Biden Administration proposes strongest vehicle emission standards to date

What's Happening

The Biden Administration has announced new vehicle emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will apply to light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles starting in model year 2027. These standards apply to the tailpipe emissions of GHGs, requiring significant reductions over the coming decade. Because the efficiency of internal combustion engines is limited by the laws of physics, actually attaining these standards will require a significant increase in the sales of electric vehicles (EVs), especially in later years–about 67% of new light-duty vehicle sales and 46% of new medium-duty sales by 2032, according to EPA. These regulations add to the tax credits, manufacturing support, and other incentives for EVs that were part of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), in accelerating the sales of EVs.

Our Take

The new proposed standards represent some of the strongest federal actions to accelerate EV manufacturing and adoption. Aggressively reducing GHG emissions regulations to  require the sales of electric vehicles can be highly effective, which researchers have known for some time. UC Davis research has identified that EVs represent the best, most certain, and lowest-cost method to reduce emissions from vehicles. This federal policy seeks to balance the need for ICE vehicles to continue improving their efficiency even as the market shifts towards EVs. 

When it comes to implementing policy to realize these targets, the federal government can look to California, a state that is already familiar with the complexities of implementing ambitious emissions reductions and clean vehicle targets. The 2022 Advanced Clean Cars II rule recently created a path to 100% ZEVs from new auto sales by 2035, building upon the state’s existing emissions goals. 

While the EPA’s proposed policy stops short of achieving California’s ambitious goals, the timeline is realistic, though challenging. To achieve the goals of the EPA’s proposed standards, automakers will have to build upon existing fuel efficiency trends and shift greater fractions of their production toward EVs. According to researchers at the  UC Davis EV Research Center, the federal government will also need to support massive investments in EV charging infrastructure. Their research shows that the overwhelming majority of EV charging today occurs at home, but infrastructure will also need to be made available for people who live in apartments or who don’t have a fixed overnight parking spot. UC Davis experts have also identified the need to invest heavily in public education to address the barriers (both real and perceived) to EV adoption. California’s experience in adapting to these policies suggests that strong emissions reduction targets can be successful on a broader scale. However, addressing the barriers to ZEV adoption will be a key component of ensuring an effective transition.

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