GMC vehicles will be on display at the Sterling McCall Buick GMC dealership in Houston, Texas on February 02, 2022.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images
DETROIT — General Motors may be transitioning to an all-electric future, but its latest fleet of vehicles is among the least efficient and polluting in the U.S. auto industry, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Detroit automaker’s estimated average real-world fuel economy and CO2 emissions were the second-worst in the industry for the 2021 model year, according to the EPA. The only major automaker to underperform GM is Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler.
Both automakers have reduced their fuel economy and increased CO2 emissions since the 2016 model year, according to the EPA, as have Hyundai Motor, Mazda and Volkswagen.
Ford Motor, which ranks just above GM, improved slightly over the five-year period but remained below the industry average.
The report comes as the Biden administration pushes to move the US away from gas-powered cars and towards electric vehicles. The White House has set a goal for electric vehicles to account for half of all new car sales by 2030. Most notably, GM has announced that it will only offer consumer electric vehicles by 2035.
“Today’s report demonstrates the significant strides we’ve made to ensure clean air for all, as automakers continue to innovate and use more advanced technologies to reduce pollution,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.
Average vehicle fuel economy in 2021 was at an all-time high of 25.4 miles per gallon, flat from the previous year. The EPA projects the fleetwide efficiency average will increase to 26.4 mpg in 2022. Carbon dioxide emissions from new vehicles fell to a record low of 347 grams per mile, the report said.
Every year, the transport sector causes about a third of global warming greenhouse gas emissions. All vehicle types have record low CO2 emissions; However, market shifts away from cars and towards SUVs and pickups have wiped out some of the fleet-wide advantages.
Stellantis cited increasing consumer demand for SUVs and pickups in response to its lower rankings, saying they “do not reflect our current or future product roadmap.”
“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 meet tighter emissions requirements by using regulatory credits earned in previous years or purchased from competitors.
At the top of the ranking is Tesla, which only offers purely electric vehicles without CO2 emissions. Its average fuel economy, measured in miles per gallon gasoline equivalent or mpge, was 123.9 miles.
Hybrid vehicles help improve averages for 2021. The vehicles accounted for 9% of total production last year, a new high largely driven by growth in hybrids among the truck-SUV and pickup vehicle types, the report said. Just 4% of vehicles in 2021 were electric, plug-in hybrid, or fuel cell vehicles, although the EPA projects that number will rise to 8% by 2022.
Toyota Motor, which popularized the hybrid segment with its Prius, has been criticized by some politicians and environmentalists for not moving faster to electric vehicles.
Toyota, which scores better than the industry average on fuel economy and CO2 emissions, has argued that hybrid vehicles 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 320-mile battery electric vehicle and save up to eight times the carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
Toyota, GM and Ford officials did not immediately respond to comment.