Guy Biden touts electric vehicles at Detroit Auto Show

DETROIT (AP) — President Joe Biden, a gearhead with his own vintage Corvette, showcased his administration’s efforts to promote electric vehicles during a visit to the Detroit auto show on Wednesday.

Biden traveled to the massive North American International Auto Show to plug in the huge new climate, tax and health care law that offers tax incentives for the purchase of vehicles electrical. He toured a mix of American-made hybrid, electric and combustion vehicles from Chevrolet, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis at a closed convention center and hosted union workers, CEOs and local leaders.

The Democratic president, who recently took a spin in his pine green 1967 Stingray with Jay Leno for a segment on CNBC’s “Jay Leno’s Garage,” hopped into the driver’s seat of a bright orange Chevrolet Corvette Z06 – which starts at 106 $000 and is not an electric vehicle and turned on its engine, alongside GM CEO Mary Barra.

“He says he’s driving home,” she joked.

Biden then toured the new electric Ford Mustang Mach-E, marveling with Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford at the model’s performance. “It’s amazing the speed,” Biden said, adding, “Does it have a launch button?” He also explored less flashy vehicles, like the all-electric E-Transit minivan and Ford’s F-150 truck.

Biden eventually got behind the wheel of an all-electric Cadillac Lyriq SUV, which starts at $63,000, driving it briefly down a blue-carpeted lobby driveway. It was a rare driving opportunity – albeit just over a step away – for the president, who is usually transported in armored US Secret Service vehicles when out in public.

“Come in, I’ll drive you to Washington,” he joked to reporters. “It’s a nice car,” he added, “But I love the Corvette.”

While Biden takes credit for the recent boom in electric vehicle battery and assembly plant announcements, most were in the works long before the Cut Inflation Act was signed into law on Aug. 16. Biden’s 2021 infrastructure legislation might have something to do with that — he’s providing $5 billion over five years to help states create a network of electric vehicle charging stations.

In Detroit, Biden was expected to announce approval of the first $900 million in infrastructure funds to build electric vehicle chargers on 53,000 miles of the national highway system in 35 states.

By law, electric vehicles must be built in North America to qualify for a new federal tax credit of up to $7,500. Eligible vehicle batteries must also be manufactured in North America, and there are requirements for battery minerals to be produced or recycled in the continent. The credits are intended to create an electric vehicle supply chain in the United States and end dependence on other countries, primarily China.

The passage of the measure sparked a rush by automakers to accelerate efforts to find North American-made batteries and battery minerals in the United States, Canada or Mexico to ensure that vehicles electricity are eligible for credit.

In April, Ford began building electric pickup trucks at a new plant in Michigan. General Motors has revamped a former factory in Detroit to make Hummers and electric pickup trucks.

Long before lawmakers reached a compromise on the legislation, each company announced three electric vehicle battery factories, all joint ventures with battery makers. A GM battery plant in Warren, Ohio has already started manufacturing. A government loan announced in July will help GM build its battery factories.

Ford announced last September that it would build the next generation of electric pickup trucks at a plant in Tennessee, and GM announced electric vehicle assembly plants in Lansing, Michigan; Spring Hill, TN; and Orion Township, Michigan. In May, Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, announced it would build another joint venture battery plant in Indiana and announced a battery plant in Canada.

Hyundai announced in May the construction of battery and assembly plants in Georgia, and Vietnamese automaker VinFast announced plants in North Carolina in July. Both Honda and Toyota announced battery plants in the United States after the law was passed, but they had been planned for months.

Biden has long spoken about the importance of building a national EV supply chain, and that may have prompted some companies to locate factories in the United States. But it also pays to build batteries near where the EVs will be assembled because the batteries are heavy and expensive to ship from overseas.

And automakers are rolling out more affordable electric options despite the cost of batteries. The latest came last week from General Motors, a small Chevrolet Equinox SUV. It has a starting price of around $30,000 and a range per charge of 250 miles or 400 kilometers. Buyers can get a range of 300 miles or 500 kilometers if they pay more.

The Equinox checks the North American assembly box. It will be made in Mexico. The company won’t say where the battery will be made, but it’s working to meet the other criteria to qualify for the tax credit.

Krisher reported from Detroit. AP writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed.

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