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Biden administration scales back EV targets

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it will ease its final yearly tailpipe emissions reduction requirements through 2029 and lower its requirements for pure-battery electric vehicles to meet these targets, representing a softening of the Environmental Protection Agency standards for EVs in the months ahead of the November presidential election.

While the EPA will seek for EVs to make up 67% of new vehicle sales by 2032, the same goal as outlined in the version of the rules proposed last year, it will allow automakers to do so using other mixes of vehicles, including plug-in hybrids and improved internal combustion engine vehicles, in addition to pure battery electric vehicles.

Speaking to reporters on a call Tuesday evening previewing the actions, administration officials stressed that the new rules, which will take effect for passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty vehicles beginning in 2027, are still the strongest-ever tailpipe reduction standards, and will help achieve President Joe Biden’s goal of more than 7 billion cumulative tons of carbon dioxide reductions by the time it is fully implemented in 2055.

The regulations will also deliver on the Biden administration’s goals of reducing fine particulate emissions by 95% and reducing the emissions of nitrogen oxides and other ozone smog precursors by about 75%.

“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,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan told reporters.

The administration has faced pushback from auto manufacturers as it attempts to deliver on its EV targets, with trade groups representing many of these manufacturers arguing that the administration’s EV sales targets are not achievable in the intended time frame, risked limiting consumer choice, disadvantaging the auto industry, and triggering price hikes for all types of vehicles.

Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, also have taken aim at the targets, arguing that they represent a de-facto EV mandate and will force reliance on China, which controls the vast majority of the critical minerals supply chain, including for materials needed for EV battery manufacturing.

Still, senior administration officials stressed Tuesday that sales of plug-in hybrids and purely electric vehicle sales in the U.S. have started to increase beginning in the last few months of 2023, surpassing U.S. sales targets of 1 million EVs last year.

Prices for EVs in the U.S. are continuing to decline, senior administration officials said, aided further by the consumer tax credit provision in the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides consumers with up to $7,500 in EV subsidies.

Still, American Petroleum Institute CEO Mike Sommers said in a statement that the revised standards would eliminate most new gas cars and hybrids within a decade.

“This regulation will make new gas-powered vehicles unavailable or prohibitively expensive for most Americans,” he said. “For them, this wildly unpopular policy is going to feel and function like a ban.”

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