A job making cars can be a good job. It should matter not to the autoworker whether his product runs on fossil fuels or electric battery. A national leadership looking out for the workers’ future would embrace the future, which is clean-powered transportation.
America does not have that leadership. President Donald Trump has pushed the false promise that our suffering blue-collar workers could return to the good old days if only environmentalists [and foreigners] would disappear. The promise is worse than futile because it discourages change these very workers need.
Science and innovation used to be the American path to winning. The science-bashing administration is making us poorer, stock investors excepted. But enough about Trump for now.
Let’s get back to cars and trucks and the brass ring those who reach into the future are grabbing. Tesla, maker of electric vehicles, is one of the only U.S. car companies to have reported higher sales for the second quarter. That was despite a falling price for gas. Despite a virus pandemic that had many consumers sitting on their wallets. And despite the cost of buying a Tesla. The cheapest Tesla, the Model 3, has a base price of about $40,000.
Based in Palo Alto, CA, Tesla leads the world in electric vehicle sales. More than 10,000 Californians work at its Fremont factory. The company recently filed the papers to build another plant nearby to make electric batteries. Tesla says it created a total of 51,000 jobs in California in 2017 alone.
Some of the older U.S. carmakers have made serious moves in the electric vehicle game. Ford is working on an electric version of its bestselling F-150 pickup truck.
Meanwhile, Nikola Motor Co., a new company racing to make electric trucks, has raised over $1 billion in funding. The market value of the Phoenix-based company has surpassed Ford’s.
Then there’s another newcomer, Rivian. Headquartered just outside Detroit, Rivian says it will come out with an all-electric pickup by early next year. Its backers include Amazon, Ford and several big investor groups.
Electric-vehicle sales have done as well as they have in this country thanks to forward-looking states and no thanks to Washington. The Trump Environmental Protection Agency last year revoked California’s authority to set higher fuel-economy standards, which helps electric vehicle sales. California and well over a dozen states that follow its lead have responded by suing the administration. The case could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Competent national leaders intent on protecting the manufacturing base would have vigorously pushed the industry to retool for the clean-energy era, not hinder it. That future is gunning toward us. The European Union and China, two of the three biggest auto markets, have already set strict carbon-emission standards. All-electric vehicles emit zero greenhouse gases.
Critics of electric cars have insisted that the cost of their batteries would greatly stand in their way. Just one year ago, a column in The Wall Street Journal argued that batteries would probably not come down in price as had consumer electronics.
Just one year later, Tesla’s battery supplier in China claims it can manufacture a battery that powers a vehicle for over a million miles. That would make for a much cheaper battery over its lifetime.
The investing public obviously sees gold in green energy. The S&P Global Clean Energy index is now up more than 37% over the past two years. By contrast, the S&P 500 has risen 18%. This reflects rising investor confidence not only in clean cars but also in the ability of wind and solar power to compete with fossil fuels on price.
If only our government in Washington would promote, rather than hold back, the sort of technological advances this country used to lead. A return of the old mojo will have to await the next election.