The Month in Transportation – September

By Jeremy Ertl

Welcome to the latest and greatest from the world of transportation, aggregated by our team at broadhead | HMH. Every month, we aim to share interesting links, thoughts on trending stories and more about the future of transportation. Let’s get into it. 

  

Welcome Back to the Stage, NAIAS! 

The return of the iconic North American International Auto Show (NAIAS for short, Detroit Auto Show if you’re fun) saw some significant changes this year to bring people back to the event. The Motor City’s first show since 2019 saw a presidential visit, a 61-foot-tall rubber duck, an ode to the Jurassic period, and more than its fair share of EV, AV and model year announcements. Shall we? 

We got our first look at some new wheels hitting the streets, including the 2024 Ford Mustang, Chrysler’s 300c variant with a 6.4-liter Hemi engine, and a plug-in hybrid from Jeep (Gear Patrol). 

President Biden revved the engine of a Corvette Z06 while he was in town, in addition to hopping into the driver’s seat of a Cadillac Lyriq all-electric SUV (see Bloomberg’s video). Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg also toured the floor to tout EV manufacturing boom and new battery policies. While there, the administration announced the approval of $900 million in funding for 35 states to begin building electric charging stations along major highways (Utility Dive). 

But the real star? Flying vehicles, according to Axios, with “flying vehicles nearly outnumber[ing] the terrestrial models making their public debut.” This included a VR simulator, a hoverbike and a jet suit, but perhaps most impressive was Israeli startup Air, who unveiled the Air One prototype, a two-seat eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft that can fully charge in 60 minutes and reach speeds of 155 mph at 12,000 feet (Automotive News). 

All this fanfare and still a flop at the box office? Don’t worry, (Detroit) darlings – there’s always next year. I’m so sorry, Olivia Wilde. 

Runaway Train Strike 

The U.S. avoided a supply chain hiccup of epic proportions in September, as freight rail companies and unions representing more than 100,000 workers for said companies reached a (pending) agreement to avoid a shutdown of our nation’s rail system, via NPR. 

After 20 hours of contract negotiations, the White House (in what came as a huge win for their team) announced a tentative agreement that gives workers a “significant wage increase” (24%), but also protection from reported “inflexible” attendance policies and working conditions, including issues raised with long hours, taking days off, and family emergencies that left workers without jobs (NYT). 

The deal came just hours before a critical deadline that would have allowed workers to strike, disrupting the national and global supply chain and increasing fears of impending inflation. And the proposal still needs to be ratified by workers, which could take several additional weeks, leaving many rail workers unhappy with current working conditions (with some continuing to protest, via AP). 

Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief (for now). Choo choo. 

Love Hertz, Love Cars 

According to TechCrunch, car rental giant Hertz announced plans to order 175,000 EVs from GM over the next five years, with deliveries of Chevy Bolt EVs and EUVs to initially happen as early as Q1 2023. 

This deal, one of the biggest ever announced, will allow Hertz customers to rent from within the GM portfolio of brands, including electric compact cars, electric SUVs, electric pickup trucks, and electric luxury vehicles from Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, and GMC. Even the Zevo 600 van from commercial delivery unit BrightDrop (which just partnered with Kroger for grocery delivery) will be available at Hertz rental locations across the country by 2027. 

For context, previous deals with Polestar and Tesla have been for 65,000 and 100,000 EVs, respectively. The scale of this order signifies continued momentum toward GM’s electric vehicle production goals. 

Now, who can I talk to about the long lines at the airport? Can we have the EV division get on that? 

Why Are We All Collectively Forgetting “I, Robot” Happened? 

Tesla hosted its second annual AI Day, where it shied away from vehicle tech to showcase ‘Optimus,’ a humanoid robot the automaker says will be a future product, according to CNN Business.  

So, why is this story in a transportation newsletter, you ask? 

Well, because Tesla says Optimus will run on technology developed from Tesla’s driver-assistance “Full Self Driving” system. Optimus will also benefit from the production cost savings resulting from what Tesla learned during manufacturing within its automotive division.  

The robot waved, but did not speak – which tells me all I need to know about how many times Elon Musk has seen “Ex Machina.” 

Quick news bites: 
  • We love a good milestone, and b | HMH client Daimler Truck North America (DTNA) is celebrating the 800,000th (WHAT!?) vehicle built at its North Carolina plant, via Fleet Equipment 
  • Also in Daimler news, Mercedes-Benz Trucks unveiled its longest-range electric truck yet, the eActros LongHaul (Electrek), which can go about 310 miles on a single charge 
  • Following its 2021 acquisition by BP (you know the one), EV charging startup AMPLY Power has officially announced its rebrand to bp pulse (lowercase letters and all), via BP 
  • Startup Aptera unveiled its first prototype solar electric vehicle (SEV) at hometown San Diego event Fully Charged Live, with production slated for 2023, via Electrek 
    • Meanwhile, Lightyear raised $81 million to ramp up production of their own solar car, via TechCrunch 
  • E-bikes have been gaining traction as a car replacement, and Wall Street Journal has the actual data to back it up 
  • RIP to Queen Elizabeth II, the British monarch who was an auto enthusiast (and pre-influencer influencer) for brands like Land Rover and Jaguar, according to Automotive News 
  • NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) is playing bartender and bouncer by calling for passive alcohol-detection systems in all new vehicles, via Ars Technica 
  • New York is on 🔥🔥🔥, specifically from e-scooter and e-bike lithium-ion batteries, with more than 130 reports of the vehicles catching fire and occasionally exploding (umm, can we get on this?), via The Next Web 

So, there you have it. Another 30 days of fast-paced headlines showcasing the future of transportation.  

Steve Marshall, broadhead | HMH’s Chief Growth Officer has been on the road this past month, visiting with many of you at The Battery Show and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo in Novi, Michigan and at MOVE America in Austin, Texas. All these shows are anchored around the topics of battery availability, range, charging infrastructure, time to recharge and sustainability. Check out some photos from his time at the shows below! 

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