California Is Once Again In The Driver's Seat On Auto Emissions

Illustration for article titled California Is Once Again In The Driver's Seat On Auto Emissions
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

The Biden administration is reportedly about to undo Trump’s auto emissions regulations with California heavily in the mix, Lordstown Motors had a failed off-road race, and some trims of the Mustang Mach-E don’t have the best headlights. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 22, 2021.


1st Gear: It Sounds Like The Biden Administration Will Go Along With California’s Emissions Rules Nationwide

We assumed this would happen in November when it was also thought that Mary Nichols, the former chair of the California Air Resources Board, would become the top official at the EPA. Well, Nichols didn’t get the job but it sounds like California’s rules will go nationwide still, according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal.

This will start with the Feds dropping its legal efforts to revoke California’s ability to set its own emissions rules, per the WSJ:

After the Transportation Department reverses its challenge to California’s authority, the EPA is expected to follow with its own new policies as soon as next week, [people briefed on those plans] said. The likely outcome is to reinstate California’s authority to set its own rules.

The White House and the EPA declined to comment. The Transportation Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is, to be clear, not great, since the deal California has struck with many automakers includes emissions standards that are actually weaker than Obama’s.

[Trump’s rules] require auto makers to achieve 1.5% annual increases in fleetwide fuel efficiency through 2026, using an industry measure that takes both gas mileage and emissions reductions into account. That requirement is down from a 5% annual increase in efficiency mandated by the Obama administration. It has been under court challenge from several states and environmental groups.

California, through its Air Resources Board, had been working to craft a compromise between the Obama-era standards and a Trump rollback, agreeing with several auto makers on a state-based framework. That deal was to increase efficiency by 3.7% annually from model years 2022 to 2026.

The Biden administration is considering new rules that would codify those requirements nationwide, two of the people said.


This is pretty chickenshit stuff from the Biden administration, to be honest, if the California rules do come to pass nationwide. Have a read, for example, of this New York Times story talking about the Obama standards in 2012. Most every automaker back then was completely fine with them!

2nd Gear: Lordstown Motors’ Race At The San Felipe 250 Didn’t Go As Planned

Lordstown’s Endurance only made it 40 miles in the 250-mile off-road race on Sunday before determining that it probably wouldn’t have the juice for the next leg and pulling out. Still, Lordstown says it was a learning experience.

During the race, when we reached the first charging stop, we analyzed the drive data, and concluded our energy usage was much more intensive than we had modeled. In our pre-race estimates, we assumed a 3X energy usage compared to normal road conditions at 200 ft. elevation. Following stage 1, however, our data showed consumption at 4 times the normal level. As we recharged for stage 2, we concluded that the next leg – more than 65 miles at net 1750 ft. elevation – could result in our vehicle stopping in the middle of mountainous terrain with no viable or accessible charging options, so we decided not to send the vehicle back out on the course. While we were done racing for the day, we continued to demonstrate the vehicle’s capabilities through an additional 10 miles of off-course driving, which only added to the insights and feedback we generated during the race.


Here is the truck moving:

3rd Gear: Hyundai Made A Nice Profit In The First Three Months Of 2021

Hyundai has been slightly less hurt by the global chip shortage than its rivals, though the more interesting story for me here is that Hyundai’s decision to run with Genesis has really paid off. Reuters reports that its profit almost tripled in the first quarter of 2021 compared to last year.

In the quarter ended March 31, however, Hyundai was unscathed as people at home and the United States snapped up its high-margin sports-utility vehicles and premium Genesis cars as the coronavirus pandemic dragged on, fuelling car ownership.

Net profit surged 187% to 1.3 trillion won ($1.16 billion) from 463 billion a year earlier, when business slumped as countries shut down to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

This was in line with an average Refinitiv SmartEstimate. Revenue rose 8.2% to 27.4 trillion won.


The second quarter will likely be even better for Hyundai.

Hyundai is expected to report net profit of 1.4 trillion won for the April-June period, up 536% from the corresponding period a year earlier, Refinitiv SmartEstimate showed.


The second-quarter of last year, of course, is when lots of automakers shut down factories as the pandemic surged, so every automaker will probably show gains then there this year. Still, 536 percent.

4th Gear: The Mustang Mach-E Missed Out On A Top Safety Award

This is because of their headlights, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The newly launched 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge, a small SUV, qualifies for the TOP SAFETY PICK+ designation, the higher of the Institute’s two awards, while the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, a midsize SUV, earns the lower-tier TOP SAFETY PICK award.


The curve-adaptive LED reflector headlights installed on every XC40 Recharge earn a good rating. The SUV’s standard front crash prevention system also earns superior and advanced scores in the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations, respectively.

The Mach-E is available with good-rated LED projector headlights on the Premium, GT and First Edition trims, which qualify for TOP SAFETY PICK. However, the LED reflectors installed on the Select and California Route 1 trims are rated marginal, preventing the new Mustang from earning the “plus.” These headlights provided inadequate illumination on some curves.

The Mach-E also comes with a standard front crash prevention system that earns superior ratings in both the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations.


To be fair, IIHS’s headlight ratings have tripped up many an automaker in recent years though that situation seems to be improving.

From USA Today in December:

IIHS testers have said that automakers were often guilty of installing headlights that were aimed at oncoming drivers or not aimed at the right place on the road, while others created too much glare or didn’t light up the road enough. In some cases, designers compromised on headlight performance for the sake of a slick look, IIHS has said.

When the IIHS first began assessing headlight performance in 2016, only two of the 95 models it tested received a “good” rating. In 2020, 85 of 185 models the organization tested were sold with “good” headlights on at least one trim level.


5th Gear: Jaguar Land Rover Temporarily Halting Production Because Of A Shortage Of, Well, Nevermind, You Know

From Reuters:

Output at two of Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR)(TAMO.NS) British car factories will be temporarily halted from Monday, due to COVID-19 supply chain disruption, including a lack of semi-conductors, the firm said on Thursday.

“We have adjusted production schedules for certain vehicles which means that our Castle Bromwich and Halewood manufacturing plants will be operating a limited period of non-production from Monday 26th April,” the Tata Motors-owned company said.


Do you have any spare semiconductors lying around? If so I have a business opportunity for you.

Reverse: Earth Day


When I was a kid it was all about saving the rainforests. We’ve been trying to save the Earth for way too long.

Neutral: How Are You?

One of the many pleasures the pandemic has robbed us of is the freedom to do a Michael Clayton and get in a yellow cab and hand over $20 and say, “Just drive.” Not that you can’t do that now, but, you know, it’s a little different.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.



I’m somewhat shocked at how mediocre fuel efficiency is for modern vehicles. There was a recent article that mentioned a Jeep’s mileage and I thought “huh, that seems bad” then I googled the competition, and it was all in the same relative range.

I had a 2003 sedan that got ~ 28 MPG and have a 2012 SUV that can get ~25 MPG.

We should be comfortably into the mid 30s for most vehicles these days.