Automakers, regulators spar over U.S. emissions rules

Source: BY DAVID SHEPARDSON AND JOSEPH WHITE, Reuters • Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2016

Cars drive past a California emissions testing site in Oceanside, California, U.S. on September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The complex U.S. emissions rules driving the auto industry’s technology investment should be overhauled, auto executives and environmental regulators agreed Tuesday at a conference here, even as they differed sharply over how.

Chris Grundler, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said regulators “should be open to a new policy framework post 2025” to drive down greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks.

Grundler’s comments suggest federal regulators are prepared to rethink the array of carrots and sticks written into federal rules governing fuel consumption and emissions by light vehicles. The design of federal emissions rules could affect how automakers and technology suppliers design future vehicles.

Auto industry lobbyists sharing the stage outlined issues they want the government to consider: The role ride sharing and automated driving could play in reducing traffic and emissions and the life-saving potential of technology such as automatic emergency braking.

The Obama administration and major automakers agreed in 2011 on rules to roughly double the fuel economy of light vehicles sold in the United States to 54.5 miles per gallon. The government has been reviewing whether the rules should be changed for the years 2022-25.

Some auto lobbyists want regulators to set a higher overall target for a future date beyond 2025, but give automakers more flexibility to meet the requirements. Auto makers are pushing for other changes to the federal program. At the same time, the industry is questioning California’s separate rules designed to put 1.5 million electric vehicles on the state’s roads by 2025.

Electric vehicle sales mandates that take effect over the next several years in California and nine other states do not account for the lack of electric car charging stations, said John Bozzella, president of Global Automakers, a trade group representing major foreign automakers.

Mitch Bainwol, president and chief executive officer of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said tougher mandates will raise vehicle costs in the next few years when auto sales may be slowing down.

“Consumers are saying enough is enough,” Bainwol said.

Tesla Motors Inc vice president Diarmuid O’Connell countered that electric cars offered by established automakers do not sell because they are slow, boring and “not compelling.”

California’s Zero Emission Vehicle program should be strengthened, not weakened, O’Connell said. Tesla generates credits under the California system, then sells them to other automakers.

(Editing by David Gregorio)