Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – A million purely battery-electric vehicles have been sold in the US during the past year, according to David Reichmuth at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Tom Randall at Bloomberg notes that it took 10 years for the first million EVs to be sold in the US, and it took two years for the second million to be driven off the lot. Now we’re selling a million a year.
And in just the first six months of 2023, Reichmuth says, more than 670,000 electric vehicles were sold, 80% of them battery-only. So the pace seems to be quickening further.
UCS sees high gasoline prices as a driver for the increased consumer purchases, along with the proliferation of models so that consumers have more choice. I’d add three further factors: President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act offers $7500 in federal tax credits to buyers of certain new models of electric cars, and $4000 in tax credits for buyers of select used EVs. Some EVs, like the Chevy Bolt (which has been resurrected by Chevy) are now affordable, especially with the tax credit, which could bring the price under $20,000. Finally, more and more fast chargers are available, and car companies are doing deals with Tesla to get their customers access to its impressive network of fast chargers.
The ongoing UAW strike could slow EV production this fall. The strike is in part about workers’ position in the new EV industry, as Kielly Hu & Katie Myers argue at Grist. EVs have fewer parts than gasoline cars and require fewer workers per unit for assembly. If fewer workers are needed, workers have less leverage. There is a danger of workers being sized down and having their pay cut so that management can increase its massive salaries and perquisites. The UAW saw this danger coming and is striking now to ensure that workers don’t get a raw deal in the transition to EVs.
Workers’ salaries are only 5% of the cost of a new car, and paying the workers a living wage is just not going to interfere with making and selling the EVs. Plus Biden’s tax credits are already an enormous public support to the EV industry, which should be shared with the workers who make the cars; it wasn’t envisaged as corporate welfare for CEOs.
Biden, who is unique among modern presidents in being fully committed to union workers and to the green energy transition, is joining the UAW picket line.
The US Big Three will say they are under pressure from Elon Musk’s Tesla, which is produced at a profit by non-union workers. But German car companies aren’t going bankrupt and you should see their workers’ benefit package. In fact, Musk could easily afford to pay his workers union scale and he would still be a multi-billionaire. As it was, he skimmed from their salaries, built up $44 billion, and squandered it on ruining Twitter. Wouldn’t we be better off with a better-made Tesla produced by unionized workers that left Musk less mad money to muck up the internet with? The whole sad saga is an argument for Democrats to roll back all those state-level “right to work” laws put in by the Republicans in the past two decades, which have devastated the unions and hurt the Democratic Party. The Michigan Dems pulled this off, just because they wanted to.
Transportation accounts for 28% of US carbon dioxide emissions, the largest single such sector. Despite the lying lies of liars funded by Big Oil, EVs across the board reduce CO2 emissions compared to gasoline cars, regardless of the mining of lithium or the exact mix of each state’s electricity grid. Moreover, a lot of EV buyers are putting up solar panels — about 4% of American homes now have them — and where owners can charge at home during daylight hours from their own panels they are getting virtually carbon-free fuel, and expending it while driving. You do have to drive an EV a couple of years before you start driving carbon-free, since the carbon that goes into the construction of the auto has to be accounted for. But it turns out that EV batteries are long-lived, and you could drive the thing a lot of years. Moreover, green steel plants that can produce low-carbon steel are being built, and the metals in EVs, including lithium, are increasingly being recycled, which substantially drops their carbon intensity compared to mining them anew.