Happy Monday, readers! It's CES week, which means a lot of companies will be selling their visions on the future of motoring... well, except Detroit, that is, seeing that they aren't in attendance. So will these companies be selling bridges or a vetted product? Only time will tell.

Today on Critical Materials, we're talking about what to expect from CES this year. We'll also discuss the range midpoint for EVs during the 2023 model year, and that the EPA is planning to review California's planned 2035 ban on new gas car sales. All this and more on today's news roundup.

30%: CES is Slow, Detroit is Out, and Hyundai is Still Working on Getting its Wings

Hyundai Supernal eVTOL

It's the second week of 2024, which means that CES is in full swing out in Las Vegas. And like previous years, software-centric electric cars are the focal point of many of those in attendance—well, the cars of automakers that actually did attend.

Detroit's big three (that is: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis) aren't formally attending CES this year, and neither is Toyota. Gary Shapiro, the CEO of the Consumer Technology Association that puts this event on each year, attributed Detroit's absences to various cost-cutting reasons, including last year's expensive UAW strike, according to Automotive News.

Those who are attending have some big plans.

Honda says it will debut an all-new global EV series, which is likely a key piece in its strategy to launch 30 new EVs by the top of the decade. Mercedes-Benz will be showing off its electric Concept CLA class and also outline its latest emerging tech, such as the Mercedes-Benz Operating System MB.OS—the bridge between its powertrain, infotainment, and automated driving systems.

Also, remember the Sony car? Well, Afeela, as the joint venture between Sony and Honda called itself, says that it has a new prototype to show the world this year. And last, but certainly not least, is Hyundai. The brand will be showcasing the latest of its efforts, but its Supernal arm will also be in attendance. Supernal will reportedly have a concept for its eVTOL aircraft and its "next-generation airport" (called a vertiport) to debut.

We'll have plenty of coverage all week, so stay tuned. 

60%: EV Range Midpoint was 270 Miles in 2023

2023 Model Year Range Statistics

Want some good news? EV ranges really are going up. This year, the Department of Energy confirmed that the average new EV on the road for the 2023 Model Year is capable of an EPA-rated 270 miles of battery-only range.

Sitting square on the throne of Range Kingdom is Lucid. The 2023 Lucid Air Grand Touring took the crown with its incredible 516 miles of range, though that comes with a price tag of around $125,600 before any incentives are applied.

The lowest? Well, that honor goes to no other than the 2023 Mazda MX-30. If you happen to have purchased one of these bad boys (slaps hood), you'll have around 100 miles per charge in ideal conditions.

In reality, this is a great number to see. The 300-mile barrier has already been surpassed in many EVs, but the midpoint is just 11% away. With the way EV tech has been skyrocketing lately, that doesn't seem too far off.

And in reality, more range added via a bigger battery doesn't necessarily mean a better car overall. Larger batteries mean heavier cars and a higher vehicle cost. The sweet spot will be more advanced battery tech with quicker charging times (such as solid-state batteries) and a hardened DC Fast Charging infrastructure across the U.S. We're getting there, though, and with federal infrastructure incentives, it will be a matter of time before the race to the highest range eventually tapers off.

90%: EPA is Reviewing California's Plan for 2035 EV Sales Mandate 

Stellantis IBIS Battery

In 2022, the California Air Resources Board approved a plan to end the sale of new passenger cars with gasoline-only propulsion systems (so, your basic ICE car). The ban, which goes into effect in 2035, has been a long time coming, but CARB has asked the EPA to sign off on its plan before it goes any further. More than a dozen other states follow CARB's rules, so a ban on new gas cars would have wide-ranging effects for all of the U.S.

The EPA has agreed and scheduled a public hearing for later this week on January 10th. In addition, the EPA says that it will take written comments on California's request until February 27th.

California's ban on gas-powered cars is a big deal. It would be the first state to actually (and officially) enact such a restriction and this will lead to other states in the U.S. taking the same leap.

At last 17 states—Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Oregon, New Jersey, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington—have committed to either partially or fully implementing CARB's standards within their respective borders. Of those states, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington have all separately confirmed they would also enforce the regulations that would lead to a ban on gas cars. For the other states, it's still very much up in the air.

The Biden administration has also expressed the desire to push U.S. consumers toward electrified vehicles but has openly refused to set a date that phases out combustion-powered passenger cars altogether.

100%: What would it take to get you to trust self-driving cars?

Things haven't exactly been going swimmingly with the beta test of self-driving cars that the public can't opt out of. Outside of the U.S., the rest of the world is watching it all unfold with wide eyes, citing the 17 deaths that have occurred since May of 2022.

Last year was a particularly difficult one for some self-driving companies. GM's Cruise, for example, has a large exodus of its top brass (including its CEO and co-founder, Kyle Vogt) following a series of accidents and the suspension of its driverless permit in California last year. It's now looking to put one of those accident probes to bed with a settlement offer of $75,000 ahead of a hearing with the California Public Utilities Commission next month.

That being said, all of this hasn't helped the public's image of self-driving cars. Automakers and driverless ride-hailing companies are still looking to innovate, but they need to earn back the public's trust. So how are you feeling about self-driving cars today? Are they on track with development enough for you to hail a ride, or would you rather shy away from one on public roads?

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