Speed Reads

'There's no turning back'

Can Biden and top automakers really get America to 50 percent electric vehicle sales by 2030?

President Biden on Thursday took an ambitious drive toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with buy-in from some of the largest U.S. automakers. He signed an executive order setting a target that electric vehicles make up half of U.S. automobile sales by 2030, and the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules that would require tougher fuel-efficiency standards by 2026.

Gas-powered cars and trucks are the single largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. 

The EPA's fuel-efficiency rules would essentially get the U.S. back to a goal set by former President Barack Obama, but the EV boost would be transformative. Standing in front of an electric GM Hummer and Ford F-150 pickup and a plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler on Thursday afternoon, Biden said these electric vehicles are "a vision of the future that is now beginning to happen, a future of the automobile industry that is electric." 

"There's no turning back," Biden said. "The question is whether we lead or fall behind in the race for the future." Biden, the "car guy" president, was "in obvious good spirits" as he sold the pleasures of elective vehicles, The Associated Press reports. He took the Jeep Wrangler on a quick spin around the White House driveway, and during his remarks he turned to GM CEO Mary Barra and called dibs on test-driving the first electric Corvette. "You think I'm kidding," he said. "I'm not kidding."

EV sales are on the rise in the U.S., but still only a sliver of the U.S. market — about 3 percent of all new vehicles sold in May and June, up from 1.4 percent in 2020. Can U.S. automakers and consumers really bump that number to 50 percent in nine years?

Biden's target is nonbinding, and the auto industry only committed Thursday to aspiring to hit 40-50 percent EV sales by 2030, as CBS News notes. 

At the same time, AP points out, "several automakers already have announced electric vehicle sales goals similar to those in the deal with the government."

GM, Ford, and Stellantis (Fiat Chrysler) said their 40-50 percent target "can be achieved only with the timely deployment of the full suite of electrification policies committed to" in bipartisan infrastructure legislation, including money for EV charging stations, battery development and production, and consumer tax credits. If those measures are in place, "the auto industry is poised to accept the challenge," said John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation trade group. The wild card is consumers.