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High-tech cars are secretly spying on drivers, resulting in insurance rejections: NYT report

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From LifeSiteNews

By Claire Chretien

Many Americans’ driving habits are monitored without their knowledge or consent, and their driving data is being used to make decisions about insurance coverage and rates.

A lawsuit accuses General Motors of spying on a Florida man’s driving habits via his 2021 Cadillac XT6, resulting in his rejection by seven auto insurance companies.

The man, Romeo Chicco, is also suing LexisNexis, the company that shared his data with the insurance companies.

The New York Times reported:

Modern cars have been called “smartphones with wheels,” because they are connected to the internet and packed with sensors and cameras. According to the complaint, an agent at Liberty Mutual told Mr. Chicco that he had been rejected because of information in his “LexisNexis report.” LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a data broker, has traditionally kept tabs for insurers on drivers’ moving violations, prior insurance coverage and accidents.

When Mr. Chicco requested his LexisNexis file, it contained details about 258 trips he had taken in his Cadillac over the past six months. His file included the distance he had driven, when the trips started and ended, and an accounting of any speeding and hard braking or accelerating. The data had been provided by General Motors — the manufacturer of his Cadillac.

Chicco had downloaded the MyCadillac app, and “was eventually told that his data had been sent via OnStar — G.M.’s connected services company, which is also named in the suit — and that he had enrolled in OnStar’s Smart Driver program, a feature for getting driver feedback and digital badges for good driving.”

Another New York Times report explored the extent to which car manufacturers and insurance companies are able to access data about drivers: a man whose insurance rates increased by 21 percent learned that LexisNexis had “more than 130 pages detailing each time he or his wife had driven the [Chevrolet] Bolt over the previous six months. It included the dates of 640 trips, their start and end times, the distance driven and an accounting of any speeding, hard braking or sharp accelerations. The only thing it didn’t have is where they had driven the car.

As cars become increasingly high-tech, freedom and civil liberties advocates like Republican U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky have warned that such features may become weaponized. For example, a 2021 federal law mandates that by 2026 new cars have a “kill switch” by which they be disabled from afar – supposedly an anti-drunk driving measure. As LifeSiteNews has reported, manufacturers must put a system in cars that can “passively monitor the performance of a driver of a motor vehicle to accurately identity whether that driver may be impaired” and can stop or limit “motor vehicle operation” if “impairment is detected.”

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Automotive

The EV battery ‘catch-22’

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From The Center Square

While setting aggressive goals for electric vehicle market share, the Biden administration also wants tariffs and or restrictions on the importation of vehicles and the minerals needed for their batteries – creating heightened concerns over supply chains in what can be described as a “Catch-22” situation.

Solutions to some of the problems include battery recycling and increased domestic mining, however, the U.S. is currently limited in its capacity for both. Federal funds are spurring new recycling plant projects, but questions remain on whether there will be enough used material to meet projected needs.

In his e-book, “The EV Transition Explained,” Robert Charette, longtime systems engineer, and contributing editor for IEEE Spectrum, says making the transition is harder than anyone thinks. He recently told The Center Square it is truer now than it ever was.

“None of this is simple,” he said.

His argument centers on the lack of planning and systems engineering on initiatives that are politically, not engineering, driven. While change is possible, he suggested it would require trillions more in government spending and enforcing those changes through law.

Charette identified many serious issues in setting up the EV battery infrastructure – and even if those challenges are met, he said, there may be tradeoffs between affordability, security and environmental concerns.

Profitability. Battery recycling is a still-developing process which is time consuming and expensive. The cost of purchasing recycled materials may be more costly than buying them new.

Manufacturing demand and potential backlog. The U.S. will require eight million batteries annually by 2030 to meet the government’s EV target, with increases each year after that.

Standardization. Batteries vary in configuration, size, and chemistry.

Domestic mining. While decreasing our dependency on outside sources, what are the environmental impacts? It can also take years to acquire permits and get a lithium mine up and running.

Mineral shortfalls. Secure and sustainable access to critical minerals like copper, lithium, cobalt, and nickel is essential for a smooth and affordable transition to clean energy. An analysis by the International Energy Agency indicates a “significant gap” between the world’s supply and demand for copper and lithium. Projected supplies will only meet 70% of the copper and 50% of the lithium needed to achieve 2035 climate targets.

The report said that “without the strong uptake of recycling and reuse, “mining capital requirements would need to be one-third higher. The agency also emphasizes China’s dominance in the refining and processing sector.

Transportation of discharged batteries classified as hazardous waste is one of the costliest steps of the recycling process. Experts suggest updates to federal EPA and DOT regulations for how battery-related waste is classified. In addition to health and safety, they say clearer definitions of what constitutes hazardous waste would help reduce transportation costs. Many recycling plants are being built in regions where production sites are located to address this.

Supply chain and skills gap shortages. The timetable set by the government is not aligned with the capabilities of the current supply chain. Software plays a key role in the management and operation of an EV battery, and automakers are competing for a limited supply of software and systems engineers.

Competing interests. The goal is to create a circular battery economy, reducing the need for raw materials. However, an EV battery that is no longer useful for propelling a car still has enough life left for other purposes such as residential energy storage. Experts propose a battery material hierarchy where repurposing and reusing retired EV batteries are more favorable to immediately recycling them, detouring them out of the cycle.

Charette says the biggest problem with recycling projections is that they are built on assumptions that have not been tested.

“We won’t know whether these assumptions hold until we reach a point where we are recycling millions of EV batteries,” he said.

Because most EV lithium-ion batteries produced through 2023 are still on the road, the International Council on Clean Transportation reports that the majority of materials being used as feedstock by recycling plants currently come from scrap materials created during battery production.

According to Charette, manufacturers also claim future generations of batteries will last 15 to 20 years, which he says would put a bigger kink in the used-battery supply chain.

Another issue contributing to consumers’ reluctance to buy an EV is the inability to determine the overall health of your battery. Current testing methods are inefficient and costly.

EV adoption has so far not met projections and with all the competing interests, Charette said the market will ultimately tell us what direction the situation is headed. He is also intrigued over the impact government pressure will have on the eventual outcome.

He said many individual components have yet to be worked out, adding that although there is a vision, “we’re a heck of a long way from that vision to getting where we need to go.”

In his opinion, battery recycling issues are even further behind than transitioning the electric grid to renewable energy sources.

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Biden’s Climate Agenda Is Running Headfirst Into A Wall Of His Own Making

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By WILL KESSLER

 

President Joe Biden’s administration unveiled tariffs this week aimed at boosting domestic production of green energy technology, but the move could end up hamstringing his larger climate goals.

The tariffs announced on Tuesday quadruple levies for Chinese electric vehicles (EVs) to 100% and raise rates for certain Chinese green energy and EV components like minerals and batteries. Biden has made the transition to green energy and EVs a key part of his climate agenda, but hiking tariffs on those products to help U.S. manufacturing could jack up prices on the already costly products, slowing adoption by struggling Americans, according to experts who spoke to the DCNF.

The risks posed by hiking levies on green technology expose the inherent tension between Biden’s climate agenda and his efforts to protect American industry, which often struggles to compete with cheap foreign labor. Items on his climate agenda typically raise costs, and requiring companies to comply could make them uncompetitive on the world stage.

“These tariffs are a classic example of the Biden administration’s left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing,” E.J. Antoni, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, told the DCNF. “The inability to import Chinese-made EVs due to prohibitively high costs will necessitate importing raw materials and parts for EVs from China. Since automakers can’t afford to build and assemble the vehicles here, prices will have to rise. In other words, American consumers will pay the cost of this tariff, not the Chinese.”

The White House, in its fact sheet, pointed to China artificially lowering its prices and dumping goods on the global market as the justification for the new tariffs in an effort to help protect American businesses. China has pumped huge subsidies into its own EV industry and supply lines over the past few years, spawning a European Union investigation into vehicles from the country.

“Tariffs on Chinese EVs won’t just make Chinese EVs more expensive, they will also make American EVs more expensive,” Ryan Young, senior economist at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the DCNF. “This is because domestic producers can now raise their prices without fear of being undercut by competitors. Good for them but bad for consumers — and for the Biden administration’s policy goal of increased EV adoption.”

Several American manufacturers are already struggling to sell EVs at a profit, with Ford losing $4.7 billion on its electric line in 2023 while selling over 72,000 of the vehicles. To ease price concerns and increase EV adoption, the Biden administration created an EV tax credit of $7,500 per vehicle, depending on where its parts are made.

The market share of EVs out of all vehicles fell in the first quarter of 2024 from 7.6% to 7.1% as consumers opted to buy cheaper traditional vehicles instead. Growth in EV sales increased by just 2.7% in the quarter, far slower than the 47% growth that the industry saw in all of 2023.

The Biden administration has also sought to use regulations to push automakers toward electrifying their offerings as consumers refuse to voluntarily adopt EVs, finalizing rules in March that effectively require around 67% of all light-duty vehicles sold after 2032 to be electric or hybrids.

“By raising the price — and thereby stunting the deployment — of EVs, the tariffs undermine the Biden administration’s stated goals of reducing carbon emissions (as many U.S. environmentalists and EV fans have recently lamented),” Clark Packard, research fellow in the Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, wrote following the announcement. “The EV tariffs (and also-​announced solar tariffs) would continue the administration’s habit of choosing politics and protectionism over their environmental agenda.”

Despite the subsidies, the 25% tariff that is currently in place for Chinese EVs already prices the product out of the U.S. market, resulting in no Chinese-branded EVs being sold in the country, according to Barron’s. Only a handful of the more than 100 EV models being sold in China appeal to American consumers, and none of them can compete under current levies.

“Something like this happened just a few years ago when former president Donald Trump enacted 25% steel tariffs in 2018,” Young told the DCNF. “Domestic steel producers raised their prices by almost exactly the amount of the tariff, and America soon had the world’s highest steel prices. As a result, car prices went up by about $200 to $300 on average. Larger trucks with more steel content increased even more. Now Biden is going to do the same thing to EVs.”

In the year following the increase in steel tariffs under the Trump administration, U.S. Steel’s operating profit rose 38%, prices were hiked 5 to 10% and revenue was up 15% due to reduced competition, according to CNN.

Despite the massive tariff hike on EVs, Biden only raised the tariff rate on Chinese lithium-ion EV batteries and battery parts to 25%, according to the White House. The tariff rate on certain essential minerals, like natural graphite, was also hiked to just 25%.

“Despite rapid and recent progress in U.S. onshoring, China currently controls over 80% of certain segments of the EV battery supply chain, particularly upstream nodes such as critical minerals mining, processing, and refining,” the White House wrote in its fact sheet. “Concentration of critical minerals mining and refining capacity in China leaves our supply chains vulnerable and our national security and clean energy goals at risk.”

China has broad control over the majority of minerals necessary to construct EVs, possessing nearly 90% of the world’s mineral refining capacity. Sources of the required minerals often also have serious human rights concerns, such as the world’s supply of cobalt, which has widespread ties to child labor.

Biden attacked former President Donald Trump during the 2020 election for the broad tariffs that he put on Chinese goods, noting that “any freshman econ student” could point out that the costs of the tariffs would be passed on to American consumers.

EV makers have increasingly struggled over the past year to maintain profits amid stalling demand, with the largest American EV manufacturer, Tesla, reporting a 10% drop in year-over-year revenue in the first quarter of 2024. Tesla is one of several EV makers that have announced layoffs in recent months.

“Fortunately, the EV market is still small in the U.S. and Chinese EVs are an even smaller slice of that small pie,” Antoni told the DCNF. “Even if the EV market in the U.S. were large, these tariffs would not help the domestic EV industry. While consumer demand for EVs would shift to domestic models, an increase in domestic production would rely on very expensive inputs from China, cutting into profits.”

The White House did not respond to a request to comment from the DCNF.

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