Camila Domonoske

Updated October 25, 2021 at 4:01 PM ET

The car-rental giant Hertz is making an audacious bet on electric vehicles, purchasing 100,000 battery-powered vehicles from Tesla.

The news of the sale lifted Tesla shares, and the world's most valuable automakers briefly hit an unprecedented $1 trillion market cap. Hertz's purchases will be made up of the Tesla Model 3, a sedan that is the cheapest vehicle currently available from the electric carmaker.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Autumn is here. There's a nip in the air. BJ Leiderman writes our theme music. And soon, you might turn on your heater for the first time this year, but fuel prices are already rising. NPR's Camila Domonoske joins us now. Camila, thanks so much for being with us.

If you want to know why it's hard to buy a car these days, just take a look at all the vacant spots at your local dealerships.

When Sarah Chismar, a Toyota salesperson, surveyed the empty pavement at her dealership in Missouri this week, she sighed.

"In a normal month, we probably will have, like, 120 new cars," she said. "Right now, I think we have maybe 10."

And she's happy to have 10. "Last week we had five," she added.

Although oil companies are still assessing the damage at the oil rigs, platforms and refineries that were struck by Hurricane Ida, signs point toward a limited impact on gasoline availability and prices.

AAA has warned of price volatility, and several analysts expect temporary price increases of several cents, but experts are not expecting a dramatic or prolonged disruption to the market.

Leaded gasoline's century-long reign of destruction is over.

The final holdout, Algeria, used up the last of its stockpile of leaded gasoline in July. That's according to the U.N. Environment Programme, which has spent 19 years trying to eliminate leaded gasoline around the globe.

"The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment," Inger Andersen, UNEP's executive director, said Monday.

Dave Samuelson is totally thrilled with his new job driving a fuel truck to deliver gasoline to stations around Chattanooga, Tenn.

He gets to go home to his farm every night, unlike long-haul trucking where you can drive for days. That means he can feed his goats. He can't complain about the pay — especially since he got a nearly 40% pay increase this year.

And he certainly loves how easy it is to find work right now. If you have the right kind of commercial driver's license, he says, "Good lord ... you can write your own ticket."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

It feels like just yesterday that workers across America were able to take their masks off at work. But the extremely contagious delta variant is spreading rapidly. And now auto plants are among the businesses reinstating face mask mandates.

Updated July 20, 2021 at 5:24 PM ET

Earlier this month, two dozen low-slung, open-cockpit race cars sped around the streets of Red Hook in Brooklyn.

A distinct high-pitched whizzing sound pierced the air, instead of the usual growl of revved-up race car engines. That's because these cars were powered entirely by batteries rather than gasoline.

Welcome to Formula E. It's like Formula 1, but it's all-electric.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

The European Union has a sweeping plan to tackle climate change, and that plan has the potential to reshape the continent's economy. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made the case for it yesterday.

Oil prices have been rising steadily for months. You've probably noticed one big consequence — average gasoline prices have climbed to seven-year highs.

As early as last week, the expectations were that oil prices would either stabilize or rise gradually — until an OPEC+ meeting that was supposed to be routine ended in an unexpected impasse, with no agreement on what to do about oil production.

Now analysts are bracing for everything from a price spike to a price plunge. As millions of Americans hit the road again, there's just no certainty around where crude is headed.

United Airlines is placing a jumbo-sized order of narrow-body aircraft. The company is purchasing 270 new planes from Boeing and Airbus.

Last year, U.S. airlines were fighting to survive. Struggling in the depths of the pandemic, they received an infusion of cash and cheap loans from the U.S. government and, between aid packages, furloughed tens of thousands of workers.

Things have changed, clearly.

Stock markets? Open. Post office? Open.

Federal courts? Schools? Banks? Businesses? It depends.

Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery by marking the day enslaved people in Texas learned they were free, is now a federal holiday. The move comes after growing support nationwide for observing the day of celebration and reflection.

But actual practices for marking the holiday still vary widely.

Lordstown Motors launched with huge ambitions — and a redemption story. Today it's scrambling for cash and trying to assuage investor anxieties.

The stumble of the much-hyped electric truck manufacturer offers a glimpse at the do-or-die moment facing many electric vehicle startups. They successfully sold an idea to investors. But now can they actually deliver vehicles to buyers?

It all started when the electric truck startup bought the giant Lordstown, Ohio, auto plant that General Motors had just shut down.

Big Oil is standing on the precipice of something. But no one can agree what it is. A long, slow decline? An abrupt collapse? A remarkable reinvention?

Mounting urgency about climate change has finally reached the boardrooms of Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell and other international oil companies. Under intense pressure, these companies are universally pledging to prepare for a low-carbon or "lower-carbon" future.

This week's news was nothing short of astonishing.

A court in the Netherlands issued a landmark ruling against Royal Dutch Shell — an oil company already pledging to cut its carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 — ordering it to act faster.

Updated at 7:15 p.m. ET

In a dramatic boardroom battle on Wednesday, a tiny hedge fund fought with the energy giant ExxonMobil over the future of the oil and gas industry — and won.

The brand-new activist hedge fund, Engine No. 1, successfully placed at least two new candidates on the company's board of directors in hopes that they can use that position to push Exxon to take climate change more seriously. For two more seats on the board, the vote was too close to call.

There was some lofty rhetoric when Ford and the United Auto Workers union revealed the all-electric F-150 Lighting pickup Wednesday in Dearborn, Mich.

A solemn voiceover declared it "an electric truck that can match the ambitions of this nation."

Ford CEO Jim Farley made a simpler case: "It hauls ass and tows like a beast."

Ford is touting the much-anticipated vehicle as not just a pickup, but a mobile power plant — with a price tag designed to draw mainstream attention.

There's a lot riding on the F-150 Lightning, the all-electric pickup that Ford unveiled Wednesday.

For the company, it represents a big strategic bet on the rise of electric vehicles — one that nearly every rival automaker is also making. And it's also a symbol for the vision of America that President Biden has been promoting: made in America, pairing blue-collar roots and high-tech ambitions, fighting climate change without making compromises.

It will take several days for the supply chain of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to normalize fully even after the restart of full operations at a critical pipeline that was shut down this month.

Colonial Pipeline said late Thursday it had brought its entire pipeline system back into operation, noting that "product delivery has commenced to all markets we serve."

The company had to shut down its pipelines after suffering a cyberattack last week, sparking a wave of panic-buying that emptied many gas stations across the Southeast.

Tesla is executing a rapid U-turn on Bitcoin.

Months after Tesla embraced Bitcoin, CEO Elon Musk said on Wednesday the auto maker would no longer accept the cryptocurrency for car purchases due to its environmental impact.

Bitcoin is very energy-intensive. The "coins" are created through a process called "mining," in which powerful computers solve difficult math problems. That requires electricity — a mind-boggling amount of it.

Updated May 12, 2021 at 6:01 PM ET

Colonial Pipeline said Wednesday it has "initiated the restart of pipeline operations" after suffering a cyberattack while warning it would take several days for supply to return to normal.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Last month, Ford announced it would allow staff who have been working remotely to remain remote — at least some of the time — long after the pandemic is over.

"Must be nice for them," thought Marcie Pedraza, an electrician at a Ford plant in Chicago. Like many workers across the U.S., from factories to grocery stores, working from home has never been an option for her. And that presents a challenge for companies frantically rewriting their remote work policies: How do you make the change feel fair, when not all employees can benefit?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Supply chain disruptions are taking a bite out of Apple, and it may make it harder to get your hands on that shiny new tablet or laptop.

Apple warns it can't make enough iPads and Macs to keep up with demand, thanks to the global shortage in semiconductors that has already disrupted production at almost every major car company, from Ford to VW.

Luca Maestri, Apple's chief financial officer, said late Wednesday that the lack of supply will cut into sales of both these products and lop off between $3 billion to $4 billion of its revenue in the next three months.

Electric automaker Tesla reported record earnings this quarter, with a substantial boost from its cryptocurrency speculation.

The company announced $438 million in net income for the quarter, with a $101 million "positive impact" on profits from selling Bitcoin, according to its quarterly earnings report.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Monday it is preparing to restore California's right to set its own vehicle emissions standards, in a widely anticipated reversal of Trump-era policies.

The decision, which will take several months to be finalized, reaffirms the Golden State's powerful position as an environmental regulator after the Trump administration in 2019 had sought to remove California's powers to set its own emissions standards.

It also sets the stage for negotiations over how strict federal vehicle standards will be under President Biden.

Honda said on Friday it plans to sell only zero-emissions vehicles across all its major markets by 2040, becoming the latest automaker to set a concrete target date for phasing out gas- and diesel-powered engines.

In North America, the Japanese automaker said it would aim for 40% of its salse to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2030 and plans to increase the proportion to 80% by 2035.

The company also pledged to be carbon neutral in its own operations by 2050.

Corporate America wants you to know that it takes climate change seriously. But how can you tell if businesses will follow through?

Here's one idea that's catching on: Cut the pay of corporate leaders if they don't meet their climate goals.

The world is going to need more batteries. A lot more batteries.

Every major automaker is preparing to pivot from gas and diesel cars to electric and hybrid ones. Ford F-150s and Kia crossovers, Volkswagen hatchbacks and BMW sedans: They'll all plug in instead of fill up. It's a remarkable transformation that will change the way we drive and shake up world energy markets.

Pages