By Ella Nilsen and Sam Fossum
The US Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to release strict new proposed federal emissions standards for light-duty vehicles that, if implemented, would move the US car market decisively toward electric vehicles over the next decade.
The EPA is considering emissions standards that could make up to two-thirds of new passenger vehicles sold in the US electric by 2032, according to a source familiar with the proposal.
If implemented, the new greenhouse gas performance standards would start for light-duty vehicles that are model year 2027 and gradually increase through model year 2032.
By 2032, the rules would ensure that 64% to 67% of all new-car sales in the US would be electric vehicles, according to the source.
The EPA’s proposal, which was first reported by The New York Times, comes after California air regulators voted last year to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035 and set interim targets to phase these cars out.
EPA spokesperson Tim Carroll did not comment on the specifics of the proposal but said the agency is working on developing new standards “to accelerate the transition to a zero-emissions transportation future, protecting people and the planet,” as directed by a previous executive order from President Joe Biden.
“Once the interagency review process is completed, the proposals will be signed, published in the Federal Register, and made available for public review and comment,” Carroll said.
The new rules could come as soon as Wednesday.
The EPA proposal is a monumental step toward zero-emissions vehicles, coming as the US tries to keep up with other countries racing toward EV adoption, one expert said.
“I believe it’s pretty doable,” said Margo Oge, chair of the International Council on Clean Transportation and a former Obama EPA official. “The industry is there. Europe is ahead of the US, China is ahead of Europe, and these companies are global companies.”
Oge noted that in the US, California is already proposing 70% new zero-emissions vehicle sales by 2030 and other states are planning to adopt California’s rules – meaning much of the US car industry will be transitioning ahead of any proposed federal rule.
Still, the EPA’s proposal takes a different approach from California’s policy. Whereas California is mandating car companies sell a certain percentage of electric vehicles, the EPA would gradually raise greenhouse gas emissions standards to increasingly stringent levels from 2027 to 2032, pushing the industry toward electric vehicles to meet those high standards.
The EPA rule would ensure that the rest of the country and the US car industry would follow California’s lead, Oge said.
Biden has made electrifying the cars that Americans drive a key part of his climate goals. In 2021, the president set a new target that half of all vehicles sold in the US by 2030 would be battery electric, fuel-cell electric or plug-in hybrid.
The US Treasury Department is set to release rules for new federal electric vehicle tax credits on April 18. While these tax credits are complex and could take time for consumers to take full advantage of, experts hope they will help accelerate the transition to EVs in the US.
“Given the industry, the [Inflation Reduction Act] and what companies are doing globally, I just don’t see this number as being out of reach,” Oge said.
The proposed EPA rules will go through a lengthy public comment process and could be changed before they are finalized.
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