Su$tainable Mobility, Volume 15 🚇
This newsletter aims to separate the signal from the noise for making money in all things sustainable transportation: Electrification, mode shift, active and public transit, and mobility aggregation, across both people and goods movement.
This week we have a Deep Dive on 5 Sustainable Mobility Nuggets Buried in the Infrastructure Bill.
Disclaimer: This newsletter represents individual thoughts and not those of any employer. I will always disclose when I have a financial relationship with a company cited.
🅿️ Curbivore is coming to Los Angeles on January 28! The pandemic has caused a surge in demand for curb space and now cities are left wondering how to equitably dole out space to everything from outdoor dining and last mile delivery to ridehail, micromobility and delivery robots. Get $100 off your ticket with the promo code ‘FriendofAlex’.
QUICK HITS: Fast takes on notable news from last 2 weeks
🚛 Ford and Rivian cancel their joint EV product plans. Ford’s investment in Rivian may be one of the most cautionary Pyrrhic victories in corporate venture capital: Ford will net billions, but helped give rise to a company that is now Ford’s peer in terms of valuation, competing head on in the only two segments where Ford makes actual money: pickups and commercial vans. Ouch. That said, you could argue that Rivian would have succeeded this well whether Ford had invested or not, so Ford might as well have earned some money along the way.
🇳🇴 Norway’s rapid tip towards EVs is causing a hole in the government budget. Norway is in a class of its own in terms of zero emissions vehicle scaling, so it’s a useful place to see “lessons from the future”. Ultimately, we have a policy tradeoff between wanting to incentivize the transition towards zero emissions passenger cars while also incentivizing the shift towards shared, active and public transit.
🚕 Yet another study, this one from NRDC, shows that “without changes, companies like Lyft and Uber are likely to increase overall GHG emissions by encouraging additional driving.” Ultimately, shareholders and city policy makers will need to force ride hail players towards a more sustainable business model.
🚗 Sono Motors, the solar car manufacturer, went public with a $2.6 billion valuation. That’s a lot of money for a company that hasn’t delivered any units. History has taught us that hardware innovations in the auto industry (such as car exteriors with embedded solar cell technology) rapidly commoditize.
🔋 Panasonic introduced its new 4680 cell format. Panasonic’s uncomfortable alliance with Tesla continues.
🐢 Hertz’s IPO was less than stellar. Mark Fields is a capable leader, but Hertz is entering the next era of mobility about a decade too late. Elon Musk’s pushback on the relationship with Hertz didn’t help either.
STARTUP WATCH: Sustainable mobility startups (generally pre-seed or seed) to keep an eye on
⚫️ ENSO Tyres (UK): Manufacturer of sustainble tires for electric vehicles
👁 Farol Emobility (Finland): Hardware solution ("lighthouse kiosk") for EV charger consumer interface
🤳🏽 Tap Electric (Netherlands): Consumer app for managing EV charging experiences, including payment and peer-to-peer use
DEEP DIVE: 5 Sustainable Mobility Nuggets Buried In the Infrastructure Bill
The US Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law this past Monday and may ultimately be more impactful than Roosevelt’s New Deal. It took us about a half a century to really understand the implications of the New Deal, so take everything below with a barrel, rather than a grain, of salt. Below are 5 early nuggets gleaned from my first read of the 1,039 page bill.
Automakers will have to install a new technology in new vehicles by 2026 that would prevent drunk driving. This has been technically feasible for decades. It’s wild that scooters are held to high standards for user behavior by cities (e.g., max speed limits) and yet we haven’t done something like this for passenger cars. This is great news for everyone, including pedestrians and micromobility users.
Autonomy isn’t really on the agenda, at least in name. The word autonomous shows up 6 times in 1,039 pages.
Conversely, the phrase “vulnerable road users” (aka pedestrians and micromobility users, among others) shows up 18 times.
Curb management is officially part of the national transportation agenda. The act calls for a National Multimodal Cooperative Freight Research Program to study, among other topics, “maximizing infrastructure utility, including improving urban curb-use efficiency.” From a city perspective, curb management can address multiple problems at once, both increasing municipal revenue and decreasing emissions and pollution by incentivizing usage of small, zero emissions vehicles.
We’re finally going to try for harmonized global vehicle standards. The TL;DR version is that divergent technical approaches in how the EU and the US approach passenger vehicle standards results in high systemic costs (e.g., redundant engineering and testing to accommodate both EU and US safety rules) without any real systemic benefits (i.e., both the EU and US are directionally aligned on desired safety outcomes). Yay for not wasting money.
The fact that the US would consider aligning with United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regulation Number 42 is a very big deal. It’s sheer coincidence that I went down the rabbit hole on this topic for work about a half a decade ago. At the time, the head of engineering of one of the world’s leading OEMs told me “that sort of harmonization would be nirvana in terms of being more efficient, but it’s never going to happen.”
The fact that one random sentence in this giant bill has huge systemic implications gives me great hope for how impactful this bill will be for decades to come.