Despite experiencing record sales during much of the first half of the year, electric vehicles (EVs) are now being pulled to the center of the political debate, as the run-up to the 2024 presidential election begins to intensify.
During the second quarter of the year, a record-shattering 300,000 fully electric battery-operated vehicles hit American roads, according to Cox Automotive, a global automotive and systems technology company. The quarterly sales represented a 48.4% increase compared to the second quarter of last year, and the highest of any other period.
However, new presidential hopefuls in the GOP are now slamming the Biden-Harris Administration’s EV transition plans, as some have promised to reverse existing EV subsidies, slash America’s carbon-neutral goals, and further reduce congressional attention aimed at creating more environmental-forward policies.
The Race To De-Electrify America’s Automotive Industry
For quite some time already, there has been significant transformation taking place in the automotive industry, as numerous legacy car manufacturers have thrown their weight behind the widespread electrification of new vehicle lineups.
More than this, the Federal government, with President Biden at the helm, has introduced a series of new policy changes in recent years in support of more robust electric vehicle manufacturing in the U.S. The most significant perhaps, was the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) which changed existing tax credits and subsidies for EV buyers and manufacturers.
However, now that the Republic presidential campaign has taken off in full swing, with former President Trump leading the polls, despite facing a flurry of allegations, many republican candidates are not as supportive of meeting Biden’s EV and carbon-emission targets.
The most recent Republican presidential contender to speak out against America’s electric car transition was Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis. Speaking at an event in Midland, Texas, considered to be the heart of oil country, DeSantis pledged that he would not only slow the EV transition but further withdraw the U.S. from existing environmental agreements, Reuters reported.
DeSantis isn’t the first to make such remarks.
The former South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley, who is currently backed by 6% of the Republican party has also slammed existing EV subsidies. During the first republican debate, Haley said that while she believes that climate change is a real threat, voters must look towards China and India to reduce their carbon emissions if they want to see real environmental change.
She further went on to state that Biden’s new climate policies have helped put more money into China’s pockets, only further adding to the current environmental crisis.
Vivek Ramaswamy, who’s currently in third place on the polls, behind DeSantis, and ahead of Haley, made his position on EV subsidies clear earlier in the year when he Tweeted, “End electric vehicle subsidies. If consumers want EVs, they’ll be fine without the subsidies. And if not, that means people don’t want EVs. It’s not too complicated.”
Ramaswamy is currently the youngest republican candidate and is building his campaign in an attempt to capture younger republican voters, combatting the “woke” agenda, and further exposing corruption in the government.
Where’s Trump on all of this? Well, the former president has taken a somewhat backseat during most recent Republican debates, missing not only the first debate in August, but is also planning to skip the upcoming debate which will be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley, California scheduled for later in September.
Instead, Trump is planning to travel to Detroit, hoping to deliver a speech to current and former union members. This comes as thousands of United Auto Workers (UAW) have downed their tools, and have gone on strike as a deal between carmakers and UAW has yet to be reached.
A Blue And Red Tug And Pull For EVs
It’s not only Republicans who have felt America’s strategy to become a global leader in EV production and see more battery-powered cars on the road has gone according to plan.
In a statement by Jon Reinish, a Democratic Strategist last year, he says that despite the government’s efforts to combat climate change and bring to light the importance of progressive environmental policies, there’s still a lot the Democrats can do to make EVs more accessible.
“This sort of elitism problem is real because these things are very high priced right now, so Democrats should also be creating some sort of an environment through many different channels to make these much more accessible,” Reinish told The Hill.
However, it’s important to consider that Reinish was largely commenting on the state of the economy at the time, when consumers were seeing prices soaring, and inflation was at a 40-year high.
While there has been a significant increase in new EV sales across the U.S. in recent years, many existing models continue to outprice motorists. The most affordable model currently on the market is the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV, with a sticker price of $19,995, and only offers a range of 259 miles. Even Tesla remains relatively pricey, considering the company recently embarked on a price war with legacy automakers.
Currently, the most affordable of Tesla’s is the Model 3, priced at $40,420, and includes nearly zero upgrades. The EV has an estimated mileage of 333 miles per full charge.
Higher prices for newer, and used electric cars aren’t the only thing that’s hampering motorists’ optimism. A lack of adequate charging infrastructure in some cities across the country has also led to slower adoption.
“Perhaps the problem isn’t necessarily how politicians are feeling about widespread electrification, but rather the tight economic conditions many consumers are experiencing at the moment,” says Matthew Hart, founder of Axlewise, an automotive support and information blog.
Despite inflation reluctantly trending downwards, countless consumers have had to tighten their purse strings in recent months as the cost of living continues to take a bigger bite out of consumer’s disposable income.
In a Gallup poll from earlier this year, nearly 41% of surveyed U.S. adults said that they would not buy a new electric car. Extrapolated on a bigger spectrum, this would represent nearly 106 million Americans who are currently against Biden’s plans to create a greener and more efficient economy.
The majority of those opposed to the idea of buying an electric vehicle – 71% – identified as Republicans, while only 17% identified as Democrats according to the Gallup poll.
America’s idea of building a green economy, through rapid auto electrification, might soon become a pipeline dream, as new presidential hopefuls look to take a more aggressive stance at wiping Biden’s Green Plans out the door. This leaves many to wonder how these events will unfold once there’s a new leader in The White House, and what this could mean for the global effort against climate change.