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EV Industry, Lawmakers Argue Case for Biden’s Build Back Better Plan

With President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better legislation struggling to gain traction in Congress, supporters are touting the benefits of driving electric, a transition boosted by the large climate change-focused package.

electric vehicles charging
Electric vehicle advocates and elected officials are touting the benefits of driving electric in a push to support the Biden administration’s landmark domestic policy agenda to both widen the social safety net and make meaningful efforts at reducing climate-warming greenhouse gases.

The Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA) recently teamed up with U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., to promote the operational savings and other benefits offered by electric vehicles, which are a central feature of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better legislation.

“Right now there’s never been a more important time to invest in the auto industry, to talk about these issues, and to transition to electric vehicles,” said Dingell during a virtual press briefing Jan. 14.

“Quite frankly, I think it’s one of the most significant moments we’ve seen inside the auto industry,” added Dingell.

Biden has a goal of half of the new cars sold in the United States being zero emission by 2030. To help get there, a number of incentives and other funding programs are central ingredients within the Build Back Better act, a $2.2 trillion package, which has been passed by U.S. House of Representatives but appears stalled in the Senate.

The bill, which includes an expansion of the social safety net — on a level not seen since the 1960s — also includes some of the strongest steps yet by the federal government to address climate change. Complicating the bill’s passage is opposition by all 50 Senate Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin III, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, a major coal producing state.

In a development Monday, reported by The New York Times, Democrats seem to be strategizing how to move forward with the climate change portion of the bill, leaving the rest for later. Manchin appears to be willing to consider some parts of the climate provisions.

This development hones closely to the line of questioning presented to Dingell by Government Technology, which centered on how EV incentives and other climate change steps could move forward in the event Build Back Better does not.

“What’s inside Build Back is so critical,” she said. “And there are things that we have to get done.”

“We are at a crossroads. We want this country to stay competitive. We want to keep jobs here in this country,” Dingell added, pivoting the conversation toward the issue of jobs expansion, which new technologies in alternative energy, autos and more would bring about with an economy focused on reducing greenhouse gases.

EVs alone stand to save Americans money, ZETA stressed, pointing to its own study showing the cost of charging a car is less than the cost of fueling it in every state. As an example, the total cost of charging a new Ford F-150 Lightning is $10.08, assuming 14 cents per kilowatt hour, a typical residential electric rate. The cost of fueling an F-150 gas-powered pickup is $75.92, based on the average price of gas at $3.34 a gallon, according the ZETA research.

When considering the cost of fueling a gas-powered car, as well as maintenance costs, drivers can save up to $10,000 over the life of a car by driving an EV, said Joe Britton, executive director of ZETA.

“Those are all real dollars. Those are real figures. And they mean a lot to families,” Britton told reporters on Friday.

The Build Back Better package would provide more incentives for consumers to help pay for EVs, as well as the at-home charging infrastructure. It would also help to expand public charging, easing the minds of not only typical drivers, but businesses providing delivery and other services, say officials.

The bill also has incentives for medium and heavy-duty vehicles, allowing businesses which use these vehicles to afford to purchase them, both growing the market and realizing the savings that come as a result of using these types of EVs.

It’s not just Build Back Better promoting the expansion of EVs. The already passed infrastructure law includes funding to help pay for a national EV charging network, as well as money for public transit and other public fleets as they transition to electrification.

However, the move to effectively wean the American transportation sector — the single largest contributor to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions — off of fossil fuels will take more than the infrastructure package alone, say lawmakers.

“We’re going to keep talking. And we’re going to get the job done,” said Dingell. “Because we have no other choice but to get the job done.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.