President Biden will unveil sweeping regulations on cars and trucks on Thursday, returning America over the next five years to the strict standards that the Obama administration had imposed but former President Trump walked back.
The proposed rules drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation would tighten emissions standards to be more in line with aggressive measures established by California in 2019, but which Mr. Trump had blocked.
On mileage rules, automakers also will be required to raise their average miles-per-gallon score of their fleets by 3.7% starting with the model year 2023, which would include cars sold next year. That standard also had been proposed by California.
In model year 2025, auto companies will then be required to implement the more stringent standards first imposed by former President Obama and also pruned back by his successor.
Under Mr. Obama, the government required a 5% annual increase in fuel economy standards. Mr. Obama sought to raise mileage standards to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025.
However, Mr. Biden will propose that automakers adopt efficiency standards by model year 2026 that will exceed even the 5% imposed by the Obama administration, though the exact standard will be announced Thursday afternoon.
Mr. Trump last year discarded the Obama rules, requiring a 1.5% annual increase in mileage standards.
The Trump administration said the move, which Republicans hailed at the time as his largest deregulatory action, would save automakers more than $100 billion in compliance costs.
The goal of all the regulations is to have 40%-50% of all vehicles sold by 2030 be zero-emission vehicles and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, a White House official said on a call with reporters.
Mr. Biden, who campaigned on slashing emissions in half by 2030, will sign an executive order Thursday formalizing that 40%-50% goal for electric vehicles.
On emissions, the EPA will Thursday reinstate a waiver that restores California’s authority to impose stricter standards than the federal government does.
Given the size of California’s automobile market, those standards would likely become de facto national ones.
Nearly 140 Democratic lawmakers last week called on the EPA to reinstate that waiver, which had been revoked by the Trump administration.
The letter, led by Democratic Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, said the California standards protected residents’ health and spurred innovation of clean-vehicle technologies.
The new emissions and mileage rules will be released and touted at a White House event Thursday featuring auto industry officials and electric vehicles.
GM and other automakers had been pressing the Biden administration to be more lenient when it comes to setting efficiency standards for their vehicles.
They’ve argued that spending more money in the short term to increase the efficiency of gasoline-powered vehicles means they cannot spend as much on electric vehicles and clean car innovations.
That investment shift would ultimately slow the transition toward electric vehicles.
Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, issued a statement welcoming Mr. Biden’s proposals.
“We believe we can strengthen continued American leadership in clean transportation technology through electric vehicle innovation and manufacturing,” the statement read.
“We look forward to working with the Biden Administration, Congress, and state and local governments to enact policies that will enable these ambitious objectives,” the traditional American Big Three automakers said.
The United Auto Workers union also said it was on board with the administration’s goals.
“Today’s announcement on emissions standards brings more certainty and better planning for the auto industry and UAW member future jobs,” UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement.
“While the UAW notes that the companies have made voluntary commitments on electric vehicles, the UAW focus is not on hard deadlines or percentages, but on preserving the wages and benefits that have been the heart and soul of the American middle class,” Mr. Curry said.
Automakers have moved forward with their own plans to increase electric vehicle production. Of the 14 biggest auto manufacturers, 11 managed to meet federal efficiency standards, according to the EPA.
Currently, electric vehicles represent just 2% of new vehicle sales in the United States.