Biden proposal will change auto industry, push consumers toward electric vehicles

President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday proposed historically tougher greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and trucks sold in the U.S. that it says could lead to electric vehicles accounting for as much as 67% of all new sales in less than a decade.

If that comes to pass, it would signal a remarkable transition in the American automobile market, given that electric vehicles accounted for about 6% of new sales last year, though that was a substantial increase. Polls have shown many consumers are not sold on making the switch, with concerns about range and the upfront cost of electric vehicles much more than many gasoline-powered models.

But Biden administration officials said if automakers embrace electric vehicles as the key way toward the future — and many already have, with General Motors, for example, aspiring to be “all-electric” by 2035 — they project that under the newly proposed standards those cars and trucks could account for 67% of new light-duty vehicle sales and 46% of new medium-duty vehicle sales in model year 2032.

That change, they said, is also being driven by states, led by California, looking for all new vehicles to emit zero greenhouse gases by 2035; worldwide efforts to battle climate change; and Biden’s own initiatives, including those to encourage consumers to buy electric vehicles and spur domestic battery production and the installation of hundreds of thousands of charging stations.

“It’s not simple, it’s not easy,” Margo Oge, former head of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said of the potential for electric vehicles sales to top 60% of the market by the 2030s. “But is it doable? Yes it is.”

Speaking at an event in Washington, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan announced the new standards, which would take effect in 2027, saying the federal government isn’t requiring automakers to adopt electric vehicles but indicating that is one preferred path. With large investments and additional incentives in place, Regan said of the historically tough standards, “I believe we can (achieve that level of electric vehicles sales) and I believe that because we’re following the market trends.”

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