Business Law Column: President sets goal for new U.S. vehicles by 2030

Last month, President Biden issued an executive order intended to make half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 electric, fuel cell or plug-in hybrid vehicles. Although not legally binding, this goal is intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the nation confronts the increasingly evident effects of climate change. To address climate change, President Biden is seeking 50% to 52% percent net economy-wide greenhouse gas emission reductions below 2005 levels by 2030. This initiative goes a long way toward meeting that goal.

The White House is hopeful, based on the changes in the industry over the last decade, that EV sales will be fostered by robust consumer demand. Its press release points out that just since 2010:

• Battery pack costs dropped by 85%, paving the way to sticker price parity with gasoline-powered vehicles.

• Average vehicle range increased dramatically as charging times shortened.

• Electric models available to U.S. consumers expanded to over 40 last year – and growing.

If achieved, the goal would almost certainly make the United States the industry leader in electric vehicles, notwithstanding competition from China and other nations.

Speaking of auto manufacturers, this initiative has the support of truck and car makers GM, Ford and Chrysler (Tesla was notably absent from the EV summit)—although no doubt that support is fueled (at least in part) by billions in anticipated government funding. That spigot is already turned on: in July, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that $3 billion from American Rescue Plan funds could be used to advance the domestic electric vehicle industry in historic auto industry communities. Additionally, the infrastructure bill—pending as of the time of this blog entry—includes $7.5 billion to create charging stations across the United States, which would be a potentially transformative boost to the industry.

In New York, the initiative has been well received by state government leaders. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos and DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez put out a joint statement in favor of the ambitious plan and called it a “game changer.” It notes:

Today’s announcement from President Biden on electric cars and trucks is a game changer. It puts the nation back on track in reducing emissions from the transportation sector at a critical moment. The climate crisis is here now, and steadfast leadership is necessary to protect our planet and create today the jobs of the future. Fortunately, clean vehicle technology has matured and manufacturers are selling dozens of attractive and increasingly affordable emission-free vehicles, and have pledged to do more. New York applauds the Biden Administration and will continue to advance New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, building the infrastructure needed to support the growth of the electric vehicle market.

So, is the goal achievable? That remains to be seen, and much will depend on consumer sentiment. Currently, EV sales growth in the U.S. lags behind China and Europe. In a June 2021 Pew Research Center survey, just 7% of U.S. adults responded that they own an electric or hybrid vehicle and only 39% said that they were very or somewhat likely to seriously consider buying an electric vehicle the next time they are in the market for a vehicle. These numbers may represent an improvement from previous like surveys, but they also show there still are consumer headwinds to reach the President’s goal.

Timothy Lambrecht is a member of the Wladis Law Firm, P.C., located in Syracuse, New York, and can be contacted by calling 315-445-1700.

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