Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released Part Two of “The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks.” This rule rolls back the fuel efficiency standards to a 1.5% year-over-year improvement in mileage vs a 5% improvement under the Obama Administration. With this rollback, the nation loses critical guidance and direction on emissions reduction goals from the light-duty vehicle sector, which ultimately helps to spur overall interest and investment in electric vehicles (EVs) nationwide. Needless to say, Plug In America opposes this new rule under the Trump Administration.
“At a time when we are experiencing a global health crisis, we should not be weakening fuel efficiency standards and adding more pollution to the air we breathe,” said Plug In America Executive Director Joel Levin. “To protect the health of all Americans, we must transition to clean transportation, including plug-in electric vehicles. In addition, in the midst of the current economic slowdown, evidence shows that electric vehicles create good domestic jobs in manufacturing and energy. Rolling back the clean car standards is bad for the environment, bad for public health, and bad for the economy.”
With Part One of the rule, released in September 2019, the EPA and NHTSA revoked state authority to set its own tailpipe pollution standards and adopt zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards. As we’ve stated before, there’s no doubt the single biggest policy driver for the market is the ZEV standard (mandate), which requires that an increasing percentage of new cars sold in the state be zero-emission. This forces the automakers to actually make EVs or to buy credits from other automakers who are making these clean cars.
A report issued by the Rhodium group on the rollback of the standards found that: “Relative to Obama-era rules, we find that rolling back national fuel economy standards and revoking California’s waiver could reduce the share of ZEVs sold in 2035 by up to 8 percentage points nationwide, which could mean up to 14 million fewer ZEVs on the road by that year.”
In addition, rolling back clean car standards means more tailpipe pollution. Living with air pollution has been linked to higher rates of health issues, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Multiple studies have found that high levels of air pollution have also been linked to larger numbers of people hospitalized with pneumonia. In our unprecedented public health crisis right now, it makes zero sense to take any actions that would increase tailpipe pollution and further impact public health in a negative way. Instead, the Administration should take actions that promote the adoption of battery EVs, since they have no tailpipe and therefore no tailpipe pollution.
A Consumer Reports study found that rolling back clean car standards would cost nearly every state (45 of 50) at least $1 billion in net consumer losses and cost all Americans a total of $300 billion in net losses. This is money that could be going back into local communities, acting as an economic stimulus at all levels, instead of going into a gas pump. EVs save consumers money due to their lower fuel costs (electricity) and the savings on maintenance.
Since the re-opening of this rule under the Trump Administration, the states of Minnesota and New Mexico have announced their intent to join the California Advanced Clean Cars program—including adopting the ZEV mandate. In addition, Colorado fully adopted the Advanced Clean Cars program. And just two weeks, ago, Washington state also fully adopted the Advanced Clean Cars program.
Ultimately, this issue will be decided in the courts, as numerous groups have challenged the Trump Administration over their actions with the standards—including Plug In America. We are part of the National Coalition for Advanced Transportation and a part of the lawsuit that is suing the federal government for rolling back the Clean Car Standards and revoking the CA waiver. As always, we will continue working with states to implement supportive state level policies and programs that drive adoption of EVs.