3 Things a President Trump Would Do About Electric Cars

Republican presidential candidateDonald Trump speaks to the media before a rally on May 26, 2016 in Bismarck, North Dakota. According to a delegate count released Thursday, Trump has reached the number of delegates needed to win the GOP presidential nomination.
How bad would the Donald Trump electric cars policy be? | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

While most energy experts characterized Donald Trump’s May 26 speech in North Dakota as erratic and at times contradictory, there were a few clear points made by the GOP nominee for president of the United States. One, he hates the EPA and regulation in general, so there’d be less of that. Two, he doesn’t believe in climate change, so that whole Paris accord thing would go kaput (or au revoir, as it were). We should have known that, though.

trump climate change tweet
Source: Twitter

So how do you know what a President Trump would do about electric cars? In this case, it didn’t take much decoding to see where Trump would head now that he’s the leader of the free world. There aren’t any positives from our vantage point. Here’s what to expect.

1. Let the $7,500 EV tax credit go extinct

Sometime between the release of the Model 3 and six months later, federal tax credits of $7,500 for Tesla consumers would hit the 200,000 mark and start expiring. General Motors, Ford, Nissan, and other manufacturers would follow in the next year or two, and that would leave EV buyers without the subsidy fossil fuel industries get. When Trump says the U.S. should not pick “winners and losers” in the energy department, that would easily apply to shutting down the tax credit once it expires, likely stopping adoption in its tracks.

2. Neuter EV investment with lower MPG standards

Chevy Bolt EV
The Chevy Bolt EV is one response to stricter fuel economy regulations. | Source: General Motors

While Trump’s energy speech was light on specifics, he was quite clear about neutering the “totalitarian” EPA and the fines it levied on polluters. By 2025, automakers will need a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon to meet economy standards set by the last two administrations. Manufacturers have lobbied for lowering these regulations on every occasion and publicly expressed concerns about being able to meet them while giving an SUV-hungry population what it wants.

A President Trump would be a formidable ally. No one can say how the House of Representatives and Senate will look following the next election, but if it’s anything like it looks now, it would be disastrous for air quality around the country and basically remove the reason automakers invest in electric vehicle technology. Without fines looming for those who exceed CAFE standards, car companies not named Tesla would care little about plug-ins.

3. Pay back Big Oil campaign contributors

Donald Trump at a press conference
Trump on longer claims to be self-funding his campaign. | Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Have you heard Donald Trump makes deals? He knows how to work with another party to make things palatable for both sides while keeping the sweetest part for himself. He’ll let you know that at every campaign rally and with every finger spasm on Twitter. So what has he been promising the fossil fuel magnates who will fund his race for the White House? (That self-funding thing, though it was never actually happening, is officially off, even as a pretend thing.)

We can’t know for sure, but that speech on energy policy in North Dakota got us thinking. Does Trump really want the state’s three electoral votes that badly? Of course not. It’s a case of a politician telling an industry how he’s going to take care of it so they take care of his campaign now. We wonder what he will give them. Any way you cut it, it would be a bad day for electric cars.

Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY