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Biden's EV goal shoots for half of new car sales to be electric by 2030

The president will sign an executive order to put the goal in motion, but it comes with backing from GM, Ford, Stellantis and the UAW.

2022 Chevy Bolt EV production
The auto industry and federal government seem to be in lockstep now.
General Motors

The US auto industry on Thursday primed itself for transformation. The Biden administration, a number of major automakers and the United Auto Workers union announced each party has agreed to a goal of 40-50% of their vehicles sold being electric by 2030. With the announcement, President Joe Biden will sign an executive order solidifying the action to "strengthen American leadership on clean cars and trucks," according to the White House.

In a tweet, Biden said the administration will also reveal "steps to reverse the previous administration's short-sighted rollback of vehicle standards" later today.

General Motors, Ford and Stellantis said in a joint statement that today's announcement will "move the nation closer to a zero-emissions future consistent with Paris climate goals." Each US automaker added the "dramatic shift" wouldn't be possible without portions of Biden's proposed Build Back Better agenda. These include "purchase incentives, a comprehensive charging network of sufficient density to support the millions of vehicles these targets represent, investments in R&D, and incentives to expand the electric vehicle manufacturing and supply chains in the US," the automakers said.

It's difficult to underscore how dramatic this aspirational pact is for US auto manufacturing, but for context, currently about 2% of vehicles sold in the US are electric, and less than 5% worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency. Nevertheless, the movement is in train: Earlier this year, GM announced a target of 100% of its light-duty vehicles being zero-emissions by 2035.

BMW, Honda, Volvo and Volkswagen -- the automakers that previously stood with Ford and sided with California during a regulatory standoff with the Trump administration -- also commented on today's announcement. "We were proud to stand with California to establish progressive new greenhouse gas regulations, and we remain committed to leading the industry in fighting against climate change. That's why we support the Administration's goal of reaching an electric vehicle future and applaud President Biden's leadership on reducing emissions and investing in critical infrastructure to achieve these reductions."

Hyundai, which originally challenged California's regulations, said in its own statement it supports the Biden administration's efforts. "Meeting this goal will be challenging and underscores the need for robust incentives for consumers to drive demand for zero emission vehicles and rapid development of hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicle infrastructure. Both battery and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are critical technologies to combat climate change."

The United Auto Workers union was likely crucial to getting the green light in these discussions. The union, which opposes EV mandates, said investments in this sector are vital to compete with other countries' manufacturing bases. It added the union's ultimate focus is not on deadlines or percentages, but "preserving the wages and benefits that have been the heart and soul of the American middle class."

It remains unclear what else the Biden administration has planned to support EV adoption in the US. Biden's original infrastructure plan first called for generous EV subsidies to help provide direct funds when car buyers purchase an EV. The measure is not included in the bipartisan bill moving through congress. However, the bill does provide billions of dollars for a nationwide charging network, which is a key pillar automakers cite for increased EV sales.

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