From The Mobilist Inbox This Week
Electric pickups, Kia in NY, road trip
Each Wednesday, The Mobilist highlights reader articles on Medium, comments, and updates.
‘This sucker’s quick’: Ford, maker of the F-150 pickup, the most popular vehicle of any kind for the last four decades, is finally unveiling an electric version, called the Lightning. My own impression from years of informal conversation with pickup drivers around the U.S. is that the Lightning — like GM’s electric Hummer, the Tesla Cybertruck and Rivian’s R1T — will sell briskly. Yesterday, Ford got much attention for the F-150 when President Biden, promoting his $174 billion plan to build out an American EV and battery industry, stopped by in Dearborn, Michigan, to drive the vehicle. Here’s a short video, from Bloomberg.
That was lots of noise, but Ford and GM continue to be laggards when you consider Volkswagen’s more chin-out approach to the future. The two big American companies largely continue to wait for a demand signal before expanding production capacity, while VW and Tesla are aggressively building out gigafactories now.
Meanwhile, in Manhattan: Even while turning out electric vehicles jury-rigged from its combustion models, Kia, the South Korean carmaker, has been working for four years to produce a purpose-built EV platform. A few hours after Biden’s ride with Ford, Kia bought out the big screens on Times Square to unveil his first custom electric — the EV6 crossover SUV. I had a chat with Orth Hedrick, Kia’s vice president of product planning, who said that by 2030, the company expects 40%-45% of its U.S. sales to be electrics. The company’s pivot to EVs, he said, has been shaped by climate-driven public policy around the world. “This is an overall societal move,” Hedrick said. “It’s an inflection point. We really see it.”
Kia’s turn to EVs is worth noting because in many ways, its personality resembles Japan’s juggernaut attitude in the 1980s. While attracting less attention than Chinese companies, South Korea’s LG and Samsung dominate the sale of lithium-ion batteries, for instance, and the country’s big manufacturers are as positioned as anyone to seize much of the coming market for EVs.
Monitoring batteries: For years, EV makers have been overbuilding their battery…