President Joe Biden needs to curb America’s love affair with cars if he wants the United States to slash its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
That’s because there are just too many gas-powered passenger vehicles in the United States — roughly 279 million — to replace them in less than a decade, experts say. In a typical year, automakers sell about 17 million vehicles nationwide. Even if every one of the new ones were electric, it would take more than 16 years to replace the whole fleet.
What’s more, vehicles now remain on America’s roads for an average of nearly 12 years before they’re scrapped, which means that gas-fueled vehicles will predominate for many years to come.
“We’re not going to be able to meet the target with new-car sales only,” said Aakash Arora, a managing director with Boston Consulting Group and an author of a study on electric vehicle adoption. “The fleet is too big.”
So unless government incentives could somehow persuade a majority of Americans to scrap their cars and trucks and buy electric vehicles, reducing tailpipe emissions by anything close to 50 percent would take far longer than the Biden timetable. Last year, fewer than 2 percent of new vehicles sold in the United States were fully electric.
“If every new vehicle sold today was an electric vehicle and it was entirely powered by renewable energy overnight, it would take 10 years or more for us to achieve a 50-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Chris Atkinson, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of smart mobility at Ohio State University.
Which means that other sectors of the economy would have to slash greenhouse gas emissions deeply enough to make up the shortfall in the auto industry.
Transportation as a whole, which includes not only cars and trucks but also ships and airplanes, is the single largest source of such pollution. Of the nearly 6.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that were emitted in the United States in 2019, transportation produced 29 percent. Next was electricity generation at 25 percent. Then came factories at 23 percent, commercial and residential buildings at 13 percent and agriculture at 10 percent. SOVEREIGNPH