Biden administration setting the stage for electric vehicles

Aug. 30, 2021
Proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be a return to Obama-era emissions regulations

President Joe Biden, a self-proclaimed “car guy,” has been very vocal on his intent to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2030, and on his goals to transition the United States to an electric vehicle future. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. transportation sector is currently the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gases. President Biden is expected to make a major step toward his climate change goals soon, in the form of tightening tailpipe emissions standards.

The proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be a return to Obama-era emissions regulations. At the time, the Obama administration clean-car standards were the most ambitious in history. Now, nearly 10 years later, President Biden is looking to enact standards that may even go above his democratic predecessor. Reports indicate that the Biden administration is looking to make a 5 percent increase in the mileage standard by 2025, matching Obama’s standards, and then go higher for vehicles model year 2026, maybe in the range of 6 or 7 percent.

During his four-year term, President Donald Trump made it a priority to roll back many public health and environment regulations that he saw as restrictive to the nation’s consumers. Among these were the requirements for fuel-efficient vehicles and an increase in the cap for greenhouse gas emissions. After four years of looser standards, environmental groups say that the United States is in a dire circumstance to reverse climate damage and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Some groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, say that Biden’s proposed standards do not go far enough.

The president is walking a fine line between attacking climate change and satisfying the automobile industry, where many are pushing for a slower transition to electric vehicles. Currently, electric vehicle sales make up for only 2 percent of total vehicle sales in the United States. So far this year, more than three-quarters of U.S. new vehicle sales were trucks, vans, and SUVs, which all tend to be less fuel-efficient and more affordable for the consumer.

Many auto companies, such as General Motors, have made the pledge to transition to all electric vehicle sales as soon as 2035. However, environmental groups are concerned that these promises may fall short if the consumer market fails to reflect a demand for electric vehicles. One of the main concerns about the transition to electric vehicles is the lack of a national network of EV charging stations. Consumers suffer from “range anxiety” — the concern that their electric vehicle would not be suitable for road trips and locating charging stations would be too taxing.

A major step toward remedying this issue is included in the much-debated infrastructure plan currently making its way through the lawmaking process. President Biden proposed at the beginning of this year his ambitious “American Jobs Plan,” which would make record investments in traditional and non-traditional infrastructure areas. Included in this proposal was a plan for 550 million new EV charging stations across the United States. However, this plan faced significant opposition on size and scope, with many lawmakers stating that the plan was too expensive and too broad.

This week, the U.S. Senate voted to proceed on a bipartisan infrastructure framework that includes portions of the president’s plan. The infrastructure framework has a total price tag of $550 billion, including $7.5 billion in funding for new EV charging stations. This amount is roughly half of President Biden’s original proposal but is still a huge investment in an all-electric future.

It still remains to be seen what the final infrastructure plan will include, as lawmakers work on bill text in the next couple of weeks. However, the focus on electric vehicle investment, as well as the impending EPA greenhouse gas rulemaking, are clear indicators of the focus on an increasingly electric future.

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