Biden is not the first president to make wide-ranging promises related to electric vehicles; former President Barack Obama vowed in 2008 that there would be 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on the roads by 2015 — a promise that went unfulfilled.
Biden's promise, though, capitalizes on changes since then and forces other pieces of the electrification puzzle to come together, French said.
"You've got to do something upfront that starts the ball rolling," he said. The Biden administration has "a great chance now to say we've got this mission statement. How does it now really trickle down from a federal level to a state level and really start shaping up for infrastructure, utility companies?
"I believe there will be some massive momentum to come out of this."
Also, "because there's commercial vehicles, there's military vehicles, postal service vehicles, delivery vehicles as well as fleet, there's room for everybody to have a slice of the pie," French said.
After all, automakers and suppliers are pumping millions of dollars into manufacturing electric vehicles domestically — Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Tesla in particular — as are EV startups such as Rivian.
Suppliers also are ramping up: One example is BorgWarner, which acquired Delphi last year in a move to position the two companies for the shift toward electrification.
Perhaps most vocal has been GM, which has set a goal to sell only EVs by 2035. GM pointed to recent plant investments — including $2.2 billion in Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, $2 billion in Spring Hill, Tenn., and $300 million in Orion, Mich.
We "think that adding EVs to government fleets and the needed infrastructure to support them is a great way to get more EVs on the road as we work towards a zero-emission, all-electric future," a GM spokeswoman said of Biden's announcement.
It's important to note the changeover won't happen overnight.
"Automakers generally have been announcing and acting on hundreds of billions of dollars of commitments to retool, but it does take time. There have been announcements for new manufacturing that is still coming, and that's the case in the charging equipment sector as well as it is the vehicle," said Jonathan Levy, chief commercial officer at charging network provider EVgo. "The capacity is coming. It comes to a question of how quickly and how flexible."
"As we think about the manufacturing capacity, it's going to continue to grow, but there's enough out there today to at least get started," Levy added. "How do we make sure that we're keeping that supply chain robust and also not limiting it with too many restrictions, and making sure that we can build out at the scale that's needed?
"Your plan needs to be aggressive and you need to start now. That's going to be a big challenge for the Biden administration."
As the government approaches this directive, it should accept a slightly higher total cost of ownership for the electric vehicle than its gasoline-powered alternative and take a holistic approach to procurement, said Nick Nigro, founder of EV research group Atlas Public Policy, which has studied the electrification potential for publicly owned vehicles.
One benefit of Biden's order is the electrification of U.S. Postal Service vehicles. Given how consumer-facing these vehicles are, this has potential to raise consumer awareness.
Still, "Going to electric is a huge transition, and there's a lot that needs to happen within a fleet to be able to accommodate that, particularly around the infrastructure side of things," Nigro said.
"We're not ready to ship 200,000 electric trucks today, but within the time frame of actually doing the purchase and acquisition, sending that signal to the market to get ready for it because the demand is going to be there, that's critically important," Nigro added.