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EPA Unveils Pollution Standards, Extends Transition Period for Carmakers

The new EPA regulations provide carmakers with crucial time to scale up technologies and ensure a sustainable transition.

Michael C. Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Battery Technology

March 20, 2024

2 Min Read
EV charging station
The EPA's announcement is designed in part to ease the transition to electrification for auto OEMs.CREDIT: NARVIKK / ISTOCK VIA GETTY IMAGES

In a decisive move to address climate change and accelerate the shift towards electric vehicles (EVs), the Biden administration has unveiled the United States' most stringent limits on planet-warming emissions from passenger cars and light trucks. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new rule represents President Biden's most significant climate regulation to date, aiming to compel automakers to increase EV sales while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles.

Delayed EV targets and expanded compliance options

The EPA's decision to extend the transition period for carmakers stands out as a pivotal aspect of the new regulations. Unlike the initial proposed rule from last year, the finalized regulation allows automakers more time to meet stricter EV requirements, particularly after 2030. Allowing additional time for the industry to scale up clean vehicle manufacturing supply chains in the initial years covered by the rule, the EPA aims to facilitate a smoother transition towards compliance.

This adjustment responds to concerns raised by labor unions , a critical constituency for Democrats, regarding the potential impact of a rapid transition to EVs on jobs in the auto industry. Additionally, the new rule permits automakers to comply by increasing sales of plug-in hybrid vehicles alongside all-electric models, recognizing consumer preferences and infrastructure considerations.

EV sales fluctuate—but trend upward

There has been a lot of reporting on the 2023 slowdown in EV sales and production—but despite these recent fluctuations, industry analysts note a general upward trajectory, with record-breaking sales figures in 2023. The EV market share keeps trending up, even as their prices plummet (The Washington Post cites Cox Automotive data to argue that EVs are now almost as inexpensive as gasoline-fueled cars).

That situation—while it lasts—bodes well for long-term electrification goals. The new EPA rule finesses its details in a way to make that transition as easy as possible but also a certainty.

Balancing environmental and economic objectives

The EPA's final standards strike a balance between environmental objectives and economic feasibility. By projecting substantial net benefits to society, including public health benefits and reduced fuel costs for consumers, the regulations underscore the potential for environmental stewardship to go hand in hand with economic growth.

Despite the delayed timeline for EV adoption, the final rule is expected to prevent a substantial amount of carbon emissions, estimated at 7.2 billion metric tons through 2055. Moreover, it aims to reduce fine particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, thereby averting up to 2,500 premature deaths annually from air pollution starting in 2055. EPA Administrator Michael Regan emphasized the rule's significant pollution reduction and its potential to improve public health.

“With transportation as the largest source of U.S. climate emissions, these strongest-ever pollution standards for cars solidify America’s leadership in building a clean transportation future and creating good-paying American jobs, all while advancing President Biden’s historic climate agenda,” Regan stated. “The standards will slash over 7 billion tons of climate pollution, improve air quality in overburdened communities, and give drivers more clean vehicle choices while saving them money.”

About the Author(s)

Michael C. Anderson

Editor-in-Chief, Battery Technology, Informa Markets - Engineering

Battery Technology Editor-in-Chief Michael C. Anderson has been covering manufacturing and transportation technology developments for more than a quarter-century, with editor roles at Manufacturing Engineering, Cutting Tool Engineering, Automotive Design & Production, and Smart Manufacturing. Before all of that, he taught English and literature at colleges in Japan and Michigan.

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