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by Julia Pyper
November 02, 2018

Things never stand still in the world of electrified transportation. 

From testing electric mining vehicles to locating chargers on Google Maps, funding for electric car-sharing services to zero-emissions vehicle policies, there's always something new in this sector. This week's Electric Avenue highlights the latest EV-related developments.

EV policy

GM’s 50-state zero emission vehicle plan

General Motors appeared to have pulled U-ey this week in calling for the establishment of a national zero-emissions vehicle program, as part of the company’s public comments on the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule, proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But environmentalists say the proposal isn’t as good-intentioned as it seems.

When President Trump took office, automakers, including GM, sought relief from Obama-era Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards that required manufacturers to double new vehicle fuel economy from 2012 levels to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. In August, the Trump administration released the SAFE rule, which proposed freezing fuel economy standards at 2020 levels of around 37 miles per gallon. Comments on the new standards were due last Friday.

A coalition of 20 states, led by California, railed on the Trump proposal in their filings. Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, told GTM’s Political Climate podcast last week that “every bit” of the proposed rule is “faulty.” And indeed, some of the administration’s math looks plain wrong. The Golden State submitted a 400-page public filing on the clean car rule replacement. California has already launched a lawsuit against the EPA over its plan to weaken the vehicle emissions standards. 

Given that automakers instigated this policy clash, GM’s national ZEV plan came as somewhat of a surprise. The manufacturer claims that the program could place more than 7 million long-range EVs on the road by 2030, yielding a cumulative incremental reduction of 375 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions between 2021 and 2030 over the existing ZEV program followed by California and partnering states.

But while this plan sounds great for vehicle electrification, environmental groups have called it a last-minute “distraction” that hides the automaker’s attempt to weaken emissions standards for gasoline-powered vehicles.