The world’s most valuable carmaker

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In case it wasn’t clear already that the future of the automotive industry is electric, the latest news from the financial markets should dispel any doubt. Tesla, arguably the world’s preeminent electric vehicle company, is now valued at over $1 trillion (€860 billion).

The car company joins a rarefied list of trillion-dollar, primarily tech-based companies, including Apple, Amazon, and (at least for now) Facebook.

The stock price rallied off the back of news that Hertz made an order for 100,000 Teslas, as the car rental giant looks to ramp up its offer of electric vehicles.

For many investors, the Hertz deal is a sign that electric cars are going from the preserve of the wealthy (who want to publicly bolster their green credentials) to the mainstream choice.

For Tesla founder, sometime sketch comedy actor, and the world’s richest man, Elon Musk (who recently surpassed fellow space-obsessed geek Jeff Bezos of Amazon in the accumulation of outrageous sums of money), the valuation surge brought his personal fortune to over $255 billion.

Musk celebrated the news on Twitter with a typically eccentric tweet.

But while Tesla is in rude health financially, the company still faces serious challenges and is not without controversy.

In addition to grappling with global supply chain issues, the company is facing scrutiny over its automation software, which allows its cars to essentially pilot themselves for parts of a journey.

Tesla has been keen to roll out increasingly advanced Autopilot capabilities, which, despite Tesla’s strict instructions that drivers must always remain alert while Autopilot is engaged, has the effect of encouraging drivers to take their hands off the wheel and zone out while travelling.

Following a series of at-times fatal crashes, both regulators and customers have raised questions over just how safe Tesla’s Autopilot feature is. Already, the US government has opened a formal investigation into Tesla’s driver assistance system, the Guardian reports.

While the system is remarkable in many ways, it is not without glitches – there are indications that the flashing lights of emergency vehicles may interfere with the cars’ sensors, potentially leading to accidents.

But while the automation issues will likely continue to raise questions, Tesla’s incredible valuation comes in part from its high-tech pedigree. Indeed, its valuation is more Silicon Valley than Motor City.

Eurostar faces new competition (possibly)

There’s another twist in the tale of the beleaguered Eurostar train line, which has recently faced bankruptcy in the wake of COVID restrictions decimating demand (a drop further compounded by Brexit-related issues over cross-border travel).

Now, Spanish company Renfe has requested permits that would allow its trains to compete on the Paris to London line, which runs through the Eurotunnel under the English Channel.

The publicly owned Spanish company expects a rise in demand for travel between the British and French capitals, with profitability foreseen after four years of running the service.

Before proceeding, however, Renfe must be awarded the appropriate permits to operate on the line, so it remains to be seen if it will emerge as a competitor.

Read the full story in El País.

FlixBus buys Greyhound

Germany’s FlixMobility company, which owns both FlixBus and FlixTrain, has significantly expanded its presence across the Atlantic by purchasing the US’s largest (and most iconic) bus company, Greyhound.

“The continuous expansion of our network through partnerships and acquisitions has always been an integral part of our growth strategy to build our global presence. The acquisition of Greyhound is a major step forward and strengthens FlixBus’ position in the US,” said Jochen Engert, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of FlixMobility.

Greyhound will now operate as a subsidiary of FlixMobility, which has its headquarters in Munich. Already FlixBus is Europe’s largest intercity bus company, with over 62 million people using their service in (pre-pandemic) 2019. Greyhound runs to around 2,400 destinations across North America.

Driving on sunshine

While discussions over the number of charging points Europe will need to facilitate the electric mobility revolution continue, one interesting pilot project has raised the spectre of a different approach.

According to a report by CNN, a Dutch campervan drove for just under 2,000 kilometres across Europe powered solely by the sun.

The solar-panel-bedecked campervan can fit two people and includes a toilet, shower, and cooking facilities.

The van was created by a group of students from the Eindhoven University of Technology, who wanted to demonstrate the possibilities of solar transport.

“The main goal is to really inspire people and the market and society to accelerate the transition towards a more sustainable future,” Tijn Ter Horst, a member of Solar Team Eindhoven, told CNN.

Solar-powered vehicles may soon be a common sight on European streets – already the Dutch start-up Lightyear is working on rolling out cars powered by sunlight. The first Lightyear vehicles are expected to be launched in summer 2022.

A roundup of the most captivating transport news.

EU aims to dethrone Asia as world’s battery powerhouse

Brussels plans to wrest the title of global electric vehicle battery leader from Asia by supercharging Europe’s battery production and imposing strict green criteria that will make European products the de facto global standard.

Brussels defends EU battery law against charges from car industry

The European Commission has brushed off industry criticism that the upcoming EU battery regulation could raise the cost of electric vehicles, arguing that prices will fall thanks to increased manufacturing capacity ushered in by EU policies.

Greenhouse gas levels hit record; world struggles to curb damage

Greenhouse gas concentrations hit a record last year and the world is “way off track” on capping rising temperatures, the United Nations said on Monday (25 October), showing the difficult task facing climate talks in Glasgow aimed at averting dangerous levels of warming.

Simona Bonafè MEP: Recovery of raw materials is cornerstone of EU battery law

The European Commission has proposed new standards which would make batteries produced and sold in Europe the greenest in the world. MEP Simona Bonafè spoke to EURACTIV about the EU’s battery regulation and the future of battery production in Europe.

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