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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 Aug 30, 2020 - World

Berlin police break up protests against coronavirus restrictions

A protester confronting a police officer in Berlin on Aug. 28. Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Berlin police arrested 300 demonstrators after disbanding a protest Saturday over Germany's coronavirus restrictions as tens of thousands of participants refused to maintain social distancing, per the BBC.

Why it matters: Berlin's regional government tried to ban the protest earlier this week, citing concern for public health. Protesters successfully appealed the decision on Friday, though a court required demonstrators to observe social distancing.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low — Majority back vaccine proof requirements for travel, schools and work — The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant.
  2. Politics: Oklahoma secures $2.6 million refund for hydroxychloroquine purchase — Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — Americans' return to the skies could benefit smaller airlines.
  5. World: WHO authorizes China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use — Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Aug 29, 2020 - World

Europe fears second coronavirus wave as cases surge

A representation of the coronavirus at a Berlin protest against Germany's virus restrictions on Aug. 28. Photo: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Several European countries have reported a jump in new coronavirus cases in recent weeks after a drop in cases over June and July, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Why it matters: The surge could indicate that Europe is on the verge of a second wave, though currently fewer people are dying from the virus and new cases have needed less medical treatment than those who got it in the spring, according to the Washington Post.