Biden Wants American-Built, All-EV Federal Fleet

Joe Biden. Shutterstock.com/lev radin

We asked you a bit ago what the Biden administration might mean for the automotive industry.

We now have a partial answer.

President Biden plans to use an executive order to replace the federal fleet of about 645,000 vehicles with fully electric vehicles. This will be done over time.

Oh, and he wants them to be built in America.

“The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles which we are going to replace with clean electric vehicles, made right here in America by American workers, creating a million auto-worker jobs, and clean energy, and vehicles that are net-zero emissions,” Biden said Monday. “Together this will be the largest mobilization of public investment in procurement, infrastructure, and R&D since World War II.”

There’s more. Biden wants to raise the content threshold needed to make a vehicle for the feds to 50 percent. And there will be a cross-agency review of domestic preferences when it comes to federal purchasing, according to Green Car Reports.

“This order is deeply intertwined with the President’s commitment to invest in American manufacturing, including clean energy and critical supply chains, grow good-paying, union jobs, and advance racial equity,” a White House press release said.

Biden’s team pointed out that the regulations that help define “domestic” have not changed since the 1950s, which has led to “loopholes” allowing manufacturers to claim less-valuable parts as “domestic” while more valuable parts – think engines – are made in other countries.

Federal purchasing rules already put more weight on domestic content, at least on the more expensive components.

The White House didn’t clarify whether Canada counts as “domestic”, as it does now.

That matters, since one potential EV the government could purchase, the GM EV600 delivery van, is slated to be built in Oshawa, Ontario.

We don’t know how much this will really change the overall industry. Surely it will incentivize some EV action among makes, although most OEMs have already been working feverishly on EV development.

I also struggle to picture fully electric armored SUVs for the Secret Service, or the president’s limo – aka The Beast – going full-on EV. But it could happen. Not to mention the phrase “over time” means that the feds have plenty of time to turn the fleet over.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see the low-hanging fruit handled early – think Ford and Chevy sedans being replaced by Teslas and Chevy Bolts, say – while the more difficult to replace vehicles hang around longer.

Then again, there is a slew of electric pickups, including the F-150, slated for launch in the near future.

This could be simply a “lead by example” move. Certainly, it will help get more EVs on the road, and that’s probably a good thing for the environment. Certain automakers will benefit from some fleet sales, and maybe EV adoption will be sped up, especially if federal workers like their company cars so much they start buying more EVs for the rest of the family.

On the other hand, this feels like a relatively small step towards further EV adoption. The retail market is just different from the fleet side, after all.

It will be interesting to revisit this in a few years. For now, Biden’s taking action – but the result isn’t yet clear.

[Image: lev radin/Shutterstock.com]

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