ICCT Welcomes Mr Biden Pledge on EVs in US
The International Council on Clean Transportation welcomed US President Mr oe Biden’s Executive Order setting a target of 50% electric vehicle sales in the United States by 2030, and the Administration’s long-awaited announcement that it will largely restore the Obama-era tailpipe emissions standards and press forward with even more stringent fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas emissions standards after 2026. These are important steps toward decarbonizing the US passenger vehicle fleet and rejuvenating the US auto manufacturing sector, with its millions of jobs and fundamental importance to the American and global economies.
Restoring and even slightly improving the greenhouse-gas and fuel-economy standards in place at the end of the Obama Administration seeks to correct for a rollback that, as we noted at the time, was fundamentally flawed and put the United States out of step with every other major auto market and manufacturing center. The Administration’s aim to finalize the standards by the end of the year so that they will apply to model year 2023 vehicles is important in trying to recoup as much as possible the losses of the past four years. More important will be the development of ambitious longer-term fuel-efficiency and multipollutant standards to 2030 or beyond, a process that will now begin under the Executive Order.
But more important still is the 50% EV sales target. Decarbonizing the transportation sector, which is the largest contributor to climate pollution in the United States, is of the utmost urgency. There is no realistic pathway to decarbonization that relies on combustion-engine vehicles. Battery-electric vehicles can deliver the deep decarbonization necessary. While other major economies (e.g., Europe, China) have been acting on that crucial realization by taking steps to facilitate a transition to electric vehicles, the United States has lagged. That represents not only a setback for the climate but also a looming crisis for the American manufacturing economy. Since 2010 the US share of global EV production has fallen, from 20% to 18%, and without intervention that trend will continue: a mere 15% of the USD 40 billion total investment global automakers have planned in EV manufacturing is presently destined for the United States. The EV target of 50% sales in 2030 is largely consistent with last month’s proposal by the European Commission. Europe, like California, has also proposed a target of 2035 for phasing out fossil fuel vehicles.
Success depends in part on progress under the bipartisan infrastructure legislation now moving through Congress. To support an EV fleet as large as the Administration envisions the United States will need to install well over 1 million public charging points. The $7.5 billion investment contained in that bipartisan legislation represents another step in the right direction, as does the president’s goal of half a million public chargers.
Even with the welcome changes signaled by today’s Executive Order, the United States still lags the European Union in policy ambition. And even the EU’s Fit for 55 climate policy proposal announced last month is not enough to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions reductions we know are necessary to meet the Paris Agreement goals. But President Biden’s Executive Order, and the pledges of support from the United Auto Workers and the auto companies, signal that the next round of vehicle emissions regulation can produce the sort of visionary policy that the climate crisis calls for.