EPA Proposes New Emissions Standards For Light & Heavy Duty Vehicles

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The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday did exactly what it is supposed to do — propose new standards for exhaust emissions from light and heavy duty vehicles that protect the environment. The new rules will be applicable to vehicles manufactured between 2027 and 2032. Unlike some governments, such as the European Union, that have chosen to propose an outright ban on the sale of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, the Biden administration has chosen to establish pollution limits. Manufacturers are free to achieve those limits in any way they deem appropriate.

“By proposing the most ambitious pollution standards ever for cars and trucks, we are delivering on the Biden-Harris Administration’s promise to protect people and the planet, securing critical reductions in dangerous air and climate pollution and ensuring significant economic benefits like lower fuel and maintenance costs for families,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in a press release. “These ambitious standards are readily achievable thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, which is already driving historic progress to build more American-made electric cars and secure America’s global competitiveness.”

The EPA maintains that these regulations will avoid nearly 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which is double the total of those emissions from America’s vehicles in 2022, while saving thousands of dollars over the useful life of those vehicles. It also says the new regulations will reduce America’s reliance on imported oil by approximately 20 billion barrels of oil. The regulations are designed to significantly reduce the impact of exhaust emissions on communities that have borne the greatest burden of poor air quality over time.

The EPA announcement goes on to say that the proposed standards align with commitments made by automakers and U.S. states as they plan to accelerate clean vehicle technologies in the light and medium duty fleets in the next 10 to 15 years. It notes that auto and truck manufacturers are already moving to include electric vehicles as an integral and growing part of current and future product lines, leading to an increasing diversity of clean vehicles for consumers.

“These developments are bolstered by President Biden’s investments in America, which provide unprecedented resources to support the development and market for clean vehicle technologies and associated infrastructure and represent significant investment in expanding the manufacture, sale, and use of zero emission vehicles.

“As these technologies advance, battery costs continue to decline and consumer interest in electric vehicles continues to grow. President Biden’s legislative accomplishments are also supporting critical generation of clean electricity and production of clean hydrogen needed to decarbonize transportation. EPA considered this rapid innovation in its assessment that tighter emissions standards are feasible.

“EPA’s proposals are informed by robust and inclusive stakeholder engagement with industry, labor, advocates, and community leaders. EPA’s proposals will be published in the Federal Register and available for public review and comment, and the agency will continue to engage with the public and all interested stakeholders as part of the regulatory development process.”

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Light Duty Exhaust Emissions

The announcement is just the beginning of the rule making process and begins a 30-day public comment period, which will be followed by an online public meeting scheduled for May 9 and 10. After the public comment period, the agency will consider the feedback provided by members of the public and various industry groups before issuing the final rules.

EPA exhaust emissions
Image credit: Environmental Protection Agency

In the chart above, the EPA shows graphically what level of exhaust emissions will be permitted by the various scenarios presented in the proposed rules. Basically, by 2032, carbon emissions from light duty vehicles will be limited to approximately 80 grams per mile, which is in line with the standards set by the European Union.

For medium duty vehicles, the standards are significantly higher. (We apologize for the line through the chart. It is spread over two pages in the original pdf.)

exhaust emissions
Medium duty exhaust emissions. Credit: EPA

Sharp-eyed readers will notice immediately the proposed rule for medium duty vehicles is roughly triple what it is for light duty vehicles. This may be necessary, but it may also presage a move by automakers to push more medium duty vehicles into dealer showrooms. We shall see, eh?

The EPA says its proposed standards are performance based, which allow each automaker to choose what set of emissions control technologies is best suited for their vehicle fleet to meet the standards. EPA projects that one potential pathway for the industry to meet the proposed standards would be through:

  • Nearly 70% BEV penetration in MY 2032 across the combined light-duty passenger car, crossover/SUV, and pickup truck categories.
  • About 40% BEV penetration by 2032 across the combined medium-duty van and pickup truck categories.
  • Wide-spread use of gasoline particulate filters to reduce PM emissions.
  • Improvements in technology to reduce CO2 from conventional gasoline vehicles. Manufacturers may also choose to employ hybrid or plug-in hybrid technologies to help meet the proposed standards.

Notice that the proposed standard is in ton/miles rather than the grams per mile format used for light and medium duty vehicles.

Heavy Duty Vehicle Rules

exhaust emissions
Credit: Environmental Protection Agency

Once again, the EPA emphasized that its proposed rules are technology-agnostic. Vehicle manufacturers are free to choose how to meet the standards, rather than being told how they must do so. “The proposed standards do not mandate the use of a specific technology, and EPA anticipates that a compliant fleet under the proposed standards would include a diverse range of technologies (e.g., transmission technologies, aerodynamic improvements, engine technologies, battery-electric powertrains, hydrogen fuel cell powertrains, etc.).

“The technologies that have played a fundamental role in meeting the Phase 2 GHG standards will continue to play an important role going forward as they remain key to reducing the GHG emissions of HD vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

“In developing the proposed standards, EPA has also considered the key issues associated with growth in penetration of zero emission vehicles, including charging infrastructure and hydrogen production. In our assessment that supports the appropriateness and feasibility of these proposedv standards, we developed a technology pathway that could be used to meet each of the standards. The technology package includes a mix of ICE vehicles with CO2-reducing technologies and ZEVs.”

Environmental Justice & Emissions

The EPA specifically mentions the social and environmental justice aspects of its proposed new rules. For too long, communities with the least amount of political power have been asked to bear a disproportionate share of the burdens of pollution. The EPA announcement addresses that disparity.

“Pollution from the transportation sector has been a long standing obstacle to advancing environmental justice, as many communities of color and low-income families live near areas where pollution from vehicles and engines is abundant, and therefore experience disproportionate exposures to this pollution. Through regulations, interagency partnerships, federal funding, and other actions, EPA seeks to address these inequities as it works to reduce pollution from the transportation sector.”

The Takeaway

Extreme right wing groups are already attacking the proposed new rules as more evidence of the harm “woke” politicians and administrators in Washington, DC, are doing to their beloved America, where white people have always been free to do as they please and must always remain so. Industry representatives were more measured in their response.

“A lot has to go right for this massive – and unprecedented – change in our automotive market and industrial base to succeed,” John Bozzella, CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation representing General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota and others, told The Guardian. “Factors outside the vehicle, like charging infrastructure, supply chains, grid resiliency, the availability of low carbon fuels and critical minerals will determine whether EPA standards at these levels are achievable.”

Fox News, where journalism and truth are anathema, is telling its audience that the rules are intended to force people to buy electric vehicles, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that no one at Fox has actually read them.

“The Biden administration is trying to bend every federal rule they can find to force people into buying EVs,” said Myron Ebell, the director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment. “There is still a market that allows drivers to buy the vehicles of their choice, but government coercion is rapidly limiting those choices. If Biden policies are successful, we will soon have a choice between buying an EV and not being able to afford a vehicle at all,” Ebell added.

The United States has a choice. It can either take bold action to address global warming or it can stand idly buy and watch as climate change allows the oceans to reclaim huge swathes of America where tens of millions of Americans live today. Notice that Ebell has nothing at all to say about the social justice provisions of the new rules.

In America today, one can either be a progressive or a reactionary. Here at CleanTechnica, we support progressive principles that promote a more inclusive society. We intend to add our voices to the public comments regard the new emissions rules and we encourage our readers to do the same. There are quite enough screamers attempting to preempt public discourse today. This is our chance to have our voices heard as well.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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