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New EPA auto emissions rules boost electric, hybrid vehicles

The Biden administration announced new tailpipe emissions standards for new passenger cars, which aim to reduce carbon emissions by more than 7 billion tons, as well as other harmful air pollutants.

The standards will apply to new passenger cars and light trucks, starting with model years 2027 through 2032.

The Environmental Protection Agency, in announcing the strengthened standards, said reducing carbon emissions and other harmful air pollutants would help prevent premature deaths and reduce heart attacks, respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular diseases, as well as asthma.

“Three years ago, I set an ambitious goal: that half of all new cars and trucks sold in 2030 would be zero-emission,” President Biden said in a statement. “Today we are setting new pollution standards for cars and trucks.”

However, the new standards also relax a proposed EPA rule that would have required automakers to rely on all-electric vehicles as the only solution to meeting pollution goals. After months of discussions with the auto industry and its workers, the EPA settled on a strategy that would include a range of vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, hybrids and advanced gasoline vehicles, to meet emissions targets.

“By taking the concerns of workers and communities seriously, EPA has come a long way to create a more workable emissions rule that protects workers who build internal combustion engine vehicles, while paving the way for automakers to implement the full range of automotive technologies to reduce emissions,” the United Automobile Workers union said in a statement.

In the United States, transportation generates 28% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The new tailpipe emissions rule will significantly help President Biden in his efforts to achieve his long-standing goal of reducing total emissions 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels by the end of this decade.

“This rule will address the largest source of carbon pollution in the country,” said Manish Bapna, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We anticipate that the response to the rule will create cleaner cars, more sales of plug-in hybrids and more electric vehicles.”

The EPA emphasized that this rule is not a mandate for electric vehicles, but rather an anti-pollution rule intended to combat emissions and protect public health. By moving toward cleaner cars that rely on electricity, the agency estimates the rule will save consumers nearly $46 billion in reduced annual fuel costs and nearly $16 billion in reduction in annual maintenance and repair costs for drivers until 2055.

“The big takeaways from today’s EPA announcement are that we’re moving toward an electric vehicle future, there’s no doubt about that,” said John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. “The real question is how quickly can we get there?”

Despite record electric vehicle sales in 2023, some automakers have adjusted their electric vehicle production figures and shifted toward hybrid vehicles, citing consumer hesitancy over battery range and insufficient infrastructure recharge. Growth in electric vehicle sales began to slow toward the end of last year.

“To reach a much more ambitious level of (electric vehicle) sales, for example half of new vehicle sales by 2030, a lot of things need to change. We need to invest in charging infrastructure,” says Bozzella.

The Biden administration has set aside $5 billion infrastructure law adopted in late 2021 to build a national charging network for electric vehicles, but deployment has been slow. When the program launched in November 2021, it set a goal of installing 500,000 electric vehicle chargers by 2030, but the first charger didn’t go live in Ohio until October last.

“We’ve seen investments in (charging) infrastructure over the last year and we expect that to continue to increase,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan told CBS News. “Industry, the private sector and the right policies will converge in ways that allow electric vehicles to excel.”

As of early 2024, 33 states had submitted applications for chargers, and 16 states had been awarded contracts, and installation was currently underway. There are currently 170,000 public charging ports across the country, with an average of 900 new chargers opening each week, according to the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation.

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