President Joe Biden has directed the federal government, through union labour, to purchase electric vehicles made in America. There is only one problem: there are no vehicles of this kind.
The leading US maker of electric vehicles, Tesla Inc., has many American-made models, but is not unionised. And although General Motors Co. hires union labour to produce the electric Chevrolet Bolt, nearly three-quarters of its components come from outside the United States—lacking the 50 percent requirement under federal procurement law to be considered American-made.
To be sure, the executive order issued by Biden on Wednesday is intended to encourage investment in the emerging market for plug-in cars and has not come with a deadline. So there’s time to make changes for automakers. Two of them, General Motors and Nissan Motor Co., declared commitments in the coming decades this week to produce carbon-neutral fleets. Earlier, Ford Motor Co. vowed to become carbon neutral by 2050.
And with a fleet of 645,000 vehicles from the US government—only 3,200 of which are electric—there is plenty of opportunity.
Do I believe that GM and Tesla are contorting access to a wide US government market? Yeah, I do,” said Scott Sklar, director of sustainable energy at the George Washington University’s Environment & Energy Management Institute. “They follow the money.”They follow the money.
Given the size of the government’s annual vehicle purchases, Biden’s campaign could also help drive more domestic electric vehicles — or EV — production overall, said Sam Ori, executive director of the University of Chicago Energy Policy Institute.
The Chevrolet Bolt is currently the only electric car on the 2021 Union-Built Vehicle Guide of the United Auto Workers, which recognises vehicles produced by members of the UAW or Canada’s Unifor Union in the US or Canada.
UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg expressed trust that unionised auto workers would be able to scale up production to fulfil the degree of demand for electric cars from the federal government.
Rothenberg said it will be some time before the transition takes place, but it is important that Biden “agrees with our position that these new fuel engine replacement jobs are union salaries and benefits jobs created right here in the US”
According to 2020 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, only 24 percent of the parts used in the Bolt, GM’s primary electric car offering, came from the US and Canada, which is defined as domestic under the American Automobile Labeling Act. Most of the parts are from South Korea.