Updated Jan 19, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Inside America's electric vehicle whiplash

Illustration of an electric bolt wobbling atop a cliff

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Some of the largest traditional automakers are experiencing electric vehicle growing pains and pulling back on production.

Why it matters: Consumer demand is falling behind lofty projections drummed up by manufacturers and other car-industry stalwarts.

What's happening: Ford announced today that it's cutting output of the battery-powered F-150 Lightning to make more Bronco SUVs and Ranger pickup trucks.

  • The CEO of Stellantis — which owns Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep — told reporters today that the auto industry risked an EV "bloodbath" if a pricing war started by Tesla continues.
  • Rental car giant Hertz said last week that it plans to sell 20,000 of its electric vehicles and buy more gas-powered rentals.
  • GM stopped selling its Chevy Blazer EV — a brand-new model — late last month because of charging and software issues.

The big picture: State governments, automakers and environmental activists are also struggling to push "super drivers" responsible for the most carbon emissions into EVs, the N.Y. Times writes from a new report by Coltura, an environmental nonprofit.

  • The top 10% of drivers in the U.S. account for more than one-third of the nation's gasoline use for private light-duty vehicles, according to the report.
  • The tricky part: Many super drivers who live in rural areas have limited access to charging stations outside their homes.
  • That number also doesn't include commercial fleets, which account for a huge portion of miles driven on U.S. roads.
  • EVs can also struggle in cold weather. Charging takes longer and driving range falls to around 70% of the normal distance, Axios' Sareen Habeshian writes.

Between the lines: The White House has unleashed a series of charging initiatives in recent days to ensure U.S. EV adoption doesn't fall off track, Axios Generate co-author Ben Geman writes.

  • The charging focus gives Biden officials a way to promote EVs even though a fairly limited number of models — for now — are eligible for $7,500 purchase subsidies.

Reality check: Automakers are still committed to electric vehicle production — just at a slower pace.

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