Driverless Cars

BoJo’s EV adventure by 2035 is risky

Image result for ev charger nullarbor

There is a lot of irony when studying electric vehicles (EVs) and government policy. The lack of consultation with the very industry it seeks to regulate is mind-boggling. This picture of an EV charging station powered by a diesel generator along the Nullarbor highlights how poor the thought processes are. The problem governments face is that they are starting with a narrative and trying to reverse engineer the data to fit it. Sadly, the market will ultimately decide – that means consumers.

3 years ago we met with an EV parts supplier, Schaeffler AG, which openly admitted the task to meet the government EV demands was being impeded by their own desire to out virtue signal each other.

Schaeffler said, 200 cities across Europe had EV policies as distinct as the other. Therefore carmakers were struggling to meet all of the non-standardised criteria which was driving up production costs and making EVs even further out of reach. Instead of all working for the “same” outcome, the parts suppliers were saying until governments came to a sensible balance, the delays would continue.

The irony is that the broad range of EVs available in the market is too narrow. Of course we can argue in 15 years that will have vastly changed. The question is whether production can keep up.

First of all, governments around the world tend to generate around 5% of total tax revenues from fuel excise. You’d be a fool to think that EVs won’t end up being stung with a similar registration tax to offset it. It is already happening. Cash strapped Illinois has proposed the introduction of a $1,000 annual registration fee (up from $17.50) to account for the fact EVs don’t pay such fuel taxes.

Secondly, the UK government may well have to introduce cash-for-clunkers style subsidies to entice people to ditch their petrol power for an EV. Because, unless someone owns a classic car, the second most expensive household asset will be near worthless meaning many may not bother to switch by 2035. That will put huge pressure on the auto industry and dealers to convert sales.

Third, the infrastructure to be able to charge millions of EVs overnight will need significant upgrades, especially to the power grid. If the UK wants to go down the renewables path good luck in meeting the surges in demand because EV charging will be highly random. People won’t be happy to be sitting at home waiting for a charge and realising that 200,000 others want to do so at the same time on a cloudy day with no wind.

Then there are the automakers. While they are all making politically correct statements about their commitments to go full EV, they do recognise that ultimately customers will decide their fate. A universal truth is that car makers do their best to promote their drivetrains as a performance differentiator to rivals. Moving to full EV removes that unique selling property. Volkswagen went out of its way to cheat the system which not only expressed their true feelings about man-made climate change but hidden within the $80bn investment is the 3 million EVs in 2042 would only be c.30% of VW’s total output today. Even Toyota said it would phase out internal combustion in the 2040s. Dec 31st, 2049 perhaps? Mercedes have vowed to keep diesel and petrol on the menu out to 2050.

Put simply, why is the government trying to dictate the technology to an industry that has made such amazing advancements in safety and technology? By all means, have a zero-emissions target by 2035 but offer the industry complete technological freedom to achieve it. The consumers will ultimately decide and if carmakers are forced to meet a target that was based on ill-advised government policy, we shouldn’t be surprised if dealers are forced to close or car makers requiring bailouts.

Also at 2m vehicles a sold annually in the UK, it won’t get to dictate where car makers allocate their global EV inventory. If easier market conditions – based on the available output and cost per vehicle to meet the standards – are found in the US, China or Germany, the costs to Brits to make the shift will make the 2035 target even more pointless. Pricing themselves out of the market.

However, it won’t much matter because many of the politicians making the move won’t be in government come 2035 to clean up the mess.

Extinction Rebellion trashes Auto Show

These climate activists are unhinged lunatics. This is the justification that Extinction Rebellion (XR) used for trashing the Brussels Autosalon was as follows,

The truth is, no car is green…The private car is no longer compatible with the Climate and Ecological Crisis….Governments must stop pouring billions into roads and instead make mass public transport affordable, accessible, reliable and convenient.

The Brussels Times reported that 187 were arrested and charged €2,000 each. Febiac, the auto show organizer, said XR’s display at the event caused a whopping €367,829 in damages.

There is a difference between protesting and breaking the law by trashing private property.

Febiac, to its credit, gave XR approval to protest under certain guidelines. The organizer’s Joost Kaesemans said, “We sat together with people from Extinction Rebellion for the salon, we told them they could hold a demo, sing songs and hand out brochures...But we also told them that if they bothered visitors and wreaked havoc, we would take measures. They did not stick to that, so there are consequences.”

So even when the organizers play ball, the fools of XR think they have carte blanche to act as they please. Hopefully XR protestors are forced to pay up, serve time and get handed a bill for wasting the time of the police.

If only XR protests were about saving the planet and not seek to control the way others live their lives.

One final question – does XR have a strategy to re-employ the 15mn that work in auto related industries? Of course not.

Central banks are climate change experts now. If only they possessed such skill in their core competency

Are these people for real? Does the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) truly believe that world’s central banks will become “climate rescuers of last resort”? Do we really want our central banks to be more proactive in pushing governments toward a greener economy by suggesting a carbon tax as “first-best solution“? The problem with central bankers is that every problem looks like a nail when they only have a hammer in the toolkit.

First, on what level do central banks have a clue about climate change? If they had even the foggiest notion about the science they would never have embarked on a set of reckless monetary policy measures that created the very conditions for excessive debt, mal-investment and over-consumption which they now seek to punish us for via the adoption of a carbon tax.

We should not forget the almost $300 trillion of global debt now racked up thanks to abnormally low interest rates. It is politically expedient to run budget deficits too because central banks are only too happy to keep (near) ZIRP or NIRP which makes servicing ballooning deficits appear almost perpetually affordable with short term focused politicians. It is but a figment of their imagination.

How easy it is to sound the alarm on climate change to mask the policy blunders of the last two decades. It would be nice if we could believe they possessed expertise in their mandated role before embarking into a field they have no sound base to work from. It is a dangerous distraction.

It is worth citing a few examples of the record of central banks around the world since GFC.

In 2018, the US Fed stopped reporting changes in the balance sheet. It did this to prevent spooking the markets over tapering. It reminds FNF Media of the day Bernanke’s Fed announced it would no longer report M3 money supply a year before the financial markets headed into the GFC. Why is there a need for a lack of transparency if it wishes to instill market confidence via its policy settings?

Has the Fed reflected on the fact that over half of listed corporates have a credit rating of BBB or below? Ford Motor Co’s credit rating was downgraded by Moody’s to junk. $84bn worth of debt now no longer investment grade. It will be the first of many Fortune 500s to fall foul to this reality. In 2008, there was around $800bn of BBB status credit. That number exceeds $3.186 trillion today. Brought to you courtesy of low interest rates.

The Bank of Japan (BoJ) is now responsible for 60% of all ETF market ownership. Latest reports confirm the Bank of Japan (BoJ) has now become a top 10 shareholder in almost 50% of listed stocks. In a sense, we have a trend which threatens to turn Japan’s largest businesses into quasi-state-owned enterprises (SoE) by the back door. The BoJ now owns $250bn of listed Japanese equities. It is the top shareholder in household Japanese brands such as Omron, Nidec and Fanuc. At current investment rates, the BoJ is set to own $400bn worth of the market by 2020-end.

The BoJ’s manipulation of the JGB market caused several of the major Japanese banks to hand back their trading licenses because they served no purpose anymore given the central bank’s manipulation.

The ECB has dropped the ball in Europe. Jonathan Rochford of Narrowroad Capital wrote,

Many European banks have failed to use the last decade to materially de-risk. The most obvious outworking of this is that European banks continue to receive taxpayer funded bailouts, with Germany’s NordLB and Italy’s Banca Popolare di Bari both receiving lifelines this monthOne final issue that lurks particularly amongst European banks is their gaming of capital ratios. European banks have become masters of finding assets that require little risk capital but can generate a decent margin. Government debt from Italy is one example, with pressure now being put on the ECB to allow for unlimited purchases of Greek government debt. This would substantially increase the already significant “doom loop” risk. This risk arises from the potential for a default on government debt to bankrupt the banks, and the converse situation where failing banks look for a taxpayer bailout and bankrupt the country.

The list goes on and on. Central banks are in no position to lecture the rest of us on anything given their command of their core competence remains so flawed.

Global money velocity has been declining for two decades. Every dollar printed creates an ever shrinking fraction of GDP impact. Yet all we did was double down on all the failed measures that led us into the GFC

What we do know is that the BIS has sought the advice of literature professors to come up with the phrase that climate change presented a “colossal and potentially irreversible risk of staggering complexity.”

Really?

It is easy for the BIS to shout that a “green swan” event could send us into the financial abyss. However the reality is that dreadful stewardship of monetary conditions has set us up for a huge fall. Not a bushfire, storm or flood. Perhaps we might view a green swan event as wishful thinking by central banks because it would allow them to absolve themselves of all responsibility in getting us into this mess in the first place. They want to see themselves as saviors, not culprits.

Rochford sums up central banks brilliantly with this comment,

When it comes to central banks, I would prefer to believe it is a combination of groupthink, an unwillingness to take career risk by speaking the truth and a willingness to either ignore or disregard counter evidence that has resulted in the detrimental decisions since the financial crisis. However, the increasing amount of evidence, often produced by central banks themselves, points to central banks being more culpable than gullible.

So given this condition why on earth are we paying any attention to their prescriptions on saving the planet? When they quit the excuses and fess up that the last two decades of monetary policy has failed to fix the excesses built in the system then we might lend an ear. Until then they join the list of government agencies who don’t want to be caught out not being in line with the settled politics. Truly sick.

30km/h speed limits will fix gender inequality

As part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Australia is being asked to lower urban speed limits to 30km/h from 50km/h. At that speed, the new light rail project from Circular Quay to Randwick will feel like a bullet train by comparison.

Instead of looking forward and embracing automated driving and all manner of assisted driving technology (emergency braking, lane departure assist etc) the brains trust at the UN thinks progress on road safety will be achieved by looking solely in the rear view mirror.

Why not focus on mobile phone usage behind the wheel or stopping drug and drink driving? At 30km/h, these boneheads think fewer emissions will be emitted. Cars, like trains or aircraft become more efficient at certain speeds. Slower speeds don’t always lower emissions. Top Gear conducted a test where a BMW M3 high performance sports car was more fuel efficient than a Toyota Prius.

Forget all that, The Stockholm Declaration will call upon us to buy “safe and sustainable vehicle fleets” so we can address “the connections between road safety, mental and physical health, development, education, equity, gender equality, environment and climate change”.

Who knew driving at 30km/h could achieve so much? Lowering to zero would eradicate it, no doubt!

The greatest showman on earth

While he deserves all the credit in the world for his pushing the boundaries, this is where the “snake-oil” salesman in him grates the nerves of CM.

In his Cybertruck release, he had a tug-of-war with the world’s best selling pick-up truck, the F-150. AutoBlog noted that the Tesla truck pulling the F-150 was disingenuous for a number of reasons.

  1. it appears to be the F-150 STX model which is a base model with a 325hp 2.7l eco-boost engine, not the full-fat 450hp version.
  2. the F-150 appears to be the 2WD version as it only spins the rear wheels, not the 4WD where the Cybertruck most certainly was.
  3. We don’t know what version of the Tesla Cybertruck it was. Most likely a twin or tri-motor which would not be a strict apple for apples comparison.
  4. The F-150 would be a lighter vehicle than the Cybertruck.
  5. A higher motor-spec Cybertruck should still have been able to defeat a 450hp version of the F-150 but it wouldn’t have had the visuals of kicking sand in a wimp’s face.

As ever these stunts always call into question the governance of the company. Integrity matters. Or does it nowadays?

However Tesla disciples won’t care. 200,000 orders guarantees that. They’ll frolic in the pond of early adoption and cast scorn on the Neanderthals like CM who still love internal combustion.

CM has long said that governments should not be “forcing” adoption of EVs. We all know the results of, “Hi, I’m from the government and I’m here to help!

The best solution is to hand over complete technological freedom to the engineers at auto firms and allow their creative juices to hit zero emissions by whatever means possible. As Milton Friedman once said, “Einstein didn’t discover his theory by an edict from a government bureau

146,000 Tesla Cybertruck orders

Wow. As written yesterday, CM thought Cybertruck would sell. Not as well as this though. In the $100bn domestic pick-up market Musk went big and it seems it will payoff. Whether all 146,000 (likely to be more going forward) end up being fulfilled is another question. Tesla will need more capital to get there but with an order book, he has bought more time.

It was intriguing that the normal $1000 fully refundable deposit for his cars was only $100 for the Cybertruck, a shrewd bit of marketing which essentially turned it into a virtually free option to put one’s name down. One wonders whether he bumps it up now he has these orders under the belt to help with cash flow.

Credit where credit is due. Musk is a visionary. CM has now praised the Tesla CEO twice in 24-hrs. Must be a blue moon.

A colossally poor comparison, as usual

As ever the Climate Council of Australia rarely gets numbers right. Now they are benchmarking electric cars against Norway as a “leader”. While all these wonderful benefits might accrue to Norwegians, Norway is a poor example to benchmark against. Not to mention Wilson Parking won’t be too keen to join the party without subsidies.

Norway is 5% of our land mass, 1/5th our population and new car sales around 12% of Australia. According to BITRE, Australia has 877,561km of road network which is 9x larger than Norway.

Norway has around 8,000 chargers countrywide. Installation of fast chargers runs around A$60,000 per charging unit on top of the $100,000 preparation of each station for the high load 480V transformer setup to cope with the increased loads.

Norway state enterprise, Enova, said it would install fast chargers every 50km of 7,500km worth of main road/highway.

Australia has 234,820km of highways/main roads. Fast chargers at every 50km like the Norwegians would require a minimum of 4,700 charging stations across Australia. Norway commits to a minimum of 2 fast chargers and 2 standard chargers per station.

The problem is our plan for 570,000 cars per annum is 10x the number of EVs sold in Norway, requiring 10x the infrastructure.

While it is safe to assume that Norway’s stock of electric cars grows, our cumulative sales on Shorten’s dud election plan would have required far greater numbers. So let’s do the maths (note this doesn’t take into account the infrastructure issues of rural areas where diesel generators power some of the charging stations…shhhh):

14,700 stations x $100,000 per station to = $1,470,000,000

4,700 stations x 20 fast chargers @ A$60,000 = $5,640,000,000 (rural)

4,700 stations x 20 slow chargers @ A$9,000 = $846,000,000 (rural)

10,000 stations x 5 fast chargers @ A$60,000 = $3,000,000,000 (urban)

570,000 home charging stations @ $5,500 per set = $3,135,000,000 (this is just for 2030)

Grand Total: A$14,091,000,000

Good to see the Climate Council on message with thoroughly poorly thought out comparisons. That’s the problem with virtue signaling. It rarely looks at total costs. Never mind. Tokenism to them is worth it. Not to mention a Swedish study funded by the left leaning government in Stockholm which showed the production of the batteries to power EVs did the equivalent of 150,000km in CO2 before it has left the showroom. That’s not woke.

Buhahahahaha

In 1999, CM was told by the pro-EV lobby that electric cars would be 10% or the market by 2010. In 2019 EVs are struggling to nudge 1.3%. If EV’s have managed to achieve much more than 10-12% by 2035 it will be a miracle.

10 reasons it will be highly unlikely:

1) Australia sold just over 1.15m cars in 2018. In 2008, SUVs comprised 19% of total sales. Today 43%. So much for the unbridled panic about catastrophic climate change if consumption patterns are a guide.

2) Australian fuel excise generates 5% of total tax revenue. It is forecast to grow from $19bn today to $24bn by 2021. If government plans to subsidize then it’ll likely to add to the deficit, especially if it lobs $5,000 per car subsidies on 577,000 cars (50% of 2018 unit sales in Australia).

CM has always argued that governments will eventually realize that moving to full EV policy will mean losing juicy ‘fuel excise’. Point 16 on page 19 for those interested.

Cash strapped Illinois has proposed the introduction of a $1,000 annual registration fee (up from $17.50) to account for the fact EVs don’t pay such fuel taxes. Note Illinois has the lowest investment grade among any other American state and has to allocate 40% of its budget just to pay outstanding bills. It is also home to one of the largest state pension unfunded deficits per capita in the country.

3) cash for clunkers? If the idea is to phase out fossil fueled powered cars, surely the resale/trade in values will plummet to such a degree that trading it on a new EV makes no sense at all. False economy trade where fossil fuel owners will hold onto existing cars for longer.

4) Global EV production is 2.1m units. Looking at existing production plans by 2030, it is likely to be around 12mn tops on a conservative basis. Australia would need want 5% of world EV supply when were only 1.2% of global car sales. Many auto makers are committed to selling 50% of EV capacity into China. So Shorten will be fighting for the remaining pie. No car makers will export 10% of all EV production to Australia without substantial incentives to do so.

Don’t forget Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also intends to get every fossil fueled powered car off the road in a decade. The US has 270 million registered vehicles, the overwhelming majority being petrol powered. The US sells 16-17mn cars a year (sadly slowing). Therefore in the US, 16 years would be required to achieve that target.

5) Ethics of EVs. To save the planet, the majority of cobalt to go into making the batteries comes from African mines which use child slave laborers. There is a moral scruple to keep a virtue signaling activist awake at night!

Not to worry, Glencore has just announced last week it is closing its cobalt capacity in DR Congo which will flip the market from surplus to deficit (at 1.2% global market share). Oops.

6) EV makers aren’t happy. In Europe there are over 200 cities with EV programs but none are alike. In the quest to outdo each other on the virtue signaling front, car makers are struggling to meet such diverse requirements meaning roll outs will be slow because there is no movement to standardize.

7) EV suppliers aren’t convinced. Because of the above, many EV suppliers are reluctant to go too hard in committing to new capacity because global car markets are slowing in China, US, Europe and Australia. High fixed cost businesses hate slowdowns. Writing down the existing capacity would be punitive to say the least. New capacity takes a minimum of 2 years to come on line from conception.

8) The grid! In the UK, National Grid stated that to hit the UK targets for EVs by 2030, an entirely new 8GW nuclear plant would be required to meet the demands of EV charging. Australia can barely meet its energy needs with the current policies and doubling down on the same failed renewables strategy that has already proved to fall well short of current demand ex any EVs added to the grid.

9) in 1999 automotive experts hailed that EVs would make up 10% of all vehicle sales by 2010. In 2019 EVs make up around 2.5%. So 9 extra years and 75% below the target. The capacity isn’t there much less consumers aren’t fully convinced as range anxiety is a big problem.

10) charging infrastructure is woefully inadequate. Await another taxpayer dollar waste-fest. Think NBN Mark II on rolling EV chargers out nationwide. The question then becomes one of fast charger units which cost 5x more than slower systems. If the base-load power capacity is already at breaking point across many states (Vic & SA the worst) throwing more EVs onto a grid will compound the problem and drive prices up and potentially force rationing although people look to Norway.

Norway is a poor example to benchmark against. It is 5% of our land mass, 1/5th our population and new car sales around 12% of Australia. According to BITRE, Australia has 877,561km of road network which is 9x larger than Norway.

Norway has around 8,000 chargers countrywide. Installation of fast chargers runs around A$60,000 per unit on top of the $100,000 preparation of each station for the high load 480V transformer setup to cope with the increased loads.

Norway state enterprise, Enova, said it would install fast chargers every 50km of 7,500km worth of main road/highway.

Australia has 234,820km of highways/main roads. Fast chargers at every 50km like the Norwegians would require a minimum of 4,700 charging stations across Australia. Norway commits to a minimum of 2 fast chargers and 2 standard chargers per station.

The problem is our plan for 570,000 cars per annum is 10x the number of EVs sold in Norway, requiring 10x the infrastructure.

While it is safe to assume that Norway’s stock of electric cars grows, our cumulative sales on achieving plan would require far greater numbers. So let’s do the maths (note this doesn’t take into account the infrastructure issues of rural areas):

14,700 stations x $100,000 per station to = $1,470,000,000

4,700 stations x 20 fast chargers @ A$60,000 = $5,640,000,000 (rural)

4,700 stations x 20 slow chargers @ A$9,000 = $846,000,000 (rural)

10,000 stations x 5 fast chargers @ A$60,000 = $3,000,000,000 (urban)

570,000 home charging stations @ $5,500 per set = $3,135,000,000 (this is just for 2035)

Grand Total: A$14,091,000,000

More auto marriages have ended in divorce

Auto mergers were once thought of as the best things since sliced bread. Massive operating capacity leverage, shared platforms to reduce cost and a reduction of R&D spend per vehicle. The word “synergy” gets bandied about more than Casanova whispers “I love you“on Valentines Day! Yet why is the auto industry littered with divorces from these romances?

Lets list them.

Daimler bought Chrysler in 1998. Divorced in 2007.

Daimler alliance with Mitsubishi Motors founded in 2000. Divorce in 2005.

Daimler alliance with Hyundai founded in 2000. Divorce in 2004.

Honda – Rover JV. Started 1980. Divorced 1994

BMW – Rover – Started 1994. Deceased 2000.

Nissan – Renault – Started 1999. Currently providing real headaches due to Carlos Ghosn saga. Nissan wants full independence

Ford forms Premier Automotive Group (PAG) comprising Land Rover, Aston Martin, Volvo, Lincoln and Jaguar. Set up in 1999.

Ford sells Aston Martin in 2007.

Ford sells Land Rover & Jaguar to Tata in 2008

Ford sells Volvo to Geely in 2010.

Fiat Chrysler (FCA) formed in 2014 – including Fiat, Abarth, Chrysler, Jeep, RAM, Dodge, Lancia, Maserati & Ferrari brands.

FCA spins Ferrari off in 2016.

This isn’t an exhaustive list but one can be guaranteed that more money has been lost in auto mergers in aggregate than made. Daimler paid $45bn for Chrysler. Almost all of the Mercedes profits plugged the losses of Chrysler. Mercedes quality suffered through cost cutting sending it down toward the bottom of surveys. Daimler’s shares lost over $80bn in market cap as this disaster unfolded.

FCA and Nissan/Renault have been amongst the more successful marriages but global markets have turned many a honeymoon period into separation with fights over custody.

Forming a merger at the top of a cycle seems fraught with risks. Global auto sales are slowing. Renault and Fiat bring a lot of overlap in product lines. Nissan is such an unclear part of the puzzle.

One can argue that synergies which will lower the costs of future production have merit. Investing in battery technology does make sense across multiple product lines.

The biggest problem for the auto industry is that should a slowdown hit mid-merger, which brand suffers the hits? Which marketing team gets culled? Which R&D projects get scuppered? Too many cooks spoil the broth is the end result. There is no way a merger can be locked down in a short timeframe unless one of the parties is facing bankruptcy and has no choice but to comply. That is why Nissan-Renault worked.

Renault-FCA would be better conceived after markets have imploded. Marriages built on tough times stand a far bigger chance of survival than those that are built when things are the rosiest. Shareholders will be the biggest losers if conceived now.

Tesla: Catching a falling knife

Tesla is breaking down. So many discipled pundits are looking at the company stock falling into “good value” territory. Good value is always relative. Sadly buying Tesla now is catching a falling knife.

It reminds CM of a time when Fuji Film dominated flat screen TV TAC films. It held 40% market share. Yet the market was shrinking and new competitor products were able to combine two films in one, dispensing with the need for TAC altogether. Yet analysts would crow at 40%. CM said 40% of soon to be nothing will be nothing.

Tesla’s valuation at $180 is ridiculously high compared to other auto manufacturers. Tesla still misses the two most important ingredients to profitable car companies – production efficiency and distribution. It has neither the first and has chopped back on the last. Digital dealerships are just not feasible especially given the nightmare quality or Tesla cars.

Big money is dumping. T Rowe Price has exited. fidelity following suit. Musk’s musings now carry little weight. Promises of stupendous Q2 volumes and making cars with ridiculously short ranges for Canadians to get the benefit of subsidies smacks of desperation.

This company, if it could, is running on the smell of an oily rag. The inability to rally back up above $200 with any conviction is showing the rattled confidence of existing holders. It’s like finding out you’ve been given the employee of the month award from your boss and you’re the only staff member. It carries no significance.

CM holds to the $28 fair value price from the 2017 report. That is CM’s optimistic scenario. So much for funding secured at $420.