The White House said Thursday it is aiming for zero-emission electric vehicles (EV) to account for half of new vehicles sold in the United States by 2030. It also called for more stringent fuel economy standards.

electric vehicles

“Zero-emission” includes battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and fuel cell EVs, the White House said.

President Biden was set to sign an executive order (EO) setting the ambitious target. EVs have accounted for about 2% of new U.S. vehicle sales in each of the last three years, according to the Pew Research Center.

The EO “also kicks off development of long-term fuel efficiency and emissions standards to save consumers money, cut pollution, boost public health, advance environmental justice, and tackle the climate crisis,” the White House said.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), the main lobbying group for the U.S. oil and natural gas industry, expressed support for a more market-based approach to tackling transport sector emissions.

“While API and our member companies support transportation initiatives that both reduce emissions and ensure affordable vehicle choices for Americans, the best way to accelerate U.S. climate progress is through an economy-wide carbon price policy rather than costly market mandates,” API’s Ron Chittim, vice president of downstream policy, told NGI.

Concurrent with the EO, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) were set to “announce how they are addressing the previous administration’s harmful rollbacks of near-term fuel efficiency and emissions standards,” the White House said. 

“Through these coordinated notices of proposed rulemaking, the two agencies are advancing smart fuel efficiency and emissions standards that would deliver around $140 billion in net benefits over the life of the program, save about 200 billion gallons of gasoline, and reduce around two billion metric tons of carbon pollution.”

Under the Trump administration, EPA and DOT curtailed the Obama-era corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) emissions standards for new automobiles.

Under President Obama, the stringency of the CAFE standards was set to increase by 5% annually for the 2021-2026 period. The Trump administration cut it to 1.5%. 

The White House made a geopolitical argument for EVs as well. It warned Thursday that “China is increasingly cornering the global supply chain for electric vehicles and batteries with its fast-growing electric vehicle market.

“By setting clear targets for electric vehicle sale trajectories,” countries such as China “are becoming magnets for private investment into their manufacturing sectors — from parts and materials to final assembly.”

The U.S. EV market is only one-third that of China, the White House said.

To catch up, President Biden is proposing a national network of EV charging stations, delivering point-of-sale consumer incentives for purchasing EVs. It also is proposing to finance “the retooling and expansion of the full domestic manufacturing supply chain.” It also wants to innovate “the next generation of clean technologies” to maintain a competitive edge, according to the White House.

The announcement comes as the Senate nears a possible final vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes $7.5 billion to build out an EV charging network. The legislation also would set aside $10 billion for low- and no-emissions buses, along with $60 billion for new transmission lines to transport renewable electricity.

Major automakers, along with organized labor, endorsed the administration’s EV pledge.

Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV jointly announced their “shared aspiration to achieve 40-50% of annual U.S. volumes of electric vehicles (battery electric, fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles) by 2030”  to achieve a zero-emissions future consistent with the goals of the 2015 United Nations climate accord.

“This represents a dramatic shift from the U.S. market today that can be achieved only with the timely deployment of the full suite of electrification policies committed to by the administration in the Build Back Better plan,” the companies said. They endorsed the “purchase incentives, a comprehensive charging network of sufficient density to support the millions of vehicles these targets represent,” along with investments in research and development, “and incentives to expand the electric vehicle manufacturing and supply chains in the United States.”

BMW, Honda Motor Co. Ltd, Volkswagen AG and Volvo ADR endorsed the EV commitment as well, as did United Auto Workers (UAW) president Ray Curry.

“We are falling behind China and Europe as manufacturers pour billions into growing their markets and expanding their manufacturing,” Curry said. “Today’s announcement on emissions standards brings more certainty and better planning for the auto industry and UAW member future jobs.”