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Electric Vehicle Checkpoint: Tesla Secures Plan B for EV Batteries in Africa

See the latest news for the top stocks in the electric vehicle space including Ford, Lucid, Nio, Rivian and more.

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report made a deal to obtain graphite, an important component in the production of its lithium-ion batteries, from Mozambique, Africa.

The company is setting up this potential plan B for the graphite thanks to a partnership with Australia's Syrah Resources. 

Tesla and Syrah signed an offtake agreement in December with Syrah supplying Tesla's natural graphite Active Anode Material from the company's production facility in Vidalia, La. That plant will process natural graphite concentrate shipped from Syrah's Balama mine in Mozambique.

Tesla plans to buy up to 80% of the plant's 8,000 ton per year output starting in 2025, based on the agreement. The agreement can be terminated if production has not started by May 31, 2024.

Currently, about 70% of the world's graphite comes from China, along with 100% of the natural graphite used in lithium-ion batteries. 

But an expected decline in production could be a headwind for an electric vehicle industry that is looking at exponential growth over the next decade. 

Tesla Driver Charged in a Crash Involving Autopilot; Elon Musk Claps Back on Twitter

A California Tesla driver who was using the electric vehicle maker's autopilot system is facing felony charges after the car crashed into another car and killed two people, media reports say. 

The Associated Press reported that the case, filed by Los Angeles prosecutors, appears to be the first time a driver is facing felony charges for a fatal crash while using a widely available automated driving system.

The driver of the Tesla Model S, Kevin George Aziz Riad, a 27-year-old limousine-service driver, has pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Tesla tells its drivers that when they use autopilot and a more sophisticated full-self-driving function, they must keep their hands on the wheel and maintain attention and control of their cars. The misuse of autopilot, which can control steering, speed, and braking, has occurred on a number of occasions and is the subject of investigations by federal agencies.

CEO Elon Musk clapped back on Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Twitter, Inc. Report calling the software being used for some other electric vehicles "a pile of trash."

The argument began when, on Sunday, Green Hills Software CEO Dan O'Dowd wrote that he had placed a full-page ad against Tesla's Full Self-Driving (FSD) technology in The New York Times.

Multiple auto industry experts have criticized FSD's tendency to glitch — in November, Tesla recalled over 10,000 electric cars after an update caused the brake system to activate without warning. That said, respondents under O'Dowd's post claimed that he was latching onto this simply to sell his own product.

Tesla's Cybertruck May Not Actually Happen; Delay Could Provide A Boost for Ford 

Musk's promising delivery dates of Tesla's Cybertruck has always been something that even Tesla fans have to take with a grain of salt. In August of 2021, Tesla promised a 2021 delivery for Cybertruck. Now, all mentions of dates have been removed from the website. 

Tesla does, however, have an earnings call set for Jan. 26, and Musk has said to expect a "product roadmap" on that date.

Musk first announced the Cybertruck in 2019. It was expected to be produced at the company's Austin, Texas facility but it remains unclear where the company stands in the production cycle and whether a 2022 delivery will happen or, frankly, whether Cybertruck will happen at all.

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The company has a website for Cybertruck where people can reserve one of the vehicles for a refundable $100 deposit -- essentially no commitment for a vehicle that won't be cheap, according to pricing data from Kelly Blue Book.

Ford Motor Co.  (F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report shares moved higher this past week following a price target boost from Deutsche Bank and reports that production of Tesla's new Cybertruck could be delayed until next year.

Any delay, however, could provide a boost for Ford, as well as its larger rival, General Motors  (GM) - Get General Motors Company Report, both of which are banking on truck demand to power their ambitious EV targets.

Ford is set to double the production rate of its F-150 Lightning to 150,000 units this year and has said it's booked 200,000 reservations for the newly-unveiled electric pickup. GM's EV truck, the Chevrolet Silverado, is slated to hit the market in early 2023.

Here are the top electric vehicle stocks to watch this week:

More Tesla News...

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has moved to replace Cooley LLP attorneys after the law firm would not fire the lawyer that previously worked at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on an investigation of Musk. The Cooley attorney had interviewed Musk in the SEC's investigation of the Tesla CEO's 2018 claim that he had obtained funding to take Tesla private, The Wall Street Journal reported. The investigation led to a settlement between the SEC, Musk and Tesla that called for the CEO and electric vehicle company to each pay a $20 million fine and for Musk to temporarily step down as CEO.

A 19-year-old security researcher and coding enthusiast recently claimed he exposed vulnerabilities in Tesla's connected keyless entry and driving system by remotely unlocking doors and windows of several cars, tuning into the car stereo, flashing car headlights, and even starting their engines to drive. David Colombo, an information technology security specialist, who runs IT security services company Colombo Technology in Germany said he was able to hack into more than 25 Tesla vehicles in more than 13 countries.

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Tesla as a Hold with a rating score of C+.

Ford Stock Active After $8.2 Billion Q4 Gain From Rivian Investment

Ford shares were active in early Wednesday trading after the carmaker said late Tuesday that its early investment in Rivian Automotive  (RIVN) - Get Rivian Automotive, Inc. Class A Report would add around $8.2 billion to its fourth-quarter bottom line. In an investor update ahead of its formal earnings release on Feb. 3, Ford said gains from Rivian's November IPO would be booked as a special item over the three months ending in December. 

Ford invested $500 million in Rivian in 2019 and built that to $1.2 billion in the following years. The carmaker has a total stake of around 12% in the Irvine, California-based EV group. Rivian shares, once valued at more than $100 billion, closed at $73.16 last night, pegging their market cap at just under $66 billion. The stock of Ford Motor Co. has the potential for more growth even after a stellar run in 2021, argues Real Money's Stephen “Sarge” Guilfoyle, who sees longer-term appreciation in the cards as demand for electric F-150s surges. 

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Ford as a Buy with a rating score of B.

Lucid Has a Market Cap of Nearly $70 Billion, But Essentially No Sales

Lucid  (LCID) - Get Lucid Group, Inc. Report, a would-be Tesla competitor, has a market cap of nearly $70 billion and essentially no sales. That data shows that electric vehicles bring a valuation premium that's substantial. It also shows that Lucid gets an awful lot of benefit of the doubt from investors. It may not need to reach the millions of vehicles sold by traditional automakers to justify its current valuation, but it's currently trading at a much higher premium per car it has actually sold than Tesla.

Lucid has achieved its valuation without recognizing any revenue from selling vehicles. It did begin delivering vehicles in October, but the numbers were in the dozens, or maybe even the hundreds, but were still essentially zero. If everything goes well for Lucid, it expects to produce half as many vehicles as Tesla did over the past 12 months roughly eight years from now. Rawlinson laid out the company's production roadmap during the call.

TheStreet Quant Ratings does not have a rating for Lucid.

Rivian COO Left The Company

Electric vehicle maker Rivian  (RIVN) - Get Rivian Automotive, Inc. Class A Report said its chief operating officer, Rod Copes, has left the company. Separately it reported production figures in line with lowered guidance it offered last month. The Amazon-backed  (AMZN) - Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report company said in emailed comments that “Rod began a phased retirement from Rivian several months ago, affording the team continuity as we moved toward production ramp.” Copes’ “duties have been absorbed by our leadership team,” the company added.

In a recent statement, Rivian said it had produced 1,015 vehicles by the end of 2021. It said it had delivered 920. And, the company's shares briefly dipped below their November initial public offering price. That came after Amazon announced that it will buy electric delivery vans from Stellantis  (STLA) - Get Stellantis N.V. Report, bypassing Rivian, its original electric-vehicle purchase partner. Amazon has ordered 100,000 Rivian vans to be delivered by 2030, and it owns a 20% stake in the company. The agreement with Stellantis doesn't represent a slight toward Rivian, Amazon said.

TheStreet Quant Ratings does not have a rating for Rivian.

Nio Made Some Moves

Nio  (NIO) - Get NIO Inc. (China) Report has made some moves recently, including listing a number of jobs that suggest it plans to enter the U.S. market in 2022. The company also said that it will enter Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden in 2022, and reach 25 countries by 2025, at its annual Nio Day event.

Nio delivered 25,034 vehicles in the fourth quarter and 91,429 in 2021, and the electric carmaker expects to begin delivering the ET7, a premium electric sedan, in March. And two weeks ago, Nio unveiled the ET5, a midsize electric sedan, and said it would begin delivering it to customers in September. The company's deliveries rose 50% in December and 44% in the fourth quarter and they doubled for the full year. In December, Nio reported, 10,489 electric vehicles were delivered, up 50% from a year earlier.

TheStreet Quant Ratings rates Nio as a Sell with a rating score of D.

Xpeng Deliveries Doubled in December

XPeng  (XPEV) - Get Xpeng Inc Report deliveries doubled in December and tripled in Q4 and full-year 2021. The Guangzhou company delivered 16,000 EVs in December 2021, exceeding its monthly delivery benchmark of 15,000 “despite ongoing global supply chain challenges.” For the month, customers took delivery of 7,459 of the model P7 sports sedan, 5,030 of the P5 family sedan, and 3,511 of the G3 and G3i. In particular, Xpeng said deliveries of the P5 “ramped up steadily” and the order backlog for the model is “solid.” The company delivered 41,751 cars in the quarter, more than half of them (21,342) the P7. And for the year, deliveries reached 98,155.

TheStreet Quant Ratings does not have a rating for Xpeng.