Morning Brew - ☕ All things go

A Q&A with Pete Buttigieg.
March 11, 2024

Tech Brew

VenHub

It’s Monday. Before last week’s SOTU, Tech Brew’s Jordyn Grzelewski hopped on a call with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to chat about the administration’s initiatives on the energy transition, the availability of EV charging, and what’s at stake if Biden loses in November.

In today’s edition:

Jordyn Grzelewski, Annie Saunders

FUTURE OF TRAVEL

State of transportation

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Tom Williams/Getty Images

Ahead of President Biden’s State of the Union address last week, Tech Brew caught up with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the administration’s efforts to build out a national EV charging network, competition from China, why he’s excited about what AI could mean for the future of transportation, and more.

The Biden administration’s goal is to have some 500,000 EV chargers available by 2030, backed by $7.5 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Another one of Biden’s signature pieces of legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, made available consumer tax credits of up to $7,500 for EVs that meet certain sourcing, assembly, pricing, and other requirements. That’s just one prong of the administration’s strategy to help spur adoption of EVs as it seeks to meet its climate goals, including having EVs make up at least half of new-vehicle sales by 2030.

Buttigieg told us he was looking forward to Biden’s SOTU address because “it’ll be a chance for him to lay out the practical, everyday improvements that are coming from these policies.”

“It’s not just about some abstract view on how infrastructure ought to work or where we’re headed with climate; it’s that everyday life is getting better and is changing in concrete ways because of the measures this administration has taken, whether it’s in the healthcare space, lowering costs, or in the transportation space, fixing roads and bridges, and setting us up for the technology of the future.”

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

The EV transition has been bumpy recently, with demand slowing down and automakers pulling back on investments. Are further policy solutions needed to help spur adoption?

It’s important to recognize that EV growth continues to be very strong. There are going to be year-by-year, or even quarter-by-quarter, ups and downs, but the trajectory is unmistakable and it has not changed.

The big question I think we face is: Will the EV future be led by American firms and American workers? Or will it be dominated by another country like China? The last administration allowed China to build an advantage in EVs. We are making sure that America has the lead. That’s why we’ve found two major obstacles and worked to tear them down.

One obstacle is the upfront price or cost of EVs; the IRA is helping with that. The other is the availability of charging. And that is why we are investing in chargers around the country to meet the president’s goal of half a million chargers by the end of this decade. If we succeed in those two efforts…I think the US is very well-positioned to lead the EV future. But we’ve got to keep pushing, because so many jobs are at stake. And that’s something I take very personally, as a product of the industrial Midwest, having seen how important these jobs are and having seen what happens if you lose them.

Keep reading here.—JG

     

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FUTURE OF TRAVEL

Level up

Illustration of an EV charger with the cord in the shape of a graph Francis Scialabba

Marcus Long has spent his entire career in the automotive space. Like the industry, the 31-year-old Detroiter is adapting to the electric age.

Long recently graduated from the inaugural cohort of a program aimed at training workers for a job that’s expected to be in high demand as EV adoption increases: an electric vehicle supply equipment, or EVSE, technician.

The free, 120-hour program, based at Detroit’s Michigan Central tech hub, prepares participants for a certification exam that is slated to roll out nationwide next month—and for jobs installing charging stations and performing diagnostics, maintenance, and repair work. It’s a partnership between SAE International, charging station maintenance provider ChargerHelp, the city of Detroit, and others.

The initiative complements other efforts to establish a skilled EV-sector workforce, all in service of a broader mission: building out a reliable, widely accessible EV charging network as millions more EVs are slated to be on the road in the years to come.

The Biden administration is pushing for some 500,000 chargers to be up and running by 2030. The US had around 130,000 public charging stations as of last spring; but thousands at a time are regularly out of service, underscoring the need for having more workers available to fix them. As such, electricians are expected to be in high demand in the EV sector, and major industry players are investing in workforce development initiatives to address the urgent need for more workers.

Long, who drives a plug-in car himself, is eager to put his newly acquired skills to work. He plans to take the certification exam “as soon as it comes out” and then look for work as a technician, hopefully at a starting wage of at least $30 per hour.

Working as a technician is “what I want to do,” he told Tech Brew. “I want to dive deep into the field, because I have a passion for automotive…I want to dive even deeper and see how far I can go.”

Keep reading here.—JG

     

READER SPOTLIGHT

Coworking with Pam Dillon

Graphic featuring a headshot of Preferabli co-founder and CEO Pam Dillon Pam Dillon

Coworking is a weekly segment where we spotlight Tech Brew readers who work with emerging technologies. Click here if you’d like a chance to be featured.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in tech?

In my role as Preferabli co-founder, I imagine a world with sensorial AI—where everyone can easily discover every sensory consumer product they would like. The point of entry for Preferabli was the adult-beverage industry because there are more than a million wines and spirits in the market, and no one knows how they all taste.

In my role as CEO, I run a company that licenses software that behaves like a human expert. We build a model of an individual’s taste preference, and then predict which wines and spirits a person will like. Our software was created by PhDs in physiology and applied mathematics, as well as the largest group of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers in the world.

What’s the most compelling tech project you’ve worked on, and why?

Preferabli is the most compelling because it works like a human expert at scale. We started building over 10 years ago, before AI was a thing. Most people in the wine and spirits industry didn’t think it could work. People didn’t think we could do it even after we did it. The reactions to our demos have been some of the most rewarding moments along the way.

Keep reading here.

     

TOGETHER WITH JOBSOHIO

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BITS AND BYTES

Stat: 47%. That’s how much Nebraska Medicine reduced first-year nurse turnover with the help of an AI-powered platform, Healthcare Brew reported, citing a case study from the Omaha-based health system.

Quote: “I don’t know if we, the industry, will be able to figure it out in a way that we need to in our lifetime…Folks who invest in our company don’t want to be talking about lifetimes.”—Josh Tetrick, the CEO of Eat Just, to journalist Joe Fassler in a New York Times opinion essay about the struggles of the cultivated-meat industry

Read: I am in cloud-storage hell (The Atlantic)

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