UCS Blog - Clean Vehicles (text only)

An Important Step to Clean Air and More Equitable Communities in Los Angeles

By Joel Espino and Jimmy O’Dea

Tomorrow, LA Metro, the second largest transit fleet in the United States, will decide what types of buses to purchase through 2030. The decision will impact Los Angeles’ efforts to clean the air, fight climate change, and expand economic opportunity. We applaud the proposal put forward by Metro staff last week to transition the entire fleet to zero-emission vehicles.

LA Metro can be a leader

Today, Metro’s 2,200 buses operate entirely on natural gas. While natural gas was a better option than diesel when Metro began switching fuels more than 20 years ago, it no longer deserves the “clean” branding seen on Metro’s buses. Advances in technology have made electric buses an even cleaner and viable option. It’s time for Metro to continue its leadership in fighting pollution and transition to the cleanest technology available today: electric buses powered by renewable energy.

Earlier this year, a coalition of bus riders, labor groups, and public health groups launched a campaign urging Metro to be a leader and transition to an all-electric bus fleet powered by renewable energy. A central part of this campaign is that communities most affected by poverty and pollution should be first to reap the benefits of bus electrification, such as improved air quality and more high-quality, skilled jobs. Mayor Garcetti recently urged Metro to make this transition by 2030 and just yesterday, the Los Angeles Times expressed its support for Metro’s path to zero-emission buses.

Despite years of work and improvement, Los Angeles’ air still ranks among the worst in the country. Heavy-duty vehicles like buses are a major source of air pollution.  Today, residents of communities like Wilmington or Bell Gardens, who live near highly trafficked roads and freight corridors, suffer the consequences of air pollution like increased risks of lung and heart disease and premature death.

Last fall we found that electric buses result in far lower air pollution and global warming emissions than natural gas buses. Electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions, cut global warming pollution, and create new jobs. They are better for bus riders, bus drivers, and communities with heavy traffic and severe air pollution.

Our analysis found the potential for good jobs in manufacturing of electric buses, construction of charging infrastructure, and maintenance. With the right training and hiring practices, this industry could bring an economic boost to communities most in need.

Electric buses are the cleanest

There are two types of electric buses Metro could purchase; both have significant benefits. Battery electric buses have 70 percent lower global warming emissions than natural gas buses. Fuel cell electric buses have 50 percent lower global warming emissions than natural gas buses. That includes the emissions from producing electricity and hydrogen. Both types also cut smog-forming emissions in half compared to today’s natural gas buses. As we generate more of our electricity with clean sources like solar and wind, electric buses will be even cleaner.

Electric buses also have lower life cycle emissions than the newest “low-NOx” natural gas buses fueled with biomethane from waste sites such as landfills. Capturing fugitive methane emissions from sources of waste is an important strategy in reducing California’s global warming emissions and can help displace natural gas use in vehicles, yet the limited amount of biomethane available from sources of waste could meet just 3 percent of California’s natural gas demand.  This resource should be used prudently across California’s economy.

The technology is here and ready

Electric buses fueled with hydrogen have had ranges over 200 miles for many years and battery electric buses recently passed this mark. With fewer moving parts and durable electric motors, maintenance costs are lower for electric buses. Electric buses can also accelerate and climb hills as well or better than diesel or natural gas buses.

Metro’s bus investment would boost the regional economy, including at least eight electric bus and truck manufacturers in the LA region, and spur job training in underserved communities, creating a workforce capable of accelerating electrification in other areas of transportation.

Metro can’t switch to electric buses overnight, but as it retires natural gas buses it should replace each with a clean, quiet electric bus. Nearly 20 transit agencies across the state have stepped up to the plate and begun incorporating electric buses into their fleets, many with significant, if not full, commitments to zero-emission buses. California and its poorest and most polluted communities depend on it.

This blog post originally appeared as a joint op-ed at https://laopinion.com/2017/06/20/tipo-de-buses-que-comprara-la-metro-afectara-los-angeles-por-anos/.

Joel Espino is Legal Counsel for Environmental Equity at The Greenlining Institute. Jimmy O’Dea is a Vehicles Analyst in the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Wind Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Young by global standards, Boston is still one of the oldest cities in the United States. It has a fascinating and well-preserved history, with monuments, museums, and plaques everywhere you look. At the same time, it is a center of research and innovation, investigating the technologies that will shape our future. (Okay, I’m biased – I do love this city.) That dichotomy, respecting the past while looking towards the future, is also the story of wind power.

For Father’s Day, I went out to the Boston Harbor Islands with my family. We had a picnic on Spectacle Island, with a great view of Boston.  The weather was perfect.

As it happens, the Tall Ships were in town. While aboard the ferry, we could see a number of the sailing ships docked along the waterfront, and more of them going in and out of the harbor.

Tall Ships. Source: www.sailboston.com.

This brought to mind a paper I had written on energy transitions in the United States. One of my observations was that the United States in 2010 used six times as much wind power per capita than it did in the Golden Age of Sail. That was a few years ago, so the numbers have changed since then. Let’s take another look.

Wind in the Golden Age of Sail

Through the late 19th century, wind was a significant energy resource for the United States. Sailing ships conveyed goods and people up and down the coast and across the Atlantic Ocean. Sailing vessels took fishermen out to sea and back home again. Mechanical windmills pumped water and ground grain. Massachusetts was a hub of the shipbuilding industry, constructing naval vessels like the frigate U.S.S. Constitution and clipper ships from Donald McKay’s shipyards, as well as the fishing boats that set out from Gloucester, New Bedford, and Cape Cod.

The first US steamship appeared in 1807, and steam gradually took over a larger share of nautical propulsion. Steamships accomplished this technological transition through diffusion, starting in specific high-value niches (such as river ferries) where their advantages justified their higher cost, then spreading to more applications as their performance improved and cost declined. We see the same pattern for the spread of electric lighting, or of solar power. Elon Musk explicitly invoked this pattern of technological diffusion with Tesla’s original Master Plan, beginning in small but high-value niches and branching out.

However, sailing ships did not disappear overnight; they continued in use for decades. Some of the ships you might see at a Tall Ships event are either replicas of or inspired by “clipper ships,” designed in the 1850s to operate in one of sail’s remaining niches, fast long-distance transport of high-value cargoes such as tea or spices. Prior to the resurgence of wind power in the 1990s, wind power reached its greatest utilization in the US around 1860 (in absolute terms) or 1810 (in per capita terms).

In 1860, the U.S. population was about 31 million. The nation had about 100,000 windmills and a sailing fleet of 4.5 million tons. I calculated that the energy harnessed from wind was around 5.65 petajoules; in the units of the day they might have noted it as 2 billion horsepower-hours.

On a per capita basis, wind power contributed 67 horsepower-hours (equal to 50 kilowatt-hours, although at the time the only use of electricity was in telegraph batteries). Compared to other sources, in 1860, wind power in total was greater than power from watermills; less than that obtained from draft animals; and roughly equal to the power output from human labor or to that of coal-fueled engines (in locomotives, steamships, and factories).

Output of Mechanical Work (Motive Power) by Resource, 1780-1880. Source: O’Connor and Cleveland (2014).

Wind was not the largest source of motive power, but still a significant one that accomplished tasks other energy resources could not.

Wind today

Steam engines continued to move into more applications, until diesel engines came to dominate marine transport in the 20th century. Sailing vessels became limited to small recreational craft. Windmills for water pumping peaked around 1920 or 1930, and declined after that, although small wind turbines for electricity generation appeared in some rural areas.

Wind power, though, has made an astounding comeback in recent years. Increased deployment supported by state and federal policies led to rapidly declining costs and improved performance. Wind turbines and solar panels together provided 0.07% of US electricity in March 1997, nearly 1% in March 2007, and over 10% of US electricity in March 2017, most of that from wind.

Wind turbines on a farm. Source: www.awea.com.

In 2016, wind power generated 226,872 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. The Census Bureau estimates that the population of the US on July 4, 2016 was 323,148,587. Therefore, wind power in 2016 provided about 700 kilowatt-hours per capita. Some wind energy is still harnessed directly—like by the Tall Ships and water-pumping windmills—but most of the wind energy we use today comes from wind turbines. The per-capita wind power contribution is now about 14 times what it was in 1860.

Wind Energy Inputs to U.S. Economy, 1790-2016. Source: Author’s calculations.

I find that pretty remarkable.

Wind tomorrow

What does the future hold for wind power? Well, it won’t grow its share tenfold in the next ten years, but its continued expansion seems likely.

Many regions have successfully integrated wind power into their electricity systems at relatively low cost, utilizing a combination of forecasting, turbine controls, geographic distribution, and grid flexibility. What were once considered difficult levels of wind to incorporate are now seen as simple. Taller turbines may enable wind power to spread in the Southeast.

Offshore wind, widely used in Europe, is now (finally) on the move in this country, too.  Although some construction costs are higher, the environment allows for installation of much larger turbines that would be difficult to transport to sites on land. Larger turbines can access winds that are both stronger and more constant at higher altitude. New Bedford, a hub of the old wind industry of sailing ships, might become a hub of the new wind industry, with potential jobs in offshore wind turbine construction  (subscription required).

A strong base, smart policies, technological advances, and a skilled workforce: wind will continue to provide clean energy, jobs, rural economic development—and power for sailing. Even if some of the new sails don’t quite fit in a Tall Ships event.

The “Skysail” system can offer annual fuel savings of 10-15% for freighters. Source: www.skysails.info.

 

How Many Rides Do Lyft and Uber Give Per Day? New Data Help Cities Plan for the Future

In the span of about 7 years, app-based ride-hailing (i.e. Lyft and Uber) has gone from non-existent to ubiquitous in major metro areas. But how are these services affecting important aspects of our transportation system like congestion, public transit, and vehicle emissions?

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) made a big first step last week towards answering these questions. The agency released data showing when, where, and how many rides start and end within San Francisco.

These statistics are important because passenger vehicles are the largest source of climate emissions in California, a major source of air pollution, and play a central role in our transportation system, which greatly affects social equity. If ride-hailing continues to grow, it has the potential to positively or negatively impact many aspects of transportation, including the reliability of public transit; costs of travel; extent of air pollution and climate change; safety of pedestrian and vehicular travel; and accessibility, type, and quality of jobs.

Lyft’s recent commitment to provide 1 billion miles of travel in autonomous electric vehicles powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 is an encouraging step towards a positive future of app-based travel.

Some of the report’s findings are what you’d expect

Not surprisingly, the number of rides within San Francisco peaks in the heart of downtown on Friday and Saturday nights. During the week, ride-requests are at their highest during the morning and evening commutes. More rides are requested after work than before work. Interestingly, more rides are also requested as the work week progresses, #fatigue?

SFCTA developed a website to visualize when and where rides are starting and ending in San Francisco. It’s pretty cool, especially if you’re familiar with the city.

Switching from pick-up to drop-off location (see gifs), gives a rough sense of where people are traveling to and from, i.e. commuting to downtown in the morning and out of downtown in the evening. SFCTA’s data doesn’t correlate the pick-up and drop-off locations of individual rides, but the aggregate data still suggests these trends.

Other findings are less expected

The most surprising numbers from SFCTA’s report are the sheer volume of rides being given by Uber and Lyft: more than 150,000 intra-San Francisco trips per day, which is roughly 15 percent of all vehicle trips taken within the city and more than ten times the number of taxi trips.

The SFCTA study only considered trips originating and ending within San Francisco. So, there are actually many more Uber and Lyft trips being taken to or from the city.

Another interesting finding: approximately 20 percent of the miles traveled by Uber and Lyft drivers in San Francisco are without a passenger. These out-of-service miles (also known as “deadheading”) are actually lower for Uber and Lyft than taxis, which drive 40 percent of their miles without a customer. More Ubers and Lyfts on the road compared to taxis mean less distance is traveled between drop-offs and pickups.

What’s the big deal?

If you asked, “Don’t Uber and Lyft already have this data?” You’d be right. They do. So does the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which oversees transportation network companies (TNCs) – the policy term given to Uber and Lyft.

But the TNCs and PUC denied requests for data, so SFCTA partnered with Northeastern University to indirectly measure it themselves. Uber and Lyft oppose sharing data that could reveal aspects of their market share, such as where they dispatch drivers and pickup riders. Because there are only two main ride-hailing companies, either company could just subtract out their own numbers from aggregate data sets to get a sense of what the other company is doing.

The companies have a competitive history, but the need for this type of data will only increase as they provide larger fractions of vehicle trips, especially if projections materialize for ride-hailing with self-driving cars. Without data, it will be difficult to justify the potential safety, mobility, and emissions benefits (or consequences) of self-driving vehicles.

It’s fair to ask whether Uber and Lyft should share data not necessarily required by other fleets. A notable exception is the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, which approved standards earlier this year requiring TNCs to report trip information taxis were already required to share.

Even simple metrics such as the types of vehicles in a fleet (electric, hybrid, conventional), as reported by taxis in San Francisco, are important pieces of information for local governments to address the climate and air quality aspects of transportation. As the saying goes, you can’t improve something that you don’t measure.

What’s next?

SFCTA’s findings raise many questions about what types of trips TNCs are replacing. Are they getting people out of personal cars or turning pedestrians into ride-hailers? Are they eroding public transportation or making it easier for people to get to the bus, MUNI, or BART? Are people taking solo rides or sharing trips via uberPOOL or Lyft Line?

Previous studies and those underway are attempting to answer these questions. But ultimately, data like those from SFCTA are critical for transportation planners and researchers to understand the impact of ride-hailing services today and how they can be used to improve, and not hinder, how we get around in the future. Decisions like expanding roads vs. setting aside land for public spaces or how to better serve a community with public transportation all depend on knowing when, where, and how many trips we’re taking, whether by foot, bike, car, bus, or train.

New Numbers Are In and EVs Are Cleaner Than Ever

One of the most common questions I’m asked about electric cars is, “how clean are they?”

Five years ago, UCS answered this question, publishing its first look at the global warming emissions from electric vehicles (EVs) in our ‘State of Charge’ report.  In early 2017, the US EPA updated their data on emissions from electricity generation, now capturing power plant emissions through the end of 2014. How does this new data change our assessment of EVs?

For over 70 percent of Americans, driving an EV results in fewer emissions than even a 50 MPG gasoline vehicle.

We now find the overall global warming emissions from using an EV is significantly lower for most of the US. Several regions of the country showed significant decreases in emissions, as compared to our first EV emissions assessment.

When compared to our initial report on EV global warming emissions, the changes are impressive. That report used 2009 power plant data (the most current available in 2012) and placed only 9 of 26 regions in the ‘best’ category. Now 19 regions are in the best category with only 2 in ‘good’ regions. For example, the Northern Midwest region that includes Minnesota and Iowa improved from 39 MPG equivalent to 54 MPG and Eastern Wisconsin also jumped from ‘good’ at 40 MPG to our ‘best’ rating with emissions equal to 52 MPG gasoline cars.

Global warming emissions from electricity generation have fallen in since 2009 in many parts of the US, making EVs even cleaner. Check out the changes by region in the slider above. 

Based on where EVs have been bought to-date, the average EV in the US now produces emissions equivalent to a hypothetical gasoline car achieving 73 MPG.

Nearly half of the EVs sold to date have gone to California, where the average EV produces global warming emissions equal to a 95 MPG gasoline car. The next 5 states for EV sales (Georgia, Washington, New York, Florida, and Texas) account for 20 percent of US EV sales and are regions that have emissions ratings of 50 MPG or better.

Manufacturing emissions are important, but much less of a factor than fuel emissions.

The emissions estimates presented above compare the use of an EV compared to using a gasoline vehicle. However, there are also emissions associated with the production of these cars, and in general making EVs produces more emissions than a comparable gasoline car. We studied this issue in our “Cleaner Cars From Cradle to Grave” report in 2015 and found that the extra emissions from making an 80-mile range EV (compared to a similar gasoline car) are about 15% higher. However, this extra emissions ‘debt’ is quickly recovered by the savings that accrue while using the electric vehicle.

How quickly the emissions are recovered depends on where the car is charged, but for an EV the size of the Nissan LEAF, we found that break-even point occurs after 6 to 13 months of use (depending on electric grid region), well shorter than the likely lifespan of the car.

Choosing an electric car over an inefficient gasoline model is one of the most influential decisions a household can make to reduce emissions

For the average American, transportation makes up about a third of all household global warming emissions. And compared to some other sources of emissions, we have a great deal of control over how efficient a vehicle we choose. The average new gasoline vehicle in the US is rated at 25 MPG. On average, driving an EV (at 73 MPG equivalent emissions) would produce global warming emissions at less than half of the rate of the average new vehicle.

If you’re curious about how clean specific EVs would be where you live, check out our EV tool here. It’s recently been updated with our newest estimates of EV emissions, and we’ve also added many new EV models. If you are interested in the most efficient (and lowest emission) EV models, check out the Hyundai Ioniq BEV, Chevy Bolt, and BMW i3 BEV models.

Changes since our last report include generation, fuel production, and transmission efficiency.

Our initial assessment comparing gasoline vehicle emissions to those from electric vehicles were detailed in our 2012 State of Charge report. That report relied on the best data available at the time. This included estimates of power plant emissions and transmission losses from 2009 and also included the most recent estimates of ‘upstream’ emissions (such as coal mining and oil refining).

While we used the same analysis method as both the State of Charge and Cleaner Cars From Cradle to Grave  reports to generate these new emission estimates, the input data has changed.

The EPA estimates of power plant emissions in their eGRID database have been updated from 2009 data to 2014 data. In many cases, the emissions from power plants decreased, often due to reductions in coal-fired power and increases in renewable generation. However, some regions did show an increase. For example, in the Pacific Northwest, hydroelectric power output was reduced and fossil fuel plants supplied additional power.

The eGRID data also includes an updated method for calculating the losses attributed to the transmission and distribution of electric power from generators to the end user. This loss estimate is significantly lower than previous estimates, and therefore lowers the emissions attributed to EVs.

Finally, we also updated the estimates of emissions from ‘upstream’ sources like fuel extraction and refining. We used the most recent version of the GREET model from Argonne National Laboratory to estimate these emissions.
 

Most regions showed a decrease in emissions from electricity generation and distribution from 2009 to 2014. Red triangles indicate the total change in global warming emissions due to changes in generation sources, upstream emissions from fuel production, and losses in transmission and distribution of electricity from power plants to the end user.

 

Automakers Seek to Shirk Environmental Responsibilities, and Senators Oblige

Today, automakers yearning to weaken environmental regulations found an ear on Capitol Hill—Senator Blunt (R-MO) introduced a bill with support of a few auto-state senators which would undermine the federal fuel economy regulations in three ways:  1) it extends the life for credits, some of which have already expired, creating so-called “zombie credits”; 2) it awards windfall credits for vehicles already sold by pulling forward a flexibility which regulators explicitly said they were not granting when setting the stringency of the program; and 3) it allows for manufacturers to focus all their efforts on just one segment of their fleet, undermining the promise to consumers that all types of vehicles—cars, trucks, and SUVs—would become more efficient over time.

Taken in total, the impact of this legislation would result in 350 million barrels of additional oil consumption, which means $34 billion taken from consumers in new fuel costs and handed over to oil companies (corporate handouts aren’t just for the automakers with this bill!).

It also puts the industry on a course for dismal technology investment, as they continue to pay lobbyists to weaken regulations instead of engineers to deploy the very technologies which have shown such promise in their labs—this, of course, is just another attempt to undermine the mid-term evaluation of the standards and further the industry’s “Yes We Can’t” agenda at the expense of consumers.

Zombie credits—a windfall for exceeding a 30-year-old standard

Back in 2010, fuel economy regulations for cars were still stuck at the same value they’d been set at back in 1985.  The industry as a whole well exceeded these meager fuel economy targets, which were no longer serving their purpose to reduce oil consumption.

Even though the CAFE fuel economy regulations have been significantly improved, moving to a size-based standard and finally resulting in nearly doubling the efficiency of vehicles out to 2025, credits earned under the original, long stagnant CAFE program were still available to manufacturers.

These credits were given a five-year lifetime—this helps give manufacturers some flexibility as they introduce improvements to models or invest in new vehicles, since a typical product cycle is about five years.  However, the legislation proposed today gives these credits (most of which have already expired) new life by extending their use out to 2021.  In doing so, it assures manufacturers that rather than having to invest in new technology improvements, they can rest on their laurels thanks to exceeding standards first set THIRTY years ago.

This provision is designed to stifle investment, while manufacturers like Toyota sit back and withdraw from a huge bank of hundreds of millions of early credits.

Retroactive off-cycle credits—the everlasting gobstopper of handouts

When the 2012-2016 fuel economy regulations were set, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was quite clear—they did not believe they could give credit to technologies which did not have a measurable improvement on the test cycle and therefore must exclude such improvements from consideration.  Had they been able to include them, they further noted, the standards would have been set more stringently.

The legislation undercuts the standards by awarding credits for these technologies anyway, ignoring the agency’s carefully-crafted justification for its standards.  EPA did later include the credits in their program, however, and we are seeing that these credits aren’t being given to incentivize technology development—they’re being given as a windfall credit for vehicles that have already been sold!  And worse still, manufacturers have come back on multiple occasions to continue to ask for additional credits for those old vehicles—it’s a never-ending source of give-me credits!

With the zombie credit provision acting to extend the lifetime of credits, this provision acts to multiply its impacts by creating even more bogus credits.

Lifting the transfer credit cap—stifling consumer choice just got a whole lot easier

The size-based vehicle efficiency standards are designed to ensure that consumers have more efficient vehicle choices available year after year, whether they’re looking at cars, trucks, or SUVs.

When first directing NHTSA to move to an attribute-based standard, Congress also set a limit on how relatively inefficient a car or truck fleet could be: While manufacturers could use a small amount of credits by making one fleet more efficient than the standard to offset a shortfall in the other fleet, Congress set a limit to that number to ensure that a manufacturer couldn’t focus all their resources on improving just one segment.

The reasons for the transfer cap are clear—if manufacturers can focus development all in one segment, consumers looking at the other vehicle segment are going to get short shrift and not see continued improvement in fuel economy.  However, this legislation effectively says “bye-bye” to the transfer cap by instating a level so ridiculously high that, for example, a manufacturer could flatline improvements to their truck fleet for the length of the program:  i.e., the average truck in 2022 could be the same efficiency as the average truck in 2016.

Because of the exorbitant credits created under the first two provisions of the legislation, it is actually conceivable for a manufacturer to do just that, hurting consumers in the process.

This isn’t “harmonization”—it’s a credit bonanza

Manufacturers have claimed that these provisions are necessary in order to “harmonize” the EPA and NHTSA standards, but it is quite clear that this bill goes well beyond any such thing.  In fact, the mountain of credits earned in 2010 and 2011 before the National Program put forth by EPA and NHTSA went into effect are completely unnecessary to meet EPA’s standards, but that hasn’t stopped the Senators sponsoring this bill from giving away the store anyway.

The projection of CAFE credits for cars and trucks under the proposed legislation shows how manufacturers will be able to use credits given away under this bill to shirk their responsibilities out through 2021, continuing to fall well below the standards (hence, negative credits).  In fact, this bill is so egregious in its handouts that manufacturers don’t even need a huge chunk of the credits to comply (indicated as hashed bars).

Giving these credits away, however, allows automakers to continue to pit the unique aspects of each agency’s authority against each other as they winnow away at the overall program under the false guise of “harmonization”.  And of course, Congress is not the only venue for this action—they’ve also petitioned EPA and NHTSA for actions which would continue to weaken the standards, including the zombie credits and transfer cap provisions in this bill.

By continuing to eat away at the standard in every venue, automakers are showing that they have no interest in meeting their obligations to their consumers or to the environment—it’s critical that we don’t let our elected representatives give them a way out.

New Study on Smart Charging Connects EVs & The Grid

We know that electric vehicles (EVs) tend to be more environmentally friendly than gasoline cars. We also know that a future dominated by EVs poses a problem—what happens if everyone charges their cars at the same time (e.g., when they get home from work)?

Fortunately, there’s an answer: smart charging. That’s the topic of a report I co-authored, released today.

As a flexible load, EVs could help utilities balance supply and demand, enabling the grid to accommodate a larger fraction of variable renewable energy such as wind and solar. As well, the charging systems can help utilities and grid operators identify and fix a range of problems. The vehicles can be something new, not simply an electricity demand that “just happens,” but an integral component of grid modernization.

Where the timing and power of the EV charging automatically adjust to meet drivers’ needs and grid needs, adding EVs can reduce total energy system costs and pollution.

This idea has been around since the mid-1990s, with pilots going back at least to 2001. It has been the focus of many recent papers, including notable work from the Smart Electric Power Alliance, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the International Council on Clean Transportation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Synapse Energy Economics, and many more.

Over the past two years, I’ve read hundreds of papers, talked to dozens of experts, and convened a pair of conferences on electric vehicles and the grid. I am pleased to release a report of my findings at www.ucsusa.org/smartcharging.

Conclusions, but not the end

This is a wide-ranging and fast-moving field of research with new developments constantly. As well, many well-regarded experts have divergent views on certain topics. Still, a few common themes emerged.

  • Smart charging is viable today. However, not all of the use cases have high market value in all regions. Demand response, for example, is valuable in regions with rapid load growth, but is less valuable in regions where electricity demand has plateaued.
  • The needs of transportation users take priority. Automakers, utilities, charging providers, and regulators all stress the overriding importance of respecting the needs of transportation users. No stakeholder wants to inconvenience drivers by having their vehicles uncharged when needed.
  • Time-of-use pricing is a near-term option for integrating electric vehicles with the grid. Using price signals to align charging with grid needs on an hourly basis—a straightforward implementation of smart charging—can offer significant benefits to renewable energy utilization.
  • Utilities need a plan to use the data. The sophisticated electronics built into an EV or a charger can measure power quality and demand on the electric grid. But without the capabilities to gather and analyze this data, utilities cannot use it to improve their operations.

The report also outlines a number of near-term recommendations, such as encouraging workplace charging, rethinking demand charges, and asking the right questions in pilot projects.

Defining “smart”

One important recommendation is that “smart” charging algorithms should consider pollution impacts. This emerged from the analytical modeling that UCS conducted in this research.

Basic applications of “smart charging” lower electric system costs by reducing peak demand and shifting the charging to off-peak periods, reducing need for new power plants and reducing consumer costs.  But, in some regions that have lagged in the transition to cleaner electricity supplies, “baseload” power can be dirtier than peak power. Our model of managed charging shifted power demand by the hour, without regard to lowering emissions or the full range of services that smart charging performs today (like demand response or frequency regulation), let alone adding energy back with two-way vehicle-to-grid operation.

The model illustrated that encouraging off-peak charging without attention to emissions might, at a national scale, slightly increase pollution compared to unmanaged charging. Both charging strategies would reduce pollution compared to relying on internal-combustion vehicles, and the managed case would have lower system costs.

This is not a prediction, but one possible outcome under certain circumstances—a possibility also noted by NREL and by other research teams. It is a consequence of off-peak power that is cheap but dirty, and of a model that does not yet properly represent the full capabilities of smart charging. Charging when renewables are greatest, or employing policies that assign a cost to pollution, would change this outcome.

Fortunately, even before we have such policies, we have existing systems that can selectively charge when the greenest power is “on the margin.” This technology and other systems are discussed in the report.

The broader context

Smart charging of electric vehicles has a key role to play in the grid modernization initiatives happening around the country. EVs can be a flexible load that communicates with the grid, incorporates energy storage, benefits from time-varying rates, and participates in ancillary services markets, representing many of the innovations that can improve the economic and environmental performance of our electricity system.

Photo: Steve Fecht/General Motors

Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program Off to a Great Start

Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program (CFP) was initially authorized by the legislature in 2009, with subsequent legislation in 2015 allowing the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to fully implement the program in 2016.  The program’s goals are to foster the development of an in-state market for cleaner fuel by requiring that transportation fuels used in Oregon get steadily less-polluting over the next decade. The program requires average life cycle global warming emissions per unit of energy in transportation fuels to decline by 10% by 2025 compared to 2015.

Oregon’s CFP completed a very successful first year, but it remains under attack, so it’s a great time to review how the policy works, the results of its first year, and its prospects for the future.

The Clean Fuels Program creates a steadily growing market for clean fuels

Transportation is the largest source of global warming pollution in Oregon, and the overwhelming majority of transportation emissions come from petroleum-based fuels like gasoline and diesel.

Making a transition to a low carbon transportation system will take several decades, and will require a systemic transformation of transportation systems, vehicles and the fuels used to power them.  The Clean Fuels Program focuses on the fuels, ensuring that the market for clean fuels grows steadily year after year.  This assurance is critical to support investment in new fuels.

Getting clean fuels production and distribution up to commercial scale in the next decade is critical to accelerating the transition to clean transportation, and this early market signal to invest and innovate is even more powerful over the long term than the significant reduction in pollution the policy will deliver over the next few years.

The Clean Fuels Program protects clean fuels producers and all fuel consumers from volatile oil prices

Markets for transportation fuels are highly unstable, with retail gasoline prices in Oregon swinging back and forth in the last decade, from less than $2/gallon to more than $4/gallon.  The instability is a problem for drivers, but it also makes it very difficult for new cleaner fuels to get a foothold, since a clean fuel that is very attractive competing against $4/gallon gasoline may struggle at low prices.

The Clean Fuels Program assures fuel producers that the market for the clean fuels will grow steadily, protected from changes in global oil prices beyond their control, so clean fuel producers can focus on competing against other clean fuel producers.

How does the Clean Fuels Program work?

The Clean Fuel Program requires that large companies importing and distributing transportation fuel in Oregon, mostly gasoline and diesel, act to reduce the emissions from the fuels they sell by 10% per unit of energy.

Unlike Federal biofuels policy, the CFP does not set specific targets for ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas, or any other alternative fuel.  Instead the CFP requires that the average carbon intensity of fuels meets a gradually declining target.  Fuels that are cleaner than the target generates credits, while more polluting fuels generate deficits.

At the end of the year, fuel providers need to settle with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), turning in enough credits to cover their deficits.  The CFP also has several flexibility mechanisms built in, including allowing credit trading between parties selling clean fuels and parties selling more polluting fuels, and allowing fuel sellers to generate extra credits early and save them for later (called banking).

What is Carbon Intensity?

The CFP regulates the “carbon intensity” of fuels, which is a measurement of global warming emissions per unit of energy in the fuel. This allows all fuels—whether gasoline, diesel, ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas, or electricity—to be compared accurately.

In measuring the carbon intensity of fuels, the CFP measures each fuel’s life cycle emissions, which accounts for not only the emissions generated by a vehicle when using a given fuel, but also the emissions that come from producing and transporting the fuel. For example, about a quarter of global warming emissions associated with using gasoline come from extracting and refining the oil to make the gasoline.

Emissions associated with biofuels depend greatly on whether they are made from corn, soybean oil, used cooking oil or biomethane collected at landfills, as well as how the fuel is produced. Electric vehicles produce no tailpipe emissions, so the life cycle emissions of electricity depend primarily on how the electricity is generated (whether from fossil fuels or renewable sources such as wind and solar). See my recent report, Fueling a Clean Transportation Future, for much more information about the future of fuels, especially gasoline, ethanol, and electricity.

The Clean Fuels Program is off to a good start

2016 was the first year of the CFP, and so far, the program is off to a good start. Fuel producers have been registering, and establishing the Carbon Intensity of their fuels, and for the first three quarters, credit generation (from selling fuels cleaner than the target) significantly exceeded deficit generation.  This means that regulated parties are entering the next year with a buffer of banked credits they can use later if necessary.

In the first few quarters, most of the credits were generated from ethanol and biodiesel.  These fuels are already part of the Oregon Fuels mix, blended into gasoline and diesel to satisfy state and federal requirements, but the CFP provides an incentive for fuel blenders to use more of these cleaner fuels and to seek out the least polluting sources of these biofuels, which provide more credits per gallon.

In subsequent years, other fuels, including biomethane and electricity, will play a growing role, but the procedures to credit some of these fuels are still being finalized and it will also take time for fuel buyers to react to the market signals from the CFP.

Clean Fuels Program credit data from Oregon DEQ

Lessons learned from California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard

California got started with clean fuels policy a little earlier than Oregon, with a closely related policy called the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) which went into effect in 2010 and requires a 10% reduction in average carbon intensity by 2020.

Data from the first five years of the LCFS provides a hint of what Oregon can expect as the Clean Fuel Program progresses.  Like Oregon, early years relied mostly on alternative fuels that were already well established in the marketplace, ethanol and natural gas.  But the growth in alternative fuel use encouraged by the LCFS came from other fuels, especially biodiesel, renewable diesel and biomethane.

The LCFS also provided more credits for cleaner fuels, especially those made from wastes such as biodiesel and renewable diesel made from used cooking oil and animal fat, and biomethane captured at landfills.  The larger benefits of these fuels is reflected in the fact that their share of credit generation is larger than their share of alternative fuel volume.

 

Credit data from California Air Resources Board Data Dashboard

Electricity and the Clean Fuels Program

The truly clean transportation system we need will have fewer internal combustion engines running on petroleum, and more electric vehicles running on non-polluting renewable sources of electricity.  The CFP can accelerate this transition by ensuring that the low carbon benefits of  electricity lowers the cost of operating electric vehicles.

When California’s LCFS got started in 2010 there were almost no electric vehicles, but by 2015 EVs were generating 6% of the credits.  Transit agencies running electric buses generated some of these credits, which they sold to oil companies and others who needed them to offset pollution for gasoline and diesel.

The value of these credits makes it easier for transit agencies to go electric, which also has important health benefits for communities in which these buses operate.  Households with electric cars also benefit as utilities have set up rebate programs funded by LCFS credits – PG&E is has a $500 clean fuel rebate program – which makes owning an EV even more attractive.

Managing the Clean Fuels Program

In 2017, DEQ is undertaking rulemaking  to implement a few important policy improvements. These include establishing procedures for crediting for the use of electricity as a transportation fuel, and implementing a cost containment mechanism to clarify what steps will be taken in the unlikely event of a shortage of clean fuels.  To assist them in this process, DEQ convened an advisory committee of stakeholders representing oil companies, clean fuel producers, environmental groups, the AAA, truckers, and others who are meeting seven times between November 2016 and June 2017.

I have been representing the Union of Concerned Scientists on this committee.  This process gives all parties the opportunities to share their concerns, and weigh in on proposed solutions so that DEQ can put together a well-considered set of program enhancements to take to the Environmental Quality Commission later this year.

The transportation system has many moving parts, and will require a suite of policies

Transportation is not just the largest source of Oregon’s climate emissions, it is also deeply integrated into people’s lives and commerce.

Ensuring the system serves Oregon well will require ongoing investment in roads, bridges, transit, facilities for bikes and pedestrians.  Finding sustainable, equitable means to fund these many priorities is critically important, and should not be considered as an alternative to supporting a transition to cleaner fuels.

Over time clean fuels, especially renewable electricity, will get steadily less expensive, and moving to these in-state sources of transportation fuel will protect drivers from the unpredictable price volatility of gasoline and diesel, which are influenced primarily by global oil prices over which Oregon has very little control. Getting started on this transition away from oil will have some costs, but with appropriate measures to manage these costs, this is a very smart investment in Oregon’s future.

Changing the law is not necessary or helpful at this time

Despite the ample evidence that the Clean Fuels Program is off to a great start, some critics of the policy in the Oregon legislature have been proposing legislation that would dramatically change the rules of the program, and if history is a guide, they may try to undermine the policy in negotiations over funding much needed transportation infrastructure investments.  This is not a smart way to move forward on either clean fuels or transportation funding.  Oregon needs to cut emissions, and it needs to make smart investments in physical infrastructure; bills pitting these goals against each other are short-sighted and counterproductive.

Clean Fuels Policies and Carbon Pricing work together

The Clean Fuels Program is focused on cleaning up transportation fuels, but while transportation fuels are important, other climate policies are also necessary to meet climate goals.  Putting an economy-wide price on global warming emissions, either through a cap-and-trade program or a carbon tax, helps integrate the costs of climate change into the cost of doing business.

In the transportation sector, carbon pricing helps ensure that the costs of pollution from fossil fuels—and the value of low carbon technologies—are better reflected in decisions fuel providers make about what fuels to produce, as well as the decisions consumers make about what cars to buy.  However, a carbon price alone is not enough to decarbonize our transportation system over the next few decades.

Typical carbon prices —which translate to pennies per gallon in increased fuel cost—cannot adequately motivate investments in innovative cleaner fuels. That’s why it is important to have policies in place to limit heat-trapping emissions from fuels directly. The Clean Fuels Program facilitates research, development, and deployment of transformational low-carbon technologies.  For more information, see our fact sheet on how California’s carbon pricing and LCFS complement one another.

State leadership on climate is more important than ever

States have always been important laboratories for democracy, but with the current administration in Washington D.C. actively undermining climate progress, states are an essential bulwark against backsliding.  Policies like the Clean Fuels Program ensure that the market for innovative clean fuels needed to address climate change continue to grow, even in the absence of reliable federal support.

By working together with neighboring states and provinces in the Pacific Coast Collaborative, Oregon can maintain momentum on emerging clean technologies for transportation and other climate goals.  Moreover, by investing in the future, Oregon can keep its transportation system moving forward, even if Washington D.C. is trying to slam the brakes on clean energy and go back to the fossil fuels of the last century.

Oregon Legislature Can Boost Electric Car Sales

The Oregon legislature has the opportunity to boost electric vehicle sales in the state and deliver benefits to all Oregonians by passing pending legislation for electric vehicle incentives in House Bill 2704.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are a critical solution to cutting oil use, improving air quality, and reducing global warming pollution. EVs are also a better choice for many Oregon drivers, offering fuel savings and often a better driving experience compared to a gasoline car.

Driving on electricity is cheaper than driving on gasoline for most people, even with today’s lower gasoline prices. Based on Northwest gasoline prices in 2016, we found that driving the average new gasoline car (29 mpg) for a year (11,350 miles) cost $949 in Oregon. Driving that same distance on electricity cost an average of $363 in the state.*

Given the volatility of gasoline prices, using electricity as a fuel also means more stable and predictable refueling costs for the years ahead. And since Oregon lacks oil production and refining, switching away from petroleum can keep more money in the local economy.

EVs in Oregon also have environmental benefits. The average EV on Oregon’s electric power mix produces fewer global warming emissions than any gasoline-powered vehicles on the road—equivalent to a 75 mpg gasoline car, according to UCS analysis in 2015. As Oregon continues to transition to cleaner sources of electricity (thanks to last year’s coal to clean bill) the climate advantages of EVs will only increase.

Despite these advantages, EVs still face barriers to their adoption, so policies are needed to make EVs available and affordable for more average Oregonians. A consumer incentive for zero-emission and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, as proposed by HB 2704, will help motivate prospective car buyers to investigate electric drive options and is also an important signal from the state in support of needed technologies.

States with EV incentives lead the nation in EV sales. For example, in California, more than 90 percent of surveyed EV rebate recipients said that the state’s rebate was important to their decision to buy an EV.

Now is an important time for Oregon to make a commitment to building a mainstream market for EVs. As the Oregon Global Warming Commission report to the legislature showed, Oregon is falling behind on its commitments to cut GHG emissions in large part because of increasing transportation sector emissions.

Thanks to Oregon’s Zero Emission Vehicle program, manufacturers are required to sell EVs in Oregon.  This policy that helps ensure EVs are available should be matched with policies that help induce demand. A consumer incentive is the single biggest act Oregon can take to enable more drivers to choose an electric car, so passing HB 2704 is an important step forward for EVs in the state.

*We calculated prices using the following electricity and gasoline price data from the US Energy Information Agency: 2016 average residential electricity price $0.107/kWh, 2016 average gasoline price $2.40/gallon. Costs assume 11,350 annual miles driven, 28.6 MPG gasoline efficiency, 0.30 kWh/mile EV efficiency.

Click here to find more information on How Oregon Can Benefit From Electric Vehicles (2015).  

 

What Will It Take for Automakers to Meet California’s EV Requirements? Not as Much as You Might Think.

California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) regulation has been instrumental in catalyzing the EV market, and has also long been a source of complaint for automakers.

When the ZEV rule covering the 2018 through 2025 time period was initially adopted in 2012, California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) estimated it would require over 15 percent of new cars in 2025 to be electric drive vehicles – a figure still cited in media stories about the rules. However, that number is no longer accurate.

The ZEV program will require less than 8 percent EV sales by 2025 and recent sales figures show that several automakers are already well on their way to meeting this target in California.

Last month, the ZEV regulation, along with the rest of California’s Advanced Clean Cars program was reevaluated to check whether this standard was still achievable through 2025. As part of the Advanced Clean Cars review, the CARB updated its estimate of the ZEV sales required to meet the regulation. The state now estimates that the ZEV standards would require new EV sales in 2025 to be less than 8 percent, roughly half of the previous estimate of 15 percent.

The reduction in the estimated effect of the standard is primarily due to two factors: the range of EVs has increased far faster than anticipated (increasing the ZEV credits earned per vehicle), and the current stockpile of ZEV credits from early compliance with the regulation which can be used in place of future ZEV sales.

The unanimous decision of the board was to continue the current regulations through 2025, due to the progress that automakers have already made in selling EVs and also the dramatic improvements in EV technologies that have occurred over the last five years. For example, General Motors last year’s EV sales in California reached 7 percent, well in excess of the current ZEV rules requirements and has increased the range of its battery electric car from 82 miles to well over 200 miles.

The updated estimates of the ZEV regulation’s requirements in California are much lower than initially thought. Several automakers are selling significantly more EVs in California than the rule requires. Note: not all BMW EV models are certified as ZEV-compliant vehicles.

EV leaders hit new highs in 2016

EV sales in California increased 18 percent from 2015 and 3.5 percent of all new cars in the state were plug-in electric, up from 3.1 percent last year.

But the story is more impressive when you consider several major automakers were absent from the market in 2016.  If we exclude the 2 major automakers without a plug-in EV in 2016 (Honda and Toyota), EV sales would have exceeded 5 percent of new car sales in California.

 

Several automakers were well above 5% EV sales in California in 2016. Tesla not shown, as 100% of its sales are electric. Data source: California New Car Dealers Association, IHS Markit

BMW remained the leader in California (excluding Tesla), nearing 9 percent of all cars having the ability to be plugged in. General Motors (GM) was clearly ahead out of the Big Three domestic automakers at 7 percent EV sales. However, that includes brands such as GMC, Buick, and Cadillac that have no EV models available (excluding the discontinued Cadillac ELR).

If you look only at GM’s main Chevrolet brand, almost 1 in 10 new Chevys sold in California were EVs. With the addition of the long-range Bolt EV for 2017 as well as a new Cadillac plug-in hybrid, GM is poised to continue to be an EV leader in California.

 

Leading EV brands in California. Data source: California New Car Dealers Association, IHS Markit

Some of the laggards starting to turn around (though not all)

Some of the companies that we identified as laggards in our last evaluation of the EV market are starting to show signs of making more effort in the building and selling EVs.

Hyundai/Kia moved to over 1 percent EV sales in 2016 and is adding new plug-in models to its line up in 2017. Toyota sold low volumes of the Mirai fuel cell electric in 2016 in part due to delays in hydrogen refueling station deployment. However, Toyota now has one of the top selling plug-in hybrids with the Prius Prime.

Fiat Chrysler has long been a critic of electric vehicles, but soon will sell the first plug-in minivan, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.  Honda remains in last place, selling 6 fuel cell electrics in 2016 while delivering 287,526 gasoline cars in the state. They are planning on bringing battery electric and plug-in hybrid versions of their Clarity sedan to market in 2017, though Honda’s new battery electric is expected to have only 80-mile range, which could limit its competitiveness given the number of similar vehicles with higher range already on the market.

 

These major automakers sold over 850,000 cars in California last year, but just over 3,000 ZEVs. Data source: California New Car Dealers Association, IHS Markit

Automakers are demonstrating they can meet 2025 ZEV targets

The California Air Resources Board affirmed its ZEV regulations, citing ample evidence that automakers can achieve the 2025 target. The data supports that decision, as automakers that have developed and marketed EVs in California are already selling these cars in volumes in excess of the ZEV current requirements and are well poised to get to 8 percent sales by 2025.  These same automakers have paved the way for their industry counterparts who have been slower to step up their efforts.

In the other states that have the ZEV program, fewer vehicle models have been available to consumers and automaker efforts have lagged, but there is ample time (8 years) to bring more effort to these states. Additionally, they are not starting from scratch.  More than 25 ZEV models are being produced by automakers today, and that number is expected to reach 70 in the next 5 years.  These vehicles need to be brought to states outside of California and marketed to consumers. In addition, incentive programs in East Coast states have been expanding, like the recently announced program in New York state.

If major automakers don’t step-up in the ZEV market, they may end up paying Tesla (or other EV manufacturers) to do it for them.  Tesla isn’t subject to the ZEV program requirements because the rules only apply to large automakers who sell conventionally-powered vehicles. But Tesla can generate credits and sell those to other manufacturers who choose not to sell ZEVs. Tesla’s success puts more ZEV credits on the market – making the 8 sales percent target even easier to meet.

So let’s be clear. There is no 15 percent sales requirement for EVs in California or any other state.  California’s recently reaffirmed Zero Emission Vehicle will require less than 8 percent new EV sales by 2025 – a target that automakers are already demonstrating is within striking distance.

 

Top Clean Cars from the 2017 New York Auto Show

I just got back from checking out the 2017 New York Auto Show and eating a couple dirty water hotdogs in the process. Here are my top picks for the clean cars that were on display and headed to a showroom near you.

Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid

The 2017 Kia Niro. Photo: Kia Motors

The 2017 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid is a well-proportioned crossover utility vehicle that – like all electric vehicles – can be plugged into any regular grounded electrical outlet to charge its 8.9 kWh battery pack. The Niro’s electric drivetrain is paired with a traditional gasoline-fueled engine that will kick in after the 25 mile electric range is exhausted. Though 25 miles might seem paltry, keep in mind that over a quarter of Americans commute under 5 miles to work and another quarter commute under 15 miles each day. The Niro can help those with longer commutes greatly reduce their gasoline use and emissions too.  Having a relatively small battery pack also means that the Niro will have fast charging times. Level 2 charging (from a 240V outlet like one used for a home washer / dryer) will only take a little over an hour to totally refill the Niro’s batteries. The Niro is expected to hit the U.S. market later this year, and will be upgraded to an all-electric version for European markets in 2018.

Chevy Bolt

The 2017 Chevy Bolt might be a game changer for the EV industry. Photo: Chevy

I’ve covered the Bolt before, but the NY Auto Show gave a lot of attention to this all-electric offering from Chevy, and the Bolt remains an indicator for whether electric vehicles will ultimately succeed in the U.S. Don’t worry, the signs are encouraging given what the Bolt and other electrics have to offer.

The 2017 Bolt is MotorTrend’s Car of the Year, will go 0-60 in just 6.5 seconds, and has an estimated all-electric range of 238 miles. These performance stats should help the Bolt appeal to gearheads and eco-drivers alike. With a price tag of around $30,000 after the federal tax credit, joining the electric transportation revolution won’t be a strain on many new car buyers’ wallets, especially considering that the average new car price in 2016 was up to $33,560.

The Bolt’s battery pack can get 90 miles of charge in just 30 minutes from optional DC fast charging, far less time than it takes me to pit stop with my toddler on my way up north for holidays.  A full charge will take about 9 hours via slower level 2 charging, not a big deal considering that electric vehicle drivers have found that over 80 percent of their charging has been done at home – and mostly overnight. And, perhaps most importantly, the Bolt will save you money on fuel. Driving on electricity costs about half as much as driving on gasoline and can cut your vehicle emissions in half compared to similar gasoline vehicles.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (Plug-In Version)

The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the first electric minivan in the U.S. Photo: By author

The 2017 Pacifica Hybrid is a plug-in version of Chrysler’s popular minivan lineup with a horribly confusing name. At first glance you might mistake this for a traditional gasoline-hybrid without a plug, but no, it actually has a plug and rechargeable battery pack.

The Pacifica Hybrid will have a 16 kWh battery pack that will give it 33 miles of all-electric range, and a gasoline-powered V6 engine that is good for a combined 32 mpg after the battery is depleted, which is really quite good for a large minivan. Other minivans typically get around 20-22 mpg. Level 2 charging can give the Pacifica a full charge in just 2 hours, while level 1 charging from any normal household outlet will take about 12 hours.  Confused about the difference between fast and regular charging? Check out this primer.

WardsAuto gave the Pacifica Hybrid engine high marks as an outstanding “propulsion system,” and the NY Daily News thinks the Pacifica is the best minivan you can buy. These accolades are both important and warranted, as this Chrysler is the first plug-in minivan sold in the U.S., and a critical step toward giving U.S. consumers electric options to choose from among different types of vehicles.

Cadillac CT6 Plug-In

2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In. Photo: Cadillac

I’ve got a soft spot for Cadillac. My grandfather exclusively drove jet black Cadillac’s with cream white interiors until he had to stop driving, and I still remember what it felt like to climb into a passenger seat that felt more like a top-of-the-line barcalounger than car seat.

Cadillac is also a quintessential American luxury brand, and has been idolized in countless movies and hit songs. So, I was glad to see Cadillac present a plug-in version of their flagship sedan at the NY Auto Show. The 2017 CT6 Plug-In is an electric / gasoline hybrid that puts out 335 horsepower and a respectable 31 miles of all-electric range from a 18.4 kWh battery pack that also lets it run up to 78 miles in an extra fuel efficient mode. Overall, this model boasts a 62 mpg combined EPA rating, which is extremely impressive for a heavy luxury sedan. The 2017 Audi A8, by comparison, only gets 22 combined mpg.

Recharging the CT6 will take about 4.5 hours and can also be charged via any regular home outlet. Oh, and don’t forget that this beast will sprint from 0-60 in an estimated 5.2 second, which makes it nearly as quick as the Twin-Turbo version. So, if you’ve got around $75,000 to drop on a dope ride, you might want to consider the CT6 Plug-In as a fashionable and fuel efficient way to cruise.

Volkswagen e-Golf

The 2017 VW e-Golf. Photo: VW

Volkswagen is trying to make amends for its transgressions (see Dieselgate). As part of these efforts, which include investing in electric charging infrastructure, the German automaker is set to update an all-electric version of its popular hatchback.

The 2017 VW e-Golf uses a 35.9 kWh battery pack that gives it an estimated 125 miles of all-electric range on a single charge, plenty for many commutes and enough for weekend warrior road trips with a charge pit stop along the way. Volkswagen also made the previously optional 7.2-kW onboard charger standard, meaning that the recharge time from a 240 volt power source (like what is used for a home washer / dryer) has dropped to less than six hours. A DC fast charger that can replenish the battery to 80 percent of its capacity in about an hour, and VW also upgraded the electric motor, dropping its 0-60 time to 9.6 seconds.

Last year, the e-Golf SE started at $29,815 (before the $7,500 federal tax credit and any state or local incentives). If the 2017 model holds the line on that pricing when it goes on sale early in 2018, it should stay competitive with the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt among the most affordable all-electric vehicles ready for prime time.

How Clean Are the Newest EVs?

How clean are the newest EV models? As we’ve shown before, an EV is cleaner than the average gasoline car. But, the global warming emissions savings from using an electric vehicle depend in part on where in the U.S. you live.

We have an online tool that lets you compare most of the EVs that have been sold over the last six years, and we’re continually updating our database with the latest models.

Here are just some of the latest additions that you can choose to analyze using the tool:

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Chrysler is marketing the Pacifica as a ‘hybrid’, even though it’s actually better: it’s a plug-in hybrid. Photo: Dave Reichmuth

Chrysler is marketing the Pacifica as a ‘hybrid’, even though it’s actually better: it’s a plug-in hybrid.The new Chrysler Pacifica minivan is being advertised as available with merely a hybrid drivetrain, but it’s actually a plug-in hybrid.

This seven-passenger van is rated at over 30 miles of electric range and then gets over 30 MPG when the gasoline engine is being used. This combination makes the Pacifica the cleanest minivan option by a long shot, as the best gasoline models only get 22 MPG. Its maker, Fiat Chrysler America, was one of our worst rated companies for commitment to EVs, so hopefully this means that they are starting to get on the right path.

Hyundai Ioniq BEV

The Ioniq is the first vehicle to sold as a conventional hybrid, plug-in electric hybrid, or a battery electric model. Photo: Ki Hoon. CC-BY-SA-4.0 (Wikimedia).

 Hyundai is actually releasing three versions of the Ioniq: an all-electric version, a plug-in hybrid, and a gasoline-only ‘conventional’ hybrid.

The first one to reach the U.S. is the all-electric Ioniq BEV. With a range of 124 miles, this car could meet many driver’s daily needs.  The Ioniq also boasts the highest efficiency of any electric car on the market (0.25 kWh per mile).  That means in places with cleaner electricity, this car produces emissions equal to a gasoline car rated at 100MPG or better.

Prius Prime

The 2017 Prius Prime can be plugged into any regular outlet to charge its 8.8 kwh battery pack. Photo: Toyota News Room.

This is the second version of Prius plug-in hybrid, but it’s vastly different from the previous version. While the first version could only operate in electric-only mode at low speeds, the Prime can go all-electric under most conditions.

The range has also more than doubled to 25 miles. Because it’s based on an efficient hybrid, the Prime also get exceptional gas mileage when running on gasoline at 54 MPG.

Chevy Bolt

The Chevrolet Bolt EV is the most efficient and affordable long-range EV currently available. Photo: Dave Reichmuth

The Chevy Bolt EV (easily confused with Chevy Volt) is a new all-electric hatchback that is the first EV to get over 200 miles range that is not made by Tesla. While not as efficient as the Ioniq, it is the most efficient long-range battery electric vehicle available at 0.28 kWh/mile. Because of its range, it could potentially replace more gasoline-powered trips than other EVs, leading to greater emissions reductions.

Check out these EVs, as well as all the other EV models available using our tool. We’ll continue to add EVs to our emissions tool, including the anticipated new long-range EV models from Tesla and Nissan later this year. We’ll also add the latest electricity emissions estimates, so watch this space for updates.

 

 

 

 

Two for One: A Very Bad Deal for Our Nation

Imagine you are in the market for a new car. You are excited to buy one with a new technology that will warn you of an imminent crash so you have enough time to hit the brakes to save your son’s or daughter’s life and your own. The car salesman tells you he’s got just the car for you, and it comes with his new two-for-one deal. To get that one new feature, you have to give up two others, brakes and seat belts.

You’d never take that deal, but it is exactly the kind of situation the President has created for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and every other agency responsible for protecting American’s health and safety.

This “two-for-one” executive order, signed January 30th, 2017, requires every agency to get rid of at least two regulations for every new one they seek to put in place to help make American’s lives better off. Making matters worse, the health, safety, and other regulations that must be eliminated must at least offset the industry investment required to meet the new regulation–regardless of the benefits of the new or older regulations!

So, take my not-so-hypothetical example above. When I was NHTSA’s Acting Administrator, we put out an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that would require new cars to come equipped with radios that would allow them to “talk” to one another, sharing basic safety information that would allow a car car to warn the driver of another equipped vehicle on a collision course. This vehicle to vehicle, V2V, communication system is estimated to prevent 425,000–524,500 crashes per year when fully implemented. Saving lives and avoiding injuries would deliver savings of $53 to $71 billion, dwarfing the investments automakers would have to make to equip vehicles with the new technology, therefore delivering positive net benefits within 3-5 years.

But under the “two-for-one” executive order, those benefits just don’t matter, the lives saved and injuries avoided just don’t matter. Instead, other regulations, like those requiring seat belts and brakes, would need to be repealed to offset the investment costs… again, ignoring the lives lost and harmed along the way. And if those two don’t cut the costs to industry enough, even more would need to be eliminated, putting even more lives at risk.

When you consider that in 2015 alone, 35,092 people lost their lives and 2.44 million people were injured in traffic crashes in the United States, it is clear that the “two-for-one” executive order is a very bad deal for our nation.

Making matters worse, this same raw deal applies to fuel economy standards that NHTSA is set to finalize for 2022-2025 to help nearly double fuel economy compared to where we were at the beginning of the decade. So, will NHTSA have to repeal safety standards to make more room to cut the high cost of our oil use? I expect they would never make that trade. I expect it would be the same for the Department of Energy (DOE), where I had the opportunity to help establish efficiency standards for household and commercial appliances. I don’t think the DOE would repeal appliance efficiency standards that are estimated to save consumers more than $2 trillion by 2030 if they had to both offset the industry investment costs of new ones and ignore the benefits of them all.

The “two-for-one” executive order is good for only one thing: grinding to a halt federal efforts to save lives, protect our health, and help us spend less money fueling our cars and heating and cooling our homes.

Appendix: Background on Regulation at NHTSA

What is EPA’s Vehicle Lab, and Why Should I Care How It’s Funded?

More details have been released about the Trump administration’s plans to cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  In particular, it is nearly zeroing out the budget for the vehicles program, calling for the National Vehicle and Fuels Emission Laboratory (“Vehicle Lab”) in particular to be funded almost entirely by fees on industry “as quickly as possible” (i.e. as soon as never).  This could significantly undermine the enforcement of safeguards which protect American pocket books and public health from industry malfeasance, and it could put in jeopardy technical research that moves technology forward.

The Vehicle Lab plays a critical role in watchdogging industry

Portable emissions measurement system (PEMS) like the one used to uncover the Volkswagen scandal were developed by EPA researchers at the Vehicle Lab.

EPA’s Vehicle Lab, located in Ann Arbor, MI (Go Blue!), is responsible for certifying manufacturer compliance with its emissions standards—before any vehicle can be sold in the United States, it must be approved by the EPA.  EPA does not test every passenger vehicle model—the lab is under-resourced for such an endeavor.  Instead, it randomly selects vehicle models (about 15-20 percent annually) to assess the accuracy of manufacturers’ test results.  It also conducts its own investigations if any anomalous data is brought to its attention, e.g., by consumer groups or other advocacy organizations.

Just in the last couple of years alone, several manufacturers from across the industry have faced fines, or worse, thanks to this oversight:

Fiat-Chrysler—Its Jeep and Ram diesel vehicles are currently being investigated for violating the Clean Air Act.  While the case is ongoing, it represents an effort by EPA to step up its real-world emissions tests to ensure that vehicles are not polluting above what is legally allowed and public health is not being harmed.

Ford—For the 2013 and 2014 model years, 6 different vehicles were required to adjust the fuel economy label information provided by consumers—for one of those (the C-MAX), this was actually the second such adjustment.  This resulted in payouts to consumers of up to $1050.

Hyundai and Kia—The Korean manufacturers were found to have systematically overstated fuel economy results for over 1 million vehicles, largely the result of violating EPA’s prescribed test guidelines for determining vehicle road load.  This led to a $100 million fine and hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for its customers.

Volkswagen—The reintroduction of diesels to its American fleet were found to come only as the result of a defeat device used to cheat the emissions tests.  Encompassing nearly 600,000 vehicles, it turns out that in the real world these vehicles emitted up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxides, a smog-forming pollutant.  Volkswagen is estimated to spend around $20 billion over the next few years in an effort to remove these polluting vehicles from the road, mitigate the excess pollution caused by these vehicles, and compensate the American people for this egregious violation.

The above issues represent a real cost to consumers, the environment, and public health and they required rigorous laboratory and on-road testing to investigate the issue.  If anything, these recent enforcement actions by EPA show the need and value of investing in even more complementary real-world testing, not less. It seems absurd to cut in half the number of staff at the lab responsible for these tests.

The Lab has also been a vital tool for transparent assessment of vehicle regulation

In addition to its important role as industry watchdog, the Lab has played a key role in assessing the technological capability of the automotive industry and providing transparency to the development of fuel economy and emissions standards.

Throughout the regulatory process, the EPA has used the capabilities of the Vehicle Lab to assess the technology landscape, publishing its results and making freely available pages upon pages of detailed technical information.  This data was used not just to test the technologies of today but to actually create, develop, and benchmark a publicly accessible full vehicle simulation model to simulate the technologies of tomorrow.  This is the type of tool previously only available to manufacturers and some well-funded institutions and, until now, well out of the budget of an organization like UCS.

This wealth of information can help inform researchers like myself and others looking to promote improvements and investments in technologies to reduce fuel use, and it provides an unparalleled level of detail and transparency for assessing the validity of regulations based on this information.

In a comprehensive report, the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine noted that “the use of full vehicle simulation modeling in combination with lumped parameter modeling has improved the Agencies’ estimation of fuel economy impacts.  Increased vehicle testing has also provided input and calibration data for these models.  Similarly the use of teardown studies has improved [NHTSA and EPA’s] estimates of costs.”

Every single item lauded by the National Academies was conducted in collaboration with the researchers at the Vehicle Lab the Trump administration is now proposing to gut.

Cutting funding cuts corners, jobs and puts us at risk of a rubber stamp EPA

The current administration plan would immediately cut the number of people working at the Lab in half—that means that rather than increasing the ability for the agency to protect against the types of industry malfeasance documented above, the Lab would be stripped of its capabilities in the near-term.  This reduction in workforce would make it impossible to even maintain the bare minimum of checks and balances on the certification program, even if (big IF!) it were eventually fully funded by fees from manufacturers.

This vehicle test cell is used to measure a vehicle’s emissions in order to assess its operation under cold weather conditions. This is a necessary component to ensure that pollution levels under all driving conditions are below legal limits, and fuel usage under these conditions is part of the test procedure which determines a vehicle’s fuel economy label for consumers.

Furthermore, the fee proposal in the budget is completely inadequate to the task.  While the EPA already collects fees to reimburse the Agency, in part, for its certification activities, it is Congress which determines how the fees are appropriated—to date, Congress has not been appropriating this money to EPA, instead using these funds to offset the federal budget deficit.  There is no reason to suppose that this would change in the future, which means this proposal would effectively gut the certification process by cutting the staff responsible for the program in half.

With such a drastic staff reduction, effective immediately in 2018, the certification process will be gummed up to such a degree it will either delay sales of vehicles tremendously or become a meaningless rubber stamp which will undoubtedly lead to even more automaker malfeasance, further eroding the trust of the American people in its auto industry.

Ensuring a technically sound watchdog is of course in the interest of the auto industry as well.  It ensures everyone is playing by the same rules and that they suffer the consequences if they don’t. While engineers at other auto companies were working hard to develop emission controls for diesel cars, VW was making millions, selling so-called “clean diesels” by the hundreds of thousands.

So I hope the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers call out this farcical budget memo for what it is—a slap in the face of good governance that can only result in adverse health and environmental impacts for the American people and end up a costly mistake for the auto industry as well.

US EPA US EPA

President Trump’s Executive Orders Promise Energy Independence, But Deliver Trouble

As President Trump and the Republicans on Capitol Hill are quickly learning, developing real public policy is a lot more complicated than repeating popular slogans to excited fans on the campaign trail.  And this holds true not just for health care, but for taxes, energy, environmental and transportation policy.  Earlier this week President Trump signed an executive order, instructing agency heads to take several steps toward “promoting energy independence and economic growth.”

Energy independence and economic growth sound like good goals—just like everyone wants health care insurance with better coverage, more competition, and lower premiums.  But since the campaign is over and the work of actual policy-making is getting underway, let’s consider how the measures proposed in this executive order and other recent actions stack up against the promises.

Looking for energy independence in the wrong places

My colleague Rachel Cleetus reviewed the broad implications for the planet of President Trump’s All-Out Attack on Climate Policy. I’ll focus on the transportation specific implications.  President Trump’s executive order talks about “energy independence,” but, in reality, the Clean Power Plan that the President’s order seeks to repeal focuses on electricity generation.

Virtually none of the resources used to make electricity — coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables — are imported.  The United States is a net exporter of coal, and imports a trivial share of its natural gas, mostly from Canada.  Wind and solar energy, meanwhile, are clean, non-depleting domestic resources.  That means that electricity is about 99 percent domestically produced.  The vast majority of our energy imports are oil and the Clean Power Plan has nothing to do with oil.  Eliminating the Clean Power Plan will have no impact on energy independence.

Historical data and projections from the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017 show that the US does not import coal, and imports very little natural gas. Oil has been and is expected to remain the main energy import.

Oil Imports = Oil Use – Oil Production

It’s simple arithmetic, but the Trump administration seems to have forgotten that the amount of energy (mostly oil) that the United States does import depends on how much oil Americans use, less the amount the nation produces.  So, we can reduce imports by either using less oil or by producing more.  Of the two options, using less oil solves a lot of other problems; producing more causes more problems than it solves.

Cutting oil use through efficiency is the smart path to energy security

Cutting demand for oil is a long-term process, because we all have places to go and, on any given day, we don’t have an unlimited set of choices for transportation.  Over the last decade, the United States has made major progress improving the efficiency of the cars we drive.  A decade ago an average new car got about 20 miles per gallon (mpg), and that figure is 25 mpg today.  We are on the road to new cars averaging 35 mpg or more a decade from now.  This means that while a new car used 600 gallons of gas a year in 2005, a new car is using 480 gallons to drive the same distance today and this will fall to less than 350 gallons in 2025.

With similar improvements in the efficiency of big rigs, planes and other vehicles, this adds up to substantial oil savings as the current inefficient fleet is replaced by more efficient cars, trucks and planes.  Efficiency improvements don’t just help reduce oil use, they save drivers billions of dollars and reduce global warming pollution.

But that’s only if our efficiency programs are fully implemented. Instead, the Trump administration has signaled its intention to weaken our federal fuel efficiency and vehicle emission program. Weakening these standards would cost drivers more money, increase our consumption of oil and hurt energy independence, as well as increasing global warming pollution.

Every additional electric vehicle cuts oil use, energy imports, and slows climate change

Replacing a typical 2015 25 mpg car with a 35 mpg car in 2025 saves 130 gallons a year.  But replacing it with a plug-in electric vehicle cuts US oil use to zero.  And since electricity is 99 percent domestic, the impact on energy imports is dramatic.  In addition, electric vehicles are less polluting than gasoline powered cars, even when electricity generation is included, and are getting steadily cleaner over time. The smartest path to energy security, as well as a low carbon future, is to electrify transportation as quickly as possible.

US oil production increased rapidly in the last decade, so what problem are we trying to solve?

The administration claims that Obama-era policies have choked off the oil industry, but this does not square with the facts.  Domestic oil production grew 80 percent between 2005 and 2015, almost entirely because of expanded production of so-called tight oil from fracking, which now accounts for more than half of US oil production.  US oil production fell in 2016 because of low oil prices, and future domestic oil production depends mainly on the global price of oil, rather than on regulations.  Indeed oil companies’ financial statements make it clear that recent and proposed environmental regulations have “no material impact” on their business. What does matter is global energy prices.

The Energy Information Administration projects that if oil prices rise enough to bring gasoline retail prices to $5 per gallon, the U.S. may indeed become a net oil exporter as consumption falls and production rises.  But if oil prices are low, imports will rise.  If you are worried about Americans struggling to pay their fuel bills, investments in efficiency will do much more to protect them from volatile oil prices than will weakening regulations that protect the public from oil industry pollution.  And while many factors influence global oil prices, cutting demand for oil by accelerating the progress of efficiency and electrification will certainly help push oil prices down and protect consumers.

The administration’s proposals have nothing to do with responsible energy production

The term “energy independence” is never defined in the executive order, but the emptiness and cynicism with which it is used is clear.  This order, together with other recent energy related measures the administration is advancing, allow oil and gas producers to waste natural gas instead of collecting it, to weaken fuel efficiency standards, and permit construction of a pipeline that will encourage expansion of some of the dirtiest crude in the world.  These measures will harm many people and set back efforts to reduce global warming pollution.  They primarily remove energy producers’ and automakers’ obligations to consider the consequences of their actions on climate change, and they will not reduce US energy imports.

Real energy security means energy that does not harm our security (or health or economy)

Energy in many different forms is essential to our lives, but just because energy is important does not imply that energy companies should not be responsible to minimize the harms caused by the production and use of their products.  Climate change poses a profound threat to our health, prosperity and security, so meaningful energy security must include a path to climate stabilization.  Transportation recently surpassed electricity generation as the largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States, and these emissions come overwhelmingly from oil.  Cutting transportation emissions means using less oil, through improved efficiency and rapid electrification of transportation.  Transportation fuel producers also have an important role to play, and oil companies no less than biofuels or electricity producers must reduce the pollution from their operations.

Companies and countries that lead the way towards a low carbon future will have a competitive advantage as the world inevitably moves to grapple with climate change.  The winners will be vehicle manufacturers that produce the most efficient vehicles and lead the way towards electrification, and energy companies that avoid the most polluting fossil fuels and reduce avoidable emissions from their operations.  Smart policies will help American companies lead the way, but the short sighted regulatory rollback the Trump administration is pursuing will leave American industry uncompetitive.  Responsible industries understand that protecting their customers and the communities in which they operate is key to maintaining their social license. While the Trump administration is actively facilitating irresponsible behavior, the world is watching.  The future will ultimately and inevitably favor companies that live up to their responsibilities.

Savings From Fuel Economy Regulations (Already in the Billions) Keep on Ticking Up

By the time you’ve finished reading this sentence, American drivers will have saved another $4,000 in fuel costs thanks to the current fuel economy and global warming emissions regulations.  And that number will keep on ticking upwards with each new vehicle purchase, since the cars and trucks available today continue to improve in efficiency each and every year.  But it hasn’t always been this way—and the current administration seems to want to take us back.

Fuel economy has not historically improved in absence of regulation

Fuel economy regulations have been critical in moving the needle towards energy efficiency—the auto industry is historically resistant to change, pushing back on safety improvements like air bags and seat belts, resisting and circumventing requirements to reduce tailpipe pollutants, and even fighting fuel economy standards despite the tremendous benefits to their customers, the environment, and national security.  The data speaks for itself—in the years when fuel economy standards remained constant, manufacturers didn’t improve the fuel economy of their offerings, choosing instead to put technology improvements towards more power and bigger engines.

Standards have been a boon to consumers

Historically, fuel economy has only improved when standards have been tightened. (Values shown are lab test values—the “sticker” value is about 20 percent lower today.)

Research just published by the Baker Center for Public Policy shows the tremendous impact that these standards have had for consumers.  Over the lifetime of the CAFE program, it is estimated to have saved about 1.5 trillion gallons of gasoline to-date, leading to over $4 TRILLION in net savings for American drivers, even including any additional technology costs to achieve those standards.  And those savings are especially important for the most economically vulnerable populations who buy on the used car market and spend a greater share of their income on fuel—fuel economy standards are a progressive policy measure, resulting in proportionally greater benefits for poorer households.

A helpful visual to consider

To put the fuel savings from the current standards in perspective, we’ve put together a savings ticker showing how American drivers have been saving money with this program.  The program has saved tens of billions of dollars and growing with each passing second because manufacturers have had to provide consumers with more cars and trucks that are much more efficient than they were back in 2010, before the current EPA and NHTSA program took effect.

Every vehicle fueled by these standards is using less gasoline, keeping money in the hands of consumers and not oil companies, money which can be used to further drive the economy forward.  These fuel savings represent not just economic benefits but also the environmental and national security benefits of using less gasoline.

The standards are under attack

Despite the obvious benefits of these cost-effective fuel economy and global warming emissions standards, the auto industry has engaged the current administration to weaken the rules.  Thus far, the regulators have capitulated to industry’s demands—if that trend continues, we could see a rollback that could cost the American people about $100 billion, not to mention the additional use of more than 1 billion barrels of oil that will reduce our national security and result in more than 500 million metric tons of additional global warming emissions.

If you need a reminder of what’s at stake, just check out our tickerShare with your network so we can continue to tell the story of what the auto industry and this administration are threatening to take away from the American people.

California’s Opportunity to Show Leadership with Clean Cars

Today the California Air Resources Board will evaluate a midterm review of its Advanced Clean Car Program (ACC) and decide how it will move forward with standards designed to reduce global warming pollution and air quality pollutants from new vehicles.

The clean-car standards, adopted in 2012, were developed to reduce smog-causing pollutants, particulate matter, and global warming emissions in passenger cars and other vehicles through 2025. One key part of the standards, the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) regulation, requires auto manufacturers to make an increasing number of plug-in hybrid, battery electric and fuel-cell electric vehicles available to car buyers.

California’s Advanced Clean Car (ACC) standards are working

These clean-car policies are the single biggest measure taken to reduce the state’s global warming emissions and petroleum consumption while meeting our climate goals. Among their achievements so far:

    • Since 2011, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates the standards have avoided an estimated 13 million metric tons of carbon emissions, 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline, and $4 billion in gasoline costs.
    • More than 260,000 electric vehicles have been sold in California since 2010 and the number of models available to consumers continues to grow.
    • Electric vehicles on California’s roads today are avoiding the burning of 82 million gallons of gasoline each year and have annual fuel savings of $111 million (at 2016 gasoline and electricity prices).
    • Electric vehicles are reducing the state’s global warming emissions by 660,000 metric tons a year. An EV charged on California’s increasingly clean electricity grid has global warming emissions equivalent to a gasoline vehicle with an 87-mile-per-gallon efficiency.

Cumulative ZEV sales in California now exceed a quarter million vehicles.

In-depth review shows vehicle standards are working

The Air Resources Board (ARB) has produced a comprehensive review of the ACC program and the findings are clear: The ACC standards are effective, science-based regulations that are producing economic and public health benefits for Californians. And with technology advancing faster than expected, the current standards can be achieved with even lower costs than anticipated.

Some automakers have argued that the ZEV standards should be weakened, both in California and the other nine states that have adopted California’s ZEV standard. However, the data in ARB’s Midterm Review report fails to support any need to weaken the standard.

  • Rapid progress on EVs over the past 7 years means that automakers can now meet the standards with fewer vehicles: 1.2 million electric vehicles and about 8% of new car sales by 2025, compared to original estimates for 1.5 million and 15% of new car sales.
  • Automakers that are leaders in ZEV technology are already well ahead of targets. For example, General Motors exceeded 5% plug-in vehicle sales in California in 2015.
  • The statewide average for EV sales last year rose to 3.5%, despite some automakers like Honda that were almost completely absent from the ZEV market.
  • ZEV sales in California accelerated in 2016, rising more than 18% compared to the previous year.

Automakers have also requested looser standards in the nine states that have adopted California’s ZEV rules (sometimes termed ‘section 177 states’ after the enabling section of the Clean Air Act). However, this request is not supported by the evidence.  Instead we find:

    • The rate of EV sales in these states is lower than California. However, the current rule allows manufacturers to satisfy their requirements with little to no EV sales in these other ZEV states.
    • Some automakers have responded by not offering cars in these states, especially on the East Coast. For example, the Fiat 500e EV is only offered in California and Oregon, despite annual sales of over 5,000 in California the last three years.
    • A comprehensive study of the plug-in EV market conducted by UCS shows stark differences in the availability of EVs between California and the other ZEV states. For example, between January and June of 2016, Boston had 90 percent fewer EV listings at car dealerships than Oakland, when adjusted for relative car ownership.
    • In order for EV sales to increase outside of California, ARB should allow the 2018-2025 ZEV standards to go into effect because those rules will require ZEV sales in the other nine states. Together with California, those states comprise more than a quarter of all car sales nationally.

Many more plug-in electric vehicles are listed for sale at dealers in California than other clean car states.

Technical experts say stronger standards should be developed for beyond 2025

 To meet California’s goals for air quality improvements and global warming emissions reductions, the state’s transportation systems will need to continue to become cleaner. ARB can help ensure we stay on track by beginning to develop ACC standards for after 2025. The ACC program has been successful in ensuring that the first generation of ZEVs were deployed, and harmful emissions reduced from the entire light-duty fleet. The ARB should continue these standards as recommended through 2025 and start the hard work needed to design a strong ACC program for the post-2025 period.

 

Fact-checking the Trump Administration’s Claims about EPA’s Vehicle Standards

It’s been one week since the administration caved to auto industry lobbyists and reopened the mid-term review of the EPA’s successful vehicle efficiency standards.  In that time, there’s been a lot of hot air around what this means for the industry, so I thought I’d look into the factual basis for some of the more common assertions made around the announcement.

Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the EPA, called this action “good news for consumers”

FALSE.  To date, the vehicle efficiency standards have saved Americans more than $37 billion at the gas pump.  If the administration follows through with rolling back the standards under the mid-term review, the average new car buyer stands to lose about $1600.  Limiting consumer choice to less efficient vehicles is never good news, not for consumers or the country as a whole.

Donald Trump, President of the United States, vowed to “eliminate the industry-killing regulations”

FALSE.  There’s nothing “industry-killing” about these standards.  The auto industry has had back-to-back record-setting sales years, while at the same time exceeding the level of improvement required under EPA’s standards.  More than 300,000 automotive manufacturing jobs have been created since 2009, jobs like those General Motors highlighted last Wednesday building their new 10-speed transmission, a technology developed to meet the very same standards the administration is working now to undo.  Perhaps the President listened a bit too long to the erroneous jobs claims pitched by Mark Fields (Ford), but even a conservative analysis paid for by the auto industry shows that these regulations are good for jobs, netting about 300,000 new jobs for the economy if we move forward with the regulations as-is.

Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the EPA claimed that “CAFE standards should not be costly for automakers or American people.”

TRUE.  And they aren’t, as a rather lengthy and rigorous review already determined.  These standards are poised to save consumers money, increase jobs, and reduce oil usage without posing undue burden on industry.  Automakers may be trying to supplant facts with politics, but it is the American people who stand to lose the most with last week’s action.

Donald Trump, President of the United States, said he didn’t want “an extra thimbleful of fuel” to stop manufacturers making great cars.

Maybe this is the thimble President Trump was talking about? Of course, you could still fill at least a dozen of these with the fuel savings for even just one vehicle thanks to these regulations.  “Uniform Measure/Stack”(1997) by Stephen Cruise, in Toronto’s garment district Photo: Michael Dolan/CC BY 2.0

TWO REALLY BIG THUMBS DOWN.  Firstly, the regulations the administration is threatening to rollback are set to increase the fuel economy of new vehicles from an average of about 25 miles per gallon today to about 36 or 37 miles per gallon—that means well over 2000 fewer gallons of gas over a typical vehicle lifetime, hardly a thimbleful.  Secondly, these rules have been pushing manufacturers to innovate, leading to a greater use of lightweight materials like aluminum, transmissions with a greater spread in gear ratios, smaller turbocharged engines, stop-start systems, and many other fuel-saving technologies which can be found throughout Motor Trend’s various Car/Truck/SUV-of-the-Year winners and other such “great” vehicles.  [Also great but being driven by state policy goals—electric vehicles, which have captured three of the last seven Car-of-the-Year titles.]

Rebecca Lindland, analyst from Kelley Blue Book:  “Consumers want the most fuel efficient version of a vehicle they already want to buy.”

TRUE.  Thankfully, that’s exactly what these rules are designed to protect, that consumers can have more efficient vehicle choices in all types of vehicles year over year.

Philly Murtha, J.D. Power:  “With current lower gasoline prices and increased consumer demand for SUVs and pickup trucks, automakers are in a difficult position.”

FALSE.  Selling more SUVs and trucks actually LOWERS the fuel economy target a manufacturer needs to hit—if anything, that means selling more trucks and SUVs makes it easier for a manufacturer to meet these rules.  Ford’s most efficient F-150, which represents about 1 in 5 sold, well exceeds today’s standards—in fact, it could meet standards out to 2021-2024, depending on the specific configuration.  That means that Ford could sell nothing but that F-150 and still meet the standards for the next 5 years with no additional improvements.

Brent Snavely (Detroit Free Press) and Chris Woodyard (USA Today):  “If the review eventually results in the standards being lowered, automakers potentially wouldn’t have to make as many cars with advanced carbon emission-cutting technology like hybrids, electrics and hydrogen fuel cells in order to hit the minimums.”

PARTIALLY TRUE.  On the one hand, lower targets will certainly mean less deployment of all fuel-efficiency technologies, so that is accurate and terrible news for all. On the other hand, as we’ve noted repeatedly, these standards do not require the deployment of electric vehicles or much in the way of hybridization, so that non sequitur is a completely incorrect mischaracterization of the standards.  For example, automakers’ own data shows that they can meet the standards with improvements to conventional vehicles.

Donald Trump, President of the United States:  “I brought American auto companies to the White House.  Mary Barra is here.  Mark Fields is here.  Sergio is here, and others.  And none of them ever got to see the Oval Office before, because nobody took them into the Oval Office—our Presidents.”

¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  While it may be technically correct that neither Mary Barra nor Mark Fields have, in their short tenures as CEO, met with a sitting president at the White House, auto companies have not had any difficulty getting an audience with the past few presidents.  In fact, Sergio Marchionne probably knows this best of all, having been in extensive meetings with the Obama White House ever since his tenure as CEO began, first with the Chrysler-Fiat merger and bailout and then pursuant to the fuel economy standards to which he signed on.  Also:

(L) President Bush meets with CEOs of the Detroit Three.(R) President Obama meets with 10 automaker CEOs supportive of the fuel economy and global warming emissions standards for passenger vehicles (including Sergio Marchionne, just to his right). Photos: White House Archives/ CC BY 3.0

Bette Grande, Research Fellow at the Heartland Institute:  “The review and subsequent pullback from EPA’s CAFE standards…is a win for oil producers and mineral owners, because when consumers are free to choose the vehicles of their choice, domestic oil demand will increase.”

TRUE.  Bette is right—oil demand will increase, increasing emissions, decreasing national security, and raising prices for everyone.  Yay?

Are Electric Buses Feasible?

One of the largest transit agencies says yes

King County Metro (Seattle area) recently released a report analyzing the feasibility of transitioning its 1,400 buses to zero-emission vehicles. Metro found it can achieve a 100% battery electric bus fleet as soon as 2034 with minimal increases in expenses.

This is a MAJOR announcement from the 2nd largest bus fleet on the west coast and the 9th largest in the United States. It indicates the confidence Metro’s fleet managers have to deploy zero-emission vehicles on a large scale.

Metro’s fleet today consists mostly of diesel (34%) and diesel hybrid (53%) buses. Electric trolley buses powered by overhead wires make up the rest of the fleet (12%).

Transitioning to battery electric buses will reduce Metro’s climate impacts by 80% over the next 30 years compared to its current fleet. The report concluded this level of ambition is needed to meet the county’s goals for reducing global warming emissions and improving public health.

Electric bus technology is here and ready

Metro found that the range and charging times of today’s battery electric buses can meet the needs of 70% of its routes. Anticipated advances in technology will allow the remainder of Metro’s routes to be serviced by electric buses.

Between now and 2020, Metro will incorporate 120 electric buses into its fleet, making it a national leader in zero-emission transit. Based on technology readiness, the report recommends that all new bus purchases be zero-emission thereafter.

Metro recognizes the challenges in adopting a new technology, but it isn’t backing down. It engaged with power utilities, for example, to discover it’s possible to get the amount of power a large battery electric bus fleet would require.

Metro’s human resources department is also exploring how it can have a workforce with the right skill-set to meet the needs of an all-electric bus fleet. Improving the accessibility of jobs in the electric truck and bus industry was a major recommendation of a report we wrote with The Greenlining Institute.

But won’t this break the bank???

Nope. Metro reports the purchase price of a standard 40-foot battery electric bus is cost-competitive today if not cheaper than its current diesel hybrids. Including purchase, maintenance, and operation costs, Metro estimates a 6% increase in expenses to transition their entire fleet to zero-emission vehicles, with a range of -27% to +10%.

Including the monetary benefits of improved air and quieter neighborhoods, the overall costs of a fully zero-emission fleet are reduced to just 2%. These costs are real but often ignored on balanced sheets.

You might think the costs only work out because Washington enjoys cheap electricity, but the analysis was based on an electricity price of $0.15/kWh. This is much higher than the rate Metro pays today and was chosen in anticipation of future electricity rate structures.

Benefiting those most impacted by air pollution

Metro is prioritizing the roll out of zero-emission buses in communities that bear the greatest pollution burden – low-income and communities of color. A major part of the report centered on identifying bus routes that operate in the most polluted communities.

Metro concluded that taking cars off the road through public transit shouldn’t count in meeting its climate goals. Nor should it be able to buy its way to carbon neutrality with carbon offsets. Its principles for equity and reducing local air pollution rightfully played a large role in these recommendations.

A clean fleet powered by clean energy

Not only does Metro recommend a 100% zero-emission fleet, it also recommends these buses be powered by 100% renewable energy (including hydropower). Washington’s large hydroelectric resource gives Metro a big head start on this. In 2005, Seattle City Light, which would power 75% of Metro’s all-electric fleet, became the first carbon-neutral electric utility in the country.

But Washington isn’t unique in the carbon benefits of electric buses. We found that battery electric buses on today’s grid in California have 70% lower global warming emissions than natural gas or diesel buses.

Fuel cell buses with 33% hydrogen from renewable energy (per California law, SB 1505), have 50% lower global warming emissions than natural gas and diesel buses. And across the country, the grid is getting cleaner.

More than just clean buses

Metro has a lot of other great things going on. King County was one of the few transit agencies in the United States to see an increase in ridership last year. And it plans on increasing ridership even more, requiring its fleet to increase from 1,400 to 2,000 buses by 2040. Metro is proof that expanded service and clean buses can go hand in hand.

Metro also helps get people onto buses with discounted transit rates for low-income individuals. And it gets people out of their cars and into clean, shared rides with an electric vehicle carpool program.

I went to college in the Puget Sound region and have many friends and family in the area. It is very inspiring to see a place I love be a leader on clean vehicles and clean air.

If King County Metro’s work inspires you, contact board members on your local transit agency. Let them know zero-emission buses are ready to make your community a better place to live.

P.S. If you live in Los Angeles, tell LA Metro, the largest transit agency on the west coast, to also be a leader on zero-emission buses.

President Trump Has a Wrecking Ball (and it’s Aimed at the Climate)

The wrecking ball that is the Trump presidency is taking aim at the foundation of our country’s response to climate change. Today, the Trump Administration is announcing a re-opening of the fuel efficiency/emissions standards for cars, which can only mean one thing—weakening or repealing them. And it is expected that he will soon issue a directive to EPA to repeal the Clean Power Plan, and may also order EPA to rescind a waiver that it granted to California to set its own vehicle standards.

If the Trump administration succeeds in rolling back all three, the effect will be to increase by billions of tons the emission of global warming gases and other pollutants that endanger our health; burden our children with much higher costs of fighting climate change; cede the United States’ clean energy prominence to other countries, and make it much harder to meet the goals we set for ourselves as part of the 2015 international Paris Agreement on Climate.

We must fight this reprehensible rollback with everything we’ve got.

Global warming pollution and fuel economy standards

In 2012, the Obama Administration issued standards to cut global warming emissions and improve fuel economy for passenger cars. These standards are expected to increase the number of miles per gallon (mpg) for passenger vehicles from about 26 mpg on average today to approximately 36 mpg by 2025. (The figures are based on “real world” driving conditions, and differ from the EPA estimate of achieving approximately 54 mpg).

The first phase of these standards are in effect now, and are working. The second phase of these standards (from 2022-2025) are projected to save consumers approximately $1,500 per car (net savings), reduce oil use by over a billion barrels, and cut carbon pollution by over 500 million metric tons.

The automobile manufacturers were key architects of these standards. But now some are trying to back out of their commitment, even though they are experiencing record sales and new technologies are coming on line that will help them meet these standards more quickly and inexpensively.

Doing the bidding of these car makers, Trump has directed EPA to “reopen” the standards that govern cars built in 2021-2025. While we can’t know for sure what the outcome of this re-opening will be, we have to prepare for the worst—that the intent is to severely weaken or even repeal the standards.

Note that this cannot be achieved with the stroke of a pen. In order for EPA to do this, it must provide notice, issue a draft regulation repealing the plan, take public comment on it, and issue a final regulation. That final regulation would likely be challenged in court, and the Trump administration will have to demonstrate that there is compelling new information that justified changing course. During the rulemaking process that will follow, we must make clear to the Trump administration that these standards are working, and that Americans want lower-polluting and more fuel efficient cars. And we must loudly register our displeasure with those automakers which received massive taxpayer assistance during the last recession, agreed to build more efficient cars in return, and are now reneging on their promise.

California waiver

When the Clean Air Act was passed in the 1970s, it gave the federal government exclusive authority to regulate tailpipe emissions from cars, but it included one exception: California retained the authority to issue its own, stricter standards, provided it received a “waiver” from the EPA. Since that time, California has received approximately 50 waivers from the EPA, which have helped the state dramatically improve air quality for its residents.

As part of the 2012 agreement on joint global warming pollution and fuel economy standards, the Obama Administration worked with California to set national standards sufficient to meet the state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction needs. This avoided separate state and federal standards for reducing global warming pollution from vehicles– a goal of the auto industry.

However, California also set its own standards for deploying electric vehicles and tailpipe emission standards for gasoline and diesel to combat CA’s poor air quality – something it has done several times to protect the health of its citizens. California was granted a waiver to implement all of these standards in January 2013

Reports indicate that Trump may soon direct the EPA to rescind this waiver. The reason for this is simple: it won’t satisfy car makers to relax the EPA’s fuel economy standards while still leaving California’s standards in place.

Over the past 50 years, no EPA Administrator has ever rescinded a waiver granted to California, and there is no provision in the Clean Air Act that allows it. This radical move is not only destructive, it is hypocritical. EPA Administrator Pruitt has called himself a protector of state’s rights and pledged to give states greater latitude to address their own needs. Yet now, in one of his first moves as administrator, he is working to take away California’s right to set its own standards.

Here again, a public process is required. Rescinding this waiver directly affects not only California, but also twelve other states (NY, PA, MA, ME, NJ, CT, DE, OR, WA, VT and DC) that have adopted California’s standards (which they are allowed to do once a waiver is granted). Many of these states are counting on these standards as a means to meet climate change goals and air quality targets required by their own state laws. California and these other states can be expected to challenge the waiver rescission in court, and will have a strong argument that it is arbitrary to rescind a waiver that was granted five years ago, merely because the federal government has decided to weaken its own standards.

Clean Power Plan

In 2015, EPA issued the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants—which are among the largest sources of this heat trapping gas. The plan would cut CO2 emissions by approximately 32 percent off 2005 levels by 2030 by relying on proven and effective tools, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, switching from coal to gas, and market-based emission trading. The Clean Power Plan will ensure that all states and utilities advance together towards a cleaner energy sector. It is particularly important to have this rule in place in 2021, when tax incentives for wind and solar energy expire.

Trump’s anticipated presidential directive is likely to call on EPA to repeal this regulation. As is the case with the vehicle standards, the repeal will have to go through a formal rulemaking process. The repeal may seem like a foregone conclusion, because candidate Trump pledged to do away with the plan and Scott Pruitt, the new EPA Administrator, previously sued EPA to block it.

But participating in the public process is extremely important nonetheless. Among other things, we should demand that, if Trump abolishes the Clean Power Plan, he replace it with an alternative that achieves the same level of emission reduction. If he does not, the next step will be the courtroom. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that EPA has a mandatory duty to address carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act, so killing Obama’s plan without a viable replacement is not only irresponsible, it is illegal.

The stakes are high

Over the past eight years, the United States has become a clean energy leader. We’ve accomplished a massive expansion of wind energy in the great plains, solar in the southwest and southeast, breakthrough battery technologies making electric cars better (and soon less expensive) than their gasoline-fired counterparts, switched to LED lightbulbs, and implemented a wide array of building materials and techniques to cut energy use. With these powerful changes, our country has risen to the challenges posed by climate change while creating millions of jobs in the process.

Some of this progress will continue no matter what the Trump administration does. But Trump’s anticipated three-way rollback will slow this progress down, probably significantly.

To get a glimpse of how high the stakes are, the graph below depicts estimated energy sector CO2 emissions. We focus on the year 2030, when both the Clean Power Plan and the fuel economy standards would be in full effect.

The graph shows that repealing the Clean Power Plan and the fuel economy standards (nationwide and for California) will increase energy-related emissions in 2030 by 439 million metric tons, or approximately 9%.

Cumulative through 2030, the repeal will increase emissions by 2.5 billion metric tons. The graph also shows that without these two policies, energy related emissions will actually increase overall from current levels. Yet under the Paris Agreement that we signed in 2015, we pledged to decrease emissions on an ongoing basis, based on the overwhelming scientific consensus that we are running out of time to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. By taking off the table these emission reductions, the Trump administration makes meeting these goals much more difficult, and transfers to the next generation the burden of billions of tons of carbon-cutting from one generation to the next.

It is a travesty that the Trump administration seeks to undo the progress we’ve made, but it is not surprising. Candidate Trump called global warming a “hoax.” He picked Scott Pruitt to head EPA due to Pruitt’s legal expertise in obstructing EPA with litigation, and Mr. Pruitt has now gone on record saying that he does not believe carbon dioxide emissions are a primary cause of climate change. And he seems to think that virtually all government regulations are detrimental, blind to the positive economic and environmental changes they can achieve.

Any false hope that President Trump might moderate some of his more radical rhetoric once in office must now be laid aside. We can see the wrecking ball and the direction it is swinging. And we must stop it before it is too late.

Photo: Rhys A/CC BY (Flickr)

EPA Pulls Back Sound Policy Judgment at Behest of Auto Industry

Today, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt rescinded the determination that the EPA standards for 2022-2025 are appropriate.  This decision was made at the request of automakers seeking to supplant more than four years of robust, technical analysis with a political request from industry–a spokesperson for the administration even noted on a press call regarding the announcement that automaker complaints had been taken at face value with no additional analysis or verification, despite the tremendous body of evidence EPA has already put forth supporting the determination.  This decision could have major implications not just for our climate, but for consumers, thanks to an administration willing to bend over backwards for industry.

What does this mean?

This step backwards is the first necessary for the administration to weaken the fuel economy and global warming emissions standards set for 2022-2025 way back in 2012.  These standards were reaffirmed by the previous EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in January based on the breadth of data, which showed that manufacturers could continue to meet the standards on the books and that moving forward with the standards on the books would provide tremendous benefits to the American public.  While a stroke of a pen may be able to undo this determination, it cannot undo the significant body of evidence underpinning this well-justified determination.

It’s industry’s word versus a mountain of independent, peer-reviewed data

As I wrote in January, the determination that EPA’s 2022-2025 standards were appropriate was based upon a mountain of evidence.  The agency spent tens of millions of dollars on research and analysis, including vehicle testing and simulation that resulted in at least 20 peer-reviewed publications; studies on consumer acceptance of technology and willingness to pay for it which contradicts automaker assertions that the public doesn’t want fuel-efficient vehicles; and updated assessments of technology costs by an outside consultant that looked at how a given technology would impact the parts and engineering costs of other parts of the car, including some of the innovative technologies that weren’t originally anticipated back in 2012.

In addition to this massive amount of work accounted for by EPA, the Department of Transportation (DOT) added its own heap of analysis, including independent assessments of the costs to achieve the standards and the ability for future combustion engine and vehicle technologies to meet the 2025 standards as well as a DOT-funded comprehensive assessment by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.  DOT’s findings were published jointly with EPA in the Draft Technical Assessment Report last summer and said quite clearly that manufacturers could meet the finalized 2025 standards through the deployment of conventional technologies and at a lower cost than originally anticipated.

A further part of the process, of course, came from publicly submitted analyses.  Groups like the International Council on Clean Transportation, the Environmental Defense Fund, and of course the Union of Concerned Scientists augmented the agencies’ research with independent analysis which generally showed that the agencies’ own estimates of technology improvements were consistently conservative.  In fact, automakers could exceed standards set out to 2025 through the deployment of improved conventional gasoline-powered vehicles.  Additional independent research showed how fuel economy standards disproportionately benefit lower income individuals, who tend to purchase cars on the secondary market and for whom fuel costs are a much larger share of income, underscoring the critical importance of these standards in protecting these families from fuel price volatility while saving them up to 2 percent of their annual income since fuel economy standards first went into effect.  Consumer groups as well have pointed to the positive impacts these standards have on all Americans, with thousands of dollars in net savings over the lifetimes of these vehicles that begin the moment the typical new car buyer drives off the lot putting much needed income back in the hands of consumers.

Industry continues to cry ‘wolf’

Standing in opposition to this large body of evidence is the voice of industry, claiming absurd assertions about jobs and cherry-picking data because even studies they paid for don’t support their ridiculous claims.  A recent automaker-funded study even noted that in spite of their own conservative assumptions, these rules are, in fact, job creators.  Of course, this industry fighting progress is nothing new—automakers have tried stunts like this previously. Automakers have claimed amongst other things that reducing tailpipe pollution under the Clean Air Act “could prevent continued production of automobiles” and “do irreparable damage to the American economy;” they have also fought safety features like seat belts and air bags for decades while waging what the Supreme Court called “the regulatory equivalent of war” claiming among other things that such features would lead to decreases in sales.

[Spoiler alert: None of that happened, and now you can breathe a lot easier and have a much safer automobile because regulators didn’t kowtow to industry demands.]

On top of this, they are also claiming that the EPA “rushed to judgment” in its determination, forgetting apparently the four-plus years of analysis and the numerous detailed, daylong technical meetings held by the EPA both with individual automakers and their trade associations, in addition to pages upon pages of industry-submitted analysis which the EPA carefully considered and to which the agency responded to before finalizing its determination.  Contrary to their claims, the automakers aren’t upset about the process—they’re upset about the outcome.  And now they’re looking to bend the ear of an Administration generally opposed to regulation to, once again, fight regulations that result in tremendous public good.

By itself this signature does little, but it portends bad intentions

Rescinding the final determination at the request of the auto industry flies in the face of good, technically sound policymaking; however, it is not in and of itself a binding change in policy.  At least for now, the 2022-2025 standards limiting global warming emissions from passenger vehicles remain on the books.  Unfortunately, this action signals a strong likelihood that this administration will not follow the evidence but will simply cave to industry demands—after all, it took less than a month for Scott Pruitt to overrule a decision built on four-plus years of data just because the auto industry asked.

Any change in these regulations will require a formal rulemaking process—and we at UCS will fight like hell to make sure any such rule continues to build upon the strong, technical foundation that led to the regulations on the books today.