We Need More Electric Vehicles, But Extending Regulatory Incentives For EVs Is A Bad Idea
Originally published by Union of Concerned Scientists, The Equation.
By Dave Cooke, Senior Vehicles Analyst
A recent New York Times article noted that the Biden administration will be looking to use vehicle efficiency standards to boost electric vehicles sales. Our analysis shows that strong standards are the best way to accelerate toward an electric future and that we need exactly what President Biden called for: “Setting strong, clear targets where we need to go.” However, if the administration is using voluntary agreements with automakers as the basis for its proposal, as reported, we could be in for continued delay in that transformation.
Automakers continue to push for extra credit for the small number of EVs they do sell, just like the voluntary California agreements. Previous standards have already included a number of incentives for electrification, so it’s worth examining both their historical impact and their significance moving forward. This is especially important with the Biden administration set to propose new vehicle standards later this month.
What regulatory incentives are there for EVs today?
Under EPA’s vehicle emissions program, EVs are credited as having zero emissions (emitting 0 grams CO2 per mile [g/mi]). While EVs are cleaner than gasoline-powered vehicles virtually everywhere in the U.S., ignoring the emissions from the grid powering those vehicles means that every electric vehicle sold can actually reduce the global warming emissions benefits of the program in the short term because it allows automakers to sell higher emitting gasoline vehicles than they would have otherwise.
In addition to ignoring grid emissions, for model years 2017–2021, each sale of an electric vehicle is given extra credit — for example, every EV sold in model year 2017 was counted as TWO vehicles, for the purpose of compliance. These credit multipliers lead to reductions on paper towards compliance, ostensibly encouraging automakers to invest in and sell electric vehicles, but don’t actually bring down real-world emissions. Similar to ignoring grid emissions from EVs for regulatory compliance, credit multipliers allow manufacturers to sell higher-polluting gasoline vehicles the more EVs they sell.
There are additional, somewhat comparable incentives under the fuel economy program that are more complex, but the bottom line is this: these EV incentives built into the regulatory standards were intended to support early electric vehicle sales to help with long-term emissions reductions, at the cost of some additional emissions in the short term. The question now is whether this tradeoff is worth continuing.
State EV policies are a key driver of EV adoption
The complicating factor about federal regulatory incentives to spur EV adoption is that states are already leading the way. California set the first zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales requirements in the country, and ten states have since adopted those ZEV requirements (with more on the way).
Unsurprisingly, the states with ZEV requirements see more EV models and greater EV adoption. While complementary policies and differences in local demography may play a role, the data is clear: manufacturers preferentially distribute and sell EVs in states with ZEV policies. As a result, while so-called ZEV states make up less than 30 percent of the new car buying market, consumers in those states purchase nearly two-thirds of all EVs.
The EV market is growing
While ZEV sales requirements are driving sales upwards in those states, EV sales around the country are on the rise. Are EV credit multipliers helping to drive that boost? The data raises doubts.
Apart from Tesla’s sales, which skyrocketed beginning in 2017 with the releases of the Model 3 and Model Y (which now make up more than half of all EV sales annually), EV sales have grown steadily, consistent with the pace of growth required by state ZEV policies. While there may be some additionality from federal regulatory incentives (after all, EVs are not sold exclusively in ZEV states), there has been no proportional jump in sales in response to the additional EV incentives. For automakers other than Tesla, sales have remained proportional to the number of vehicle offerings, a number which is also related to increasing state ZEV requirements (since many of those models can only be found in ZEV states).
For Tesla, it is likely that federal EV incentives have helped support growth, since the sale of overcompliance credits to EV laggards like Stellantis (fka Fiat-Chrysler) and Mercedes helps improve profit margins on their EV offerings. However, such credits are reducing the incentive for those companies themselves to invest in electrification, so it is not clear how much of a win even Tesla’s bonus credits are, on net.
Growth in EV sales predominantly coming from Tesla and from sales in ZEV states indicates that federal emissions regulations (applicable to all states) are not a primary driver of EV sales. So if EPA’s incentives are not driving additional sales, overcrediting EVs act simply as a windfall to manufacturers for responding to other policies and incentives. This is especially important to reflect upon when manufacturers like GM clamoring for more of those credits are doing so to undermine the state programs helping to drive adoption.
This means the so-called incentives act only to weaken the federal program, and they are doing so at a significant environmental cost. Since 2011, manufacturers have reduced lifetime fleet emissions by nearly 1 billion metric tons by responding to strong standards set under the Obama administration — however, an additional 66 million metric tons of extra EV credits were used for compliance, resulting in a relative increase in emissions and fuel use of nearly 7 percent over where we’d be without those incentives. (To the extent that the grid continues to get cleaner with time, the long-term impact will be reduced somewhat, but the broader point remains.)
EV regulatory incentives can actually REDUCE overall EV sales
While EPA’s incentives appear to have little positive impact thus far, extending those incentives could be much worse. A recent economic analysis presented at a conference on energy and economic policy noted the potential hazards of overcrediting as EV technology improves:
- Pairing an EV multiplier with a lack of accounting for grid emissions for charging EVs directly, and significantly, reduces the stringency of a standard.
- Automakers have an incentive to sell less-efficient gasoline-powered vehicles under regulations which include a higher EV credit multiplier.
- EV incentives can increase EV adoption rates when sales are small and/or technology costs are high.
- BUT as soon as electric vehicles approach being priced competitively with conventional vehicles, extra credits become likely to decrease EV market share because fewer EVs are needed to comply.
While those first three points are all reasonably intuitive, it is that fourth point which has the most impact as we look to the next generation of fuel economy and emissions standards to help drive the industry towards our climate goals — offering extra credits for EVs could actually reduce the incentive to sell more of them.
This data is consistent with our own analysis, which showed that extending EV credit multipliers would lead to fewer EVs on the road. As both analyses show, any EV sales with all these extra credits drastically reduces the overall stringency of the standard a manufacturer must meet — this reduction in stringency reduces the need for technology deployment to meet the standard (it’s easier), allowing for manufacturers to increase sales of gasoline-powered vehicles at the expense of more EVs.
On top of this, those remaining internal combustion engine vehicles are less efficient than they otherwise would have been, which is particularly problematic when EVs are still a small (but growing) share of the overall new car market. While this may be a gold mine for automakers, it’s disastrous for the environment. Clearly, we need a new direction.
The best way to get more EVs nationwide is setting strong standards
EVs are on the cusp of cost parity, and manufacturers are offering more and more models, including in popular vehicle classes like crossovers and pick-ups. This puts the industry poised to accelerate the transition to electrification. But as we move through that transition, we need to be driving emissions down in our gasoline-powered cars and trucks as well.
The best way to maximize emissions reductions as we move towards a more sustainable fleet is to set standards that are based on the real-world performance of these vehicles and ensure emissions are being reduced across the entire new vehicle fleet. The types of bonus credits manufacturers have asked for push us in the wrong direction, undermine emissions reductions, and are counterproductive for electrifying the transportation system.
Vehicles sold in the next few years will remain on the road for nearly two decades, impacting the climate for many more years to come. As the current administration moves forward to right the wrongs of the previous administration, we need to learn from the data and develop strong policies that will drive the industry forward, not policies with the kinds of hand-outs that have repeatedly delayed climate action. While we need to electrify passenger cars and trucks as quickly as possible, it is critical that our fuel economy and emissions standards not just help accelerate that transition, but do so while driving continued improvements in gasoline-powered vehicles as well.
Tesla is rumored to be planning a US LFP battery cell factory with CATL
Tesla is rumored to be planning a new battery factory to produce LFP cells in the US with China’s CATL, the world’s biggest battery manufacturer.
Over the last few years, CEO Elon Musk has said multiple times that Tesla plans to shift more electric cars to LFP batteries in order to overcome nickel and cobalt supply concerns.
Iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, which don’t use nickel or cobalt, are traditionally cheaper and safer, but they offer less energy density, which means less efficiency and a shorter range for electric vehicles.
However, they have improved enough recently that it now makes sense to use cobalt-free batteries in lower-end and shorter-range vehicles. It also frees up the production of battery cells with other, more energy-dense chemistries to produce longer-range vehicles.
The main issue is that LFP battery cell production is currently almost entirely concentrated in China. Therefore, it creates a logistical problem for electric vehicles produced in other markets.
Furthermore, in the US, it creates a problem for automakers trying to take advantage of the new federal tax credit for electric vehicles, which requires that the batteries of electric vehicles be produced in North America in order for buyers to get the full $7,500 credit. It creates a demand to bring LFP production to North America.
Ford has recently announced a plan to partner with CATL, the world’s biggest battery cell manufacturer, to build LFP battery cells at a $3.5 billion factory in Michigan.
Now Tesla is rumored to be doing the same thing. Bloomberg first reported the rumor:
The EV maker discussed plans involving Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. with the White House in recent days, said the people, who asked not to be identified revealing private conversations. Tesla representatives sought clarity on the Inflation Reduction Act rules that the Biden administration is finalizing this week, according to some of the people. Rohan Patel, the company’s senior global director of public policy, was among those involved with the discussions, one of the people said.
The report is light on detail, but it states that Tesla is looking at a similar structure to Ford’s own deal with CATL. Texas has also been rumored to be a possible location for the new factory.
The LFP cells would enable Tesla buyers to get the full tax on the base Model 3, which is about to lose the incentive because its cells currently come from CATL’s Chinese factories.
Heart Aerospace finds a new partner to develop ES-30 electric plane battery
Swedish electric airplane maker Heart Aerospace is joining forces with BAE Systems to develop a battery system for its ES-30 electric plane.
Heart partners with BAE to develop electric plane battery
Heart Aerospace is paving the way for sustainable electric air travel to become the norm with its leading-edge zero-emission aircraft.
We first covered the company in 2021 after it made waves with its ES-19 electric airplane. The aircraft was designed to carry up to 19 people up to 250 miles (400 km), perfect for short-distance travel.
The innovation was enough to attract an investment from the third largest US air carrier, United Airlines, in July 2021. United committed to purchasing and deploying 100 ES-19 electric aircraft to its fleet as it works to erase emissions from its fleet “without relying on traditional carbon offsets.”
Air Canada, the largest airliner in Canada, invested $5 million into Heart last year in addition to ordering 30 of its newest model, the ES-30.
Heart introduced the ES-30 last year, an electric plane driven by four electric motors and a battery system. The electric aircraft will have a fully-electric zero-emission range of up to 200 km (124 miles) and 30-minute fast charge capabilities. Hybrid reserve turbogenerators allow travel of nearly 500 miles (800 km) at 25 people max.
To advance the ES-30 battery system, Heart is partnering with BAE Systems, best known for its leading defense and aerospace solutions. The battery system will be the “first of its kind” for a conventional takeoff and landing regional aircraft, operating with zero emissions and significantly reduced noise.
The collaboration will utilize BAE Systems’ over 25 years of experience electrifying heavy-duty industrial vehicles. Chief operating officer at Heart Aerospace, Sofia Graflund, said:
BAE Systems’ extensive experience in developing batteries for heavy-duty ground applications, and their experience in developing safety critical control systems for aerospace, make them an ideal partner in this important next step for the ES-30 and for the aviation industry.
Heart Aerospace says it already has 230 orders and another 100 options for the ES-30 electric aircraft. In addition, Heart says it has a letter of intent for another 108 planes. The ES-30 is scheduled to enter service in 2028.
Heart Aerospace is aiming to double the all-electric range of its aircraft by the late 2030s with close to 250 miles (400km) range. In addition to offering zero emissions, electric airplanes feature lower costs (electricity compared to jet fuel) and less maintenance due to engine repair.
Although 124 miles may not seem like much, it will be perfect for regional air travel while building a base for the future of zero-emission air travel.
The 30-minute fast charge feature is perfect for turning around flights quickly in between loading passengers and luggage.
Snow way! Hyundai teases IONIQ 5 N in arctic conditions ahead of summer debut [Video]
As we approach April, much of the US is just beginning to thaw out after the harsh months of winter. Soon, spring will bloom into hot, sunny summers when we are expecting to see the official debut of the upcoming all-wheel drive Hyundai IONIQ 5 N. Before then, however, Hyundai is teasing its red-hot performance EV drifting through snowy terrain near the arctic circle. Check out the video below.
Hyundai’s N and N Line performance variants are a sub-brand of the Korean automaker, launched in 2017 with the Hyundai i30 N. With its second 800 V E-GMP model on the cusp of first orders, Hyundai Motor Group continues to showcase how it is going all-in on electrification.
We know much about the automaker’s initial phase of bespoke EV models that began with the IONIQ 5, which will soon be joined by the 6 streamliner, then the IONIQ 7 SUV. With such a focus on EVs, fans of the automaker have consistently speculated about the possibility of an all-electric N performance model.
During the global premiere of the IONIQ 6 last summer, the public got its answer – N brand IONIQ EVs are coming. The end of the video showed the three models mentioned above suddenly joined by two more the automaker describes as “rolling lab” N models – the RN22e, based on the IONIQ 6 concept and the Vision 74, a nod to Hyundai’s 1974 Pony Coupe concept.
Despite showcasing these two rolling lab concepts, Hyundai confirmed the IONIQ 5 EV would be the first production model to don the performance “N” badge. Today, the company began showcasing some of the sharp corners that future IONIQ 5 N owners will be able to experience, whether it’s on a road, a track, or the icy terrain of winter.
Watch the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N drift through sub-zero temps
In addition to the video footage you can see below, Hyundai shared a press release outlining some of the performance design and technology that went into the upcoming IONIQ 5 N in order to optimize the EV to deliver high performance under all conditions.
The footage shows Hyundai’s first mass-produced, all-electric, performance N model enduring winter testing in temperatures as low as -22F at the Hyundai Mobis Proving ground in Arjeplog, Sweden – adjacent to the Arctic Circle.
Hyundai said the icy terrain is perfect for testing in the most extreme low-friction conditions, enabling engineers to fine-tune the AWD EV to drive in a balanced manner that is sporty and fun but also safe and predictable. The N brand’s vice president of management & motorsport, Till Wartenberg, elaborated:
Just as our N models are honed at the sharp corners of the Nürburgring, our N models are also honed at the sharp corners and icy surfaces of our proving ground in Arjeplog, ensuring maximum performance in the most extreme winter conditions. We’re proud to demonstrate the IONIQ 5 N perfectly meets our broad performance criteria, ensuring N Brand success as our first EV production N model
For the IONIQ 5 N specifically, the performance sub-brand has combined Hyundai’s existing E-GMP technology with its own motorsport-centric expertise to “raise the bar in electrified high performance.” Better yet, the team predicts the first production N model will become many enthusiasts’ top choice for a performance EV that delivers year-round.
Like the combustion model Ns that came before it, the Hyundai team says the performance version of the IONIQ 5 will cater to the sub-brand’s three crucial pillars: corner rascal, racetrack capability, and everyday sportscar.
Motorsport enthusiasts are going to be lining up to get behind the wheel of the Hyundai IONIQ 5 N when it comes out because it will not only be the N brand’s first all-wheel drive model but because it will feature tons of new tech that’s not in the current IONIQ 5 production EV:
- N Drift Optimizer – Integrates front and rear torque distribution, torque rate, suspension stiffness, and steering.
- e-LSD – Stands for electronic-Limited Slip Differential. It improves handling during cornering and high-speed driving on the racetrack or in tricky road conditions like slick ice or deep snow.
- e-LSD compliments the N Drift Optimizer by offering a drive mode specifically dedicated to drifting. Hyundai says all drifters will enjoy this technology, whether it’s their first time or their 1,000th.
- N Torque Distribution – Allows the driver to select torque levels for both the front and rear wheels and can work alongside the e-LSD to distribute power to the wheels in varying ratios.
EV tuning. We always knew this day would come. In conjunction with the new details, Hyundai released Episode 1 of the IONIQ 5 N teaser footage focused on corner carving. View it below while we wait for the full reveal of the IONQ 5 N in July 2023.
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