The Biden administration is accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles with two new pollution regulations that could revolutionize the auto industry. Here’s what you need to know about the 1,475 pages of proposed EV regulations unveiled by the EPA.
Without stricter regulations, the EPA says EVs would only make up 39% of new sales in 2032. The agency also projects that half of new “vocational” vehicles like garbage trucks and school buses will be electric by 2032 under its proposals, as well as 25% of long-haul trucks.
The first and most sweeping rule, Reg. 2060-AV49, covers light-duty cars and trucks as well as medium-duty vehicles like larger SUVs and passenger vans. It aims to encourage automakers to produce more electric vehicles by reducing the number of greenhouse gases allowed from tailpipes.
The EPA estimates that its proposal will add an incremental cost of $844 for cars and $1,385 for trucks in 2032. But it argues that these upfront costs will be offset by savings on fuel and maintenance, as well as purchasing incentives.
The average buyer of a car or light-duty truck is projected to save $12,000 over the vehicle’s lifetime. This is on top of the rule’s benefits in reducing oil imports, air pollution-related diseases, and greenhouse gases.
The new target for light-duty vehicles is an average of 82 grams of CO2 per mile traveled in 2032 – roughly half the existing target for 2026. This “fleet average” is calculated by the EPA for each automaker, allowing sales of zero-carbon EVs to offset pollution from fossil-fuel vehicles.
For nitrogen oxides and other organic gases, the standard would be reduced to 12 milligrams per mile in 2032 – down 60% from an Obama-era requirement. The EPA also proposed a standard for particulate matter that’s down as much as 92% from current standards.
In addition to the primary proposal, the EPA is soliciting comments on several alternative regulatory options for light-duty vehicles. The least stringent would achieve 64% EV penetration in 2032, while the most would reach 69%.
The proposal also includes tweaks to a compliance program that helps automakers meet EPA requirements. The agency is maintaining a system where companies producing less-polluting vehicles can earn credits to sell to their more-polluting rivals.
These credits have been a revenue source for companies like Toyota and Tesla. The EPA’s deputy assistant administrator for mobile sources, Alejandra Nunez, said the agency is considering several alternative regulatory options of varying stringency for light-duty vehicles.
The second proposed rule, Reg. 2060-AV50, covers heavy-duty vehicles like tractor-trailers and vocational vehicles – the source of a quarter of transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions. This rule follows two prior rounds of regulations that manufacturers largely accepted.
The proposal also creates warranty requirements for batteries on zero-emissions trucks and requires automakers to install “state of health” battery monitors accessible to customers. The light-duty proposal will be open for 60 days of public comment and the heavy-duty proposal for 50 days once published in the Federal Register.
But didn’t Biden just make it harder to get tax breaks for electric vehicles? Yes, under a recent Treasury Department proposal, fewer electric cars and trucks will qualify for the $7,500-per-vehicle tax breaks intended to make EVs more affordable.
The aim is to ensure that vehicles receiving the credits are made in the US and that their critical parts and minerals come from either the US or its closest trading partners. Even tighter restrictions aimed at excluding countries like China are due later this year.
The EPA’s proposals represent a significant push towards electric vehicles, but there remain challenges and questions about their implementation and impact on the auto industry and consumers.
The administration hopes that the EPA’s prodding, along with tax breaks and other incentives for technologies like charging stations, will accelerate the transformation to electric vehicles that market forces are already pushing. This is a work in progress.
Many environmental groups welcomed the EPA’s proposals. Dan Lashof of the World Resources Institute said they will “speed the US auto industry toward an all-electric future faster than any regulation has before.”
But Dan Becker of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Safe Climate Transport Campaign argued that the proposal isn’t stringent enough. He called for a regulation to achieve 67% EV sales in 2030 – two years earlier than the EPA’s timeline. “Biden shouldn’t let automakers’ can’t-do attitude sabotage his best shot at cutting carbon emissions,” Becker said.
Republicans were less thrilled. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) accused Biden of trying to “ban the cars we drive” – a common refrain from GOP critics of the new rule. “The ‘electrification of everything’ is not a solution,” Barrasso said. “It’s a road to higher prices and fewer choices.”
Despite the EPA’s push for electric vehicles, there remain substantial hurdles to widespread adoption. The US still lacks enough chargers for all the EVs the EPA wants to see on the highways. And many existing stations suffer from malfunctions and slow charging.
Questions linger about whether the US electric grid can handle the load of charging so many vehicles, and whether domestic manufacturing and mining can ramp up fast enough to produce EVs domestically.
Electric vehicles have made headlines for bursting into flames. In June 2022, one Tesla vehicle required 4,500 gallons of water to extinguish a fire. These challenges must be addressed to ensure the successful adoption of electric vehicles in the US. The EPA wants to phase out a bonus credits program that rewarded companies for adopting technologies like solar roof panels and high-efficiency headlights.
The administration hopes that its efforts will speed up the transition to electric vehicles, but there remain challenges and differing opinions on how best to achieve this goal. The debate over the EPA’s proposals is sure to continue as they move through the public comment period.
Electrified Mag’s Take: Like darkness after dusk, the electric revolution in coming and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Most of these new regulations kick in around 2032 so there is still almost a decade left on the clock for OEMs to perfect battery issues and municipalities to build out the grid.
There are roughly 330 million people in America and let’s say they all own at least one car. We all know the real number of vehicles is higher, but for the sake of this argument, lets roll with the 330 million unit fleet number for the following exercise. There are roughly 14-18 million new cars sold in the US every year. At that rate it will take decades to replace the national fleet of cars and SUVs not to mention trucks, semis and delivery vehicles. I think we will live in a half EV, half ICE world for the next 20 years followed by a diminishing number of ICE cars from there on out, but we’re still decades away from a 100 percent EV fleet.
Ultimately, these regulations WILL help push EV adoption, but the consumer will ultimately decide the winner. That relies heavily on battery advances, recharging infrastructure and the availability of EVs that have achieved parity with every aspect of ICE vehicles, including refueling times. Lastly, the most sluggish element of EV adoption is the current average MSRP of $66,ooo. If nobody can afford a new EV, all these regulations are meaningless.