Electric 'Cash for Clunkers' plan revs up following remarks from Chuck Schumer

The Senate Majority Leader called for such a plan in 2019, and now-President Biden also said he'd like to see something similar last year.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
3 min read
Chevrolet Bolt EV charging port
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Chevrolet Bolt EV charging port

Democrats want to usher in an EV era, and do it in big ways.

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When the Biden administration eventually reveals what's expected to be an enormous infrastructure plan for the US, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer thinks it very well may include hundreds of billions of dollars to swap Americans out of gasoline-powered cars and into electric vehicles. Essentially, we may witness Cash for Clunkers 2.0, this time focused exclusively on swapping engines for batteries.

Schumer told The Verge in an interview published Wednesday he plans to include this Cash-for-Clunkers-style plan he called for in 2019 in President Joe Biden's forthcoming infrastructure bill, which will likely become the administration's next priority following the passage of COVID-19 relief and economic stimulus in the American Rescue Plan. Biden also expressed support for a Schumer-style plan last year. As part of the plan, Schumer said Americans would receive a "substantial" and "deep" point-of-sale discount when trading in a gasoline- or diesel-powered car for a new EV. It's not clear how much of the price the federal government would cover, but according to The Verge, it would be more than the $7,500 federal tax credit currently available to EV buyers for qualifying EVs. Schumer's office did not immediately return Roadshow's request for comment on the proposal.

But, this electric Cash for Clunkers plan reaches further than simply putting Americans in EVs. The senator also wants to incentivize automakers to build zero-emissions vehicles in the US. In fact, he told the publication, "the ultimate goal is to have every car manufactured in America be electric by 2030, and every car on the road be clean by 2040." Part of the plan would include $17 billion for companies to retrofit factories and facilities for EV production as they phase out the internal-combustion engine -- a very tall order.

While it remains to be seen what the Biden administration specifically wants from sweeping infrastructure investments, it will no doubt include investments for EV charging stations -- something the president spoke of often during the 2020 campaign. Schumer's plan calls for a $45 billion investment into charging stations, and he told the Verge this plan pairs best with the THRIVE Act, a bill he called a "practicalization of the Green New Deal." The bill specifically aims to boost the US' production of renewable energy, which would complement EV chargers to ensure drivers don't rely on fossil fuels to charge a zero-emissions vehicle.

The senator's plan faced a near-impossible climb in Congress during the Trump administration, but with Democrats in control of each branch of government, an electric Cash for Clunkers is far closer to reality than it was just two years ago. Even if plans fail to materialize in a final infrastructure bill, the Biden administration has its eye on expanding EV adoption -- as do other Democratic lawmakers. In February, the House of Representatives reintroduced the GREEN Act, which would reinstate and expand the federal tax credits available for EVs. The Biden administration also plans to convert the entire federal fleet to EVs, though a new USPS mail truck contract is quickly putting that promise to the test.

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