Final EPA Rule Eases Up on EV Push, but Tough Emissions Targets Remain

exhaust fumes from a diesel vehicle
EPA Rule Sets Tough Target but Eases Up on EV PushJoe Fox - Getty Images
  • The final EPA standards released this week give manufacturers a lot more leeway in converting their vehicle fleets to all-electric propulsion.

  • But the new CO2 targets are strict: Light-duty vehicles must reach an industry-wide average target of 85 grams of CO2 per mile in MY 2032, “representing a nearly 50% reduction in projected fleet average emissions target levels” compared with model year 2026 standards.

  • For context, as of MY 2022, Stellantis fleets had the highest CO2 emissions (at 415 grams per mile), followed by General Motors (at 388) and Ford (at 380). Hyundai’s and Honda’s fleets were lowest, at 302 grams per mile.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule on 2027-32 vehicle emissions slows the transition to electric vehicles between now and 2030, and then gives more space for hybrids and plug-in hybrids to help meet the new standard.


The agency’s proposed standards released last April would have mandated zero-emission vehicles make up two-thirds of new vehicles sold in the United States by 2032 after a steep ramp-up beginning in 2027 that drew heavy opposition from assembly plant workers and car dealers alike.

Under the final standards released this week, “from 2030-2032 manufacturers may choose to produce battery-electric vehicles for about 30% to 56% of new light-duty vehicle sales and about 20% to 32% of new medium-duty vehicle sales,” the EPA states in its regulatory announcement. (EPA Administrator Michael Regan has submitted the rule for publication in the Federal Register to make it official.)

“EPA also projects that consumers will see an increase in the availability of other clean vehicle technologies, including hybrid-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, as well as cleaner gasoline vehicles,” the regulatory announcement continues.

Light-duty vehicles must reach an industry-wide average target of 85 grams of CO2 per mile in MY32, “representing a nearly 50% reduction in projected fleet average emissions target levels” compared with model year 2026 standards, the EPA says.

Light-duty vehicles must reach 20% of that 85-gram standard in MY27, then 40% in MY28 and 60% in MY29 before reaching 100% in 2032.

This would represent a huge reduction in CO2 compared with current real-world numbers. Emissions for all large auto manufacturers selling vehicles in the United States was 337 grams per mile in the 2022 model year, according to the 2023 EPA Automotive Trends Report released last December, down from 347 grams per mile in MY21, according to the December 2022 report.

For MY22, Stellantis fleets (at 415 grams per mile), General Motors (at 388), and Ford (at 380) had the highest CO2 emission levels while Hyundai’s and Honda’s fleets were lowest, at 302 gpm.

Light-duty trucks in the 6001-8500-pound class and medium-duty passenger vehicles may go from zero to 100% by MY30 or receive credits if their makers follow the light-duty ramp-up schedule.

Medium-duty commercial trucks in the 8501-14,000-pound class also have the option of no emissions improvements, in this case until MY31, or may ramp-up and receive incentives from 20% in MY27 to 60% in MY29, then to 80% in MY31.

Final non-methane organic gases-plus-nitrogen oxide standards “also have multiple feasible paths to compliance,” leaving it up to automakers to make choices about internal-combustion engine emissions control technologies, as well as electrification.

The EPA expects “that manufacturers will widely utilize gasoline particulate filters on vehicles with internal-combustion engines.”

EPA estimates the standards will “avoid” 7.2 billion metric tons of CO2e between 2027 and 2055. Dollars saved always help promote standards like this, and EPA also estimates the total benefits of the rule will produce “annualized net benefits in the range of $99 billion.”

Last April’s rule proposal sparked uproar, with headlines proclaiming that two-thirds of vehicles sold in the US must be EVs by 2032. This came as the steep EV growth during the COVID-19 pandemic began to soften.

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President Biden and Shawn Fain at a UAW rally.MANDEL NGAN - Getty Images

On May 3, 2023, United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain said the union would not endorse President Biden’s re-election, citing his EV policies, according to Reuters.

On September 26, Biden joined a picket line with striking UAW workers, and in early November, the president met Fain in Belvedere, Illinois, to congratulate Fain for reaching a tentative agreement that includes keeping open the Stellantis assembly plant there to build a new pickup truck and a new $3.2-billion EV battery plant.

Fain announced the UAW’s endorsement of Biden three months ago.

The EPA released the new rule, coincidentally, in the middle of an annual oil industry meeting in Houston—CERAWeek by S&P Global, where executives were dubious about such efforts to substantially reduce use of their product, according to The Washington Post.

“We should abandon the fantasy of phasing out oil and gas,” said Amin Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco.

“(T)here is going to be a multi-dimensional energy system in the future, (and) oil and gas will continue to have an important role in stabilizing that system for a long, long, long time to come,” said Wael Sawan, CEO of Shell.

Is it smart for the federal government to back off on its zero-emission vehicle targets? Please comment below.