During the 2020 presidential debate Tuesday, moderator Chris Wallace asked candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden about their views on climate change and their plans to protect the environment.
While they clashed on most points, both candidates said they supported electric vehicles. That’s potentially good news for battery makers, automakers and charging infrastructure companies with a stake in the U.S. market, including Tesla, Ford, General Motors, Panasonic and QuantumScape, which recently went public via SPAC.
According to research by the International Energy Agency, sales of electric cars hit 2.1 million globally in 2019, accounting for just 2.6% of global car sales, with 880,000 of those battery-powered vehicles sold in the U.S. Even with new EV offerings on the rise here, sales of vehicles with an electric powertrain are likely to account for only 9.1% of total U.S. vehicle sales in 2025, according to forecasts by IHS Markit.
Part of Biden’s climate plan includes dedicating government spending to support electric vehicles.
“We’re going to make sure that we are able to take the federal fleet and turn it into a fleet that’s run on — they’re electric vehicles,” Biden said. “Making sure that we can do that, we’re gonna put 500,000 charging stations on all of the highways that we’re going to be building in the future.”
As of May 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, or EERE, reported that there were 68,000 electric vehicle charging stations in the U.S., with 22,620 of them in California.
While most electric vehicle owners can charge overnight at home, it’s not always practical for urban apartment dwellers or drivers taking electric vehicles on longer trips. Adding charging infrastructure could speed up adoption of electric vehicles for commercial and consumer use by alleviating so-called “range anxiety.”
In an exchange with Wallace about Trump’s relaxation of fuel economy standards, the president said that he also supports electric cars.
“I’m OK with electric cars, too. I’m all for electric cars. I’ve given big incentives for electric cars. What they’ve done in California is just crazy.”
Trump continues to take umbrage with California’s auto emissions standards, which are stricter than federal rules, as well as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to ban sales of new, gas-powered passenger cars and trucks in California by 2035.
Tuesday’s comments contrast with Trump’s prior actions on electric vehicles. In March 2019, the White House proposed ending the $7,500 federal tax credit for people who purchase a battery-powered electric vehicle rather than a gas-powered car.
However, in a January 2020 interview with CNBC’s Joe Kernen, Trump said of Tesla CEO Elon Musk: “He’s one of our great geniuses; we have to protect our genius!” He also said, “He’s going to be building a very big plant in the United States. He has to! Because we help him so he has to help us.” Tesla is now embarking on design and construction of a new plant in Texas.