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Volvo Adopts California Emissions Standards

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2020 Volvo XC40 Recharge, which will conform to California's emissions standards
Volvo’s first all-electric vehicle: the XC40 Recharge
Photo: Volvo

In a decision at the tail end of March, the Trump administration took action to soften emissions standards across the United States, lowering federal requirements for fuel-efficiency. Following the decision, several major automakers announced plans to independently adopt California’s regulations, which are now much more ambitious than those in other states. The most recent member of the coalition is Volvo, representatives of which spoke with the California government at the beginning of April.

What are the new emissions standards?

Under the previous administration, automakers who intended to sell their vehicles in the United States were expected to increase fuel efficiency across their lineups by five percent annually, with the intention of hitting an overall average of 54 mpg by the year 2025. Under the new set of rules, they’ll only be expected to increase their ratings by 1.5 percent a year, aiming for an average of 40 mpg by 2026.

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The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao, claims the move will benefit Americans in the long run by reducing the production costs associated with the more ambitious standards. “By making newer, safer, and cleaner vehicles more accessible for American families, more lives will be saved and more jobs will be created,” she said.

Others, meanwhile, believe that softening regulations will not only cost consumers more at the gas pump but could also add over a billion more metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

What makes California different?

Considering that California was ahead of the game in terms of mandating emissions standards, the Obama administration issued them a waiver that released them from the national expectations. The automakers like Volvo that joined forces with California will voluntarily comply with regulations that are now far more aggressive than Trump’s standards.

According to Reuters, a representative from Volvo stated that California “will serve as a national path forward.”

The decision to opt back into environmental regulations shouldn’t be surprising for anyone following Volvo’s progress in the EV market. In addition to selling just shy of 46,000 EVs in 2019, preparing to launch its first all-electric SUV — the XC40 Recharge — and planning to cover buyers’ recharge costs for a year, the automaker intends to introduce a steady stream of new EVs to its lineup.

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Regardless, only time will tell if other carmakers will follow Volvo’s example and hold themselves to a higher standard than the federal government expects.