The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed the strongest-ever pollution standards to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles as part of the president’s clean energy agenda.
The ambitious new standards unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency aim to result in more than half of new passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. being electric by 2030, and as many as two-thirds by 2032, a feat that has already received pushback and skepticism from automotive industry executives who say it’s unrealistic.
White House officials say the plan will go forward.
“Let’s just rewind the tape … to 2.5 years ago and see what the analysts said then,” White House Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi told reporters about the proposal’s feasibility. “The automakers have strategies and now have technologies and an infrastructure and a supply chain to be able to achieve this with the lead time they’ve got.”
Despite conceding the future of transportation is electric, automakers are far from certain they can achieve the administration’s ambitious outlook of nearly 70% of vehicles nationwide.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents manufacturers including Ford and General Motors, doused the administration’s optimism with cold water by warning new regulations alone will not deliver the EV revolution they’re envisioning.
“Even with positive EV sales momentum and product excitement, there are challenges to the electrification transition ahead. This requires a massive, 100-year change to the U.S. industrial base and the way Americans drive,” the group said. “A clear-eyed assessment of market readiness is required. The answer on rule feasibility is: It depends.”
The U.S. is nowhere close to the EV goals laid out by the administration. Although EV sales in the U.S. soared 65% last year to more than 800,000 by some projections, they only accounted for 5.8% of all new vehicles purchased.
“Regulatory mandates alone will not address the conditions (again, outside the vehicle) that will determine the ultimate success of the EV transition,” the Alliance said.
Some of the main hurdles remain supply chain issues to procure the required critical minerals for EV batteries, a lack of charging stations nationwide and sticker prices that outpace gas-powered equivalents.
The proposed rule must first undergo a public comment period before being etched into regulation. If implemented, it would apply to model year 2027 and run through 2032. The administration has already raised mileage and emissions standards for models through 2026 and set the goal of all new sales reaching at least 50% by 2030.
The new standards would not explicitly limit gas-powered vehicles or require a certain number of EVs to be sold, but would have the effect in reality. The tailpipe emission limits would be so strict that it would effectively force automakers to sell more new EVs than they do gas-powered vehicles.
Mr. Zaidi described the pollution standards as “technology neutral” that regulate tailpipe emissions rather than setting EV mandates or outright kicking gas-guzzlers to the curb.
Climate advocates hailed the proposed regulation as necessary to curbing greenhouse gases harmful to the planet and to Americans’ health.
“Every single day, millions of Americans are forced to breathe deadly vehicle pollution spewed from combustion vehicles on the road,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous. “Strong federal action to address this devastating reality is a must.”
The administration is eyeing Democrats’ tax and climate spending law known as the Inflation Reduction Act to help place more Americans behind the wheels of EVs. The law, passed along party lines last year, included $370 billion for clean energy over the next decade and a tax credit of up to $7,500 for new EVs.
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