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Battery metals receive boost as US introduces tough new motor vehicle pollution rules

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By Colin Hay - 
Battery metals boost US motor vehicle pollution rules Environmental Protection Agency EPA

Analysts are forecasting battery metals such as lithium and copper will receive a boost in demand after the US government introduced tough new rules last night expected to significantly lift electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid vehicle sales.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is forecasting EVs could account for up to 56% of new passenger vehicles after it released final national pollution standards for passenger cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty vehicles for model years 2027 through 2032 and beyond.

The new standards have been introduced to avoid more than 7 billion tons of carbon emissions and are estimated to provide nearly $94b in reduced annual fuel costs and maintenance and repair costs for drivers.

Copper a potential big winner

Local commodities specialist Daniel Hynes noted in his daily wrap that demand for copper and other critical minerals is likely to come back into focus after the stringent new tailpipe emission limits were imposed on automakers through model year 2032 to accelerate a shift toward EVs.

The EPA has also projected an increase in US auto manufacturing employment in response to the release of the final standards.

“Strong standards have historically contributed to the US leading the world in the supply of clean technologies, with corresponding benefits for American global competitiveness and domestic employment,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said.

“With transportation as the largest source of US climate emissions, these strongest-ever pollution standards for cars solidify America’s leadership in building a clean transportation future and creating good-paying American jobs, all while advancing President Biden’s historic climate agenda.”

Standards continue to evolve

The final standards build on the EPA’s existing emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2023 through 2026.

The standards continue the technology-neutral and performance-based design of previous EPA standards for cars, pickups and vans, leveraging advances in clean-car technologies to further reduce both climate pollution and smog- and soot-forming emissions.

The agency is finalising the same standard proposed for model year 2032 while allowing additional time for the auto sector to scale up clean-vehicle manufacturing supply chains in the first three years covered by the rule.

The EPA said the final rule reflects the significant investments in clean vehicle technologies that industry is already making domestically and abroad, as well as ongoing US market shifts and increasing consumer interest in clean vehicles.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is also directly supporting communities across America in moving towards a cleaner transportation future, including by building a national network of EV chargers and alternative-fuel stations, ensuring domestic manufacturers have the critical minerals and materials they need to make EV batteries and funding clean transit and clean school buses, with priority for under-served communities,” the EPA stated.