This year is sure to be full of some truly wild outcomes in the electric vehicle space, but I never thought to put to put "Nissan comes to Fisker's rescue" on my Bingo card. And yet, according to a surprisingly detailed new report, that's where we are.

That bit of news kicks off this week's Critical Materials roundup. Also on deck today: we take a look at why China's automakers crank out so many new cars, and hear a rumor about a name change for Hyundai's upcoming large new EV. 

30%: Fisker-Nissan Deal Could Close 'This Month': Report

Fisker Alaska18

EV startup Fisker has big, ambitious plans for a very stylish lineup that includes an affordable compact crossover, a convertible cruiser and a pickup truck. The owners love the cars, despite a spate of unfortunate bugs on the debut Ocean SUV, but Fisker is running into lots of problems with repairs, deliveries and cash flow—typical startup stuff, unfortunately. Last week it warned investors it may run out of money this year. As such, it's exploring some partnerships and tie-ups to stay afloat. 

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According to an exclusive from Reuters, it's Nissan that may step up here. And the draw for Nissan may be the Fisker Alaska, the compact pickup truck that's said to be Fisker's current top focus: 

The deal could close this month, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because the talks are ongoing and have not been finalized.

Terms being discussed include Nissan investing more than $400 million in Fisker's truck platform and building Fisker's planned Alaska pickup starting in 2026 at one of its U.S. assembly plants, one of the sources said.

Nissan would build its own electric pickup on the same platform, the source said. Nissan has U.S. assembly plants in Mississippi and Tennessee.

The term sheet is ready and the deal is going through due diligence, one of the sources said.

Fisker unveiled the Alaska pickup truck last year with a price tag of just over $45,000 and said it was slated for production early next year. The Alaska platform is an extended version of the Ocean one. It and any related vehicle from Nissan would compete in a segment that includes the Ford F-150 Lightning, GM's Chevrolet Silverado electric truck, Rivian's R1T and Tesla's Cybertruck.

As that story notes, the recently revised terms of Nissan and Renault's often-awkward marriage allow the former more leeway to see people outside the relationship, and that's why Renault isn't involved here. (It's off doing its own thing. Whatever works to keep the flame alive, right?) 

For Fisker, the benefit is obvious: a huge, established auto industry partner with factories everywhere, plenty of cash and every reason to try and move faster in the EV space. Once an early pioneer with the Leaf, Nissan has since kind of dropped the ball and is now scrambling to pick it up again, but only has a handful of purely electric cars for sale worldwide, including the Ariya crossover here in the U.S.

For Nissan, the benefit feels a bit less obvious. It's been flirting with the idea of an electric truck for years now—it knows how many truck fans it has in the U.S. and that would be a great space for it to be in. But the company has no factories of its own; Fisker's "asset-light" model means it relies on outside partners like Magna Steyr to build its cars. While the Ocean's FM29 platform is Fisker's IP, it is derived from a Magna-developed electric vehicle architecture. Batteries are sourced from CATL. It's not as if everything is being done in-house, like Lucid, for example.

Even so, this still probably means Fisker is further ahead on an EV truck than Nissan is. Expect us to keep a close eye on this deal, if it happens. 

60%: How And Why China Turns Out Cars So Quickly

WSJ Sales Top 1

As Kevin Williams reported last week, China's car industry is scaring the hell out of the West and the other Asian automakers. But it's not invincible. Auto brands are culling and collapsing as competition heats up, government subsidies are drying up and sales are slowing as the country's economy hits some speed bumps after decades of growth.

But China's auto industry also has everyone spooked by just how many cars it can produce, and how quickly—far, far faster on both new car releases and overall manufacturing than other rivals.

The Wall Street Journal explores how that came to be. First, there's an insane level of customer demand: 

Because Chinese buyers tend to prefer new or recently released cars, the cars have a short shelf life. Domestic EV makers offer models for sale for an average of 1.3 years before they are updated or refreshed, compared with 4.2 years for foreign brands, according to an analysis by consulting firm AlixPartners.

Which makes you wonder what happens to all those recently used cars that get traded in so quickly. Export to some places, one assumes. But there's also a production innovation aspect here:

As Chinese carmakers have moved to produce software-driven smart EVs, many development steps are taken in parallel, executives say. Traditionally, making gas-powered cars was a linear process—from design to engineering to manufacturing, each step had to be completed and validated before the next.

Chinese EV companies heavily use simulation software to create virtual prototypes and run tests in more iterations and in faster time. Virtual parts and mock-ups can be worked on between teams and 3D printed prototypes allow engineers to go through loops of trial and error much quicker, executives at Zeekr and NIO said.

There is no need to wait for hardware parts to be completed to develop assisted driving and powertrain control software, said Zhu Ling, a vice president of Zeekr.

JiYue, an EV brand created by Geely and Chinese tech giant Baidu, can finish product design in six months, said CEO Joe Xia. He visits the design studio almost every week, bringing employees from sales, marketing, manufacturing, product development and software. Any design feature changes can be understood by all so they can make relevant changes, he said.

German and Japanese carmakers have well-defined standards and guidelines for every step in car manufacturing and development, but these are barriers to moving quickly, said Christoph Weber, the China general manager for AutoForm, a Swiss company that makes simulation software for car manufacturing.

Finally, there's the software aspect. The story says that China focuses on releasing cars that are "minimum viable products" and then can get over-the-air feature updates later. We're starting to see this more and more in the business, but China's automakers are on a different level with it. Worth a read in full

90%: Hyundai Ioniq 7 May Become The Hyundai Ioniq 9

Hyundai Ioniq 7 speculative rendering

One of the biggest, literally and figuratively, EV debuts this year will surely be the upcoming Hyundai Ioniq 7. Based on the stylish Hyundai Seven Concept, it's a three-row electric crossover that's a close cousin to the hot-selling and critically acclaimed Kia EV9.

Now, perhaps to capitalize on the EV9's success (and leave room for more Ioniq models), Hyundai is reportedly considering changing the name of the big crossover to the Ioniq 9, according to an Automotive News scoop. 

We don't know if that's official yet, but we do know the car won't be at the New York Auto Show later this month, unfortunately. On the plus side, the Ioniq 7/9 is expected to be built at Hyundai's new Metaplant in Georgia, which would be good news for its tax credit situation. 

100%: Does The Alleged Nissan-Fisker Deal Make Sense To You?

If this ends up happening, where do you see it going? A collaboration or two that keeps the lights on at Fisker, or something deeper in the long-term? 

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Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the nature of the Fisker Ocean's platform.

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