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Volvo

Elon Musk, the showy CEO of Tesla, will begin production of his much-discussed mainstream-priced Model 3 electric car on Friday, beating his schedule by two weeks, but Chinese-owned Volvo today sought to upstage him with the announcement that it will stop introducing new fully combustion vehicles next year.

The Wall Street Journal's William Boston reports that Volvo will introduce only fully electric or hybrid battery-and-combustion cars as of the 2019 model year, the beginning of a phase-out of combustion-only. Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson was light on details apart from reiterating Volvo's previous vow to sell 1 million electrics and hybrids a year by 2025. But the early abandonment of conventional cars is stunning. Bloomberg's energy geopolitics writer Javier Blas tweets, "First major automaker to go all electric / hybrid — this will cause concern from Saudi Arabia to Exxon Mobil."

Why it matters: Volvo's move vastly escalates the commercial and geopolitical contest to dominate electric cars, a warning shot at Detroit and rivals across the globe that they may have to be bold if they want to compete in the new age of transportation.

Until now, Musk's Tesla has seemed to hold the inside track in what may be an evolving global transformation to electric cars. And, since Volvo isn't yet out with its big electric play, he arguably still does. On Friday, he will begin production of the $35,000, 200-mile Model 3, which already has some 370,000 pre-orders by buyers who paid $1,000 each up front for a reservation. The first cars will reach buyers on July 28, and Musk has said he will be making 500,000 of them next year, which few people believe but demonstrates yet again his habit of pushing the bounds of the possible.

  • An iPhone moment? GM is actually the first mover, launching its all-electric, 238-mile Bolt in December. But the Bolt's relatively timid, low-key rollout has relegated the proving moment to Tesla — will the Model 3, as Musk's body language has suggested, be the next iPhone, the irresistible, viral tech product that causes every rival to throw conniption fits and to utterly change their business plans?
  • Oil companies are throwing cold water: The major oil companies continue to cast doubt on a mass electric car market, forecasting that pure electrics will hold just a few single-digit percentage points of the new car market as far in the future as 2040, mainly because they will continue to cost too much.
  • But costs are dropping: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a renewable energy research house, predicts that electrics account for 35% of new car sales by 2040. We will soon begin to get a picture of who is right, but BNEF says that the main reason is that electrics will reach cost parity with conventional vehicles by the middle of the next decade.
  • The party will be large: BNEF's Colin McKerracher suggests that Tesla won't dominate electrics the way that Apple is synonymous with the smart phone. "To get EVs to scale you'll need to have lots of the major [carmakers] on board," he tells Axios. "The Model 3 is a good spark, but you'll need all those vehicles from other manufacturers to really get the fire going."

Go deeper

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."