Biden, flanked by Detroit automakers, calls for 50% EVs by 2030

Rollback of the rollback

U.S. regulators plan to propose revising former President Donald Trump’s March 2020 rollback of fuel economy standards. Trump required 1.5 percent annual increases in efficiency through 2026, well below the 5 percent yearly boosts set in 2012 by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Biden’s proposed rules, which cover 2023-2026, are expected to be similar in overall vehicle emissions reductions to California’s 2019 deal with some automakers that aims to improve fuel economy 3.7 percent annually through 2026, sources told Reuters.

BMW, Honda, Volkswagen, Ford and Volvo Cars — which previously struck the California deal — said in a joint statement they support the “administration’s goal of reaching an electric vehicle future” but also said “bold action from our partners in the federal government is crucial to build consumer demand for electric vehicles.”

Consulting firm AlixPartners in June said EV investments by 2025 could total $330 billion. As of now, EVs represent about 2 percent of total global vehicle sales, and will be about 24 percent of total sales by 2030, the firm forecast.

Biden has called for $174 billion in government spending to boost EVs, including $100 billion in consumer incentives. A bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill includes $7.5 billion for EV charging stations but no money for new consumer incentives.

Last month, Stellantis said it was targeting over 40 percent of U.S. vehicles to be low-emission by 2030.

GM aspires to end sales of new U.S. gasoline-powered light duty vehicles by 2035. Ford has said it plans “at least 40 percent of our global vehicle volume being all-electric by 2030.”

Charging stations

Biden in the spring asked Congress for $15 billion in spending to build a coast-to-coast network of 500,000 charging stations, part of a broader effort to get consumers to ditch their gas-guzzling vehicles. He would get just half of that money in the bipartisan infrastructure package the Senate rolled out on Sunday.

Government data estimate there are about 41,000 charging stations now available to the public in the U.S.

“To get this done right, you are looking at between $20 billion and $30 billion over the next 10 years,” said Joe Britton, executive director of the Zero Emission Transportation Association, which has said 4.5 million chargers would be needed by the time the U.S. transitions to all EV sales.

The $7.5 billion included in the Senate infrastructure bill is enough to pay for about 735,000 chargers, if they are are a mix of 90 percent level 2 chargers, which use the same voltage as a household dryer, and 10 percent level 3 chargers, which can charge a car in 15-20 minutes but are considerably more expensive, Britton said.

More could be built if there is a federal cost-share with states, he added.

“It’s a positive sign that the Senate’s newly negotiated infrastructure plan calls for funding to construct a nationwide EV charging infrastructure network, which will play a critical role in easing the country’s path forward for electrification,” Caldwell said. “But what’s possibly the biggest hurdle ahead is consumer acceptance: what will it take for Americans to be willing to change their car ownership habits to go electric?”

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents automakers, also said in a statement that additional government support is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions “while maintaining a vital U.S. auto manufacturing sector and the millions of jobs it supports,” the group said.

Some environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, are optimistic the nation will “have the plugs we need to electrify our vehicles.”

“Private companies have already installed more than 100,000 public charging stations in the U.S. and investor-owned utilities are investing $3 billion to help deploy charging infrastructure for cars, trucks, and buses,” said Max Baumhefner, a senior attorney at the council. “With new federal investments and breakthroughs in battery technology, range anxiety should soon go the way of the horse-drawn carriage.”

The fuel economy and emissions requirements proposed by the U.S. Transportation Department and EPA would strengthen mandates eased by the Trump administration — and, over time, mark a return to a more stringent path charted by President Barack Obama in 2012.

The White House estimates that the standards, coupled with the vehicle sales goals, will put the nation on track to cut emissions from new vehicles by 60 percent in 2030 compared with those sold last year.

Environmentalists’ doubts

Some environmentalists said the proposed rules would yield fewer actual reductions in planet-warming pollution than that Obama plan, especially in the near term, as the administration seeks to make up for lost time.

Biden’s proposal “delivers less carbon pollution reductions than the Obama-era standards and includes unfortunate loopholes that undercut progress,” said Simon Mui, deputy director for clean vehicles and fuels at the NRDC.

“But longer-term, the administration is right that at least half of all new vehicle sales must be electric by 2030,” Mui said. “EPA must now move expeditiously to put strong standards in place to ensure automakers deliver on that goal while also slashing pollution from gasoline and diesel vehicles. Anything less puts our health and climate at unnecessary risk.”

Reuters, Bloomberg and Automotive News contributed to this report.