We can’t take our foot off the pedal in electric vehicle propulsion

After the hottest year on record, the fight for clean cars and a healthier planet faces determined enemies. Now it appears the Biden administration will delay the necessary transition to clean vehicles and defer to cowardly automakers, oil companies and car dealers.

These powerful industries are working together to keep a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule off the road, and with it our best measure to prevent the climate crisis from spiraling out of control.

It’s not just the climate that is at stake. A study by the American Lung Association just found that a widespread switch to electric vehicles and non-combustion electrical energy would save the lives of hundreds of babies and prevent millions of asthma attacks in the coming decades.

A new car!
At the 2024 Geneva Motor Show on February 26 in Geneva, Switzerland.

John Keeble/Getty Images

The EPA projected that under the proposed standard, due this spring, up to 67 percent of new cars sold in 2032 would be zero-emission. That would reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change and reduce soot and smog pollution, which worsen heart and lung diseases such as asthma.

Weakening the rule would encourage auto companies, which have halted production of electric cars, to sell more gas-guzzling, pollution-spewing SUVs and pickups — from which they make big profits — for an extended period of time.

The government must side with consumers and the climate, not with polluters.

One of the main arguments from opponents is that consumers don’t actually want electric cars because the pace of increase in EV sales has slowed. But record-breaking sales figures show that consumers do want them.

In California, electric cars were top sellers last year (25 percent of car sales), up from 19 percent in 2022. Even if growth slows, electric cars are still selling at a breakneck pace.

According to Bloomberg, national sales of electric vehicles increased by 47 percent last year.

While it is true that there is a small decline, what businessman wouldn’t envy a slowdown to a projected 32 percent increase in sales by 2024?

To make matters worse, a large group of car dealers claiming to be the “voice of the customer” — in other words, us — wrote a letter to President Biden, telling him to “pump the brakes” on electric cars .

The cabal of retrograde automakers, oil companies and car dealers vilified for their hidden fees and shady loans want the White House to forget about calling global warming an “existential threat.”

Car dealers don’t like electric cars. Most do not make their money from selling vehicles, but profit from selling repairs and maintenance.

EVs work. Because they have fewer moving parts than gasoline-powered vehicles, they rarely require repairs and require little maintenance. Many EVs are already cheaper to purchase and run than their gas-powered double clunkers. If car dealers really spoke for their customers, they would endorse electric cars as ‘the real deal’.

Automakers haven’t learned their lesson after watching Japanese companies capture a quarter of their market in the 1970s. 1980s when Detroit specialized in lemons. Instead of backing innovative vehicles, American companies seem determined to sell gas guzzlers that increase pollution and oil consumption and force consumers to spend money at the pump.

Last year, BYD—a Chinese automaker that most Americans have never heard of—sold 3 million electric cars and plug-in hybrids. If the US Big Three fail to make electric cars, China will be happy to export them to us and import our jobs and profits. BYD, by the way, just announced plans to open a Mexican EV factory to supply the US

Oil-based industries are stuck in reverse, producing, selling and fueling gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs that usually bring home lattes from Starbucks.

And while EV sales are not in favor, our environment is more uncertain than ever.

Last year, a record number of climate disasters, many of which cost more than $1 billion, forced an estimated 2.5 million Americans from their homes. Climate change is accelerating faster than previously thought.

The biggest step we can take to tackle global warming is to reduce car pollution. Now is precisely the time for the president to accelerate, not hinder, progress on cleaner cars.

President Biden must act boldly to adopt the strongest possible clean car standards. Like a smart car customer, he must ignore the industry’s lies. He should strengthen the clean car rule to force the auto industry to make and sell the clean vehicles the country needs to fight the climate crisis.

Dan Becker is director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Safe climate transport Campaign.

Maya Golden-Krasner is deputy director of the Center’s Climate Law Institute.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors.