U.S. President Joe Biden is headed Wednesday to the country’s auto-manufacturing hub in Detroit, Michigan, to promote the sale of all-electric vehicles in the future even as motorists are facing sharply higher gasoline prices to fuel the cars they almost uniformly drive now.
Biden, on a victory lap to highlight provisions of the trillion-dollar infrastructure package he championed and signed into law on Monday, plans to visit an electric vehicle assembly plant at General Motors, the biggest U.S. car maker that says it plans to go all-electric by 2035.
The president’s infrastructure package calls for construction of $7.5 billion worth of electric vehicle charging stations across the country — perhaps a half-million chargers — but Americans have been slow to embrace the purchase of electric vehicles. Last year, only 1.7% of vehicles sold in the U.S. were battery-powered, one-third of the Chinese market, and far behind world-leading Norway, where nearly three-fourths of vehicles sold are plug-in.
Ahead of his visit to Detroit, the White House said that with Biden’s approval of the infrastructure legislation, he “has sent a clear signal to the rest of the world that America can lead this race as we choose to build these electric vehicles and batteries in the United States and advance our national security by strengthening our domestic supply chains.”
The White House said the legislation will boost the creation of high-paying, union jobs, while two key Biden advisers, Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, and Jake Sullivan, national security adviser, said in an opinion column in the Detroit Free Press that the infrastructure legislation will help America regain its global competitiveness.
“Nobody knows this better than Detroit, which has been at the heart of American industrial strategy in the past and now can again,” the Biden advisers said.
But currently, many more electric vehicles are sold in Europe and China because of financial incentives for consumers and government regulations. Surveys show there are about 1.3 million electric vehicles in use in the U.S. out of a world total of 7 million, but Biden has set a goal of 50% electric vehicle sales in the U.S. by 2030.
For the moment, however, many U.S. motorists are concerned about spiraling gasoline prices they are paying at service stations, the highest since 2014. U.S. motorists are typically paying $3.30 a gallon (3.8 liters), $1.08 more than 12 months ago, pinching household budgets, along with higher food prices.
But some Republican opponents of Biden, even some who voted for the infrastructure package like Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, have attacked Biden for being focused with electric vehicle technology at a time when Americans are faced with higher gasoline prices and natural gas price hikes to heat their homes in the winter months ahead.
“The Biden administration doesn’t have any strategic plan to snap its fingers and turn our massive country into some green utopia overnight,” McConnell said Tuesday.
“They just want to throw boatloads of government money at things like solar panels and electric vehicles and hope it all works out,” said McConnell, one of 19 Republican senators who voted in favor of the infrastructure bill, along with 13 Republicans in the House of Representatives.
Biden wants to provide more incentives to push American motorists to buy electric vehicles, calling for a $7,500 tax credit for those who buy electric vehicles through 2026 as part of his $1.85 trillion social safety net legislation that the House is planning to vote on later this week.