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Trump Thinks EV Charging Will Cost $3 Trillion — Which Is Incorrect

Nor will charging infrastructure “bankrupt” the U.S.

Electric car charging.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Shortly after being fined $350 million (more than $450 million, including interest) over fraudulent business practices and then booed at Sneaker Con, former President Donald Trump traveled to Waterford, Michigan, where he said some incorrect things about electric vehicles.

Even by Trump’s recent standards, Saturday’s Waterford rally was a bit kooky. During his nearly hour-and-a-half-long speech, the former president claimed that his opponents are calling him a whale (“I don’t know if they meant a whale from the standpoint of being a little heavy, or a whale because I got a lot of money”) and, improbably, claimed not to have known what the word “indictment” meant.

There were fewer surprises, however, for those who’ve been following Trump’s spreading of climate misinformation on the campaign trail. The rally included some of Trump’s favorite hits against EVs, including that they supposedly “don’t go far,” that they’ll eliminate American jobs, and that they’ll make for worse tanks if the Army electrifies them. But Trump also added a new claim to his list of complaints: “If we build all the charging booths that are necessary, our country would go bankrupt,” he said. “It would cost like $3 trillion. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Trump has disparaged charging infrastructure before, and while there are valid concerns about the Biden administration’s high-speed electric vehicle push, Trump’s math in Waterford was more than a little off. For one thing, he almost certainly got the “$3 trillion” price tag from the total cost of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which aims to address significantly more than just the country’s EV-charging infrastructure. In fact, BIL earmarks a comparatively small $7.5 billion for the development of 500,000 public charging stations.

But what would it cost to build and operate all the charging booths necessary to meet the current federal target of zero-emission cars making up half of new vehicle sales by 2030?

Others have already crunched the numbers. In a 2022 report, McKinsey & Company estimated that the U.S. will need “1.2 million public EV chargers and 28 million private EV chargers” by 2030 to meet the zero-emission sales goals. Those public chargers would cost about $38 billion, including the hardware, planning, and installation. Wrap in the cost to residences, workplaces, and depots, and the total cost of public and private charging installation approaches $97 billion.

Naturally, there is some disagreement about those numbers. In a separate analysis, AlixPartners, a consulting firm, found that it would take $50 billion to build the charging infrastructure to meet the 2030 zero-emission vehicle goal in the U.S., and $300 billion worldwide.

There are 1,000 billions in a trillion, though, so whatever way you cut it, it certainly would not cost the U.S. “$3 trillion” to build enough charging stations to accommodate zero-emission vehicles. Nor would doing so“bankrupt” America, even if we were allocating vastly more than the current $7.5 billion that is already set aside. By comparison, the annual budget of the U.S. Space Force alone is $30 billion.

Then again — to be fair — maybe there are some other reasons bankruptcy is at the top of Trump’s mind.

Blue

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City. Read More

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