EPA fines Tesla Electric Motors $275,000 for non-compliance

In bureaucracy, truth is often stranger than fiction. A non polluting electric car company gets slammed with fine for “non compliance” for a car that can’t produce any emissions.

That’s weird enough by itself, but even weirder is what else is in the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission report under what they cite as “risks”.

Here’s the relevant page of the report where they talk about risks, including the $275,000 fine from the EPA. Note what is highlighted under that.

click to enlarge

They headline that with:

We are subject to substantial regulation, which is evolving, and unfavorable changes or failure by us to comply with these regulations could substantially harm our business and operating results.

That’s right, a zero emissions “green” electric car company cites this as a risk to the company’s business future:

the imposition of a carbon tax or the introduction of a cap-and-trade system on electric utilities could increase the cost of electricity;

You can see the Telsa SEC 10Q report for yourself at:


Tesla’s crime? Failing to file for a 2009 emissions “Certificate of Conformity” from the EPA to comply with the “Clean Air Act.” until late in the year. Wait, I thought electric cars were supposed to help clean the air?

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It is a wonder that anybody would bother even trying to do business anymore where the minefield of bureaucracy looms even for popular and politically correct green companies in California.

h/t to autoblog.com

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where i live, the water is so clean that we have to add crap to the water and then filter it back out to meet the minimum state requirements.


Just because the car itself doesn’t produce any pollutants, the power plants that generate the electricity for the car probably do. I find it counterintuitive that people would ever consider electric cars as a viable solution to a greener environment considering how much they cost to build, the low utilization efficiency of the primary power supply, the minimal driving range, and lack of infrastructure to support such vehicles. Only when the majority of our electricity is generated from a combination of solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and nuclear can the argument be made that an electric car is a good choice for the environment.


It has no OIL, then it doesn’t managed to “oil” as expected by officials.

So, for the sake of a couple of reminder letters from the EPA (it’s their regulations after all), a small start-up company gets a huge fine. It’s almost like the government is at war with its own people.
If it’s any consolation, it’s no different over here in Euroland, so at least we’ll go down together. Can’t wait to hear what E.M. has to say about this.

Myron Mesecke

Can’t say I’m surprised. After all, one part of the government wants cars to get better gas mileage. One easy way is to make the cars lighter. But then another part of the government wants cars to be safer. One easy way is to make them heavier.


What needs to be regulated is the totally out of control EPA! That bunch of power mad bureaucrats needs to be reined in before they completely destroy the country. And stand by for E15 rules this coming Jan.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters in a conference call Tuesday he doesn’t think Congress would appease environmental groups by holding more hearings on an expected rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that would allow E-15 blends of ethanol to be sold. Grassley agreed such hearings would only be a delaying tactic, but added that once a rule is released that there will likely be court challenges trying to delay implementation as well.
Grassley said he has recently met with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and staff from the U.S. Department of Energy and was told E-15 would be available by January.

the stupidity of this one made me want to slam my head against the wall.
Or better yet, the EPA officials who issued it.

Henry chance

alGore said electric cars are the key to a carbonfree America.

Leon Brozyna

If the EPA had existed a century ago, when automobiles first made their appearance, the world would be a different place today. Only the rich could afford such a luxury item and the rest of us peons would be famliar with the real meaning of horsepower.
Reading this piece I thought, “You can’t make this stuff up!”

Gary Hladik

An unremarkable screw-up by Tesla’s management, but at least it makes for a funny story.
Speaking of funny stories, have you heard the one about how mercury is now good for us when safely enclosed in glass and excited with electricity…


This is why we need to eliminate about 2/3rds of the Federal payroll, and any agency that was created post WWI.


RockyRoad says:
“I find it counterintuitive that people would ever consider electric cars as a viable solution to a greener environment considering how much they cost to build, the low utilization efficiency of the primary power supply, the minimal driving range, and lack of infrastructure to support such vehicles.”
That’s only for the cars made for the masses, the rich peoples cars are much better. Read below:
Custom microprocessor-controlled lithium-ion battery with 6,831 individual cells. 3.5 hour charge time from empty to full using the Tesla Home Connector at 240 Volts and 70 Amps.
Range 245 miles
Expected Battery Life Seven-years or 100,000 miles
Battery heater for cold weather charging to -20 degrees Celsius”

Dr A Burns

We know that “green” energy is much more expensive than “black” energy from coal fired power stations.
Why do people assume that “green” energy uses less resources than coal ? Why is it “better” to generate pollution by mining copper, aluminium, iron and other ore resources to build solar and wind plants than it is to mine coal resources ?
I also believe that the cost of energy from a device reflects the total cost of energy used in the components used in generation. That is, the total energy including food to feed workers, transportation for management, the energy in smelting aluminium etc etc is greater for devices like windmills than it is for coal fired power stations. I wonder if there’s ever been a study on this ?

Sean Peake

The problem is that the car will not be a source of taxes–no CO2, no revenue


@ RockyRoad says August 31, 2010 at 2:36 pm:
Just because the car itself doesn’t produce any pollutants, the power plants that generate the electricity for the car probably do. I find it counterintuitive that people would ever consider electric cars as a viable solution to a greener environment considering how much they cost to build, the low utilization efficiency of the primary power supply, the minimal driving range, and lack of infrastructure to support such vehicles. Only when the majority of our electricity is generated from a combination of solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and nuclear can the argument be made that an electric car is a good choice for the environment.
Good points about the power generation. The electricity doesn’t get generated currently (no pun intended) without SOME form of “fossil fuels” being burned.
As to the “solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and nuclear” you can pretty much write off the first two. They will never be more than a pimple on an elephant’s bum – not until some breakthrough happens. And we’ve been waiting since the 1970s for that breakthrough. Like the promise of hot fusion, solar and wind are going to be like the Edsel – ugly and extinct. And living in some tree huggers’ utopian dreams.
Like everyone here, I’D LOVE IT if solar and wind would take the place of fossil fuels. But it just isn’t going to happen. Defeatism? Or facing reality?
So many tree huggers are out there, thinking that someone next week or next year will be coming up with THE solution.
When the oil and natural gas DO run out, we are going to be in a world of hurt.
Nuclear – BAD solution, unless we go to breeder reactors (as I last read about them). Waste IS a problem.
Hydro? In the U.S. we are pretty well maxed out on hydro.

And here I thought electricity came out of the magic wall plug.


paulhan says August 31, 2010 at 2:42 pm:
“It’s almost like the government is at war with its own people.”

Justa Joe

The marketers within Tesla Motors want the government to make their vehicle marketably viable (without the heavy hand of Uncle Sam their vehicle makes no sense) so they should take the good with the bad. Screw ’em.
Heck, even gasoline powered 2 seat roadsters have a very slim niche of the automobile market, and those vehicles out perform the Tesla in myriad ways.

Dave N

“The vehicle is driven through a specific driving cycle representing a typical urban drive of 10.5 miles, takes 14 to 36 hours, and includes fuel filling, starting, stopping, accelerating, decelerating, cruising, idling, and sitting while parked*. The emissions measured include hydrocarbons (H C), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrous Oxides (NOx), Evaporative emissions, and particulate emissions”
I’m wondering how long the EPA would scratch their heads for while they try to work out where to insert the gas, and measure such emissions from, in this car?

Lady Life Grows

Rocky Road says:
Only when the majority of our electricity is generated from a combination of solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and nuclear can the argument be made that an electric car is a good choice for the environment.
I must admit, I hate environmentalists, as a group–because they are so hard on the environment. None of the energy sources cited are SUPERRENEWABLE by becoming CO2 and water vapor which can make new fuels forever by plants turning them into biofuels. Worse, none enhance the carrying capacity of the Earth. Fossil fuels and only fossils qualify.
Windmills have the special disadvantage of killing birds, though an extensive literature search failed to convince me either that the numbers killed are high enough to be a serious concern–or low enough not to cause extinctions. Worse is the reference to nuclear energy. That industry tells lies beyond easy description. They remind me of climate alarmists in their “truth-challenged” characteristics. The most devasting effect–in my opinion–is to the IQs of the highly intelligent, which you can find, if you are sharp, in a free download: http://www.ratical.org/radiation/SecretFallout/
Besides, nuclear fuel is our starship fuel and should not be wasted here on Earth. It is the only truly nonrenewable fuel.


Is the EPA authorized to regulate emissions from non-emitting “motor” vehicles? It has no motor, as in combustion engine. Why should the EPA be authorized to regulate it? I went looking for the text of the clean air act, but, this probably requires LEXIS-NEXIS to figure out. The USC ss 18 definition seems to support the EPA, but, that sort of thing is probably up to a judge.
Do electric wheel-chair manufacturers need EPA approval? They have “motors” and provide conveyance. I’m betting nobody thought this law through. It may require a judge.

Dan in California

It’s worse than that in California. The state has its own Cal/EPA, who have their own set of rules and regulations. A California company must follow both US and Cal/EPA regulations. This is how California keeps diesel cars out of the US (about 30% better mileage all other things being equal). Cal/EPA’s auto emissions requirements are tougher than federal numbers, especially for diesels, so the manufacturers don’t bother to qualify many of their highest mileage models for the US market.
In a related story, a UCLA professor has just been sacked because he called “baloney” on Cal/EPA diesel carcinogenic regulations. See

John from CA

The EPA’s poorly designed over regulation is killing opportunities and jobs.
For instance, the conversion cost (due to EPA regulations) of gasoline to natural gas powered cars is so excessive that there simply isn’t any ROI for the consumer. It seems fair to say, the EPA has a huge regulation based carbon footprint and is actually the problem instead of the solution.
Sadly, they also seem hell bent on regulating everything into obscurity before it ever gets off the ground with all their red tape.
There’s another interesting aspect to the electric car story few are aware of — electric cars can actually cause Brown-outs. This article is worth the read and the link was found on the Tesla Motors website.
Electric cars coming, but can California take charge?
“Regen, a company I profiled here nearly two years ago, has a big interest in all of this. As a refresher, the company has developed a wireless device that applies the concept of “swarm logic” to manage when major electrical appliances draw electricity from the grid.”
Apparently, power companies are concerned that a sufficient cluster of electric cars in a neighborhood, all charging at the same time, will overwhelm supply and cause Brown-outs.
So, Regen stepped up and devised a method for appliances including electric cars to chat with each other and schedule their own recharging schedule. Pretty cleaver but I wonder how the device knows when you want to use the car next?
Sadly, the EPA will find some way to be involved with “swarm logic” so its probably doomed.


This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who regularly deals with government regulation. The amount of money spent on showing compliance to regulations would stun most folks. I deal with the FAA on a regular basis so I’m assuming the FDA, DOT, and the other alphabet soup regulators operate basically the same way. The original goal of the regulation, which was to keep people safe or clean or whatever, completely loses out to filling out the correct forms, in the correct numbers, to the correct people, with the correct signatures. Again, and again, and again.
The federal bureaucracy is Dr. Kevorkian to the US economy.

Robert of Ottawa

Certificate of conformity?? Very Orwellian.
Tesla, the car that runs on coal!

Robert of Ottawa

JDN In the future, everything will require EPA approval.

Dave N

Sean Peake:
Quite. It’s not up to the car manufacturer or owner to ensure the power is supplied by non-CO2 producing means.
I wonder whose responsibility that falls to, and what steps they might take if a substantial number of car owners decided to purchase all-electric vehicles?

Dr. Bob

Per the California Low Carbon Fuels Standard fuel production pathways available at http://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/lcfs.htm, Electricity for electric vehicles only reduces carbon emissions by 30% compared to gasoline. Not the 100% NGO’s want you to believe. And this value is due primarily to the low grid average CO2 emissions for California electricity. At 0.75 lbs CO2/kW-h, California has very low carbon electric power. If an electric vehicle is recharged in a state with a more common emissions rate of 1.8 lbs CO2/kW-h, the emissions associated with electric vehilce operations would more than double and be “Worse than Gasoline”!
It is funny that the NGO’s claim that coal-to-liquids is worse than gasoline when they don’t even know what the technology entails, yet the propose solutions to “problems” that are worse than the original problem itself.


Who makes the Volt. Oh ya GM. Who Owns GM? Oh ya the Government.

George E. Smith

Well I can’t say that Tesla Motors, is at the head of my list of either green ventures, or good investments; either the Company or its car. For a start even its selection of a Corporate name seems the height of effete snobbery.
That said; this is clearly an example of a rogue Government agency without a shred of Constitutional legitimacy gone mad with the absolute power of corruption.
And this current administration is full of not very smart children trying to play at being adults. Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod for a start, are two of the most inept people to ever hold major offices in what is described as The White House.
Well they are about at the same competence level as the holder of the big office in that place.
So Tesla Motors is just seeing their tax dollars at work.


My standard question about electric cars: How many miles to the pound of coal? There has been a sucessful project by the anti-nuclear forces to hide the fact that if a substance is highly radio-active, it has a short half life and if a substance has a long half life it emits ionizing radiation at a low level. Radioactive waste isn’t the problem, anti-nuclear forces are the problem. They have tied the process in knots like getting a requirement that signs warning of rad-waste must be effective for 10K years.

Alan Simpson not from Friends of the Earth

You must wonder if the phrase, ” Rise up and kill them all”, was invented for this idiocy.
I can’t be bothered, frankly, to find out if this company is, ( Native ), American or some poor sucker who is putting money into your economy, and supplying jobs, presumably.
That’ll teach ’em. If it is any consolation, we Europeans are leading the way to economic oblivion, scouting for my cave as of now.


Also what do these cars use to generate heat in the winter. If we are eventually going to be forced to buy these things not all of us live in Florida or California.


Goldman Sachs are planning to make a market in ‘EPA interference swaps’, and in fact this is the mainstay of the administration’s current economic plan.
The basic idea is that business in the US moves all activity to China and India.


we cannot even go back in time and use a horse and cart as the horse belches out methene gas, are well back to the drawing board


It was never about the environment. It is about control and redistribution of wealth.


to WTF we will not be needing heaters as it,s going to be too hot we will be maid to use a hand operated fan with EPA aproval


Whatever is not approved is forbidden.
No bureaucrat ever got fired or a bad review by following the rule book no matter how stupidly it’s enforced, nor how many people are harmed because of it.


If the electric car companies had to list out all the toxic materials their cars are made from (between the batteries, magnets, electronics, electric motor components) the greenies would have heart attacks….


Sean Peake says:
August 31, 2010 at 3:19 pm
The problem is that the car will not be a source of taxes–no CO2, no revenue

The more taxing problem is if there is no need for gasoline, then no gasoline tax. I remember hearing that CHIPS pulled over a car that ran on cooking oil and ticketed him for having non-taxed fuel in a vehicle that is not tax exempt.

Marlene Anderson

I wish I knew the inside story on what this severe administrative penalty was really about. Don’t ever discount the possibility that a thin-skinned government bureaucrat hunted high and low for an excuse to slam this company because someone felt dissed. Governments are filled with low self-esteem people don’t know how to create but they sure know how to destroy.


Gee, could it be this whole charade was never about global warming, but to bring about socialism?

RockyRoad August 31, 2010 at 2:36 pm
the low utilization efficiency of the primary power supply,

Is this concerning the battery/energy storage in the Tesla car? (Considering the recharge losses, since battery charging is always less than 100 percent efficient for instance …)
(If it’s about ‘the grid’, I thought we beat the horse senseless regarding the efficiency of wholesale generation, transmission and distribution …)

jack morrow

I thought Tesla motors was a bad company to start but was backed by -I think Nancy Pelosi. I’m surprised that the EPA would do this if the Nancy is backing this company. I guess I may have confused the company with another.
A breakthrough in fusion energy is what we need. It will happen.


Green Energy – the amount of power required to smash a startup company into a brick wall of regulations, which includes the power & resources necessary to construct the brick wall with taxpayer money. If this keeps up, Tesla will be sprouting flowers & weeds at it’s abandoned factory in the next 5 years. The $$ and effort required to slog through the swamp of beaurocracy is greater than any profit margin to be realized.
The Tesla is doomed to be the new Edsel.

Does anyone have any idea how polluting it is to (a) manufacture an electric car with its batteries that have to be periodically replaced/reycled, and (b) keep those batteries charged using coal fired power plants?
Where’s the EROEI analysis for the Tesla?


I had the good fortune to be given a demo in one of the two Tesla Roadsters in Australia by Rudi Tuisk who was just back from a rally in Europe. I was impressed with both the performance and the engineering. The machine accelerates like a motorcycle and the position of the batteries mean it is balanced like a mid engine sports car. The force of the regenerative braking was surprisingly powerful pumping 90 amps back into the batteries even without the use of accumulators. The key to it’s performance seems to be the thermal management system for the batteries. A liquid loop runs from the batteries to large fan forced radiators at the front of the car. Battery temperature is computer controlled for best charge/discharge without cell damage. One of the fun things about driving electric is the sound, it feels like being in a science fiction movie.
Robert of Ottawa says: August 31, 2010 at 3:46 pm
“Tesla, the car that runs on coal!”
But in France that could read “Tesla, the car powered by the Atom” 🙂


This is confusing.
“How may I obtain the Certificate of Conformity for a vehicle?”
“The first is to determine if the vehicle is excluded by the Act from meeting Federal emission requirements. If it is excluded, you should follow the instructions given in the section “Excluded Vehicles.”
“For 2004 and later model years, only fuel cell and electric vehicles are unregulated.”
“Importer must file with U.S. Customs, upon entry, an EPA Form 3520-1 declaring code “Y”.”

Fred R

” tarpon says:
August 31, 2010 at 3:22 pm
And here I thought electricity came out of the magic wall plug.”
It doesn’t??? But that’s where I stick the thingy with the 2 or 3 prongs.


Robert of Ottawa says:
August 31, 2010 at 3:47 pm
“JDN In the future, everything will require EPA approval.”
Even dying? Probably…