What’s been happening under Biden?
Since his initial presidential run, climate change has been among the top priorities of the Biden administration. From rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, to inspiring passage of an infrastructure bill with funding for renewable energy, Biden has tried to execute swiftly on a variety of climate change policies, with mixed reception from Congress and the public.
Infrastructure Improvements for Electric Vehicles
One of the first things that the Biden Administration did was to set a goal of building 500,000 EV charging stations across the country by 2030. This was in response to frequent criticism that the lack of public charging infrastructure is slowing the adoption of EVs. Developing standards is a first step to ensure access to charging for all.
Under the bipartisan infrastructure law passed in 2021 by Biden, the federal government will provide $7.5B to states to expand the network of EV charging stations (and those that accommodate more than just Tesla). These infrastructure goals also go towards decarbonizing transportation in the US, improving surface level air quality, and meeting fleet and local quotas for clean vehicle use.
President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that electric vehicle charging stations built with federal dollars should be positioned along Interstates every 50 miles, have capacity to recharge cars quickly, and be located within a mile from a major highway. The proposed regulations are part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) plan, and are designed to ensure that rural areas and underserved communities will have equitable access to electric charging stations as compared with more urbanized, wealthy areas with existing access. The NEVI also provides funds for training, job development, and safety for the current and future infrastructure workforce.
As of September 2022, all 50 states applied for and were granted NEVI funding to equip over 75,000 miles of American highway with chargers. The detailed plans can be found on the Federal Highway Administration page.
The infrastructure plan is designed to provide greater access to historically disadvantaged and marginalized communities, often in rural and underserved areas with nonexistent infrastructure to support electric vehicles to date. It earmarks $2.5B in grants for these communities, and establishes a newly formed Joint Office of Energy and Transportation. This office, along with the VP’s EV Charging Action Plan, will help target communities with high gas burdens, who can disproportionately benefit from policies that support EV adoption.
This investment in infrastructure will be critical for the adoption of used EVs
Almost all of the used EVs on the market today that are eligible for the $4,000 tax credit are older, range-limited vehicles. They are still perfectly safe and operational, but frequently have an expected range of under 100 miles. This means that reliable and accessible charging is a necessity if people are to move to EVs. Moreover, many of the shoppers who are targeted by the used EV credit live in multi-family housing or in rentals, and may not have access to home charging. Reliable, abundant, and affordable public charging options are an imperative prerequisite for adoption in this demographic.
Policy Changes in the Inflation Reduction Act
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will make a historic down payment on deficit reduction to fight inflation, invest in domestic energy production and manufacturing, and reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030. Listed below are some of the major policy changes President Biden has put forth to accelerate EV adoption, enhance infrastructure, and expand clean energy.
- $7,500 tax credit for new EVs and $4,000 for used EVs, plus tax credits for commercial EVs, EV charging, biodiesel and renewable diesel, and aviation fuel
- $20B to build new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities and $2B to retool existing auto plants to manufacture clean vehicles
- $3B for electrifying USPS delivery fleet
- $3B for zero-emission equipment and technology at ports
- $1B for zero-emission trucks and buses
Although EVs are emissions free in terms of their operation, they still need to get electricity from the local grid. If local electricity is generated by burning coal, or fossil fuels, EVs are merely a cleaner transportation option, rather than being as clean as possible.
- $30B in production tax credits for solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and critical minerals processing
- $10B investment tax credit to build clean technology manufacturing for electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels
- $27B greenhouse gas reduction fund to accelerate climate technologies
- $500M in the Defense Production Act for heat pumps and critical minerals processing
- $900/ton methane fees on oil and gas methane leaks ramping up to $1,500/ton by 2026 and $850M for funding methane monitoring and reduction
Home electrification and residential solar programs tie into transportation decarbonization, too. Homes with solar power have access to clean, free energy to power their electric cars. EVs today are being built with bidirectional charging capabilities, allowing for household electronics to be powered by the car’s battery in the event of a blackout, storm, or other grid disruption. And again, the relative efficiency of electricity over combustion power means that any changes to the built environment reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The Biden administration has initiated:
- $9B in consumer home energy rebate programs for home electrification and energy efficient retrofits
- 10 years of consumer residential energy tax credits for heat pumps, rooftop solar, HVAC, and water heaters
- $1B grant program to improve energy efficiency and climate resiliency in affordable housing
President Biden’s support of decarbonization aims to help EV owners to be more resourceful at home and rewarded financially for their efforts. For example, through 10 years of consumer residential tax credits for installing rooftop solar panels, you also can enjoy the benefit of charging your EV from your own rooftop! A win-win, in Biden’s eyes.
Other Initiatives in the IRA
- 🏭Carbon: Extension and modification of the Carbon Capture tax credit
- 🌐Industry: $5.8B for the Advanced Industrial Facilities Deployment Program to reduce emissions from chemical, steel and cement plants
- 🎍$5.7B of federal procurement for low-carbon material investments
- 🌽Ag & Land Use: $20B to support climate-smart agriculture practices and conservation
- 🌳$5B to support reforestation, conservation, and wildfire prevention
- 🏖️$2.6B in grants to conserve and restore coastal habitats
Increased R+D and Investment in Clean Technology
The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $45M in funding to support the domestic development of more efficient EV batteries. The DOE’s new program – the Electric Vehicles for American Low-Carbon Living (EVs4ALL) – is launching with the goal to develop more affordable, accessible, convenient, and efficient batteries to create widespread access to EVs.
The DOE announced another $3.1B to boost domestic production of advanced batteries, bolster American supply chains, and create fair-wage jobs. The infrastructure investments will support the creation of new, retrofitted, and expanded commercial facilities, as well as enhanced battery recycling programs. The DOE is allocating a separate $60M to support second-life applications for former EV batteries and recycling.
The Biden administration has also launched a $675M bipartisan program to expand domestic critical supply changes, such as rare-earth elements, lithium, nickel, and cobalt, which are required for manufacturing many clean energy technologies including batteries, electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels. President Biden is attempting to incentivize companies to shift their raw material production and supply chain away from overseas and towards American soil. The program will address vulnerabilities in America’s critical materials supply chain, which are both an economic disadvantage and an impediment to the clean energy transition Biden is pursuing.
Although overshadowed by the headlines about the Inflation Reduction Act, another mid-summer piece of legislation will also be critical to EV adoption in the US. The CHIPS and Science Act directs federal resources and funds to onshore US semiconductor production to avoid supply chain disruptions, reduce reliance on foreign nations, and to regain supremacy in the development of technology critical to clean tech.
The funding in the CHIPS Act includes $52.7 billion for research, development, manufacturing, and workforce development related to semiconductors. Of this, $39 billion is for manufacturing incentives. It also creates “a 25 percent investment tax credit for capital expenses for manufacturing of semiconductors and related equipment.”
EVs require up to 10 times more semiconductors per vehicle than a gas car, so having an adequate supply is necessary to increase production. Semiconductors are also critical in solar cells, distributed energy systems, and more mundane objects like computers and phones.
The “Science” part of the bill’s name refers to at least $11 billion in funding to support research, development, training, and education. The money is directed to create regional innovation hubs and reinvigorate economically distressed regions through STEM investment.