There’s been a lot of conversation lately about EPA, electric vehicles, and the future of transportation. It’s time to set the record straight about what EPA’s proposed emissions standards are (and aren’t) and how the entire EV supply chain is preparing to cut emissions from the transportation sector over the next decade.
First and foremost, EPA’s proposed rules would not create a mandate for electric vehicles. Though some are eager to characterize the rules that way, it is more accurate to say they are a mandate to protect public health by reducing pollution from automobiles. The automotive industry, led by innovations in electric drivetrains and pulled forward by rapidly expanding consumer demand, has centered on electrification as the most commercially viable way to protect public health, our climate, and the environment by reducing tailpipe emissions. If you want proof, look no further than the $31.4 billion automakers have invested towards manufacturing EVs since 2015, with another $78.7 billion invested throughout the EV supply chain.
All these investments are proving well-advised. Consumers want to buy EVs, and demand is growing exponentially. According to research from Consumer Reports, “There are now approximately 45 EV-ready buyers for every EV being manufactured.” Domestic demand for EVs increased by 350% between 2020 and 2022, and new sales increased 55% year-over-year in 2022. In 2023, U.S. EV sales are on track to surpass 1 million units for the first time ever.
By now it’s clear but still worth repeating—electric vehicles are really popular and can significantly reduce emissions compared to internal combustion vehicles. EPA should finalize emissions standards for light- and medium-duty vehicles that will deliver the cuts to greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions that are needed to protect public health. In 2021, fossil fuel combustion accounted for nearly three-quarters of the 6,340 million metric tons of domestic CO2 emissions. Approximately 45 million Americans live within 300 feet of major roadways or corridors, which provides an increased amount of exposure to these pollutants resulting in adverse health effects
Transportation electrification also creates high-quality domestic jobs and will help preserve America’s global economic competitiveness. If you’re looking for a leading indicator of how the United States is positioning itself in the global manufacturing race, let’s look at recent data from the Federal Reserve below:
Due in large part to the industrial policies in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, spending on construction of new domestic manufacturing capacity is skyrocketing. The United States will soon be in the middle of a second industrial revolution, one that will continue to create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs and support families in communities throughout the country. And it couldn’t come at a better time. The European Union, China, and beyond are ramping up their EV ambitions, and the United States can not afford to miss this opportunity to position itself as a leader.
From critical minerals development, to battery manufacturing and recycling, to expanding access to EV charging, the full EV supply chain is preparing to support increased transportation electrification. Here are some highlights, but you can read more in ZETA’s formal comments to EPA submitted on July 5, 2023.
Partnerships among democratic countries would be able to produce enough minerals to enable the world to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the more ambitious target in the Paris Climate Agreement. While extraction and processing would require extraordinary international cooperation and capacity buildout, nearly all EV critical minerals demand could be met through reserves in democratic countries.
Battery Manufacturing and Recycling
The U.S. battery manufacturing industry is quickly scaling to meet the demand driven by transportation electrification. Between 2010 and 2021, $95 billion was invested in the U.S. battery manufacturing industry—including 160 new or expanded facilities, batteries for 10 million EVs annually, and 70,000 new jobs.
While petroleum can’t be recycled, the critical minerals in EV batteries can. The global market for battery recycling alone is estimated to reach $17.1 billion by 2030. This expansion is largely driven by the growing number of EVs approaching their end-of-life, and while the volume of such feedstocks is less than 2 GWh today, it could reach 100 GWh by 2030 and 1.3 TWh by 2040.
EV adoption isn’t the first time electricity providers have navigated increases in electricity demand brought on by new technologies: similar spikes accompanied the mass adoption of now-standard appliances like refrigerators and in-home air conditioners. For context, in 2021, the U.S. fleet of electric vehicles used 6.1 TWhs of electricity. In 2022, the United States generated 4,243 TWhs. As more EVs hit the roads in the coming years, more generation will be needed to service EVs and electrified vehicle technologies. It's important to remember, however, that this new demand will not occur all at once but rather more gradually. While achievable, meeting this increase in electricity demand will require significant strategy as electric providers transition to renewable, carbon-free resources.
There are already more than 54,000 public charging locations across the U.S., with more than 139,000 individual charging ports. Including residential charging, the U.S. is expected to deploy as many as 18 million charging ports by 2027—just in time for EPA’s rules to take effect. By 2030, the Department of Energy estimates were on track for a national network composed of 26–35 million ports to support 30–42 million EVs.
Complementary policies in various stages of implementation today will lead to an even more robust and resilient supply chain over the Model Year 2027-2032 time frame covered by EPA’s proposed standards. And that’s a key point that shouldn’t be overlooked. EPA’s emissions standards cover vehicles that will end on roads four to nine years from now. That means the EV supply chain has time to anticipate demand and continue making investments accordingly. Today’s domestic EV supply chain far exceeds even the most ambitious estimates from nine years ago, and growth will further accelerate between now and 2032.
EPA has a historic opportunity to build on the current momentum behind transportation electrification and decarbonization. Implementing robust emissions standards for Model Year 2027-2032, vehicles will produce good-paying American jobs, reduce consumer costs, improve public health, and reduce carbon emissions.