Tip Sheets

California tailpipe rules to push innovation as automakers face costs

Media Contact

Jeff Tyson

The Biden administration is taking steps to restore California’s authority to set its own auto emission rules for cars and trucks — standards that have historically been stricter than those set by the federal government.

Arthur Wheaton

Director of Labor Studies, ILR School

Arthur Wheaton, an expert on the automotive industry and director of labor studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, says allowing California to lead in setting tight tailpipe emissions standards will push innovation in the auto industry and the expansion of electric vehicles – despite added costs and complexities for automakers.

Wheaton says:

“Having California make alternative rules for tailpipe emissions is a big deal. California has been an environmental leader for decades and Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and emissions are important.

“Small cars, car-pooling and high-occupancy vehicle lanes for alternative vehicles have helped with pollution. The concern to automakers is designing and engineering vehicles for multiple standards. It is much easier having one national standard and consistency in the rules. Unfortunately, that often means less restrictive or more pollution to allow every company to meet the standard.

“Diesel truck emissions are a big source of particulates in the air that cause smog. Electric trucks show promise but have not been available in significant numbers. Having California – one of the biggest vehicle markets – pass tougher restrictions can push innovation and implementation of electric vehicles. That does however add costs and complexity for automakers.”

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