New EPA vehicle emission rules: U-M experts can discuss impacts, additional needs

March 20, 2024
Written By:
Jim Lynch, 313-727-5045, [email protected]
Concept illustration of traffic pollution. Image credit: Nicole Smith, made with Midjourney


The Biden Administration has issued new limits on vehicle emissions designed to speed the adoption of electric vehicles. University of Michigan experts are available to discuss the significance of the new guidelines.

Andre Boehman, professor of mechanical engineering, focuses on automotive issues that include emissions, spark ignition combustion and alternative fuels. His work seeks to address the interim period as we move from traditional internal combustion engines to hybrids and electric vehicles.

“While I am pleased to see the president’s focus on greenhouse gas emissions reduction, his statement that the target is ‘that half of all new cars and trucks sold in 2030 would be zero-emission’ includes a common misconception that zero ‘tailpipe’ emissions translates to zero-emission,” Boehman said.

“For the average American, the electricity used to charge an electric vehicle still has a significant carbon footprint (on average, our electricity still yields more than 300 grams of CO2 equivalent emissions per kilowatt-hour). Electric vehicles give a large increase in vehicle energy efficiency and eliminate tailpipe pollutant emissions, but their carbon footprint and environmental impacts (through production and through driving) are not zero.

“This regulation does not address the existing vehicle fleet and its carbon emissions. Those emissions need to be addressed as well, and can be reduced by ramping up the availability of renewable fuels for gasoline and diesel vehicles. The rapid expansion of renewable diesel for decarbonizing diesel cars and trucks is already underway, with a tenfold increase in production capacity expected in 2024 vs. the capacity in 2019.”

Contact: [email protected]

Margaret Wooldridge, professor of mechanical engineering, researches sustainable and renewable energy, power and propulsion systems, pollution mitigation, and high-efficiency, low-resource consumption energy systems.

“There is an urgent need to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gasses,” she said. “Hybrid EVs are a great way to address emissions goals, as are biofuels and other sustainable pathways to fuels. This is not a ban of internal combustion engines, and that is important as EVs have significant concerns that should be addressed regarding battery waste, equity concerns and other complexities.”

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Liesl Eichler Clark of the School for Environment and Sustainability is U-M’s first director of climate action engagement. She leads an initiative aimed at linking the university’s expanding sustainability research, collaborations and engagement with external partners to accelerate climate action across the state of Michigan and beyond.

Previously, Clark served as director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. She is an entrepreneur in the clean energy and sustainability space and co-founded the clean energy consulting firm 5 Lakes Energy. She was instrumental in the creation of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council and served as its president for three years.

“Policy matters. When you look at the U.S., the highest number of EVs on the road is where the policy structure favors that outcome,” Clark said. “We must transition our mobility as fast as possible, and these rules set the market structure for that to happen.

“Like other parts of the energy transition, EVs are cheaper over the lifetime of the vehicle, and frankly a fantastic ride. Vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines aren’t disappearing tomorrow, they will be part of the fleet for some time. But this is the right step at the right time.”

Contact: [email protected]

Venkat Viswanthan, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has extensive expertise in electric vehicle battery development and their cost.

“The last year has been seen as an EV winter with significant challenges in scaling EV and battery production,” he said. “This new regulation is critical to spur further investment needed in the EV sector, as well as EV batteries, to achieve price-parity electric vehicles with ICE vehicles.”

Contact: [email protected]

Greg Keoleian, professor of environment and sustainability, is co-director of the Center for Sustainable Systems and co-director of MI Hydrogen, U-M’s hydrogen initiative. He has been studying the environmental impacts of automobiles over the past three decades, including life cycle studies of internal combustion engine vehicles, battery electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

“The new EPA rules are critical to accelerate the transition from internal combustion engine vehicles to battery electric vehicles and to reduce automobile greenhouse gas emissions,” Keoleian said. “We have compared the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of ICEVs and BEVs, and the benefits of electric vehicles are dramatic.

“Cars and light duty trucks (SUVs, vans, pickup trucks) are responsible for about 17% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. is not on track to meet Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions necessary to avoid the most adverse impacts of climate change.

“The new rules should help close the gaps toward meeting U.S. vehicle electrification goals to increase new electric vehicle sales to 50% by 2030, and the U.S. economy-wide decarbonization goals to cut emissions in half by 2030 relative to 2005.”

Related study: Decarbonization potential of electrifying 50% of U.S. light-duty vehicle sales by 2030

Contact: [email protected]