U.S. automakers falling behind in clean-vehicle production: EPA report

WASHINGTON — Automakers continue to sell millions of gas guzzlers and a relative handful of electric and other clean vehicles, making little progress against pollution, according to the Automotive Trends Report released today [Dec. 20, 2023] by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The 2022 new vehicle fleet emitted just 10 grams per mile less carbon pollution than in 2021 — a mere 2.2% improvement. Fuel economy rose 0.6 miles per gallon.

“Auto companies claim they’re leading the charge for electric vehicles, but the EPA’s report shows they’re spouting hogwash along with pollution,” said Dan Becker, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Safe Climate Transport Campaign. “Automakers should be embarrassed to deliver far less improvement than the 5% annually they promised the Obama administration a decade ago. And just 7% of 2022 vehicles were EVs or plug-in hybrids.”

Final decisions are approaching on how to strengthen new auto pollution rules that the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, will propose next spring.

“This report shows why it’s vital that the Biden EPA strengthen the draft rules,” said Becker. “Automakers won’t slash pollution and improve gas mileage unless strong standards make them do so. They’ll just keep pushing gas guzzlers, spewing pollution and sticking consumers with high gas bills. Instead, by issuing strong new rules, the administration can take the single biggest step of any nation to fight climate change, slashing auto pollution and requiring automakers to mass-produce clean electric vehicles.”

Here are the key details in the Trends report:

  • Automakers failed to substantially improve gas mileage. Emissions slid a mere 2.2%, far short of the annual 5% improvement auto companies promised in 2012.
  • The three U.S.-based manufacturers — Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler), GM, and Ford — again delivered the worst fuel efficiency and spewed the most pollution of all carmakers.
  • Gas-guzzling SUVs and pickups continued to replace more efficient cars. Cars made up a mere 37% of 2022 vehicle production. Horsepower, size and vehicle weight increased to their highest levels ever. The report noted that the shift from cars to less efficient SUVs, pickups and other trucks worsened the fleet’s efficiency and emissions.
  • Well over 90% of new vehicles are fossil fueled. Only 7% of 2022 vehicles were electric or plug-in hybrids. The EPA estimates that will rise to 12% [in] 2023.
  • Only six companies — Tesla, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Ford and Subaru — met the standards without resorting to loopholes. Rather than delivering required gas mileage, the others relied on credits, either by buying them (mostly from Tesla) or by equipping vehicles with features like “passive cabin ventilation” that don’t actually improve emissions. And the 2022 standard was a weak one set under President Donald Trump.
  • Six companies — Mazda, GM, BMW, Volkswagen, Honda and Subaru — actually delivered worse fleet-wide gas mileage and emissions than they did five years ago.
  • Most automakers only trickled out a tiny proportion of EVs, with only all-EV Tesla producing more than single-digit percentages.
  • EV sales increased, but so did the shift from cars to trucks, and the use of credits rather than improved technology. So EVs and plug-in hybrids only improved emissions by 22 g/mi or 1.2 mpg.
  • As EV sales grew, the EPA examined the efficiency of new EVs, many of which are large, heavy pickups and SUVs. Unsurprisingly, it found that as weight increases, efficiency fell as more electrical energy was required to move the vehicle.

Source: “EPA Report: Automakers Lagging on Clean Vehicles,” Dec. 20, 2023 Center for Biological Diversity press release.

Corresponding, connected home-page-featured image: Copyright © 2020 Environmental Defense Fund. The original material is available at: https://www.edf.org/federal-clean-car-standards