US president Joe Biden took the unprecedented step on Monday (US time) of committing to transition the entire US government fleet to electric vehicles – all 645,000 of them.
The move – which is the largest fleet transition announced by any national government – comes as the new Biden administration knuckles down to reverse the anti-climate legacy of the Trump presidency and herald in an era of clean energy and transport.
The US government fleet was in the 2015 Federal Fleet Report identified as the largest non-military fleet on the planet and covered some 7.2 billion kilometres a year, using 1.419 trillion litres of fuel a year along the way,according to the General Services Administration (GSA) in 2019, Reuters reports.
The plan to transition the US fleet is part of the new administration’s promise to implement a $US2 trillion ($A2.6 trillion) climate and energy package to address climate change and revitalise the pandemic-crippled US economy.
“The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we’re going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America made by American workers,” multiple news sources reported Biden as saying.
Although Biden’s “Buy America” mandate does not include the purchase of electric vehicles, the government fleet transition commitment to by US-made vehicles will have numerous options to choose from, from EV pioneer Tesla, to legacy automakers such as General Motors and Ford, to start-ups such as Rivian and Fisker.
However Biden also criticised loopholes that currently allow government fleets to buy US-made vehicles that use a significant number of components manufactured abroad, and vowed to change these rules.
Biden did not detail a timeline for the fleet transition, which is estimated to cost around $US20 billion ($A26 billion), but a commitment to transition the entire US fleet will ensure demand for US-made materials, components and vehicles while boosting job demand.
One million new jobs would be created in the “American auto industry, domestic auto supply chains, and auto infrastructure, from parts to materials to electric vehicle charging stations,” Biden was quoted as saying by multiple news sources.
Biden’s clean transport plan also includes a promise to roll out 550,000 electric car charging stations and a “cash for clunkers” scheme to encourage drivers to switch to electric vehicles.
The new administration is also expected to reinstate the full $US7,500 federal tax incentive to buy electric cars, which has been dialled back for carmakers who have sold more than 200,000 electric cars a piece.
There are approximately 1.7 million electric cars already on the roads in the US, with more than 760,000 of those in the tech-savvy state of California.
However, as of July 2020, only 3,215 government-owned vehicles were electric, GSA said.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.