President Joe Biden is looking to make all U.S. government vehicles electric — an ambitious plan that underscores his administration's interest in mitigating climate change and bolstering U.S. manufacturing through electrification.
So far, there has been resounding support for Biden's order from industry leaders, policymakers and lobbyists. But there are some questions as to how realistic it is to manufacture these EVs in the U.S., and what the implications are for the industry.
In last month's executive order, one in a flurry of orders signed during his first days in office, Biden calls for electrifying the entire federal fleet — more than 645,000 cars and trucks in 2019, according to the U.S. General Services Administration.
The order did not specify a timeline or logistics for executing the rollout. The GSA reports that just more than 3,200 federal vehicles now are electric.
The order vaguely pointed to spurring the creation of well-paying union jobs but was not a mandate that all federal electric vehicles be union-made. Biden's order did, however, stress the importance of buying American-made vehicles, following a separate executive order supporting U.S. manufacturing issued days earlier.
The industry has long been preparing for something of this scale, said Martin French, a longtime supplier executive who is now a consultant with Berylls Strategy Advisors.
"What should be celebrated is the vindication of a lot of the investment that the OEMs have been making in the last few years," French told Automotive News. "You've only got to Google 'GM' or 'Ford' or some of the startups to have a look at the investment that's going into the repurposing of old powertrain plants."
But, "having from a federal level this push to say, we need to renew our fleet of 650,000 cars, it's exactly what is needed to gently push things along."