Automotive

Biden's bold EV promise could re-shape the auto landscape

Biden's bold EV promise could ...
US President Joe Biden has committed to replacing the entire federal fleet of more than 650,000 vehicles, with American-made electric alternatives
US President Joe Biden has committed to replacing the entire federal fleet of more than 650,000 vehicles, with American-made electric alternatives
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US President Joe Biden has committed to replacing the entire federal fleet of more than 650,000 vehicles, with American-made electric alternatives
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US President Joe Biden has committed to replacing the entire federal fleet of more than 650,000 vehicles, with American-made electric alternatives

“The federal government ... 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,” said President Joe Biden on Monday, signaling he's willing to use his new office to kick off a transformative overhaul of the entire US automotive industry.

The US federal fleet is massive – somewhere around 650,000 vehicles (of which only 3,215 are currently electric), traveling 4.5 billion miles (7.2 billion km) and guzzling 375 million gallons (1.4 billion liters) of gasoline and diesel fuel every year. Biden hasn't laid much out in the way of details yet, but two key goals are clear: reduce the US government's environmental footprint, and give the American auto industry a shot in the arm.

Financial benefits should accrue over time, too; fuel and maintenance costs for electric vehicles are significantly lower than those of ICE vehicles, and many of these things – US postal vans, for example – do enough miles to bring break-even point much closer. Analysts predict Biden's switchover could turn out to be a US$20+ billion project, but viewed as part of an economic stimulus and job creation package, as well as an opportunity to cut down ongoing maintenance expenses, that number looks less daunting.

And boy will it shake up the US auto industry, particularly since Biden also signaled he was planning to tighten up the definitions on what qualifies as "made in America," to make sure taxpayer money ends up staying in the country as much as possible. And as Axios reports, there's basically nothing on the market right now that meets Biden's criteria using a unionized workforce, which may be another of the criteria.

Before these vehicles start rolling out, entire supply chains will need to rise up. New models will have to be developed fit for the government's purposes, and the scale of EV manufacturing will need to advance dramatically. It may be 3-4 years before this executive decree starts bearing fruit, simply because the vehicles don't exist yet.

Still, it's a chance to deploy the deep pockets of the US Treasury to re-shape the American auto market into a sector that's better equipped to compete in the electric future. A customer this huge is a monster opportunity, both for startups and also for established Motor City brands for whom serious volume could be the incentive they need to refocus their efforts. This kind of influx of EVs on the road will lead to better charging infrastructure for the rest of the market, too.

And while the current statement only covers federal vehicles, Biden said during his campaign that he planned to “make a major federal commitment to purchase clean vehicles for federal, state, tribal, postal, and local fleets.” It's a bold move, but one that could re-shape the auto landscape for decades to come.

16 comments
16 comments
FB36
IMHO, this is a really good decision that should be an example for all other countries!

But all countries also have massive numbers of DIESEL vehicles, like large trucks, trains, ships, agriculture/mining/construction/military vehicles!
& the best solution for them would be making them all carbon-neutral by start producing BIODIESEL fuel at large scales (using all kinds of industrial/forestry waste, biomass, trash, sewage)! (& do doubt biodiesel can easily converted to jet fuel, to make all aircraft carbon-neutral too!)
IMHO, it would really help, if all governments encouraged large scale production of biodiesel!
Bob Stuart
When do you see two bureaucrats in the same car? If we want a sensible revolution, new cars should carry as much as the weigh.
michael_dowling
The fly in the ointment will be ramping up production to meet demand. Tesla might even consider accepting unions to get govt business,as they have the best chance of meeting demand. The OEMs such as GM could not meet demand right now,and their Bolt model is a good vehicle.
*Joe*
There are 17M new auto sales yearly in the US. If the US government has 650k total as you say, and they would be replacing a subset of those each year as needed, then the numbers don't add up to the government being a major driving force for the auto market. Ford sells more F-series trucks per year, then the US government owns in total vehicles.
guzmanchinky
I think it's a great step forward. And I'm not some political evangelist, but I like how they should be built by American companies.
Mel Kimsey
I, and likely a million other people, thought the government should have contracted for electric cars 20 years ago. It would have spurred the EV industry even then. But we will take this. This is just federal--every state and local government vehicle should similarly be EV, or at minimum hybrid. Initially prices might ramp up, but quickly decrease. If Fed vehicles are 650k, imagine every town, county, police and highway patrol, etc., It could be done with incentives, or edicts, but it needs to be done. ALL AMERICAN vehicles, too. JUST that one 'green deal' alone could make Biden's mark on environment and economy.
Bill S.
Biden has never had an original thought in his life. He is just appeasing the lefties who supported him. The infrastructure is decades away to support EV’a. Where is all this electrical energy coming from. He is shutting down coal and oil and nuclear power is not happening again. Get real folks, buy a mule.
Hugh Lynas
I believe that we are on the cusp of a major improvement in battery design and production, and making a lot of progress on Hydrogen fuel cell electric propulsion. If we gradually replace existing ic engines with electric propulsion when their useful life is over then maybe some of the 650,000 govt fleet will benefit from these improvements. We should not just replace all of them as fast as production allows.
Daishi
@*Joe*, you are looking at total vehicle sales. The US government fleet size is 650k and in 2020 Tesla sold under 500k vehicles and there are not that many American made EV's to choose from. Yes they would replace them over time and would not be starting yet but the numbers when compared to EV sales do look signifiant.
Tom Lee Mullins
I think the power grid should be updated before requiring everyone to go to electric vehicles. California is experiencing rolling power outages. If California goes all electric, the strain will be even worse.

I think electric cars won't really compete with gas powered ones until electric cars are similar priced, have similar range and charge up in about the same time to fill a gas tank.

I think hydrogen fuel cell cars would be better than battery electric vehicles since they refuel faster than batteries charge and have a pretty good range. One could have gas companies also dispense hydrogen.
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