Nov 17, 2020 - Economy & Business

Corporate heavyweights ramp up electric vehicle lobbying push

Illustration of lightbulb with a car filament

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new coalition is launching — with Tesla, Uber, power giants like Southern Company, and others — that will push for electric models to account for 100% of new U.S. vehicle sales by 2030.

Why it matters: While electric vehicles are a growing technology, new corporate lobbying efforts — especially by powerful companies — could help spur faster growth in what remains a largely niche market.

Driving the news: The Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA) unveiled today brings together over 25 corporate members representing several industries.

  • Members also include Duke Energy, Piedmont Lithium, charging companies like ChargePoint and EVgo, and electric vehicle startups like Arrival and Lucid Motors.

The big picture: The group will push for "national policies that will enable 100% electric vehicle sales throughout the light-, medium-, and heavy-duty sectors by 2030."

  • "By embracing [electric vehicles], federal policymakers can help drive innovation, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and improve air quality and public health,” executive director Joe Britton, a former Democratic Senate aide, said in a statement.

Where it stands: Policy goals include...

  • Expanded incentives, which means not only lifting the per-manufacturer cap on the $7,500 consumer tax credit, but also making it a "point of sale" rebate. Other goals include a program to incentivize trade-ins of fossil fuel-powered vehicles.
  • Federal emissions and efficiency performance standards that will send the "correct market signals" for faster electric vehicle deployment by the auto industry.
  • New federal infrastructure investments and support for domestic manufacturing, and support for local pro-electric vehicle policies.

What they're saying: Britton tells me the group intends to lobby in its own right and also wield influence through members' existing relationships with policymakers.

  • ZETA is not pushing for a national zero-emissions vehicle mandate, or ban on sales of new internal combustion vehicles (something California officials want by 2035), he says.

Quick take: Their 2030 goal is an immensely heavy lift, given that electric vehicles are currently a very small percentage of vehicles sales and cars on the road.

  • Large new consumer incentives or a trade-in program are likely to be steep uphill battles on Capitol Hill.
  • But an economic recovery package could include new support for electric vehicle infrastructure.
  • And look for the Biden administration to toughen emissions standards using its executive powers.
Data: IEA's "Global EV Outlook 2020"; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: IEA's "Global EV Outlook 2020"; Chart: Axios Visuals

The state of play: U.S. electric vehicle use is rising, but that's from a very small base, as this data from the International Energy Agency shows.

  • Per Transportation Department data, as of 2018 there were over 111 million passenger cars registered in the U.S., and over 270 million vehicles overall when you include trucks, buses and so forth.
  • On a worldwide basis, BloombergNEF sees electric vehicles growing to 58% of new passenger car sales worldwide by 2040, when they will represent 31% of cars on the road.
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