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New Fuel Regulations Will Help The Transition To Electric Vehicles


Today at the White House, President Biden stood in front of a display of electric pickup trucks and SUVs, and he said this.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: A future of the automobile industry that is electric - battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, fuel cell electric. It's electric, and there's no turning back. The question is whether we'll lead or fall behind in the race for the future.

KELLY: Then, surrounded by auto CEOs and union officials, President Biden signed an executive order setting a target for half of all new car sales to be electric by 2030. NPR's Camila Domonoske joins me now. She covers cars for our business desk.

Hey there.


KELLY: How big a deal is this 2030 target?

DOMONOSKE: Well, if you look at where we are right now, a 50% target is huge. Today, 2% of new car sales are electric vehicles. But if you look at what companies were already planning to do around 2030, it's not so wild after all. The auto industry is embracing the idea that electric vehicles are the future. And some major automakers had already said before the White House did anything that 40- to 50% electric in the decade was part of their game plan.

KELLY: So what does this executive order actually do? Why does it matter if the car industry was already inching this way on its own?

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. Well, part of it is about pushing the laggards. Obviously, different companies have different timelines for this, right? And the Biden administration has said repeatedly they're concerned about losing ground to China in a manufacturing race. There's also the fact that the auto industry says they need a lot of help to actually make a transition this fast. We're talking about charging infrastructure, consumer incentives to help with the fact that electric vehicles are more expensive right now. So having this kind of a statement come out of the White House with the automakers there, it's really seen as a first step with getting everyone on board to be followed by a lot of other stuff, including things in the infrastructure package to make this target actually possible.

KELLY: And what has been the reaction today, Camila, from environmental groups? Because this is obviously all tied up in Biden's bigger plans to address climate change, move us away from fossil fuel.

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. Well, there's broad support from environmental groups for shifting towards electric vehicles, especially paired with things like public transportation. But this particular target that the White House was emphasizing, it is voluntary, right? This is something that carmakers are saying that they'll do, but they don't have to do it. So a lot of environmental groups are actually more interested in something else that Biden mentioned this afternoon, which is what new vehicle standards there will be for emissions and for fuel economy. These are actually binding. This is the government requiring automakers to make cleaner and more efficient vehicles. And we just got the proposal for what the administration is going to do for that in the years ahead.

KELLY: And what's in it?

DOMONOSKE: Well, I literally stopped reading them to join you, and they are complicated.

KELLY: (Laughter).

DOMONOSKE: But essentially...

KELLY: If you need a moment, we can wait - keep going.

DOMONOSKE: (Laughter) I'll go through thousands of pages. No. They're a lot more stringent than these standards were under Trump. In fact, there's a big one-time bump in what's required from automakers to basically make up for the ground lost under the Trump administration when they slowed down. But that is paired with some wiggle room, recognizing that, OK, it might take some time for you to get back on board with where we were headed before. And I should note, it's a proposal. They're going to be taking public comments on it.

KELLY: All right. That is NPR's Camila Domonoske. Thank you.

DOMONOSKE: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.
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