Biden Administration Holds EV Charging Confab With Barra, Musk, Farley, & Others

Senior members of the Biden administration held a virtual meeting with auto industry leaders on Wednesday to talk about electric cars, EV charging, and the government’s plan to add 500,000 chargers to the highways and byways of America. It’s a good thing the meeting was held online, as the number of people in attendance would have filled most conference rooms.

Representing the White House were Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu, according to Reuters. The automakers were represented by Mary Barra for General Motors, Elon Musk for Tesla, Jim Farley for Ford, Carlos Tavares for Stellantis, Peter Rawlinson for Lucid, Jeremie Papin for Nissan Americas, as well as executives from Hyundai Motor America, Subaru of America, Mazda North America, Toyota Motor North America, Mercedes Benz USA and Kia Motors America.

Reuters says each person was allotted 90 seconds to talk about their company’s EV plans, after which they discussed a wide range of issues involving the manufacturing of electric vehicles including battery supply chain concerns. Last week, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to streamline access to critical raw materials for EV battery production.

Making EV Charging Simple

This is the part that should be music to the ears of EV owners and future EV owners. Following the meeting, the administration issued a statement saying “there was broad consensus that charging stations and vehicles need to be interoperable and provide a seamless user experience, no matter what car you drive or where you charge your EV.”

Every one talks about range anxiety when it comes to electric cars, but what they are really talking about is charging anxiety. There are real concerns that when the need to charge occurs, there will be no chargers available or the ones that are will be slow, out of service, or operated by a company that requires pre-registration to access the equipment.

No one wants to be stuck in a snow storm late at night trying to convince some customer service representative to enable charging — not when your SOC meter is at 4% and there are warning lights flashing on the dashboard telling you to “CHARGE NOW.”

No specifics about the meeting were announced. Tesla is reportedly willing to allow drivers of other cars to use its Supercharger network, which is the gold standard for the world. Plug in, charge, and go. It’s all super easy and super convenient. Those other networks? The reddit EV forum has numerous reports from drivers about their less than satisfying experiences with them.

Taking away charging anxiety is one of the best ways to move the EV revolution forward in a hurry. When the gasoline engine first appeared, there were no gas stations. Drivers got their fuel at local pharmacies — if they could find one. Drivers of that era had the same “range anxiety” concerns EV drivers have today.

Secretary Granholm said on Twitter after the meeting, it was “very productive meeting — as we roll out EVs and charging infrastructure the CEOs were very forthcoming about government’s role as a partner in electrifying the transportation sector.”

The Takeaway

It’s nice to have all those people talking and it’s nice to hear they agree that improving the EV charging experience is a high priority. Now it’s time to see what results flow from all that speechifying. As my colleague Johnna Crider pointed out recently, there is a lot of anti-EV animus out there, with some states passing new laws to stop the EV revolution in its tracks. The fossil fuel crowd is peddling all the half truths and outright lies it can think of to protect their profits, with auto dealers leading the way.

Those who have market dominance are forever trying to find ways to hold back change. When margarine first came out, Big Butter bribed legislators to pass laws making it illegal to sell the stuff if it was colored yellow to look like butter. Originally, it came as a tub of white glop with a packet of yellow coloring housewives could use to make it look appealing when they put it on the dinner table, Adam Smith and his unseen hand be damned. The first rule of business is always about protecting your corner of the market. And elected officials are always happy to help if there are fat campaign contributions promised.

We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there when it comes to getting Americans into electric cars. The talking phase has begun. Now it’s time for the action phase. Will America become a low carbon transportation leader or let other nations (like China) dominate the future? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.

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