Feast your eyes on the all-new, all-electric GMC Hummer EV

GMC has a new all-electric version of its classic Hummer oversized SUV. This thing is a beast, as you might expect, with an advertised 350-mile range and a 3-second zero to 60 mph time. It’s a bit ridiculous to be honest, which is kind of what the Hummer has always been about so that makes sense.

Alongside a teaser, GMC released a number of press photos of the 1,000 HP bruiser, so take a look below. It definitely looks like a Hummer – which may or may not be your cup of tea.

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Alphabet’s latest moonshot is a field-roving, plant-inspecting robo-buggy

Alphabet (you know… Google) has taken the wraps off the latest “moonshot” from its X labs: A robotic buggy that cruises over crops, inspecting each plant individually and, perhaps, generating the kind of “big data” that agriculture needs to keep up with the demands of a hungry world.

Mineral is the name of the project, and there’s no hidden meaning there. The team just thinks minerals are really important to agriculture.

Announced with little fanfare in a blog post and site, Mineral is still very much in the experimental phase. It was born when the team saw that efforts to digitize agriculture had not found as much success as expected at a time when sustainable food production is growing in importance every year.

“These new streams of data are either overwhelming or don’t measure up to the complexity of agriculture, so they defer back to things like tradition, instinct or habit,” writes Mineral head Elliott Grant. What’s needed is something both more comprehensive and more accessible.

Much as Google originally began with the idea of indexing the entire web and organizing that information, Grant and the team imagined what might be possible if every plant in a field were to be measured and adjusted for individually.

A robotic plant inspector from Mineral.

Image Credits: Mineral

The way to do this, they decided, was the “Plant buggy,” a machine that can intelligently and indefatigably navigate fields and do those tedious and repetitive inspections without pause. With reliable data at a plant-to-plant scale, growers can initiate solutions at that scale as well — a dollop of fertilizer here, a spritz of a very specific insecticide there.

They’re not the first to think so. FarmWise raised quite a bit of money last year to expand from autonomous weed-pulling to a full-featured plant intelligence platform.

As with previous X projects at the outset, there’s a lot of talk about what could happen in the future, and how they got where they are, but rather little when it comes to “our robo-buggy lowered waste on a hundred acres of soy by 10 percent” and such like concrete information. No doubt we’ll hear more as the project digs in.

Porsche is researching synthetic fuels to make gas-powered cars sustainable

The road to sustainable vehicles likely ends at electric cars, yet the route to this goal isn’t clear. There are multiple ways to get there, and Porsche is looking at synthetic fuels as a potential path. These so-called eFuels are produced from CO2 and hydrogen. If produced using renewable energy, they can help vehicles powered by internal combustion engines (ICE) become more sustainable before the end of their life.

Earlier this week, Porsche AG’s Detlev von Platen spoke to this alternative fuel at TechCrunch Sessions: Mobility.

Looking at Porsche’s current lineup, it’s easy to see where the automaker is heading: Electric sports cars. Right now, in 2020, the automaker has one electric sports sedan and an electric version of its small SUV coming soon. The automaker has a handful of plug-in hybrids available, too. The automaker says half of its vehicles will be electric by 2025.

“We are seeing a lot of new regulations coming up everywhere in the world,” Detlev von Platen, member of the Executive Board, Sales and Marketing, said at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020. “California is one example. Europe and China will become even more complicated in the future, and we see the transformation coming up very quickly. And to a certain point of time, developing and producing combustion engines and cars around this technology will become even more expensive than a battery vehicle. Things are moving very fast.”

Governments worldwide are using aggressive regulations to push automakers toward an electric future, though that goal doesn’t address the millions of gasoline-powered vehicles already on the road.

Von Platen explains that it’s Porsche’s goal to reach the commitments laid out by the Paris Climate Accord ahead of schedule. To do so means reducing the environmental impact of the entire car industry, and Porsche sees eFuels as a way to reduce the environmental impact of current and future internal combustion vehicles. If produced using renewable energy, it would result in ICE-powered vehicles being powered by a renewable source fuel.

Porsche is in a unique position: 70% of the vehicles it ever produced are still on the road. Their owners are generally enthusiastic and unlikely to trade-in their classic air-cooled Porsche coupes for an electric vehicle. The company sees eFuel as a way to reduce the environmental impact of those vehicles while keeping them on the road.

This new type of synthetic fuel is produced out of hydrogen and CO2. Porsche says that this fuel shares properties with kerosene, diesel and gasoline produced from crude oil in its most basic term.

“This technology is particularly important because the combustion engine will continue to dominate the automotive world for many years to come,” said Michael Steiner, member of the Executive Board, Research and Development, in a statement released in September. “If you want to operate the existing fleet in a sustainable manner, eFuels are a fundamental component.”

Synthetic fuels were tried in the past and gained little long-term traction. Porsche wants to influence this new breed of synthetic fuel specifications to ensure the eFuel works within Porsche’s performance engines. “When E10 came onto the market, the blend had some disadvantages. It must be different this time: it must have advantages,” Steiner said.

“We started a pilot program to talk about the industrialization of this fuel technology to make it cheaper, as it is still quite expensive compared to fossil fuels,” von Platen said. “If this works in the future, we can have something that will increase the speed of creating sustainability besides battery technology.”


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4 sustainable industries where founders and VCs can see green by going green

Now’s the time for sustainable investments to shine. There are billions of dollars in funding in both public and private markets dedicated to new sustainable investing and demand for consumers for a more conscious capitalism has never been stronger.

As founders and investors reawaken to a sustainable morning in America a few areas are going to demand hardware, software and business model innovations.

Some of these sectors have been on the investment radar for the past year or two and others are just beginning to capture investor attention, but they all have something in common: the investor appetite for new businesses addressing the food supply chain; energy management and construction for homes and offices; carbon sequestration and monitoring and management of offsets; and new biomaterials and processes for packaging and industrial chemicals replacements have never been stronger.

If we’re going to feed the world, let’s start with the food chain.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has exposed significant holes in the food supply. Companies like AppHarvest, which agreed to go public through a SPAC earlier this year are only one of several companies remaking agriculture through the application of technology. There’s also Plenty, Bowery Farms, Unfold, BrightFarms and Revol Greens, working to upend the agricultural supply chain. If those companies are looking at new ways of growing crops, companies like Apeel Sciences and Hazel Technologies are trying to find ways to preserve food from spoilage. Treasure8 is looking at ways to use food waste for new food and ingredients and they’re not alone.

Then there’s the protein replacement companies that we’ve written about previously. Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Memphis Meats, Mosa Meat, Nuggs, Future Meat Technologies, Shiok Meats (a seafood company) are devising methods to create meaty proteins less dependent on animal husbandry. Perfect Day and its competitors are doing the same for the dairy industry.

There’s also tremendous need for new protein sources to feed the animals that people around the world still like to eat. For this there’re companies like Ynsect, which is providing insect proteins for industrial fish farms, or Grubly Farms, which is providing feed to the families raising their own chickens.

For these opportunities that are raising hundreds of millions in financing there are others that require the kind of high margin software solutions that are yet to be developed. These are visual technologies for tracking, monitoring and managing food production; sensors for improving the storage and supply chain, software for managing production and tracking produce and products from the farm to the table. Venture investors are beginning to invest in these companies as well.

A clean energy company now has a market cap rivaling ExxonMobil

The news last week that NextEra Energy, a U.S. utility and renewable energy company, briefly overtook ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco to become the world’s most valuable energy producer shows just how valuable sustainable businesses have become. It’s yet another proof point that there are billions of dollars available for companies focused on renewable energy alone — and a sign that, finally, the floodgates may be about to open for companies that build their businesses to service a sustainability revolution.

Large money managers are already returning to investing in earlier stage sustainability investments after an extended hiatus. These are institutional investors like the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which could commit billions between them to technologies focused on mitigating the impacts of climate change or reducing greenhouse gas emissions across industries. The flood of dollars into renewable energy and sustainable technologies actually began in the first quarter of the year.

Some of the largest private equity funds in the U.S. like Blackstone (with $571 billion in assets under management), announced a flood of investments into renewable power generation and storage. Blackstone alone invested nearly $1 billion into Altus Power Generation, a renewable energy developer, and NRStor, an energy storage company; while Generate Capital raised $1 billion for renewable energy infrastructure projects; and Warburg Pincus (with over $50 billion in assets under management) backed Scale Microgrids, which developed clean energy and storage projects, with another $300 million. In March, the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board closed its investment in Pattern Energy Group, a $6.1 billion transaction that gave the massive money manager ownership of a renewable power project owner and developer with assets across North America and Japan.

Behind all of that massive investment will be a surge in demand for technologies that can orchestrate resources that will be more distributed and provide better energy storage and distribution technologies for a more complicated grid. Indeed, the beginning of the year saw venture firms like Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sequoia and Union Square Ventures begin to plant flags around sustainable investments in startup companies. Microsoft announced a $1 billion climate change-focused investment fund and in the second quarter, Amazon followed suit with the commitment of $2 billion to its Climate Pledge Fund that would invest across a range of renewable and sustainability-focused technology startups and climate-related projects.

“You’ve got all of this activity even without policy changes — and policy changes are even going in the wrong direction,” said Abe Yokell, a longtime investor in technologies addressing climate change and the managing partner of Congruent Ventures, in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year. “Our general framework is that the venture model applies to some but not all of the solutions that will solve the problem of climate change.”

Environmental and social investing rises again

In 2007, John Doerr, then one of the world’s most successful venture investors and a leader at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (now just Kleiner Perkins), delivered an emotional speech to an early audience of TED talk attendees. In it, Doerr announced that KPCB would be investing $200 million into a range of “clean technology” companies and encouraged other investors to make similar commitments. Doerr spoke of a coming climate crisis that would reshape the globe and wreak vast economic damage on communities. He wasn’t wrong.

But the solutions that the first generation of clean tech investors backed were economically unfeasible and markets weren’t then ready to embrace massive investments required to avoid what were, at the time, future risk scenarios. Prices for solar and wind energy production technologies were too expensive and energy storage options too unreliable. Biofuels could not compete at costs that would make them competitive with existing petrochemicals, and bioplastics and chemicals suffered from the same problems (along with a consumer culture that had not awoken to the perils of plastic and chemical production).

While there were a few notable successes from that first generation of clean tech companies, including, most notably, Tesla, there were far more failures. Kleiner alone poured hundreds of millions into companies like Think and Fisker Automotive, two early electric vehicle companies. Another electric vehicle bet, Better Place, lost $1 billion for investors like VantagePoint Venture Partners. The losses weren’t confined to electric vehicles. Solar energy companies, biofuel companies, grid management companies and battery companies all racked up millions in losses for a generation of venture funds.

Yokell, who previously worked as an investor at Rockport Capital, saw the failures, but managed to persevere and raise new cash with his fund Congruent. “Things are different, but they are different for 10 different reasons — not one different reason,” Yokell said. “The preponderance of dollars went into the physical layer that would drive down the cost of accessing a product or technology. Solar is a great example; wind is a great example; batteries are a great example. [But] this time around, the venture dollars that are going into the ecosystem are being applied to products and services that are going to the end product.”

This means focusing not on the generation of electricity necessarily, but managing and monitoring how those atoms move. Or in the case of food tech, making the processes of creation and distribution more efficient in addition to making new sources of supply. “Venture is a rule of exceptions,” said Yokell. “If you use what works for the venture model and apply it to Tesla [most investors] were wrong. It only takes two massive successes to prove the rule wrong.”

More often though, the money for venture investors is in following some basic rules of investing — chiefly look for high-margin businesses with low upfront capital costs. If something is going to take $40 million or $50 million just to figure out that it might work and then you need to spend another $200 million to prove that it does work … that’s likely not going to be a good bet for a venture firm, Yokell said.

Public markets and large corporations now lead the way

Even as most venture capital dollars shied away from investments in technology that could move the needle on climate (one large exception being Vinod Khosla and Khosla Ventures … another story), the world’s largest investment firms, money managers, publicly traded energy and agriculture companies began stepping up their commitments.

In part, that’s because the economic viability started to become more apparent for decades-old technologies like wind and solar. The costs of these energy-generating technologies made sense to develop because they were, in many cases, cheaper than the alternative. A June report from the International Renewable Energy Agency showed that renewable power generation projects were cheaper than the cost to operate existing coal-fired plants. Next year, the energy agency said, the 1.2 gigawatts of existing coal capacity could cost more to operate than the cost of new utility-scale solar photovoltaics. According to the agency:

Replacing the costliest 500 GW of coal with solar PV and onshore wind next year would cut power system costs by up to USD 23 billion every year and reduce annual emissions by around 1.8 gigatons (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to 5% of total global CO2 emissions in 2019. It would also yield an investment stimulus of USD 940 billion, which is equal to around 1% of global GDP.

Beyond that, the real effects of climate change began to be felt in rising insurance payouts as a result of increasingly frequent natural disasters and money managers beginning to realize that you can’t have a functioning economy if you don’t have a functioning society thanks to social unrest brought about by rising populations consuming increasingly limited resources thanks to climatological collapse. 

In early January, BlackRock, one of the world’s largest investment firms, pledged to refocus all of its investment activities through a climate lens. The investment bank Jefferies has declared 2020 to be the shot from the starting gun for what will be a decade of investments focused on environmental, social and corporate governance. Big energy companies were already picking up the slack where venture investment left off, with firms like National Grid Partners, Energy Investment Partners and others committing capital to new energy technologies even as venture investors pulled back. In 2016, Bill Gates launched a $1 billion investment fund that would focus on climate-related investing, backed by several of his billionaire buddies (including Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr and former Kleiner Perkins managing director, Vinod Khosla) and take the big swings that many venture firms were unwilling to take at the time.

Opportunities beyond energy

Investments in clean tech and sustainability were never just about energy, although that captured a fair bit of the imagination and some of the earliest returns — in biofuels companies and electric vehicles. Now, the breadth of the thesis is being expressed in a deluge of exits and millions invested in areas like novel proteins for food production, new technologies for a more sustainable agriculture, new consumer food products, new technologies for managing power and distributing it, and fantastic new ways to generate that power.

Last week, AppHarvest, a company using greenhouse farming techniques to grow tomatoes more sustainably, agreed to go public through a special purpose acquisition vehicle, and just today, a bioplastics manufacturer is taking the same tack. With the world awash in capital and looking for high-growth companies to generate returns, sustainability looks like a good bet.

Those are the companies that have managed to access public markets in the last week. Beyond Meat captured the attention of institutional investors and the investing public with its better-tasting hamburger substitute, and Perfect Day snagged a massive investment from the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board to make an alternative to cow’s milk. In fact, Perfect Day was the inaugural investment in the national pension fund’s climate strategy. Other deals should follow.

Meanwhile, as carbon emissions monitoring, management and sequestration gain broader commercial and consumer traction, other investment opportunities will begin to open up for digital solutions.

Ocean Solutions Accelerator’s third wave tackles a new set of aquatic challenges

The Sustainable Ocean Alliance and its Ocean Solutions Accelerator take on the problems facing our planet’s waters, and the latest cohort of companies in the latter show a fresh slate of issues to address and resources to utilize. From reef rehabilitation to a “Fitbit for fishing boats,” they’re trying to fix things up in the oceans or at least mitigate the damage we’re doing down there.

The accelerator’s four week, all-virtual (like all of them these days) program focuses on the unique challenges faced by social good companies in this space.

“Startups in the sector are still struggling to find adequate funding during the early phases of operations,” the accelerator’s co-founder Craig Dudenhoffer told TechCrunch in an email. “Many of the solutions (especially hardware) are costly to produce and take a heavy upfront cash investment. We found that out of the hundreds of applicants, only a fraction had received substantial investments. We believe more investors need to educate themselves on opportunities in the ocean sector.”

The SOA team selected nine companies for this wave, only three of which are U.S.-based. “This year, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw our largest and most diverse applicant pool to date,” said Dudenhoffer in the release announcing the companies. “I was particularly encouraged by this year’s applicant pool to see the varying types of solutions, as well as an increase in the number of entrepreneurs that are actively building technologies to address the critical challenges that face the ocean.”

SOA founder Daniela Fernandez recently noted that their area of operation is especially international, so keeping things virtual actually opens up a lot of possibilities, especially for smaller companies that can’t afford to temporarily relocate. “It gives you so many options and makes it far more inclusive,” she told me. “Everybody just has more flexibility and tranquility. So I believe we were headed in that direction anyway.”

'Reefcubes' to help rebuild reefs.

Image Credits: ARC Marine

Here are the nine lucky companies:

  • AquaAI (Norway): Developed a fishlike autonomous underwater vehicle for unobtrusive observation and inspection.
  • AKUA (U.S.): Makes super-healthy kelp-based foods, starting with jerky and soon burgers.
  • ARC Marine (U.K.): Helps protect and rehabilitate reefs with sustainable “Reef Cube” habitat and nursery.
  • Desolenator (The Netherlands): Solar-powered desalination for communities facing fresh water shortages.
  • FlyWire (U.S.): Digital catch monitoring for compliance with regulations and connected commerce.
  • microTERRA (Mexico): Sustainable, aquafarm-grown protein for animal feed.
  • Oceanworks (U.S.): Marketplace for recycled ocean-sourced plastic.
  • PlanetCare (Slovenia): Filter for catching microfibers in washing machine drains before they enter the water system.
  • Trademodo (Canada): New, comprehensive platform for ethical seafood businesses and supply chains.

The companies will get the tender loving care lavished on all the new accelerator’s participants, but possibly also a bit of harsh reality as they learn the difficulties of being an ethics-focused company with long-term goals in a capitalist system that demands almost immediate returns. One of the most important steps in building one of these companies seems to be getting over this demoralizing hump and seeing the possibilities in spite of the difficulties.

A demo day is scheduled for November 5, which is good timing because probably nothing else will be happening around then.

Tesla says its battery innovations will deliver its goal of a $25,000 mass market electric car

Tesla held its ‘Battery Day’ event on Tuesday to discuss a variety of innovations it has developed and is pursuing in battery technology for its vehicles. At the event, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and SVP of Powertrain and Energy Engineering Drew Baglino detailed new anode and cathode technology it’s working on, as well as materials science, in-house mining operations and manufacturing improvements it’s developing to make more more affordable, sustainable batteries – and they said that taken together, these should allow them to make an electric vehicle available to consumers at the $25,000 price point.

“We’re confident we can make a very, very compelling $25,000 electric vehicle, that’s also fully autonomous,” Musk said. “And when you think about the $25,000 price point you have to consider how much less expensive it is to own an electric vehicle. So actually, it becomes even more affordable at that $25,000 price point.”

This isn’t the first time that Musk has talked about the $25,000 price point for a Tesla car: Two years ago in August 2018, he said that he believed the company would be able to reach that target price point in roughly three years. Two years on, it seems like the goal posts have been pushed out again – fairly standard for an Elon-generated timeline – since Musk and Baglino acknowledged that it would be another two or three years before the company could realize the technologies it presented in sufficient quantities to be produced effectively at scale.

Tesla detailed a new, tablets battery cell design that would help it achieve its goal of reaching 10 to 20 terawatts of global battery production capacity per year. The design offers five times the energy density of the existing cells it uses, as well as six times the power and an overall 16% improvement in range for vehicles in which it’s used.

Microsoft commits to putting more water than it consumes back into the ecosystems where it operates by 2030

One good trend in 2020 has been large technology companies almost falling over one another to make ever-bolder commitments regarding their ecological impact. A cynic might argue that just doing without most of the things they make could have a much greater impact, but Microsoft is the latest to make a commitment that not only focuses on minimizing its impact, but actually on reversing it. The Windows-maker has committed to achieving a net positive water footprint by 2030, by which it means it wants to be contributing more energy back into environment in the places it operates than it is drawing out, as measured across all “basins” that span its footprint.

Microsoft hopes to achieve this goal through two main types of initiatives: First, it’ll be reducing the “intensity” of its water use across its operations, as measured by the amount of water used per megawatt of energy consumed by the company. Second, it will also be looking to actually replenish water in the areas of the world where Microsoft operations are located in “water-stressed” regions, through efforts like investment in area wetland restoration, or the removal and replacement of certain surfaces, including asphalt, which are not water-permeable and therefore prevent water from natural sources like rainfall from being absorbed back into a region’s overall available basin.

The company says that how much water it will return will vary, and depend on how much Microsoft consumes in each region, as well as how much the local basin is under duress in terms of overall consumption. Microsoft isn’t going to rely solely on external sources for this info, however: It plans to put its artificial intelligence technology to work to provide better information around what areas are under stress in terms of water usage, and where optimization projects would have the greatest impact. It’s already working towards these goals with a number of industry groups, including The Freshwater Trust.

Microsoft has made a number of commitments towards improving its global ecological impact, including a commitment from earlier this year to become ‘carbon negative’ by 2030. Meanwhile, Apple said in July that its products, including the supply chains that produce them, will be net carbon neutral by 2030, while Google made a commitment just last week to use only energy from carbon-free sources by that same year.

LanzaTech eyes two more spinoff companies

Just three months after LanzaTech announced a spinout aimed at selling sustainable aviation fuel, the company is already preparing for two more.

LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren said Tuesday on the Disrupt 2020 virtual stage that the carbon capture technology company is planning to use its core technology to create two other businesses.

LanzaTech captures waste gas emissions and uses bacteria to turn it into useable ethanol fuel. A bioreactor is used to convert captured and compressed waste emissions from a steel mill or factory or any other emissions-producing enterprises into liquids.

The core technology of LanzaTech — and its future businesses — is a bacteria that likes to eat these dirty gas streams. As the bacteria eats the emissions it essentially ferments them — a bit like how beer is made, Holmgren recently explained — and emits ethanol. The ethanol can then be turned into various products.

“Using a technology like ours that can use so many different feedstocks — waste biomass, industrial gases, CO2 from the air — you’re going to be making so much ethanol, that I think of ethanol as the feedstock of the future. In other words, you’re going to use ethanol to make other products.”

In June, LanzaTech did just that and announced a spinoff called LanzaJet. The new company launched with commitments from Japanese trading and investment company Mitsui & Co. and Canadian oil and gas producer Suncor Energy, which will invest $85 million to fund pilot and development-scale facilities for LanzaJet.

Now it seems that LanzaTech has plans to find pursue other pieces of the supply chain. Holmgren said the company is focused on a couple of use cases on the chemical side. Ethanol, for instance, can be  converted to ethylene, which is used to make polyethylene for bottles and PEP for fibers used to make clothes.

“We see a path from ethanol to products using today’s supply chain,” Holmgren said.

More importantly, LanzaTech has focused on synthetic biology. The company has learned to modify the bacteria that it already uses to make ethanol, and instead harnesses it to make other chemicals directly.

“So you can imagine someday, we’re not just gonna make a fuel for a plane, we’re going make the seatbelts and upholstery — all of these things through synthetic biology,” she said, adding that this will likely become a spinoff.

The second spinoff company focuses on a byproduct it already makes. The bacteria that eats carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide is a “skinny bacteria” as Holmgren calls it because it is mostly protein. LanzaTech already sells this skinny bacteria as a co-product of its technology.

“Not in the too distant future we will want to run a reactor with all of these gases, not to make ethanol, but to make protein, and I see that as an ultimate spin out as well,” she said.

Holmgren didn’t provide a specific timeline of these spinouts. Although she added that the company is putting together a plan now and will begin to make some moves in the next three months. There is of capital that will be needed to get these enterprises up and running. The synthetic biology spinoff, which Holmgren said is further along, will need a couple hundred million dollars up front.

Holmgren also announced Tuesday during Disrupt 2020, a new small-scale waste biomass gasifier in India. The new gasifier will be hosted at Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical, one of India’s largest refiners. The LanzaTech gasifier, which will be built in partnership with Indian project development firm Ankur Scientific, will use waste to make ethanol and chemicals rather than power.

Elon Musk says Tesla will ‘one day’ produce ‘super efficient home HVAC’ with HEPA filtering

Elon Musk has previously touted the ‘Bioweapon Defense Mode’ boasted by Tesla’s vehicles, which are designed to provide excellent air quality inside the car even in the face of disastrous conditions without, thanks in part to high-efficiency HEPA air filtration. Now, Musk has said on Twitter that he hopes to one day provide similar air filtration along with home HVAC systems.

Tesla, while primarily an automaker, is also already in the business of home energy and power generation, thanks to its acquisition of SolarCity, its current production of solar roofing products, and its business building Tesla batteries for storage of power generated from green sources at home. While it hasn’t yet seemed to make any moves to enter into any other parts of home building or infrastructure, HVAC systems actually would be a logical extension of its business, since they represent a significant part of the overall energy consumption of a home, depending on its heating and cooling sources.

Boosting home HVAC efficiency would have the added benefit of making Tesla’s other home energy products more appealing to consumers, since it would presumably help make it easier to achieve true off-grid (or near off-grid) self-sufficiency.

As for the company’s HEPA filtration, despite the jokey name, Tesla actually takes ‘Bioweapon Defense Mode’ very seriously. In a blog post in 2016, it detailed what went into the system’s design, along with testing data to back up its claims of a HEPA filter that’s “ten times more efficient than standard automotive filters.” While Tesla doesn’t cited wildfires in that post, it does list “California freeways during rush hour, smelly marshes, cow pastures in the Central Valley of California, and major cities in China” in terms of challenges it wanted it to to be able to handle.

Many experts are predicting that the wildfires we’re currently seeing devastating large portions of the west coast of the U.S. will only get worse as environmental conditions continue to suffer the impact of climate change. Given that, and given Tesla’s larger business goals of offering a range of products that neutralize or reduce the ecological impact of its customers, more efficient and effective home HVAC products don’t seem that far outside its operational expertise.