Industry Day 2024: The Charged EV Debate in the 2024 Election
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Industry Day 2024: The Charged EV Debate in the 2024 Election

Industry Day 2024 - The Charged EV Politics Debate in the 2024 Election - James Bikales, Lynda Tran, Mike Murphy, Tim Groeling

At Electrify Expo’s Industry Day, Politico’s James Bikales hosted a lively panel discussion about electric vehicles (EVs) in the 2024 election. The panel included Mike Murphy, CEO of the EV Politics Project, Lynda Tran, a former senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Tim Groeling, a UCLA professor in political communications. They discussed why EVs have become a political issue and how they can navigate these challenges.

The panel at Electrify Expo’s Industry Day tackled these issues head-on, exploring how EVs could bridge this political chasm and secure a future regardless of the election outcome.

James Bikales Highlights Stark Political Divide in EV Adoption

James Bikales kicked off the discussion by noting the political polarization surrounding EVs, emphasizing the challenge this poses for the industry. He highlighted the stark differences in EV adoption between blue and red states, citing a Gallup poll stressing this divide, showing that 61% of Democrats were considering buying an EV in the future, compared to only 24% of Republicans. This polarization is not just a matter of preference but has grown into a significant political issue, influencing campaigns and voter opinions.

Industry Day 2024 - The Charged EV Politics Debate in the 2024 Election - James Bikales, Lynda Tran, Mike Murphy, Tim Groeling

Republican Fights EV Bashing, Aims to Reframe Electric Cars as Job Creators in 2024 Election

Mike Murphy, a Republican and founder of the EV Politics Project, discussed his campaign to combat EV bashing in the 2024 election. He shared striking poll results showing a massive divide in perception between Democrats and Republicans, with many Republicans viewing EVs as for people who “see the world differently.”

Industry Day 2024 - The Charged EV Politics Debate in the 2024 Election - James Bikales, Lynda Tran, Mike Murphy, Tim Groeling

Murphy pointed out that positive attributes like not paying for gas and being fun to drive resonated across party lines, but environmental policies triggered partisan reactions. He emphasized that while early marketing efforts succeeded in creating a green image for EVs, this approach now contributes to political polarization.

“What has happened is tribalism, which rules our politics, has now infected vehicle choice,” mentioned Murphy. “The core attributes of EVs are really good, and our work is focused on swing states that will pick the president, particularly Michigan and Georgia, which are full of EV manufacturing jobs nobody knows about.”

Focus on Economic Benefits of EVs to Win Over Broader Audience

Industry Day 2024 - The Charged EV Politics Debate in the 2024 Election - James Bikales, Lynda Tran

Lynda Tran, with experience in both the Obama and Biden administrations, argued that the green messaging has not hit a ceiling but stressed the importance of framing the economic benefits of EVs. She noted that during the Obama years, the focus was on how improved fuel economy standards would impact consumers’ pocketbooks.

“We really need to focus on the economics of it,” Tran stated. “You’re going to save people money if they’re not going to a gas station. For those who care about polar bears, you continue with that messaging, but broadly, it’s always about the economy.”


She asserted that the economic advantages, such as saving money on gas and convenience, should be the main message to appeal to a broader audience.

Politicizing Products Like EVs Risks Alienating Customers Across Party Lines

Tim Groeling added that effective polarization plays a significant role in product choices, with people often choosing products based on political identity. He cited Elon Musk as a polarizing figure who has attracted Republican buyers but alienated some early-adopter Democrats.

“People’s attitudes, especially on political issues, take a while to change and update,” said Groeling. “Even if the polar bears go away tomorrow, people still have that association in their heads.”

Industry Day 2024 - The Charged EV Politics Debate in the 2024 Election - Tim Groeling

Groeling warned against the dangers of politicizing products, suggesting that companies should avoid becoming overly associated with one political side to prevent backlash.

Murphy agreed, adding that the real myth-buster for EVs is personal experience. He suggested that dealerships should invest in weekend test drives to convert skeptics, as firsthand experience significantly improves opinions about EVs. He shared data showing that people who know someone who owns an EV are much more likely to have a positive view of them.

The discussion also touched on concerns about government regulation and the perception that EVs are being pushed onto consumers. Tran highlighted the federal government’s role in building a national charging network (NEVI), and alleviating range anxiety, while Murphy pointed out the slow deployment of fast-charging stations and the challenges faced by urban dwellers without access to home charging.

The panel concluded with a focus on solutions for the industry to temper polarization as the election season ramps up. Murphy reiterated the importance of personal experience and recommended that automakers shift marketing dollars to initiatives that allow potential buyers to live with EVs for a weekend. Groeling advised against micro-targeting political messages to avoid backlash and emphasized the need to highlight the objective benefits of EVs.

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