General Motors and the Environmental Defense Fund plan to submit recommendations to the U.S. government regarding emissions standards for passenger vehicles made for model year 2027 and beyond.
Given the specific 5-year window of the recommendations and automakers’ typical long-term planning, the recommendations also offer a peek at GM’s product planning.
The next five years
There’s good reason to believe GM’s product mix is well-planned for the time window in question. On the same day as the joint announcement with the EDF, GM revealed rental-car giant Hertz plans to purchase up to 175,000 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac and BrightDrop EVs during the next five years.
The new rental EVs will range from compact and midsize SUVs to pickups and luxury vehicles.
“Our work with Hertz is a huge step forward for emissions reduction and EV adoption that will help create thousands of new EV customers for GM,” said GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra in a statement.
Half EV by 2030
Pivoting back to government, GM and EDF are encouraging the EPA to establish standards to ensure at least 50% of new vehicles sold by 2030 are zero-emission EVs, while achieving at least a 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the same year, as well as dramatically reducing nitrogen oxides and particulates. These interim goals are consistent with eliminating all tailpipe pollution from new passenger vehicles by 2035.
Those goals would almost certainly require that the 50% of vehicles that would still use internal combustion engines in 2030 would be cleaner than they are today. The most likely scenario is that most such vehicles would be hybrid or plug-in hybrid.
“General Motors has the ultimate goal of eliminating tailpipe emissions from new light duty vehicles by 2035,” said Barra. “As new standards are being developed, we are pleased to join the Environmental Defense Fund to provide recommendations that support accelerated adoption of electric vehicles to put us on the path toward that goal.”
Getting to specifics
The policy proposals undersigned by GM and EDF urge the EPA to focus on a path to a zero-emissions, all-electric future by 2035. The goal is to provide a roadmap that automakers and communities can rely upon as they make their manufacturing and infrastructure plans, respectively.
“We look forward to working with EPA on incorporating these principles into the next generation of national tailpipe emission standards,” the joint statement said.
Specifically, GM and EDF are proposing that:
- EPA Tier 4 standards from 2027 should be designed to ensure at least 50% of new vehicles sold by 2030 are zero-emissions, and should be consistent with eliminating all tailpipe pollution from new passenger vehicles by 2035.
- In addition to passenger vehicles, the new standards should also be applied to Class 2b and Class 3 vehicles. Class 2b includes full-size pickups, vans, and SUVs from 8,501-10,000 pounds GVWR. Class 3 includes commercial vehicles from 10,001-14,000 pounds GVWR. New standards for these classes should achieve at least a fleetwide 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2030, compared to model year 2021. In other words, “rolling coal” will be a thing of the past.
- Standards should be proposed in the fall of 2022 and finalized in the fall of 2023 to ensure stability and certainty for manufacturers beyond 2030. The new standards should extend until at least 2032 and EPA should consider adoption through 2035, securing deep pollution reductions and providing a stable investment signal and regulatory certainty for manufacturers and governments at all levels.
- Consistent with EPA’s long-standing regulation of emissions from new motor vehicles, the new standards should cover all emissions, reflecting the ability of EVs to deliver reductions in greenhouses gases, nitrogen oxides and particulates.
- The statement specifies that “new standards should be performance-based and build from EPA’s existing and long-standing approach to regulate pollution from automobiles, including assigning zero emissions to vehicles that have no tailpipe emissions.” This means looking only at what comes out of the car on the road, rather than considering the entire vehicle lifecycle from production to recycling or disposal.
- Standards should be designed to ensure the benefits of pollution reductions are shared equitably and support those underserved and socially vulnerable communities disproportionately impacted by climate change.
- GM and EDF also propose that the EPA structure the standards so that greater adoption of zero-emissions vehicles does not interfere with further per-vehicle emission reductions from new internal combustion engine vehicles, leaving room for cleaner internal combustion and hybrid solutions.
- The statement proposes that standards should incorporate an “innovation opt-in compliance pathway for multipollutant reductions.” In other words, don’t put up roadblocks to new ideas by locking in one path.
- The proposal suggests complementary public and equitable investments in infrastructure.
- The statement also urges coordination between EPA and DOT in carrying out their respective rulemaking responsibilities, to avoid confusion and conflicting regulations.
A statement of intent
“GM and EDF are joining together to advocate for EPA standards that will move America to zero pollution from new cars and SUVs by 2035,” said Fred Krupp, president, EDF. “That will mean heathier communities, a safer climate for all, and turbocharging U.S. manufacturing and jobs.”
General Motors would not sign on to a statement like this if the company wasn’t prepared to meet the standards they are proposing. According to the International Energy Agency, EV sales are on track to comprise or exceed 10% of the global new vehicle market this year. Additional growth in the rate of adoption would need to take place through 2030 and 2035 to meet the company’s goals. It’s an ambitious program, and government support will be needed to cultivate confident investment in a zero-emissions future.