A $10 billion order for 114,000 electric vehicles — would that make your preferred legacy automaker wake up?
Let’s start with what’s not news, just to make sure everyone understands what’s going on here: The United States had a presidential election last year. We barely elected a professional brander and reality TV star who many contend is a career con man. He apparently doesn’t understand that we are facing a tremendous climate crisis — one that will lead to unprecedented migration, water scarcity, food scarcity, and political challenges. His administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is basically wiping the topic of climate off its desk. Furthermore, fuel economy standards set under Obama — which can be easily achieved with current technology — are on the chopping block.
When I spoke at the inaugural Renewable Cities Global Learning Forum, I loved observing the efforts of cities, organizations, companies, and people who thought cities were where the core work was being done. (Note: I hugely encourage you to sign up for the 2017 forum. If you do, I think you will find it’s one of the best conferences you ever go to in your life.) With a few major countries hugely dropping the ball on cleantech action, now I really believe that cities hold the biggest promise for cleantech action and leadership.
Cities are where the action needs to take place. Cities are where the action will take place. Cities are where the action is taking place.
Now, on to the tremendous news: 30 cities are responding to the dangerous Trump extremism noted above by announcing interest in a $10 billion electric vehicle purchase. They have been in talks with automakers to jointly purchase ~114,000 electric vehicles for use in city government. Yes, EV procurement was one of my first recommendations for cities to pursue in the wake of Trump. (See these 10 city solutions, 10 more, and 10 more.) But I had no idea cities would jump on the idea so strongly!
“Dozens of U.S. cities are willing to buy $10 billion of electric cars and trucks to show skeptical automakers there’s demand for low-emission vehicles, just as President Donald Trump seeks to review pollution standards the industry opposes.
“Thirty cities including New York and Chicago jointly asked automakers for the cost and feasibility of providing 114,000 electric vehicles, including police cruisers, street sweepers and trash haulers, said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is coordinating the effort. That would be comparable to about 72 percent of total U.S. plug-in sales last year.”
This clearly brings insane bargaining power to the table if these cities are legitimately taking the request to automakers in a joint manner. Imagine winning the deal to supply 30 police departments with electric cruisers. Imagine winning the contract to electrify these cities’ fire truck fleets.
Imagine missing out on the deal because you were late to the EV party.
Automakers have long argued that there isn’t demand for electric vehicles … as they roll out compliance cars and horribly advertise them, or as their anti-EV dealerships lamely try to sell them. Meanwhile, Tesla pulled in over 100,000 reservations in under 24 hours (with a $1000 deposit each) for an electric car that hadn’t even been shown yet. Presumably, Tesla now has ~400,000 reservations for this car, set to be produced later this year.
Battery prices continue dropping at an impressive clip and are set to make electric cars better in 31 ways instead of “just” 30. There is practically no good reason to buy a gasmobile today, let alone next year. Apparently, 30 US city mayors understand this.
There will be winners and losers in the 21st century energy and transportation arena. Countries that try to protect out-of-date gasmobiles and pollution plants will lose. The companies that delay jumping onto the right battalion in the cleantech revolution will lose. Governments that deny science and technological progress out of some kind of ideological craze or pure corruption will lose. Luckily, just as the US was looking to fall behind, 30 city leaders (and surely many more people alongside them and behind them) are stepping up to put more hands on what will obviously be the winning side.
Is cleantech political? Are electric vehicles political? Practically everything is political to one degree or another! However, EVs are particularly political, given the vast economic transformations they can create and the disturbing degree to which oil shapes the global political (and military) landscape.
There are currently 17 plug-in hybrid electric car models on the US market, and 13 fully electric car models on the market. Some are serious efforts at propelling the electric car revolution forward. Some are half-efforts (or worse) from companies that didn’t want to be leaders. I think the leaders will be rewarded in this potential $10 billion buy, but hopefully the city climate champions don’t only reward initial leaders. Hopefully, they also make other automakers realize that they can’t stop the wave — they can either ride it or miss it, as our friend Roger Atkins would put it.