Nat Versus the Volcano: Can an AI Investor Solve an Ancient Mystery from the Ashes of Vesuvius?Read more

In the 1910s and 1920s, the Ford Model T cracked open the automobile market for the masses. Photo: Courtesy William Creswell/Creative Commons

Tesla and Its Rivals Don’t Want to Make Cheap EVs. That Choice Will Come Back to Haunt Them

Photo: In the 1910s and 1920s, the Ford Model T cracked open the automobile market for the masses. Photo: Courtesy William Creswell/Creative Commons

Welcome back to The Electric!

Be sure to register for the live chat at noon on Thursday: “The Straight Dope on the New Oil—Lithium.” My guest will be Joe Lowry, CEO of Global Lithium and one of the world’s foremost experts on the metal. Is there a shortage of lithium? Joe says the answer is yes—and that it will last through the decade. Tune in and find out what that means for the electric vehicle race. Register here.

This week, we turn to the probability that neither Tesla nor other carmakers will produce inexpensive electric cars this decade. They don’t even want to because the profits are so high on premium EVs. But putting off the release of mass-market EVs will have destructive consequences for many of the very same companies.

In 2006, Tesla CEO Elon Musk published a “master plan” to put as many people as possible into affordably priced, clean vehicles and forestall climate change. So far, Musk has succeeded beyond what almost anyone anticipated: Tesla sold almost 1 million electric vehicles last year and has put the fear of bankruptcy into virtually all the world’s major automakers, which are racing to catch up.

But Musk is unlikely to fulfill his vow of affordable EVs for the masses until the 2030s. The reason is simple: Automakers including Tesla are by and large earning too much money selling high-middle- and premium-priced EVs loaded with extra features to pivot to economy models with thin profit margins at best. But putting off the development of mass-market vehicles is likely to backfire, causing even more trouble for the industry than it already faces, as I will explain below.

Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
OpenAI's Greg Brockman (left) and Google's Demis Hassabis (right). Photos by Getty.
AI Agenda google ai
OpenAI Hustles to Beat Google to Launch ‘Multimodal’ LLM
As fall approaches, Google and OpenAI are locked in a good ol’ fashioned software race, aiming to launch the next generation of large-language models: multimodal.
From left, a Google TPU, Broadcom CEO Hock Tan and Google Cloud chief Thomas Kurian. Photos via Getty, Google and YouTube.
Exclusive google semiconductors
To Reduce AI Costs, Google Wants to Ditch Broadcom as Its TPU Server Chip Supplier
Google executives have extensively discussed dropping Broadcom as a supplier of artificial intelligence chips as early as 2027, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort.
Flexport founder Ryan Petersen. Photos via Getty and Flexport.
Can Ryan Petersen Fix Flexport?
Ryan Petersen was getting antsy. This March, Petersen had handed over the CEO job at Flexport—the logistics company he’d founded a decade earlier, which had ballooned to an $8 billion valuation in 2022—to veteran Amazon executive Dave Clark.
Photo via Midjourney.
AI Agenda startups ai
The Rise of Startups That Help Other Startups Evaluate LLMs
All but a handful of artificial intelligence startups typically fall into one of two camps. The first group uses a single large-language model, typically OpenAI’s GPT-4, to power their applications.
Photos via Eiso Kant (left) and YouTube/VMWare Tanzu (right)
AI Agenda startups ai
How GitHub Copilot’s Co-Creator Raised $126 Million to Compete with His Former Employer
Recent interest in artificial intelligence has focused on large-language models that aim to do everything from writing Shakespearean poetry to solving math riddles.
Art by Mike Sullivan
entertainment media/telecom
Disney-Charter Deal Could Prompt More Cable TV-Streaming Bundles
Last week, Charter Communications, the No. 2 cable provider, and Walt Disney Co. cut a deal to include Disney streaming services, such as Disney+ and a new ESPN service still in the works, with Charter’s cable television packages.