The auto industry has become more united in its push toward lower vehicle emissions, led by mass adoption of electric vehicles. But awarding extra credits for EVs could distort and even delay true progress toward carbon neutrality.
General Motors last month asked for federal policy to support greater adoption of EVs. GM plans to invest $35 billion toward electric and autonomous vehicle development through 2025, and the automaker — which has said it's given up on hybrid vehicles — aims to have a fully electric light-vehicle lineup by 2035.
GM CEO Mary Barra said in a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan that incentives would facilitate mass adoption of EVs by consumers, along with investment in the necessary charging infrastructure. EV incentives could complement President Joe Biden's goal to build 500,000 charging stations.
It's no surprise that EVs are politically appealing: As with the investment community, enthusiasm for the potential of electric vehicles is contagious and can cloud one's understanding of what actually is possible.
GM didn't specify the type of regulatory gymnastics it believes will foster high-volume sales of electric vehicles, but if policies are poorly conceived, the outcomes will be disappointing.
One type of incentive could include credits or multipliers that count one EV sale as two, for example. Such an approach could effectively give automakers the leeway to also sell more lower-mileage gasoline-burning vehicles. The end result would be perverse: The more EVs sold, the dirtier the air.