Environmental groups call for stricter vehicle emission standards, EV adoption

Janet Miranda

21-Dec-2021

HOUSTON (ICIS)–While the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strengthened greenhouse gas emission (GHG) standards for model years 2023-2026, and reverses the rollback from the previous administration, many climate activists think the new rules fail to meet climate demands.

“The rules for model years 2023 to 2026 fall short of the climate pollution cuts needed to rein in the country’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions,” the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement following the release of the new EPA rules.

The federal regulator’s new standards were aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change, reducing pollution and increasing cost savings for vehicle owners through improved fuel efficiency that could contribute to a reduction of more than 3bn tons of GHG emissions through 2050.

The new standards will result in a 17% of vehicle sales being electric by the year 2026. The EPA’s standards falls in line with the Biden Administration’s goal to increase electric vehicles sales to half of all passenger vehicle sales by 2030.

But for some environmentalists, the emissions do not go far enough, adding that they are “a little more than a speed bump on the road to climate catastrophe,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Becker proposes rules for 2026 that will actually force automakers to deliver electric vehicles (EVs) rather than just relying on voluntary commitments.

Currently the EV market mainly relies on voluntary automaker commitments to increase EV market share.

Earlier this year, GM announced a goal to exclusively offer all-electric vehicles by 2035 and is partnering with LG Energy Solution to invest more than $2.3bn to build its second battery cell plant in the US located in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

Stellantis and Ford had previously announced goals for at least 40% EVs sales by 2030.

Sales of EVs are expected to represent about 30-50% of worldwide vehicle sales by 2040, according to an estimate put out by the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

However, in a recent EPA automotive trends report, in 2020 only 2% of new vehicles produced were EVs.

The urgency to accelerate the rise of EVs was shared by other environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Earthjustice, which commended the new standards, but asked for strong long-term standards to ultimately electrify all new cars and light-duty trucks by 2035.

“We’ll continue to fight for standards that move us toward a zero-emissions transportation sector powered by 100% clean energy,” said Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen.

The $1tr bipartisan infrastructure bill appropriates $5bn to replace school bus and ferries with zero-emission fleets in addition to $7.5bn to increase EV charging infrastructure.

The investment in EVs would likely see the rapid increase for certain automotive polymers, such as nylon, polyurethanes (PU), polypropylene (PP), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC), polyethylene (PE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), along with synthetic rubbers and fibres.

Acceleration in EV adoption would likely also result in strong demand for these polymers.

A focus story by Janet Miranda

Thumbnail image shows an EV being charged.

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