Happy Friday! Here we are at Memorial Day weekend! Where did the time go?
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.
What's happening: Some new players are focused on electric trucks or commercial vehicles like Rivian, Nikola, Bollinger, Lordstown Motors, Workhorse and Arrival.
Then the pandemic hit, changing everything.
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements have created their own set of problems, forcing engineering teams to scatter, and slowing factory construction.
What to watch: Those that are well-funded could squeak by, but the outlook for electric vehicles is hazier in this pandemic economy.
The Lucid Air is a $100,000 electric luxury sedan coming in early 2021. Photo: Lucid Motors
Two electric vehicle startups — Rivian and Lucid Motors — are best positioned to survive the fallout from the pandemic, industry experts tell Axios.
Why it matters: With solid funding and strong in-house technology, they've got a path to success — provided they can get back on track quickly as the economy recovers.
Rivian could have the best shot at survival for a number of reasons.
Lucid is targeting the luxury market — as are many EV startups — but it's the most likely to emulate Tesla's success.
Lucid also benefited from some good fortune. Its factory is going up in Arizona, where construction was allowed to continue during the government shutdown — with appropriate health safety protocols, Rawlinson said.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Many cities are changing street uses and restricting cars to create new and socially distant opportunities for pedestrians, cyclists and diners.
What we're watching: There could be colliding interests as commuting begins to revive while advocates fight to preserve and expand the newly airy spaces, Axios' Ben Geman notes.
For city planners, priorities have changed. "It's no longer about moving the most amount of people in the least amount of space," says Tiffany Chu, CEO of data analytics firm Remix, which helps governments visualize transportation issues.
The big question: How many of these mobility changes will be made permanent after cities reopen fully?
Yes, but: It's not clear how much the increased driving will be offset by people working from home for the foreseeable future.
The bottom line: "A moment like this — when millions of urban trips are temporarily up for grabs across transportation modes — is exceedingly rare. The stakes for cities could scarcely be higher," said Harvard Kennedy School urban expert David Zipper, writing in Slate.
Cost curve: The story of cheaper batteries, from smartphones to Teslas (Timothy B. Lee — Ars Technica)
No hands: GM developing hands-free system for city driving (Hannah Lutz — Automotive News)
Sardines: Airlines pack in customers like there's no coronavirus (Dion Rabouin — Axios)
2020 Nissan Sentra SR. Photo: Nissan
Last week I drove the 2020 Nissan Sentra SR, a car that actually made me do a double-take.
My thought bubble: The Sentra is the kind of value-priced econobox you'd rent in Omaha — or so I thought — until a sporty-looking orange-and-black number showed up in my driveway. That's a Sentra?
The big picture: It's hard to compete with the Honda Civic, which has long dominated the compact sedan market and is due to be updated next year. Even the Toyota Corolla, also redesigned for 2020, has struggled to keep up.
Details: The Sentra's attractive makeover is attributed to a new platform that allows better proportions; it's about two inches lower and two inches wider than its predecessor.
Driver assistance features are standard, a trend that is becoming more common in lower priced cars.
The value is hard to beat: Starting at $19,090, the Sentra is cheaper than the Civic. The SR I drove, with an extra premium package, topped out at $25,825.