The Biden administration have announced that senior officials held a meeting Wednesday to discuss electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. Amongst the attendees were General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Tesla Technoking (I still can’t write that seriously, but that is his official title) Elon Musk. Others in attendance included CEOs from Stellantis, Ford and Lucid, as well as Nissan America’s Chair.
A statement from the White House said “there was broad consensus that charging stations and vehicles need to be interoperable and provide a seamless user experience, no matter what car you drive or where you charge your EV”.
It makes sense – we don’t want to the equivalent of an Android USB-C / Apple Lightning cable debacle amongst vehicles. The ubiquity of charging locations is one of the key necessities if the US is to really commit to the EV revolution (P.S. Android all the way – and I won’t listen to any other arguments).
While details coming out of the meeting were far from exhaustive, Reuters did report that one topic discussed was using US funding to “create a national network of 500,000 chargers”. It may not be the biggest surprise given Biden’s embrace of electric vehicles thus far, but it is nonetheless bullish news for the burgeoning sector.
Musk and Biden
I wrote last month about the strained relationship between Elon Musk and Joe Biden, with Musk repeatedly claiming Tesla gets ignored by the White House. He has a point, too.
And while Biden was not in attendance at this week’s meeting, perhaps it can still be viewed as somewhat of an olive branch. There really is no reason for Biden to alienate Musk. Not only is he one of the most vocal and influential voices on social media, by all accounts Tesla’s mission seems to line up quite seamlessly with Biden’s policies. And, most importantly, they’re manufacturing a lot of electric vehicles, which should be all that really matters. So, their issues have always struck me as curious, and rather petty and unnecessary.
The above (rather hilarious) tweet was fired off my Musk in January, in response to a video posted on Biden’s Twitter from a meeting with GM CEO Mary Barra. Biden additionally praised “companies like GM and Ford” for “building more electric vehicles at home than ever before”. Musk, whose reply was reminiscent of a high school student venting on social media after not getting invited to a party, may have been petulant but he certainly had reason to be aggrieved. As did Tesla investors, as the share price sunk 11%.
It likely all comes down to the issue of unionised workers, which has been a polarising topic. Musk has been vocal on the issue repeatedly, referring to the Biden administration as seeming “to be controlled by the unions”.
When Biden finally acknowledged Tesla’s existence in February – “From iconic companies like GM and Ford building out new electric vehicle production to Tesla, our nation’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer”- a question was put to White House press secretary Jen Psaki about whether Musk getting the cold shoulder was due to Tesla not being unionised. Her response was poignant – “I’ll let you draw your own conclusions”.
Whether Biden likes it or not, however, if he continues to push electric vehicles – which, by all accounts, he will – then he is going to have to start inviting Tesla to the party. As much of a renegade as Musk can be, and regardless of his stance on unions, Tesla are producing the most electric vehicles in the country – and that simply can’t be ignored, no matter how much Biden would like to.
Wednesday may have been the first step to mending the bridge.
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