Electric Road Trip

Lithium rush, LA ride-share and the Tesla lounge

Last night, as light drained from the Los Angeles sky, the Electric Road Trip turned in to a parking lot and came to rest. Our 6,000-mile journey has come to an end.

We dodged both fires and blackouts as we traversed California this week. Our Tesla Model 3 got spattered with bugs. We drove too fast on Interstate 5 on our way to meet people with a ton of useful perspectives on electric vehicles: academics, Tesla-loving restaurateurs and rural activists.

Our last outing took us to the Salton Sea, an otherworldly landscape of desert, water and strange geological phenomena — including an elusive mineral that is the topic of our weekly spotlight.

— David Ferris

Energy companies operating near California's Salton Sea are making an expensive gamble on efforts to tap a vast reserve of U.S. lithium reserves. While extracting lithium from under the ecologically troubled region has frustrated engineers for decades, rich investors, including Warren Buffett, hope to cash in on new markets for lithium-ion batteries and electric cars.

That market could be dominated by Chile, or Australia, or China, each of which has its own lithium reserves. Or, if the geothermal entrepreneurs of the Salton Sea have their way, the winner could be America.

See the full-length story in Energywire.

TOP STOPS

In the latest video blog, reporters David Ferris and David Iaconangelo explore the bevy of electric transportation activity along the West Coast, from Portland to Los Angeles.

KETTLEMAN CITY, Calif. — George Aviet, a restaurateur from Silicon Valley, docked his Tesla at a wide charging plaza. He breezed through the door of a lounge built for Tesla owners and greeted a young barista. There's a race to design chargers and electric cars that can fuel up faster. But for now, Tesla is using the charge time to sell its brand and give owners a premium members-only experience.

LOS ANGELES — EVgo's LA fast-charger hubs were the first in the nation to be reserved for ride-sharing and ride-hailing. The Electric Road Trip talked with a top corporate strategist at the charging company. "The biggest exposure for us is EV adoption," he said.

DAVIS, Calif. — University of California researchers think the state may be pushing up against the limit of what it can do to boost electric vehicle sales. One barrier to adoption is that Californians still don't know much about EVs.

HURON, Calif. — The cost of a Lyft to a hospital in Fresno is beyond the means of most people in Huron, population 7,288. E&E News reporters visited the farm town, one of the poorest in California, to profile a nonprofit that runs an electric car ride-sharing program called Green Raiteros.

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

E&E News interviewed Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe. The Michigan utility helps tell the story of how power companies are looking at electric vehicles as a way to flatten demand during peak periods, with consequences for climate emissions and renewables. E&E News

GM and Toyota, along with a major trade group, threw their weight behind the Trump administration in the legal fight over California's clean car standards. E&E News

The oil industry lobby responded to New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer's $450 billion plan to boost EVs by saying it would "subsidize wealthy luxury car owners." E&E News

Tesla profited in the 3rd quarter despite a drop of almost 40% in revenue from the U.S. Bloomberg

Volkswagen plans to build two EV factories in China in 2020 with a production capacity of 600,000 vehicles, leapfrogging Tesla in that country. Reuters/CNBC

Daimler, the world's biggest truck-maker, is shifting its investments from natural gas-powered trucks to a focus on battery-electric ones. Bloomberg

NEXT TURN

While our automotive journey is over, the Electric Road Trip is not quite done. Our notebooks hold some great stories, and we will share them with you in our final newsletter next week.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.
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