Driving an electric vehicle has become a political choice as Biden and Trump have diverging views

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street. LOUIS — SUV driver Darlene Wilson unexpectedly found herself behind the wheel of a Tesla electric vehicle after someone crashed into her family's Chevrolet Traverse.

Wilson drove hundreds of miles a week, with two kids moving around while also running an Airbnb, and appreciated the Traverse's space. But filling the tank every day has become outdated and expensive.

Now, after a few weeks of driving an insurance-paid rental Tesla, Wilson, 41, has turned to electric cars, or at least this particular car.

“We love it. I didn't think we would love it,” Wilson said as her two children watched videos and played games on the car's large display screen, a Tesla charging behind the Target store.

While many Tesla owners have installed chargers in their homes, Wilson has to use the company's branded chargers, which take about 30 minutes to refill the car's batteries. However, having to sit in the parking lot several times a week is much cheaper than filling up her SUV's 20-gallon tank, she said, and she is now considering buying an electric car herself.

“I'll drive it because it's more economical. For what we spent on gasoline compared to the cost of shipping it, it's not even close,” she said.

For Wilson, driving an electric car is not a political decision, just a straightforward economic one. But increasingly for Americans, President Joe Biden and his rival Donald Trump are putting electric car drivers and those who hate them squarely in the political spotlight.

Electric vehicles could reshape American travel and the economy

As they edge closer to the mainstream, electric cars have become the latest flashpoint of a culture war between Republicans and Democrats, with Biden pushing hard for their adoption and Trump promising a “bloodbath” of regulatory restrictions to block imports and protect American auto workers, many of whom are suffering. Headquartered in Michigan Seesaw. Because electric vehicles have fewer parts, they require less work to build and maintain.

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The battle over electric vehicle adoption has significant stakes, with experts warning that the United States needs to quickly move away from gas-burning vehicles in order to meet goals set by the Paris Climate Accords and help mitigate the effects of an already changing climate.

Today, there are about 4.5 million hybrids and electric vehicles on American roads, representing about 10% of all vehicles. About a third of all electric vehicles are in California.

Although electric cars have been adopted more quickly around the world – including in Norway, China and the European Union – Americans have been slow to shift their purchases. Last year, the top three car models sold in the United States were pickups, followed by the Toyota RAV4. But the fifth best-selling vehicle, according to Motor1 estimates, was the battery-powered Tesla Model Y SUV.

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Biden administration on Wednesday New rules issued It aims to discourage drivers from purchasing petrol cars and SUVs.

The new rules, which are based on tailpipe emissions standards, aim to ensure that within eight years, the majority of consumer cars sold will be either fully electric or gas-electric hybrids. The rules do not require manufacturers to make electric cars, but emissions standards are so stringent that automakers will have difficulty complying with them unless they do. Last year, about 16% of new cars sold were electric or hybrid vehicles, according to federal officials.

While Biden and other electric car fans say electric cars are broadly beneficial for both drivers and the climate, critics complain that electric cars are more expensive, slow to recharge, have smaller ranges, especially in cold weather, and that charging infrastructure is spotty.

To help cut costs, the Biden administration is offering tax breaks for purchases of American-made electric vehicles, and is spending more than $7.5 billion to build fast-charging stations across the country, especially along high-traffic corridors between states.

in Statement distributed by the Biden administration, an industry group that represents most major automakers — including Ford, General Motors, Honda and Stellantis, the parent company that makes Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep — says the move toward electric vehicles is both necessary and challenging. The group thanked Biden for delaying the start of emissions standards by several years, which allowed the development of shipping infrastructure and supply chains.

“The future is electric,” said John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Automotive Innovation Alliance. “Consumers have a lot of choices. But pace is important.”

While some critics of electric cars say they don't want to be forced to drive a battery-powered car, others have a more ambiguous reaction. Across the country, there have been news reports of drivers of gasoline-powered vehicles intentionally shutting down electric vehicle charging stations in what is known as “ICEing,” a reference to their internal combustion engine.

Electric vehicles help fight climate change and reduce greenhouse gases

The transportation sector is the largest producer of climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions, largely because the vast majority of vehicles are powered either directly or indirectly by burning coal, natural gas, or gasoline. Wind, solar and hydropower account for about 20% of the nation's electricity generation, although that number is increasing rapidly each year, according to federal officials.

A 2023 study published by the journal Transportation Research found that about 25% of electric vehicle buyers eventually traded them for a gas-powered vehicle, while another 10% bought a hybrid because it typically has a longer range. However, the study noted that Tesla buyers almost always buy another Tesla. “Range anxiety” is one of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of electric vehicles, experts say, which is prompting the Biden administration to push for more variable stations.

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Tesla driver Topher Clark, 54, doesn't understand how trying to protect the Earth has become so political. He sees the Tesla, along with the solar panels on the roof of his home in Portland, Oregon, as part of a sensible effort to reduce pollution and combat climate change.

“This was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of not emitting exhaust,” said Clark, the software engineering manager, pointing to his charging Tesla SUV near the intersection of I-64 and I-170.

Clark, 54, was driving cross-country — he already had 2,000 miles behind him — and said charging was easy and convenient. Clark said that after purchasing the Tesla, he practiced driving it increasingly long distances from Portland to ensure the SUV's remaining mileage estimates were accurate. He was particularly concerned about losing power in cold weather, but said the SUV's computer made it easy to move from charger to charger.

He also said he is frustrated that land interest is somewhat of a partisan issue.

“There's nothing political about keeping your house clean,” he said. “I can't look into my nephews' eyes and tell them I love them and then piss on the planet. That's literally what people do.”

Matthew Fisher, CEO of Gridspot, said he was shocked by the feedback he received after announcing his company's app, which allows people with electric car chargers to rent them to drivers in the neighborhood. Fisher said he paid for 10,000 impressions on a Facebook ad and got 10 comments — nine of which were negative.

“This was not what I expected,” Fisher said. “The arguments get really weird.”

Fisher said Facebook ad statistics showed him that most of the people who saw his ads were older white men, who tend to be more conservative than the overall U.S. population. However, he said he was surprised by how critical the comments were. This suggests to him that objections to electric vehicles are inherently illogical.

“It was this feeling of, 'You're taking my emissions, you're taking my freedom,'” he said. “It's mind-boggling.”

Electric vehicles represent a new front in the culture wars

In December 2023, Trump posted a message on social media that said in part that supporters of the “all-electric car craze” should “rot in hell.” He previously warned that foreign competitors would destroy the American auto industry, costing tens of thousands of jobs. Other critics of electric cars point out that the vast majority of electric car batteries are sourced from China, and that the batteries themselves are full of rare earth metals extracted at great environmental cost.

Trump's America First Policy Institute asserts that the new emissions standards issued Wednesday will cost the country about 117,000 jobs because electric vehicles require less work to assemble them, with losses particularly severe in Michigan. But the United Auto Workers union He supported Biden over Trump In January, after Biden visited unionized workers who had picketed automakers last year.

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These union workers were striking, in part, at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis plants over the fact that some new workers at the electric-vehicle-focused plants were being paid less than long-time union workers on gasoline car production lines. Many electric vehicles, especially those made by Tesla, are made by non-union workers. More than a million Americans work in the auto industry, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Although the new emissions standards don't force automakers to start making electric vehicles, they do have that practical effect.

In a statement, companies representing truck stops, travel centers, convenience stores and gas stations said they support efforts to reduce vehicle emissions. But she said consumer choice, not government mandate, should drive change. The groups said they want the Biden administration to create an environment where retailers like them can be sure to make profits by installing charging stations.

“The quickest and most effective way to reduce carbon emissions remains through technology-neutral, market-oriented and consumer-focused policies that encourage all fueling technologies to improve their emissions,” said the groups, which sell about 90% of the country's gasoline. . “This rule does not do that. Instead, it effectively mandates one technology that has not at this point proven to be any more viable than other compelling solutions.”

The National Automobile Dealers Association, which declared that “dealers are all about electric vehicles,” said dealers are concerned that Biden's new EPA rules go too far, too quickly, opening the door for Chinese companies to jump ahead of U.S. manufacturers. . . Many American-made electric cars qualify for a $7,500 tax credit, but many Chinese electric cars are much cheaper to begin with. One of the best-selling Chinese-made electric vehicles retails for about $17,000, but is not available in the U.S. in part because of the 25% tariff on Chinese-made electric vehicles that Trump implemented and Biden maintained.

“Consumers will determine the pace of electric vehicle adoption, not legislators, regulators or (automakers),” NADA said. “Public policy should focus on transforming the combustion fleet, getting consumers used to charging and getting cleaner vehicles on the road – including hybrids.”

Several automakers have trimmed their electric vehicle sales forecasts in the past few months due to slowing demand, including Ford, Which was announced in January It will discontinue one of two production lines for the F150 Lightning EV pickup truck, and move some workers to lines making gas-powered pickup trucks.

At a charging station in St. Louis, Wilson, a coincidental Tesla driver, said she didn't think politicizing electric vehicles was necessarily good for the country. She said people should only buy what suits them. She encouraged other skeptics to try Tesla cars, which start at around $40,000.

“We want to buy one now,” she said with a laugh. “It's smooth. And fast. Really fast.”

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