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Biden eyes half of new-car sales to be EVs by 2030

Green future: US Joe Biden has outlined his vision for a greener America, starting with EVs accounting for half of all new-car purchases by 2030.

US president Joe Biden sets an ambitious but not mandatory goal for clean future

10 Aug 2021

UNITED States president Joe Biden has stamped his authority on the North American motor industry, last week signing an executive order that set a goal for 50 per cent of all new passenger vehicles sold in the US to be electric by 2030.


Announced on Thursday, the target forms part of the Biden administration’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan to “unlock the full potential” of the US automotive industry and turn it into a genuine world-leader.


“It’s about leveraging once-in-a-generation investments and a whole-of-government effort to lift up American autoworkers and strengthen the American leadership in the world in the clean car technology, not just cars, but trucks as well, and buses,” the president said in his address.


“That’s why, today, I’m signing an executive order setting out a target of 50 per cent of all passenger vehicles sold by 2030 will be electric and set into motion an all-out effort.”


The Build Back Better plan is made up three key components that each comprise a key element of the evolving auto sector, namely infrastructure, manufacturing capacity and consumer support.


All going to plan, the infrastructure component should see the “modernising” of America’s roads, highways, ports, airports, rail and transit systems, including the installation of 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.


To boost manufacturing capacities, the Biden administration will make the “largest investment in research and development in generations” by way of grants, loans and tax credits, with the intention of helping “innovate, manufacture and build the supply chains” of batteries and semiconductors.


“Never again should we be in the situation we face today with a semiconductor shortage,” the president said.


In order to better support fleet and private EV buyers, president Biden also cited a possible change to the nation’s EV incentive programs, which would result in up to $12,500 being handed out to purchasers of “clean” vehicles made in the US and by plants staffed by members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) trade union (Ford, Stellantis and General Motors).


Fittingly, the top executives from each of these manufactures (Jim Farley, Mark Stewart and Mary Barra respectively) were present at the address, joining President Biden on the lawns of the White House for the signing of the order.


One notable absentee was Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk, who took to Twitter to reveal his brand had not been invited to the event, despite being the fourth-biggest US car-maker by sales volume – some reports have suggested it was because Tesla does not offer UAW representation to its workers.


Nevertheless, many of the industry’s heavyweights including Ford, GM, Stellantis, Nissan, BMW, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo have voiced their support of the president’s 2030 goal, all committing to ensure 40-50 per cent of their sales are EVs over the next nine years.


In a joint statement, Ford, GM and Stellantis said their own investments (totalling more than $US92 billion) and the government’s new goal represented “a dramatic shift from the US market today that can be achieved only with the timely deployment of the full suite of electrification policies committed to by the administration in the Build Back Better plan”.


“With the UAW at our side in transforming the workforce and partnering with us on this journey, we believe we can strengthen continued American leadership in clean transportation technology through electric vehicle innovation and manufacturing.  


“We look forward to working with the Biden administration, Congress and state and local governments to enact policies that will enable these ambitious objectives.”


Nissan Americas chair Jeremie Papin echoed these sentiments, saying it was “critical to have industry and government working together to advance consumer adoption of EVs”.


“First and foremost, we want more American consumers to enjoy the benefits of electrification: lower emissions, lower operating costs and a lot more fun behind the wheel,” he said.


The President’s sales goal was announced concurrently with a new set of regulations proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that aim to increase light-vehicle efficiency by 10 per cent in the 2023 model year, amounting to an average national fleet fuel consumption of 52 miles per gallon (4.5L/100km) by 2026.


While the industry has largely responded well to the announcements, some environmental groups have called for the measures to be stepped up further while others have been hesitant to put their faith in the plans after the Trump administration backflipped on pre-existing standards.


According to not-for-profit Earthjustice, the EPA’s proposed regulations are “the first step in restoring and strengthening” one of the “most effective policy tools to address pollution from the transportation sector”.


“To adequately accelerate the transition to zero-emission cars, the administration should increase the target to 60 per cent. The US requires vehicle emissions standards that meet the moment,” it said in a statement.


In a report published by Bloomberg Green,the director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Safe Climate Transport Campaign, Dan Becker, said the proposed EPA standards would still fall short of the goals set by the Obama administration.


“I don’t feel comfortable that those percentage numbers accurately reflect what the proposal does,” he said.


In a similar report published by Automotive News, Mr Becker said that auto companies proved they could not be trusted to adhere to their “voluntary pledges” when they rallied the Trump administration to ease emissions standards.


“Trusting auto companies to comply with a voluntary pledge is like believing your New Year’s weight loss resolution is a binding contract,” he said.


“They violated their commitment by going to Trump.”

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