Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

At least a dozen electric vehicle startups with dreams of becoming the next Tesla are suddenly in limbo, hoping they can hang on through the coronavirus pandemic for a chance to deliver on their long-shot ambitions.

The big picture: Building a car company from scratch is extraordinarily difficult, requiring billions of dollars in capital. Tesla made it, but not without a few harrowing brushes with death. Add the economic uncertainty of a global pandemic, and the stunning collapse in oil prices, and the odds of success are even lower.

History is littered with the failures of automobile impresarios like Preston Tucker, John DeLorean and Malcolm Bricklin.

  • Elon Musk's breakthrough success at Tesla shows it can be done, inspiring a new crop of innovators, each with their own change-the-world gambit.

What's happening: Some new players are focused on electric trucks or commercial vehicles like Rivian, Nikola, Bollinger, Lordstown Motors, Workhorse and Arrival.

  • Lucid Motors, Byton, Faraday Future, Karma, NIO and Czinger are targeting high-end buyers with plug-in luxury cars.
  • Also in the game: Canoo and Arcimoto, whose personal use EVs will be available by subscription or rental.
  • Most had plans to launch this year, or next, with money provided by traditional venture capital, or rich backers in China and the Middle East.

Then the pandemic hit, changing everything.

  • The cancellation of the world's biggest auto shows in Geneva, New York and Detroit dashed some companies' plans for splashy unveilings that would have brought lots of media attention.
  • Virtual events and social media lack the same magic, making it that much harder to get noticed and build brand recognition online.

Stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements have created their own set of problems, forcing engineering teams to scatter, and slowing factory construction.

  • The Treasury's Paycheck Protection Program has provided short-term relief to some, while others have been forced to furlough employees.
  • Many companies have said their EVs will be delayed until 2021 or beyond.
  • Flashback: A $465 million taxpayer loan from the U.S. Energy Department under the Obama administration helped Tesla survive the Great Recession in 2009.

What to watch: Those that are well-funded could squeak by, but the outlook for electric vehicles is hazier in this pandemic economy.

Go deeper: These electric vehicle companies have the best shot at surviving

Go deeper

Updated 14 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

The number of COVID-19 cases surpassed 20 million worldwide on Monday evening, Johns Hopkins data shows.

The big picture: World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference as the world approached the milestone that 750,000 deaths were set to be recorded this week. "Every life lost matters," he said. "But I want to be clear: there are green shoots of hope and... it's never too late to turn the outbreak around."

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 20,119,511 — Total deaths: 737,126 — Total recoveries: 12,370,465Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 5,095,163 — Total deaths: 163,473 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. Public health: State testing plans fall short of demand
  4. Axios-Ipsos poll: 1 in 2 has a personal connection.
  5. Business: Moderna reveals it may not hold patent rights for vaccine.
  6. World: New Zealand reports first local cases for 102 days — Why you should be skeptical of Russia's vaccine claims.

State coronavirus testing plans fall short of demand

Data: Department of Health and Human Services via Harvard Global Health Institute; Note: New York City's plan is included in New York state; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. plans to test around 600,000 people for the coronavirus every day this month, according to plans that states submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Yes, but: That's likely a drop in testing, compared to July, and it's not enough to meet national demand. By December, states said they plan to ramp up to around a collective 850,000 people tested a day — which also likely will not be enough.