Biden and automakers agree to 50% electric vehicles by 2030: Are the regulations tough enough?


Thursday was a big day for clean cars. The executives of the Big Three American automakers — Mary Barra of General Motors, Jim Farley of Ford, Mark Stewart of Stellantis — stood side by side with President Joe Biden as he set a target of 50% electric cars by 2030.

The record of car manufacturers in this area is somewhat uneven. Although they united around the Obama initiative in 2012 for an average fleet of 54.5 mpg by 2025, some of them changed course when the wind blew over former President Donald Trump. With CEOs nodding, he brought the standards down to the point where the fleet would average 29 mpg in 2026.

The Trump administration and the automakers seemed to deny something fairly obvious: China and Europe were electrifying themselves quickly, backed by non-negotiable regulations and demands. And although the modern lithium-ion battery has been widely studied and developed in the United States, Biden pointed out in his speech that 80% of the capacity to manufacture them is now in China. “We have to move and go fast,” he said. “China is leading the race. Biden’s approach has been to focus heavily on U.S. jobs related to making electric vehicles and batteries here.

The 50% target that automakers are adopting now is voluntary, and their past behavior is no guarantee that they will stick to it. But part of the announcement was also a return to stricter regulatory standards, with a new target of 52 mpg by 2026. By this model year, the industry will need to meet a target of 171 grams of carbon dioxide. carbon per mile.

The Obama standards have risen 5% per year, and the Biden rules will do so from 2024 to 2026. But some environmental critics are worried – a lot – about the loopholes.

“This deal is not as good as what the automakers agreed in 2012,” said Dan Becker, director of the Climate Safe Transport campaign at the Center for Biological Diversity.

He points to what are known as “off-cycle credits,” which give automakers points for options like a rooftop solar system that wouldn’t show up in actual fuel economy tests on a dynometer. No, solar energy does not power the car – it can provide some cooling when parked in hot weather.

“With credits, they can make more consumers of gasoline for free,” he said.

According to Chris Harto, senior policy analyst for Consumer Reports, “This proposal includes new and expanded loopholes for automakers, which would undermine the promise of the proposal. the group analysis suggests that Biden’s proposal would achieve about 75% of the emissions savings within Obama standards. According to Consumer Reports, “The loopholes are an unnecessary compromise, given that the EPA’s own analysis indicates that the loopholes around EVs would not meet their stated goal of increasing sales. ”

Other environmentalists weighed in. Charles Griffith, director of the climate and energy program for the Michigan Ecology Center, said new leadership “Will go a long way in putting us on the right track to tackle the climate challenge. However, the proposed standards should not be watered down and even stricter long-term emissions standards will be needed to get us through. ”

The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Sierra Club want a 100% electric new car market by 2035, which is in fact in line with the plans of many automakers. Plug In America would like only plug-in hybrids and battery-powered cars to be sold by 2030, with all electric vehicles by 2035. Becker actually wants to ramp up faster, with the latest pot car from exhaust sold in 2030. He would also like to see the standards become 7% stricter each year, which is unlikely at this point.

Behind Biden and the CEOs on the White House lawn were examples of ongoing electrification, including a Ford F-150 Lightning, a Chevrolet Bolt EV, and a plug-in Jeep Wrangler prototype. Obviously, automakers are realizing that the entire auto industry is going electric, and even former latecomers are now on board. Exhaust pipes would go away without the help of the federal government, but they will go away much faster with that help.

The Washington based Zero emission transport association (ZETA), which wants 100% of electric vehicle sales by 2030, says, “The Biden administration has proposed more than $ 100 billion for consumer incentives, and it is imperative that the next budget reconciliation process make those investments a reality. To achieve maximum impact, these consumer incentives should be provided at the point of sale, apply to both new and used vehicles, and include light, medium and heavy vehicles.

But some of the money is already taken off the table. Biden proposed $ 15 billion for electric vehicle charging in the infrastructure bill, but Senate negotiators cut that amount in exactly half.

Electric vehicles only accounted for 2.2% of vehicle sales in the United States in the first half of 2021. But interest is growing. Pew Research said In June, while only 7% of American adults currently own electric or hybrid vehicles, 72% of those surveyed said they were very (43%) or somewhat (29%) likely to consider one next time. that they would buy a vehicle. And 47% said they supported proposals to phase out gasoline and diesel fuel. Of course, 51% opposed it. The United States does not have a united front on electric vehicles.

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