Moreover, the government turns over its fleet slowly; today, the average government-owned vehicle is almost 15 years old. Aging gas-powered vehicles out of that fleet will take some time.
Which is convenient, because automakers will need time to cook up the government’s order. Three automakers—Tesla, General Motors, and Ford—make electric vehicles in the US. But none complies with the government’s new “Buy American” and unionized labor provisions.
Still, government contracts could give US car companies the certainty they need to ramp up their electric vehicle efforts. “Governments have a lot of purchasing power, and they often lead with innovation to pull along market demand,” says Costa Samaras, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who studies electric vehicle policy at Carnegie Mellon University. To wit: All told, the feds spent $4.37 billion buying, fueling, and maintaining vehicles in 2019. “This is the lowest of the low-hanging electric vehicle fruit,” he says.