What to know about buying an electric car and new emissions rules
The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed ambitious vehicle emissions rules that could significantly change the kinds of cars and trucks sold in the United States — but not immediately.
If implemented, the regulations would effectively require automakers to replace fossil-fuel vehicles with electric vehicles starting with vehicles from the 2027 model year, as part of President Biden’s larger efforts to combat climate change. Ultimately, the government wants two-thirds of all new cars sold in the country to be zero-emission by 2032.
The proposal, put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency, could speed up the transition to electric vehicles that is already underway. It’s sure to create a lot of confusion for those who drive but don’t strictly adhere to auto industry and emissions regulations.
What do the new fuel emissions rules mean for me as a driver and car buyer?
Even if adopted as proposed, the rules won’t have a significant impact on consumers for at least a few years. The rules would not require Americans to buy new cars or sell cars they currently own, and car dealers would still sell models similar to the ones people are used to driving.
That will start to change in 2027, when the government will begin to impose stricter standards on emissions from cars and trucks. Over time, automakers will find that the only way they can comply with these tightening regulations is by selling more electric vehicles that don’t spew pollution from the tailpipe while reducing conventional internal combustion engine vehicles.
Is now a good time to buy an electric car?
It depends on your situation.
For much of the past two decades, electric vehicles have tended to only appeal to wealthy early adopters or those deeply committed to protecting the environment. The vehicles available tend to be luxury models that are significantly more expensive than comparable gasoline vehicles or are very small. These cars can’t travel very far before they need to be recharged, and finding a place to charge them can be very difficult.
But most of them have changed recently. Tesla, Ford Motor and other automakers have recently cut prices on battery-powered models like the Model 3 and Mustang Mach-E, some of which are now priced below or even close to similar gasoline models. GM and others will introduce cheaper models this year, such as the electric Chevrolet Equinox sport utility vehicle, which is expected to start at about $30,000. Many electric models can comfortably travel 200 miles or more before recharging.
Electric vehicles are generally cheaper to run because the electricity required to drive them tends to be lower than the equivalent amount of gasoline. They are also less expensive to maintain.
What happened to the federal tax credit for electric vehicles?
Electric vehicles assembled in the United States are currently eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, but the rules governing those incentives are due to change on Tuesday. A certain percentage of components and minerals in car batteries must come from North America or countries with which the United States has a trade agreement.
Tesla, General Motors, Ford and other automakers have said some of their electric vehicles will no longer be eligible for credits or will only be eligible for some credits.
Electric vehicles assembled in Germany, Japan, South Korea and other countries will not be eligible. The government also limits eligibility based on the cost of the car, truck or SUV and the income of individuals and couples for a year.
I can’t find an electric car that meets my needs. Are there other options?
Some may conclude that EVs are not for them just yet. They may need a pickup truck capable of hauling heavy loads and trailers over long distances — something today’s battery-powered trucks aren’t very good at. Or they might live in an apartment or rental house that doesn’t have access to a dedicated EV charger, and there aren’t many public chargers nearby.
In this case, you can consider a hybrid or plug-in hybrid without switching to electric vehicles across the board. Many automakers offer hybrids, which have an internal combustion engine, batteries and electric motors. These cars tend to be more expensive than conventional cars, but owners can make up for the higher cost through fuel savings. How much you need to drive to get ahead depends on the model.
One thing to keep in mind is that EV technology is changing rapidly, and industry experts believe these cars will only get better and more affordable. So your best bet may be to keep using the car you’re driving for a few years until you see a battery-powered model that works for you.