President Joe Biden’s nonbinding executive order Thursday targeting 50% of vehicles sold by 2030 to be electric or carbon-free drew both positive and negative reactions from figures in Michigan.
At the White House, General Motors, GM, and Stellantis supported the order “to achieve sales of 40-50% of annual U.S. volumes of electric vehicles (battery electric, fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles) by 2030 in order to move the nation closer to a zero-emissions future consistent with Paris climate goals,” they said in a joint statement.
The automakers called on Biden and Congress to deploy “the full suite of electrification policies,” including purchase incentives, a dense charging network, and research and development investments to expand the EV manufacturing and supply chains in the United States, included in a $1 trillion, 2,702-page infrastructure package bill.
“Our recent product, technology, and investment announcements highlight our collective commitment to be leaders in the U.S. transition to electric vehicles,” they said.
Tesla, the EV company that sold nearly 500,000 EVs in 2020 and has a charging system nationwide, wasn’t invited. When asked why, press secretary Jen Psaki said, “Well, these are the three largest employers of the United Auto Workers. So I’ll let you draw your own conclusion.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer welcomed the news.
“President Biden’s announcement demonstrates that his Administration is committed to creating good-paying jobs and taking concrete steps to tackle the climate crisis,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This Executive Order will bolster the automotive industry in Michigan and across the United States by accelerating innovation and manufacturing while prioritizing the importance of combating climate change.”
Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy at the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy, criticized the order.
“When it comes to efficiency, government mandates struggle to keep up with societal evolution. Rather than listening to markets, they push their own wants and desires. Or worse, they force their friends and campaign donors interests ahead, stifling innovation with excessive regulation or subsidies,” he wrote in an email. “Currently, the EV market is one of the best examples of this issue. It is clear that the Biden administration’s push for electric vehicles is not driven by consumer demand, but political motives.”
Samantha Gross, the director of Energy Security and Climate Initiative for the Brookings Institution, told The Center Square the two most significant barriers to switching to electric cars are electric grid updates and battery availability.
Electricity is produced and consumed simultaneously, so the system’s supply and demand always must be balanced. Gross said that can be tricky when people have similar travel patterns adding new demand, like charging a vehicle once you get to work or return home.
In comparison, gasoline can be created and stored until needed.
“So you might need some upgrades in neighborhoods where there’s particularly high penetration of electric vehicles to keep that supply and demand always in balance,” Gross said.
Gross said that a possible solution is time-of-use pricing for electricity, which aims to flatten peak demand surges.
The second barrier is battery availability.
Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for e-mobility at Guidehouse Insights, told Autoweek: “A shortage of batteries is absolutely a serious risk. There is currently only cell production capacity for a small fraction of what has been committed in terms of EV sales. Even the new cell capacity that has been announced is not yet consistent with promised products. And if targets from the EU, California and other regions to ban new internal-combustion sales come to fruition, we’ll need a whole lot more.”
While they don’t guzzle gas, a single Tesla requires seven kilograms of lithium for its battery pack, which requires an energy-intensive extraction from the brine of salt flats that can damage the environment and cause water shortages, such as in Chile’s Atacama and Argentina’s Salar de Hombre Muerto regions, Ronald J. Deibert explains in his book “Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for a Civil Society.”
The world’s top lithium producers are South America, where Argentina and Chile provide 93% of U.S. lithium. A report from Amnesty International explores the thousands of child laborers who mine cobalt for lithium batteries.
EVs do have upsides. They’re less expensive to maintain compared to gas vehicles and have incredible torque. A Tesla Model S Plaid can accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than two seconds.
Biden is pushing for electric cars because renewable energy can produce electricity without increasing carbon dioxide emissions.
This article was originally posted on Split reaction in Michigan to Biden order that 50% of new cars sold by 2030 be electric or zero-emission