Group unveils path to 100% EV sales by 2030

Source: By Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2021

A clean transportation lobbying group yesterday rolled out an action plan that it says would help the United States reach 100% electric vehicle sales by 2030.

The policy platform from the Zero Emission Transportation Association outlines the most significant steps that President-elect Joe Biden and the 117th Congress can take to phase out sales of fossil fuel-powered vehicles within the next decade.

Chief among those steps are expanding the federal EV tax credit, investing $30 billion in EV charging infrastructure and setting aggressive new clean car standards.

“This is a really unique time for us — certainly at the time of a new Congress coming in, a new presidential transition — to be putting forward a plan like this that is actionable and that we can really leverage to see a big difference,” ZETA Executive Director Joseph Britton said on a Zoom call with reporters yesterday.

“The next 100 days are really important to the next decade, and the next decade is really important to the next several decades. So we believe that the stakes are high,” said Britton, the former chief of staff to Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

The policy platform is divided into six pillars with 34 total recommendations. The first pillar is “Light-Duty EV Consumer Adoption,” and its main recommendation is reforming the federal EV tax credit, which allows EV buyers to receive up to $7,500 after filing their tax returns.

The credit expires after an automaker has sold 200,000 eligible vehicles. Both Tesla Inc. and General Motors Co. have reached this threshold. ZETA is pushing for Congress to lift the 200,000-vehicle cap and make the credit available at the point of sale.

The cap “creates a perverse incentive because it obviously harms the consumer, it punishes early leaders in the space, but it also incentivizes imports,” Britton said. “We’re telling an American consumer that they can’t buy one of these American-manufactured products, but instead they do get a federal tax credit if they buy an import.”

The second pillar is “Medium- and Heavy-Duty Electrification.” Its recommendations include establishing a 30% investment tax credit for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles and passing the “Clean School Bus Act,” S. 1750, which Vice President-elect Kamala Harris introduced in the Senate in 2019.

“The ‘Clean School Bus Act’ was actually VP-elect Harris’ bill, and I’m sure that they’ll be willing to support that as part of an incoming administration,” Britton said.

The third pillar is a “National Charging Initiative,” which would entail investing $30 billion over the next 10 years in public EV charging infrastructure. Biden campaigned on a climate plan that called for installing 500,000 new EV charging outlets nationwide by 2030.

The final three pillars are centered on boosting domestic manufacturing of EVs and batteries, demonstrating federal leadership on electrification, and setting stringent greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for light-duty vehicles.

The Trump administration rolled back the clean car standards established by President Obama with its Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule. Soon after taking office, Biden is expected to direct EPA and the Department of Transportation to scrap Trump’s rollback and begin crafting tougher replacement rules.

“The Trump rollback of the [corporate average fuel economy] standards is not going to be the last word when it comes to performance and emissions,” Britton said.

ZETA launched in November with the backing of several key players in the clean transportation space (Greenwire, Nov. 17, 2020). Its members include Tesla, which has dominated the domestic EV market in recent years, and Lordstown Motors Corp., an Ohio-based startup that plans to deliver an all-electric pickup truck this fall.

The utilities that have joined include Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Duke Energy Corp., Vistra Corp., Southern Co. and Consolidated Edison Inc., while the EV-charging infrastructure providers include ChargePoint Inc., EVgo Services and Volta Charging.

Also involved are Albemarle Corp. and Piedmont Lithium Ltd., two companies that produce lithium, a critical mineral used in EV batteries. Major automakers that have announced big investments in EVs, such as General Motors and Ford Motor Co., have not come on board.

At the end of yesterday’s call, Britton took several questions from reporters. Asked whether the incoming Biden administration would mark a sea change from the Trump administration, he rejected the notion that EV policies fell along partisan lines.

While Trump weakened the clean car standards and proposed eliminating the federal EV tax credit, Britton noted that the outgoing president touted a Lordstown Motors electric truck outside the White House last year as part of an election-year pitch on bringing jobs back to the Midwest (Greenwire, Sept. 28, 2020).

“I don’t think it is right to cast the EV space in any sort of partisan terms, because this is about domestic manufacturing and our ability to ensure American competitiveness,” Britton said.

“And so while the Biden administration is eager to provide leadership here, this is by no means a partisan exercise,” he added.