What to know about buying electric cars and the new emissions rule
The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed ambitious auto emissions rules that could dramatically change the types of cars and trucks on sale in the United States — but not right away.
The regulations, if enforced, will effectively force automakers to replace fossil fuel cars with electric vehicles starting with cars for the 2027 model year as part of President Biden’s broader effort to combat climate change. Ultimately, the administration wants two-thirds of all new cars sold in the country to be zero emissions by 2032.
The proposal, put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to speed up a transition to electric cars that is already underway. It’s also sure to create a lot of confusion for people who drive cars but don’t follow the automotive industry and emissions regulations closely.
What do the new fuel emission rules mean for me as a driver and car buyer?
Even if passed as proposed, the rules won’t have a major impact on consumers for at least a few years. The rules won’t force Americans to buy a new car or sell the one they currently own, and auto dealers will continue to sell models similar to the vehicles people are used to driving.
Things will start to change in 2027, when the government starts imposing stricter emission standards for cars and trucks. Over time, automakers will find that the only way to comply with these stricter regulations is to sell more electric cars, which emit zero tailpipe pollution, and fewer conventional combustion engine cars.
Is it the right time to buy an electric car?
It depends on your situation.
For much of the past two decades, electric cars have tended to appeal only to affluent early adopters or people with a strong commitment to environmental protection. The vehicles available were generally luxury models that cost significantly more than comparable gasoline-powered vehicles or were very small. Cars couldn’t travel far before they needed to be recharged, and finding a place to plug them in could be incredibly difficult.
But much of that has changed recently. Tesla, Ford Motor and other automakers recently slashed the prices of battery-powered models like the Model 3 and the Mustang Mach-E, and some now cost less than similar, or nearly so, gasoline-powered models. General Motors and other companies will launch even cheaper models this year, such as a Chevrolet Equinox electric sport utility vehicle that should start at around $30,000. And many electric models can be driven comfortably for 200 miles or more before recharging.
Electric vehicles are generally cheaper to operate because the electricity needed to move them usually costs less than the equivalent amount of gasoline. They are also cheaper to maintain.
What’s going on with federal tax credits for electric cars?
Electric cars assembled in the United States currently qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit, but the rules governing those incentives will change on Tuesday. A certain percentage of vehicle battery components and minerals will need to come from North America or countries with which the United States has a trade agreement.
Tesla, GM, Ford and other automakers have already said some of their electric cars will no longer get credits or only get partial credit.
Electric vehicles assembled in Germany, Japan, South Korea and other countries will remain ineligible. The government also limits eligibility based on the cost of a car, truck, or SUV and the income of individuals and couples per year.
I can’t find an electric vehicle that meets my needs. Are there other options?
Some people will probably conclude that an electric car just isn’t right for them, just yet. They may need a pickup truck that can haul heavy loads and trailers long distances, which today’s battery-powered trucks don’t do very well. Or they may live in apartments or rental houses where they cannot install a dedicated electric vehicle charger and where there are not many public chargers available nearby.
In such situations, you might consider hybrid or plug-in hybrid cars without making the jump to an electric vehicle. Many automakers offer hybrids, which have a combustion engine, battery, and electric motor. These cars tend to be more expensive than conventional vehicles, but owners can recoup that higher cost by saving on fuel. The distance to win depends on the model.
One thing to keep in mind is that electric vehicle technology is changing rapidly and industry experts believe these cars will only get better and more affordable. So your best option might be to stick with the car you drive for a few more years until you see a battery-powered model that works for you.
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