Biden Intends to Replace Federal Fleet with EVs

Graphic: Annabel Driussi for Our Daily Planet

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

President Biden’s climate executive order calls for the government to use its procurement power to require federal agencies to replace all 645,000 federal vehicles with electric-powered ones. Biden also pledged they would be made in America, “creating a million auto-worker jobs, and clean energy, and vehicles that are net-zero emissions.” Biden’s EV mandate could even lead to electric mail trucks and even electric tanks (paywall). The order directs the National Climate Task Force to develop, in 90 days, a “comprehensive plan to create good jobs and stimulate clean energy industries by revitalizing the Federal Government’s sustainability efforts.”  Two days later, GM pledged to sell only zero-emission cars and trucks by 2035.

Why This Matters: The 645,000 federal vehicles pale in comparison to the 276 million vehicles (paywall) on the road in the USA, but the signal the Biden climate EO sends is clear. Despite the favorable publicity and increasing affordability, EVs represent less than 2% of automobile sales in the U.S.  Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign at the Center for Biological Diversity, said (paywall) the directive is “a good first step that allows the federal government to show the way. But almost 300 million vehicles would need to follow.”  Given the quick about-face by GM, the trend toward EVs is clearly growing.

By The Numbers

  • The federal fleet includes 200,000 passenger vehicles, 78,517 heavy-duty trucks, 47,369 vans, 847 ambulances, and 3 limousines.
  • As of 2019, only 4,475 government-owned vehicles were electric.
  • Every year, federal vehicles drive 5 billion miles, expend 400 million gallons of gasoline, and release 7 billion pounds of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

Transforming this fleet into an electric powerhouse (pun intended) could reduce the government’s carbon footprint rather significantly, and increase the total number of EVs in the U.S. by 50%. But the question remains: will the public follow suit?

Potential Energy

Experts believe that the massive buying power of the U.S. government will help propel the EV market forward and into the public’s garages. “All the positive impacts will reverberate far beyond the federal fleet, because the public sector’s sharp increase in demand for EVs will prime the pump for private-sector fleets and the consumer market,” explained (paywall) Ben Prochazka, national director of the Electrification Coalition.

North American automakers are currently working on the production of 99 different electric vehicle models, and the EV market continued to grow even as Coronavirus ravaged other markets. The International Energy Administration predicts that by 2030, the global number of battery-powered and hybrid vehicles will increase by 2700%, from just 5 million to 140 million.

The decision, as expected, faces pushback from the fossil fuel industry, which has seen massive losses during the pandemic. David Kreutzer, a senior economist at the pro-fossil fuel Institute for Energy Research told Utility Dive, “President Biden misses two key points — electric vehicles are not all that clean and they are not all that American.” Others worry that Biden’s plan may not have staying power. “It is really important they structure this in such a way that it is an ongoing program that will survive the Biden administration,” said Chris Nelder, a manager with Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) mobility practice.

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