Electric cars' bumpy ride – Financial Times


One reason Tesla shares are now down to about where they were at the start of this year is the market for electric vehicles becoming ever more crowded.

The latest announcement came from California-based Fisker on Wednesday, unveiling a partnership with iPhone assembler Foxconn to develop a “breakthrough new segment vehicle”, with plans to produce more than 250,000 electric vehicles a year after its launch at the end of 2023. Foxconn is expanding beyond consumer electronics to make electric vehicles for other marques. Last October, it introduced an EV chassis and a software platform as it stepped up its production capabilities.

The steep rise in the prices of metals such as rhodium and palladium, which are critical components in catalytic converters for petrol and hybrid vehicles, is likely to accelerate the move to electric vehicles, says Nissan. “I think the increase in the raw material price is also an opportunity for us to pull ahead the tipping point from internal combustion engines to electrification,” said Nissan’s chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta, in an interview.

However, things are not going smoothly for South Korea’s Hyundai Motor. It has begun the world’s most expensive electric vehicle recall to replace almost 82,000 batteries globally following a string of electrical fires. The recall would cost about Won1tn ($900m), it said.

Fires, coronavirus, precious metal prices and, of course, semiconductor shortages are all plaguing car manufacturers this year. Our US reporters have been looking at production problems for General Motors in Kansas City and Ford in Michigan due to the squeeze on chip supplies.

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It has exposed a dependency on Asian chipmakers and led to pressure on the Biden administration to incentivise more domestic production. That would take time so, in the short term, the US president was signing an executive order today requiring federal agencies to conduct 100-day reviews on improving supply chains for semiconductors, as well as pharmaceuticals, electric vehicle batteries and critical minerals used in manufacturing products from cars to weapons.

Semiconductor manufacturing capacity by country

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. US to punish Russia over SolarWinds hack
The Biden administration is readying sanctions and other measures to punish Russia over a cyber espionage campaign, as the Senate heard that hackers potentially used a dozen different ways to infiltrate government and corporate networks. The hack struck at the heart of the government, starting as early as 2019 and directly affecting at least nine federal agencies as well as about 100 companies.

2. Facebook to pay $1bn for news
Facebook has pledged at least $1bn to pay for news over the next three years, matching Google’s spending plans, in a move that aims to contain the fallout from the social media group’s shortlived ban on news in Australia. Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, disclosed the budget in a post defending last week’s decision to temporarily restrict Australian news. Meanwhile, India is heading for a showdown with the Biden administration after announcing one of the world’s toughest digital taxes on foreign tech companies. Robert Shrimsley looks at the case for an overarching digital authority in the UK.

3. EU launches gig worker consultation
File under more worrying news for Uber. The European Commission has launched a consultation on whether gig workers should be given the same employment rights as those of staff in more secure forms of employment. The consultation will last six weeks and is the start of a process which is likely to end later this year with legislative proposals, according to Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s executive vice-president in charge of digital. Sarah O’Connor looks at Uber’s lobbying efforts to shape any new laws in Europe.

4. London should be Spac centre, says ex-LSE chief
The City should become a global centre for special purpose acquisition companies to fend off rivals after Brexit, say former London Stock Exchange head Xavier Rolet and Vote Leave co-founder Matthew Elliott. Spacs have become one of the hottest areas of finance over the past year, with New York dominating the market. We’ve had confirmation today that
Joby Aviation will go public through a blank cheque company launched by the entrepreneurs Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus, in a deal that values the electric flying taxi developer at $6.6bn after a new fundraising. 

5. Anti-vaxxers target black Americans with fake news
Anti-vaccination campaigners are targeting black Americans with misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines, one of Joe Biden’s top health advisers has warned. Dr Marcella Nunez-Smith, the head of the US president’s task force on Covid-19 health equity, told the Financial Times she was increasingly worried about the way online misinformation about coronavirus vaccines was being tailored to appeal to black communities.

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Tech tools — Amazon Echo Show 10

Reviews came out on Wednesday for the latest Echo product from Amazon, with the Show 10 shipping from Thursday. It sounds rather creepy to me: the combined speaker and screen have a motorised base that allows the device to swivel so its 13-megapixel camera can track your movements and keep you centred for video calls. The Verge says motion does not add much to the experience, but being able to adjust the angle of the screen now is useful and sound and display quality are good, with a 10.1in HD screen. A privacy shutter also lets you block the camera easily. It’s available for $250 (£228).



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