About the Author

Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others. https://twitter.com/bradberman

Yesterday

Volkswagen has monumental plans for EVs across the globe. But Americans have yet to get an in-person glimpse of the production version of the ID Crozz, the company’s first major EV for the US.

That will change in April when the ID Crozz (aka ID4) is unveiled at the 2020 New York Auto Show, just months before the model goes on sale.

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The last of the first-gen Fiat 500e electric minicars left US dealerships in 2019. But it’s coming back in about a year with an updated style and an expected range of about 125 miles. That’s not a lot, but relatively consistent with a breed of small Euro-chic EVs like the Honda E, BMW i3, and Mini Cooper SE. Besides, small electric cars like the Fiat 500e might be the only segment that Tesla is ceding to the competition.

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Canoo, the LA-based company making lounge-like EVs for monthly subscriptions, opened its waitlist today. Submitting your name to the waitlist signs you up to become one of the first customers for Canoo, which arrives in 2021. Joining the no-obligation waitlist is free.

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January 20

Global auto sales dipped to about 90 million last year. That’s down from more than 94 million in 2018, and 95 million the year before. Even as forecasters point to continued declines in the overall auto market in 2020, we’re already seeing signs that electric-vehicle sales are set for a steep rise.

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In a Tokyo press conference today, Subaru outlined its long-term plans for technology development and reducing carbon emissions. The company will continue to “evolve” core technologies, like its Boxer internal-combustion engines. Reuters also reports that Subaru is strengthening ties with Toyota on developing new technologies. That could result in a new co-developed all-electric SUV ­– but not until 2025.

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January 17

With the rise and fall of battery-swap company Better Place in 2013, the prospect of mass-scale swappable EV battery packs in the US fell by the wayside. Tesla abandoned the idea a few years later. The big problem (among many) was a lack of common battery standards across multiple automakers. Battery packs need to be the same size and shape. That’s an issue that could be solved in China, where strong state control can dictate standards.

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BMW will close its main Munich plant this summer for six weeks. That will allow the company to retool and modify more than one-thousand robots to get ready for production of the all-electric BMW i4 in 2021.

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January 16

Volkswagen has one of the industry’s most ambitious EV plans. The company is targeting cumulative production and sales of 22 million electric vehicles by 2028. By that time, the group said it could offer as many as 70 electric models. That’s still not soon enough, according to CEO Herbert Diess. To accelerate its electric-car and self-driving programs, VW will cut resources devoted to fuel cells. Will it be enough?

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Volvo last year announced that it will produce an electric version of its XC90 crossover starting in late 2022. The company will build the XC90 EV at its factory northwest of Charleston, South Carolina, where it currently produces the S60 sedan.

As a sign of its commitment to the electric SUV, Volvo this week said it will build an adjacent battery plant to supply the XC90 and other future EVs.

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January 15

Building codes are a labyrinth of national, state, and municipal rules. While California since 2015 has required new homes to have the necessary conduit and service-panel capacity for EV-charging, guidelines in the rest of the country are spotty. That could soon be fixed because the International Code Council (ICC) – which provides widely adopted best practices and standards for construction ­– approved putting EV-readiness in its latest guidelines.

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Two weeks ago, the Hyundai Motor Group said it would invest $87 billion to produce 23 EVs by 2025, with about half of them as new, dedicated electric models. Kia filled in some of the details yesterday when CEO Han-woo Park presented the brand’s EV plans for the next five years or so. Kia says it will offer 11 EVs by 2025.

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January 14

Mercedes-Benz India says it will sell a full lineup of its EVs in India. The all-electric EQC SUV will be the first to go on sale, starting in April 2020. At a launch event, Martin Schwenk, managing director and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India, said the EQC “will be the first dedicated luxury electric brand in India.”

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A recent Chevy bulletin sent to its dealers makes the all-electric Bolt model eligible for about $10,000 in lease incentives. Bolt buyers in San Francisco could get another $1,400 bonus, resulting in a three-year lease for the 2020 Chevy Bolt LT for $169 a month, with $2,219 due at signing.

GM is trying to reverse the two-year downward trend in Bolt sales, especially before the last $1,875 in federal credits ends on April 1.

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January 13

In the past couple of months, we posted about how Toyota and Honda execs say there’s no demand for EVs. But those companies have favored hybrids over battery-electric cars for years. Now BMW, historically gung-ho about EVs, apparently joins their ranks. “We see BEVs mainly on the west coast and parts of the east coast, while the rest of the US will continue with conventional gasoline engines,” said Klaus Froehlich, BMW’s R&D boss.

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General Motors will soon start selling first-time diesel versions of the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban SUVs, and the Silverado pickup. GM is not alone in making a play for diesel, which is being propped up as an alternative to EVs. The Detroit News today makes the wild claim that diesel’s “resilience is creating doubts about the electric future touted by governments and manufacturers alike.”

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January 10

General Motors is not talking about it, but multiple news agencies are reporting that a Superbowl ad featuring LeBron James will tout the return of the Hummer name. This time, Hummers will be a family of electric pickup trucks and SUVs.

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Public EV charging infrastructure is growing fast, but a lack of charging is still blamed as an obstacle to electric-car adoption. What’s holding things up? According to Reducing EV Charging Infrastructure Costs, a study published yesterday by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), it’s not the cost of the hardware and software. The problem faced by charging networks and utilities is soft costs, like onerous permitting and regulations. After two-dozen interviews, RMI breaks down the expenses for both public and private chargers.

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It’s been three years since Volkswagen first announced plans to produce an all-electric, long-range retro microbus. The ID Buzz still seems almost too cool (and far away) to be true.

But at CES 2020, the new chief of VW self-driving told Electrek that the Buzz is also the basis of VW’s first self-driving vehicles for limited commercial use by 2022. That’s a good sign that the ultimate electric hipster van is on track.

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January 7

Electrek took our first ride in the Faraday Future FF 91 in Las Vegas yesterday. A Faraday test driver floored the 1,050-horsepower, limo-like sedan ­— and we held on for dear life while reclining in luxury. It was a rocket blast.

The handling was adept, thanks to the three-motor system, with torque-vectoring applied to rear wheels. The brief ride followed our exclusive interview with CEO Carsten Breitfeld about how Faraday will, finally, at last, bring a vehicle to market.

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January 6

Chinese EV maker Byton returned to CES to present an update on its M-Byte all-electric SUV. CEO Daniel Kirchert kicked off the presentation by sharing news of the company’s progress to a market introduction in China later this year. There was little new information about the vehicle’s design, powertrain, and manufacturing. Instead, the focus of the presentation was media services that will be brought to the car’s ubiquitous screens.

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