My Top EV Stories Of 2023
After writing about the stories I thought were the most impactful for EV charging in 2023, I realized that there was some pretty big news this year about the cars themselves. While some of these stories weren’t about the most amazing cars, they’re the ones that will have the greatest impact on EV adoption, the overall market, and the environment.
The Volvo EX30
One story that’s a lot bigger than it looks was the release of the Volvo EX30. The best way to describe the release was a Bolt EUV, but with better power and charging. Pricing under $35,000 also makes it a big hit for the future of EVs because people need to afford them to be able to actually buy them.
But, the other big aspect of the story is the danger to U.S. domestic automakers. A low-priced EV is already something they aren’t going to have an answer for in 2024, many people don’t know that Volvo is now a Chinese company. This means that the whole auto industry could be seeing a repeat of the Malaise Era, a time in which declining domestic vehicle quality combined with strong import competition gave Japanese companies a foothold that was never lost.
Affordability is good, but the U.S. industrial base and the union workers who are working in factories need to both work together for future survival. Sadly, survival means affordability, and that’s bad for both profits and employee pay. Failure to get there could mean that instead of reduced pay and profits, everything goes to zero.
The Death and Planned Rebirth of the Chevy Bolt
At least one big domestic automaker saw the problem coming and changed course. GM initially wanted to kill the Bolt and make room for more expensive and profitable vehicles at the Orion plant. But, seeing the incoming cheaper imports that aren’t junk probably freaked them out good. Then, interest rates and falling EV sales made the executives think again, again. So, a course correction was made, and now the Bolt EUV will be coming back.
The upgraded EUV will be a little cheaper, have a lithium-iron battery pack, and upgraded software. But, it won’t be built on the Ultium platform (at least not fully), instead being based on the design of the existing EUV. This means that GM can save a lot of development money, and hopefully get back into the game a lot faster to keep Chinese EVs from taking all of the lunch money.
But, this still leaves the question of what other domestic automakers are going to do about affordability. If only GM can come up with an affordable EV, the domestic automaking could still be in for some serious problems.
Autonomous Vehicle Woes
Another big story of 2023 is that autonomous vehicles aren’t going as great as everyone hoped.
GM’s Cruise division, once seen as a major player in the space, had some seriously reversed fortunes this year. Just as things seemed to be getting good in cities like San Francisco, the company had its Uber Tempe moment, striking but not killing a pedestrian. What frightened the public this time wasn’t that someone got hit (this was the fault of a car with a driver that hit the pedestrian first), but that the Cruise Bolt ended up dragging the pedestrian under the vehicle for a ways before coming to a stop.
All of the company’s plans are now on hold, including plans to take the Cruise Origin to Japan in a partnership with Honda.
Tesla is also having some problems, especially with government officials. NHTSA and NTSB have been investigating the company’s Autopilot and FSD Beta software packages all year, and then wanted the company to put out a recall, delivered in the form of an over-the-air update. Post-update, Autopilot now works in fewer places and with more restrictions.
It’s also worth noting that the final FSD, promised for years and years and years next year, is still not out.
Waymo and Zoox don’t seem to be hitting the skids, but the Teamsters want them to be more heavily regulated. But, Waymo does claim to be in a great place safety-wise.
We’ve been reporting a lot about Gogoro, a Taiwanese company that has been working hard to not only build a great charging network in Taiwan, but to expand into many developing countries globally. What makes the company particularly great is that it designed a network that fits the needs of scooter riders in Asia and beyond.
Many places around the world are like Taiwan in that scooters and other motorcycles are very popular, but the places to charge them overnight are almost non-existent. There are plenty of places to park a scooter, but few of those places have a plug. Worse, cheap two-stroke scooter motors are a big source of pollution in developing countries, making for a real problem.
By building scooters with swappable batteries and putting in a bunch of places to swap a dead one out for a fully-charged one, the company bypassed the whole problem. Now, the biggest polluters can go electric easier and cheaper than ever.
While we wrote a lot of original pieces about Gogoro’s growth into the Philippines, Japan, and Singapore (among others), this piece from RMI that we shared does a great job of explaining the rise.
About the only thing I don’t like about the company is that I haven’t had a chance to try one out, but the company is doing a lot of good for places that are very different from where I live, so my kind of riding wouldn’t really play to the company’s strengths very well at all.
2024 Probably Has Surprises Coming
Many of these stories weren’t easy to see coming. In late 2022, things seemed amazing for autonomous vehicles. Nobody saw that the Bolt would get canceled and then brought back. The Domestic EV industry didn’t seem like it was going to take such a hit from more affordable imports. And scooters? That was probably easier to see from places where scooter riding was common.
So, it’s virtually assured that 2024 will have more surprises in store. The industry is moving fast, and sometimes you’ll miss the big stuff.
Featured image by Gogoro.
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