Rental car companies have jumped onto the EV train across the globe. That plunge may have been a bit premature, though, as one of the most prominent rental agencies in the U.S. is ditching the majority of its EVs. And after Tesla hit the cutting room floor, so will Polestar.
Welcome to Critical Materials, your daily dose of all things EVs and automotive tech. Today we're talking Hertz's break-up with Polestar, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation getting ticked off with Apple Vision Pro users behind the wheel of some Teslas, and Aptera's imminent launch. Let's jump into it:
30%: Hertz Hurts: EV Buying Stoppage to Extend to Polestar
Hertz's decision to go heavy on EVs was a bold one. The rental car company hoped that it could cut down on fleet maintenance costs and attract new customers by purchasing large quantities of EVs, effectively electrifying up to 25% of its fleet by the end of 2024. It turns out that things didn't go as planned.
In mid-2022, Hertz announced that it would purchase 65,000 Polestar vehicles throughout 2027. It would start with the Polestar 2 and eventually include the Polestar 3 crossover that's due out soon. Those plans appear to have gone belly-up thanks to significant repair costs and spiraling devaluation with its Tesla EVs. (It's also worth noting that rental customers didn't always have a great time here, either; we've heard countless stories of people being "surprised" with EV rentals and getting low charge levels and little education on how and where to charge the cars.)
Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath says that Hertz made him aware of the pause late last year. By that time, Polestar had delivered around 13,000 vehicles to Hertz, or around 20% of the original amount announced just over a year prior. Polestar reportedly agreed to let Hertz out of its agreement so as long as the rental company didn't dump its fleet onto the used market too quickly or at too low of a price.
Speaking of too quickly, Hertz announced that it was selling off 20,000 of its Teslas (around one-third of its EV fleet) just last month. Hertz originally planned to purchase 100,000 Teslas by the end of 2022. But by the end of 2023, the company had only purchased around 35% of those cars. It cited significant repair costs as the driving factor and noted that it lost $245 million in the deal (ouch).
SIXT, a German rental company that stocks Teslas as fleet cars, announced this week that it would also be dropping the automaker's EVs in favor of Stellantis' upcoming battery-powered cars. German software conglomerate SAP also announced that it would dump its Tesla fleet due to unstable pricing on the used market.
You can snatch up one of Hertz's former rental Model 3s for as low as $16,000. Whether or not you should is a completely different story, and our Kevin Williams is here to tell that one.
But I digress, this entire situation makes me head Hertz—er, hurt. One would think that the repair costs of an EV would be significantly less than a gas-powered car. Or at the very least, the maintenance would be lower. However, Hertz must have has fleet data to back up its decisions.
Update: A Polestar spokesman emailed InsideEVs to clarify that Polestar 2s remain in the Hertz fleet and are not being sold off, unlike the Teslas; "Both parties remain committed to our long-term agreement, but we have agreed to not push cars to them during 2024."
60%: Pete Buttigieg is annoyed that people are already abusing the Apple Vision Pro behind the wheel
In case you missed it: there's a bunch of nerds who decided that driving their Tesla with the Apple Vision Pro was a good idea. The new Augmented Reality headset, which retails for $3,500, debuted last week and apparently attracted a myriad of people who felt that one of the first things they should do was strap on the headset and get behind the wheel.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is reasonably upset about this. While he didn't call out Apple's headset by name, he reposted that video of someone driving a Tesla Cybertruck while also wearing the Vision Pro and making hand gestures.
Here's the thing about Buttigieg's post: he's specifically calling out improper use of driver assistance systems.
However, the Cybertruck does not have Autopilot nor Full Self-Driving enabled today (those will be added later via a software update), which means that the driver he is criticizing is driving that car without any driving aides—arguably a more risky maneuver.
To his point, though, even Apple dissuades folks from using Vision Pro in the car. That hasn't stopped people from trying to gain internet fame by faking an arrest, or egregiously flailing their arms to make sure people knew they had a Vision Pro headset on. It's a stupid idea, and it's caught the attention of the top U.S. advisor on all transportation-related issues (seriously, he reports to the President). That's not a great look, and could lead to some legislation down the road.
Petey, my boy, it's okay to be angry here. Everyone should be upset that they were an unwitting beta tester of gear on a public road. It's not like they can opt-out, after all. And, hey, at least this was an isolated incident. It's not like a massive Owellian beta test involving self-driving cars is going on that required regulator intervention, right?
90%: Aptera solar-powered car deliveries imminent after a year of successful investor funding
At this point, doesn't EV startup Aptera deserve a real shot? The small ultra-efficient two-seater is one of the coolest concepts to hit the road in a while, and the company claims that its integrated solar panels make it so the car "requires no charging for most daily use."
After a year of crowdfunding, Aptera announced that it raised a whopping $33 million to fund the first initial phases of its vehicle production. And now 2,000 investors have secured their spot in line for the first build slots.
Aptera last said that it plans to build its first vehicles for delivery by the end of 2024, a small push-back from its initial planned production kick-off in Q2. The automaker says that it anticipates a volume production of around 7,000 vehicles in 2025, meaning it could likely fulfill its 46,000 preorder backlog in around six years or less, assuming it converts all of those preorders into sales.
Chris McCammon, Aptera's Community and Content Manager, says that its potential success is all thanks to those who believe in the company's "unique vision":
The Aptera community is full of pioneers, dreamers, and those who challenge the status quo. With the help of our passionate community, we're building a solar-powered vehicle for the people, by the people.
And based on Aptera's public figures of investor contributions, the customers certainly believe in the mission. Its top 10 investors have contributed a combined $8.4 million in the company.
I've got to hand it to Aptera: the company is certainly thinking differently. It promises a 400-mile range on a single charge of its claimed 41 kilowatt-hours of usable battery capacity and the ability to recoup 40 miles per day thanks to its 700-watt solar array. And to Aptera's point, 40 miles is more than enough for my daily commute.
100%: Is there a future of Augmented Reality behind the wheel?
I'll be the first to admit that I think Apple Vision Pro is cool. But $3,500 cool? Maybe not yet, but I have no doubt that as the tech matures it has the potential to take over the mobile computing space. One area that could certainly benefit from that is the automotive industry.
Now, if you're wearing one of these headsets behind the wheel today, it's a problem. The tech isn't there, it's a distraction, and frankly, it's unsafe.
But as both in-car and AR tech evolves, the possibilities that this headset could serve in-car at racing events like track days really stick in my mind. Remember, automakers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW are working on versions of AR displays for touchscreens, driver displays and even windshields. So what about headsets too?
Racing lines with turn-in and exit points, gauge cluster anywhere you look, or maybe even your own personal racing coach. Like—come on, you have to admit that your mind has gone there too. All of that being said, I want to know what app you would want to see developed for behind-the-wheel use if AR headset tech would ever become approved for use behind the wheel.
Let's hear it in the comments below.