Revival of Climate Legislation Upends Electric Vehicle Pricing

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

Revival of Climate Legislation Upends Electric Vehicle Pricing
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Like a zombie from the grave, the husk of President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation is on the table again thanks to an abrupt about face from Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).

The bill, which is now being called the Inflation Reduction Act, has yet to be codified into law and still has to clear several political hurdles, but getting Manchin was by far the biggest.

If the act passes, it would include numerous changes to the electric vehicle buying rebate system, which will impact which EVs and which buyers are eligible for the cashback. There’s a lot to unpack here (the full draft of the bill can be read here[PDF]), but here are the biggest takeaways:


1.The total amount available for rebate remains $7,500, but now it comes in the form of cash back at the time of purchase instead of a tax return.

2.Rebates will only be available to people below a certain income threshold. The rebates will not be available to individuals who make more than $150,000/yr or to households making more than $300,000/yr.

3.The rebates only apply to vehicles below a certain price threshold. Cars priced above $55,000 will not qualify. Neither will trucks, vans, and SUVs over $80,000.

4.The rebate will only apply to vehicles that are primarily assembled in North America. Primarily is the key word here, and things quickly get complicated. Different percentage thresholds will apply for different mineral and battery components. To start, at least 40% of the minerals used in the vehicle and 50% of the battery components must come from North America, but these percentages increase every year. If the vehicle passes either the battery threshold test or the mineral threshold test, but not both, buyers may still be eligible for half of the total rebate ($3,750).

5.Manufacturer caps eliminated. Under the previous system manufacturers could only offer rebates on their first 200,000 EV sales. Only Tesla, Toyota, and GM have reached the cap so far, but Ford and Nissan are also getting close.

6.The act introduces a used vehicle credit, which offers buyers a tax credit equal to 30% of the purchase cost of a used EV up to $4,000, and only applies to used vehicles that are sold for less than $25,000 and more than two years old. (There are a handful of limitations here. Outlined on pages 388-391.)

7.The new credit system would not take effect until January 1, 2023. If you buy an EV before the bill is signed, you’re eligible for the current rebate system even if the vehicle isn’t delivered until 2023. Any existing contracts under the current system will remain valid.

Yes, but what does it all mean?

“I think they’re mostly steps in the right direction, at least with the EV subsidies part,” said John Helveston, a researcher at George Washington University, who studies electric vehicle pricing incentives.

Overall, the proposed legislation takes quite a few strides toward making EVs more affordable and easier to sell. The introduction of the used vehicle credit, especially, may expand the EV market to a much wider swath of the middle class.

“The used [car] market is more than twice as big,” says Helveston. “If there’s 17 million new cars, there's like 40 million used cars sold every year. And the only way you're going to get EVs in the hands of people who aren't super rich is through that used market.”

Restricting the used vehicle credit to sales under $25,000 is a strange choice. It makes sense that legislators don’t want this being used as a loophole for luxury car sales, but a 2-year-old Tesla Model 3 would easily sell above $25,000. A limit of $40,000 or $50,000, might have a broader impact as used EVs will soon hover around that price point

Removing the 200,000 manufacturer cap is also huge, as it swaps a stick for a carrot. Now the best best-selling EVs are again eligible for the rebates, instead of being punished for their success.

It's also easy to see that there are a bunch of provisions aimed at making sure the money goes to people who actually need it. Capping the price of eligible vehicles and setting buyer income limits means that rebates won’t go to ultra-luxury cars being purchased by people who hardly need the help. Transitioning the rebate from a tax return to cashback at the time of purchase may also be a boon to the middle class, as I’ve written about previously here. “If you're cutting out the high-end buyer, based on income or the high price of the car, that's fine,” Helveston told dot.LA. “Those people will probably buy it anyway for other reasons, because they like it.”

The last big theme in the reworked legislation plan is the emphasis on North American assembly. Setting thresholds that increase over time prioritizes manufacturers who have plants on this continent, while acting as a deterrent for foreign model purchases.

This is probably the biggest variable in terms of creating winners and losers on the manufacturing side, and it’s hard to say at this point if this will accelerate North American EV development, or dissuading all but the very wealthy from importing foreign cars. Either way it’s clearly aimed at protecting and growing American business. Notably, almost every major foreign manufacturer already has plants somewhere in North America, so this may be as protectionist as it initially appears.

Who are the winners?

Tesla, GM, and Chevy.

Lifting the manufacturer cap means that Tesla and GM are big winners here. Not all of their cars will qualify, but many will.

The base model Ford F-150 Lightning should also qualify. Chevy is a winner because the 2023 Bolt starts at $27,200 MSRP, meaning the car drops below the 20k threshold after rebate. That’s pretty good. The upcoming Chevy Blazer, Equinox, and Silverado will also all meet the manufacturing requirements, at least.

Who are the losers?

Volkswagen, Polestar, Kia, and Hyundai. Cars from these manufacturers won’t qualify unless/until they move assembly to North America. Volkswagen and Hyundai are planning to open US assembly plants, but they may not come online for months or even years, which would put the companies at a disadvantage in the short term. Kia and Hyundai do have U.S. manufacturing plants, but they’re not currently configured to produce EVs.

What’s up with the SoCal companies?

Rivian should be largely unaffected. Both the base model R1S and R1T sneak in below the $80k cap, and both models are assembled in North America. Higher spec versions of the vehicles will exceed the threshold, though. The company was also nowhere near the 200,000 vehicle cap.

Mullen Automotive has yet to make a car, but its first offering, the DragonFly, will exceed the price caps substantially. For the future though, the company says it’s pleased with the language of the legislation. “[O]ur Mullen FIVE EV Crossover will most definitely qualify. This will be 100% built in the U.S. at our Tunica MS plant or another US plant that might be coming up for us,” says Jason Putnam, VP of Marketing at Mullen. “[O]ur EV Cargo VAN might also qualify. We are also in a good spot right now on the battery requirements for US material percentage.”

Faraday Future also does not yet have a car available for purchase, but its first proposed models, the FF91, will likely cost well north of $100,000, meaning the rebates won’t apply despite the company building their vehicles in Hanford, CA. It’s also unclear where their batteries are being sourced from and what their mineral supply chain looks like.

What to watch

First and foremost, the legislation hasn’t passed yet, so keep checking in here for the latest details. It will also be interesting to see if manufacturers raise their prices significantly if the bill passes. And what recourse–if any–will consumers have against such a hike? Will the price caps put pressure on manufacturers to hit the $54,999 and $79,999 mark?

🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
Image Source: Tinder

🔦 Spotlight

Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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  • Penguin Random House agreed to acquire comic book publisher Boom! Studios from backers like Walt Disney Co. - learn more

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

Location: Culver City

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


Grid110

Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

Location: DTLA

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


Idealab

Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor


Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo


Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect


MedTech Innovator

MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


KidsX

The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

Location: East Hollywood

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health


Disney Accelerator

Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Technology and entertainment

Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP


Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Aerospace

Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space



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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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