The United States is going electric. On Monday, President Biden said that he would seek to convert the entirety of the federal government's current collection of nearly 650,000 cars and trucks over to American-made vehicles that don't rely on fossil fuel sources to operate. "The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we're going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America, by American workers," Biden said in a press conference.
The promise to make the move to electric — something that Biden had promised on the campaign trail — will be put into motion as part of an executive order that he signed Monday. The "Buy American" executive order does not explicitly call for the federal government to purchase electric vehicles, but it does lay the groundwork for the shift by creating new standards for the federal government when procuring goods and services.
Chief among the goals of the Buy American order is — you guessed it! — to make the federal government purchase products from American companies rather than foreign sources. The order will close loopholes that allowed some goods, including vehicles, to be considered "Made in the U.S.A." even if they were made with parts manufactured outside of the country. Additionally, the order will crack down on agencies seeking waivers or exemptions that allow them to purchase foreign goods. It also creates a new position, the director of Made-in-America at the Office of Management and Budget, that will oversee all of the federal government's nearly $600 billion in purchases made each year to ensure that as much of that money is going to American businesses as possible.
The order, and Biden's words, won't make the shift to American-made electric vehicles happen overnight, though. The federal government has a massive fleet; its 650,000 vehicles, according to the General Services Administration, includes 245,000 vehicles used by federal agency employees, 173,000 owned by the military, and 225,000 operated by the United States Postal Service. Just 3,215 of that fleet is currently electric. Shifting all of those vehicles over to electric cars made in America will be a massive, multi-year undertaking that will cost the federal government a pretty penny. Reuters estimated that replacing the entirety of the federal car fleet could cost as much as $20 billion.
But that shift is a necessary one. According to the GSA, federal vehicles traveled more than 4.5 billion miles over the course of 2019 and consumed more than 375 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel. Per the Environmental Protection Agency's greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator, those vehicles could be contributing as much as 3 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year. Given that the transportation industry is responsible for nearly 30% of all emissions in the U.S., the federal government taking the lead and shifting over to electric would not only set a strong example for the rest of the country but would also put a legitimate dent in the country's total emissions.
Biden's push to make the federal fleet electric falls in line with his promise to get the country's infrastructure ready for a shift away from fossil fuel-guzzling vehicles. Following the 2020 presidential election, Biden promised that he would build 550,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country. It's all part of the president’s overall plan to shift the U.S. to a cleaner economy — and one that could not come with better timing, as states like California are seeking bans on gas-powered vehicles in the not-too-distant future.