Former President Donald Trump made a speech in suburban Detroit, targeting electric vehicles (EVs) and attempting to make them a divisive issue in American politics. Trump argued that EVs are too expensive, have limited range, and will lead to job losses. He referred to those promoting EVs as “environmental lunatics.” However, this tactic overlooks the nuanced reality of how most autoworkers feel about EVs and is largely incoherent. The United Auto Workers of America strike, which is currently taking place, highlights that union members are not fully convinced by either party’s stance on EVs. While workers share concerns about costs and charging infrastructure, they also want to see the EV transition continue and have worries about President Joe Biden’s approach. Additionally, the attitudes of autoworkers reflect those of most Americans, with many expressing hesitations about EVs due to charging and range concerns, but also acknowledging the potential environmental benefits. It is worth noting that much of the work on EVs is currently being done by non-union labor, and for opinions to shift, the industry needs to involve union workers more. Trump’s attacks on EVs can be seen as “faux populism,” considering his previous stance against labor unions.
Despite skepticism among autoworkers and the wider population, the transition to EVs is unlikely to be halted. Automakers are committed to the shift, and union leadership wants to ensure that workers share in the profits. Affordability remains a concern, but this is true for both EVs and gas vehicles as prices increase across the board. While the success of Trump’s plan to drive a wedge between autoworkers and environmentalists is uncertain, his attack on the union strike as pointless is misguided. The site of his speech was a non-union facility, and many attendees were not connected to the auto industry. The future of autoworkers and the industry itself depends on the successful integration of EVs, as well as addressing concerns about job security and the flow of money out of Midwest strongholds. The Biden administration is prioritizing the installation of a robust EV charging network to alleviate concerns about practicality and is seeking to frame the transition as beneficial for workers and the environment. However, much work remains to convince skeptical autoworkers and the general public of the advantages of EVs.