Biden's EV Strategy is More Stick Than Carrot

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
bidens ev strategy is more stick than carrot

There are competing philosophies when it comes to shifting the market to electric vehicles.

There’s the free-market philosophy, which says the market will get there on its own. There’s the incentive philosophy, which suggests incentivizing consumers will accelerate the transition away from the internal combustion engine. Consider that one to be the carrot approach.

Finally, we have the philosophy that if regulations don’t force automakers to make more EVs, they won’t, at least not quickly enough to address climate change. The free market and/or incentives won’t be enough. Consider this to be the stick.

Guess which philosophy President Joe Biden seems to be embracing?

According to the New York Times, Biden’s plan to cut tailpipe emissions is two-fold. The first part is to restore standards to what they were under Barack Obama, who Biden served as vice president. The second part? Make the standards stricter.

The Times reports that sometime this month, Biden will announce a plan to return to the Obama-era standards. The Times also reports that the administration is working on stricter standards. Those standards could reduce emissions and perhaps increase EV sales but they’d almost certainly be the target of political pushback. It’s also possible, though by no means certain, that stricter standards could have negative impacts on the industry.

Biden has already pledged to cut carbon emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2030.

“Look, the future of the auto industry is electric. There’s no turning back,” Biden said back in May, at a Ford event unveiling the Lightning electric truck. “We’re going to set a new pace for electric vehicles. That means reversing the previous administration’s shortsighted rollback of vehicle emissions and efficiency standards. Setting strong, clear targets where we need to go.”

Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation are expected to propose a rule that would require passenger vehicles to have an average of around 51 mpg by 2026. Current standards, set by former President Donald Trump, hover around 44 mpg by 2026. Obama’s rules aimed for the same mpg but by 2025.

But wait, there’s more. The admin is also said to be working on rules that would be more “ambitious” (the Times word) and run through 2030 or maybe even 2032. A top climate advisor is apparently trying to write the rule so that it appeases both automakers and the labor unions.

According to the Times report, transportation as a sector is the biggest single source of the kind of emissions that warm the climate, at 28 percent of carbon emissions. The paper doesn’t break things out by segment, though — it doesn’t say how much of that is attributed to cars and how much is attributed to cargo ships or commercial airplanes.

The Times astutely notes that consumers might be slow to adopt EVs, due to the lack of charging infrastructure and other reasons. It also suggests that the passage of a general infrastructure bill might make tougher emissions rules an easier sell, especially if such a bill improves charging infrastructure and creates more tax incentives.

If an infrastructure bill doesn’t spend much to help support EVs, it could upset automakers, who’d be forced to build EVs that would be tough to sell. Unions also have skin in the game, since a shift to EVs could reduce the number of workers needed on the line.

There’s also politics to consider, as Biden is a car guy who has also presented himself as pro-union. There will also be pushback from the fossil-fuel industry.

Some governors want the Biden admin to go further and work to make sure all new cars and trucks are EVs by 2035.

We’re not going to tell you in this piece which philosophy is the best way to get the market to shift to EVs (I have thoughts on that subject but they are best saved for a separate op-ed), but from here it sure appears Biden chose the stick.

[Image: Ford]

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6 of 116 comments
  • Craiger Craiger on Jul 05, 2021

    It takes 3-5 minutes on average to fill a gas tank, and there are still often lines at gas stations. My local Costco station has 16 pumps, and I still wait 10 minutes sometimes. What happens when there are millions of EVs and it takes 30 minutes just to get a decent amount of juice, let alone a full charge? I lived in the upper east side of Manhattan for 25 years, and I owned four cars in that time frame. How and where would people in locales like that charge their EVs?

    • See 2 previous
    • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Jul 06, 2021

      @TCowner Yes, for the same reason that they put fancy coffee makers in their break rooms and showers in their bathrooms. L2 chargers, which are all people need at work, are dirt-cheap and will be a nice perk for city-dwelling employees. My employer's parking garage already has three in it. They are oversubscribed and more are on the way. L3 chargers in the right public places (especially supermarket and mall lots) will be insanely profitable and will grow organically as the installed base of EVs does.

  • CoastieLenn CoastieLenn on Jul 06, 2021

    I could be terribly wrong here, but I mainly see two common responses to people that bring valid questions of attainability/usability of EV's in less-than-ideal situations (ie: rural areas without huge charging availability or even in bustling downtown areas where street parking is required). The most common responses are the rather sophomoric "if you can't afford it, sucks to be you" (seriously, this sentiment is present in no less than 10 of the comments on this article) and "if you're paying $XYZ for a home in that area, you can afford $X for a charging interface." I'm sure most see the issue with the first comment, but the second one is rather more complex, and just as concerning as the rural area customer. Charging interfaces may NOT BE AN OPTION, finances aside. This question is typically deflected to some other, barely relevant point but never really offered much of a solution for. And the biggest issue that I can see many people having with President Biden and his ilk right now is that they're doing their best to make ABSOLUTELY certain that people don't have a choice. They're *mandating* the future of the automobile, not creating it thru demand and innovation. The groundwork is being laid for further tightening control over ICE vehicles. 20 years from now, the likely majority of the population will still be reliant on ICE vehicles to get around for more than just the reason of "I can't afford it." The players on the hill are seemingly bastardizing not only the vehicle, they're bastardizing peoples ability to determine what's best for their needs, in their situations, in their locations at that time. The statement "The future of the automobile is electric" by the most powerful person in our country only helps to prove my point.

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.