Gaze Upon the Quirkiest Electric Vehicle You’ve Ever Seen - Kanebridge News
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Gaze Upon the Quirkiest Electric Vehicle You’ve Ever Seen

Mon, Feb 19, 2024 8:50amGrey Clock 3 min

Richard Rieger II, 25, a nurse living in Brandon, Miss., on his electric 1969 Subaru 360, as told to A.J. Baime.

When I was in college, I worked at a place that bought, sold and consigned classic cars. I was a shop mechanic, and a Subaru 360 passed through. I fell in love with it, and, about a year later, one popped up for sale on Facebook. I paid $1,200 for it.

The 360 was the first Subaru imported into the U.S., in 1968. A guy named Malcolm Bricklin imported them. He later started his own car company that failed. [According to Subaru’s website, the 360 sold for $1,297, got 66.3 mpg and was marketed as “cheap and ugly.”] The car did not sell very well. My 360 was not in good shape at all. The motor was disassembled and missing pieces. The cylinders were rusted. The bottom half of the car was mostly rotted out.

At the time, I had just started working as a nurse. Covid was a rough time if you were a hospital worker. I did a lot of ICU work. This car became my Covid project, to get my mind off of work. A lot of it was done when I’d get home, between midnight and 3 a.m. In the summer heat of Mississippi, it’s a good time to work in the garage. It became a “can-I-do-it” project.

I spent about two years just on rust repair. I took the transmission apart. I was able to flush it out and clean it. The brakes were a project. They don’t make parts for this car, so all the parts had to be sourced from different cars and different model years.

For power, I took the electric motor and mounting plate out of a Taylor-Dunn truck. (If you don’t know what this is, you might remember one from the scene in “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” when he is riding this little truck and gets stuck in a hallway.) I used the control box out of an E-Z-GO golf cart. So now the 360 runs on electric power.

The goal was never about making an electric car, specifically. I was just trying to get it going with whatever I had lying around and stuff that people gave me. I had to get two sprockets custom made, by a company here in Jackson, Miss., called Motion Industries.

A lot of people in the Subaru community were helpful, through the 360 Facebook page. These cars are so rare these days, and the parts are so hard to find, people are just happy to see them not end up in the crusher. Especially one as bad off as this car was when I started out.

A lot of people also helped me right in my garage. My dad was an electrical engineer for many years, and he helped with the wiring and other stuff. My grandfather, a neighbour, my uncle all helped, too.

Along the way, we took the 360 to car shows, a lot of them locally around Jackson, and one as far off as Ardmore, Tenn. The first time we took it to a show, it had no brakes and we had to roll it up to the judging station with our feet hanging out the doors to make sure we could stop it. Every show we took it to, it had reached another stage, and some people really enjoyed seeing the progress.

I think the car could be street legal, but right now it’s not. Where I live, a lot of the roads are minimum 55 mph. This car has a top speed of about 30 mph. But I have invested so much time in it, and with the help of my friends and family, it means a lot to all of us.

Nowadays, you see Subarus everywhere. But you won’t see many 360s, and you won’t see any other Subaru like this one.


What a quarter-million dollars gets you in the western capital.

Alexandre de Betak and his wife are focusing on their most personal project yet.

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Some chocolatiers and coffee makers say they will have to pass on the extra cost to consumers

Sun, Apr 14, 2024 4 min

Global prices for cocoa and coffee are surging as severe weather events hamper production in key regions, raising questions from farm to table over the long-term damage climate change could have on soft commodities.

Cultivating cocoa and coffee requires very specific temperature, water and soil conditions. Now, more frequent heat waves, heavy rainfalls and droughts are damaging harvests and crippling supplies amid ever growing demand from customers worldwide.

“Adverse weather conditions, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, have played an important role in sending several food commodities sharply higher,” said Ole Hansen , head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

The spikes in prices are a threat to coffee and chocolate makers across the globe.

Swiss consumer-goods giant Nestlé was able to pass only a fraction of the cocoa price increase to customers last year, and it may need to adjust pricing in the future due to persistently high prices, a spokesperson said.

Italian coffee maker Lavazza reported revenue of more than $3 billion for last year, but said profitability was hit by soaring coffee bean prices, particularly for green and Robusta coffee, and its decision to limit price increases.

Likewise, chocolatier Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Spruengli said in its 2023 results that weather and climate conditions played a major role in the global shortage of cocoa beans that led to historically high prices. The company had to lift the sales prices of its products and said it would need to further raise them this year and next if cocoa prices remain at current levels.

Hershey ’s chief executive, Michele Buck , said in February that historic cocoa prices are expected to limit earnings growth this year, and that the company plans to use “every tool in its toolbox,” including price hikes, to manage the impact on business.

In West Africa, where about 70% of global cocoa is produced, powerhouses Ivory Coast and Ghana are facing catastrophic harvests this season as El Niño—the pattern of above-average sea surface temperatures—led to unseasonal heavy rainfalls followed by strong heat waves.

Extreme heat has weakened cocoa trees already damaged from heavy rainfall at the end of last year, according to Morningstar DBRS’s Aarti Magan and Moritz Steinbauer. The rain also worsened road conditions, disrupting cocoa bean deliveries to export ports.

The International Cocoa Organization—a global body composed of cocoa producing and consuming member countries—said in its latest monthly report that it expects the global supply deficit to widen to 374,000 metric tons in the 2023-24 season, from 74,000 tons last season. Global cocoa supply is anticipated to decline by almost 11% to 4.449 million tons when compared with 2022-23.

“Significant declines in production are expected from the top producing countries as they are envisaged to feel the detrimental effect of unfavourable weather conditions and diseases,” the organisation said.

While the effects of climate change are severe, other serious structural issues are also hitting West African cocoa production in the short- to medium-term. Illegal mining poses a significant threat to cocoa farms in Ghana, destroying arable land and poisoning water supplies, and the problem is becoming increasingly relevant in the Ivory Coast, according to BMI.

The issues are being magnified by deforestation carried out to increase cocoa production. Since 1950, Ivory Coast has lost around 90% of its forests, while Ghana has lost around 65% over the same period. This has driven farmers to areas less suited to cocoa cultivation like grasslands, increasing the amount of labor required and bringing further downside risks to the harvest, the research firm said.

The Ivory Coast’s cocoa mid-crop harvest—which officially starts in April and runs until September—is expected to fall to 400,000-500,000 tons from 600,000-620,000 tons last year, with weather expected to play a crucial role in shaping the market balance for the season, ING analysts said, citing estimates from the country’s cocoa regulator. Ghana’s cocoa board also forecasts a slump in the harvest for this season to as low as 422,500 tons, the poorest in more than 20 years, according to BMI.

Neither regulator responded to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, extreme droughts in Southeast Asia—particularly in Vietnam and Indonesia—are resulting in lower coffee bean harvests, hurting producers’ output and global exports. Coffee inventories have recovered somewhat in recent weeks but remain low in recent historical terms. Robusta coffee has seen a severe deterioration in export expectations, while Arabica coffee is expected to return to a relatively narrow surplus this year, said Charles Hart, senior commodities analyst at BMI.

The global coffee benchmark prices, London Robusta futures, are up by 15% on-month to $3,825 a ton. Arabica coffee prices have also surged 17% over the last month to $2.16 a pound in lockstep with Robusta—its highest level since October 2022. Cocoa prices have more than tripled on-year over these supply crunch fears, and risen 49% in the last month alone to $10,050 a ton.

“Cocoa trees are particularly sensitive to weather and require very specific conditions to grow, this means that cocoa prices are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as drought and periods of intense heat, as well as the longer-term impact of climate change,” said Lucrezia Cogliati, associate commodities analyst at BMI.

Cogliati said global cocoa consumption is expected to outpace production for the third consecutive season, with intense seasonal West African winds and plant diseases contributing to significant declines.

Consumers hoping for a return to cheaper prices for life’s little luxuries in the midterm may also be in for a bitter surprise.

“There is no sugarcoating it—consumers will ultimately be faced with higher chocolate prices, products that contain less chocolate, and/or shrinking product sizes,” Morningstar’s Magan and Steinbauer said in a report.

“We anticipate consumers could respond by searching widely for promotional discounts, trading down to value-based chocolate and confectionary products from premium products, switching to private-label from branded products and/or reducing volumes altogether.”

The record-breaking rally for cocoa and coffee is likely more than just a flash in the pan, according to Citi analysts, as adverse weather conditions and strong demand trends are likely to support prices in the months ahead. The U.S. bank estimates Arabica coffee futures in a range of $1.88-$2.15 a pound for the current year, but said projections could be lifted if the outlook for 2024-25 tightens further.

At the heart of it all, climate change is set to play a major role, as the impact of extreme weather events could exacerbate the pressure on cocoa and coffee supplies, according to market watchers.

“I don’t expect prices to remain at these levels, but if we continue to see more unusual weather as a result of global warming then we certainly could see more volatility in terms of cocoa yields going forward, which could impact pricing,” said Paul Joules, commodities analyst at Rabobank.