No company has done more to create an electric vehicle market in the past decade than Elon Musk’s Tesla but Apple rumors and announcements from GM and Amazon indicate a new era for battery-powered cars and trucks is quickly taking shape.
The maker of iPhones and MacBooks is said to be planning to move ahead with a production partnership with Hyundai Motor-affiliated Kia that includes Apple investing $3.6 billion in the South Korean automaker, according to a report from Korea’s DongA news service, citing no sources. The plan calls for the production of 100,000 electric vehicles for Apple at Kia’s West Point, Georgia auto-assembly plant, according to the story, which neither Kia nor Apple are commenting on. On the heels of that news, Amazon announced it’s begun testing new-generation electric delivery trucks in Los Angeles that are being built for it by startup Rivian, which is separately preparing to sell battery-powered pickups and SUVs this year.
A more curious development however is GM’s enlistment of Will Ferrell for a commercial airing during the 2021 Super Bowl in which the comic actor fixates on getting per-capita sales of electric vehicles in the U.S. beyond that of Norway–the global leader on that basis–as he drives a Cadillac Lyriq, an electric crossover due in 2022. The Detroit-based company has committed $27 billion to electric and autonomous vehicles and last month said it intended to switch entirely to producing only EVs by 2035.
“I’m excited to be a part of GM’s commitment to EVs,” Ferrell said in remarks on the automaker’s website. “I’ve been driving an EV since the mid-80s…well, actually it was a regular car with four AA batteries taped to the carburetor, but it felt like an EV! We’re coming for you, Norway!”
(Sales of electric autos accounted for 54% of new vehicle sales in 2020, according to Reuters.)
Quick changes coming to the automotive world coincide with a string of SPAC-based public listings by electric vehicle startups including Fisker Inc., Arrival, truckmaker Nikola, Canoo, Lordstown Motors, busmaker Proterra, Farraday Future, REE and expectations luxury EV maker Lucid Motors will follow suit, and the start of the Biden Administration. The new U.S. President is promoting vastly expanded production of electric cars and trucks, installation of at least 500,000 more public charging stations and switching purchases of vehicles by federal agencies to electric from gasoline and diesel to help cut carbon emissions and spur more clean energy jobs.
The U.S. is likely to see record sales of electric models this year, though the overall volume will still be relatively small, expanding to just 2.5% of new vehicle sales according to industry researcher Edmunds. The company also estimates there will be 30 different all-electric models available from 21 different brands in 2021. Tesla retains a massive lead, however, accounting for more than half of units sold in the U.S. 2020.
“After years of speculation and empty promises, 2021 is actually shaping up to be a pivotal year for growth in the EV sector,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of insights. “We’re not only about to see a massive leap in the number of EVs available in the market; we’re also going to see a more diverse lineup of electric vehicles that better reflect current consumer preferences. And given that the new presidential administration has pledged its support for electrification, the U.S. is likely to see incentive programs targeted at fostering the growth of this technology further.”
Amazon’s partnership with Rivian, which has raised a massive $8 billion to date to get into production this year, accelerates the shift to zero-emission vehicles beyond the consumer market. The retail giant intends to add 100,000 Rivian electric trucks to its delivery fleet, and startups including Arrival, Lordstown, Nikola and XOS Trucks also see vast opportunities to target the medium- and heavy-duty commercial truck market.
Along with trucks already running in Los Angeles, Amazon plans to introduce the electric vans in up to 15 more U.S. cities this year as part of its plan to eliminate carbon emissions from its operations by 2040, the company said.
The initial delivery of vans in Los Angeles, which have a range of 150 miles per charge “is one example of how Rivian and Amazon are working toward the world of 2040, and we hope it inspires other companies to fundamentally change the way that they operate,” Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe said in a blog post.