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Smashed cars on large truck

Permanently removing ICE LDVs from the road in a way that does not penalize stakeholders who depend on them is fundamental to True Decommissioning.

Vehicle retirement in the transportation industry refers to the permanent removal of vehicles from the road at the end of its useful life. In the US, the length of a vehicle’s useful life has increased due to factors including higher prices for new and used vehicles, improved vehicle quality, and particularly in the COVID-19 pandemic, decreased vehicle miles travelled (Colias, 2021; IHS Markit, 2021). ICE LDVs in an aging fleet continue to emit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), and transportation-related air pollutants (TRAPs), such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, for longer than originally anticipated. IHS Markit (2021) reported the average age of LDVs in operation on US roads is 12.1 years in 2021 - a 15% increase in the last decade - and is expected to continue to grow. One study that analyzed US vehicle data found that the useful life of an ICE LDV can reach up to 30 years (Keith et al., 2019).

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, designed to improve ICE LDV fuel efficiency, have become more stringent over time, yet only apply to new vehicles (US Department of Energy Alternative Fuel Data, 2021). With an aging fleet, we are not benefiting from the emissions reduction intended by improving CAFE standards. Studies have estimated the actual CO2 emissions emitted by passenger vehicles over their useful life are 30-50% higher than values reported from certification or laboratory tests (Fontaras et al., 2017). Smog tests aim to regulate emissions from existing vehicles and are required in some, but not all, US states. Test requirements vary widely in rigor across states. Many tests in place do not regulate the oldest population of LDVs and in the end, do not require permanently removing ICE LDVs that fail the test.

Removing ICE LDVs may also introduce unintended negative consequences to the US used LDV market and dependent stakeholders. The supply of used ICE LDVs will be drastically reduced if vehicles are permanently removed instead of extending the useful life. The resulting decreased availability may cause hardships to the communities that rely on used markets. Stakeholders in supporting industries will also be adversely affected by the disruption to the used car markets, including mechanics, dealerships, and car manufacturers. Any strategy that aims to permanently remove ICE LDVs from US roads must consider the stakeholders and markets that depend on these vehicles in conjunction with the emissions reduction potential.