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Will Apple Challenge Tesla in the Electric Car Market?

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Apple has been leading the way towards a renewable energy future for many years. Just last week the company announced it will partner with First Solar to build a 280-megawatt solar energy farm in Monterey, California. With Tesla moving beyond the auto industry into renewable energy generation in its partnership with SolarCity, it's not surprising that Apple is branching out, too.

Apple reportedly has a team of about 100 engineers developing an electric car. The project, codenamed Titan, is seen as a logical next step for the tech giant. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said electric cars "are the future" and this year's International Auto Show saw a significant increase in electric vehicles on display.

The move would put Apple in competition with automakers like Tesla and Chevrolet, which just announced last week that it will produce its next-generation electric vehicle. Volkswagen bought last week fuel cell technology from Ballard Power Systems, as it ramps up its plans to market a hydrogen vehicle.

Apple CEO Tim Cook approved the project a year ago and appointed Steve Zadesky, vice president of product design, to lead the team. Zadesky, who is a former Ford engineer, seems like a natural choice. The Titan team is said to be comprised of several people who have experience in vehicle design, including Marc Newson, who designed a concept car for Ford, according to Dezeen.

It's possible Apple will not develop the product to market (the company often does research and development into products it will never sell), but it makes sense that they would be working on one. "Many technologies used in an electric car, such as advanced batteries and in-car electronics, could be useful to other Apple products, including the iPhone and iPad," said the Wall Street Journal.

Based on the number of people working on the project and the fact that Apple executives flew to Austria to meet with contract manufacturers for high-end cars, it appears the company is serious about the project. Apple would not be the first tech giant to develop a vehicle. Google has been working on an autonomous all-electric vehicle for several years.

Musk has lamented how expensive it is to develop and manufacture a car. Luckily for Silicon Valley giants like Apple and Google, they have the capital. Apple reported holding $178 billion in cash as of Dec. 27, 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal. The zero-emissions vehicle market is rapidly expanding. No matter who ends up developing the first mass-produced electric vehicle, the more companies working on it the better, especially tech giants like Apple and Google.

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"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.

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"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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