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Electric Vehicles

Can Nostalgia Help Sell EVs?

On Volkswagen’s Scout revival, an IRA status report, and carbon removal rules

Can Nostalgia Help Sell EVs?
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Canada’s Alberta province has declared an early start to wildfire season • The air quality is “unhealthy” today in Milan, recently named the world’s third most polluted city • It will be 50 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny in National Harbor, Md., for the kickoff of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

THE TOP FIVE

1. New report finds the IRA is starting to work, but not exactly as expected

A year and a half ago, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will spend an estimated $500 billion in grants and tax credits to incentivize people and businesses to switch from burning fossil fuels to using cleaner, zero-carbon technologies. Is it working? In the third episode of Heatmap’s podcast “Shift Key,” hosts Robinson Meyer and Jesse Jenkins dive into a new report from a coalition of major energy analysts — including MIT, the Rhodium Group, and Jenkins’ lab at Princeton — that looks at data from the power and transportation sectors and concludes that yes, the law is starting to decarbonize the American economy. But it isn’t working in the way many people might expect. While the transportation sector came in at the upper end of what modelers projected for this year, the power sector is lagging behind largely because of a drop in new onshore wind projects. As a result, the power sector is not on track to cut emissions 40% by 2030, as compared to 2005 levels, as the bill’s supporters have hoped.

“Unfortunately, we're just not building out at the pace that would be economically justified,” Jenkins told Meyer. “And that is really an indicator that there are a substantial number of other non-economic frictions or barriers to deployment of wind in particular at the pace that we want to see.”

Subscribe to “Shift Key” and find the episode on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

2. Volkswagen hopes nostalgia will boost its U.S. EV sales

Volkswagen wants to double its market share in the United States by 2030, and it’s hoping a little bit of nostalgia will help do the trick, according toThe New York Times. The German company is reviving the iconic Scout brand with a line of electric pickups and sport utility vehicles, and leaning hard on its electric ID.Buzz, which resembles the Microbus – aka the Hippie Van. And Pablo Di Si, president of Volkswagen Group of America, hinted at an EV Beetle revival. Last week the company inaugurated a new factory site in South Carolina where the electric Scout vehicles will be built. “This market is turning electric, and everybody’s starting from scratch,” Arno Antlitz, the chief financial officer of Volkswagen, told the Times. “This is our unique opportunity to grow.” The paper notes that Volkswagen has been trying since the 1970s to grow in the U.S., with little success. The first electric Scouts will go on sale in 2026.

An old Scout modelScout Motors/Instagram

3. Biden administration announces $500 million for wildfire prevention

The Biden administration is putting $500 million toward wildfire prevention in 21 areas that the Agriculture Department has identified as being high risk. Those include forests like Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon, but also 4 million acres in southern California. The money comes from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), and the U.S. Forest Service’s Collaborative Wildfire Risk Reduction Program. The total IRA and BIL funding for wildfire resilience sits at $2.4 billion, The Hill reported. More than 2.6 million acres were burned in wildfires last year.

4. Chemical tanker with ‘sails’ embarks on first journey

The first chemical tanker to be retrofitted with wind “sails” has set out on its first wind-assisted voyage. The MT Chemical Challenger left Antwerp on Friday, headed for Istanbul. Along its journey the ship will test out four newly installed giant aluminum sails that are meant to help reduce fuel consumption by up to 20%. Last year Cargill put “WindWings” made by BAR Technologies on one of its cargo ships, so the Chemical Challenger isn’t breaking entirely new ground, but the project does represent growing interest within the shipping industry to reduce carbon emissions. The International Maritime Organization last year said shipping emissions must drop by at least 40% by 2030, and be eliminated by around 2050, to be in line with Paris Agreement targets. But there are no legally binding measures to implement these guidelines. International shipping accounted for about 2% of global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency.

5. EU considering carbon removal certification rules

The European Union is considering implementing a carbon removals certification process that could help legitimize and police an industry that’s still nascent, but growing fast. Companies claiming to remove planet-warming CO2 from the atmosphere have so far been left to police themselves, wrote Justine Calma at The Verge. “Lax rules — or no rules at all — could give companies a way to keep polluting while misleadingly promising to draw down those emissions later.” The EU’s proposed framework sets definitions for “permanent” removal vs. “temporary” carbon storage, and identifies different methods like wood-based construction, forest restoration, soil management, and others. It does not include “activities that do not result in carbon removals or soil emission reductions,” such as “avoided” deforestation or renewable energy products. To be certified in the eyes of the EU, projects will need to be quantifiable, long term, sustainable, and must capture carbon that would have otherwise been released into the atmosphere. The framework has been approved by the European Parliament and the Council and Commission – it now needs formal government adoption. “If adopted, the certification process would be voluntary for carbon removal companies,” Calma explained. “But only certified projects would count toward a country’s progress in meeting the European Union’s climate goals.”

THE KICKER

Matt Brady, The University of Texas at El Paso

This is the first known photo of the Yellow-crested Helmetshrike, a bird species thought to have been lost, but recently stumbled upon by researchers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Yellow

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London. Read More

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