President-elect Joe Biden may be the first president to make electrification a central priority of his administration. His campaign promises include lofty clean energy goals, and electric vehicles are at the center of this initiative. His plans, however, will not be without opposition; low gas prices and likely Republican control of the Senate may interfere with his policy goals. Fortunately, the future already belongs to EVs–regardless of legislation coming from the White House.
On day one, Biden pledges to sign a series of new executive orders that will ensure the U.S. “achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050.” These orders will include historic investments in clean energy and the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the country. To achieve this, Biden plans to use the Federal Government Procurement System to move towards 100% clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles. He also hopes to implement the Clean Air Act, which will ensure that 100% of new sales for light- and medium-duty vehicles will be electrified, with annual improvements for heavy-duty vehicle sales.
EV Adoption Over Past Decade
Approximately 1.4 million electric vehicles have landed on America’s roadways since 2010, and adoption has accelerated in recent years. EV sales enjoyed slow growth between 2010 and 2017, when they reached 200,000, but sales skyrocketed in 2018, increasing by 81% for a total of 361,307.
Much of that acceleration can be attributed to Tesla, which has experienced substantial year-over-year growth since 2015. The company’s U.S. sales increased by 42.59% between 2015 and 2016, 87.34% between 2016 and 2017, and a monumental 294.51% between 2017 and 2018 for a total of 197,517 sales in one year.
Tesla’s success has forced other car manufacturers to get serious about electrification, which is further propelling the widespread adoption of EVs. Toyota, BMW, Volkswagen, and Nissan are all releasing new lines of electric vehicles, and General Motors envisions an all-electric future for its company.
Improved EV-Driver Experience
The increasing number of manufacturers now producing electric vehicles is significantly improving the driver experience. Now, prospective EV owners have an array of cars to choose from, and while Tesla remains the industry leader, competition among manufacturers is spurring cutting-edge innovations in tech that are making electrification more appealing and accessible to consumers.
One of the most important innovations is advancements in lithium-ion batteries, which have brought the cost of EVs down substantially. In 2010, the average cost of batteries was $1,000/kWh, and that cost has dropped nearly tenfold to approximately $156/kWh. Manufacturers are narrowing in on a price point where EVs reach cost parity with their fossil-fuel-powered counterparts, which should occur at around $100/kWh. Experts project that this will happen by 2024.
In November, General Motors announced that a pending breakthrough in battery chemistry will reduce the price of its electric vehicles so they are equivalent to gasoline within five years. These new batteries will also significantly extend their vehicles’ range, thereby addressing another barrier to entry. General Motors is confident that it can offer 300- to 400-mile range vehicles for a similar upfront cost to internal combustion vehicles, which is approximately equivalent to the range of Tesla’s luxury Model S. Most people expect to get about 450 miles per tank of gas, so this range should alleviate concerns that EVs aren’t suitable for longer trips.
A Growing Infrastructure
The Biden campaign reports that a key barrier to the further deployment of EVs is the lack of charging stations currently available. His year one legislative agenda includes adding more than 500,000 new public charging stations to the roads by the end of 2030. However, the electric car charging network is expanding regardless of who is in the White House, and it is being propelled by private companies.
Tesla plans to add roughly 2,000 charging stations per month nationwide, and as more manufacturers adopt EV technology, America’s national charging network only stands to benefit further. For instance, Volkswagen’s spinoff company, Electrify America, is investing $2 billion to expand infrastructure. Overall, the number of private electric charging spots in the U.S. has risen year after year, from fewer than 5,000 in 2011 to 78,500 today, in addition to 25,000 public charging stations for plug-in EVs.
Biden’s Role in EV Expansion Biden’s dedication to accelerating EV adoption and expanding infrastructure should be helpful to the industry, but the electric wave is coming regardless of his administration’s success. Private companies have already done the legwork by investing in technological developments that have made EVs accessible for more people, and Biden’s plans to expand the infrastructure should simply complement their innovations