Electric pickups, Byton tech, battery business, EV affordability: The Week in Reverse

Rivian R1T electric pickup concept

Which company is looking for new battery suppliers outside the U.S.?

What upcoming electric car is not designed to drive but to ride in?

This is our look back at the Week In Reverse—right here at Green Car Reports—for the week ending January 25, 2019.

This week included much news about automakers working to broaden the market for electric cars by racing to build more efficient—and electric—pickups, about building up a bigger supply of batteries for electric cars, and about putting the personnel in place for new companies to build more electric cars.

2019 GMC Sierra

Ford and General Motors have both now said that they’re at least examining the possibility of electric pickups. This follows the eager reception given to the Rivian electric pickup concept, from a Michigan startup, at the LA auto show. The latest announcement came from GMC Vice President David Aldred, who said that GM’s truck brand is considering an all-electric pickup.

It’s a good thing, because a test of the new turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in GMC Sierra’s twin, the Chevrolet Silverado, delivered worse fuel-economy than the truck’s traditional V-8.

2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody

At least some amount of electric power is making its way into even the most traditional car segments, such as pickups and muscle cars. After Ford announced that it will build a hybrid version of its F-150, and Ram installed the mildest of hybrid systems in its new pickups for 2019, Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manly, who previously headed up the company’s Jeep division, announced that the next Dodge Challenger won’t have a rumbling V-8 at all, but will likely swap in an electrically boosted V-6.

A BMW executive revealed that its electric cars will take on more conventionally sleek looks to appeal to more mainstream buyers, rather than early adopters who wanted to stand out for driving an electric.

Byton M-Byte concept

And Chinese electric-car startup automaker Byton plans to put its signature curved 48-inch edge-to-edge display screen to good use, designing cars that are meant to be ridden in, rather than driven.

As mainstream automakers are working to broaden their electric lineups, others, from German luxury brands to Tesla and other brand-new startup automakers, are looking to boost their supplies of batteries to power their upcoming electric cars. After news reports reveled that Tesla was looking for new suppliers to make batteries for the cars it plans to build at its new factory in China,  Mercedes-Benz announced a $230 million investment in Poland to build electric cars for its upcoming line of electric cars. And Toyota formalized its tie-up with Panasonic to build lithium-ion batteries for a new line of electric cars from the world’s biggest automaker as well as several smaller automakers that have agreed to use its technology.

Tour of Tesla battery gigafactory for invited owners, Reno, Nevada, July 2016

So far, none of those agreements specifically involve a serious production commitment for next-generation solid-state battery cells that are expected to improve range, cost, and safety for electric cars. To bridge that gap, a new startup company called Gbatteries showed new artificial-intelligence software that can read batteries’ performance and adjust charging speed to charge them as quickly as possible without damaging the cells.

Another electric-car startup automaker, the famous vacuum-cleaner maker Dyson, is focused on building its organization rather than its supply lines, announcing that it hired former Infiniti president Roland Krueger to head up its new electric-car division in Singapore.

VW ID

All these new electric cars won’t come cheap. Volkswagen Chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch noted this week that the electric-car era may leave behind low-income consumers. Although he didn’t say so much, we suspect that’s partly because there will be no older-generation, lower-tech models for automakers to build in low-income countries for decades to come.

Nevertheless, we rounded up the best deals on new plug-in, hybrid, and electric cars in America this month.

Smokestacks pollution air quality

Beyond cars themselves, some new studies made news this week. Most significantly, two studies showed Americans are taking climate change more seriously after a summer of record hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires. A third study showed that the EPA has dramatically reduced enforcement of environmental standards in the past year, even as it has reduced the standards themselves. 

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