Anyone who was paying attention last fall heard about the Tesla Cybertruck. For those unacquainted, this long-awaited, fully electric pickup, introduced by Tesla founder Elon Musk, has controversial styling. It is angular and unconventional, looking more like a kid’s rendition of a futuristic vehicle, if that kid grew up in the 1980s.
Despite the naysayers and failure to live up to the hype, orders rolled in and the automotive world settled down.
Clearly, the Cybertruck, despite the prop-from-a-scifi-movie vibe didn’t derail Tesla’s momentum and the future of electric vehicle dominance has been established as verified by investors.
Recently, Tesla’s market value surpassed the $100 billion threshold reaching $104.5 billion for the first time, a historic benchmark for any automaker and a first for an American brand. This briefly nudged the value of Tesla up beyond Volkswagen and makes the company nearly as valuable as Ford, GM and Fiat-Chrysler combined.
Toyota is consistently ranked the highest value automaker in the world, followed by VW.
Tesla is not alone in the EV market and has competition from another American electric truck hopeful, Michigan-based Rivian.
While you may not have heard of Rivian, it is well-known in the upstart EV auto industry. Founded and run by 37-year-old RJ Scaringe, a mechanical engineering whiz from MIT, Rivian has been renovating a former Mitsubishi plant in Illinois since 2017 and currently employs over 1,000 workers.
Initial sales are projected to take place next year and will consist of a more conventional looking pickup called the R1T (and the R1S, an SUV version). They are projected to incorporate some amazing technology, have a 400-mile range per charge and a price of around $68,000.
Rivian’s concept is based on a “skateboard” platform that integrates the battery, suspension and driveline components in one package, allowing a relatively simple variety of applications.
It might be easy to dismiss Rivian as just another newcomer with big ideas, but major funding has come from the likes of Ford Motor Co., which helped seed Rivian and has invested $500 million in its recent round of funding. In addition, Amazon has invested $700 million and Cox Automotive, owners of diverse auto interests such as Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader and Manheim Auto Auctions, invested $350 million.
Thus, Rivian has the confidence of many in the industry.
The future isn’t completely ground-bound. Toyota is betting on eVTOL, electric Vertical Take Off and Landing, and has just made a second investment in Joby Aviation, based in California.
Joby’s concept is aerial ride sharing, and Uber Air Taxi is working with Joby to bring that idea to fruition.
Toyota’s investment of $394 million joins investments made by some big names like tech supplier Intel and JetBlue Airways, giving a boost of money and confidence to a burgeoning industry while making Joby the best-funded eVTOL designer in the market.
Although Joby is relatively unknown, it has been around more than a decade; however, only recently, and with Toyota’s backing, has it come out of the shadows. In the past, Joby developed a flying taxi concept with Hyundai, among other partners. Toyota will contribute more than just capital, lending its expertise in manufacturing as well.
This latest Joby eVTOL in development for Uber will be configured with six rotors that will tilt vertically for takeoff and landing, and pivot horizontally to cover the projected 150-mile range at a top speed of 200 mph. It is said to operate 100 times more quietly than a conventional aircraft.
The Joby will have five seats for passengers and pilot, so this unit is not fully autonomous — that’s a leap that will take time to overcome.
This has progressed beyond the concept stage and is in the test-flying stage at Joby’s private airfield in northern California.
Electric vehicles are a proven success, and as infrastructure improves, these vehicles will proliferate. Pickups and SUVs are a uniquely American obsession, and while Tesla and Rivian are now addressing consumers’ appetites, others will surely follow.
The concept of aerial ride hailing still has a way to go, both in societal acceptance and regulatory hurdles, but it’s clear there is demand and that demand will grow, as capabilities and public exposure lay to rest some obvious concerns. The future is coming up fast.
Eric and Michelle Meltzer own and operate Fryeburg Motors, a licensed, full-service automotive sales and service facility at 299 Main St. in Fryeburg, Maine. More than a business, cars are a passion, and they appreciate anything that drives, rides, floats or flies.