US EPA Delays Tailpipe Emissions Benchmarks

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delayed its aggressive tailpipe emissions reduction requirements from model year 2027 to model year 2030 and increased the average tailpipe emissions for light-duty vehicles from 82 to 85 grams per mile (51 to 53 grams per kilometre) for model year 2032.

The EPA also ruled out an EV mandate, adopting a “technology neutral” regulatory scheme that allows OEMs to meet emissions standards with petrol-electric hybrids and embrace “advanced gasoline” technologies to save fuel, such as turbocharging, lighter vehicles or stop-start ignition systems.

Despite the softening, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the new rules would achieve the same greenhouse-gas reductions as the organisation’s far more aggressive EV transition proposal.

“Let me be clear – our final rule delivers the same, if not more pollution reduction,” he said. “We designed the standards to be technology-neutral and performance-based to give manufacturers the flexibility to choose which combination of pollution control technologies are best suited for their consumers.”

The United Auto Workers union, which had reportedly pressured the federal government to soften the rules, welcomed the decision.

“By taking seriously the concerns of workers and communities, the EPA has come a long way to create a more feasible emissions rule that protects workers building ICE vehicles, while providing a path forward for automakers to implement the full range of automotive technologies to reduce emissions,” the union said.

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), which also advocated for change, said that while the agency’s final rulemaking provides OEMs with additional time to ramp up production of zero-emissions vehicles, currently only electric vehicles and five plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) meet the easier 85 grams per mile average tailpipe emissions standard.

“The Specialty Equipment Market Association opposes the EPA’s final standards for model year 2027 to 2032 light and medium-duty vehicles, which ultimately still forces automakers to sell EVs and PHEVs to comply with this rulemaking and further limits internal combustion engine technology options,” the association said.

Mike Spagnola, President and CEO of SEMA, said: “The EPA has taken a small step in the right direction by providing automakers and specialty aftermarket businesses additional time to develop innovative solutions to reduce emissions. While I am proud of our industry’s role in helping to delay the EPA’s most aggressive EV mandates, there is still much work to do to get government regulators to embrace technology-neutral solutions that will reduce emissions while limiting adverse impacts on small businesses and consumer choice.”

“SEMA has long advocated that government mandates, including those designed to support the sale of EVs and eliminate the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles, are the wrong approach to reducing motor vehicle emissions. The federal government and states should take an ‘all of the above’ approach to vehicle technology, incentivise innovation, and allow the market to determine the best ways to reach improved emissions goals.”

According to the Kelley Blue Book, EV sales hit a record high in the US last year but only accounted for 7.6 per cent of all sales (1,189,051 units), a rise of 1.7 per cent over 2022’s result. Hybrids accounted for around nine per cent of 2023 sales.