Donald Trump lashed out at electric vehicles during a campaign rally in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town over the weekend. The former president's rhetoric is a flipflop from 2020 when he embraced electric vehicles, and also takes a swipe at his rivals as Trump deals with his own mounting scandals
"You see in California, you see what's happening there where they're going all electric cars. Number two, the batteries have made all in China, all the earth, the rare earth comes out China," Trump said during his first comments since the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago residence.
Trump started his diatribe against electric vehicles by paraphrasing an unnamed individual who he said had a negative experience with an electric vehicle on a road trip from Kentucky to Washington, DC. Trump claimed that his friend's vehicle got "38 miles a gallon," despite the fact that electric vehicles do not use gasoline, and that it took this person more than double the time it should have to make the trip due to charging problems.
"He wanted to go all-electric, because he wants to save our country, wants to save the atmosphere," Trump said. "He said, 'This damn trip took me forever. I drive for two hours and then I'd have to have my car charged. And in two cases, I couldn't find a place to charge it. But even if I could, it took me more time to charge the damn car than I could spend it in driving."
Trump's comments follow the passage of Biden's Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Bill, which both push for wider adoption of electric vehicles. The Infrastructure Bill allocates $5 billion toward building out electric vehicle charging stations and infrastructure and the Inflation Reduction Act contains up to $7,500 in tax incentives to help eligible consumers pay for qualifying electric vehicles.
In spite of these efforts, there are still barriers standing in the way of the greater adoption of electric vehicles. Trump's comments directly address those concerns and stoke fear in potential consumers.
A report from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that less than three-quarters of chargers at charging stations in the San Francisco Bay were functional, conflicting with the 95 to 98 percent uptime reported by the EV service providers (EVSPs). Jonathan Carrier, the co-founder of EV technology company ZipCharge told Cheddar News in August that "charging anxiety" has replaced "range anxiety" as a top concern among EV owners and the EV-curious.
And while electric vehicles are not "twice as expensive" as internal combustion engine vehicles, as Trump claimed in his speech, they are still more expensive.
Trump's comments not only take aim at President Biden but also Elon Musk, whose business would likely suffer from rollbacks of EV incentives. After Musk said he was leaning toward supporting Trump's political rival, Florida Gov. Ron De Santis, in the 2024 election, Trump called Musk "another bullshit artist," The Hill reported. Musk tweeted in response that Trump's career was over.
"I don't hate the man, but it's time for Trump to hang up his hat & sail into the sunset," Musk wrote on Twitter.
Trump hasn't always been opposed to electric vehicles. In September 2020 in the runup to the election, Trump said he was "all for electric cars," according to CNBC, even going so far as to claim responsibility for tax incentives for drivers. In March 2019, Trump proposed putting an end to the $7,500 tax credit for consumers who buy EVs.
Among the electorate, electric vehicles are more popular among Democrats. About 58 percent of adults who are Democrat or lean Democrat said they are somewhat or very likely to consider an electric vehicle next time they go to buy, according to Pew Research. Only 23 percent of Republicans agreed. As far as incentives go, 46 percent of Republicans favor incentives for hybrid and electric vehicles and 84 percent of Democrats do.