EPA Issues Emission Rule Change Proposals for Light and Medium Vehicles

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

As previously reported, the Biden administration is plotting to advance some of the most aggressive vehicle emission proposals the United States has yet seen.

On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) weighed in on the matter, issuing the first suggested changes for the 2027-2032 model years. The agency claimed that tougher emissions regulations would both save consumers money and serve to spur EV adoption at an accelerated pace. Let's see if that's the case.

"By proposing the most ambitious pollution standards ever for cars and trucks, we are delivering on the Biden-Harris administration's promise to protect people and the planet, securing critical reductions in dangerous air and climate pollution and ensuring significant economic benefits like lower fuel and maintenance costs for families," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

"These ambitious standards are readily achievable thanks to President Biden's 'Investing in America' agenda, which is already driving historic progress to build more American-made electric cars and secure America's global competitiveness.”

The first set of proposed standards are called the “ Multi-Pollutant Emissions Standards for Model Years 2027 and Later Light-Duty and Medium Duty Vehicles,” and are effectively a tougher version of preexisting emissions limits. They also have to exist in tandem with (Corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards that take into account fleet-wide MPGs for automakers.

For light-duty vehicles, the emissions standards would increase annually, resulting in a fleet-wide average target of 82 grams per mile of carbon dioxide by the 2032 model year. Meanwhile, medium-duty vehicles are expected to target 275 grams per mile of CO2 within the same time frame.

The plan would require a combined fleet (year-over-year) reduction of carbon dioxide of 18 percent for the model year 2027; 13 percent for 2028; 15 percent for MY 2029; 8 percent for 2030; 9 percent for 2031; and 11 percent for 2032.

It’s quite a bit stricter than the current rules targeting vehicles between now and 2026 — where no annual uptick in carbon emission limits exceeds 10 percent annually. Those standards also set an industry-wide target of 161 grams of carbon dioxide per mile, meaning the update would be effectively twice as stringent. Your author’s assumption is that these new targets will not be achievable without the industry leaning heavily upon all-electric and hybrid vehicles.

Of course, that’s also the point. The Biden administration has been extremely clear that it wants to maximize EV sales by any means necessary and the current take rate is improving but not on course to meet the desired targets. The market has spoken, so the government is altering the terms of the deal and asking again.

Officially, the EPA is not allowed to mandate that carmakers build electric vehicles. But it can regulate tailpipe emissions so aggressively that it’s effectively impossible for an automaker to achieve compliance without EVs becoming its mainstay product. So the government is effectively pushing internal combustion vehicles out of frame as it assures everyone that what’s taking place is not a ban on what you’re allowed to buy. Pretty clever in a diabolical kind of way.

This was also the take of The New York Times, which reported that the whole scheme was effectively being put into place to ensure that 67 percent of sales of new light-duty passenger vehicles would be all-electric by 2032. Ditto for medium-duty trucks, which are estimated to see 46 percent of new vehicle sales be EVs within the same period.

From NYT:

The E.P.A. also proposed a companion rule governing heavy-duty vehicles, designed so that half of new buses and 25 percent of new heavy trucks sold would be all-electric by 2032.
Combined, the two rules would eliminate the equivalent of carbon dioxide emissions generated over two years by all sectors of the economy in the United States, the second biggest polluting country on the planet after China.
But some autoworkers and manufacturers fear that the transition to all-electric vehicles envisioned by the Biden administration goes too far, too fast and could result in job losses and lower profits.
Major automakers have for the most part invested heavily in electrification. Nonetheless, several are apprehensive about customer demand for the pricier all-electric models; the supply of batteries; and the speed with which a national network of charging stations can be created.

But with mounting evidence that EVs likewise offer serious ecological consequences, it’s becoming clearer to the world that this accelerated transition might be about more than just saving the planet. Electric vehicles typically require less than half the number of human hands to build vs comparable internal combustion models. This means automakers can slash overhead by dumping a large portion of their workforce, while also selling vehicles that are priced higher than ever before. We’ve seen German labor unions protesting about this for years now.

The Biden administration has attempted to assure the labor force that automakers will be on the hook to produce batteries stateside, due to regional content requirements that have been added to its ever-expanding incentivization scheme. But the public seems to be losing its appetite for the premise. New vehicle pricing is already higher than most people can afford and unfettered government spending has weakened the dollar. Americans probably won’t look kindly on mass layoffs tied to EV production

Even the automotive lobbies, which literally exist just to tell the government what to do, are getting concerned. John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI), which represents basically every big automaker on the planet, questioned how the EPA could justify “exceeding the carefully considered and data-driven goal announced by the administration in the executive order.”

“Yes, America’s transition to an electric and low-carbon transportation future is well underway,” Bozzella stated. “EV and battery manufacturing is ramping up across the country because automakers have self-financed billions to expand vehicle electrification. It’s also true that EPA’’s proposed emissions plan is aggressive by any measure … Remember this: A lot has to go right for this massive — and unprecedented — change in our automotive market and industrial base to succeed.”

Meanwhile, the EPA is issuing all kinds of assurances about how much carbon will be removed from the atmosphere over the next few decades if the United States manages to adhere to these bold new proposals.

For example, the agency said that the proposal for light- and medium-duty vehicles would prevent 7.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2055. That’s “equivalent to eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from the entire current U.S. transportation sector for four years," according to the EPA.

But who is going to give a shit when they don’t have jobs and can’t afford the resulting products? Is the government just going to subsidize EVs forever? Eventually, someone has to realize that borrowing from the tax base to offer tax breaks that primarily benefit the automotive sector isn’t a sustainable plan for the broader population. However, it probably won’t be someone that’s working for the EPA.

The agency has claimed that the proposed standards are anticipated to save consumers $12,000 over the lifetime of their next vehicle, compared to one not subject to the enhanced emission limits. Savings are alleged to come from lower repair and maintenance costs, in addition to there being no fuel bills associated with EVs.

Though, if we take a peek at Europe, electricity prices can spike to unprecedented levels in a relatively short time frame and they will undoubtedly go up once everyone is driving electric and demand blows through the roof. Saving that 12 grand also doesn’t matter if the compliance EV you were forced to buy retails for thousands more than the combustion model you originally wanted — and it almost assuredly will, sending us back to the government using tax dollars to prove tax credits on vehicles most people still don’t want.

I’m not bashing EVs. They’ve come a long way and offer a novel driving experience that suits some people’s lives better than others. But forcing them down the public throat is a mistake, financially unsound, wildly uncompetitive, and will ultimately make more people resent them. The government can talk about the Paris Climate Accords and the importance of reducing greenhouse gasses all it wants — and you will continue to see NGOs and activist organizations praising climate action in the media. But regular people the world over are getting fed up with the heavy-handedness associated with climate regulations and are beginning to wonder how any of this actually improves their lives today.

Meanwhile, the EPA says even more rule changes are coming soon and that it will be seeking public comment before they are finalized next year.

[Image: Bob Korn/Shutterstock]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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3 of 65 comments
  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on Apr 13, 2023

    "The agency claimed that tougher emissions regulations would both save consumers money and serve to spur EV adoption at an accelerated pace."

    Never underestimate the stupidity of government appointees, nor their feeble attempts to gaslight all of us to believe nonsense. 2+2 = 5 to these people.

    Prior to the arrival of the mysterious virus of unknown origins, a strong majority of people trusted CDC and FDA. It's hovering at 50% today, and it's about the same for the FBI.

    This will be our undoing if we don't turn this around.

    • EBFlex EBFlex on Apr 13, 2023

      Anyone that trusts the CDC, FDA, or FBI are clinically insane. All have been weaponized.

  • Daniel J Daniel J on Apr 13, 2023

    Yeah, that electric f150 did an excellent job of towing.

  • Mike Some Evs are hitting their 3 year lease residual values in 6 months.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I am just here for the beer! (did I say it right?)
  • El scotto Tim, to be tactful I think a great many of us would like a transcript of TTAC's podcast. 90 minutes is just too long for most of us to listen. -evil El Scotto kicking in- The blog at best provides amusement, 90 minutes is just too much. Way too much.
  • TooManyCars VoGhost; I was referring more to the Canadian context, but the same graft is occurring in the US of A and Europe. Political affiliation appears to be irrelevant.
  • The Oracle Going to see a lot of corporations migrating out of Delaware as the state of incorporation. Musk sets trends, he doesn’t follow them.