Model S Plaid yoke, Lordstown upheaval, Lincoln future, Polestar and Canoo US EV production: Today’s Car News

Green Car

Which SUV brand is considering a hydrogen fuel-cell model?

Which company thinks it’s too early to focus only on EVs?

This is our look back at the Week In Reverse—right here at Green Car Reports—for the week ending June 18, 2021.

The 2022 Lexus NX crossover was one of the new or redesigned vehicles revealed this week. It adds a 36-mile plug-in hybrid—a version of the RAV4 Prime, it appears—plus a 36-mpg hybrid. 

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid

Tesla appears to have delivered all of its first 25 Model S Plaid cars with no steering wheel. Despite first deliveries were to employees and superfans, the yoke setup they have instead hasn’t been well-received by everyone; and regulators aren’t yet willing to comment.

Another big piece of news for the week was the continued upheaval at Lordstown Motors. Its CEO and another top executive were out, amid a scandal in which the company allegedly misrepresented its orders. The incoming executive then appeared to provide another misrepresentation that’s since been corrected. 

Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns in assembly plant

Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns in assembly plant

This week brought several important made-in-America production announcements. GM announced plans for two additional U.S. battery factories—locations not yet announced—as well as hydrogen fuel-cell projects. In all, it boosted its spending on EV tech to $35 billion. Polestar announced that its first SUV, the Polestar 3, will be built in South Carolina starting next year. And Canoo is partnering with Netherlands’ VDL Nedcar and homing in on Oklahoma for the scaled-up production of its Canoo Lifestyle Vehicle

Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand announced its first battery electric model, due in 2022 and one of four EVs that will comprise “a fully portfolio of connected and electrified vehicles” by 2030. That doesn’t mean the end of fuel tanks and tailpipes. We also examined recent remarks from a top Ford executive on what Rivian and VW provide to the Ford EV strategy

Ford EV platforms for mid-decade, presented by Hau Thai-Tang

Ford EV platforms for mid-decade, presented by Hau Thai-Tang

Automakers sure haven’t given up on fuel cells as a future solution. On-road testing has started for the hydrogen fuel-cell version of the BMW X5 SUV, called the i Hydrogen Next. And Jaguar Land Rover confirmed that it’s developing a hydrogen fuel-cell version of its Land Rover Defender SUV. If successful, it might help prove the point that a combination of fuel cells and smaller batteries could be an alternative to huge battery packs. 

Hydrogen powered Land Rover Defender prototype - June 2021

Hydrogen powered Land Rover Defender prototype – June 2021

Regarding future cars that haven’t quite taken form: Mazda will have an electric vehicle on a dedicated platform by 2025, along with a suite of other hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs by then, it outlined this week in an update. Maserati teased its first all-electric car, the GranTurismo sports coupe, that could take form as a Tesla Roadster alternative. And Volkswagen’s Project Trinity will be the first car VW has “developed from the inside out,” according to its sales boss Klaus Zellmer. The platform underpinning it prioritizes person space, driver-assist tech, and features on demand. 

Hyundai provided an update that its battery electric air taxi project—with Uber—is running ahead of schedule. With regulation hurdles all ahead, don’t expect it to be testing before the middle of the decade. And in something more down-to-Earth, the Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-In Hybrid has been EPA-rated at 31 electric miles and 33 mpg as a hybrid. At that, it has one of the longest electric ranges among PHEVs—although short of the Toyota RAV4 Prime. 

2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-In Hybrid

2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-In Hybrid

In charging news: Mercedes-Benz has included Plug & Charge functionality as part of the ecosystem for its EQS electric car—along with renewable-energy offsets of whatever charging-network energy EQS drivers use via the app. And the Audi E-Tron GT performance EV will include three years of Electrify America road-trip fast-charging; Audi also pivoted to Qmerit for a more personalized installation experience and EA’s home-charging hardware.

Production ends in August for the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid and Clarity Fuel Cell—although the latter will be around through the 2022 model year. 

A recent report from the California Energy Commission signaled that charging-station installations are falling short of what the state needs to support its ambitious targets for EV adoption. 

Ample battery swapping

Ample battery swapping

With a partnership between the startup Ample and the tech firm Sally, modular battery swapping could soon power some U.S. electric taxi fleets—along with, perhaps, some last-mile delivery services. 

And we’ll end with a controversial point to ponder. At an annual shareholder presentation in Japan, a Toyota board member said it’s too early to focus on battery electric vehicles as the technology of choice. That aligns closely with recent comments from Toyota’s U.S. executives, insisting Toyota isn’t anti-EV and suggesting there’s a belief the demand doesn’t exist yet.

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