A line of Rivian R1T electric pickup trucks on a road in the mountains.
Photo: Rivian

The electric car race starts now

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Good morning, and thank you to all veterans for your service. This Thursday, everyone is gunning for Tesla, Discord's not getting into crypto (yet), and the DOJ is suing Uber.

Everybody's coming for Tesla

It took far too long for Tesla to get some real competition. While Elon Musk and his team were building electric vehicles, trumpeting the self-driving and supercharging future of everything, and occasionally running afoul of every government agency you can name, they also turned Tesla into a trillion-dollar company that began to seem uncatchable.

The startups couldn't ship, and the carmakers couldn't switch. While the Rivians and the Lucids and the Nios toiled away at concepts and prototypes, the GMs and Toyotas and Volkswagens made big plans that never resulted in much. Unless you like the Volt.

But the tide is shifting, and suddenly Tesla's perch atop the electric vehicle market looks a little unstable.

  • Lucid Motors started shipping the Air, its first high-end vehicle. (Think Roadster, not Model 3.) Critics love it, and it bests Tesla's cars in battery range, which is obviously a crucial metric.
  • Rivian went public yesterday and immediately caught fire, opening at $78 a share and promptly jumping to $112 before settling at about $100. It was the biggest IPO of the year by a long shot.
  • Lucid and Rivian are both still roughly in the "hand-delivering cars to VIPs" phase, and are both valued more highly than most car companies on Earth.
  • There's been good news for other startups, too: Foxconn just struck a deal with Lordstown Motors to produce its electric pickup, and is making cars for Fisker as well.
  • Ford has had some wins of its own recently: Its Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning appear to be winners, and it's already sold out of its new electric crate motor. Plus it was a big investor in Rivian, so it scores big there, too.
  • And Volkswagen, GM, Hyundai and others are getting closer to putting their own electric vehicles on the road. It took too long, but it seems to be finally happening.

This is the "everybody into the market" moment for EVs. Tesla's soaring valuation has opened the market wide: Part of Rivian's huge IPO surely came from the fact that the ceiling for an electric vehicle company is no longer "large manufacturing company" but "fifth-richest company in the world, beloved by retail investors, and your CEO gets to host 'Saturday Night Live.'"

Actually, this is all kind of Tesla's doing. Musk deserves more credit than anyone for convincing the world that electric vehicles can be cool and exciting and are definitely the future. And Tesla's influence can be found in every corner of the industry.

  • More than 50 high-level Rivian employees used to work at Tesla, Bloomberg found earlier this year, and Tesla has actually sued the company for allegedly poaching employees and stealing battery secrets.
  • Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson was a longtime Tesla executive, too. Musk has tried to minimize Rawlinson's role at Tesla, which feels like a solid badge of honor for a competitive CEO.

Of course, Tesla's still way ahead. "I hope they have a high pain tolerance," Musk tweeted last month. "Scaling production, supply chain, logistics & service is a world of hurt." That's hurt Tesla knows better than most, enduring huge production challenges before recently seeming to find its footing. But the new players have an advantage Tesla didn't: virtually unlimited funds, which they're able to secure because Tesla proved the market.

Making a few great electric cars is very different from making a few million. And making one that people want is very different from making … a Nissan Leaf. Everyone seems to have caught on to the cool factor, but what comes next will be a race to see who can get their cars off the show floor and onto the 101 as fast as possible. Because Tesla's already there, keeping all the glory for itself. And it's about time it got some real company.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

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People are talking

Discord got everybody riled up about possible crypto integrations, but Jason Citron said it's not coming anytime soon:

  • "Web3 has lots of good but also lots of problems we need to work through at our scale. More soon."

Gretchen Whitmer and other governors want lawmakers to approve more funds for chip makers:

  • "With no end in sight, it's clear we have no time to lose if we're going to protect jobs and maintain our competitive edge."

Company name changes should accompany other announcements, Appify's Jen Grant said:

  • "[Reporters] don't want to write an article about 'some silly company changed their name.' You want to write, 'They did this, this, this — and they're changing their name.'"

Prince Harry said he emailed Jack Dorsey with a warning about the Jan. 6 riot:

  • "That email was sent the day before, and then it happened, and I haven't heard from him since."

General Motors said it's seeing some relief from the chip shortage:

  • "The week of Nov. 1 represented the first time since February that none of our North American assembly plants were idled due to the chip shortage."

Making moves

Elon Musk sold some of his Tesla stock. Normally this wouldn't qualify as big news, but when you make it a Twitter poll ... He's sold about 4.5 million shares, worth about $5 billion, over the last few days.

Expensify went public yesterday. The expense management company priced its IPO at $27 a share at a $2.2 billion valuation, but closed the day up by more than 50% at $41 per share.

Twitter is creating a crypto team. Tess Rinearson will oversee the group, which is meant to become a hub for "all things blockchain and web3."

Joseph Smarr is joining TrillerNet as CTO. Smarr has spent over a decade at Google.

Kristin Sverchek is moving up at Lyft to become its first president of business affairs. Sverchek has been the company's general counsel for close to a decade.

Eyal Manor and Dana Wagner are joining Twilio as chief product officer and chief legal officer, respectively. Manor was most recently a VP at Google, and Wagner last worked at Impossible Foods.

Camilla Churcher is heading to Anchorage Digital to lead sales. Churcher is a former global head of business development at Celsius.

In other news

The DOJ is suing Uber for charging disabled passengers a "wait time" fee. The Justice Department filed the lawsuit against the ride-hailing company for billing passengers more money for the extra time they need to get into a car.

Facebook's reputation has been turning off top hires for a while, according to documents studied by Protocol | Workplace. Compared to its peers, Facebook apparently struggled to attract tech workers.

China's Singles Day looks like a blockbuster hit again. Alibaba and other companies played this year's shopping holiday a little cooler than usual, but they're still doing massive business.

YouTube's dislike count is disappearing from public view. It's a similar move to Instagram, which lets you hide your like count.

Instagram wants us to take a break. The platform is trying out a tool that encourages people to take some deep breaths, write down feelings, listen to their favorite songs or do something on their to-do list after spending a certain amount of time scrolling.

SpaceX sent another crew to the ISS. This is the fifth time the company has sent people to space, and it's starting to look almost easy. (Almost.)

Amazon's newest recruitment strategy: Get Terry Crews to appear in an advertisement. The actor is shown pretending to work in an Amazon warehouse to encourage people to apply to the company, which the Twitter world poked fun at.

How did we get here?

A lot of stuff in our lives feels commonplace: clocks, refrigerators, that sort of thing. But when those inventions were made, they didn't just change our everyday lives. They prompted major societal changes, which Steven Johnson explains in the book "How We Got To Now."

Johnson talks about all sorts of innovations, from Bluetooth to air conditioning, and describes how they changed the world. For instance, without air conditioning, mass migrations to otherwise inhabitable places would've been impossible. There's also an audiobook if listening is more your style. And if you'd rather watch, PBS has a series on it.

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