March in Transportation – Tesla Opens Up and the Creator of the Footlong Goes Electric

Subway EV charging stations

Written by Jeremy Ertl | Associate PR Director 

In this installment, we’re sharing our favorite reads, insights on trending stories, and updates on the future of transportation. Let’s hit the road!

Tesla Opening Up Its Relationship

“We saw you from across the EV charging station and really dig your vibe.”

As told by Reuters, Tesla has agreed to open its network of charging stations to non-Tesla users as part of a $7.5 billion federal incentive program aimed at building a national network of EV charging stations.

The move will open up 3,500 new and existing Tesla superchargers (direct current or “DC” fast chargers) in addition to 4,000 slower chargers at hotels and restaurants by the end of 2024. In turn, Tesla – which currently operates the second largest network of EV charging stations in the country (ChargePoint is leading, but not with DC fast chargers) – will be eligible for federal funding under the program (Politico).

The move is expected to help address concerns about the lack of charging infrastructure for EVs in the U.S. and fulfill the Biden administration’s ambitious goal of 500,000 chargers by 2030, up from 130,000 currently.

e-Polyamory for the win.

Zoox, Zoox the New Zoom, Zoom

Take that, Mazda.

Amazon-owned Zoox, the cube-like robotaxi with no steering wheel or pedals, has started rolling out its autonomous cabs to employees in Foster City, California after receiving the required approvals, via TechCrunch.

The robotaxis will initially operate on fixed routes (at a max speed of 35 mph) with trained safety drivers on board, but the company plans to eventually remove the drivers and offer on-demand autonomous rides to public passengers.

Equipped with bidirectional driving capabilities and four-wheel steering, each vehicle can change its direction without putting it in reverse, likely inventing a whole new level of carsick for some of us!

Pass the Dramamine.

Eat Fresh, Charge Fast

Subway, the fast-food restaurant chain made famous by he-who-must-not-be-named, plans to build playgrounds with electric vehicle (EV) charging stations across the United States, via Insider.

The new initiative, called “Subway Oasis,” will create a family-friendly environment for customers who want to recharge their EVs while enjoying a meal or spending time with their children. Subway Oasis locations will feature children’s play areas, seating, and charging stations powered by solar panels.

The first is expected to open in Phoenix later this year, with plans to expand to other cities in the future. The company also plans to convert its delivery vehicles to EVs and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.

But it’s not just Subway. Several retailers, restaurant groups, and travel centers including Starbucks, 7-Eleven, Walmart, Target, Pilot Flying J, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, and others have launched EV charging initiatives (Automotive News) and most regional and major convenience store chains have “at least been testing on-site EV charging,” according to Loren McDonald, analyst at EVAdoption.

I’ll never forgive them for removing the flatbread from the menu, but it’s a step in the right direction.

One More Acronym for the Road: LFP

Class, please take out your periodic table of elements.

As EV battery materials like nickel or cobalt become more difficult and morally troublesome to obtain, automakers like Rivian, Tesla and Ford are shifting to alternative battery chemistries to lower the cost of EV production, according to PC Mag.

Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries offer a cheaper, more available alternative to the traditional nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) batteries, despite certain drawbacks like lackluster range in cold weather. This makes LFPs appealing to car companies looking to keep their vehicle offerings accessible, as they aim to minimize vehicle waiting periods and maintain lower prices.

And the big hitters are betting big. Ford is investing $7 billion to build two new LFP battery factories in the U.S. (via Car & Driver), following similar moves by Tesla and Rivian to convert most of their standard range vehicles to LFP.

Still others, mostly startups like Lyten, are offering alternatives like graphene material designed to enable lithium-sulfur batteries (Bloomberg).

EV Chemistry 101, class dismissed.

Quick miles:

  1. Ford is getting close to opening its new $740 million Michigan Central innovation lab in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, which will serve as the automaker’s hub for advanced mobility, electrification and autonomous vehicle development (Axios)
    • The facility will be home to approximately 5,000 employees, including engineers, researchers, and designers from Ford and other mobility-focused companies, with early sign-ups including Airspace Link, Canopy, Grounded, and Cavnue
  2. Despite its recent round of layoffs, Rivian announced the EV maker is moving into electric bicycles, appealing to adventure enthusiasts and designed to complement Rivian’s existing line of vehicles, which includes the R1T pickup and R1S SUV (Bloomberg)
  3. After-school jobs are getting the electric treatment, with John Deere launching its first-ever electric zero-turn mower, the ZTR-E (slated for select markets later this year and full rollout in ‘24), providing up to 90 minutes of cutting time on a single charge. (Electrek)
  4. GM teamed up with Netflix and comedian Will Ferrell to promote EVs in this year’s Super Bowl ad, making pit stops in Squid Game, Bridgerton, Stranger Things and Queer Eye along the way (The Hollywood Reporter)
  5. With modern commercial aviation adding more and more autonomous features, “self-flying planes” are becoming a reality pre-Jetsons era, with experts predicting “no pilot, no problem” as early as 2025 (Forbes)
  6. In Lancaster, California, a utility company has created a retirement community for EV batteries (🥹), which are given a second life to store energy from solar panels and other renewable sources, feeding power back into the grid (Reuters)
  7. Global spending on passenger EVs hit $388 billion in 2022, up 53% from the year before, via a new report from BloombergNEF
  8. German startup Sono Motors is ending production of its Sion solar-powered EV to focus on developing B2B tech for other companies – pouring one out for another fallen comrade!  (Electrek

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