Buttigieg Touts Electric Vehicles Spending as Gas Prices Spike

  • Top Biden transportation official emphasizes boosting EVs
  • GOP lawmakers focus on access, practicality in rural areas

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said it’s less expensive for cars to fill up on electricity than on gasoline as Republican lawmakers questioned the administration’s plans to spend money on a national electric vehicle charging network.

House Republicans raised their concerns to President Joe Biden’s top transportation official that drivers in rural areas wouldn’t benefit from increased spending on electric vehicles. The administration is pressing for a goal of expanding access to EVs as gasoline prices reach record highs.

“It is actually rural drivers who would benefit the most,” Buttigieg said at a House Appropriations panel hearing Tuesday. “The more they drive, typically the more of their income is going to gas, so the more money they are going to save if they can afford an electric vehicle, which allows them to fill up on electrons.”

The average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. hit a new record on Tuesday at $4.37, the American Automobile Association reports.

Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) said several areas in Biden’s fiscal 2023 budget request would provide significant money to programs that won’t really help Iowans, including funds for EV chargers. It’s an “out-of-touch response” to add charging stations and suggest that people should buy a new EV, she said.

“About a 10th of 1% of the registered vehicles in my district are electric vehicles,” Hinson said. “Iowans right now are not trading in their affordable vehicles, their reliable vehicles, their farm trucks for impractical, luxury, expensive electric vehicles that can’t go more than 200 miles without recharging.”

Misconceptions about EVs include range and costs, Buttigieg said. He said that electric trucks coming onto the market, such as Ford Motor Co.‘s F-150 Lightning, can start at around $40,000 and have a range of more than 200-300 mile area.

Buttigieg also cited in-place infrastructure “called the plug in your wall,” because residential outlets can be used to charge these vehicles.

“I want what you said to be true, but I think we’ve got a long way to go still,” said Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.). To charge a car at home using an outlet without enhancements to its electrical system can take as long as four days for a 300-mile range, Garcia said.

Manchin Rejects Biden’s EV Tax Credit as ‘Ludicrous’

Buttigieg said EV costs to consumers also could be reduced through the administration’s proposed tax credits — potentially knocking off another $10,000 to $12,000 for an electric vehicle. That’s complementary to charging funding from the infrastructure law, he said.

Some Democrats have sought to resuscitate a provision in the long-stalled Build Back Better Act that would have raised a $7,500 credit to as much as $12,500. The infrastructure law (Public Law 117-58) includes $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations across the country.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at lbyington@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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