August 18, 2022
Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images
It’s a good time to be an electric vehicle. Between the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and new funding for green public transit, the outlook for EVs of all stripes is increasingly bright. Today, we're unpacking these developments, including a chat with GM's chief sustainability officer. Let's hit the road!
With President Biden’s signature on Tuesday, the Inflation Reduction Act is finally the law of the land. In its wake, Kristen Siemen, chief sustainability officer and vice president of General Motors, is among those welcoming the legislation, which will shift the structure of the country’s $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles and offer a windfall to domestic critical mineral mining operations.
But in recent weeks, GM has walked an awkward tightrope in its response to the IRA. President Mary Barra endorsed the legislation as a whole at a meeting with the president earlier this month, even while the powerful lobbying group she chairs — the Business Roundtable — opposed it due in part to its tax provisions.
Nonetheless, GM was also among the group of automakers that bristled at the IRA’s approach to EV tax credits, saying most vehicle models would be ineligible because of the law’s domestic sourcing requirements. (One analysis found that the IRA may depress EV adoption in the short term but give it a substantial boost by 2030.) But in a conversation with Protocol this week, Siemen was upbeat about the law: “There’s a lot of goodness there,” she said.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Do you anticipate that the IRA might make GM’s transition to EVs more challenging?
While some of the provisions are certainly challenging and won't be achieved overnight, we're confident that the investments that GM has been making in manufacturing and our workforce infrastructure are really going to enable the U.S. to be a global leader in electrification both today and in the future. We're excited about the provisions that will accelerate the adoption of EVs and strengthen American manufacturing and jobs: everything from the customer purchase incentives to tax credits and support for domestic mining and battery production.
There have been a number of announcements from GM and its competitors in recent months about securing agreements for battery materials. What is GM’s approach, especially given the domestic sourcing requirements instituted by the IRA?
This is why we're so excited about the announcements that GM has made in the recent past. We have binding agreements for all of the battery raw materials that support our goal of a million units in North America by 2025; that includes lithium, nickel and cobalt.
And we have agreements to supply the cathode active materials. [The Korean chemical giant] LG Chem has been a great partner with us for a number of years and to have those battery assembly plants for cell manufacturing here in the U.S. is a true sign of how far we are on this transition to EVs. I've toured a few of those facilities and things are really humming.
How are you guaranteeing that your partners are sourcing their materials responsibly?
Earlier this year, GM issued an ESG pledge to our suppliers, which includes both human rights protections and fair operating practices, as well as our suppliers’ own carbon neutral goals. As we progress with our carbon neutral goals, we're looking for our suppliers to be there with us as well. [Ed note: GM has committed to invest $35 billion in its transition to selling only EVs by 2035 and is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2040.]
Stay tuned for more from Siemen on Protocol.com later today.
Here’s another winner from the federal government’s new penchant for funding zero-emissions vehicles: public transit.
The Federal Transit Administration announced Tuesday that it awarded $1.7 billion to transit operators across the country, thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law that passed in November. That’ll go toward purchasing around 1,800 buses, including 1,100 that are zero emissions; that’s a huge step forward in cutting transportation-related carbon pollution.
It almost doubles the number of emissions-free buses on U.S. roads. Transportation is the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
This investment is critical for the green transition, particularly for lower-income and marginalized communities that rely on public transit. “Transit is the great equalizer, making sure that Americans have an affordable option to get from where they live to where they need to go,” head of the FTA, Nuria Fernandez, said in a statement.
The funding isn’t going to singlehandedly decarbonize the transportation sector, though. There are even some provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure law that will put more fossil-fueled buses on the road.
How cybercrime is going small time: Cybercrime is often thought of on a relatively large scale. Massive breaches lead to painful financial losses, bankrupting companies and causing untold embarrassment, splashed across the front pages of news websites worldwide.
Bill Gates’ TerraPower raised $750 million in funding co-led by Gates and South Korean energy provider SK. It’ll go toward developing nuclear energy innovations and nuclear medicine.
AI-powered food-waste reduction company Afresh raised a $115 million series B led by Spark Capital to scale to thousands more grocery stores across the U.S., as well as expand to Europe.
Orange EV just closed a $35 million round led by S2G Ventures and CCI to electrify yard trucks, commonly used to move trailers and cargo containers.
Eat Just, the makers of plant-based egg alternative JUST Egg, nabbed $25 million from the Alibaba-backed C2 Capital Partners. The company just launched in China.
Houston-based sustainable hydrogen company Utility Global raised a $25 million series B led by Ara Partners.
Swiss agtech startup xFarm raised $17.3 million in a series B led by Swisscom Ventures, to help farmers develop SaaS-based sustainable agriculture techniques.London-based Econic Technologiesbagged $12.5 million in its second series D round backed by CM Ventures, GC Ventures and ING Sustainable Investments. It’ll go toward developing catalysts that turn carbon dioxide into manufacturing material.
Broken, do not use: Public chargers can break or malfunction, which could frustrate EV owners and delay the transition. But charging companies and automakers are working to address issues.
Big Tech is keeping Big Oil in business. Microsoft, Amazon and other cloud computing companies are powering the fossil fuel industry, from oil field data analysis to well-pumping simulations.
The World Bank is betting on blockchain. The affiliated International Finance Corporation is getting behind a platform to put unused carbon offsets on the blockchain to expand their use beyond the traditional carbon market.
Can we recycle our way out of the nuclear waste problem? The early-stage startup Curio thinks so and has hired a Department of Energy veteran to help.
Here's an IRA home tax credit cheat sheet. The law offers up to $14,000 in tax credits and rebates for homeowners looking to electrify their lives.
How cybercrime is going small time: People have been swindled since before man created monetary systems. These aren’t new crimes; just new ways to commit them. But as cybercrime increasingly goes small-time, those on the front lines will need new and more effective ways to fight it.
Thanks for reading! As ever, you can send any and all feedback to email@example.com. See you next week!