WASHINGTON — The EPA on Wednesday unveiled its strictest-ever limits on vehicle tailpipe pollution, a regulatory move that could spur greater sales of electric vehicles in the U.S.

The proposed vehicle emissions standards cover the 2027-32 model years for light- and medium-duty vehicles and — coupled with federal incentives and other investments — could accelerate an ongoing transition to EVs while clamping down on harmful pollutants in the transportation sector, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and a main cause of air pollution.

Under the proposal, EVs could make up 67 percent of new light-duty vehicle sales and 46 percent of medium-duty vehicle sales in the 2032 model year, according to EPA projections.

“By proposing the most ambitious pollution standards ever for cars and trucks, we are delivering on the Biden-Harris administration’s promise to protect people and the planet, securing critical reductions in dangerous air and climate pollution and ensuring significant economic benefits like lower fuel and maintenance costs for families,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

“These ambitious standards are readily achievable thanks to President Biden’s ‘Investing in America’ agenda, which is already driving historic progress to build more American-made electric cars and secure America’s global competitiveness,” he added.

For the 2027-32 model years, the EPA said its proposed standards are expected to save consumers $12,000 over the lifetime of a light-duty vehicle compared with a vehicle not subject to the new tailpipe pollution limits.

For light-duty vehicles, the emissions standards would increase in stringency each year, resulting in a fleetwide average target of 82 grams per mile of carbon dioxide in the 2032 model year.

For medium-duty vehicles, the standards also increase in stringency and are projected to result in an average target of 275 grams per mile of CO2 by the 2032 model year.

The proposal would require a combined fleet year-over-year CO2 reduction of 18 percent in the 2027 model year; 13 percent in 2028; 15 percent in 2029; 8 percent in 2030; 9 percent in 2031; and 11 percent in 2032. That equates to a combined fleet average year-over-year CO2 reduction of 13 percent.

In comparison, under the rule for 2023-26 model-year vehicles, emissions standards increase in stringency between about 5 and 10 percent each model year. The standards mandate an industrywide target of 161 grams of carbon dioxide per mile — or 40 mpg on window stickers — by the 2026 model year.

The EPA said its proposed light-duty standards in the 2032 model year could lead to a 56 percent reduction in projected fleetwide average greenhouse gas emissions target levels compared with the 2026 model year standards. For the medium-duty standards, the reduction is projected to be 44 percent.

The proposal for light- and medium-duty vehicles also is expected to prevent 7.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2055, “equivalent to eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from the entire current U.S. transportation sector for four years,” the agency said.

While the light-duty standards continue to be footprint based, the EPA is proposing to revise the vehicle footprint curves “to flatten the slope of each curve and to narrow the numerical stringency difference between the car and truck curves,” according to the proposal.

It is also proposing to revise certain compliance flexibilities, including fully phasing out the off-cycle credits program by the 2031 model year and limiting eligibility only to internal combustion engine vehicles.

Also on Wednesday, the EPA issued its “Phase 3” proposed greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty vocational vehicles, such as delivery trucks and school buses, that complement criteria pollutant standards finalized in December. That rule covers the 2028-32 model years and revises certain standards for the 2027 model year that were established in a “Phase 2” rule.

Through 2055, the EPA projects the proposed standards for light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles would prevent nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions.

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