September 25, 2021

Why electrifying America’s automobile fleet is more complicated than it appears

3 min read

The math is simple for fulfilling President Biden’s climate goals: half of all automobiles and SUVs purchased in 2030 must be electric. The president and major automakers aim to announce a pledge next week to attain at least 40% by then, with the possibility of reaching 50% with hefty federal investment.

The White House has a problem translating the president’s strong rhetoric into reality, as evidenced by the optional promise, which is still being negotiated. The government is grappling with reforming the transportation industry, which is America’s largest source of carbon emissions, with UN climate talks just 312 months away. The discussions highlight the challenge of changing course after 4 years of environmental regress. While Biden’s team can design new guidelines, they won’t be enough to compensate for the climate-warming pollution created by the Trump administration’s decision to lower vehicle standards.

The administration also has the difficult problem of reaching a deal with the United Auto Workers, the country’s largest auto union, to increase electric vehicle sales considerably. “The UAW is currently in negotiations and has not achieved an agreement at this time,” said Brian Rothenberg, a union spokesperson. In a phone interview, Jody Freeman, the director of Harvard Law School’s environmental and energy law department, expressed confidence that the White House will produce a strategy by the year’s conclusion to meet its target of halving US emissions by 2030 relative to 2005 levels. However, she warned, each one of these policies confronts political and legal challenges.

“There’s a war going on all fronts. In Congress, there is a fight going on. In the courtroom, there is a war raging. “It’s a race against the clock,” she explained. “And that is what it means to lead the country.” The administration’s plan to convert the nation’s auto fleet to electric cars powered by renewable energy is key to the country’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. By 2035, the country must stop selling gas and diesel cars, which implies that by 2030, 50% of all new vehicles must be electric. “By 2030, you have to be in the 50% range or higher. Chet France, a former senior administrator in the EPA’s Office of the Transportation and Air Quality who currently works as an advisor for the Environmental Defense Fund, said, “It has to be firm.” “If we don’t take that seriously, we won’t take the long-term climate goals seriously.”

On the other hand, automakers have stated that they require a significant federal expenditure in a nation countrywide network of electric vehicle charging stations, as well as billions more in terms of tax credits and incentives to help them retool their facilities. One of the most significant obstacles to selling battery-powered vehicles is overcoming drivers’ fears of not finding places to plug in and recharge. There are currently only 100,000 public charging platforms nationwide, with just about 18,000 of those offering fast chargers worthy of rapid fill-ups. Current models can go between 130 and 400 miles on a single charge, with a usual range of 250 to 300 miles.

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