GM Calls for National EV Program

Automaker counters Trump administration’s plan for fuel-economy freeze

DETROIT -- General Motors (GM) is calling for a nationwide shift toward electric vehicles (EVs) as the Trump administration plans to freeze fuel-economy standards for gasoline-powered vehicles.

Detroit-based GM presented its proposal for a national zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) program that would help guide the United States toward “an all-electric, zero-emissions future” and make the country a leader in electrification. GM estimates that through the program, modeled after California’s ZEV program, more than 7 million long-range EVs could be on the road by 2030. GM, which manufactures the Chevy Bolt EV, plans to offer 20 EVs around the world by 2023.

The national ZEV program proposed by GM would establish ZEV requirements for automakers each year through a crediting system modeled on California’s ZEV program, with credits given per vehicle based on EV range. The program would require that 7% of vehicle sales in 2021 be of ZEVs, then increase 2% each year to reach 15% by 2025 and 25% by 2030. GM is aiming for its ZEV program to be more flexible than the one in California; for example, any requirements after 2025 would depend on EV battery cell cost and EV infrastructure development.

As additional initiatives to support a national ZEV program, GM proposes that the United States make investments in EV charging infrastructure, renew and improve federal incentives to buy EVs, and offer regulatory incentives to help U.S. EV battery suppliers. GM also called for incentives for electric autonomous and ride-hailing vehicles.

Legal uncertainties

GM submitted the national ZEV program proposal as part of its comments on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) plan to freeze fuel-economy and emissions requirements beginning with the 2020 model year, and to take away California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act to create its own emissions and ZEV requirements. Automakers such as GM are worried that the Trump administration’s plans to target California’s waiver would spark years of litigation, which would add uncertainty to their long-term planning. 

In fact, on the same day that GM submitted its proposal, a coalition of 20 state attorneys general, including California's, filed comments that challenged the legality of the Trump plan.

Through a national mandate, EVs would become “more affordable” and fuel consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions would decrease, GM said.

In comments to reporters, Mark Reuss, GM’s product chief, said that governments and industries in Asia and Europe “are working together to enact policies now to hasten the shift to an all-electric future,” Reuters reported. “It’s very simple: America has the opportunity to lead in the technologies of the future.”

Photograph courtesy of GM

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