White House’s EV Charging Station Standards Come Into Focus

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Image for article titled Here's What States Will Have to Agree to If They Want Federal EV Charging Money

Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

The federal government is about to issue its requirements for states that want in on charging station funding, Mercedes expects to reach half electric sales in the U.S. by the end of the decade off the back of its impenetrably-named EVs, and Tesla’s learned it has to finish one lawsuit before it can start another. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Thursday, June 9, 2022.

1st Gear: Public Charging Rules Come Into Focus

Earlier this week, a UC Berkeley study asserted that almost a quarter of all public EV chargers in California weren’t running properly. For states to receive funding for public charging stations as part of the $5 billion allotted in last year’s infrastructure bill, they’ll have to agree to meet minimum operational standards. The Biden administration confirmed those standards will be released next week, per Automotive News:

The standards will help ensure that a national EV charging network is accessible, user-friendly and interoperable between different charging companies and across a broad range of vehicles, White House and administration officials said.

“These new standards will make sure that these chargers can be used by everyone — no matter what car you drive, where you live or how you pay,” Mitch Landrieu, the White House’s infrastructure implementation coordinator, said during a press call.

And here’s a little teaser, in the form of a broad summation, of what those standards will include:

The proposed rule includes a requirement to build EV charging stations every 50 miles, no more than 1 mile off the highway, and with a focus on the interstate system and alternative fuel corridors. Stations also would be required to have at least four 150-kilowatt direct-current fast-charging ports capable of simultaneously charging four EVs.

It also requires real-time information on station location, availability and pricing, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other relevant state and federal requirements, officials said.

The EV charging infrastructure also would be required to operate on the same software platforms across states, and there would be data submittal requirements to create a public EV charging database as well as network connectivity requirements to enable secure remote monitoring, diagnostics, control and updates.

More specifically, it would require that chargers communicate with EVs through an industry-standard charging port type called the Combined Charging System, which would accommodate a baseline of vehicles as well as the use of EV charging adapters.

States will need to submit their plans to the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, a new department established specifically for this purpose, by August 1 for approval by September 30. Only after that process can they receive funding.

Automotive News also reports that alongside this new public charging infrastructure, the White House has formed an EV Working Group, made up of 25 members to be selected that will “make recommendations on the development, adoption and integration of EVs across the U.S.” What requirements have been shared above seem reasonable at first glance, especially the stipulation they must run on the same software. Foresight: you love to see it.

2nd Gear: ‘On Our Radar’

That is all Lina Khan, Federal Trade Commission Chairperson, would say about whether or not the department intends to probe Tesla over its Autopilot marketing. From Reuters:

“It’s absolutely true that, you know, this is a issue on which many members of Congress have focused and written to us about, so it’s certainly something that’s on our radar,” Khan said.

Tesla, which disbanded its press department, did not respond to a request for comment.

In August, Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal urged the FTC to probe Tesla, saying the automaker misled consumers and endangered the public by marketing its driving automation systems as fully self-driving.

An FTC investigation could potentially lead to a lawsuit seeking to force the company to change how it describes Autopilot’s capabilities. That might damage Tesla’s reputation.

The August letter came soon after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a probe into Tesla’s Autopilot and crashes involving parked emergency vehicles.

This comes after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent an information request letter to Tesla, citing more than 750 complaints from owners of random, “phantom” braking. The NHTSA referred this concern to the FTC as far back as 2018 actually, though the FTC has never announced a probe, nor has news of one ever leaked. That’s sort of a long time to be asked to do something and not confirmed, one way or the other, whether you intend to. I suspect it will not be the last we hear of it.

3rd Gear: An EQ for Me and You

Eight years from now, Mercedes-Benz predicts one of every two passenger cars it sells will be electric. From Automotive News:

Mercedes-Benz expects electric vehicles to account for about half of its U.S. sales by 2030, executives revealed at the brand’s national dealer meeting this month.

The German luxury marque is in the early days of an EV product offensive that will bring a handful of zero-emission models over the next year.

That effort will be critical to Mercedes’ aspirations of delivering about 350,000 vehicles in the U.S. next year, according to a retailer who attended the event.

Mercedes aims to sell up to 45,000 EQ-branded electric vehicles in 2023, said the dealer, who asked not to be identified. In contrast, Mercedes sold 352,129 units in 2019, before the pandemic and a global supply chain crisis kneecapped production industry-wide.

Mercedes launched its all-electric EQ subbrand with the debut of a battery-powered S-Class sedan late last summer. This year, the automaker will unleash three EV models in the U.S., including the EQB compact crossover, EQE midsize sedan and EQS large SUV.

Next year, the portfolio gets expanded with the arrival of the EQE midsize crossover.

First off, these names are incomprehensible. Call it sacrilege, but honestly if all Mercedes intends to sell anymore are electric SUVs, just give them the same names you used to give your cars. Would it sadden me? Sure. Do they deserve those names? No. But it would at least shorten these designators to their most relevant characters, and save a lot of time and be a lot less confounding on the eyes. The new E-Class is a battery-electric, midsize SUV; deal with it.

Anyway, moving back to the news. What’s interesting here is that at a time when seemingly every other automaker has expressed an interest in floating a direct sales model, Merc is perfectly fine keeping things as they are in the U.S., at least for the time being:

[Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dimitris] Psillakis reassured dealers at the meeting that Mercedes has no intention of selling direct to consumers or moving to an agency model in the U.S.

Under the agency model — so named because the automaker acts as the sales agent — the manufacturers owns the stock, invoices the customer directly and finances branding. Dealerships deliver the car to the customer, earn a commission on each vehicle, and generate money from service.

Psillakis also ruled out a network consolidation in the U.S., even as Mercedes looks to trim its dealership footprint by about 10 percent globally.

“In the U.S., we are not over-dealered,” Psillakis told Automotive News. “We are well structured in terms of the size of the network and locations [of the stores]. So we don’t have any white spots at the moment.”

Rather, Psillakis projects more consolidation of dealer ownership, with bigger groups buying up smaller, independent ones. That’s sort of happening right now, as a matter of fact.

4th Gear: Tesla Can’t Do That

Yesterday, Tesla said California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) wasn’t following the supposed necessary due diligence of first attempting to settle claims with the company out of court before suing it. The EV maker wanted to pause that case — bold — and lodge a challenge against the department for flouting its authority. 24 hours later and a state Superior Court judge has already reminded Tesla of the eternally-honored doctrine of “first come, first serve.” Courtesy Reuters:

California Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo in Oakland said during a hearing that Tesla could pursue its claim that the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) failed to meet various requirements before suing the company in February, but that staying the lawsuit would be inappropriate.

Tesla’s lawyers had argued that the case should be put on hold so the department could give the company an opportunity to settle the claims outside of court, but Grillo said he lacked the power to do that.

“We cannot typically order an agency to exercise its discretion in a particular way,” the judge said. “That’s kind of a big no-no.”

It’s amusing when judges use phrases like “big no-no,” because it ascribes a childlike innocence to a transgression with typically serious and far-reaching implications. Moving on:

The company on Tuesday filed a complaint with California’s Office of Administrative Law claiming DFEH routinely flouts requirements it must meet under state law before suing employers for discrimination.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Grillo said Tesla could still prevail on its claims that DFEH violated state law. But the judge said he would not determine that before taking up Tesla’s pending motion to dismiss the case, which is the subject of a hearing scheduled for August.

That’s the funny thing about this. Sure, Tesla could sue the DFEH — why not? Go ahead! Everyone sues. But the audacity to effectively dismiss a case still pending and replace it with your own smacks of arrogance. Shall we say, it’s peak Tesla.

5th Gear: VW Proposes Buyout for Russian Plant Workers

The German automaker is offering to buy out employees at a factory in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, per Reuters:

The offer of financial compensation and medical insurance until the end of 2022 was available to the around 200 people working at the Nizhny Novgorod plant, a Volkswagen spokesperson said, confirming an earlier report by Kommersant paper.

Volkswagen announced in March that production at its Kaluga and Nizhny Novgorod sites would be suspended until further notice because of Western sanctions, and vehicle exports to Russia would be stopped with immediate effect.

While Volkswagen owns its Kaluga plant directly, employing around 4,200 workers there, it does not own the Nizhny Novgorod plant but has a contractual agreement with owner GAZ Group to assemble several of its models there, according to the Volkswagen Group’s Russia website.

Employees who agree to the terms by the middle of the month will reportedly receive six months salary. It should be noted this sort of exit is a very different strategy than Renault selling its plant to AvtoVAZ for one ruble under the condition it could one day buy it back for a ruble, if it likes.

Reverse: Ka-Chow

On this day 17 years ago, everything we thought we knew about where the eyes go on a car was changed forever as Disney/Pixar’s Cars was released to theaters. Here’s what the film’s production designer, Bob Pauley, said about that at the time (that little part in brackets, mine):

“For one thing, it separates our characters from the more common approach where you have little cartoon eyes in the headlights. For another, [disgraced Pixar executive John Lassetter] thought that having the eyes down near the mouth at the front end of the car made the character feel more like a snake. With the eyes set in the windshield, the point of view is more human-like, and made it feel like the whole car could be involved in the animation of the character.”

Neutral: Don’t Wake Me, I Plan On Sleeping In

OK, I didn’t plan it this morning, but it happened. That stomach-sinking feeling of realizing your alarm either didn’t go off or you became conscious enough to quickly turn it off without being so conscious as to have any memory of doing so. Sometimes I impress even myself.

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