The Biden administration has announced a target for half of all new car sales to be “zero-emissions” vehicles by 2030, but extraordinarily has snubbed the largest seller of EVs in the US, and the world, by not inviting Tesla to its event announcing the new target.
A fact sheet released by White House regarding the new clean transport policy outlines the new measures which will see tougher fuel efficiency and emissions standards put in place, a new national EV charging network, and funding to retool and expand domestic EV manufacturing as well for R&D of next-generation clean technologies.
The new plan will also see “point-of-sale consumer incentives to spur U.S. manufacturing and union jobs,” backing up Biden’s “Build Back Better” strategy which aims to “leverage once-in-generation investments and a whole-of-government effort to lift up the American autoworker and strengthen American leadership in clean cars and trucks.”
This would presumably will build on the US government’s current federal EV tax credits but be aimed at US-made vehicles only (whether this includes Tesla vehicles, which are no longer eligible for tax credits, is not clear).
While nowhere near as ambitious as other countries such as the UK, which will ban all sales of new fossil fuel cars by 2030, Norway by 2025, Japan by 2035, and Sweden and Denmark by 2030 to name a few, it is a positive step for the US where transport accounts for nearly 30% of all emissions.
US drivers buy around 17 million new cars a year, and emit 78 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum. If half of new vehicles are electric instead of petrol or diesel-fuelled, it would be the equivalent of removing 10 coal power plants from the planet according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
As part of the new executive orders, the Biden administration says that the EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will outline reversal of fuel emission standards rollbacks of the Trump administration.
It is estimated that implementing better fuel efficiency and emissions standards will deliver $US140 million ($A190 million) in net benefits, save 760 billion litres of fossil fuels from being burned and save the average US driver around $900 in fuel savings.
But the White House statement did seem a little confused by the inclusion of plug-in hybrids, which have been labelled a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by European clean transport lobby Transport & Environment because they generally emit more carbon than stated on the efficiency sticker, as “zero-emissions” vehicles.
“Specifically, the President will sign an Executive Order that sets an ambitious new target to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles, including battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell electric vehicles,” wrote the White House.
The other odd step taken by the White House was its decision to exclude Tesla from the event, which has spearheaded the transition to electric transport and in June claimed the top two position in the global EV sales ladder, from the proceedings, and is now worth five times more than the combined value of Ford and GM.
In comments on Twitter, Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk said that the move “seemed odd” that Tesla “wasn’t invited”, especially considering it makes electric vehicles at its Fremont factory unlike Ford – which was present at the event, but which moved manufacturing for its Mach-E electric crossover to Mexico.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 5, 2021
One potential reason behind Biden’s snub of Tesla is a protectionist stance guarding against another growing economic world leader – China. Tesla is already expanding globally, and has EV manufacturing well underway in China, and is the leader in that EV sales market.
With battery making costs falling fast and price parity of EVs with fossil fuels vehicles now in sight within a few years, the White House fact sheet noted that “China is increasingly cornering the global supply chain for electric vehicles and batteries with its fast-growing electric vehicle market.
“By setting clear targets for electric vehicle sale trajectories, these countries are becoming magnets for private investment into their manufacturing sectors – from parts and materials to final assembly.
“President Biden is committed to changing that and delivering for the American people.”
CNN notes another possible reason: The fact that the United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents the workers of the “big three” US legacy automakers Ford, GM and Stellantis, has been struggling to unionise Tesla’s Fremont workers, and was at the event.
In response to an enquiry from CNN, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was quoted as saying, “Well, we of course welcome the efforts of automakers who recognize the potential of an electric vehicle future and support efforts that will help reach the President’s goal, and certainly Tesla is one of those companies.
“I would not expect this is the last time we talk about clean cars and the move towards electric vehicles, and we look forward to having a range of partners in that effort.”
Ford, GM and Stellantis released a joint statement regarding the new announcement, saying they “shared aspiration to achieve sales of 40-50% of annual U.S. volumes of electric vehicles (battery electric, fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles) by 2030 in order to move the nation closer to a zero-emissions future consistent with Paris climate goals.”
GM, for its part, made clear that it only considers 100% battery electric vehicles to be the way forward.
Ford was less clear on this point but CEO Jim Farley said, “Ford is on an ambitious trajectory to lead the electrification revolution — from being the only full-line American automaker to side with California in favor of stricter greenhouse gas emissions, to electrifying our most iconic and popular vehicles, like the F-150 Lightning, Mustang Mach-E and E-Transit. Customer demand has exceeded our expectations.
“So, we expect to be well-positioned to have fully electric vehicles account for 40 to 50% of our U.S. sales by 2030.”
Stellantis, which was formed by Fiat Chrysler and French PSA Group, did not release a separate statement regarding the new plan.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and 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. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.