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GM challenges Trump administration to start a nationwide zero-emissions vehicle program

GM challenges Trump administration to start a nationwide zero-emissions vehicle program


The company wants to expand the California program that Trump wants to kill

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

General Motors is advocating for a new nationwide program that promotes electric cars and other zero-emissions vehicles. The so-called “National Zero Emission Vehicle (NZEV) program” would potentially put 7 million “long-range” EVs on the road by 2030 and reduce CO2 emissions by 375 million tons. GM is also calling for more investment into electric charging infrastructure, and it’s encouraging the government to support EV and battery technology in order to keep pace with countries like China.

To do this, GM is calling for 25 percent of all automakers’ fleets to switch to electric or hybrid power. It also suggests an expansion of California’s current zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) “credit” system in which automakers have to make and sell a minimum number of clean cars, but they can swap credits if they have a deficit or a surplus. (For instance, Tesla, which sells more EVs than any other car company in the US, said this week that it sold $52 million worth of ZEV credits in the third quarter of 2018.)

The ZEV credit program is currently in danger as part of the Trump administration’s push to roll back strict Obama-era fuel economy and vehicle emissions standards. In August, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a new rule that would only require automakers to reach an average fleet fuel economy of 37 miles per gallon by 2025, instead of the 50 miles per gallon target set by the Obama EPA. The Trump administration also plans to challenge California’s ZEV credit system and the state’s waiver to the Clean Air Act, which allows it to set its own strict emissions standards that are separate from those of the federal government.

GM said in a statement on Friday that ending the current ZEV program, which is followed by nine other states, would “stifle growth” in the US. The company added that the United States needs “further government and industry cooperation” around zero-emissions vehicles to keep up with the programs being put in place in Asia and Europe. With that in mind, GM also called for regulatory incentives to support domestic battery suppliers.

“A single, 50-state solution will help move the US to a leadership position in electrification. It will create jobs through the expansion of battery and electric vehicle research and development and production, improve the environment and make electric vehicles more affordable,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a USA Today op-ed published on Friday. “The stakes are high, and time is short.”

The company submitted its proposal on Friday in a public comment to the docket for the Trump administration’s proposed emissions rollback. It is the final day that the EPA and the NHTSA were taking public comments.

Automakers like GM initially lobbied the Trump administration for wiggle room in the standards, and they’ve mostly been mum while the EPA and the NHTSA blew past that suggestion on the way to a major rollback. But pressure has mounted against the administration’s efforts; in May, California led 17 states in filing a lawsuit against the EPA over the proposed rollback. When the official rule was proposed in August, 20 state attorneys general threatened another lawsuit if the rollback is put in place.