Auto Industry Coalition Takes Aim at EPA Emissions Targets

The air-quality standards proposed by EPA amount to mandating electrified vehicles, making them more expensive and reducing consumer choice, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation claims.

Joseph Szczesny

June 30, 2023

4 Min Read
Cars air-pollution-i
Government air-quality regulators want too much too soon, industry contends.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade group representing 42 automakers and suppliers, is preparing to file objections to new rules covering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions proposed by the EPA.

The targets, which go even further than those in place in California, “cannot be reached during the 2027 to 2032 period because the needed materials required for electric vehicles are not available at a reasonable price,” according to the Alliance, whose members include American, European and Asian carmakers from South Korea and Japan.

The proposed rules EPA published in early May cover requirements for both Greenhouse Gas(GHG) and criteria emissions, a term covering six common air pollutants including carbon monoxide and ground-level ozone. “Taken together, the proposed GHG and criteria pollutant standards are so stringent as to set a de facto (battery-electric vehicle) mandate,” according to the Alliance, which plans to file its objections officially July 5.

The Alliance notes in a press release explaining its objections that the emissions standards “are neither reasonable nor achievable” in the timeframe covered in the EPA proposal, which would cover both light-duty and heavier medium-duty vehicles built for sale between 2027 and 2032.

In addition, the Alliance adds, the proposed standards cannot be met without substantially increasing the cost of vehicles, reducing consumer choice and disadvantaging major portions of the U.S. population and territory.

“EPA’s proposed rules effectively assume that everything will go perfectly in the transformation to electric vehicles between now and 2032,” according to an executive summary of the filing prepared by the Alliance.

For example, the agency’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) appears to assume that an over-abundance of battery-critical-mineral mines, critical mineral processing capacity, and battery component, cell and pack production facilities will lead to continued battery price reductions.

If enacted, the stringency of the proposed standards would increase faster than at any time in history, the summary adds.

Biden GM hummer EV (Environment News Service).png

Biden GM hummer EV (Environment News Service)

“In fact, by assuming BEVs alone will make up 60% of the new vehicles sold in 2030 and 67 percent of new vehicles just two years later, the proposed requirements leapfrog even President Biden’s ambitious 2030 target of 50 percent, which included BEVs, fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) by 2030. The 60-percent BEV-only proposal also goes beyond the same goal of 50 percent electric vehicles by 2030 (which again includes BEVs, PHEVs and FCEVs) described in the U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation,” the summary states.

Automakers have a long history of objecting to emissions standards proposed by the EPA, and to stiffer corporate fuel-economy standards required by NHTSA. Over the years, they have been successful in limiting changes to NHTSA’s fuel economy standards, but they have not been as successful in holding off the EPA despite the industry’s political muscle.

EPA’s latest proposed rules also seem destined to become a political issue during next year’s presidential race. Former President Donald Trump, who is running again, told an audience in suburban Detroit the Biden Admin.’s push for electrified vehicles would decimate jobs in Southeast Michigan’s automotive industry.

However, Alliance members such as General Motors, Ford, Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen are spending billions to develop new fleets of electric vehicles for delivery over the next five years.

“At the very least, if an automaker complies with EPA’s greenhouse-gas emissions rules, they shouldn’t be at risk of violating the Transportation Department’s coming (fuel-economy) rules and subject to significant civil penalties that create no environmental benefit but do levy additional costs on consumers, workers and manufacturers,” says John Bozzella, the Alliance’s president and CEO.

Toyota executives specifically have called for standards that would encourage greater penetration of mild and hybrid plug-in vehicles as part of the drive to lowering emissions rather than herding the industry toward BEVs.

But environmental lobbies so far are winning the argument for a straight push to BEVs, arguing there is no time to lose in the battle to reduce CO2 and particulate emissions.

"We are facing a climate crisis, and we absolutely need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel cars," says Katherine Garcia, who directed the Sierra Club's Clean Transportation for All campaign earlier this year. The advocate adds that it is essential to pull off the transition to zero-emissions vehicles as fast as possible. "The truth is, we should have transitioned 20 years ago."

If automakers and battery makers find they cannot produce the targeted number of BEVs in the next decade, or that consumers are balking at buying them at the necessary rate, there is a collective belief that the targets will be extended. But in the meantime, the current EPA will likely push the industry as hard as it can.


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