Electric Cars Charging Station Closeup Photo. Vehicle Rechargeable Batteries Charing. Future of Transportation.
The US government is ramping up to replace its entire fleet of 645,000 cars and trucks with US-made electric vehicles (EVs), President Joe Biden said on Jan. 25, while signing a “Buy America” executive order that creates new guidelines for the government’s $600 billion in annual spending on goods and services.
The timeline is still unclear, and it has yet to be determined whether the purchases would include plug-in hybrids that still use some gasoline. If the plan comes to fruition, it would boost the total number of EVs by at least 40% above the 1.6 million (including government- and privately-owned) that are currently on US streets. The US government currently owns just 4,500 hybrids and EVs, according to the General Services Administration, accounting for less than 1% of the fleet.
Replacing the remaining vehicles with EVs could cost up to $20 billion, according to a Reuters estimate. But a switch to EVs would dramatically cut emissions and slash fuel costs (the government spent $795 million on fuel for its vehicles in 2019). On average, fully electric vehicles have about one-third the emissions per mile as a standard gas-driven passenger vehicle. EVs still have to draw electricity from a largely fossil-powered grid.
Biden’s promise serves another purpose besides just cutting emissions: It’s meant to prop up the US EV manufacturing sector. Just 20% of global EV production happens in the US, compared to 40% in China. Tesla, General Motors, and Nissan are the only major US automakers that produce EVs domestically; Ford has said it will join their ranks. Bloomberg projects EVs will account for 28% of total car sales in 2030, compared with 2.7% today. To get a bigger slice of that pie – while contributing to the country’s long-term decarbonization goals and bringing down EV costs for everyone – US automakers need to accelerate their investment in EV assembly lines and battery production. Hundreds of thousands of government purchase orders would be a big incentive.