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US automakers, steel industry show support for Biden's electric vehicle push


Largest US automakers announce voluntary pledges

New national emissions standards to build off California agreement

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US automakers and the American Iron and Steel Institute have voiced their support for President Joe Biden's Aug. 5 executive order aimed at having half of all domestic vehicle sales be zero-emissions by 2030 and at developing long-term efficiency and emissions standards.

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Biden signed the order at a White House event attended by automaker executives and labor leaders.

US automakers have shown their support for the push toward electrification, with the three largest US companies -- Ford, General Motors and Stellantis -- sharing Aug. 5 voluntary pledges to achieve sales of 40% to 50% of annual US volumes of electric vehicles by 2030.

"Our recent product, technology, and investment announcements highlight our collective commitment to be leaders in the US transition to electric vehicles," Ford, GM and Stellantis said in a joint statement. "This represents a dramatic shift from the US market today that can be achieved only with the timely deployment of the full suite of electrification policies committed to by the Administration in the Build Back Better Plan, including purchase incentives, a comprehensive charging network of sufficient density to support the millions of vehicles these targets represent, investments in R&D, and incentives to expand the electric vehicle manufacturing and supply chains in the United States."

The current bipartisan infrastructure bill introduced in the Senate includes a $7.5 billion investment to build out a national network of electric vehicle chargers, the first-ever national investment in EV charging infrastructure, but lower than Biden's initial proposal of $15 billion.

In a fact sheet, the White House said this action on EVs is being taken as the US has fallen behind other countries in the race to manufacture both electric vehicles and batteries. The current US market share of EVs is one-third of that of China's market, according to the White House.

There are currently only about 2 million EVs on US roads today and only 2% of cars sold in 2020 were fully electric, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

In addition to the call to increase EV production, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were also expected to announce new fuel efficiency and emissions standards building on an agreement between the State of California and five automakers: Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, BMW and Volvo. Full details of the changes were not yet available the afternoon of Aug. 5.

Biden's executive order also lays out a schedule for development of fuel efficiency and multi-pollutant emissions standards through at least model year 2030 for light-duty vehicles and for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles starting as early as model year 2027, according to the fact sheet.

Labor, steel support EV push

The United Autoworkers union, which said it supports the executive order actions, said clarity around emissions standards will bring more certainty and better planning for the industry and future employment.

"While the UAW notes that the companies have made voluntary commitments on Electric Vehicles, the UAW focus is not on hard deadlines or percentages, but on preserving the wages and benefits that have been the heart and soul of the American middle class," UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement.

The American Iron and Steel Institute said it welcomed the new EV and emissions goals announced by the White House.

"This important goal, coupled with the greenhouse gas vehicle tailpipe standards expected to be proposed soon, will add further momentum to the transformation of the auto sector in the United States," AISI CEO Kevin Dempsey said in a statement. "The American steel industry remains ready to support the automakers in this effort through innovative, high-strength steels that combine lighter weight and increased strength. Importantly, these thinner advanced grades of steel enable optimization of space allowing for packaging of more batteries in these vehicles, which means greater range on a single charge."

Albemarle Corp., which produces lithium used to make electric vehicle batteries, did not expect the announcement from the White House to have a significant impact on lithium demand as it is not mandatory and automakers were already shifting production to electric vehicles.

"It's probably in the ballpark of what the car companies are already thinking, maybe it's a little more aggressive, but it doesn't shift the model from our perspective," Albemarle CEO Kent Masters said during the company's second-quarter conference call Aug. 5. "I think our view would be that's neutral."

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