The U.S. auto industry sees President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package as accelerating a global shift toward electric vehicles, thanks to the $174 billion proposed for charging stations, planned consumer rebates for American-made EVs and a pledge to electrify the government’s fleet.
The proposal, which requires congressional approval, is likely to be targeted by progressives as too little in scope and by Republicans as unfairly using taxpayer funds to help the alternative energy sector while harming others, such as the oil industry. Market researchers, oil-energy advocates and other critics warn that it may not be enough to make a dent in the sale of gas guzzlers in the U.S. any time soon.
“The numbers tell the current story,” Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Cox Automotive, which conducts market research for auto dealers. EVs made up only 2% of new car sales in 2020, while SUVs and pickup trucks comprised about 70%. “However, we know there is interest in EVs. Our consumer survey on upcoming EV pickup trucks showed interest, especially among young buyers.”
Biden’s plan directs $174 billion to electric vehicles, including sale rebates and tax credits for consumers to buy American-made cars, in addition to industry incentives. The centerpiece of the plan made public Wednesday is to help build a national network of half a million charging stations through grants to state and local governments and the private sector.
“Efforts that incentivize wider-scale EV adoption, build out the necessary infrastructure, and facilitate consumer awareness are essential components to EV market expansion,” said John Bozzella, president and chief executive officer of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a trade association that represents major automakers such as Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Stellantis NV, Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.
Installing charging stations nationwide is something industry and environmental groups regard as essential to increase the adoption of electric vehicles by consumers worried about getting stranded on a long road trip in an electric car.
“Seeing chargers everywhere will make consumers feel comfortable purchasing electric vehicles,” Katherine Garcia, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All program, said in an interview.
The 500,000 charging stations is “of critical importance,” said Genevieve Cullen, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, which represents companies that stand to benefit from the move such as GM, the utility CenterPoint Energy Inc., and the electric vehicle charging network EVgo Services LLC. “It’s the right start.”
The plan to wean American motorists off gas-powered automobiles is part of a broader $2.25 trillion infrastructure blueprint that also calls for sweeping spending to achieve the White House’s climate goals — such as net-zero emissions in the U.S. by 2050. It also comes in stark contrast to former President Donald Trump, who rolled-back fuel economy requirements put in place by his predecessor and called for an end to a key EV consumer tax credit seen as helping to launch the industry.
“The combination of a Biden administration and a blue Senate sets the stage for a green tidal wave in the U.S. to kick off, with electric vehicles the centerpiece,” said Dan Ives, a senior equity research analyst at Wedbush Securities wrote in a research note Wednesday. “For the EV sector, the Street has been awaiting this day since Biden was elected.”