Elon Musk has described electric cars as critical to fighting climate change, which he’s said he believes could cause more displacement and destruction than all the wars in history combined. So you might think he’d support the federal government funding electric vehicle charging stations.
But that’s not the case, at least right now. A sometimes combative Musk spoke at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Summit Monday and suggested scrapping the Biden infrastructure package. Musk said that Tesla didn’t need the $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles, which provides a tax credit of up to that amount to individuals purchasing plug-in electric vehicles, to drive demand for its vehicles. He also called federal support for charging infrastructure unnecessary.
“Do we need support for gas stations? We don’t,” Musk said. “There’s no need for support for a charging network. I would delete it. Delete.”
Today there are about 45,000 charging stations in the US. The infrastructure bill allocates $7.5 billion for charging infrastructure, which the Biden administration hopes will reach its goal of 500,000 charging stations. Tesla’s charging stations in the US can currently only be used by Tesla vehicles. The company has said it will open them to all automakers, but non-Tesla owners will likely need to purchase an adapter, as Tesla uses a distinct plug. New charging stations will likely be immediately more accessible and affordable for non-Tesla owners.
The comments are a shift, as Musk’s companies have previously embraced government spending.
Tesla received a $465 million loan from the Department of Energy in January 2010, before its initial public offering that summer. Tesla also benefits from selling regulatory credits to other automakers, which help it be profitable. Many state governments require automakers to sell some zero emission vehicles. Automakers that don’t meet the requirements can purchase credits from Tesla, which has a surplus given that it only sells electric vehicles. These government programs are designed to encourage the transition to electric vehicles.
And Nevada gave Tesla $1.3 billion in subsidies to build its “Gigafactory,” where it makes batteries, in Sparks, Nevada.
But Tesla has grown from an unproven startup to the world’s most valuable automaker, a trillion-dollar company run by the world’s richest man, with a fortune of $267 billion largely derived from his ownership stake. Tesla today may be better positioned than anyone to compete on a level playing field. Tesla has more than 30,000 fast-charging stations worldwide. Its vehicles are so popular that some current vehicle models are backordered until next summer, despite Tesla raising prices this year.
Tesla is in many ways an American success story, but it wasn’t included when the Biden Administration held an electric vehicle summit at the White House this summer. Tesla sells most of the electric vehicles in the United States.
Tesla and the Biden administration disagree on union labor. Biden supports union labor, calling it the creator of the middle class. Tesla doesn’t rely on union workers, although Musk has claimed that on average his workers may make more money than the unionized workers at General Motors. Tesla’s worker safety record has at times been criticized as being worse than the rest of the auto manufacturing industry, which generally uses union labor. Tesla said last year that its injury rate per vehicle produced had fallen by 50% from 2019.
Biden’s Build Back Better legislation that passed in the House gives $4,500 in additional subsidy to electric vehicles that are made by union labor. Tesla won’t qualify for those subsidies.
While Tesla and Musk have accepted government subsides in the past, he’s also criticized subsidies, and at times called for getting rid of all of them.
“It has always been Tesla’s view that all subsidies should be eliminated, but that must include the massive subsidies for oil & gas,” Musk tweeted last month.
The world spends $423 billion subsidizing fossil fuels, according to the United Nations. US subsidies are roughly $20 billion a year.
Musk, despite his call for scrapping the infrastructure bill, did say he felt America needed better airports and highways. He didn’t explain how they should be funded.
Tesla, which generally does not engage with the professional news media, did not respond to a request for comment.