California’s Electric Future

Russ Mitchell who covers the rapidly changing global auto industry (with special emphasis on California, including Tesla, electric vehicles, and driverless cars) at The Los Angeles Times once again joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss California’s Electric Future.

The conversation begins with a discussion about California Governor Newsom’s executive order to phase out gasoline-powered cars. Why this was politically savvy to appeal to the climate front, but the uncertainly that this will cause around the economics as an electric vehicle costs on average 30% more than a gasoline-powered car.

Grayson and Russ go onto discuss why this might create a grey market for gasoline-powered cars and what the supply chain for electric vehicles currently looks like in the Congo and China.

Following on this topic, they go onto discuss the conditions in which these minerals are mined, and if consumers will take the same active approach to blood cobalt as they took to blood diamonds and demand ethical mining.

Russ who lives in Berkeley, CA says that his friends who drive electric vehicles have not even thought about the ethical mining of cobalt. Companies are currently focused on shoring up the mineral supply chain at the moment.

While the supply chain and the ethical mining of minerals for electric vehicles remain a concern, the bigger question still remains: “How do you recycle electric vehicle batteries”. Grayson and Russ go onto to discuss this issue and how EV batteries can be reused for backup batteries for homes.

In California, Toyota and Honda were the top two selling brands in 2019, accounting for over 30% of all new vehicles sold in the State. Grayson and Russ go onto discuss why Toyota and Honda have to start investing in fully-electric vehicles today to not lose market share in California when new gasoline-powered car sales are banned.

In the late 2000s, the Toyota Prius was the “It Car” when it became a Hollywood status symbol thanks in-part to Leonardo DiCaprio who was driven to the 2008 Oscars in a Prius. Not to mention the thousands of photographs of him driving around LA in the car.

Today, Toyota no longer has the “It Car”, but they popularized the idea of driving an environmentally friendly car. The current “It Car” is Tesla.

While California may be on the edge of emerging trends, consumers are still not sold on electric cars. Only 2% of the 17 million light cars and trucks sold in the United States in 2019 were electric.

Could this be due to charging and charge time? Grayson and Russ discuss why consumers want to charge quickly and efficiently. This conversation raises the question, can the energy grid handle an increase in new electric vehicles?

With new electric vehicles coming on the market, Grayson and Russ discuss what the market would look like without Tesla’s Model 3. They go on to discuss how Elon Musk built Tesla into a brand that is a lifestyle choice for millions of individuals.

Grayson goes onto discuss how Elon Musk captured the public’s imagination that an electric can be cool, part of your lifestyle, accessible and approachable.

This evolved into a deep conversation about Tesla and what Elon has to do to continue to dominate the public’s imagination on electric vehicles. While the public’s imagination is important, quality control is even more important.

Wrapping up the conversation, they discuss the current state of the electric vehicle market and when brands such as Porsche, Land Rover, and Mercedes will make their big moves to gain EV market share from Tesla.

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If you have enjoyed this conversation, please listen to Grayson and Russ’s earlier conversation:

The Business of Self-Driving Cars