It looks like the U.S. federal government is going to lead the charge on national zero emissions vehicle adoption by mandating a full zero-emissions fleet by 2035. This could lead to good things for EV consumers, considering that the U.S. government fleet is made up of about 645,000 total vehicles—and nearly 200,000 of those are passenger vehicles. It will also require a charging infrastructure—already proposed in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—and this will only accelerate the process. That is, of course, if the Feds will act quickly or even agree on a budget for this spending.
The Executive Order
On December 8, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a Presidential Executive Order (EO) named “Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability” that outlines how the government will go carbon neutral by 2050, from updating buildings to become more energy efficient to buying products that are produced from clean, sustainable sources to producing its own green energy for their buildings utilizing carbon-free energy production.
Full Government EV Fleet by End of 2035
What catches our eyes is section 204, the requirement of each U.S. government agency with at least a 20 vehicle, light-duty fleet to begin transitioning future new vehicle purchases to zero-emission vehicles by the end of fiscal year 2027. It then mandates the Government Services Agency (GSA) to make all new vehicle fleet purchases—including medium- and heavy-duty vehicles—be zero emissions vehicles by 2035. That’s all well and good, but there are some catches to consider with this executive order.
Is This Now Federal Law?
Not exactly. An executive order remains carries the force of law among the federal agencies covered by the executive order until overturned by the judiciary or a subsequent executive order, but it isn’t a law. A federal law must be passed by Congressed and signed by the president. The bottom line is that what President Biden has set forth in this executive order may be altered by a subsequent president, or the judiciary, before the 2035 target date.
The Fossil Fuel Lobbyist Is Already Fielding Calls
The second catch will come from challenges by a variety of interested parties, particularly in the fossil fuel sector. For example, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming—who also serves on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources—said, “President Biden’s strategy is to destroy the economies of Wyoming, West Virginia and other energy-producing states. With this action, he’s telling millions of Americans who provide most of the energy we use every day that he thinks they should be thrown out of work.”
How This Could Impact the Private Sector
Again, we’ll point out that this executive order dictates what federal agencies must do, not what private business nor citizens of the U.S. are required to do. That said, certain states do have EV mandates on the books. And the executive order will certainly have indirect effects, perhaps spurring greater adoption of EVs among private businesses and individuals. The demand for parts and maintenance of 200,000 passenger vehicles could be substantial, let alone a fleet that consists of 640,000 vehicles in total. Any business that does fleet contract work for the GSA will definitely need to begin working towards being able to service those vehicles right now.
Change at the Speed of Government
Of course, the final hurdle is the notorious speed (or lack thereof) at which the federal government will enact this change. If there is any entity worse than Elon Musk for hitting a timeframe goal, it’s the U.S. government. A few changes have already occurred, such as the U.S. Park Police using EV bikes and motorcycles, and the Department of Homeland Security plans to utilize Ford Mustang Mach-Es—testing for its adoption is scheduled to happen in the next few months of 2022, at the earliest.
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