The EPA May Finally Do Something About Heavy Truck Emissions

The agency sees the Inflation Reduction Act as a "very strong message" about greenhouse gas regulation.

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The EPA is considering stricter emissions laws for heavy trucks, Kia and Hyundai thefts are through the roof, and a new challenger has emerged to fight U.S. EV tax incentives. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Thursday, September 22, 2022.

1st Gear: Environmental Protection Agency To Consider Protecting Environment

Back in March, the EPA considered new regulations on heavy-duty trucks, to curb emissions from the more industrial wing of the American vehicle market. Then the agency got bored of that, presumably getting really into macrame or Elden Ring for a few months, but now its attention has turned back to big trucks — thanks, it seems, to Congress. From Reuters:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will consider adopting more stringent greenhouse gas emissions rules for heavy trucks after Congress passed new incentives to speed the adoption of zero-emission vehicles, the agency told Reuters.

In March, the EPA proposed new rules to cut smog-forming and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from heavy-duty vehicles. The agency said it will reopen the proposed GHG rules after passage in August of the climate and spending Inflation Reduction Act, a move that could speed the U.S. shift to electric heavy-duty vehicles.

The EPA will be issuing a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking to consider more stringent GHG standards for model years 2027 through 2029 in December.

EPA Office of Air and Radiation official Joseph Goffman told Reuters “the big change here is the Inflation Reduction Act. Congress definitely sent a very strong message backed by significant resources.”

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“[I]ssuing a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking to consider more stringent ... standards” is the kind of busywork I would expect from Snow Crash’s largely irrelevant remnants of the U.S. government, further proving my theory that we have lived in a cyberpunk dystopia for years.

2nd Gear: The Kia Boyz Remain At It

For the past few months, TikTokers have been exploiting a new vulnerability in late-model Kia and Hyundai cars. Using the incredibly technical method of “jamming something in the ignition and turning it,” thieves have made off with incredible numbers of Korean cars. So many, it seems, that Kia and Hyundai are a statistical anomaly among car thefts. From Reuters:

U.S. theft claims were nearly twice as common for Hyundai Motor (005380.KS) and Kia Corp (000270.KS) vehicles compared with all other manufacturers among 2015 through 2019 model-year vehicles, a non-profit group said Thursday.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute said many 2015-19 model year Hyundai and Kia vehicles do not have electronic immobilizers, which prevent people from breaking in and bypassing the ignition. The feature is standard equipment on nearly all vehicles made by other manufacturers during that time-frame, IIHS said.

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The insurance group said immobilizers were standard on 62% of models from other manufacturers in model year 2000, rising to 96% by 2015. But they were standard on only 26% of 2015 model year Hyundai and Kia vehicles, it said.

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If the entire auto industry adopts a feature that makes cars more difficult to steal, you’d think even the laggard automakers would join in — without having the necessity of those theft deterrents proven in the real world. Kia and Hyundai have caught up, making immobilizers standards, but that’s small solace to owners of earlier cars.

3rd Gear: China Joins The Chorus Of Complaints About U.S. EV Tax Credits

Back when the Inflation Reduction Act passed through Congress, there were murmurs that its protectionist requirements for EVs could run afoul of international trade agreements. Then it passed, and Korea complained. Then Japan complained. Now, China is getting into the mix. From Automotive News:

China joined in the criticism of the new U.S. law providing tax breaks for electric vehicles, threatening unspecified action if needed to protect its interests from a law it says is “discriminatory.”

The clause in the Inflation Reduction Act ruling out tax breaks for vehicles assembled abroad “discriminates against similar imported goods, and is a suspected breach of the World Trade Organization principles” Shu Jueting, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce said during a Thursday briefing. “China will continue to assess and evaluate implementation of the legislation and will take measures to safeguard its legal interests when necessary,” she added, without providing details.

The comments add to the criticism from the European Union and South Korea over the law, which says that cars will not be eligible for up to $7,500 in subsidies if critical battery components come from China, Russia and other “foreign entities of concern.” Much of the world’s battery supply chain is reliant on China, which is home to some of the world’s largest battery giants such including Tesla supplier Contemporary Amperex Technology Co.

A senior official in Seoul earlier called the U.S. rules “betrayal,” although officials have met with their U.S. counterparts on the issue in recent days and SNE Research said the nation’s suppliers hope to be offered some sort of exemption. The European Union raised the issue with the U.S. last week, with a European Commission spokesperson saying afterwards the EU would “take the necessary steps to defend its interests.”

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Remember when another American vehicle industry successfully lobbied for protectionist trade laws that reduced its need to build competent vehicles, instead relying on artificial inflation of foreign competitor pricing to survive in the market? That worked out great, right?

4th Gear: Good Luck Buying That New Civic

Honda is having a hard time getting its hands on car parts, with which it traditionally builds cars. This, for a company whose primary source of income is the construction of motor vehicles, is understandably a bit of an issue. From Reuters:

Honda Motor Co (7267.T) said on Thursday it would reduce car output by up to 40% at two Japanese plants in early October because of ongoing supply chain and logistical problems.

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Two lines at Honda’s Suzuka plant in western Japan will cut back production by about 40% in early October, while its assembly plant in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, will cut back production plans by about 30% for the period.

The automaker also said on Thursday it would cut vehicle production at Saitama by about 40% and at Suzuka by about 20% for the rest of September.

Honda blamed delays in receiving parts and logistics on COVID-19 outbreaks and semiconductor shortages. The output reduction will affect a variety of vehicles, including the Vezel sports utility vehicle, Stepwgn minivan and Civic compact car.

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No matter what President Biden says, the Covid-19 pandemic is not over. Every time an automaker attempts to return to “normal,” it gets a harsh reminder that parts are still in short supply and workforces have been decimated by an uncontrolled mass-disabling virus. But, sure, you’ll make up those production numbers next month.

5th Gear: A Blissful Reprieve From The Terror Of The Hummer EV

GMC has had so much interest in the new Hummer EV that it’s closed its order banks — if you want a Hummer, you’re going to have to wait (or purchase secondhand at an absurd markup). For at least this fleeting moment, we are spared. From the Detroit Free Press:

General Motors said Wednesday it will stop taking reservations for the all-electric GMC Hummer pickup and Hummer SUV.

In a statement, GMC spokesman Mikhael Farah said Hummer enthusiasm “has led to over 90,000 reservations for both pickup and SUV, and we’re excited to say this incredible demand has led to Hummer EV reservations being fully booked at this time.”

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GM introduced the 2023 Hummer EV in October 2020 and “sold out” of its planned production of Edition 1 in 10 minutes. The Edition 1 started at $110,295. The Hummer SUV, revealed in April 2021, also sold out in 10 minutes. It started at $105,595.

“We’ve been building the Edition 1 and shipping those out. So a small amount of those have been put out in the market,” Farah said. “We have 90,000 people in line to get a Hummer. We’re building and shipping every day from Factory Zero and when the brand can reopen the order banks, we’ll let people know. There will be more to come.”

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Electrifying an enormous, overweight, overwrought, absurd motor vehicle does make it more environmentally friendly. It doesn’t reduce road wear, improve visibility, reduce the momentum of nine thousand pounds of vehicle as it strikes a cyclist or unseen car. But, thanks to EV acceleration, at least it can do all those things more quickly.

Reverse: Clap Clap Clap Clap

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Neutral: Will Auto Production Ever Recover?

Or will we forever have brief bursts of productivity, followed by stretches of parts or personnel shortages? Will these automakers ever make it back to their old numbers, or is this just how things work now?