A Bright Spot in a Gloomy Economy
It was during a long boozy lunch that Sir Max Aitken and The Daily Express’ Tommy Sopwith and Jocelyn Stevens came up with a brilliant plan.
At that time, in 1967, Britain’s economy was in tatters.
Their manufacturing industry was in decline, the pound had devalued, and unemployment was rising. Public morale, much like today, was running low.
The three of them came up with the idea of ‘The Greatest Marathon’, a car race that would expand from London to Sydney. They hoped this ‘great adventure’ would not only lift people’s spirits but also display British engineering at its best…and hopefully boost exports.
A year later in November 1968, 98 cars started out from London.
They drove to Dover, caught a ferry to France, and then went all the way to Bombay.
The first 72 cars to make it there got on board the SS Chusan to Fremantle for the final leg (arguably the toughest one) of the race.
The Perth–Sydney route went through dirt roads, deserts, and harsh weather conditions.
After a final day that kept many at the edge of their seat, Andrew Cowan, Colin Malkin, and Brian Cole went through the finish line, driving a Hillman Hunter.
Only 56 cars finished the race.
While the event has run a few times since, this October will be the first time in 54 years since the event last ran through the entire original 1968 Perth–Sydney route.
You can see the route below:
But what’s interesting about this year’s race is that it includes a total of 81 cars. 80 are run by petrol…and one is electric — a 2019 Tesla Model 3 Performance.
This Tesla is not a newbie when it comes to racing.
It took second place at last year’s Targa Cup in WA, which covers 1,000 km in four days.
But, of course, the race in October is a lot longer — 5,700 km. And one of the challenges the Tesla team has had to figure out has been charging.
For one, the race goes through areas where there aren’t many fast chargers. That’s why the group is planning to bring their own.
You see, the Tesla owner is John Edwards, an engineer and inventor of the Biofil EV chargers, which are powered by waste-chip frying oil, the kind used at restaurants and fast food joints.
The plan is to bring along three support vehicles that will carry the chargers and 570 litres of waste oil to power them.
And, of course, charging takes longer than refuelling petrol cars, which is why the race organisers will take off the charging time from their overall times.
We’ll keep an eye on how they go, but in the true spirit of 1968, the Tesla is trying to prove how well EVs can do on hard roads and in extreme conditions.
EVs are becoming mainstream
Speaking of racing…
This week, major sports car manufacturing giant Ferrari announced it was getting into electric vehicles.
The Italian carmaker is planning to invest 4.4 billion euros (around AU$6.6 billion) to go electric. Their first EV should hit the market by 2025, and they plan to expand their Maranello factory to make EVs and batteries.
The company is aiming to have 60% of the cars they produce be either hybrid or electric by 2026, with the view of expanding to an 80% share by 2030.
And while Ferrari has taken a while to get into EVs, other large automakers are much further along the race, like Volkswagen. Some even expect that Volkswagen could pass Tesla when it comes to EV sales as soon as 2024.
And Ford has seen record EV sales in May.
As Andrew Frick, Ford’s vice president of sales, distribution, and trucks, Ford Blue put it (emphasis added):
‘While the global semiconductor chip shortage remains an issue for the industry, our inventory continues to turn at record rates with nearly 50 percent of our retail sales coming from previously placed orders. Our newest models, including Bronco, Bronco Sport and Maverick, continue to enhance our sales volume. Our electric vehicle sales, with the addition of F-150 Lightning this month, increased 222 percent — growing at almost four times the rate of the industry.’
Yep, EV sales continue to grow…in spite of semiconductor chip shortages…war…supply issues…a pandemic…waiting times…higher commodity prices…and rising interest rates and inflation.
And on the subject of inflation…
While US stocks rebounded last night, the mood is still pretty pessimistic out there as central banks turn more aggressive to fight inflation.
The expectation is that inflation could hit 7% in Australia by the end of the year. But the RBA threw a bucket of cold water yesterday on anyone hoping wage growth would help with that.
As RBA’s Philip Lowe said:
‘Three-and-a-half is kind of the anchoring point that I want people to keep in mind, and I know it’s difficult when inflation is higher than that.
‘But in the ’70s we got into trouble because wages growth responded mechanically to the higher inflation rate.
‘We had higher inflation, wages responded and then that becomes persistent, and then you have to have higher interest rates and a downturn to get inflation down.
‘I’m hopeful we can avoid that, but it’s an important issue. Three-and-a-half is better than two and better than five.’
It’s clear that beating inflation is now the number one concern for investors in particular, as negative real interest rates keep eating up cash in the bank. And one of the ways to do this is by investing in long-term trends that outpace inflation.
So while everything is still doom and gloom out there, remember that miners, battery manufacturers, and automakers are still scrambling for battery metals. EVs are enjoying more government support, there’s more EV infrastructure spending, and oil prices are still high.
EVs and the energy transition is one of the most exciting trends of the year…this decade even.
Stay tuned for more…
Until next week,
For Money Morning
Selva is also the Editor of New Energy Investor, a newsletter that looks for opportunities in the energy transition. For information on how to subscribe, click here.