Axios What's Next

Picture of a futuristic looking skyline.

Good Monday morning! Today, Joann Muller takes us behind the scenes of Lucid's plan to make electric vehicles more affordable.

  • You're invited: Join Axios' Sara Kehaulani Goo and Russell Contreras tomorrow at 12:30pm ET for a Hard Truths virtual event discussing where action on systemic racism still falls short. Guests include NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson and author and ESPN commentator Sam Acho. Register here.
  • Our reader photo today comes from Theresa Cassano of Denver, who took it at a construction site. Got a pic to share with us? Send us a photo of something cool and forward-looking that we can publish. Email: [email protected].

Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,103 words ... 4 minutes.

1 big thing: Lucid's path to cheaper EVs

Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson speaks with Axios transportation correspondent Joann Muller on "Axios on HBO."
Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson speaks with Axios transportation correspondent Joann Muller on "Axios on HBO." Photo: Axios

Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson doesn't "want to be doing wealthy people's cars," he told "Axios on HBO" in an interview with Joann that aired Sunday.

Why it matters: Americans are warming up to the idea of electric cars, but the purchase price is still too high for many people, who also worry about how far their car will go before the battery needs recharging.

  • The $169,000 Lucid Air Dream, while financially out of reach for most people, has an unprecedented 520-mile driving range — efficiency that can be carried over to lower-priced models.
  • "The biggest challenge I've always faced was getting money, not going bankrupt, having that investment as a startup to develop this," Rawlinson said, pointing to Lucid's debut model.
  • "Start with this, but my passion: get this down from $169,000 to under $70,000 by the end of next year."
  • "Efficiency's the key, and our technology will drive down the [battery] pack size in this car. And driving the pack size will drive down the cost. And that's where we get to a $25,000 car. And I think that could come three to four years from now."

But it likely won't be a $25,000 Lucid, Rawlinson also tells Axios. Instead, it will be other brands, selling high-volume models with smaller, cheaper battery packs based on Lucid's efficiency breakthroughs.

What's happening: Citing a "growing urgency" across the industry, Rawlinson told me "many companies" have approached him this year about potentially licensing Lucid's technology.

  • When pressed to name the carmakers he's talking to, he said it's "a mix of companies" that recognizes "the train's going to leave the station and they don't want to miss it" but that worry they don't have the time or resources to develop their own technology.
  • Licensing revenue could be a big growth driver for Lucid, helping to finance further vehicle development, he said. But for now, the company's primary focus is getting the first 500 or so models built at its Arizona factory into customers' hands before the end of the year.

The backdrop: Lucid is often painted as the next Tesla, but its hot stock tumbled last week after the company disclosed an SEC subpoena concerning the SPAC deal that took it public this year followed by a sizable debt offering that could dilute existing shareholders.

  • The startup, which was briefly worth more than Ford Motor last month, still has a market capitalization of $62 billion.
  • Rawlinson defended the valuation, telling "Axios on HBO" it's because investors had conferred "tech company status" on Lucid that they don't assign to legacy automakers like General Motors or Ford.

Read the full story.

2. The hybrid holiday party

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

It looked like corporate Christmas parties would get the green light this year after virtual soirees in 2020 — but along came Omicron, Erica Pandey writes.

Driving the news: Companies of every size and across the world are rethinking their holiday bashes as the Omicron winter wave rolls in. And a popular new option is putting the ball in workers' courts by planning hybrid parties.

The risk: Many firms that have gone ahead with parties despite the rise of the COVID-19 variant have had to deal with case spikes.

  • Dozens and dozens of attendees of a 120-person company Christmas party in Oslo, Norway, were infected — and many of the cases have been confirmed as Omicron.

What's happening: To mitigate that risk, lots of companies are organizing small in-person gatherings as well as bigger virtual ones.

  • A Colorado product design company called Quantum Metric Inc. told Ray A. Smith of the Wall Street Journal that it's throwing a virtual party, with optional smaller live parties in cities where it has satellite offices.
  • Papaya Global, which is an Israel-based payroll management firm, has in-person parties planned but with virtual options for those who aren't comfortable with gathering, the Journal reports.

And some companies are forgoing the party altogether. The global software company SAP SE is giving workers $100 each to expense holiday celebrations instead of throwing an in-person or virtual party, per the Journal.

3. Colorado schools turn to parents for help

Photo: Maura Losch/Axios

Here's how hard the teacher squeeze is hitting Denver Public Schools: Officials are turning to parents to fill gaps caused by staffing shortages, John Frank reports in Axios Denver.

  • Bromwell Elementary relies on 40 parent volunteers to keep its library operating, for instance.
  • The district has recruited dozens of parents to get certified to serve as substitute teachers. Others are working in the front office or supervising the cafeteria at lunchtime.

Why it matters: The shift in responsibility for teaching and supervising children is apparent across the state, the Denver Post reports.

What's happening: Parents are also filling gaps in hiring staff or teachers, or when existing school employees call in sick.

  • But the pool of those who are available is shrinking for the same reasons that make recruiting school workers challenging: Expensive child care, regulatory barriers and better-paying jobs.

Of note: The state of Colorado lowered its hiring requirements needed to become a substitute teacher, and some districts are offering incentives — both of which appear to be helping to alleviate the shortage.

  • "Our parents, our families, are listening. A big portion of our hires have come in the last month and a half," ​​Lacey Nelson, director of talent acquisition for Denver Public Schools, told the paper.

4. The war on leaf blowers

Photo: Paul Zinken/picture alliance via Getty Images

Dallas is the latest place to consider a ban on leaf blowers for environmental reasons, Tasha Tsiaperas reports in Axios Dallas.

The big picture: California recently passed a law to ban the sale of new gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers and chain saws, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Why leaf blowers? They're loud and the two-stroke engines that use both gas and oil put emissions directly into the air, per the city of Dallas' research.

  • The machines can blow up to 180 mph, meaning all that junk on the ground just gets pushed into the air.
  • One hour of leaf blower use equals the emissions of a drive from Dallas to Orlando, Florida, and the noise can exceed 100 decibels.

5. Reader photo of the day

A sign that says "hole" on a construction site in Denver.
Photo: Theresa Cassano

What's next: Still-unfinished infrastructure

Theresa Cassano writes: "For all the excitement about Biden’s infrastructure agenda, this photo feels like a more accurate depiction of our current state of affairs.

"This was snapped by me on Denver’s East 17th Avenue across from City Park. Work has been ongoing for months as part of the East 16th Avenue Storm Interceptor Project.

"The struggle against aging infrastructure feels constant and critical. While I am excited (and hopeful) for the progress stemming from additional funding, we're still facing decades of disinvestment. Much like COVID protocols are now ingrained in our day-to-day activities, so are these holes in the ground."

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