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Clean trucks are paving the road to the electric vehicle era

The electric vehicle revolution is underway, led by the un-sexiest of plug-in models: the commercial truck.

Why it matters: Growing demand for cleaner trucks means 2021 will be a pivotal year for electric vehicles — just not the kind you might have expected.


Driving the news: With transportation now the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, governments and corporations are embracing new sustainability goals.

  • Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. this summer announced a plan to require all new trucks, vans and buses in their states be electric by 2050.

The impact of the pandemic is adding to the urgency: E-commerce has exploded while people have been staying home, putting more polluting delivery trucks on the road.

  • "Amazon could become the world's single biggest entity for emissions" — aside from China's coal plants, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas told attendees at an online conference Thursday.
  • That's why the giant retailer's sweeping climate change strategy includes an aggressive plan to deploy 100,000 electric delivery trucks by 2030, he noted.

What's happening: Leading truck manufacturers are rolling out a bevy of electric models ranging from local delivery trucks and beverage haulers to garbage trucks and long-haul semis.

  • The latest is Volvo's new VNR electric model, a regional hauler with a range of up to 150 miles that can be recharged in a little over an hour. Launched Thursday after two years of pilot tests, it will go into production early next year in Virginia.
  • Freightliner, Tesla and China's BYD are among other companies bringing electric big rigs to market in the next year or so.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, Ford just introduced its E-Transit cargo van, which goes on sale late next year, and GM is reportedly planning an electric delivery van, too.
  • A slew of startups are also rushing into the electric truck space, including Rivian, Arrival and Nikola.

One company that hasn't gotten much attention until now is Lion Electric, which dominates the electric school bus market with 300 already on the road. It now has an expanding lineup of electric trucks, too.

  • The Canadian company has been around since 2008 — about as long as Tesla — and just announced plans to go public via reverse merger with Northern Genesis Acquisition, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).
  • After the deal, which gives it access to $500 million in new capital, Lion will be worth an estimated $1.9 billion.
  • Lion has a multi-year purchase agreement with an unnamed customer to buy up to 2,500 electric trucks between now and 2025. As part of the deal, Lion issued the customer a warrant to buy just under 20% of the company.
  • The first 10 trucks are going to Amazon. Among other companies that have placed orders is Molson Coors Beverage Co.
  • The trucks will be manufactured at Lion's Canadian facility, which can produce up to 2,500 per year, but with funds raised through the SPAC deal, Lion plans to open a much larger factory in the U.S.

The bottom line: Consumers might still be reticent about electric cars, but the momentum for electric trucks is growing.

House will transmit article of impeachment to Senate on Monday, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the House will deliver the article of impeachment against former President Trump for "incitement of insurrection" on Monday.

Why it matters: The Senate is constitutionally required to begin the impeachment trial at 1 p.m. the day after the article is transmitted. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had been pushing for the trial to begin in mid-February, arguing that it will force the Senate to delay other important business.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Private equity bets on delayed tax reform in Biden administration

In normal times, private equity would be nervous about Democratic Party control of both the White House and Congress. But in pandemic-consumed 2021, the industry seems sanguine.

Driving the news: Industry executives and lobbyists paid very close attention to Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen's confirmation hearings this week, and came away convinced that tax reform isn't on the near-term agenda.

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New Energy Department roles look to animate Biden's campaign themes

The burst of Biden administration staffing picks announced yesterday revealed that the Energy Department (DOE) has newly created roles that reflect what President Biden called campaign priorities.

Driving the news: One new position is "director of energy jobs," which is being filled by Jennifer Jean Kropke. She was previously the first director of workforce and environmental engagement with Local 11 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

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Stuart Haselden steps down as CEO of luggage startup Away

Stuart Haselden is stepping down as CEO of smart luggage-maker Away, Axios has learned. He'll be succeeded on an interim basis by company co-founder Jen Rubio, and an outside search firm has been retained to find a permanent successor.

Why it matters: Haselden, formerly with Lululemon, appeared to have established executive stability at Away, whose co-founder Steph Korey previously resigned as CEO before retaking the reins alongside Haselden and then resigning again.

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2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance as Japan's COVID-19 cases surge

10 months ago, the Tokyo Olympics were postponed. Now, less than six months ahead of their new start date, the dreaded word is being murmured: "canceled."

Driving the news: The Japanese government has privately concluded that the Games will have to be called off, The Times reports (subscription), citing an unnamed senior government source.

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Biden's centrist words, liberal actions

President Biden talks like a soothing centrist. He promises to govern like a soothing centrist. But early moves show that he is keeping his promise to advance a liberal agenda.

Why it matters: Never before has a president done more by executive fiat in such a short period of time than Biden. And those specific actions, coupled with a push for a more progressive slate of regulators and advisers, look more like the Biden of the Democratic primary than the unity-and-restraint Biden of the general election.

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Review of Trump ban marks major turning point for Facebook

Facebook's decision to ask its new independent Oversight Board to review the company's indefinite suspension of former President Trump is likely to set a critical precedent for how the social media giant handles political speech from world leaders.

What they're saying: "I very much hope and can expect … that they will uphold our decision," Facebook's VP of global affairs Nick Clegg tells Axios.

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What we know about the Apple car

Apple's moves toward breaking into the market for self-driving cars have come in fits and starts, but it has big ambitions for the space and is moving forward both with its own efforts and with potential partnerships with automakers.

Why it matters: Apple has great businesses in phones and computers, but its long-term growth potential will depend on conquering an entirely new market. Improving health care and playing a role in autonomous vehicles appear to be its two biggest bets on that front.

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