Fresh Energy Statement: White House Electric Vehicle Executive Order promising shift, proposed federal tailpipe emissions standards to align with Clean Cars Minnesota

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Today, the Biden-Harris Administration announced an unprecedented goal for half of all passenger vehicles sold by 2030 to be battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, or fuel cell-powered. The administration will also propose an update to federal tailpipe emissions standards alongside this news.

“These announcements signal a dramatic shift in federal policies around clean transportation and send the clear sign that the United States will be prioritizing innovation and investments in electric vehicle infrastructure and accessibility all while building on our country’s long history of good-paying and family-supporting jobs in the auto industry,” said Anjali Bains, senior clean transportation manager at Fresh Energy.

The updated emissions standards would apply to all new passenger vehicles starting next year and are meant to undo the rollbacks that the previous federal administration haphazardly finalized in spring 2020 under the moniker “Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient” (SAFE) vehicle emissions standards, despite clearly costing Americans higher fuel prices, lost jobs, and even more estimated deaths.  

Given the history and clear negative impact of the SAFE rule on the climate, our health, consumers’ pocketbooks, and American jobs, Fresh Energy strongly supports updating federal tailpipe emissions standards and applauds the Biden-Harris administration for moving swiftly to rectify this significant misstep.  

What does this mean for Minnesota as a new Clean Cars state? 

Thanks to the leadership of Governor Tim Walz, Minnesota finalized its adoption of clean car standards this year after tremendous effort from advocates, the public, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency staff. Because the standards require two years between adoption and implementation, the earliest they will go into effect here in Minnesota is model year (MY) 2025. That means that Minnesota will be following federal tailpipe emissions standards for MY2023 and MY2024 before switching over to the Low-Emissions Vehicle (“LEV”) standard of Clean Cars Minnesota in MY2025. Read more about the LEV standard and what it does here.

While the proposed tailpipe emissions standards for MY2025 have been announced, Fresh Energy staff is verifying what the proposed updates mean for Minnesota. An earlier leak to the media indicated that by the time Clean Cars Minnesota goes into effect the federal tailpipe emissions standards will match the gasoline-vehicle portion of the clean car standards. Should this expectation hold true, it means that no “split market” will be created under Clean Cars Minnesota, where border states like North Dakota or Iowa have less fuel-efficient and slightly cheaper new gasoline-powered vehicles to sell compared to what’s offered for sale in Minnesota. The upfront price difference between these border state auto markets and Minnesota would have been a fraction of the overall vehicle purchase price and more than made up over the vehicle lifetime through fuel cost savings. However, it still remains a concern for some border dealerships that the difference would be enough to send their customers over to other states to purchase their new cars and pickup trucks. Should the proposed updates to federal tailpipe emissions standards match initial leaked standards, that will no longer be a concern for border dealerships. 

The other half of Clean Cars Minnesota, the Zero-Emissions Vehicle (“ZEV”) rule, focused on bringing more electric vehicles to the state. While the Biden Administration’s executive order seeking that at least half of all passenger vehicle sales be electric by 2030 is monumental and an important commitment from the federal government to get the U.S. ready for an electric transportation future, it is neither binding on automakers nor does it ensure an even electric transition across all states. Clean Cars Minnesota is the regulatory backstop to automakers’ intentions and ensures that Minnesota will not trail behind other states in receiving more electric vehicles from automakers, especially more affordable makes and models.  

What’s next?  

Today’s announcement marks the beginning of an administrative process to adopt updated federal tailpipe emissions standards.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation are seeking public comment on their proposed standards. More information on the process, proposed updates to emissions standards, and submitting a public comment can be found here. A public hearing has also been scheduled for August 25, 2021. Members of the public who would like to testify may do so by emailing by August 18, 2021. More information on the public hearing can be found here. Once public input is received, the federal government will consider the feedback, modify the standards as needed, and finalize any updates all before the end of 2021. Fresh Energy will be paying close attention to what happens and what it means for Minnesota.