Let’s Invest for the Long-Term in Domestic EV Manufacturing, Jobs and Workers

By John Boesel, CALSTART President & CEO

As the coronavirus spreads globally and in the United States, policymakers are scrambling to find ways to minimize the economic impact and stimulate the economy in the event of a resulting recession. As was the case during the stimulus debate following the Great Recession of 2008, policy makers have the opportunity to support an emerging U.S. manufacturing base while also addressing U.S. competitiveness in the critical area of transportation technology.

Our priority at CALSTART is to look for strategies that not only boost the economy in the short-term, but also help us build a better America for the future. In particular, we should be making investments that will help the U.S. lead in the vehicle and transportation energy markets of the future. As we look for ways to boost the economy, we should be investing in technologies that will help move our people, goods, and services more efficiently, and the infrastructure needed to make this happen. Here are some ideas that we want the Trump Administration and Congress to consider:

Boost domestic electric vehicle (EV) production. Last year, as the federal tax credit phase-out began for the leading builders of electric cars in the United States, overall EV sales declined. By reinstating the full incentive for the leading manufacturers, we would see an almost immediate increase in production of electric cars in the United States, helping to keep this industry competitive globally and supporting workers in the clean energy economy. With consistent and transparent public policy, EV sales globally could account for 50% of all vehicles sales by 2030. Let’s get this issue fixed right now and help our leading manufacturers to boost sales, support their workforce, and provide incentives to consumers for the best available cars in the market.

Triple the amount of funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s Low and No Emission bus program. Last year, demand for these advanced, U.S. built, buses exceeded available funding by four times. The solicitation for this year’s funding recently closed. By adding another $150 million to this program now, Congress could double or triple production of Low and No Emission Buses that are all made in the U.S., thus expanding our domestic manufacturing base. Congress should also prioritize the infrastructure for charging and refueling these new transit vehicles, which remains a challenge in particular for smaller fleets.

Accelerate construction of zero- and near-zero emission recharging and refueling stations along our major truck corridors. Truck makers are moving quickly to bring advanced zero emission trucks to the market. We need to make sure that the truck stops of the future will be there to support them and thus should allocate $1 billion over five years to the existing Federal Highway Administration’s Clean Corridor initiative. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware has introduced legislation that would support funding for this purpose, and we support its inclusion in the upcoming reauthorization of the FAST Act surface transportation bill.

These are just a few ideas and the types of policy moves that will be needed to ensure the United States vehicle and transportation energy industries remain competitive in the future.  Given an apparent connection between air quality and respiratory health, these are also the types of moves that will contribute to reducing the impact of viruses such as COVID-19 on vulnerable populations. We have an opportunity to make investments in clean transportation that are consistent with the demands of the moment, and we urge Congress to take smart and decisive action with that goal in mind.

John Boesel

President and CEO, CALSTART