New EPA Rule Mandates 55 MPG by Model Year 2026

The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing new federal greenhouse gas or GHG emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2023 through 2026 – establishing a 55 miles per gallon corporate average fuel economy or CAFE target for model year 2026 vehicles.

[Above photo by Ford Motor Co.]

The EPA expects its new rule – consistent with an executive order issued by President Biden in August 2021 – to “unlock” $190 billion in net benefits by reducing climate pollution, improving public health, and saving drivers money by reducing vehicle fuel consumption.

The agency also calculates that American motorists will save between $210 billion and $420 billion through 2050 on fuel costs due to this new rule.  On average over the lifetime of an individual MY 2026 vehicle, EPA estimates that the fuel savings will exceed the initial increase in vehicle costs by more than $1,000 for consumers.

The agency added in a statement that it plans to initiate a separate rulemaking to establish multi-pollutant emission standards under the Clean Air Act for MY 2027 passenger cars and light trucks and beyond to “speed the transition” of the country’s light-duty vehicle fleet toward a zero-emissions future consistent with the president’s abovementioned executive order.

The EPA also expects its new rule to spur increased production and sales of electric vehicles or EVs. As the GHG standards get stronger over the four-year period encompassed by the new rule, the agency said sales of EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles should grow from about 7 percent market share in MY 2023 to about 17 percent in MY 2026, the agency projects.

Those increasing levels of EVs will position the United States to achieve aggressive GHG emissions reductions from transportation over the long term, EPA noted.

Grants Issued to Replace Aging Diesel Transit Buses in Ohio

The Ohio Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant or DERG program recently awarded six grants totaling more than $9 million for replacing 25 aging diesel transit buses with cleaner diesel or alternative fuel technology. The Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency jointly administer the state’s DERG program.

[Above photo by the Ohio DOT]

In a statement, the Ohio EPA estimated that those new buses should cut emissions by more than six tons of air pollutants annually; an air quality benefit that should continue to accrue each year the new buses remain in service.

Projects receiving funding include:

Funding for those DERG grants comes from the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. The Ohio DOT noted that the next DERG application deadline occurs in the fall of 2022.

Ohio Unveils Connected Mobility Corridor

The recently opened 33 Smart Mobility Corridor in central Ohio is a connected highway project that seeks to enhance motor vehicle safety, reduce traffic congestion, and improve fuel economy.

[Above photo by DriveOhio]

This connected highway project – overseen by InnovateOhio, which coordinates service integration among state agencies – involves the Ohio Department of Transportation, DriveOhio, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the NW 33 Council of Governments, among others.

With a 35-mile redundant loop of fiber connectivity, the corridor includes 432 strands of available fiber, 63 roadside units, and 45 connected intersections. The route also encompasses diverse geographical and meteorological scenarios to provide a one-of-a-kind vehicle testing “ecosystem” for developing and testing smart mobility technology.

“Transportation is evolving, and mobility technology solutions that have and will be tested on the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor will save lives,” noted Jack Marchbanks, Ohio DOT’s director, in a statement. “The partnership framework we have established during this project is a model for future programs across the state, as we work to improve the quality of life for all Ohioans.”

“We know that connected and automated vehicle technology will continue to mature and scale at an ever-increasing pace,” added Howard Wood, executive director of DriveOhio, which is a division of the Ohio DOT. “As these systems are tested and refined, infrastructure plays a major role in the development cycle as mobility technology interphases with our legacy transportation system.”

“[This] corridor enables us to conduct real-world testing of our SAFE SWARM technology, which uses vehicle-to-everything communication to help mitigate collisions, improve traffic flow, increase fuel efficiency for all road users, and prepare for higher-levels of automated driving features,” said Sue Bai, chief engineer at Honda Research Institute USA, Inc.

Currently, Honda is operating over 200 connected vehicles along the corridor to understand how technology impacts the customer and realize a connected ecosystem that protects everyone sharing the road, including pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicyclists.

“This initiative is helping us develop the transportation ecosystem of the future with like-minded partners in the auto industry, government, academia, and the private sector,” Bai added.

Twelve Governors Urge Biden Administration to Impose ZEV Mandate

The governors of 12 states – California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington – recently signed a joint letter urging the Biden Administration to establish national zero emission vehicle standards. They also urged the administration to leverage the proposed $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan to provide more fiscal support for ZEV infrastructure construction.

[Above photo via the Massachusetts Governor’s Office.]

The April 21 letter calls on the administration to require all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold to be zero-emission by 2035, with all new medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles sold to be zero-emission by 2045.

“By establishing a clear regulatory path to ensuring that all vehicles sold in the United States are zero-emission, we can finally clear the air and create high-road jobs,” the governors said in the letter.

“Moving quickly towards a zero-emission transportation future will protect the health of all communities,” they added. “With bold federal leadership, American workers will lead the way in designing, building and driving clean and affordable vehicles.”

The governors highlighted how investments proposed within the administration’s American Jobs Plan investments could support the “scaling up” of ZEV charging and refueling infrastructure – enhancing the investments already made by states.

For example, the California Department of Transportation in February installed 22 new “fast-charging” stations for electric vehicles or EVs at nine locations along the state’s highway network.

Six energy utility companies announced in March that they are joining forces to build a seamless network of EV charging stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast, through the Midwest and South, and into the Gulf and Central Plains regions.

Meanwhile, the governors also requested in their letter an expansion of tax credits to support the manufacturing of zero-emissions trucks, buses, and charging stations and funding to promote equitable access to ZEVs and transportation electrification at the local level.

One example of that is the deployment by the Cherokee Nation of two electric transit buses to transport employees and tribal citizens to work and tribal health centers, along with an electric school bus.

The tribe said it used a $1.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant awarded in 2018 to help pay for those buses as well as construction of the recharging station.

“The Cherokee Nation has always been a leader in environmental conservation and forward-thinking efforts that will reduce harmful activities impacting our natural resources,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in a statement. “As we work to reduce our carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2027, we are investing in sustainable projects that will have many long-term benefits,” he added. “Our responsibility as stewards of the land, air, and water will always be one of our most significant values, and introducing these eco-friendly transit vehicles into our fleet is an example of how we can make a great difference in our environment.”

Coalitions Help States Tackle EV Infrastructure Barriers

As transportation-fueled greenhouse gas emission concerns rise across the country, wholesale deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) still faces roadblocks as advocates try to develop an expensive infrastructure to support EVs that most people won’t buy.

Only one-third of U.S. adults said they would buy or lease an all-electric car, with the majority citing the scarcity of public charging stations and the EV’s high purchase price, according to a report from Morning Consult. EV purchases are rising, but they comprise only 2 percent of all light-duty vehicles.

“The barriers to buying EVs and building out EV infrastructure are closely connected,” said Tim Sexton, assistant commissioner, and chief sustainability officer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Most EV owners charge at home or at work, which makes it “difficult for private charging companies to be profitable until the EV market share grows,” he added.

Photo courtesy Oregon DOT

According to the U.S Department of Energy (DOE), the country currently has nearly 25,000 public charging stations. DOE’s interactive map tool shows where the stations are, what kind of station (Level 1, Level 2, or DC Fast Charging) is at each location, and can plot an optimal EV route for nearby charging stations. The center also keeps track of how many charging stations are in each state.

However, consumer “range anxiety,” a lack of public awareness of EV purchasing and ownership benefits, plus a complex labyrinth of infrastructure financing have prompted some states to seek a regional approach to electrifying the highways.

To address those issues, three coalitions of states – one on each coast and one in the west – are developing model EV policies, creating consumer awareness campaigns, and building partnerships with businesses, utilities, local governments and public interest groups. It is slow going, but they are starting to show some results.

The Transportation and Climate Initiative is one coalition that includes transportation, environmental and energy officials from states in the Northeastern Association of State Transportation Officials, plus Virginia. One of the group’s goals is to enable drivers “to drive their plug-in cars and trucks from northern New England to D.C. and anywhere in between.” TCI aims to finalize a new multi-state memorandum of understanding in the coming months.

Washington, Oregon, and California are installing hundreds of new EV charging stations in part due to their membership in the West Coast Electric Highway initiative. Those three states are now home to more than 8,800 charging stations – more than a third of all such EV stations in the entire country.

Finally, there is the Regional Electric Vehicle or REV West coalition of eight states – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming – which aims to enable anyone to “seamlessly drive an electric vehicle across the Signatory States’ major transportation corridors.”

Even small progress on building out an EV infrastructure will encourage people to switch to electric vehicles, Minnesota DOT’s Sexton said. “Public EV chargers are critical for long-distance travel, and it helps normalize EVs,” he explained. “The more chargers people see, the more ‘normal’ the idea of driving an EV becomes.”