WASHINGTON President Joe Biden stated that "there is no turning back" in his vision for the future of the electric car industry as he signed an executive directive setting a goal for zero-emission vehicles to account for half the automobile sales in the USA by 2030.
This non-binding goal is dependent on large investments by the federal government into charging stations and other infrastructure.
This is part of a series Biden announced to jump-start a dramatic shift towards electric vehicles as part the administration's larger agenda to combat climate change and compete against China, the leader in the market for electric cars.
President Obama was joined on the White House South Lawn by executives from Ford and GM, and leaders of the United Auto Workers union, and members and representatives of Congress.
Before signing the order, he stated that "the question is whether we lead or fall behind" in the race for future. China is currently leading the race to become the largest and fastest-growing market for electric vehicles in the world.
Biden stated that his administration would develop long-term fuel efficiency standards and emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles, as well as cars, SUVs, and pickups. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would reverse President Donald Trump's recent rollback of near term fuel efficiency and emissions standards.
Continue reading: Do you really need an electric car that can travel 500 miles? Maybe everyone, or even nobody.
During an event on clean trucks and cars, President Joe Biden gets out of his Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Rubicon 4xE at the White House South Lawn on Thursday, August 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) ORG XMIT: DCEV102
According to the White House, the new EPA rules will reduce gasoline consumption by 200 billion gallons and carbon pollution by 2 billion metric tonnes. This would result in $900 savings over a vehicle's lifetime. According to officials from the Administration, who spoke anonymously to discuss the measures, the net benefits of fuel efficiency and emission standards will amount approximately $140 billion over the course of the program's life.
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The executive order covers battery electric, plug in hybrid electric, and fuel-cell-electric vehicles. The Pew Research Center found that electric vehicles made up less than 2% in the U.S.'s automobile sales over the last three years. This puts the USA behind 19 countries and the global share. According to Pew, China has more electric vehicles than the USA and is increasing electric vehicle sales at a rate that is more than twice the USA's.
"The rest is moving forward. After his remarks, Biden drove an electric Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xE to the White House and then took a test drive in it.
More: Biden presses for the US electric vehicle revolution as a sticking point during GOP infrastructure talks
Biden made electric vehicles a top priority in his bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which the Senate will be considering this week. It includes $7.5 million in electric vehicle charging stations and $7.5 billion for electric busses. It would invest $6 billion in battery supply chain, battery-pack manufacturing, and helping factories increase their capacity to make electric vehicles.
Biden stated that his order was intended to "set in motion an all-out effort to shift to electric cars," adding that the federal government needs to help auto companies through his infrastructure proposals in order to achieve zero-emissions goals.
He said that although this is a huge deal, it's important to continue investing in our workers as well as our manufacturing capabilities to unlock our full potential.
Auto companies also announced their goals to reach sales of 40-50% of U.S. electric vehicle volumes by 2030, separate from the White House announcement. BMW, Honda, Volvo, and Volkswagen all supported the U.S. expansion of electric vehicle manufacturing.
Tesla, the U.S. company leader in electric car sales, was not represented at the White House. Musk tweeted that it was strange Tesla wasn't invited.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated that the invited companies are the three largest employers for Union Auto Workers members. Tesla workers are not members of any union.
Psaki stated, "I'll let you draw the conclusion that suits you best."
The United Auto Workers supported Biden's initiative, but stated that the focus of the organization isn't on percentages or hard deadlines. Instead, it is on maintaining the wages and benefits that have been at the heart and soul American middle class.
Before an array of electric cars, President Joe Biden discussed the steps his administration has taken to improve American leadership in clean cars and trucks.
The voluntary measures were not popular with all environmental groups. Dan Becker, director at the Center for Biological Diversity's Safe Climate Transport Campaign, stated that Biden's rules are not comparable to what President Barack Obama negotiated nine years ago with car companies.
Obama regulations required 5% increases in fuel economy and emission standards each year. Trump has lowered these targets to 1.5%.
Becker stated that Biden should reimpose Obama's original standard and use it for stronger long-term emissions regulations. We must reduce greenhouse gas pollution urgently to ensure a sustainable planet. Voluntary measures won't do the trick.
President Obama has established a goal to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by between 50% and 52% below 2005 levels by 2030. Officials believe that the USA is on track to reduce greenhouse gases emissions from passenger vehicle sales by over 60% in 2030, compared to vehicles sold last year.
Joey Garrison can be reached on Twitter @joeygarrison, Courtney Subramanian @cmsub
This article first appeared on USA TODAY. Biden targets zero emissions to account for half of US car sales by 2030