The Environmental Protection Agency announced a pair of proposals Wednesday to dramatically cut auto emissions and spur the industry toward full electrification.
The first set of proposed standards would target emissions from passenger cars, vans and light trucks, while the second batch would apply to heavier duty vocational vehicles, such as delivery trucks, dump trucks and buses. The EPA estimates that, if they are finalized, the rules would lead to the electrification of two-thirds of new sedans and SUVs and 50% of heavier trucks by 2032.
Taken together, the EPA projects the rules would cut 10 billion tons of CO₂ emissions through 2055.
"As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently alerted us yet again, the stakes could not be higher," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a call with reporters. "We must continue to act with haste and ambition to confront the climate crisis and to leave all our children, like my 9 -year-old son, Matthew, a healthier and safer world."
Although the auto industry has been trending toward electrification, the rules would dramatically reshape production. S&P Global Mobility forecasts that U.S. electric vehicle sales could surpass 40% of total passenger car sales by 2030. The new rules could require the electrification of two-thirds of new passenger vehicles in about the same time frame.
Asked how auto manufacturers could pull off the shift necessary to comply with rules, an EPA official said analyst projections lagged the "physical reality" they saw from private investment in the industry.
Officials added that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes tax incentives up to $7,500 to buy U.S.-made electric vehicles, had enabled more ambitious proposals.
"What you see over the last two years, its sort of unavoidable conclusion, is that President Biden’s leadership has reshaped the trend lines," Ali Zaidi, the White House national climate adviser, said on the call with reporters.
Zaidi added: "This is a moment of transformation. And it’s a moment of transformation that accrues benefit to our kids who rely on us to make decisions so that they can breathe cleaner air."
The agency will accept public comments on the proposed rules before they are finalized next year. The rules would take effect starting with model year 2027.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, criticized the proposed standards, saying they would "make cars unaffordable."
"This will hurt low-income families the most, while also making us more reliant on China for critical materials necessary for electric vehicles," Rodgers said in a statement. "It’s a lose-lose for American families and for American security.”
The EPA, in contrast, said the new rules would reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil and save consumers money by sparing them gas costs.
Biden, a self-proclaimed "car guy," has made electrifying the auto industry a cornerstone of his climate agenda. During his first year in office, Biden set a goal that at least 50% of new passenger cars and light trucks sold in 2030 be zero-emission vehicles, the White House said in a release. The next year, he targeted that 100% of all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sold in 2040 be zero-emission vehicles, with an interim 30% sales target for those vehicles in 2030.
"Cars and truck manufacturers have made clear that the future of transportation is electric," the White House release said. "The market is moving."