Electric vehicles (EVs) have been heralded as the eco-friendly saviors of our transportation landscape, promising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, dependence on fossil fuels, and combat climate change.
However, critics have raised serious concerns about a wide range of issues related to EVs including driving range, vehicle reliability, price, the buildout of charging infrastructure, charging time, the cost and lifespan of batteries and their environmental impact, the actual impact EVs will have on reducing carbon emissions, problems with battery recycling and end-of-life management, as well as national security and human rights issues related to the EV supply chain.
Nonetheless, President Biden’s administration has partnered with automakers to force people into EVs as the administration has set an ambitious target of 50 percent electric vehicle sale shares in the U.S. by 2030.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and EV Spending
The main tool that the Biden administration is using to force the adoption of electric vehicles are a set of massive government spending programs to support EVs. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included $5 billion in formula funding for states with a goal to build a national charging network. 10 percent of that money is set-aside each year for the Secretary to provide grants to States to help fill gaps in the network.
The law also provides $2.5 billion for communities through a competitive grant program that will support charger deployment that meets administration priorities such as supporting rural charging, improving local air quality, and increasing EV charging access in disadvantaged communities.
The law also grants the Department of Energy Loan Programs Office $17 billion in loan authority to support a domestic battery supply chain. Additionally, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes more than $7 billion in funding to support the battery supply chain from battery materials refining, processing and manufacturing to battery manufacturing, including components, to battery recycling and reuse.
Another policy lever that the Biden administration is using to get people into electric vehicles is a tax credit worth up to $7,500 for qualifying electric vehicles. The tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles got a major overhaul at the beginning of this year as they were redesigned as part of President Biden’s massive climate bill signed into law in 2022. The new rules significantly limit the number of vehicles that qualify for the credit, so there’s even less choice than there was under the previous guidance. Additionally, the new rules did include an income limit, but it’s $300,000 for joint filers and $150,000 for individuals, so concerns still remain about subsidizing the upper class.
Regulating ICE Vehicles Out of Existence
In addition to spending and subsidy programs, the Biden administration is creating a regulatory framework that will essentially outlaw the internal combustion engine. In this area, the main regulatory focus of the administration has been the development of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Proposed Rule on Multi-Pollutant Emissions Standards for Model Years 2027 and Later Light-Duty and Medium-Duty Vehicles.
This proposed rule on tailpipe emissions standards from the EPA is a massive overreach, using a novel application of EPA motor vehicle authorities in an attempt to force a transition in the motor vehicles market to products that align with the ideological preferences of the Biden administration.
This rule is a de facto electric vehicle mandate. Congress has not given EPA the authority to require the purchase or production of certain types of motor vehicles or outlaw the purchase or production of other types of vehicles. Congress has not given EPA the authority to require the purchase or production of electric vehicles. EPA’s attempt to infer such power is contrary to longstanding administrative practice and contrary to recent Supreme Court precedent. Thus this rulemaking must be withdrawn and modified to fit within the motor vehicle regulatory authority granted by Congress.
With all of this government largess, it’s worth noting that American car manufacturers are losing a lot of money on EV sales. For example, Ford projects it will lose $3 billion on electric vehicles in 2023, which will add up to $5.1 billion of losses over the past two years. To make up for these loses, companies like Ford are undoubtedly having to raise the prices of their other vehicles—a point that is perhaps being overlooked by American car buyers. Additionally, policymakers should also be aware that the nationwide supply of EVs has increased this year by about 350 percent. That comes out to a 92-day supply, roughly twice the industry average.
Most have argued that this reality simply reflects a stumble for EVs sales and that our EV future is still guaranteed. I’m not going to completely rule out further adoption of electric vehicles, but I simply want to note that much of the push for EVs has come in the form of government incentives being pushed in a decade-long period of low interest rates. The last time the federal government pursued a similar sort of objective, the results were disastrous.
Policymakers should be aware that a likely scenario is that there is no emerging market for electric vehicles. Instead what we are seeing is an elite-driven, technocratic attempt to remake the vehicle market based on the whims of government planners. The “EV transition” is just government cronyism backed up by the usual combination of state subsidies, taxpayer-backed loans, well-designed propaganda, and regulatory edicts. Policymakers would be wise to distance themselves from this project.