The upcoming Biden Administration elicits unequal parts worry and excitement when it comes to electric vehicles and the future of the automobile industry. The excitement is there, in spades and with good reason, but there are worries from many corners as well.
Excitement over electric vehicles flows from the president-elect himself, who promoted two distinct EV policies in his campaign climate plan. First, his Day One "unprecedented executive actions" include moving the federal government procurement system toward 100 percent "clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles" as well as making sure U.S. fuel-economy standards are set so they get "100 percent of new sales for light- and medium-duty vehicles [to] be electrified" alongside annual improvements for heavy-duty vehicles.
Second, Biden's "Year One Legislative Agenda" is to include accelerating the deployment of electric vehicles by working with governors and mayors to deploy over 500,000 new public charging outlets by the end of 2030. The plan also calls for restoring the federal government's electric-vehicle tax credit and targeting it toward middle-class consumers while prioritizing electric vehicles made in America when possible.
Be careful what you wish for.
Seconds after Usmaan Ahmad heard metallic bangs in his Tesla Model S last month and pulled off a suburban Dallas thoroughfare, flames started shooting out of his five-year-old car.
The sound was like “if you were to drop an axle of a normal car” on the ground, Ahmad, 41, said. Only the car was intact, he recalled. Suddenly, as he stood on the side of the road, the car ignited in flames, concentrated around the front passenger-side wheel. “This was shooting out like a flamethrower,” recalled Ahmad, who works in strategy and business development for a health-care system.
The combustion of Ahmad’s car is one of a growing number of fire incidents involving older Tesla Model S and X vehicles that experts say are related to the battery, raising questions about the safety and durability of electric vehicles as they age. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is evaluating the fire of Ahmad’s vehicle in Frisco, Tex., and has contacted Tesla over the matter, NHTSA spokesman Sean Rushton said this month. The agency opened an investigation last year into alleged battery defects that could cause fires in older Tesla sedans and SUVs.
Other electric vehicle models have faced federal scrutiny and voluntary recalls over fire risks. Last month, NHTSA announced General Motors was recalling more than 50,000 Chevrolet Bolt electric cars in the United States over the potential for fire in its high-voltage battery pack, after the agency confirmed there were five known fires involving the vehicle, resulting in two injuries. NHTSA advised owners to park their cars outside until the problem is repaired.