Sep 10, 2019

Axios Generate

By Ben Geman
Ben GemanAmy Harder

Welcome back! Today's Smart Brevity: 943 words, < 4 minutes.

Situational awareness, part 1: "Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, is prepared for a listing on the Riyadh stock exchange and it will take place 'very soon,' its CEO said Tuesday," CNBC reports.

Situational awareness, part 2: BP announced Tuesday that it will deploy "continuous measurement of methane emissions in its future BP-operated oil and gas processing projects." Reuters has more.

And yesterday marked the birthday of the late Otis Redding, who brilliantly sings us into today's edition...

1 big thing: VW makes its move in the EV race

Production version of the VW ID.3. Courtesy of VW.

Volkswagen took the wraps off its ID.3 electric vehicle — one that will be available in Europe and starts at roughly $33,000 for the base model — just ahead of the Frankfurt Motor Show yesterday.

Why it matters: The compact EV, which will start deliveries in mid-2020, could be a big step toward production of moderately priced battery-powered cars for a mass market.

  • "Everything about the ID.3, from its size and styling to its battery range and pricing, is aiming for the mass-market category," TechCrunch notes.
  • It's the first vehicle built on VW's electric modular production platform.
  • That's the system that Ford, under a recent agreement with VW, plans to use for building 600,000 EVs for delivery in Europe over the next 6 years.

What they're saying: IHS Markit analyst Tim Urquhart, in a note, says the stakes are very high for the German automaker.

  • "VW needs the ID.3 to present a compelling choice for buyers that would never before have even considered buying an EV, a true electric people’s car," he said.
  • Urquhart also notes that the 4-door hatchback is the tip of the spear for VW's "hugely ambitious" EV strategy, so it "needs to be 'right' straight out of the box," without quality glitches.

Meanwhile, the auto news site Jalopnik calls it "likely their most significant car in decades."

Of note: While it's not for sale in the U.S., the automaker plans to start selling an MEB-produced ID Crozz, a crossover vehicle, here next year (and more info seems to be trickling out this morning).

By the numbers: The vehicle's battery options start at 45 kilowatt hours (kWh) with a range of 205 miles.

  • There's also a 58 kWh version with a 260-mile range, and a 77 kWh battery pack that provides up to about 342 miles of range, VW said.

What's next: There's plenty on display — from production-ready cars to concepts — at the show that opens this week, including the production-version of the Honda E.

Go deeper: 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show: New debuts from BMW, Land Rover, Porsche and more (CNET)

2. Charging network Volta raises additional $20M

Volta Charging, which provides free EV charging at stations supported by ads, announced Tuesday that it has raised another $20 million in Series C funding to fuel the 9-year-old company's expansion.

Why it matters: Availability of plenty of charging is important to the growth of EVs, which — and I know I'm a broken record here — remain just a tiny slice of vehicle sales right now.

Driving the news: "Volta welcomes Schneider Electric Ventures and SK Innovation as they join Energize Ventures along with a number of existing partners in the follow-on Series C round," the company said in a release.

  • That brings total Series C funding to $100 million, including a $44 million loan secured earlier this summer.
  • VentureBeat has more.

Go deeper: $44M for EV charging player will expand access

3. What they're saying: The Saudi tumult

With the new Saudi oil minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman signaling a continuation of existing policy for now, observers are taking stock of what caused the ouster of Khalid al-Falih — and what it means.

What they're saying: A deeply reported Financial Times piece last night looked at what may have brought down al-Falih...

"It appears that he paid the price for subdued oil prices, his perceived lack of enthusiasm for a hasty IPO [of Saudi Aramco] and a no-nonsense style — which some deem arrogance — that offended fellow cabinet members."

The big picture: The Atlantic Council has posted a compendium of analyses from their experts, including Randolph Bell, head of their Global Energy Center. Bell reads the tea leaves in the minister's maiden speech in Abu Dhabi yesterday, writing...

"Abdulaziz’s description of himself in the speech as a 'kitchen or basement man' — a technocrat who rolls up his sleeves on the details — suggests a marked contrast to Al-Falih’s almost rock star status in global energy circles." he writes.
"Combined with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s unprecedented phone call to Iraq this week to complain about Iraqi overproduction, this move suggests a far more centralized and activist approach to oil policy from the Crown Prince himself."
4. Catch up fast: nuclear, crude, Amazon

Nuclear power: "European energy giant EDF ’s stock has fallen sharply after reporting problems with its nuclear reactor components," Barron's reports this morning, citing the French power company's disclosure of "issues with steam generator welds and other components used in nuclear reactors."

Oil markets: "Oil futures rose slightly on Tuesday to their highest levels in almost six weeks on optimism that OPEC and other producing countries may agree to extend output cuts to support prices," per Reuters.

Activism: "Nearly 1,000 Amazon employees have pledged to walk out in protest of what they say is their company's inaction on climate change," CNN reports of the protest slated for Sept. 20.

5. The 2020 fracking politics

E&E News has a good look at whether several Democratic 2020 candidates' calls to ban fracking could sway the general election outcome in Pennsylvania.

Why it matters: President Trump narrowly won the state in 2016, and gas production from shale formations — tapped via fracking — is a major industry in the state.

The big picture: The gas industry directly and indirectly employs over 80,000 people in Pennsylvania, the story notes, citing state figures.

"The regions where Trump won are the regions where fracking takes place, so if the Democrats are going to try to make inroads with that group of voters, they're going to have to be cautious with how they move on that front."
— Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll, tells E&E

Go deeper: The stakes of Warren's fracking move

6. The latest in climate polling

Screenshot of Chicago Council on Global Affairs report. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 2.5%, but it's larger (and not listed) for partisan sub-groupings.

Newly released polling from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has something old and something new.

Driving the news: Check out the chart above.

  • The question about whether respondents believe climate change represents a "critical" threat to the vital interests of the U.S. reveals a stark partisan split that probably looks familiar to Generate readers.

But, but, but: Different polls ask different questions, uh, differently, so it's worth tracking them over time.

  • In this case, their summary notes (emphasis added): "For the first time since the question was introduced in 2008, a majority of Americans (54%) consider climate change a critical threat."
Ben GemanAmy Harder