At 12:00 p.m. ET on Jan. 20, Joe Biden was officially sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. With the newly minted administration, Biden now has the power to iron out and execute big changes for the automotive industry, transportation ecosystems and the overall US infrastructure. Here’s what we can expect from President Biden as he enters office.
Electric vehicles for the masses
During his campaign, Biden called for policy and investment changes to usher in a new era for American automakers — one they’re already starting to embrace. It starts with shifting personal transportation from cars powered solely by gas engines to a future where batteries and electric motors do the heavy lifting.
According to the policy Biden laid out during his campaign, his administration aims to restore the full federal tax credit for electric vehicle purchases, though we’ll likely see other changes to the program along the way. In addition to giving automakers like General Motors and Tesla tax credits once again — the two exhausted theirs at the start of 2020 — the Biden administration will also pursue direct-consumer rebates to encourage American car buyers to swap out fossil-fuel-powered cars for zero-emission vehicles.
However, Biden wants the federal government to set an example. As part of the administration’s Buy American campaign, Biden plans to include new government fleet vehicle purchases in a $400 billion procurement investment for American-made goods. This should encourage US businesses to adopt electric fleet vehicles, as well, and will include a proposal to convert all 500,000 US school buses to battery power by the end of this decade.
EV charging infrastructure
To complement a policy that champions EVs, Biden in the past called for a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers. According to the Biden campaign’s estimates last year, this EV charging infrastructure would span the nation and allow any American to travel coast-to-coast in an EV by 2030.
Thus far, charging infrastructure funds came in the form of investments from businesses, occasionally supported by automakers themselves. With federal backing, electric vehicles will have a friend in the Biden administration. Perhaps most crucially, it’s just as automakers begin to seriously give their vehicle portfolios electrified makeovers.
R&D investments into batteries and other technologies
Biden’s Build Back Better plan targets aggressive federal research and development investments, and the automotive sector won’t be left out. On his website, the president calls for a $300 billion investment into R&D spanning “electric vehicle technology to lightweight materials, to 5G and artificial intelligence — to unleash high-quality job creation in high-value manufacturing and technology.”
Specifically, $5 billion over five years in this proposed investment is meant for battery and energy storage “that can boost the range and slash the price of electric cars ,” according to Biden’s website.
The president spoke at length last year about ensuring the US auto industry thrives under his watch, and specific parts of a proposed, revamped tax code will reward automakers for making cars in America. A 10% advanceable tax credit is proposed for companies making investments that will create jobs for US workers — for example, “An auto company that retools an existing factory to produce next-generation electric vehicles,” the Biden campaign website says. Additional grants and funding for carmakers looking to retool factories and invest in US manufacturing are also possible as Biden aims to create one million new jobs across the auto industry, including manufacturing, supply chain and infrastructure.
An overhaul to emissions and fuel economy standards
The Trump administration finalized new federal emissions and fuel economy regulations in 2020, but the Biden administration will more than likely seek to beef them up once again. Automakers have already started calling on the new administration to use a voluntary California agreement as a framework for a national standard. The voluntary California agreement worked out to fuel efficiency increases of 3.7% each year starting in 2022 — lower than the Obama administration’s goal, but far more aggressive than the Trump administration’s.
On his campaign website, Biden called for an overhaul to the Clean Air Act signed into law decades ago and even included mention of all vehicles sold in the US to feature some form of electrification. A reminder that “electrification” does not boil down to only battery-electric vehicles — instead, it includes everything from a mild-hybrid with a 48-volt motor-generator all the way to a full-blown EV. Each piece also intertwines the new administration’s goal to aggressively tackle the ongoing climate change crisis.
Futuristic infrastructure and expanded transportation
In the here-and-now, President Biden aims to make major investments in the US infrastructure, which may amount to a proposed $2 trillion investment in his first term. Specifically, $50 billion will be earmarked in the Biden administration’s first year to directly support road and highway repairs in all 50 states.
However, the president also said he will instruct the Department of Transportation and Department of Energy to work together to investigate and move forward the idea of “complete streets.” The campaign defined these streets as “designed to help drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and others safely share the road.” They may also prepare the US for the future of self-driving cars . In addition to “complete streets,” infrastructure investments may also move to include testing for new types of EV charging technologies, such as roads that charge EVs while they move. It’s a far-out technology, for sure, but expanded federal investment to spur innovation was a hallmark to Biden’s campaign. To further provide a boost to smart infrastructure and planning, Biden previously called for a $1 billion competitive grant program for the ongoing Smart Cities Challenge.
Perhaps the largest takeaway from Biden’s words on transportation at-large is a push to finally provide high-speed rail to US citizens. The 46th president’s relationship with Amtrak is well known, after all. Outside of rail, there will be a general push for different modes of transportation as the administration realizes there are other more efficient ways for people to move within an area. One concrete goal calls for Americans in municipalities of more than 100,000 people to have access to “quality public transportation” by 2030.