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Electric vehicles get help in Biden plan, but roadblocks remain

Joseph Morton, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Automotive News

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s latest spending proposal would direct $174 billion to putting more Americans in electric vehicles.

That proposal is in line with ongoing global trends, said Kristin Dziczek, senior vice president at the Center for Automotive Research.

But significant hurdles remain in convincing Americans to buy cars and trucks that run on electricity instead of gasoline. Whether those hurdles can be overcome will go a long way in determining the country’s ability to meet Biden’s ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries around the world are adopting regulations that favor electric vehicles, major automakers have pledged to transition away from internal combustion engines and Wall Street has been rewarding companies that bet big on sustainable electrification. Electric vehicle sales rose last year even as the pandemic triggered a 14.7 percent decline in overall sales, Dziczek said.

“Consumers are starting to come around to it,” Dziczek said.

EVs are important because transportation is a major source of emissions and the world today looks like what the Eisenhower administration envisioned in the 1950s: lots of highways and everyone driving.

 

That isn’t going to change overnight, said Joseph Kane, senior research associate at the Brookings Institution.

“We have to traverse pretty long distances in America,” Kane said. “We’re a big country, and so the reality that we’re all going to get on bikes and take transit everywhere, that’s just not going to happen in the next few decades at least. Those are longer-term structural and generational changes that are needed.”

Companies and utilities with vehicle fleets, such as Amazon, UPS and FedEx, represent an opportunity since they can make the upfront investments to electrify their trucks.

Biden’s proposal includes shifting the federal fleet toward electric. It also would replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles while electrifying at least 20 percent of the yellow school bus fleet.

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