Biden administration to slow transition to EVs, reports say

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Biden administration is reportedly easing its push toward putting more electric vehicles on the road and cutting tailpipe emissions in the next few years.

Multiple outlets are reporting that the administration plans to delay a proposed mandate forcing automakers sell more electric vehicles. Instead of automakers being required to boost EV sales sharply over the next few years, they would not have to ramp up those sales until after 2030.

“2030 is not that far away in the automotive industry, but these next few years could have been very tricky if we didn’t see a little bit of a shallower phase-in,” said Mike Wall, a West Michigan-based auto analyst for S&P Global Mobility.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new emission standards for vehicles last April in an effort to combat climate change. The proposal would have required 67% of all new car and light-duty truck sales to be all-electric by 2032. Several automakers, including General Motors and Ford, said the goal was unreasonable and unreachable so soon. The United Auto Workers also urged the administration to ease up on its plans.

The adjusted EPA proposal with the slower approach is expected to be made public sometime this month.

EV sales near 8% of US new vehicle market

Electric vehicles remain the “absolute future” for the auto industry, Wall said. Leaders of automakers like Ford and General Motors have made that clear, and billions of dollars are being invested into EVs. Wall said the administration’s reported rollback is aimed to give the industry more time to adjust and consumers to get comfortable with electric vehicles.

“This isn’t meant to be a nail in the coffin of EV or anything like that,” Wall said. “What it does do is give the automakers a little more breathing room, a little more runway.”

1.2 million new electric vehicles were sold in the U.S. last year, but sales aren’t rising as fast as they were.

“We started to see some electric vehicles building up on dealer lots,” Wall said. “We’re starting to see some inventories build. I think we’re starting to find it’s a little more challenging to get that incremental customer.”

“What we’re seeing is the reality is starting to set in,” he added.

Wall said the industry is now looking to attract new customers toward EVs: people who’ve driven gas-powered cars all their lives.

“Those folks are a little harder to convince … getting that person to jump in the deep end, that’s taking a little bit more time,” Wall said.

Automakers continue to invest in hybrid vehicles and even plug-in hybrids, Wall said. He added that plug-in hybrid vehicles can help EV-weary drivers slowly make the transition toward all-electric vehicles because they still contain an internal combustion engine.

Another reason why electric vehicle sales are not rising as fast is because automakers are pumping out more models, Wall said.

“You want to have sort of a portfolio of vehicles,” Wall said. “You want to have a small, mid-sized, large crossover utility vehicle, maybe a passenger car. That starts to add up to a significant model count.”

Michigan recently received nearly $23 million from the federal government to support the construction of 41 electric vehicle charging stations. Several of them will be in West Michigan. They will be built right off major highways so drivers can make long trips without worrying about running out of power.

The stations are part of a nationwide effort called the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, which is funded by the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure deal. The program will offer Michigan $110 million to expand EV charging infrastructure across the state. The first phase, the EV charging station expansion, is aimed to support 100,000 electric vehicles across Michigan.

Federal cash paying for 41 EV charging stations along Michigan highways

Wall said the charging infrastructure is still in its very early stages, so the EPA’s proposed delay will give it more time to develop.

He also said it will help out West Michigan suppliers, which build parts for electric vehicles and many other materials for traditional automobiles including seat rails, exhaust clamps and rearview and exterior mirrors.

“We’ve got a very diversified supply chain in West Michigan,” Wall said. “The challenge has been as they’ve been forced to produce parts for a wide variety of additional vehicle models. If those volumes don’t hit, there’s risk because they might be sitting on a lot of unused capital.”

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