to mandating light-duty EVs? What if they delay banning gas cars to 2035? These are the very scenarios researchers at the University of California, Berkley have attempted to predict in a new study released this week.
The timelines are hypothetical of course, but there are a few predictions here worth considering. For one, Cal expects the upfront costs of EVs to fall to parity with gas-powered cars by 2026. The study also argues that government action will be required to force consumers to switch to EVs, and that if no federal law is enforced, gas-powered cars will still make up 46 percent of vehicles on the road by 2035.
The ideal timeline — which the study labels as the “drive clean” scenario — would see light-duty cars go all-electric in 2030, and medium and heavy duty trucks making the changeover in 2035. The benefits, the study argues, would be widespread, from consumer savings to lessening the impact of climate change particularly on the most vulnerable Americans:
Gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles harm human health and the environment via emissions of pollutants such as NOx and SO2 as well as GHG emissions that contribute to climate change. Accelerating EV adoption reduces both sources of damage dramatically. Compared with the No New Policy scenario, by 2050 the DRIVE Clean scenario reduces transportation sector emissions of NOx by 96% and SO2 by 99%, which dramatically reduces PM2.5 exposure and avoids 150,000 premature deaths. The health benefits would notably benefit low-income communities and communities of color, where vehicle pollution is worst. For example, African American, Latino, and low-income households in California are exposed to 43%, 39%, and 10% more PM2.5 pollution, respectively, than white households. Broadly speaking, communities of color face higher risk from particulate pollution, and living or working near highways or heavy traffic is particularly risky. Heavy-duty trucks contribute a disproportionate share of vehicle emissions. They constitute only 5% of U.S. on-road vehicles but are responsible for 36% of particulate emissions, suggesting that electrifying trucks can have an outsized influence on emissions and human exposure to pollutants. When combined with the local air pollution reductions associated with a 90% clean electricity grid, the DRIVE Clean scenario avoids an additional 90,000 premature deaths through 2050.
There are broad benefits to acting fast, as Washington state is. The question is if they’ll set the pace, or be fashionably early.
3rd Gear: Subaru’s Got A Big Recall
Do you own an Impreza, Forester or Crosstrek built within the last four years? Chances are yours has been recalled, as Subaru has just announced a massive one affecting some 800,000 vehicles in the U.S. due to issues related to engine control modules and rear stabilizer brackets. From Automotive News:
The first recall involves the 2017-19 Impreza and 2018-19 Crosstrek to check and potentially update the programming of the vehicles’ engine control modules and replace their ignition coils, which could degrade over time, the automaker said. The recall involves an estimated 466,205 vehicles, Subaru of America said.
Subaru is also recalling approximately 405,000 2019 Forester and Crosstrek models to examine and re-torque the bolts on those vehicles’ rear stabilizer bar, which can become loose over time, the automaker said.
Subaru has not reported any injuries or death relates to either of these issues yet. Those with affected models should receive a notice within the next 60 days.
4th Gear: Tesla Settles Lawsuit Over Alleged Source Code Theft
In 2019, Tesla filed a lawsuit against former employee Cao Guangzhi, who the company said stole Autopilot source code before leaving Tesla in January of that year to take on a role at XMotors, a subsidiary of Chinese automaker Xpeng. Cao has paid Tesla as part of a settlement, as Reuters reports, though figures and other details are unclear:
Terms of the settlement, which included a monetary payment made by Cao to Tesla, were not disclosed. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A statement to Reuters on behalf of Cao from his legal representative confirmed the settlement and said Cao had never accessed any Tesla data after he left Tesla, or provided Tesla information to XMotors or anyone else.
Cao later left XMotors, the company told Reuters in a statement on Friday. XMotors, which was not a party in the case, said it respected intellectual property rights and relied on its in-house developed proprietary R&D and intellectual property.
Cao allegedly downloaded the code to his personal device through Airdrop, then selling it to Xpeng when he joined that company. I never considered how easily technology like Airdrop could be used to copy and paste incredibly valuable strings of text. That’s clever thinking!
5th Gear: Former Governor, Diplomat, And Presidential Candidate Now Ford’s Vice Chair Of Policy
Former Utah Governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. is now Ford’s “vice chair of policy.”
Huntsman previously sat on Ford’s board of directors in 2012. Just before that, he serves as U.S. ambassador to China for two years under the Obama administration. In 2017, he left Ford to be appointed one of former president Donald Trump’s senior diplomats to Russia.
You could say Huntsman’s certainly been around. Here’s how Ford describes his new role, via Detroit Free Press:
“A director job is demanding, but this provides Jim [Farley] and Bill [Ford] even greater access to Mr. Huntsman’s experience and insight,” Reid said. “The things he’s going to be involved with are all strategically critical to Ford and its transformation.”
In this new role, he’ll work closely with Mitch Bainwol, chief government relations officer for Ford, and his team in Washington, as well as Ford’s general counsel and sustainability team, among others, Reid said. Huntsman will represent Ford with certain government officials and influencers in the U.S. and other countries.
“Policy touches a whole variety of things that are really transformational in the industry,” Reid said. “Sustainability overlaps with electric vehicles and other potential forms of zero emission priorities, along with supply chain and trade.”
I don’t know about you, but based on that description, you might be able to reduce Huntsman’s new gig to “super lobbyist.” But wait!
The company said Huntsman would not be registering as a lobbyist, which is required by law when individuals seek to influence legislation.
Oh, well. Never mind then.
Reverse: One Of The Best British Circuits Is Born
U.K. friends reading this, cover your ears. Silverstone is overrated and boring, like most tracks built on disused airfields are. I’ll tell you what isn’t overrated though: Brands Hatch. The iconic circuit in Kent, embedded in a natural bowl, held its first race on newly-paved asphalt on April 16, 1950. That race was won by accomplished Formula 3 driver Don Parker.
I’ve visited Brands Hatch twice in the past decade. You never really grasp how steep Paddock Hill Bend is until you’ve stood at the top of it, I’m telling you.
Neutral: What Do You Think About The EV Timeline?
Is 2030 too soon? Can you even envision it happening? And would an earlier switch for light-duty consumer vehicles even matter all that much, when heavy-duty commercial ones disproportionately produce a vast chunk of emissions?