House Members Review Current EV Development

It may seem a bit “shocking,” but the share of electric vehicles (EV) in the US is increasing. With more than 400,000 EVs in California alone, Congress has started to investigate the growth of the industry. On March 8, the Subcommittee on Energy of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hybrid hearing that that explored recent developments in American EV manufacturing and adoption.

Witnesses included:

  • Bob Holycross, Vice President, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, Ford Motor Company
  • Natalie King, Chief Executive Officer, Dunamis Clean Energy Partners, LLC
  • Cassandra Powers, Senior Managing Director, National Association of State Energy Officials
  • Thomas Pyle, President, Institute for Energy Research

Subcommittee Chair Bobby Rush (D-IL) opened the hearing remarking that the last few weeks have made it painfully clear the importance of energy security. Referencing the current war between Ukraine and Russia that has resulted in an embargo on the latter’s oil products, Rush emphasized that energy independence must help Americans shed the “shackles” of fossil fuels. Additionally, he outlined EV investments are ultimately good for the environment, economy, and national security.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)  also signaled the danger of international energy dependence. However, instead of turning to other forms of renewable energy, Upton (along with many other Republicans on the panel, including a couple of Democrats) advocated for tapping into domestic oil and natural gas reserves to reduce prices in the U.S. and for its allies.

Reviewing EV Developments

Witnesses emphasized the turning point of the EV industry considering recent economic, technological, and political developments. Bob Holycross pointed out that Ford is investing $50 billion in EVs over the next couple of years, while doubling production at their Dearborn, MI plant. Ford is simultaneously spending $11.4 billion building EV production plants in Tennessee and Kentucky, with the promise of creating 11,000 jobs.

Natalie King also emphasized the positive technological aspects of EV development. King expressed gratitude towards the subcommittee members for the Investing in Infrastructure and Jobs Act’s (IIJA) $7.5 billion investment in a nationwide EV charging network. King was particularly excited about the $2.5 billion which will help rural and disadvantaged communities make the transition to wide-spread EV adoption. King also promised the impending delivery of fast chargers (chargers that will provide a full EV charge in 20-30 minutes) by 2023.

Finally, Cassandra Powers illustrated how political conditions are changing. Powers elaborated on various regional agreements between states, such as one between Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois, that coordinates charging station implementation along key intraregional corridors. When asked by Rep. Jerry McNerny (D-CA) on what states are doing to encourage EV adoption, Powers replied that 12 states already have electric vehicle adoption and deployment strategies in place.

Implementing EV Infrastructure

Members explored how the various EV stakeholders plan on addressing the challenges of federal policy implementation. Full committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) asked King how “Buy America” provisions will help domestic EV equipment manufacturers with their efforts. King noted that “Buy America” provisions reduce foreign interference, and  ensure sustainability and stability (and, as a domestic producer, help her, too).

Pallone also asked Holycross how partnering with Redwood Materials (a battery recycling company) will help Ford with supply chain issues. Holycross pointed out that reusing battery materials within their facilities can create a closed-loop process that will lessen strains on supply chains and production processes.

Members also questioned witnesses on how they plan to include all Americans in the transition to EV usage. Responding to a question from Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Powers pointed out that 50 percent of the $2.5 billion worth of competitive EV charging infrastructure grants will be awarded to “disadvantaged” communities. King also elaborated on Dunamis’ manufacturing apprenticeship programs that aim to help local communities near their Detroit manufacturing plant find substantial “green-collar” jobs.

Potential Roadblocks

However, there were points of contention between the vision of EV advocates and reality. Thomas Pyle was referred by multiple members of the subcommittee to elaborate on the still vestigial nature of EV adoption. Pyle emphasized consistently that the future will require some fossil fuels, despite the advancements in green energy technology. When asked by Rep. David McKinley (WV) on the dangers of casting aside certain energy sources, Pyle pointed that Europe is in a precarious position due to its tough stance on Russia but reliance on their natural gas.

Additionally, Pyle pointed out that the U.S. would need to drastically increase its electricity production capabilities if it wanted to transition to an all-EV economy by as much as 30 percent. Pyle emphasized that any infrastructure transition to accommodate widespread EV adoption will certainly be in the “billions,” although he could not cite an official number. Pyle also reminded members that charging is still a relatively slow process, with some chargers taking hours and the fastest portable chargers requiring diesel fuel.

Adding onto concerns of foreign dependence, Pyle reminded the subcommittee that China produces 94 percent of lithium for EV batteries, as well as other important raw materials. If foreign dependence is a concern for representatives, he said in an exchange with Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), then the Biden administration needs to approve more drilling and mining permits so that the U.S. can secure its resource independence from other countries.

The Road Ahead

After a nearly four-hour long hearing, witnesses and representatives made clear their priorities in the coming years with the implementation of the IIJA. Powers emphasized that the federal government should support dialogues, solutions, and discussions with utilities to make sure that EV users are charged fair rates for their needs. Holycross, meanwhile, asked members to consider enabling affordability policies for electric vehicles that encourage widespread adoption, particularly through tax credits. Pyle, on the other hand, reminded members that wide-spread EV adoption is still a ways off. Finally, King reminded the subcommittee of the need to move toward carbon neutrality in an equitable, holistic way. “EVs are coming,” King said in the hearing. “The technology is here.”

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