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April 6, 2020
Trump Administration Weakens Light-Duty Vehicle Standards
Source: NRDC
The battle around auto emissions and fuel economy standards rages on in the age of coronavirus with the Trump administration finalizing plans to roll back the Obama-era regulation on March 31st. Under the guise of making vehicles more affordable for consumers, the new rule slows the required annual increase in standards from five to 1.5 percent. Available reports estimate this will lead to a decline in average fuel economy of six miles per gallon by 2025. As the new regulations come from a joint rulemaking of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the rule correspondingly rolls back greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks.

The industry's main trade association, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation neither praised nor resisted the new rules, though advocacy groups voiced strong concerns. Experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council fear that the new rule could allow automakers to underperform on EV innovation, weakening American competitiveness in the global EV market while costing jobs. GM and Ford have already been called out in recent weeks for lackluster EV production plans despite recent commitments to an electric future. Based on released plans, GM and Ford’s combined EV output by 2026 is expected to be 15 percent lower than Tesla’s 2019 production.

Critics of the rule are pushing back against NHTSA and EPA claims that softer standards will lead to cheaper cars, noting that EVs save consumers money over the lifetime of the vehicle. Additionally, arguments that the new rule favors consumers rubs up against years of increasing demand for greater fuel economy and ignores the potential of creating upward pressure on gas prices. If the latter is true, then the new rule could ultimately hasten the date when EVs reach price parity with conventional vehicles. Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects large EVs in the European Union to reach price parity with gas-powered vehicles by 2022, four years sooner than they predicted in 2018 due to several factors including falling battery costs. Outside of arguments about cost savings, the administration itself estimated that the rule will lead to more respiratory illness and premature deaths as a result of increased air pollution; an estimate that comes at a time when the nation is grappling with a deadly respiratory virus pandemic.

New rule or not, ongoing regulatory uncertainty is expected to create headaches for automakers as states continue fighting for the right to establish their own regulations. California leads this effort and is likely to take a growing number of ZEV states with them. In November 2019, the state dramatically announced it would stop buying GM, Toyota, and Fiat-Chrysler vehicles for state fleets as these automakers have remained more sympathetic with the Trump administration’s efforts to strip California’s authority to set its own rules. The Golden State is moving ahead on its own terms, pursuing voluntary emissions agreements with Volvo who would join Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, and Honda in alignment with the state’s efforts to maintain the Obama-era standards.

While California-led lawsuits to uphold the right to set independent emissions standards crawl through the legal system, the auto industry is bracing for impact as facilities remain shuttered in response to COVID-19. We continue to await the reporting of first quarter U.S. EV sales from a majority of automakers as global numbers begin to roll in. InsideEVs, the source for the U.S. EV sales data in the National EV Sales Dashboard, reported that Global EV sales for February were up 16 percent compared to 2019 with roughly 116,000 vehicles sold. The European market led this growth as sales in China plummeted due to coronavirus shutdowns. Chinese EV sales were down 65 percent compared to 2019 while the overall auto industry saw a decline of 82 percent. U.S. EV sales were not reported for February as automakers have cut back on monthly reporting. Global EV sales in January were down seven percent from 2019.

Early results are mixed at the automaker level and the overall state of the U.S. EV market remains unclear. Tesla still saw a strong first quarter despite production freezes in China and then North America, posting 88,400 global vehicle deliveries. This represents a 40 percent increase over the first quarter of 2019 for the leading EV automaker. Numbers were less rosy for BMW, which is reporting a 94 percent drop in U.S. i3 sales in the first quarter. Quarterly U.S sales for the Nissan Leaf were also down, coming in at 27 percent lower than 2019. Sales for Audi’s e-tron dipped by 14 percent while demand continues to increase for Porsche’s Taycan. We will continue to report sales data as it is received and will adapt to limited datasets in our upcoming review of the first quarter in late April.
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NYSERDA Adds $5 million to the Charge Ready NY Program

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has added $5 million to the Charge Ready NY program which offers $4,000 rebates to public and private organizations that install Level 2 EV charging stations at public parking facilities, workplaces, and multifamily apartment buildings. This announcement brings the program’s total budget to $12 million. Since launching in September 2018, the program has supported more than 1,800 charging ports, of which over 1,000 have already been installed. Read More Here

National Grid and Oregon DOT Seeking Vendors for EV Charging Programs

In Massachusetts, the electric utility National Grid in Massachusetts has issued an RFI in order to execute residential off-peak charging rebate program. The survey seeks vendors that could provide charging data from varying technologies. The Off-Peak Rebate will pay customers a fixed per-kWh rate for charging their EV during the hours of 9 p.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. The survey will be open until February 28th and an RFP will be issued afterwards. 

In Oregon, the Department of Transportation is hosting a pre-proposal webinar to provide an overview of a new funding opportunity. Public agencies in the state are providing funding to upgrade and enhance Oregon’s network of 44 charging stations available as a part of the West Coast Electric Highway Initiative with new, dual-protocol, DC fast charging capability. The upgrades will allow fast charging using CHAdeMO or CCS connectors at each of the 44 sites. The pre-proposal webinar will be held on April 20th at 10:30 a.m. PST. Read More Here

2020 Federal Low or No Emission Program Funding Available

On January 17, 2020, the Federal Transit Adminsitration (FTA) announced the opening of the 2020 Low or No Emission (Low-No) Program. Under this cycle. approximately $130 million will be available for transit agencies in all states to go towards the purchase or lease of low or no emission vehicles as well as related equipment or facilities.

The main purpose of the Low-No Program is to support the transition of the nation’s transit fleet to the lowest polluting and most energy efficient transit vehicles. The Low-No Program provides funding to State and local governmental authorities for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses, including acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities. Since 2015, the Low-No Program has awarded almost $350 million for ZEV transit buses and supporting equipment. This year’s allocation will be the largest amount of yearly funding to date. Proposals are due by March 17, 2020. Read More Here

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At this webinar, our speakers will explore promising models and strategies to make charging a car as easy as parking it. Join Forth Program Manager, Erin Galiger, Michael Samulon, Senior Policy Analyst, Sustainability, Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sarah Moore, Sustainability Program Manager, City of Berkeley and Jennifer Venema, Sustainability Manager, City of Sacramento, for a highlight on current public charging pilots and programs, the challenges of public charging infrastructure and a vision of the future of public charging and EV adoption. Read More Here.

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