You know something's up when the film director Terrence Malick makes a commercial for Ford and he gets the actor Don Cheadle to voice it. But what, exactly?
Malick specialises in fever dreams. Think the fear-filled Sean Penn war movie The Thin Red Line; or The New World, a colonial romance nightmare about Pocahontas and John Smith. He did romance nightmare in Badlands, too; and he pitched a domestic drama into a mystical universe in The Tree of Life. And now he's saddled up for Ford.
Malick's ad isn't for a car. Nothing so obvious. It's for a new factory that Ford is going to build in a field of long grass, to make electric utes. Trucks, as Cheadle says.
More romance nightmare, or mystical utopia? There's a lot packed into Malick's latest fever dream and it's surely no accident it coincides with the COP26 climate conference starting this weekend in Glasgow.
In Europe, Ford will be selling only EVs and hybrids by 2026. Its Mustang Mach-E is billed as "the new shape of freedom". Freedom is the buzzword de jour among people sick of lockdowns and you can only marvel at Ford's ability to straddle the political divide, from climate activists to conspiracy theorists. With a Mustang.
General Motors, meanwhile, is converting its entire fleet – there's even an EV Hummer. And the American EV startup Rivian will launch on the sharemarket soon with a value analysts are picking could be as high as US$80 billion. In China, there are many more EV startups.
Britain has announced a ban on sales of new cars with internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2030. It's the most ambitious vehicle target in the world but many other countries will follow. The US wants to get at least halfway there by 2030.
To cope with EV market growth and conversion to renewable energy in other sectors, both Britain and the US have plans for a staggeringly large rollout of offshore wind farms.
While a surprising number of SUV and ute owners in this country say it's unfair to make them give up their gas guzzlers, a brand-new worldwide car market is exploding into life.
This is a response to the climate crisis that often gets overlooked. Corporates taking the lead.
Perhaps the legacy car companies are doing it because they want to help save the world. Perhaps they've spotted a good new way to make money. Perhaps they've worked out that if they don't move fast, the next car we all buy will have a marque no one has even heard of yet.
But who cares why they're doing it? They're doing it.
And because they are, it's possible for Britain to push the process along with legislation. Other countries will follow. Who knows, maybe even this one.
But there are several downsides to the EV revolution. Production of the batteries is not eco-friendly, despite some recent breakthroughs. In life-cycle terms, EVs are cleaner than ICE vehicles, no question. But they're not bicycles.
And if we get too many EVs too quickly, demand to keep burning coal to make electricity will remain high. New Zealand already struggles with that problem.
Also, if we simply swap out all the ICE vehicles for EVs, traffic congestion will keep getting worse. What's the fundamental reason Ford, GM and co are reinventing their trucks and everything else? They want us to keep driving as much as possible.
They're getting ahead of the curve, before too many cities decide they might be better off without so many vehicles clogging up the roads. Before too many people decide, for reasons of climate, congestion, health or having safer streets, that they don't need to get the car out for every little trip.
Paris leads the way, with a new plan to become a "100 per cent cycling city" by 2025. Cars won't be banned, but bike lanes and cycleways will be expanded to create dedicated cycling routes throughout the entire metropolitan area, with many traffic lights giving priority to cycling and walking.
The city already has many one-way alleys where bikes are allowed to go the wrong way: it encourages slower traffic and more respect from drivers. Parts of Paris have car-free days and some roads have been permanently closed to cars.
And since October 3, once a month on a Sunday, even the Champs Elysees is for walking and cycling only.
As part of the new plan, electric cargo bikes are fast replacing courier vans and all schoolchildren will be taught how to ride.
With the Olympics in Paris in 2024, the world will be exposed to all this. Imagine if it caught on.
The EV issue goes to the heart of our climate response and we'll hear a lot about it from Glasgow. Will we continue with the world as it is, but with electric motors, or do we want something different?
This might have been the moment we supersized our public transport networks and made them cheap or even free. The moment that governments and councils showed much greater support for small vehicles: e-mopeds and motor scooters, e-scooters, cargo bikes and e-bikes.
Governments might also have chosen to help the vehicle industry through the transition, not with electric SUVs, but with mini- and micro-cars.
All these options are relatively cheap, easy to power up and designed to make the streets safer, manage congestion, make parking easier: the whole deal. Vehicles perfectly suited to city streets.
Instead, and not by accident, the EV competition is being fought out in the SUV and ute market. Car companies know how much we like big cars.