Aug 6, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The long road to Biden's electric vehicle goal

Electric vehicles’ share of U.S. auto sales
Data: Wards Intelligence; Chart: Axios Visuals

The White House target of zero-emissions models reaching 50% of U.S. car and light truck sales by 2030 is hardly impossible, but a lot of things will have to break right.

Catch up fast: President Biden's executive order Thursday set the nonbinding 50% target of sales from battery-electric, plug-in hybrid or fuel cell electric models.

  • The 2030 aspirational goal is among several new moves. Others include new draft light-duty mileage and CO2 regulations through the mid-2020s, and initiating the process for longer-term rules targeting light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles.
  • The New York Times has more.

The big picture: Electric sales are growing, but getting to 50% in nine years would require a completely reshaped market.

  • In the first half of 2021, fully electric and plug-in hybrids together were 3.3% of U.S. car sales, per Wards Intelligence. Analysts like BloombergNEF and Edmunds show similar levels.
  • However, legacy automakers and startups are bringing a suite of new models to market, and big companies have made sales pledges consistent with Biden's target.
  • Combined industry investment plans to date total over $330 billion, per the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an industry trade group.

What we're watching: Congress. The bipartisan infrastructure plan has several billion dollars for building out EV charging.

  • Democrats want major new consumer purchase incentives in the separate "reconciliation" package they hope to move on a party-line vote.
  • Automakers say meeting their 2030 pledges will require these kinds of policies and other federal support.

What they're saying: "[T]hese sales targets are certainly not unreasonable, and most likely achievable by 2030 given that automakers have already baked in large numbers of electric vehicles into their future product cycles," Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell said.

  • But Caldwell added that "what’s possibly the biggest hurdle ahead is consumer acceptance: what will it take for Americans to be willing to change their car ownership habits to go electric?"
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