WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden said Thursday that the US must “act quickly” to win the future of automotive engineering.
Biden also wants automakers to increase gas mileage and reduce exhaust pipe pollution by model year 2026. This would be a significant step in delivering on his promise to cut emissions and tackle climate change as he drives a historic shift in the U.S. from internal combustion engines to battery-powered vehicles.
He called for the components needed to make this sweeping shift – from batteries to semiconductors – to be also made in the United States to support both industry and unions for the environmental effort, with the promise of new jobs and billions of dollars Federal electric vehicles investment.
The president drew attention to electric vehicles parked on the South Lawn of the White House, declaring them a “vision of the future that begins now”.
“The question is whether we are leading or falling behind in the race for the future,” he said, “folks, the rest of the world is making progress. We have to catch up. “
Apparently in a good mood, the President climbed into a battery-only plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and made a quick lap around the driveway after the ceremony.
Early Thursday, the government announced that the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation would introduce new mileage and environmental standards, part of Biden’s goal of halving U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The auto industry has agreed to a goal that by 2030 40 to 50% of new car sales will be electric.
Both the regulatory standards and the voluntary target of automakers were included in an implementing regulation that Biden signed as a gathering of leading representatives of the automotive industry and the legislature.
The standards that the regulatory process must go through would reverse the rollbacks of fuel economy and pollution implemented under President Donald Trump. At that time, the kilometer increases were reduced to 1.5% annually up to model year 2026.
The new standards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase fuel consumption by 10% over the Trump rules in the 2023 car model year. According to an EPA statement, they would get 5% stronger in each model year through 2026. That’s about 25% more than four years.
The EPA said the proposed standards would be the strictest greenhouse gas emission rules in US history by 2026.
However, it remains to be seen how quickly consumers will be willing to prefer vehicles with higher mileage and lower emissions over less fuel efficient SUVs, which are currently the top sellers in the industry. The 2030 EV goals are ultimately non-binding, and the industry emphasizes that billions of dollars in EV investments in congressional legislation will be critical to achieving those goals.
Edmunds.com estimates that only 2.2% of new car sales were all-electric vehicles through June. That is an increase of 1.4% at the same point in time last year.
Biden has long referred to himself as the “auto guy,” his political role as a worker tied to union membership support and vice-president in stabilizing the auto industry after the 2008 economic collapse. He told General Motors chief executive Mary Barra that he wanted to reserve some test drive.
“I have a commitment from Mary: If they build the first electric Corvette, I can drive it,” said Biden. “Right, Maria? You think i’m kidding I’m not joking.”
Dave Cooke, Senor Vehicles analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the new rules are almost in line with the final year of standards enacted when Barack Obama was president and withdrawn by Trump.
However, Cooke said he was concerned that the regulations would increase the number of years that automakers would have double recognition for meeting the standards for every electric vehicle they sell. That allows more emissions from vehicles with internal combustion engines, he said.
Last week, The Associated Press and other news outlets reported that the Biden government was discussing weaker mileage requirements with automakers, but these have since been tightened. The change came after environmental groups publicly complained that they were too weak.
Traffic is the single largest contributor to climate change in the United States.
The agreement with the automakers defines electric vehicles as plug-in hybrids, fully electric vehicles and those that run on hydrogen fuel cells.
Environmental groups welcomed the movement but also said the administration should move faster.
“Given that climate change has already changed our weather so much, it is clear that we need to accelerate progress dramatically,” said Simon Mui of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Scientists say man-made global warming is raising temperatures, raising sea levels, and exacerbating forest fires, droughts, floods and storms around the world.
Several automakers have already announced sales targets for electric vehicles that are similar to those in the agreement with the government. Last week, Ford’s CEO said his company expects 40% of its global sales to be all-electric by 2030. General Motors has announced that it will only sell electric cars until 2035 in 2030.
The Trump rollback of the Obama-era standards would require the fleet of new vehicles to drive a projected 29 mpg in the “real world” by 2026 to achieve Obama rules.
General Motors, Stellantis and Ford said in a joint statement that their recent commitments on electric vehicles show they want to lead the US in the transition from combustion vehicles.
They said such a “dramatic shift” in the US market could only happen today with measures that include incentives to buy electric vehicles, adequate government funding for charging stations, and money to expand electric vehicle manufacturing and parts supply chains.
United Auto Workers, which has raised concerns that the switch to electric cars is premature due to the potential impact on industrial jobs, has not committed itself to support the 40-50% EV target. But the UAW said it stood behind the president to “support his ambition to not only build electric vehicles but also our ability to produce them domestically with good wages and benefits.”
Biden on Thursday repeatedly extolled the virtues of American union members, saying that the challenges of climate change could provide an opportunity for “well-paying union jobs.”
With the shift from internal combustion engines to electric drives, jobs that now manufacture pistons, injectors, and mufflers will be replaced by the assembly of lithium-ion batteries, electric motors, and high-performance wiring harnesses.
Many of these components are now being built abroad, including in China. Biden has made developing a U.S. electric vehicle supply chain a key part of his plan to create more jobs in the auto industry.
A bipartisan infrastructure bill awaiting Senate approval has earmarked $ 7.5 billion in grants to build charging stations, about half of what Biden originally proposed. He wanted $ 15 billion for 500,000 gas stations, plus cash for tax credits and discounts to encourage people to buy electric vehicles.
Krisher reported from Detroit. Associated Press writers Hope Yen, Jonathan Lemire and Seth Borenstein contributed from Washington.