DETROIT -- Advancements in electrification, vehicle connectivity and autonomous technologies have prompted the EPA to rethink its approach to setting future tailpipe emissions rules, the agency's top auto official said.
Christopher Grundler, director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said those broad trends have the potential to revolutionize automobiles and transportation in ways that must be reflected in U.S. environmental policy.
"There seems to be a clear consensus in the automotive industry about what this future looks like, and that we're in the midst of transformational change," Grundler said at the Automotive News World Congress here. "The question to me becomes: What does this mean for the post-2025 policy framework? Should it transform as well? I say, yes. Absolutely."
Grundler's remarks marked the first time an EPA official has publicly signaled a willingness to alter the agency's approach to regulating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
The EPA's current approach looks at regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and those regulations will grow more stringent each year through the 2025 model year. They differ from regulations governing oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter.
In an interview, Grundler said the agency is considering incorporating additional factors such as electricity sources, autonomous technologies, connectivity, car-sharing and mobility services and other emerging transportation trends into its thinking.
"We can't simply take the same old approach that looks at this from a tailpipe standard-setting point of view," Grundler said. "We need to be thinking about public policy in a post-2025 period in a much broader way."
Among the changes Grundler says are being discussed is crafting policies that set standards for greenhouse gas, oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter as a group.
Grundler said this rethinking is in its early phases, and no decisions have been made about policy changes after 2025.
Underpinning the need for a broader approach is the historic agreement reached last month in Paris by 195 countries to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change, Grundler said. The agreement calls for setting new reduction targets every five years.
"In this post-Paris world we need to open our minds to all good ideas that will accelerate this transformation in ways that will be good for the planet, good for business and good for people," he said.
One venue to further consider a new model for auto environmental policy will be the midterm evaluation of the agency's tailpipe emissions and fuel economy rules, which is under way.
Grundler says automakers are ahead of schedule in complying with the new rules, calling the results of their efforts "nothing short of spectacular." His comments appeared to suggest that any weakening of the standards is unlikely.
Grundler rejected the notion that the regulations would force automakers to market unpalatable vehicles. "We have a common cause with the industry to see these vehicles selling and selling in record numbers," Grundler said. "We get that unless people buy fuel-efficient vehicles in numbers that matter, we don't achieve our environmental goals. For EPA to succeed, this industry needs to succeed."