EV manufacturers, regulators debate US ability to hit 50% sales goal by 2030

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Dive Brief:

  • Panelists from the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors, Panasonic and the International Council on Clean Transportation debated the United States' ability to reach the Biden administration's goal that half of all new vehicle sales in the U.S. be zero-emission vehicles by 2030, at an annual seminar in Michigan held by the Center for Automotive Research.
  • Panel moderator John Bozzella, CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, said manufacturers are in the process of increasing battery plant capacity in the U.S. by more than 400% from 2020 to 2025.
  • Still, supply chain issues, federal and state policies, and EV charging infrastructure will determine whether the U.S. can meet the stated goal, the panelists said.

Dive Insight:

"There's a long way to go" for the U.S. to catch up with China and Europe in terms of electric vehicle sales in proportion to gas-powered vehicles, said Stephanie Searle, director for the fuels program and the United States region at the International Council on Clean Transportation. "We really need to catch up, and that means a lot more investment by the industry for both vehicle production and charging infrastructure, and we also need stronger policies to support both of those sides."

Federal policy

"We need smart policies by the government," said Jonathan Weinberger, chief advocate for global transportation technology policy at General Motors. "We need to see, at the federal and state level, policies that enable us to be competitive, but they can't be overburdensome." 

Searle said she wants to see "stronger policies than we have right now," including disincentives to internal combustion engine vehicles.  

Charging infrastructure

Michael Berube, deputy assistant secretary for sustainable transportation at DOE, said that all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, have submitted five-year plans for implementing charging stations under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure formula program that was created by the bipartisan infrastructure law.  "Now there are 52 plans under the guidance of one national program," he said. "That includes small communities across the country... This is not just in urban city centers.

If you live in suburbs, if you live in rural areas, you also got to be confident there's going to be EV charging."

Supply chain issues

Berube said he does not believe the current supply chain can support the 50% EV target for 2030, adding that it will be tight for at least the next two or three years. However, he pointed out provisions included in the Inflation Reduction Act that would provide manufacturing tax credits for critical minerals produced in the U.S. The bill was developed with Sen.

Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., but Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., has yet to signal her support, which will be needed for the legislation to pass via a budget reconciliation process. "The goal is to develop the ability to process the raw materials here in the U.S.," Berube said. Janet Lin, vice president for strategy and business development at Panasonic USA, encouraged the development of new sources of raw materials as well as more domestic recycling operations.

Can the U.S. meet its 2030 EV sales goal?

The level of optimism among panelists about whether the U.S. can achieve the Biden administration's lofty EV sales goal was mixed.

"It's not a foregone conclusion," said Searle.  Lin said, "This is a massive industrialization effort and we need to be standing up a significant amount of industry to prepare for this. So if that happens, it will happen."

And Berube concluded, "We can get to 50% if we do this together."