The EPA's proposal to enforce its most stringent vehicle emission standards yet for light vehicles is a crucial step toward reducing polluting emissions. And when political winds inevitably shift, automakers should plan to meet — or exceed — the new rules.
President Joe Biden's 2021 executive order calls for zero-emission vehicles to make up half of new-vehicle sales by 2030, but that's a voluntary goal, not a requirement.
The EPA's proposed rule is more aggressive. It calls for an average 13 percent fleetwide emissions reduction each year for cars and light trucks in the 2027-32 model years and a cumulative 56 percent reduction in average emission target levels after the 2026 model year through 2032. Automakers would be required to follow the EPA's rule.
The standards wouldn't mandate EVs; they enforce emissions reductions, which automakers can achieve in a variety of ways. If the EPA's proposal is finalized, EVs could make up more than half of new-vehicle sales by the 2030 model year and two-thirds by 2032, according to the agency's projections. Last year, EVs made up 5.6 percent of U.S. light-vehicle registrations, up from 3.1 percent a year earlier.
After Biden announced his executive order in August 2021, more automakers said they would launch EV-only lineups, and some plan to surpass Biden's target.
Automakers will already have invested $1.2 trillion in global electrification by 2030, according to the Alliance of Automotive Innovation. Automakers and battery manufacturers have invested at least $110 billion to electrify products in the U.S.
Federal incentives and charging infrastructure funding are contributing to EV momentum, and the EPA proposal would hold automakers accountable to reduce emissions.
New rules won't and shouldn't be taken lightly. Automakers draft future product plans and transform their company org charts around new standards and targets.
Political winds could shift when Biden leaves office — or not. Uncertainty is the real villain. Automakers have invested too much in electrification and are too far along to allow politics to upend product plans based on who's in the White House.
Automakers will have to meet federal standards — or better yet, should plan to exceed them. That way, they would be better positioned to set their own climate and EV agenda.
Certainly the climate — and the evolving global automotive industry — depends on it.