Regulatory Developments, Sustainability

Paving the Way for Clean Vehicles: EPA Proposes New Standards

On April 12, 2023, the EPA announced new proposed federal vehicle emissions standards for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles for model year (MY) 2027 and beyond that are expected to accelerate the ongoing transition to a clean vehicles future and tackle the climate crisis.

On the same day, the EPA also announced new proposed standards for heavy-duty trucks.

Together, the proposed rules are projected to “avoid nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, equivalent to more than twice the total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2022, while saving thousands of dollars over the lives of the vehicles meeting these new standards and reduce America’s reliance on approximately 20 billion barrels of oil imports,” an Agency press release states.

“By proposing the most ambitious pollution standards ever for cars and trucks, we are delivering on the Biden-Harris Administration’s promise to protect people and the planet, securing critical reductions in dangerous air and climate pollution and ensuring significant economic benefits like lower fuel and maintenance costs for families,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

The light-duty vehicle category includes passenger cars and light trucks—consistent with previous EPA criteria pollutant and greenhouse gas rules. In this proposal, heavy-duty Class 2b and 3 vehicles are referred to as “medium-duty vehicles” (MDVs) to distinguish them from Class 4 and higher vehicles that remain under the heavy-duty program. In this rule, the MDV category includes primarily large pickups and vans with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of between 8,501 pounds and 14,000 pounds that are typically used for work due to their higher towing and hauling capabilities compared with light-duty vehicles.

The proposed standards would increase in stringency over a 6-year period, from MYs 2027–2032, and are expected to result in:

  • An industrywide average target for the light-duty fleet of 82 grams/mile (g/mile) of CO2 in MY 2032, representing a 56% reduction in projected fleet average greenhouse gas emissions target levels relative to the existing MY 2026 standards.
  • An acceleration in the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). Depending on the compliance pathways manufacturers select to meet the standards, the EPA projects that EVs could account for 67% of new light-duty vehicle sales and 46% of new MDV sales in MY 2032. The proposed MY 2032 light-duty standards are projected to result in a 56% reduction in projected fleet average greenhouse gas emissions target levels compared with the existing MY 2026 standards. The proposed MY 2032 MDV standards would result in a 44% reduction compared with MY 2026 standards.
  • The EPA estimates that the total benefits of this proposal far exceed the total costs, with the net present value of benefits in the range of $850 billion to $1.6 trillion, with equivalent annualized net benefits in the range of $60 billion to $85 billion.

“Although still a minor portion of the vehicle fleet, since President Biden took office, the number of EV sales has tripled while the number of available models has doubled,” reports Fuels Market News. “There are over 130,000 public chargers across the country—a 40% increase over 2020. The private sector has also committed more than $120 billion in domestic EV and battery investments since President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. The new standards proposed reflect the advancements and investments in clean vehicle manufacturing, which have been accelerated by President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.”

Projected mix of technologies

The proposed standards are performance-based, allowing each automaker to choose what set of emissions control technologies is best suited for its vehicle fleet to meet the standards. The EPA projects that one potential pathway for the industry to meet the proposed standards would be through:

  • Nearly 70% battery electric vehicles (BEV) penetration in MY 2032 across the combined light-duty passenger car, crossover/SUV, and pickup truck categories;
  • About 40% BEV penetration by 2032 across the combined medium-duty van and pickup truck categories;
  • Widespread use of gasoline particulate filters to reduce particulate matter (PM) emissions; and
  • Improvements in technology to reduce CO2 from conventional gasoline vehicles.

Manufacturers may also choose to employ hybrid or plug-in hybrid technologies to help meet the proposed standards.

Industry pushback

The proposed rules have faced significant criticism.

“American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Mike Sommers issued the following statement. … ‘This deeply flawed proposal is a major step toward a ban on the vehicles Americans rely on. As proposed, this rule will hurt consumers with higher costs and greater reliance on unstable foreign supply chains,’ he said,” according to Fuels Market News.

“The trucking industry starts at ‘yes.’ We share the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving fuel efficiency and believe any regulation must be practical, achievable, and based on sound science,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear, Fuels Market News adds. “Our members have a long history of adopting the cleanest emissions technology on the road today and are making the necessary investments to support a decarbonized future.

“While these standards are directed at manufacturers, it is fleets – the customers and end-users of this equipment – who will ultimately determine their level of success. The Phase 3 standards must take into account the complex challenges and operating conditions facing motor carriers as we manage the transition to a zero-emission future while simultaneously moving more than 72 percent of the economy’s freight.”

“The Biden-Harris EPA is continuing their regulatory blitz on small-business truckers,” said Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), continues Fuels Market News. “The latest proposal comes on the heels of a hurried NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions rulemaking finalized in December along with a California waiver mandating sales of electric trucks. Today’s announcement is a blatant attempt to force consumers into purchasing electric vehicles while a national charging infrastructure network remains absent for heavy-duty commercial trucks. Professional drivers are skeptical of EV costs, mileage range, battery weight and safety, charging time, and availability. It’s baffling that the EPA is pushing forward with more impractical emissions timelines without first addressing these overwhelming concerns with electric CMVs (commercial motor vehicles). The pursuit of this radical environmental agenda in conjunction with an anticipated speed limiter mandate will regulate the safest and most experienced truckers off the road.”

One thing is clear: The Biden administration is serious about electrification whether or not manufacturers and industry are prepared. Industry is advised to prepare for the transition. It’s clear investments will continue to move into supporting electrification and cleaner technologies.

Written comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until July 5, 2023, and can be made at under Docket #EPA–HQ–OAR–2022–0829.  Virtual public hearings will also be conducted. For more information about the public hearings, see the EPA website for the proposed rule.

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