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GM wants to help set EPA's next clean car standard

General Motors wants to sell electric vehicles exclusively by 2035, and it is now trying to push the U.S. government toward the same goal. The automaker has partnered with advocacy group the Environmental Protection Fund (EDF) to develop recommendations for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for vehicle emissions standards starting with the 2027 model year. The guidelines aim to accelerate EV adoption in a socially conscious way — and, of course, help GM’s bottom line as well.

The brand wants the standard to ensure that at least half of its new car sales are zero-emissions by 2030, a 60% reduction in emissions across the entire product line compared to 2021. GM believes they need to address multiple sources of pollution (such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter) and be “performance-based.” The company also believes that there should be an optional pathway to accelerate the rollout of breakthrough emission reduction technologies, and that standards should ensure that the benefits of pollution reduction apply to everyone (such as vulnerable communities). Not surprisingly, GM wants close coordination between the public and private sectors, including complementary investments.

GM and EDF wanted a quick decision-making process. They hope to propose these standards this fall and complete them by fall 2023. The partners say the standards should last until at least 2032, but they also want the EPA to extend them through 2035.

Probably not much objection to the basic concept. President Biden already wants half of all new cars to be zero-emissions by 2030, and the EPA reversed the Trump-era rollback of standards in December. Meanwhile, California, Massachusetts and New York are expected to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, often pushing for stricter standards than the federal government. In theory, these principles and the resulting EPA standards will help politicians achieve these goals faster by encouraging manufacturers to rapidly electrify their fleets.

Whether GM and EDF will get their way is unclear. The EPA cannot promise to take these principles to heart, and a change of president could result in weaker rules. We’d add that GM has shifted its emissions reduction stance based on who’s in office. The company backed the Trump administration’s efforts to rescind waivers that allowed California to enact stricter requirements, only to change its tune after Biden won the 2020 election. We don’t expect GM to exit anytime soon, though. The company has bet its future on electric vehicles, and it would profit if the market shifted to eco-friendly vehicles sooner.

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