The electric vehicle (EV) revolution has begun, and there is no shortage of stocks to pick from as companies try to establish their credentials building the autos of the future.
Some stocks, most notably Tesla (TSLA -0.84%), have been highfliers as excitement about electric vehicles has grown. But there are a lot of risks that come with investing in an emerging technology, and inevitably not all of the dozens of EV stocks that have attracted investor attention in recent years will be good long-term investments.
Of course, there will be some winners coming out of this period. Here's why three Fool controbutors believe Ford Motor (F -2.44%), Churchill Capital IV (Lucid Motors) (CCIV), and EHang Holdings (EH -2.76%) are set to thrive over the long term.
This "dinosaur" is quickly evolving
Lou Whiteman (Ford Motor): Ford has gone from a 117-year-old dinosaur to buzzworthy in less time than it takes one of its Mustang sports cars to go from zero to 60.
The company had been seen as a laggard in the electric vehicle revolution, but Ford changed all that last month when it laid out its strategy to transform the business into a 21st-century tech powerhouse. Ford unveiled an electric version of its mainstay F-150 pickup, announced plans to begin over-the-air updates to add computing power to its vehicles and open the door to optional revenue-generating services, and said it was going all-in on new tech.
In the days since, Ford unveiled the Maverick, a new hybrid compact pickup truck that it believes will attract a new crowd to the pickup truck market. (Ford might be right. It's the first pickup I've ever wanted to own.)
Ford has rarely, if ever, in recent memory made a misstep with its F-150, and the new Lightning electric version looks like a hit both with consumers and Ford's commercial customers. All-electric fleets make a lot of sense for big commercial operations, and Ford's rolling out a suite of new fleet management software features to small and mid-sized operators to help manage maintenance and reliability.
In short Ford has not just crashed the gate to enter the electric vehicle party, it suddenly looks like one of the stars of the show. The shares have reacted accordingly, at least by traditional automaker standards, with the stock up 75% year to date.
The stock rally isn't an overreaction. Rather, I believe it is a realization by the market that it had underappreciated Ford's wherewithal and ability to survive and thrive in this new world. It's a good time to kick the tires on this auto stock.
The most promising public EV start-up is still inexpensive -- but that probably won't last
John Rosevear (Churchill Capital IV/Lucid Motors): I met Lucid Motors' CEO, Peter Rawlinson, at an auto show a few years back. At the time, Rawlinson -- who was, among other things, the chief engineer of Tesla's groundbreaking Model S -- was still building out Lucid's team and refining its prototype Air sedan. But he impressed me with his plan, which was to follow Tesla's path to the mass market without repeating what he clearly saw as some of Tesla's mistakes.
Part of that plan involved doing something that Tesla has always seemed reluctant to do: drawing on the existing auto industry's best practices for manufacturing and product development. Rawlinson's plan was to fuse those best practices with the kind of innovation needed to build the next Tesla Model S.
It sounded great at the time, and I've been impressed by how well he and his team have delivered so far. The Lucid Air, a sedan that promises to combine massive speed and range with genuine luxury, is the first product of that plan. Production of the Air will begin at Lucid's Arizona factory this fall, but there are already more Lucids in the pipeline, including a big luxury SUV and a battery-pack product similar to Tesla's Powerwalls.
The Air is a real luxury sedan with real luxury-sedan pricing, starting around $70,000 after tax credits and topping out at about $160,000. While Lucid does plan to introduce more affordable vehicles over the next few years, the scale of its ambitions is more modest than Tesla's grandiose "secret plan." I actually think that's bullish, because it means that Lucid will have to deliver in order to earn a valuation more like Tesla's.
I think the company has everything it needs to do exactly that.
Right now, Lucid's valuation is less than 2% of Tesla's. While I do think that Tesla's stock price will come back to Earth at some point, I also think that shows us that Lucid -- the most promising EV start-up to go public so far -- has quite a bit of potential upside. Once the merger with Churchill Capital IV is completed later this month, the company's stock (which will trade under the "LCID" ticker) should be primed for a nice run as the first examples of the Air begin to reach customers.
And now for something completely different
Rich Smith (EHang Holdings): I'll see your EV companies and raise you... straight up into the air. Competition in the electric car industry is fierce, with everyone from Tesla to NIO to General Motors trying to get a piece of the pie, and that fact creates the risk that while some companies may win in this industry, others are certain to lose.
In contrast, an offshoot from the idea of electric cars that's recently been gaining traction is the idea of flying electric cars, also known as air taxis. And this is an industry where there's still very little competition to worry about. The leading pioneer in this new industry is China's EHang Holdings.
It's been barely six months since we first started hearing about EHang, but already, the company is making a name for itself. In January, EHang held a demonstration in which a fleet of its EH216 autonomous aerial vehicles (i.e., pilotless, electrically powered, flying air taxis) carried 36 passengers on sightseeing trips in Guangdong, China. Sales in China have already begun, with 22 units sold last quarter. Last week, the company began laying the groundwork for taking its business international, announcing that it has begun conducting trial flights in Japan, preparatory to entering that market.
Competition to EHang, meanwhile, is just getting started, with Brazil's Embraer announcing a partnership to manufacture air taxis of its own just last week. But while Embraer's first air taxis won't be ready for delivery before 2026, EHang says it is aiming to sell 250 units this year alone. What's more, EHang announced last month that it's already working on its first upgrade -- a "VT-30" long-range (inter-city) air taxi, with a flight range of 180 miles.
Analysts think EHang could book its first full-year profit as soon as this year -- then nearly triple that profit to $0.66 per share in 2022. While EHang stock isn't cheap at a valuation of 63 times sales, it's certainly doing its best to grow into that valuation -- and if it keeps the growth up, I think it could thrive over the long term.