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Sparks

The Year’s Biggest Gadget Conference Is All About Electric Cars Now

Automakers are showing out at CES.

New EVs.
Heatmap Illustration/Kia, Honda, Vinfast, Getty Images

The consumer electronics show in Las Vegas formally known as CES has evolved beyond a showcase for ever-larger screens, laptops, and niche gadgets looking to make it into big box retailers. CES is now, among other things, a full-fledged auto show, with the world's largest automakers announcing ambitious products alongside — and sometimes in partnership with — their tech counterparts.

In recent years, new electric concepts from Chevrolet, BMW, and Ram have each captured attention. This year, it was Honda’s turn to make a splash.

After two decades of dipping its toes into the electric vehicle market, the Japanese carmaker announced the new 0 Series (as in zero emissions) with two concepts that show what Honda wants to bring to the U.S. market in 2026.

The flagship Saloon sedan’s sleek, swept-back design is a material manifestation of what Honda calls its man maximum/machine minimum packaging concept (in case you’re looking for an acronym, it’s M/M*1), which boils down to making the car’s footprint as small as possible while still keeping passengers comfortable. On the other end of the svelte-practical spectrum is the Space-Hub, which applies the venerable minivan concept in an EV format with extra space and seating that swivels to create a rolling lounge.

Honda was also at CES in partnership with Sony, which showed the latest iteration of its Afeela prototype, the electronics company's first foray into the automotive world. Sony's Playstation division clearly got its hands on the concept, which means augmented reality displays built on the game development platform Unreal Engine that feature eye-popping 3D graphics. If you want, you can have a monster magically appear on the roadway as you’re driving. You can also visualize yourself driving underwater. On stage at least, the car could be steered with a Playstation controller.

Kia was back in Las Vegas to announce its hyper-modular, commercial-focused Platform Beyond Vehicle strategy. Showing five models in three sizes all based on the platform, the new lineup will begin with the PV5 and focus on delivery, ride-hailing, and smaller commercial work (think your local electrician) thanks to its Lego-like “life modules” and powertrains.

This being 2024, AI is everywhere at CES, even in car world, with Volkswagen incorporating ChatGPT into its Ida voice assistant, Mercedes updating its MBUX Virtual Assistant with a new “empathetic” AI, and Intel designing a new family of AI-infused systems-on-chips to monitor drivers and passengers in an autonomous future.

While most CES concepts aren’t headed for roads anytime soon, one thing you might be able to buy is the latest offering from Vietnamese EV maker VinFast. While its U.S. launch is off to a rocky start, the ultra-compact VF3 might be cute enough to keep the critics at bay, with its bulldog stance and incredibly diminutive size. Measuring in at just a little under 10.5 feet, the VF3 is nearly two feet shorter than the new Fiat 500E or about the same size as a Smart car. Coupled with its off-roader looks and a claimed 125-mile range, the VF3 could be the smallest, affordable, and most adorable EVs for sale in the U.S.

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Damon Lavrinc profile image

Damon Lavrinc

Damon Lavrinc is a freelance writer and industrial design student focused on the future of transportation. A former driving instructor and communications professional, Damon is the co-founder of the Autonocast and led transportation technology coverage at WIRED, Jalopnik, and other outlets.

Sparks

There’s Gold in That There Battery Waste

Aepnus is taking a “fully circular approach” to battery manufacturing.

Lithium ion batteries.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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That is where Aepnus Technology is attempting to come in. The startup emerged from stealth today with $8 million in seed funding led by Clean Energy Ventures and supported by a number of other cleantech investors, including Lowercarbon Capital and Voyager Ventures. The company uses a novel electrolysis process to convert sodium sulfate waste into sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid, which are themselves essential chemicals for battery production.

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Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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On Sunday, during a rally in Las Vegas, the Republican nominee floated the question for what is at least the second time this campaign season (an odd choice, perhaps, given that Nevada is hardly shark territory, and therefore his supporters there are unlikely to have given the question much thought).

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Tornado Alley Is Moving East

New research finally sheds some light on what the heck is happening.

A tornado.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

If hurricanes, wildfires, heat, and floods are the Big Four of extreme weather in America, then tornadoes are perhaps the equivalent of the National Bowling League.

That’s not for lack of fatalities — tornadoes kill more people annually than hurricanes, per the 30-year average — nor for their lack of star power (see: The Wizard of Oz, Sharknado, Twister, and my most highly anticipated movie of the year, Twisters). But when it comes to the study of extreme weather, robust, detailed data on tornadic supercells has been described as “largely absent,” at least compared to the scholarship on their more popular meteorological counterparts.

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