Going Electric Won’t Fix Our 'Global Epidemic Of Car Harm'

Photo: Bill Pugliano (Getty Images)
Photo: Bill Pugliano (Getty Images)

Good morning! It’s Monday, March 11, 2024, and this is The Morning Shift, your daily roundup of the top automotive headlines from around the world, in one place. Here are the important stories you need to know.

1st Gear: EVs Aren’t Our Saviors

We’re constantly being told that if we want to save the automotive industry, and the world, then we need to switch to an electric car to cut down emissions, reduce fuel usage and keep the wheels of industry turning. But the switch to this battery-powered future won’t be able to fix everything wrong with the automobile.

According to a new report from Automotive News, a recent study has warned that EVs can’t fix a “global epidemic of car harm.” Pivoting away from gas-powered models won’t do much to alleviate the number of people killed and injured on our roads thanks, in part, to our focus on “speed over safety.” The site reports:


A comprehensive review published last month provides a litany of what the authors call “car harm,” in estimated global totals of death, injury, disease and other miseries, over the course of automotive history.

In part because the system “prioritizes speed over safety,” as the authors put it, motor vehicles are responsible for one out of 34 deaths, or 1.7 million people every year, either directly or through pollution.

“It’s quite a grim paper,” acknowledged lead author Patrick Miner, a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, whose dissertation focuses on how car culture influences urban land use.

The paper’s findings are pretty bleak, with it reporting that more than 40 percent of all people killed by motor vehicles were either walking, riding a bike or using a wheel chair. What’s more, SUVs are eight times more likely to kill children, and those are the models that are increasingly popular as we switch to EVs.

Other factors that need addressing before we can deem the car truly safe for everyone include drunk driving, drive-by shootings and, in the U.S., traffic stops that “are a setting for police violence against Black, Latine/x, and Indigenous people,” the papers authors wrote.

The electric car, which is often billed as the future of motoring, does little to address any of these issues, and instead risks leaving us reliant on heavier, more deadly vehicles thanks to the additional weight of batteries.

2nd Gear: Tesla To Restart Production In Germany

Tesla’s EV assembly plant in Germany was hit by an arson attack earlier this month, which experts warned could leave it out of action for weeks. However, it now looks like the factory could resume operations much sooner as power is set to return to the plant just outside Berlin.

Engineers from E.dis, a division of German energy network firm E.ON, were working to repair infrastructure affected by last week’s arson attack this weekend, reports Reuters. Now, the energy company says it is ready to switch power back on at the factory. Reuters reports:

Tesla said last week it expected the outage to last until March 15, while the works council chief of the electric vehicle (EV) maker’s Brandenburg plant said on March 8 it would restart this week, without giving a specific date.

E.dis said that resumption of power supply depended on a high-voltage test as well as the official approval by engineers, both of which are expected to take place during Monday.

As a result of the power outage at the site, Tesla has missed out on production of more than 1,000 cars a day, according to Reuters. In fact, the the factory’s head told the site that the disruption could cost the company “in the region of 100 millions Euros,” which is about $110 million.

Power went out at the Tesla facility last Tuesday following an arson attack on an electricity pylon near to the Tesla Gigafactory on the outskirts of Berlin. The attack was branded “extremely dumb” by Tesla boss Elon Musk.

Responsibility for the blaze was claimed by a far-left group that argued that the EV maker “consumes earth, resources, people, workers” in its work to build more than 6,000 “killer cars” every week.

3rd Gear: Chinese Automakers Have A New Way In

Chinese EVs are the talk of the town right now, with Europeans buying them up in bucket loads, automakers in the country unveiling new, more powerful models every day and Americans warning that they should never be sold here. Now, however, it sounds like Chinese automakers may have found a new way into the U.S. to sell their budget-friendly EVs.

After everyone got all hot and bothered about the prospects of Mexican-made Chinese EVs finding their way across the border, it now sounds like Chinese automakers like BYD and Geely may be able to use contract manufacturers to get their cars into the hands of American buyers. According to a new report from Automotive News, contract manufacturers like Valmet Automotive, which assembled the Fisker Karma, could offer a helping hand to oversees automakers looking for a way into America.

In an interview with Valmet CEO Pasi Rannus, the site claimed that the automaker was “talking” with Chinese automakers about assembling their cars under contract. The company, which operates factories in Finland, told Automotive News that its manufacturing plants could offer a “cost effective” way for overseas automakers to enter new markets like the U.S. and Europe. According to the site:

“They are definitely coming,” [said Rannus]. “You need to be aware of that. I think the first wave of Chinese automakers utilizing contract manufacturers will take place in Europe. I think the U.S. could be pretty close in the next wave, but it is a bit more protected with the [Inflation Reduction Act].”

The contract manufacturing boss also explained to the site that EV manufacturing should become less complex in the coming years. He explained that while the “whole world is in transformation” at present, when things start to settle out we should have a better idea about how profitable EVs will be for the world’s automakers.

4th Gear: Price Cuts Aren’t Saving Slowing EV Sales In China

And speaking of profitable EVs, it sounds like price cuts across the board aren’t doing much to save slowing sales of battery-powered models across the country. According to a new report from Reuters, EV sales growth was down in January and February 2024 compared with last year, despite firms like BYD slashing their prices at the start of this year.

Reuters reports that sales of EVs in China were up 18 percent in January and February, compared with more than 20 percent raises through 2023. According to the site:

Together with plug-in hybrids, new energy vehicle (NEV) sales jumped 37.5% in the two-month period, versus 36.2% for 2023. The result outpaced the overall passenger vehicle market’s 16.3% growth as widespread discounts fuelled demand.

NEVs accounted for 33.5% of total car sales in January-February versus 28.3% in the same period a year earlier, grabbing market share from petrol-powered cars of which sales rose 7.8%.

While plug-in hybrid models are bolstering new energy vehicle sales, automakers across China are doing all they can to entice new buyers. To do this, companies like BYD have begun slashing prices, with the automaker taking, on average, 17 percent off the price of its cars across China.

But BYD isn’t the only automaker to employ this tactic, as Tesla also previously discounted its lineup across China. Similar moves have also been deployed by Geely, which owns Volvo and Polestar, and Xpeng.

Reverse: Wonder How Many ItsSold Now?

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