Pollution from cars and trucks is a major threat to our climate and our health.
NRDC works with automakers and government leaders not only to make cars go farther on a tank of gas but also to take them off gas entirely. We've helped drive the federal government to adopt major improvements in fuel-economy standards. And we are working to get millions more electric vehicles on the road and advocating ways to make them more affordable.
The Environmental Protection Agency has made an official final determination to keep in place the existing clean car standards for new automobiles through model year 2025. The finding is the result of years of technical data gathering and thorough analysis by EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the California Air Resources Board.
EPA’s decision to keep strong standards is good news for consumers, our energy security and the environment. New cars and light trucks of all types will continue to get more fuel-efficient and less polluting each year. Drivers will save money at the pump, while helping to reduce our costly dependence on oil and protect public health. Strong standards also are a key strategy for reducing our nation’s carbon pollution to meet the United States 2025 Paris Climate commitment and larger, longer-term reductions.
A new car meeting the 2025 carbon pollution requirements will save the owner nearly $4000 compared to today’s average new car under the existing standards, because the fuel savings at the pump far outweigh the cost of the low-emissions technologies that make the vehicle more efficient.
Greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards have already worked to bring cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicles to the market. The standards have avoided over 142 million metric tons of carbon pollution and saved American drivers over $32 billion in fuel costs just for model years 2012 to 2016.
Moreover, we’ve realized these savings as new vehicles have ramped up to record levels of both fuel economy and sales. Emissions from new vehicles are also at record lows, thanks to standards that tighten year over year.
And automakers are continuing to add fuel-saving innovations to their vehicles, thanks to standards and consumer demand. Ford’s top-selling F-150 pickup truck is getting upgraded with a 10-speed transmission and a start/stop system that shuts off the engine to prevent fuel-wasting idling. Ford made waves in recent years when engineers cut the truck’s weight dramatically with a shift to an aluminum frame. Now they are expanding that to their SUVs.
The agencies found in their technical assessment that automakers can meet the 2025 standards primarily with improvements to conventional gasoline vehicles with better engines and transmissions. With the certainty of the standards, engineers are continuing to find new technical solutions that were not predicted in 2012. For example, we are starting to see more investment in high-compression ratio Atkinson cycle engines, dynamic cylinder deactivation and low-cost 48 volt mild hybrid systems.
Anti-regulatory forces in Washington may wish to disrupt the tremendous progress made over the last decade in cleaning up our cars. But the market is not slowing down, and we can’t afford to slow down. To serve consumers, protect our planet and enhance our energy security, we must keep driving forward with strong clean vehicle standards.
A decision adopted today by the California Public Utilities Commission would result in the nation’s single-largest deployment of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The decision builds upon a settlement agreement supported by a diverse coalition of environmentalists, automakers, labor unions, EV drivers, social equity advocates, and EV charging companies.
In combination with similar charging station programs the commission authorized earlier this year for Southern California utilities, today’s decision will help California meet its goal of deploying 1.5 million EVs by 2025 and challenge the monopoly enjoyed by Big Oil for far too long. It’s also in line with laws recently enacted in California and Oregon that direct utilities to electrify the transportation sector.
Under today’s decision, one of the nation’s largest utilities—Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E)—will deploy approximately 7,500 in northern and central California over three years, and use the lessons learned to improve future, larger scale deployments needed to comply with state law. This is in addition to the approximately 5,000 EV charging stations to be installed over the next several years by Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) in programs approved earlier this year.
All three programs aim to educate customers as to the benefits of driving on electricity and fill a need for charging infrastructure at workplaces, apartment complexes, and other locations where cars are parked for most of the day. This combination should tap pent-up demand for EVs outside of single-family homes, increase the number of miles driven on electricity, and ensure that cars are plugged in when solar and wind generation peak.
By increasing access to reliable and affordable charging stations, the program promises to deliver Californians cleaner air and cheaper fuel. By matching EV charging to hours of the day when wind and solar generation are plentiful, the program will also lower the costs of meeting California's goal of procuring at least half of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030.
Today’s decision stemmed from a settlement agreement proposed by Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Honda, Center for Sustainable Energy, Coalition of California Utility Employees, General Motors, Greenlining, Greenlots, Marin Clean Energy, Natural Resources Defense Council, PG&E, Plug In America, Sierra Club, and Sonoma Clean Power.
Just like in trial courts, if consensus can be reached between interested parties on matters before the Public Utilities Commission, those parties can propose a deal that, if approved by the court (or in this case, the commission), avoids the need for a long and adversarial process.
Today’s decision did not adopt the proposed settlement wholesale, but approves a program built upon it, with a reduced budget ($130 million in lieu of the proposed $160 million) that combines elements of both the SCE and SDG&E EV charging station programs also approved with modifications by the commission earlier this year.
Under this hybrid-model, PG&E will own and maintain charging stations installed by qualifying third-party vendors in the most underserved markets—multi-unit dwellings (apartment complexes and other non-single family homes) throughout PG&E territory and workplaces located in disadvantaged communities (identified by California’s “Enviroscreen” mapping tool). At workplaces located outside of disadvantaged communities, PG&E will not own or maintain the charging stations, but will provide supporting electrical infrastructure (from the power line to the charging station) and will offer rebates for employers to purchase charging stations from a list of pre-qualified vendors.
As specified in the settlement agreement upon which the commission’s decision is based, PG&E is obligated to deploy at least 20 percent of charging stations at multi-unit dwellings and will aim to deploy at least half of all stations at such locations. Likewise, PG&E will deploy at least 15 percent of charging stations in disadvantaged communities, and will aim to deploy an additional 5 percent in low income communities.
A new study released today finds that wider use of electric vehicles will produce billions of dollars in benefits for electric vehicle owners (fuel-cost savings), all utility customers (lower electric bills) and society at large (reduced climate-altering pollution).
The study focuses on the potential benefits of greater electric vehicle (EV) use in Massachusetts, which is among eight states that have set a goal to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.
Substituting clean cars for polluting gas-powered vehicles is critical to fighting climate change because transportation is the leading source of carbon pollution in a number of states, including Massachusetts where it accounts for about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
The study, conducted for NRDC by the consulting firm M.J. Bradley & Associates, examined the costs and benefits of increased EV use in the Bay State under two scenarios between 2030 and 2050. It also examined the additional benefits of encouraging EV owners to charge their vehicles during off-peak periods, when the grid is underutilized and power is cheaper.
Under one scenario, Massachusetts would achieve its goal of putting 300,000 electric vehicles on its streets by 2025 and increasing EVs at the same rate in later years until 2050, when 1.1 million EVs, or 20.6 percent of passenger vehicles, are in use.
Such a move would produce $5.4 billion in benefits by 2050, the study found.
Some 56 percent of the benefits would accrue to EV owners in lower vehicle operating costs; 21 percent to utility customers in the form of lower electric bills (from higher sales of electricity to power EVs); and 23 percent to society at large in the value of reduced climate damage. Among the benefits: a reduction of up to 2.1 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the other scenario, the state would move even more aggressively, deploying enough EVs to achieve its goal of an 80 percent reduction in carbon pollution from 1990 levels by 2050. To do that, the state would need to replace most of gas-burning passenger vehicles on its roads with EVs by 2050.
The cumulative net benefits, however, would exceed $32 billion by 2050.
Among the benefits: a reduction of up to 6 percent in projected electric rates, resulting in an annual savings of about $139 per household. Also, a reduction of up to 11.3 million metric tons of carbon pollution.
The study provides further evidence of the value—to our heath, planet and pocketbooks—of making electric cars more available to the mass market—especially if the vehicles are charged from clean energy such as solar and wind power.
EVs can help us meet our climate goals, reduce harmful pollution, escape the pain at the pump from spikes in gasoline prices and strengthen the grid.
The study comes as EVs are gaining popularity with more affordable, longer-range electric vehicles—capable of traveling more than 200 miles between charges—arriving in showrooms.
The study also highlights the benefits of encouraging EV owners to charge their vehicles during off-peak times, when electricity is in greater supply and cheaper.
EV owners will generally start charging vehicles upon arriving home after work, increasing demand on the grid during a period of heavy use. Increasing the load during peak periods could necessitate new spending to expand the power system.
But if EV owners are given a nudge – in the form of financial incentives – many will put off charging until off-peak times, the study pointed out.
All utility customers – and the grid – would benefit more from off-peak charging because it would generate significant new revenues without large added costs
While the report focuses on Massachusetts, similar benefits are likely to be realized in other states, especially those where transportation is the single biggest source of carbon pollution and where residents are eager to get off the roller coaster of wild swings in gasoline prices.
At the end of this year several tax incentives that advance clean energy, energy efficiency, and infrastructure technologies that reduce pollution and drive innovation will expire.
Failing to extend and modify these important credits now would cost jobs, slow innovation, and drive away investors who need a clear roadmap for the future. Most importantly, it would slow the urgently needed transition to carbon-free energy sources vital to protecting our children’s future.
Today, NRDC sent a letter to congressional leaders explaining our view on the importance of these credits and why Congress needs to extend and modify them before the end of the year. We hope they will heed our call.
The letter is below. For more information on the benefits of tax incentives for clean energy and the environment please read my colleague Elizabeth Noll’s excellent piece from earlier this year.
This blog was coauthored by NRDC consultants Freda Fung and Rich Kassel.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) made a historic decision last Thursday, finalizing its plan to dramatically reduce the global sulfur limit of marine fuels by 85 percent in 2020. When the plan is implemented, the global cap in sulfur in marine fuels will drop from the current 3.5% to 0.5%.
The outcome of the IMO debate was not guaranteed. There was stiff opposition from some in the shipping industry, oil industry and marine fuel-producing countries, which wanted the IMO to delay the implementation date to 2025. By sticking with the originally-proposed 2020 deadline, the IMO will be preventing an estimated 200,000 premature deaths worldwide.
This is a major victory for cleaning up air pollution in port cities and around the world, reflecting the growing global consensus that more aggressive emission cuts are necessary from the shipping sector.
The need for action is clear: currently, oceangoing ships are allowed to burn a high sulfur residual oil (also called “bunker fuel”) that has more than 2,500 times as much sulfur as the diesel fuel that is used in vehicles in North America, Europe, and the Chinese coastal provinces. This residual oil also contains high amounts of toxic compounds, such as metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. This higher-sulfur fuel produces pollution that is linked to increased asthma emergencies, bronchitis, cancer, and thousands of premature deaths every year.
First, China adopted Domestic Emission Control Area (DECA) regulations last December that requires the same low-sulfur fuel to be used at and near the ports in China’s three busiest port regions. However, the DECA requirements only stretch 12 nautical miles from China’s coastline, and only in the port regions covered by the DECA regulations. Because air pollution can travel for hundreds of miles, lowering the sulfur content of marine fuel beyond China’s DECA boundary is an important supplement to China’s domestic regulation.
Second, by setting a global cap, the new IMO commitment removes any risk that other Asian ports might compete with Chinese ports by continuing to allow the cheaper, but highly polluting high-sulfur fuel.
With the implementation date now set for 2020, it is time to look at ways to make it most successful. Some shipping companies have raised concerns about effective and robust enforcement of the new global sulfur cap, especially on the high seas. It is important that port and coastal states begin developing their enforcement capacity so they can enforce the cap within their exclusive economic zones.
China is committed to developing a robust enforcement for DECA, and we have been supporting the country’s efforts through sharing of best practices and facilitating exchanges with regulatory agencies in Europe and the US. We will continue this effort, and are ready to assist other port countries that have not been regulating marine fuel to establish their enforcement programs.
In addition to agreeing on the global cap on sulfur, the IMO made two other major decisions at last week’s meeting: it approved the designation of the Baltic Sea and North Sea as NOx Emission Control Areas (NECAs), but delayed setting a greenhouse gas target for shipping until at least 2018. We welcome IMO’s approval of the application of the North Sea and Baltic Sea NECAs. However, we are disappointed that the IMO failed to agree on a greenhouse gas reduction target for the shipping industry.
A growing number of studies and data have shown the increasingly severe damages caused by climate change (see for example here and here). With shipping being the only sector not subject to a climate change agreement, the IMO should show strong leadership and take more progressive steps in setting a target as early as possible. An analysis by ClimateHome sets forth a number of possible immediate steps that could and should be taken, and explains why improving the energy efficiency of the shipping industry should be an urgent priority.
For now, it’s time to celebrate the IMO’s commitment to cleaner, lower-sulfur marine fuels. Reducing sulfur by 85 percent is a major step forward that will bring cleaner air—and improved human health—to port cities worldwide.
A diverse coalition is launching an exciting new campaign in New Jersey to highlight the importance of electric vehicles (EVs) to reducing climate-changing pollution, shielding drivers from roller-coaster oil prices, strengthening the grid and lowering utility bills for all customers.
The diverse coalition, of which NRDC is part, is called ChargEVC.
Its purpose is to promote policies—initially in New Jersey, where transportation is the largest single source of carbon pollution—to put more EVs on the road. If successful, the campaign could become a national model for growing the electric vehicle market in other states.
New Jersey is a fitting site for the new campaign to grow the EV market.
The state already has witnessed the power of extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy. The storm led to significant loss of life and tens of billions of dollars in economic damage in the Garden State.
New Jersey also is a "hotspot for sea-level rise" facing increased risk for flooding and extreme heat. One report noted that increased temperatures by mid-century will make New Jersey feel more like Birmingham, Ala.
ChargEVC, made up of technology companies, utilities, environmental groups and others, plans to publish “The NJ EV Roadmap” early next year providing recommendations to promote EV use, including expanding charging infrastructure.
The group also will seek to educate the public about the numerous benefits of EVs, which include:
Lower fuel bills: EVs, the cleanest vehicles on the road, run on the cost equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline. They also insulate drivers from the wild price swings of the volatile oil market.
Lower utility bills for all customers. Electrifying the transportation sector can generate new revenues for utilities, which can lead to lower utility bills for all customers. Charging EVs during hours when the grid is underutilized increases utility revenues without commensurate increases in costs, putting downward pressure on electricity rates.
Founding members of ChargEVC are A.F. Mensah, an energy technology company; Atlantic City Electric/Exelon, charging station company ChargePoint; Environmental Defense Fund; Environment New Jersey; EVGo, another charging station company; Independent Energy Producers of New Jersey; self-reliant family and sustainable community non-profit Isles, Inc.; New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition; New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, Inc.; New Jersey Work Environment Council; Rockland Electric Company; Public Service Electric & Gas Company and NRDC. The group’s work is supported by Gabel Associates.
More and more people – and policy makers – are recognizing the need to shift to EVs.
California, where Gov. Jerry Brown has set a goal of putting one million electric vehicles on the state's roads by 2023, has moved aggressively to expand charging stations and educate the public about the benefits of driving in electricity. Even in Michigan, the century-old auto industry is undergoing a transition toward clean energy vehicles.
New cars are achieving record high fuel economy and cutting carbon pollution to unprecedented levels, according to U.S. automotive data released today. This comes as federal clean car and fuel economy standards tightening each year.
Simply put, these standards are doing what they were designed to do: boosting fuel-saving innovations in cars and light trucks, saving consumers over $29 billion at the pump and reducing pollution that threatens our climate and health.
These standards have already prevented 130 million tons of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that new vehicles sold in model year 2015 (the latest year of complete data) averaged a record high 24.8 miles per gallon. The less fuel cars and trucks consume, the less pollution they emit.
Model year 2015 vehicles emitted an average of 358 grams of carbon dioxide per mile—a new low, and a 22 percent decrease from 2004.
Not only are clean car standards working, but automakers are actually beating them, according to EPA. Every year since these standards took effect in 2012, manufacturers have produced fleets with lower emissions than what the standard requires. Last year was no exception. Notably, the change in standards from 2014 to 2015 required the largest reduction since 2012 (a decrease of 13 grams CO2/mile), yet automakers cut emissions in their new car fleets to remain 7 g/mi cleaner than the standard.
At the same time as cars are getting cleaner, consumers have been shifting to larger vehicles. The market share for sport utility vehicles (SUVs) hit a record in 2015 at 38%. Consumers are clearly looking for fuel economy improvements in bigger vehicles, and SUVs sold in the 2015 model year reached record efficiency levels.
Pick-up trucks also made some of the biggest fuel economy gains of the year. They jumped 0.8 mpg from 2014.
Cars at 47% of sales are still the largest category among cars, SUVs, minivans and pickups. The EPA data shows cars also hit a new fuel economy record of 29.4 mpg.
Automakers can meet the standards using the technologies they prefer:
Gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines have been a popular path. EPA expects that over half of vehicles will use GDI in their 2016 vehicles. Several manufacturers will use it in over 75% of their vehicles with Mazda (a 2015 fuel economy champ at 30.7 mpg) is deploying it throughout their lineup. Some manufacturers (such BMW, Ford and GM) are combining GDI with turbo charging to get power from a smaller, more efficient engines. Automakers are also improving their transmissions by investing heavily in 7 or more gears (FCA, BMW, Mercedes) and others are focusing on continuously variable transmissions (Subaru, Nissan, Honda). Automakers are deploying these and many more technologies to not only meet standards today, but also set up for future years.
EPA reports that 17% of model year 2016 vehicles meet 2020 standards, mostly with advancements to conventional gasoline powertrains to conserve fuel.
We can expect ongoing improvements in automobile fuel economy and reduced pollution. Despite recent low gas prices, preliminary EPA data shows that the trend in improving new fleet fuel economy will continue through 2016. Fortunately, we have standards in place through 2025 that are very achievable and cost-effective. The standards provide certainty for automaker investments in fuel-saving, low carbon technology, which is what we need to be resilient in a world of volatile gas prices and a changing climate.