DETROIT (AP) — President Joe Bidena “car guy” with his own vintage Corvette, showcased his administration’s efforts to promote electric vehicles during a Wednesday visit to the Detroit auto show.
Biden traveled to the massive North American International Auto Show to plug in the huge new climate, tax and health care law which offers tax incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles. He toured a mix of hybrid, electric and combustion vehicles made in the United States by Chevrolet, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis at a closed convention center and hosted union workers, CEOs and local leaders.
“You all know I’m a car guy,” Biden told a roaring crowd of autoworkers, adding that cars “just give me a sense of optimism — even though I like speed too. “.
As Biden takes credit for the recent boom in electric vehicle battery announcements and assembly plantsmost were in the works long before the Inflation Reduction Act was enacted on August 16. Biden’s 2021 infrastructure legislation may have something to do with it – it provides $5 billion over five years to help states create a network of charging stations for electric vehicles.
In Detroit, Biden announced approval of the first $900 million in infrastructure funds to build 53,000-mile EV chargers of the national highway system in 34 states and Puerto Rico.
“The Great American Road Trip is going to be fully electrified,” Biden said.
He also pointed to the law’s funding supporting infrastructure projects in Detroit and throughout Michigan.
“When you see these big projects in your hometowns,” Biden said, “I want you to feel what I feel: pride. Proud of what we can do when we do it together.
The president credited the United Auto Workers and other unions with supporting him in his bid for the White House in 2020. He highlighted how his administration has worked to promote union contracts for major projects, calling the nation’s “most skilled” unionized workers.
“The middle class built America and unions built the middle class,” Biden said.
He also devoted time to party politics. He praised Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who is up for re-election in November, calling her a “great governor” who has used federal resources to the fullest for her state. Biden also participated in a Michigan Democratic Party fundraiser on behalf of his re-election campaign.
During a tour of the convention center, the Democratic president, who recently took a ride in his pine-green 1967 Stingray with Jay Leno for a segment on CNBC’s “Jay Leno’s Garage,” jumped into the driver’s seat of a Bright orange Chevrolet Corvette Z06 – which starts at $106,000 and is not an electric vehicle – fired up its engine, alongside GM CEO Mary Barra.
“He says he’s driving home,” she joked.
Biden then toured the new electric Ford Mustang Mach-E, marveling with Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford at the model’s performance. “It’s amazing the speed,” Biden said, adding, “Does it have a launch button?” He also explored less flashy vehicles, like the all-electric E-Transit minivan and Ford’s F-150 truck.
Biden eventually got behind the wheel of an all-electric Cadillac Lyriq SUV, which starts at $63,000, driving it briefly down a blue-carpeted lobby driveway. It was a rare driving opportunity – albeit just over a step away – for the president, who is usually transported in armored US Secret Service vehicles when out in public.
“Come in, I’ll drive you to Washington,” he joked to reporters. “It’s a nice car,” he said, “but I love the Corvette.”
Under new law, electric vehicles must be built in North America to qualify for federal tax credit of up to $7,500. Eligible vehicle batteries must also be manufactured in North America, and there are requirements for battery minerals to be produced or recycled in the continent. The credits are intended to create an electric vehicle supply chain in the United States and end dependence on other countries, primarily China.
The passage of the measure sparked a rush by automakers to accelerate efforts to find North American-made batteries and battery minerals in the United States, Canada or Mexico to ensure that vehicles electricity are eligible for credit.
In April, Ford began building electric pickup trucks at a new plant in Michigan. General Motors has revamped a former factory in Detroit to make Hummers and electric pickup trucks.
Long before lawmakers reached a compromise on the legislation, each company announced three electric vehicle battery factories, all joint ventures with battery makers. A GM battery plant in Warren, Ohio has already started manufacturing. A government loan announced in July will help GM build its battery factories.
Ford announced last September that it would build the next generation of electric pickup trucks at a plant in Tennessee, and GM announced electric vehicle assembly plants in Lansing, Michigan. Spring Hill, TN; and Orion Township, Michigan. In May, Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, announced it would build another joint venture battery plant in Indiana and announced a battery plant in Canada.
Hyundai announced in May the construction of battery and assembly plants in Georgia, and Vietnamese automaker VinFast announced plants in North Carolina in July. Both Honda and Toyota announced battery plants in the United States after the law was passed, but they had been planned for months.
Biden has long spoken about the importance of building a national EV supply chain, and that may have prompted some companies to locate factories in the United States. But it also pays to build batteries near where the EVs will be assembled because the batteries are heavy and expensive to ship from overseas.
And automakers are rolling out more affordable electric options despite the cost of the battery. The latest came last week from General Motors, a small Chevrolet Equinox SUV. It has a starting price of around $30,000 and a range per charge of 250 miles or 400 kilometers. Buyers can get a range of 300 miles or 500 kilometers if they pay more.
The Equinox checks the North American assembly box. It will be made in Mexico. The company won’t say where the battery will be made, but it’s working to meet the other criteria to qualify for the tax credit.
It will take more than government money to build enough charging stations to ease public anxiety about running out of juice with an electric vehicle, said Christian Meunier, CEO of Stellantis’ Jeep brand. But the money announced by Biden should bring in more private investment, he said.
“There is a construction dynamic. There will be a business case for private companies to invest more,” Meunier said on the auto show floor. “It’s going to grow exponentially.”
Krisher reported from Detroit. AP writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed.