Posts with «environment» label

The EPA reveals final auto industry regulations to try to keep the world habitable

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled its final pollution emissions standards for the auto industry on Wednesday. The regulations, which include a looser timeframe than those proposed last year, mandate that by 2032, most new passenger car and light truck sales in the US must be electric or hybrid.

Earth is on a disastrous trajectory with climate change, and no amount of baseless conspiracy theories or talking points from the oil and gas industry, Donald Trump or anyone else will change that. Only phasing out fossil fuels and emissions will beat back its worst effects. The Biden Administration’s EPA is trying to do that — while throwing a bone to stakeholders like unions and automakers to navigate the landmines of today’s political realities.

The final rules present a timeline to wind down gas-powered vehicle purchases, making most US auto sales fully electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or advanced gasoline by 2032. The transition begins in 2027 but moderates the pace until after 2030. That’s a key change from last April’s proposed standards, which called for EVs to make up two-thirds of vehicle sales by 2032.

The shift was an election-year compromise for Biden, who has to balance the crucial battle against climate change with 2024 auto union endorsements. Labor unions had pushed for the more relaxed pace out of fears that a more aggressive transition, like the EPA proposed last year, would lead to job losses. EVs typically require fewer assembly workers than traditional gas-powered vehicles.

Last year, United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain withheld support for Biden’s reelection due to concerns about the EV transition. But (perhaps after hearing assurances about the revised rules) the UAW endorsed his reelection bid in January.

“The EPA has made significant progress on its final greenhouse gas emissions rule for light-duty vehicles,” the UAW wrote in a statement about the new rules published by the EPA. “By taking seriously the concerns of workers and communities, the EPA has come a long way to create a more feasible emissions rule that protects workers building ICE vehicles, while providing a path forward for automakers to implement the full range of automotive technologies to reduce emissions.”

Contrary to what online misinformation or your uncle may tell you, the rules — aimed at the auto industry and not consumers — don't make gas-powered cars and trucks illegal. Instead, they require automakers to meet specific emissions standards throughout their product lines. The rules apply to new vehicle sales, not used ones.

The EPA says the final rule will lead to $99 billion in benefits and save the average American driver $6,000 in fuel and maintenance over the life of their vehicles. Other advantages include avoiding 7.2 billion additional tons of CO2 emissions through 2055 and offering “nearly $100 billion of annual net benefits to society.” The reduction in fine particulate matter and ozone will allegedly prevent up to 2,500 premature deaths in 2055 while reducing associated health problems like heart attacks, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

“Three years ago, I set an ambitious target: that half of all new cars and trucks sold in 2030 would be zero-emission,” President Biden wrote in a statement supplied by The White House to Engadget. “I brought together American automakers. I brought together American autoworkers. Together, we’ve made historic progress. Hundreds of new expanded factories across the country. Hundreds of billions in private investment and thousands of good-paying union jobs. And we’ll meet my goal for 2030 and race forward in the years ahead. Today, we’re setting new pollution standards for cars and trucks. U.S. workers will lead the world on autos making clean cars and trucks, each stamped ‘Made in America.’”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Rivian owners can use Tesla Superchargers now, once they get their free adapter

Rivian owners can now use Tesla Supercharger stations to juice up their electric trucks and SUVs, after a software update issued during the weekend. The company first announced the integration last year, along with plans to include Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) ports in forthcoming vehicles. These ports won’t start showing up until 2025, so Rivian has also started a program to send Tesla-made NACS adapters to current customers.

The adapters will be free of charge, which calls to mind the move Ford made last month as it continues to transition to the NACS charging standard. Rivian will send out one free adapter per customer, based on the vehicle’s VIN number. The company hasn’t announced whether this is a limited time offering or how much additional adapters will cost. As a comparison, Ford will begin charging $230 for these adapters in July.

Rivian owners can select Tesla Superchargers as a charging option via the vehicle’s infotainment system or the manufacturer’s smartphone app. Everything is handled by Rivian, so there’s no need to download or use the Tesla app to pay for charging. Rivian’s chief software officer, Wassym Bensaid, told The Verge that this will give customers access to over 15,000 more DC fast chargers across the country.

The move to incorporate NACS charging into its vehicles will not impact Rivian’s proprietary network. The company still plans on installing thousands of DC fast chargers at hundreds of locations throughout the next few years, as part of its growing Adventure Network.

Tesla’s charging standard is widely considered to be the best available option for EV owners, as these chargers are known to be more reliable than CCS and CHAdeMO chargers. Tesla’s standard is also more readily available, with more than 55,000 Supercharger stations worldwide.

It wasn’t so long ago that Tesla’s Supercharger network was exclusive to the company’s vehicles. Those days are gone. Just about every major automobile manufacturer has announced plans to join the NACS party, including Subaru, Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota and Lexus, among many others.

As for Rivian, the company says customers can access most V3 Tesla Superchargers using the adapter, but only some V2 chargers. The just-announced Rivian R2, R3 and R3X vehicles will all come with factory-installed NACS ports.

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The Tesla Model S shook the industry, but its echo is fading

The consumer electronics industry has changed radically over the past two decades. AR/VR devices have come and gone and come again, smartphones have grown from filling our pockets to dominating our lives, and the tendrils of connected services now touch everything we touch.

Yet, for me, the most exciting to watch has been the development of technology that moves us. I mean that literally: cars and scooters and e-bikes and all the other wild and wonderful modes of transportation that have grown wings or wheels over the past few decades.

A love for all that stuff has always been at my core. Many moons ago, before my time as editor-in-chief of this site, I served as automotive editor. In the late 2000s, that mainly meant pondering what was happening in the world of Ford Sync or writing about flying car concepts that, today, are still very decidedly grounded.

An excellent perk was getting to drive many early EVs, though it didn’t always end well. In 2012, I made an aborted attempt to get from Portland to Seattle for an emissions-free Engadget Show episode. The poor Mitsubishi i-MiEV we’d borrowed wasn’t up to the task.

But then along came the Tesla Model S. At the time, I knew it would be significant. Everyone in the industry knew it would be significant, but it’s only in looking back more than a decade later that we can truly appreciate just how significant it was. In the rear view mirror, we can also see what a shame it is Tesla has barely moved the needle since.

A preview in Fremont

In the (long) lead-up to that car’s eventual late-2012 release, Tesla invited me out to a supposed grand reopening of its Fremont factory. The place was unbelievably massive and virtually empty. Tesla officials were proud to show off the numerous giant presses that would stamp out Model S components.

Other Tesla employees were dutifully feeding into those presses metal sheets, which came out the other end as flat as they went in. The presses were there and they were a-pressing, but the dies that formed the parts were absent. This event, like the many Tesla events to come, was somewhat lacking in substance.

Still, the time I spent chatting with Peter Rawlinson had a huge impact on me. Formerly of Lotus and Jaguar, Rawlinson was the chief engineer at Tesla at the time. He and I talked for ages about the advantages of low-slung battery packs and the torque behavior of electric motors. It’s all standard stuff these days, but back then, it was a fantastic opportunity for me to learn. (You can enjoy some of his insight in a series of videos here.)

Early Tesla EVs had two-speed transmissions. I asked Rawlinson whether there was a third gear for handling reverse.

“No,” he said. “We just spin the motor backward.”

That seems like such a simple concept now, but that moment caused a small-yield explosion between my ears. I spent the remainder of the day pondering the myriad other unforeseen implications of this switch to electrification. Nothing else happening in the industry was nearly as exciting as this.

My review

I got a quick go in a Model S at that Fremont event, a lap or two around Tesla’s test track, but I’d have to wait until early 2013 before I could take one for my first proper review of the Model S. It was a Performance edition, with an 85kWh battery pack and a $101,600 sticker price.

I picked it up in New York City and drove it home to Albany, NY. Along the way, I got a preview of what would become another unfortunate Tesla theme: an uncomfortable relationship with the media.

Before I’d made it far, I got a warning light on the dash. I called Tesla PR to ask what to do.

“Oh, don’t worry, we’re watching you,” they said. “It’s fine.”

I didn’t feel fine. I’ve been reviewing devices for decades, and I always assume some degree of logging is involved, but this seemed a little more ominous.

(Over the years, it only got more so. In a later review of a Model 3, I complained the auto high-beams were terrible on country roads. Tesla PR asked me when this occurred so their engineers could pull up the footage from my drive.)

Warning light extinguished, Big Brother now visible in the back seat, I got back to enjoying the car. After having reviewed the Tesla Roadster two years before, a beautiful mess of a slapped-together machine, the Model S was something entirely different. It was calm, it was composed and it wasn’t nearly so drafty. I made the 165-mile drive home with 23 percent to spare, this in January on a 24-degree day.

That is pretty poor by today’s standards, but remember, the most common EV of the day was the Nissan Leaf. In 2013, the Leaf’s range was EPA rated at 75 miles. The Model S was on another level.

But it wasn’t perfect. I was not a fan of many of the interior materials and design choices in 2013, and I would have been so disappointed to know things really haven’t improved since.

I also found the handling underwhelming, but my biggest complaint was the lack of advanced driver assistance systems. That Model S didn’t even have adaptive cruise. Autopilot was still years away, and the ongoing debacle of Full Self Driving much further afield.

And yet I still gave it a glowing review, and it deserved it. I was suitably impressed, as were plenty of others. I recently spoke with several buyers of these early sedans, and most were totally enamored with their cars, despite many teething issues. (So many broken door handles...)

However, it probably goes without saying that many of the folks I spoke with are less enamored of Tesla’s CEO than they were back then. Between that, the racially abusive work environments, and the constant anti-worker behavior, cheering for Tesla is a lot more complicated than it used to be. That is a true shame.

The evolving landscape

The seismic forces generated when the Model S dropped still echo through the industry. You can feel them in virtually every premium EV on the market today.

And yet it’s in those other EVs that the bulk of EV innovation is happening. If you look at what Peter Rawlinson did with the Lucid Air, a sedan that goes over 500 miles on a charge, it’s easy to imagine what could have been had he not parted ways with Tesla. The on-road performance of the Porsche Taycan, the off-road prowess of the Rivian R1T and the minimalist cool of the Volvo EX30 are raising the bar.

Tesla has been more successful than any other manufacturer at getting more EVs into more driveways and at getting more chargers into more places. Tesla made EVs viable and desirable. You have to respect it for that. Lately, though, the company’s greatest achievements have all focused on cutting costs and minimizing complexity, often at the expense of quality and, indeed, safety.

Look at today’s Model S and you still see the car that was released in 2012. It’s quicker and has more range, sure, but it is the same platform and basic design I reviewed over a decade ago. Pondering the time wasted on vanity projects, like the Model X, and vaporware, like the new Roadster, it’s hard to not feel the ache of missed potential.

To celebrate Engadget's 20th anniversary, we're taking a look back at the products and services that have changed the industry since March 2, 2004.

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Biden administration may give automakers more time to shift to EVs

The Biden administration plans to loosen the limits on tailpipe emissions proposed last year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), giving automakers more time before they’ll be required to sell significantly more electric vehicles than gas-powered cars, The New York Times reported this weekend. Under the proposed regulations laid out by the EPA, EVs would have to account for 67 percent of new car and light-duty truck sales by 2032.

Rather than forcing manufacturers to start ramping up EV sales right away, the changes would allow them to make the shift more gradually through the remainder of the 2020s, sources told the NYT. After 2030, though, EV sales would need to drastically increase. Automakers have argued that the current cost of electric vehicles and the lack of charging infrastructure stand in the way of hitting such extreme targets as those proposed by the EPA. Last year, just 7.6 percent of new cars sold in the US were EVs, per NYT.

The revision is likely a move in part to appease labor unions, which represent a demographic seen as a key area of support for Biden and have expressed a need for more time to unionize new EV plants among other concerns, according to NYT. The rules are not yet finalized, but are expected to be published in the spring.

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The ice caps are melting. Is geoengineering the solution?

Since 1979, Arctic ice has shrunk by 1.35 million square miles, a new JPL study found ice loss in Greenland is far worse than previously thought and Antarctic ice is now at the lowest level since records began. The more they melt, the faster the rate of decline for the ice that remains until we’re faced with a series of catastrophes. The most immediate of which is sea level rise which threatens to eradicate whole nations that are situated on low-lying islands. How do we stop such a problem? While we remedy the longer-term issues around fossil fuel consumption, we might have to buy ourselves more time with geoengineering.

The severity of this situation can’t be stressed enough. Professor John Moore of the Arctic Center, University of Lapland, says that we’re long past the point where emissions reductions alone will be effective. “We are faced with this situation where there’s no pathway to 1.5 [degrees] available through mitigation,” he said. “Things like the ice sheets [melting] and other tipping points will happen regardless,” adding that the Earth’s present situation is akin to a patient bleeding out on the operating table, “we are in this situation where we cannot mitigate ourselves out of the shit.”

Moore is one of the figures behind Frozen Arctic, a report produced by the universities of the Arctic and Lapland alongside UN-backed thinktank GRID-Arendal. It’s a rundown of sixty geoengineering projects that could slow down or reverse polar melting. A team of researchers opted to examine every idea, from those already in place to the ones at the fringes of science. “We wanted to be thorough,” said Moore, “because even the craziest idea might have a nugget of gold in there.” Each approach has been given a brief analysis, examining if it’s feasible on a scientific or practical basis, if it would be potentially helpful and how much it would cost. The report even went so far as to look at pykrete, a wacky World War Two initiative to create artificial glaciers for strategic use by mixing sawdust or paper products into ice.

If you’re curious and don’t have a day or two to read the report yourself, you can boil down the approaches to a handful of categories. The first is Solar Radiation Management, i.e. making the polar regions more reflective to bounce away more of the sun’s heat. Second, there’s artificial ice generation to compensate for what has already been lost. Third, enormous engineering work to buttress, isolate and protect the remaining ice — like massive undersea walls that act as a barrier against the seas as they get warmer. Finally, there are measures that nibble at the edges of the problem in terms of effect, but have more viable long-term success, like preventing flora and fauna (and the warmth they radiate) from encroaching on regions meant to remain frozen.

If you’re a climate scientist, the likely most obvious approach is the first, because we’ve seen the positive effects of it before. Albedo is the climate science term to describe how white ice acts as an enormous reflector, bouncing away a lot of the sun’s heat. Ice ages dramatically increase albedo, but there are more recent examples in living memory: In 1991 Mount Pinatubo, a volcano in the Philippines, erupted, spewing an enormous amount of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. (The event also caused a large amount of damage, displaced 200,000 people and claimed the lives of at least 722.) According to NOAA, the ash dumped into the atmosphere helped reflect a lot of solar heat away from the Earth, causing a temporary global cooling effect of roughly 1.5 degrees celsius. The devastation of Pinatubo isn’t desirable, nor was the ozone depletion that it caused, but that cooling effect could be vital to slowing global warming and polar melting.

It’s possible to do this artificially by seeding the clouds with chemicals deposited by an airplane or with ground-based smoke generators, which can also be used to promote rain clouds. This is a tactic already used in China to help make rain for agriculture and to alleviate drought-like conditions. In this context, the clouds would act as a barrier between the sun and the ice caps, bouncing more of that solar radiation away from the Earth’s surface. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with this approach, which is that it’s incredibly expensive and incredibly fussy. The report says it’s only viable when the right clouds are overhead, and the work would require enormous infrastructure to be built nearby. Not to mention that while we have some small shreds of evidence to suggest it might be useful, there’s nothing proven as yet.

And then there are the second order effects when these approaches then spill over into the rest of the global ecosystem. “If you do sunlight reflection methods and you put anything up in the atmosphere, it doesn’t stay where you put it.” That’s the big issue identified by Dr. Phil Williamson, honorary associate professor at the University of East Anglia and a former contributor to the UN’s keystone Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. His concern is that regional, targeted climate solutions “don’t solve the problem for the whole world,” and that if you’re not tackling climate change on a global scale, then you’re “just accentuating the difference.” With a cold arctic, but rising temperatures elsewhere, you’re climbing aboard a “climate rollercoaster.”

Second in the ranking of hail-mary climate approaches is to build a freezer to both cool down the existing ice and make more. Sadly, many ideas in this area forget that ice sheets are not just big blocks of immovable ice and are, in fact, liable to move. Take the idea of drilling down two miles or so into the ice sheet and pumping out the warm water to cool it down: Thanks to the constantly shifting ice and water, a new site would need to be drilled fairly regularly.

There’s another problem: The report says one project to bore a hole down 2.5km (1.5 miles) burned 450,000 liters of fuel. Not to mention how much energy it would consume to run the heat exchangers or freezers to create fresh ice on such a scale. That's a considerable amount of greenhouse gas pollution for a project meant to undo that exact type of damage. Dumping a layer of artificially-made snow on a mountain may work fine for a ski resort when the powder’s a little thin, but not the whole planet.

As hard as the scientific and engineering battles will be, there’s also the political one that will need addressing. “A lot of people get quasi-religiously upset about putting stuff into the stratosphere,” said Professor John Moore, “you’d think they’d get similarly upset about greenhouse gasses.” One strategy under consideration is to inject sulfur into the atmosphere to replicate the cooling effects observed after major volcanic eruptions. The sulfur would form SO2, creating thick layers of dense cloud to block more heat from reaching the ice. But if you, like me, have a high school-level knowledge of science, that’s a scary prospect given that sulfur dioxide would resolve to sulfuric acid. Given the microscopic quantities involved, there would be little-to-no impact on the natural world. But the image of acid rain pouring down from the clouds means it’d be a hard sell to an uninformed population.

But if there is a reason for concern, it’s that any unintended consequences could pose a problem in the global political space. “It’s almost like declaring war on the rest of the world if [a nation] goes it alone,” says Phil Williamson, “because any damage or alteration to the global climate system, the country that did it is responsible for all future climatic disasters because the weather isn’t the same.”

Of course, Moore knows that the Frozen Arctic report’s conclusions aren’t too optimistic about a quick fix. He feels its conclusions should serve as a wake-up call for the planet. “Nobody is going to scale up something for the entire arctic ocean overnight,” he said, but that this is the time to “find ideas that might be valuable [...] and then put resources into finding out if [those ideas] really are useful.” He added that the short turnaround time before a total climate disaster isn’t much of an issue, saying “engineers can pretty much do anything you ask them to if you put enough resources into it.” Because the alternative is to do nothing, and “every day that we choose to do nothing, we accept more of the damages that are coming.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google will use AI and satellite imagery to monitor methane leaks

While carbon dioxide gets the lion's share of attention when it comes to global warming, there are other factors at play. Methane is responsible for about 30 percent of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, according to the International Energy Agency. About 40 percent of methane emissions from human activity stem from the energy sector. Identifying and mitigating these emissions is said to be one of the most critical actions we can take in the short term to combat climate change.

To that end, Google and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have once again teamed up to tackle the issue. The pair previously mapped methane leaks in major cities using sensors on Street View cars. This time they're using a blend of satellite imagery and AI.

The EDF and its partners have developed a satellite that's set to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in early March. While there have been other satellite-based monitoring efforts, MethaneSAT is slated to provide the most comprehensive picture yet of methane emissions across the planet.

The satellite will orbit the Earth 15 times a day at an altitude of over 350 miles, and focus on measuring methane levels in the top oil- and gas-producing regions. It will be capable of imaging large emissions from a single source as well as smaller sources of methane spread across wider areas.

EDF and its partners developed Google Cloud-powered algorithms to calculate emissions in certain places and to track them over time. Artificial intelligence will also be employed to pinpoint oil and gas infrastructure such as storage containers and pump jacks, much like Google uses AI to detect sidewalks, street signs and road names in satellite images for Maps.

Combining the methane map with one showing oil and gas infrastructure is expected to provide a clearer picture of where emissions are stemming from. That should give energy companies actionable information to help them stop leaks.

Insights from the project will be publicly available on the satellite's website and Google Earth Engine later this year. "By making MethaneSAT datasets available on Earth Engine, which has over 100,000 monthly active users, it’s easier for users to detect trends and understand correlations between human activities and environmental impact," Yael Maguire, Google's vice president and general manager of Geo Developer and Sustainability, wrote in a blog post. Earth Engine users will be able to match the methane data against other maps, such as those showing forests, regional borders and water. They'll also be able to view methane emissions over time.

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The Biden administration now requires large cryptocurrency miners to report their energy use

The Biden administration recently announced that it would be requiring large cryptocurrency mining operations to report electricity usage, via a press release from The Energy Information Administration. This follows concerns that the industry could pose a threat to the nation’s electricity grids and hasten the impacts of climate change.

To that end, the EIA has targeted 137 “identified commercial cryptocurrency miners” working in the US. These operations account for around 2.3 percent of national energy usage. This breaks down to 90 terawatt-hours per year, which is more than Finland, Belgium and Chile use in that same time period. The world’s crypto miners used as much electricity in 2023 as the entire country of Australia. That's a whole lot of energy for Shiba Inu-branded internet money with no practical application.

The data collection started this week. The survey aims to get a sense of the industry’s growing demands and which parts of the country are the biggest crypto hotbeds, so as to refine policy later on. The EIA has already discovered that nearly 38 percent of all bitcoin is mined in the US, which is up from 3.4 percent in 2020.

“As cryptocurrency mining has increased in the United States, concerns have grown about the energy-intensive nature of the business and its effects on the US electric power industry,” the EIA said in a report that offered further details behind the survey.

The EIA went on to note that large crypto mining operations could strain the electricity grid during peak periods, force higher energy prices for average consumers and negatively impact energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Most of the electricity generated throughout the world comes from burning fossil fuels, and that process releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The clean energy advocacy group RMI estimates that US cryptocurrency mines release 25 to 50 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. That’s around the same amount as the yearly diesel emissions from the US railroad industry. 

The biggest mining operations in the country are scattered throughout 21 states, but largely clustered in Texas, Georgia and New York. This is especially dangerous for Texans, as the state’s energy grid is already notoriously fragile. Ben Hertz-Shargel, who leads energy research consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie, told Ars Technica that crypto mining operations are not only placing a higher burden on the state’s energy grid, but increasing prices for consumers. 

Energy costs in Texas are based on real-time demand, so Hertz-Shargel estimates that state residents see an increase of 4.7 percent in their monthly utility bills due to cryptocurrency mining. He also said that mining operations tend to open up shop next to pre-existing renewable energy facilities, which draws clean power away from nearby homes and businesses.

It’s not all doom and gloom in the crypto world. Back in 2022, Ethereum announced a software update to make mining ether more eco-friendly. The Ethereum Foundation claims this reduces the carbon emissions of its mining operations by more than 99 percent. However, ether accounts for just 17 percent of the global cryptocurrency market share.

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Tesla settles California hazardous waste lawsuit for $1.5 million

Tesla and the 25 California counties that sued the automaker for mishandling hazardous waste at its facilities around the state have already reached an agreement just a few days after the lawsuit was filed. The court has ordered the automaker to pay $1.5 million as part of the settlement, which also includes hiring a third party to conduct annual waste audits of its trash containers for five years. These auditors will be taking a close look at the company's trash containers to check for hazardous materials. 

The counties that sued Tesla, which include Los Angeles and San Francisco, accused the company of dumping improperly labeled materials at transfer centers and landfills that were "not permitted to accept hazardous waste." Based on the complaint filed in San Joaquin County, Tesla was illegally disposing the waste it generated manufacturing and servicing its vehicles. 

Undercover investigators from the environmental division at the San Francisco District Attorney's Office were the first to find evidence of Tesla's illegal activities back in 2018. They found trash containers at the company's service centers containing materials, such as aerosols, antifreeze, lubricating oils, brake cleaners, lead acid batteries, aerosols, antifreeze, waste solvents, electronic waste and waste paint when they weren't supposed to. Investigators from other California counties' District Attorney's offices conducted their own investigations and found similar unlawful disposals. The Alameda country authorities who looked into its Fremont factory activities, for instance, discovered illegal disposal of waste containing copper and primer-contaminated debris. 

Tesla reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over its handling of hazardous materials back in 2019 and had to agree to properly manage waste at its Fremont plant in addition to paying a $31,000 fine. The automaker had also taken steps to screen its trash containers for hazardous waste before taking them to the landfill after being notified of the issue. But as District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said, "today's settlement against [the company] serves to provide a cleaner environment for citizens throughout the state by preventing the contamination of [their] precious natural resources when hazardous waste is mismanaged and unlawfully disposed." By having a third party regularly check whether Tesla continues to comply with the agreement, authorities can ensure that the company isn't illegally dumping harmful materials across the state over the next few years. 

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Tesla sued by 25 California counties for allegedly mishandling hazardous waste

Tesla is facing a lawsuit from 25 California counties accusing it of mishandling hazardous waste at facilities around the state, according to a complaint filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court. The lawsuit, which seeks civil penalties and an injunction forcing Tesla to correctly handle waste, was filed after months of negotiations reportedly broke down. Civil penalties could amount to as much as $70,000 per violation per day, Reuters reported.

Los Angeles, San Francisco and other counties accused Tesla of improperly labeling and disposing of materials at transfer stations or landfills "not permitted to accept hazardous waste." Waste materials include "lubricating oils, brake fluids, lead acid batteries, aerosols, antifreeze, cleaning fluids, propane, paint, acetone, liquified petroleum gas, adhesives and diesel fuel," the complaint states. It adds that Tesla "continues to do so at and/or from its facilities."

Tesla revealed that it was being probed by California district attorneys over its waste management handling in a 2022 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing. It stated at the time that it "had implemented various remedial measures, including conducting training and audits and enhancements to its site waste management programs," according to TechCrunch. It said in October 2023 that it was in settlement talks with District Attorneys across California, but those apparently failed to bear fruit.

Tesla has previously faced legal repercussions over its handling of waste. In 2019, it reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over federal hazardous materials violations. As part of that, Tesla agreed to properly manage waste at its Fremont plant and pay a $31,000 fine. 

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Squad Mobility’s tiny solar-powered EV is a dream for crowded cities

EVs, like me after the holidays, have a tendency to bloat at the slightest provocation, which is why I can’t fit into those size 34 jeans. The big issue for electric cars is heavy batteries force cars to grow in size to accommodate them. Of course, the heavier the load, the more power is needed to keep going, forcing you into a vicious cycle. Even a small city car like the original Smart has, in its latest electric version, grown into a grotesque parody of its predecessor. Which is why there’s a lot of hope riding on truly small EVs, like Squad Mobility’s solar-powered car that’s designed not to grow too big to fit inside a city.

The company was founded by Chris Klok and Robert Hoevers, who met while working on the Lightyear solar car. Klok was chief vehicle engineer of that project, while Hoevers was previously involved with NIO’s Formula E team. But they left Lightyear to help develop a small, solar-powered car that would offer affordable and clean mobility for dense cities. And while it’s just got a few prototypes to show off, like the one here at CES 2024, it’s expecting to begin production in 2025. Even better, many of its existing pre-order customers are based in the US, given the need for a car like this in those communities that exclusively rely on golf carts to get around.

The Solar City car has a 250Wp panel in its roof, which is designed to generate enough power for a few short trips each day. The company says that, in Las Vegas, you could expect to travel for around 13 miles purely from the energy collected from the panel. (You can plug it in to an outlet if you really need to.) With a kerb weight of 794 pounds, it’s light and efficient enough to get you around short distances without much stress. Of course, the speed is limited — and you’ll only get around 25mph out of the 4kW motor, but if you live in a big city and just need to get to work, or pick up some groceries, that’s probably all you need.

You might expect the car to be poky, but the high roofline and low floor means it’s surprisingly comfortable. The prototype here has some quirks — like acceleration and brake pedals that are a bit too close to the seat — which will be eliminated in the production version. There’s even a rear load space big enough for a suitcase or a couple of decently-sized bags, and the prominent tyres mean you could even tackle rough terrain in short doses. The fact it measures just 6.6 feet long means you can park it sideways and it’ll take up the same amount of room as most cars, too.

We’re still a year out before we’ll see the production model of this car, but there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful. The company expects the retail price to be $6,250 excluding sales tax, making it ideal as a city runaround or second (or third) car. That said, the figure does exclude the cost of the doors which, like AC, count as an optional extra.

We're reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.

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