Tesla Somehow Cheated On Emissions With An Emissions-Free Car

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If there’s one area where you wouldn’t expect Tesla to run afoul of the law, it’s emissions. And yet.

Today the electric vehicle manufacturer finds itself under scrutiny by the Environmental Protection Agency for allegedly failing to report that its surface coatings comply with hazardous air pollutant regulations.

Tesla revealed the EPA’s allegation in its latest quarterly filing, published today. Listed under Part II, Item 1 “Legal Proceedings,” it reads as follows:

In April 2021, we received a notice from the Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”) alleging that Tesla failed to provide records demonstrating compliance with certain requirements under the applicable National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants under the Clean Air Act of 1963, as amended, relating to Surface Coating of Automobiles and Light-Duty Trucks regulations. Tesla has responded to all information requests from the EPA and refutes the allegations. While the outcome of this matter cannot be determined at this time, it is not currently expected to have a material adverse impact on our business.


At the moment, there’s no information about what specific proof of compliance Tesla has not provided to authorities. Is it something regarding Tesla’s coating application process? Or could it have to do with the chemicals used in the coating itself? The automaker is adamant that it’s been thoroughly communicative with the EPA regarding each of its inquiries. Of course, Tesla doesn’t have a PR department to reach out to, though we’ve contacted the EPA and will update this article should we learn anything.

Last May, Tesla promoted Richard Miller, head of the company’s paint operations, to lead production at its Fremont factory.


Paint quality is something that’s taken Tesla a while to get down, particularly while accelerating Model 3 production — something CEO Elon Musk admitted in an interview with manufacturing expert Sandy Munro back in February.

“One of the things that was happening when we ramped up production was the paint wasn’t necessarily drying enough. So, it’s like if you go faster, you know, it’s just like you discover these things. If we knew them in advance, we’d fix them in advance. But you ramp a line and the paint that had an extra sort of minute to dry or two minutes or whatever, now it doesn’t have that two minutes. And so it was more prone to having issues.”


Tesla doesn’t have any official documentation regarding its coating process on its website. There’s been speculation that California’s regulations limiting volatile organic compounds in automotive coatings required the company to use water-based paints that are more susceptible to picking up blemishes than solvent-based alternatives. Then again, other states have similar laws, so Tesla wouldn’t be the only carmaker facing such a problem.