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Kentucky Democratic governor pushes back against Trump-led attacks on electric vehicles

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Electric vehicles have built up enough momentum from job growth and investments to steer past any roadblocks from Donald Trump and other critics, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.

The Democratic governor said the thousands of EV-related jobs springing up across the country, including in rural GOP strongholds, should be enough to overcome the political backlash against the technology.

“Jobs are so much more important than the political rhetoric that’s out there day in and day out,” Beshear said during a sit-down interview with The Associated Press.

In the Bluegrass State, the emerging EV sector has been a big contributor to the state’s record pace of economic growth. Since mid-2020, EV-related companies have announced nearly $12 billion in investments and are expected to produce more than 10,200 full-time jobs. That includes the state’s largest-ever economic development project under construction, which will produce batteries to power future Ford and Lincoln electric vehicles.

The governor dismissed the barrage of anti-EV attacks from former Republican President Trump and others as “just another attempt to divide people.”

“A lot of people have tried to fight the future, and none of them have ever won,” Beshear said. “The EV evolution or revolution is coming. The only question is how long will it take to get here.”

The emergence of EVs has become an issue in the presidential campaign. Democratic President Joe Biden promotes electric vehicles as a key component of his clean-energy agenda. Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, calls Biden’s push for EVs a “radical plan” that amounts to government overreach. Meanwhile, Republican allies in the petroleum industry have spent millions on ads that say Biden’s tax credit for EV buyers will cost Americans their freedom.

Beshear said Thursday that the attacks won’t impede Kentucky’s EV sector. Since winning reelection last year, the governor has taken a more active role in promoting Democrats across the country. Beshear defeated Trump-backed candidates twice in winning the governorship in GOP-leaning Kentucky,

“This is coming,” Beshear said of the EV industry. “It is already growing. And Kentucky is going to be a leader in this EV evolution … and it’s exciting. And it’s a huge number of jobs.”

“At the end of the day, regardless of who wins the presidential election, there are going to be so many jobs and so much investment that the EV sector is going to continue to grow,” he added.

GM CEO Mary Barra said at the company’s annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday that May was the company’s best sales month ever for electric vehicles. Spokesman David Caldwell declined to give U.S. numbers, but said GM sold about 9,000 vehicles in North America last month. Previously the best month was around 7,000, he said.

But the EV sector still faces headwinds. A new poll indicates that many Americans remain skeptical of electric vehicles. About 4 in 10 U.S. adults say they would be at least somewhat likely to buy an EV the next time they buy a car, according to the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. Some 46% say they are not too likely or not at all likely to purchase one.

Beshear said Thursday that the poll revealed encouraging signs for the EV sector. The number of adults indicating they’d be at least somewhat likely to buy an EV “is a heck of a start in looking at the transition that we know is going to occur,” he said.

“So I don’t view that as bad news at all,” Beshear added. “Four in 10 consumers is more than enough to support where we are right now as a state. But that’s going to grow over time.”

Range anxiety – the idea that EVs cannot go far enough on a single charge and may leave a driver stranded — continues as a major reason why many Americans do not purchase electric vehicles. In ridiculing EVs, Trump says “they don’t go far enough and they’re too expensive.”

In Kentucky, Beshear recently announced a third round of awards to private developers to build federally funded EV charging stations. In all, the state has approved 42 charging stations from 11 developers to provide “reliable and convenient places to charge vehicles that are located every 50 miles along our interstates and our parkways. This is just the start,” Beshear said at a recent news conference. That total doesn’t include the charging stations others are building in the state.

Beshear predicted EVs will overcome charging and pricing concerns — as well as the political attacks. And their availability will free motorists from anxiety over gas prices, he said.

“One of the things that we see every single day when we drive around is the price of gas,” he said.

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Associated Press Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.

By BRUCE SCHREINER
Associated Press

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