United States: new standards on automobile emissions, the strictest ever adopted

The US government announced on Wednesday that it had finalized new standards on automobile emissions, the strictest ever adopted, with the aim of accelerating the transition to electric cars.

Compared to the draft regulation announced last year, which has since been the subject of public consultation, these final rules however give more time and flexibility to manufacturers to achieve the new CO2 emissions targets.

In the midst of an election year, President Joe Biden needs the support of the auto industry and its employees. But he must also convince about his climate promises. Among them: ensuring that half of the cars sold in the United States in 2030 are electric.

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“I am pleased to announce the most stringent vehicle pollution standards ever adopted in American history.“said Michael Regan, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In front of a huge flag of the United States, a country where the automobile is king, he added: “I have always loved cars and always will.

The new rules refer to light and medium vehicles manufactured between 2027 and 2032.

The administration does not set a precise quota of clean vehicles for sale, but progressively restricts the average annual emissions authorized for new vehicles from each manufacturer, thus encouraging them to electrify their fleet.

The limit was relaxed during the first years (2027-2030), but ends in 2032 at the same level as previously planned.

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By that date, CO2 emissions standards will represent a reduction of about 50% compared to the 2026 auto standards, the EPA maintains.

Many environmental associations applauded the announced measures. However, some experts accuse the government of having bowed to industry pressure.

The new standards“Require fewer emissions reductions in the first years” compared to the initial proposal, lamented the Center for Biological Diversity. “This will send carbon pollution into the atmosphere sooner and cause more damage to the climate.

– Primary source of emissions –

Transportation is currently the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

The new rules should make it possible to avoid the emission of 7.2 billion tons of CO2 by 2055, according to the EPA. This is approximately four times the emissions of the transport sector in 2021.

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The new standards also affect emissions of fine particles, which are dangerous to health.

According to the government, a net benefit of 99 billion dollars per year is expected, of which 13 billion thanks to health savings (avoidance of hospitalizations, etc.).

The automotive industry welcomed the announcement. John Bozzella, from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, welcomed the extension of the deadlines decided by the EPA and highlighted the challenges encountered on the path to electrification, such as the need to develop new production lines.

The standards for 2032 are “scary“he said. But”the future is electric and manufacturers are determined“.

Joe Biden’s Republican opponents accused him of leading a crusade against gasoline cars, forcing “ordinary Americans to adapt their way of life” to the elites, according to their leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

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The American Petroleum Institute (API), which represents the oil sector, even threatened legal action against the new regulations.

This works as a “ban” that leads to “eliminate most new traditional gasoline and hybrid cars from the US market in less than a decade” she said.

– Steep slope –

Specifically, it will be up to manufacturers to choose which technologies to adopt to reduce their emissions. They will be able to improve the efficiency of gasoline car engines, but above all determine their share of zero-emission (electric) or low-emission (plug-in hybrid) vehicles.

According to EPA estimates, by the 2030s, electric vehicles could account for up to 56% of light vehicles sold.

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That’s down from 67% predicted last year, and the EPA is now adding plug-in hybrids to the available options to meet emissions targets.

These could reach 13% of sales, as the agency now predicts.

The slope remains steep for electric cars: in 2023, they represented only about 7.6% of vehicles sold in the United States, according to the firm Cox Automotive.

But “Since 2021, electric vehicle sales have quadrupled and prices continue to decline.“argued Ali Zaidi, Joe Biden’s climate advisor.

Since the start of Joe Biden’s term, companies have announced more than $160 billion in investments in clean vehicles, according to the EPA.

The Democratic president also acts on other fronts: development of the network of charging stations and adoption of tax credits for the purchase of electric cars.

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