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Harris touts administration’s electric vehicle plans

Utilities plan to establish corridors of fast-charge EV stations by the end of 2023

Vice President Kamala Harris talks with Sema Connect CEO Mahi Reddy during a tour of the Prince George’s County Brandywine Maintenance Facility in Maryland on Monday.
Vice President Kamala Harris talks with Sema Connect CEO Mahi Reddy during a tour of the Prince George’s County Brandywine Maintenance Facility in Maryland on Monday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Corrected 3:48 p.m. | The Biden administration provided details of its strategy to expand the country’s fleet of electric vehicles Monday, pledging to create an EV-specific office and to issue standards and guidance to states and cities.

Speaking after a tour of an EV maintenance facility in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Vice President Kamala Harris said the private sector is shifting toward electric vehicles and touted the recent bipartisan infrastructure law, which includes $7.5 billion for EV charging infrastructure.

Harris appeared alongside Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm, Maryland Democratic Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.

The day trip to Maryland came as Biden administration officials fan out across the nation to tout the recently signed infrastructure law and drum up public support for the larger piece of legislation they are backing: the roughly $2.2 trillion climate and social spending bill.

It also arrived a week after dozens of electric utility companies and the Edison Electric Institute, an industry trade group, announced a plan to establish corridors of “fast charging” EV stations across the country by the end of 2023.

Granholm and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg are scheduled on Tuesday to announce a new office between their two departments that will focus on electricity and transportation, the White House said.

Guidance to come

The administration said DOT would publish guidance for states and cities to “strategically deploy EV charging stations to build out a national network along our nation’s highway system” by Feb. 11.

Harris said she and President Joe Biden are confident the Senate will pass the $2.2 trillion bill, which includes tens of billions of dollars’ worth of EV-related funding.

“We want families in America to be able to afford an electric car that is made in America,” Harris said, according to White House pool reports.

“The auto industry is clearly moving toward electric. We need to make the shift faster and make sure it is driven by the United States. That means manufacturing millions of electric cars, trucks and buses right here in our country. That means outfitting 1000s of EVs, electric vehicles,” she added. “And it means installing a national network of EV chargers.”

Potential electric vehicle drivers are often dissuaded from buying EVs because they worry where they will charge their car, Harris said.

“People who live in apartments, for example, might not have a private driveway where they can install a plug,” Harris said. “When we install public chargers in rural, urban and suburban neighborhoods, we make it easy for people to go electric.”

Congressional Republicans have criticized the administration for its focus on electric vehicles, including the $2.5 billion under the climate and social spending bill designated to purchase electric vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service.

In an email to reporters Monday, the office of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise criticized the proposal as part of “socialist legislation.”

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., who has for months played the role of legislative kingmaker as he weakened climate elements of the bill, has quibbled with the concept of tax credits for purchasers of cars and trucks built in America by unionized workers. Manchin has described that idea as “wrong” and “not American.”

Toward the end of her remarks, Harris pressed Congress to pass the bill, noting it would allocate billions to electrify school buses.

“Yellow school buses are our nation’s largest form of mass transit,” Harris said. “More than 25 million children and thousands of drivers ride to and from school on diesel buses breathing toxic fumes. Making the switch from diesel to electric is about including the health and well-being of our children.”

This report was corrected to reflect House Minority Whip Steve Scalise‘s leadership title.

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