GMC vehicles sit on display at the Sterling McCall Buick GMC dealership on February 02, 2022 in Houston, Texas.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images
DETROIT – General Motors may be transitioning to an all-electric future, but its recent vehicle fleet ranked among the least efficient and most polluting in the U.S. automotive industry, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Detroit automaker’s average estimated real-world fuel economy and its carbon emissions ranked the second-worst in the industry for the 2021 model-year, according to the EPA. The only major automaker that ranked worse than GM was Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler.
Ford Motor, which ranked just above GM, slightly improved during the five-year timeframe but remained below the industry averages.
The report comes as the Biden administration pushes to transition the U.S. away from gas-powered cars and toward electric vehicles. The White House has set a goal for EVs to make up half of all new vehicle sales by 2030. GM, most notably, has said it plans to exclusively offer consumer EVs by 2035.
“Today’s report demonstrates the significant progress we’ve made to ensure clean air for all as automakers continue to innovate and utilize more advanced technologies to cut pollution,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.
The 2021 average vehicle fuel economy was at an all-time high of 25.4 miles per gallon, unchanged from the year prior. The EPA projects the 2022 fleetwide efficiency average will rise to 26.4 mpg. New vehicle carbon dioxide emissions declined to a record low of 347 grams per mile, the report said.
The transportation sector represents about one-third of climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions each year. All vehicle types are at record low CO2 emissions; however, market shifts away from cars and toward SUVs and pickups have offset some of the fleetwide benefits.
Stellantis cited the rising demand among consumers for SUVs and pickups in response to its lower rankings, saying they do “not reflect our current or future product plan.” Representatives for GM and Ford did not respond for comment.
“Auto companies claim they’re chugging ahead with electric vehicles, but the EPA’s report shows they’re more like the caboose claiming to be the engine,” said Dan Becker, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Safe Climate Transport Campaign.
Automakers are meeting stricter emissions requirements by using regulatory credits they earned from previous years or bought from competitors.
At the top of the rankings was Tesla, which exclusively offers all-electric vehicle without any CO2 emissions. Its average fuel economy, which is measures in terms of miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent, or mpge, was 123.9 miles.
Hybrid vehicles help improve the 2021 averages. The vehicles accounted for 9% of all production last year, a new high, due mostly to the growth of hybrids in the truck SUV and pickup vehicle types, the report said. Just 4% of 2021 vehicles were electric, plug-in hybrids or fuel cell vehicles, though the EPA projects that figure will rise to 8% in 2022.
Toyota Motor, which popularized the hybrid segment with its Prius, has been criticized by some politicians and environmentalists for not moving to EVs more quickly.
Toyota, which ranked better than industry averages for fuel economy and CO2 emissions, has argued that hybrids are a better choice for some consumers for the foreseeable future. The company argues it can produce eight 40-mile plug-in hybrids for every one 320-mile battery electric vehicle and save up to eight times the carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
“These improvements are part of our broad portfolio approach aimed at reducing CO2 emissions as quickly as possible while meeting customer needs as we transition to an electrified future,” Toyota said in a statement late-Monday.