9 min read

Is Toyota really an EV villain? 🦹‍♂️ – $7.5B for charging – CATL's sodium-ion battery 🔋

Hey! First off, a big welcome to the 43 new EV geeks that joined us this week. You're home now. If you're reading this and haven't subscribed, do so here.

I'll be adding our resource center to every newsletter from now on. This is so you could easily check out the ever-updating resources we've made each week. It's not much yet, but it's honest work:

Now on to this week's layout of what's zappening. I've got a longer original article for you to start with.

- Jaan

It sure doesn't look pretty.

Toyota is currently the world's largest car company, having sold 9.5M vehicles in 2020.

You've probably seen the damning news for a while now. Here are a few:

  • Toyota, once a leader of electrification, is now lagging.
  • The CEO said EV trends are "overhyped".
  • Toyota being a donor for lawmakers against climate change consensus.
  • Toyota was with Trump, against California setting its clean air standards.

Turns out, it's getting worse.

Now, per the NYT, Chris Reynolds, a top Toyota executive has met with congressional leaders behind closed doors to advocate against the Biden administration’s plans to spend billions to incentivize the shift to EVs solely, pushing hybrids and FCEVs in the mix.

Despite all this, Toyota has revealed plans to release 15 new battery-electric vehicles by 2025 (see our issue #27).

So which is it? A company of the future or one of the past?

We agree and embrace the fact that all-electric vehicles are the future,

said Toyota spokesman Eric Booth. But Toyota also thinks that

too little attention is being paid to what happens between today when 98% of the cars and trucks sold are powered at least in part by gasoline, and that fully electrified future.

Can we predict Toyota's future by looking at its past?

I want to thank Faheem from Keemut here for pointing me to see the perspective of Toyota's past.

Faheem was an engineer at Toyota and was also approached by Tesla back then. He saw the culture and product development of both companies and says Toyota is more risk-averse than Tesla, especially since the Unintended Acceleration controversy.

The Supercar Project

In 1993,  a cooperative research program called "The Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV)" was formed between the US government and three US auto corporations, DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors.

Dubbed unofficially the "Supercar" project, the objective was to bring extremely fuel-efficient vehicles (80 mpg or 2.9L/100km) to market by 2003.

The results by 2001 were three fully operational concept diesel-electric cars with 3- or 4-cylinder diesel engines and NiMH/lithium batteries. This is the GM Precept Hybrid:

Now, for some reason, in 2001 the program was canceled by the Bush Administration, at the request of the automakers themselves.

This is why Prius was made

As this PNGV was a US domestic project, Toyota wasn't invited to participate as it was a Japanese company. This hurt Toyota, as it had already considered itself as an American company, which had invested a lot of money in US factories. Honda was in a similar spot. They called themselves glocalized companies: making globally developed and distributed products, which are adjusted for local markets.

So when the Big3 above went on to develop the "Supercar" together with the US government, Toyota saw this as a big threat to its business. A possibility of superior technology was imminent.

This lead Toyota to start its own R&D for a fuel-efficient car, which became...

*drumroll, please*


Now, funnily enough, the real ones that lost here were the US Big3 that left out Toyota in the first place. Toyota became the world's largest automaker with a big help from developing this new technology, while they... just scrapped the project.

While the world was still guzzling as much gas as it could, the Prius, which was launched in 1997 and became a total hit after the second generation in 2003, has since been the signature of hybrids worldwide.

This is where in my eyes the real fuel efficiency of the modern days started.

Toyota and Tesla

In 2010, Tesla and Toyota had a partnership where Tesla supplied the lithium metal-oxide battery and other powertrain components from the Roadster and later Model S for Toyota RAV4 EV.

2010 Also saw Toyota taking a $50M stake (about 2.5%) in Tesla Motors and Tesla taking over the NUMMI plant that Toyota closed in Fremont, now known as Tesla Fremont Factory, where the whole S3XY lineup is made.

“Toyota was once a start-up company. Working with Tesla will provide us with a powerful stimulus," the president of Toyota, Akio Toyoda said back then.

So, looks like Toyota believed in Tesla when others didn't even come close yet.

Another fun bit from the past: The Reuters article cites that "Governor Schwarzenegger said Tesla eventually could create 1,000 jobs." You know nothing, Arnold. Today the plant employs over 10,000.

Toyota's Way

Toyota does a lot of planning. Largely we could put it at about

80% planning and 20% execution.

Now if we put Tesla on the same scale I'd say most probably it fits about

80% execution and 20% planning.

What do you think is a good balance in today's world? Tweet at me or reply to this email with your take.

Will Toyota gear towards execution?

I do not endorse the ways Toyota is trying to slow down the electrification - I rather despise these moves - but I can understand its conservative approach to committing to fully electric cars. After all, that's how the "personality of the company" looks to be like throughout the years.

Now if Toyota *does* turn around and embrace EVs, who knows what will happen. I'm excited to find out.

📺 What I'm watching

  • CATL presented its sodium-ion battery design as an alternative to li-ion:
  • Diess thanks his employees for a sensational first half of the year... on an Audi e-surfboard (tweet)
  • Rivian R1S makes an incredible climb in the Moab's steep rock formations (video)
  • The most creative thing I've seen all week: A music video, made only on Tesla Sentry Cams on parked cars without owners knowing it:
  • These "Tesla Boat Mode" videos from the recent floods in China that I compiled for you here: (videoz)
  • What happens if you put a Lambo and Bugatti dealer in a Model S Plaid, by Brooks from DragTimes (video)

$7.5B for charging in the US

I made this GIF

$7.5B from the $550B Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal in the US would drop for the electric car charging infrastructure, producing and installing EV charging stations across the US. Yesterday the President and the bipartisan group announced an agreement on the details, which will now be taken up in the Senate for consideration.

The White House explains in its press release (link):

U.S. market share of plug-in electric vehicle (EV) sales is only one-third the size of the Chinese EV market. The President believes that must change. The bill invests $7.5 billion to build out a national network of EV chargers. [...]Federal funding will have a particular focus on rural, disadvantaged, and hard-to-reach communities.

I asked Matt from AmpUp (you remember him from the Shoot the Zap podcast we did a while back) on his take:

I’m generally supportive of infrastructure over more vehicle incentives since it’s  a harder problem to solve. The auto market will naturally offer more options/affordable EVs over time.
The biggest thing to note is this is not a regulatory strategy like with past administrations. It’s budgetary and paid by federal taxes on corporates.

If I get this correctly from the resource Matt provided me, the biggest advantage of this being budgetary is that the utilities that start from a lesser-renewable standpoint don't have to leap more than those who already have a greater renewable mix of their portfolio.

This means that the less-renewable utilities would also not have to make the end-user, the car owner charging, pay more to leap the distance in between. This is what would happen if this was regulatory instead.

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⚡ Zappenings

  • Rivian trademarks R3S, R4s, R5S, R3T, R4T, R5T. Three new vehicles coming? (link)
  • Rivian secured a $2.5B funding round, led by Amazon, Ford, D1 Capital, and T.Rowe Price. Its tally is up to $10.5B now and the latest funds go towards scaling new vehicle programs, expand facilities (2nd plant). and going international (link).
  • Hyundai Motor Group and LGES will build a battery gigafactory in Indonesia, under a 50-50 joint venture. Construction Q4 2021, production by Q2 2024 (link).
  • Allego, the pan-European charging network with 26k public chargers, will go public via SPAC merger with Spartan Acquisition Corp. III ($SPAQ). Valuation: $3.14B (link).

    With that, the EV company Fisker announced a $10M PIPE investment and collaboration with Allego, including free access for a year for Fisker Ocean owners (link).

    I added the $SPAQ to our stock tracker, row #67.
  • QuantumScape announced that they have made and are currently testing the first 10-layer cells…in the commercially relevant 70x85 mm form factor. Q2 sharerholder letter: (pdf).

    By the way, QuantumScape's Co-Founder and CTO, Dr. Timothy Holme, is speaking at an event tomorrow you can watch here: (link)
  • China showed a record 12% of EV registrations in June. Our friend José of the previously EV-sales blog estimates that the Chinese market will increase 2 million EV deliveries. (link)

    I'll be interviewing with him next week, btw. Time for "Shoot the Zap vol 2".
  • A new network website for experts  in the manufacturing of EV batteries: Batteryline.com
  • Grand jury indicts Trevor Milton, founder of Nikola, on three counts of fraud (link). Milton pleaded not guilty.
  • Lordstown Motors gets a stock-sale agreement for $400M in funds from  Yorkville Advisors (link).
  • Tesla likely won't receive a reduction on import duties in India that's set to 60% of the sticker price for imported cars. Tesla requested this from the government so it could test the demand before building a factory in India. (link)
  • Nothing but the air in the box. Lucid put up big mystery boxes around NYC with the words Dream Ahead on them. Revealed afterward: it was the upcoming sedan, fittingly called Air.

📚 What I'm reading

  • Used EV batteries could get a second life storing clean energy on California's grid, by Canary Media (link).
  • Promising All-Solid-State Batteries for Future Electric Vehicles by Yang-Kook Sun on the ACS Energy Letters (link).

🐦 Tweek

Yes, that's right - Revel pushed through this silly bureaucratic mess! 🥳 See the backstory we wrote a few weeks back: (link).

🃏  Meme time

This one is not mine.

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