US President Joe Biden has been left red-faced as reports emerged that White House officials have asked billionaire Elon Musk for help in achieving the US’ climate and green energy plans. Senior officials have urged the Tesla CEO to make his company’s extensive charging network available for use by other electric vehicle companies. Over the past year, Mr. Biden and Mr. Musk have had a contentious relationship, with the US President recently questioning his links to foreign countries. Meanwhile, Mr. Musk frequently directs jabs at the US leader on Twitter, which he recently purchased.
John Podesta and Mitch Landrieu, two top White House aides responsible for helping implement the US government’s expansive clean energy packages, met with Mr Musk and other Tesla officials on January 27.
According to sources with knowledge of the meeting, the officials were looking to urge the billionaire to help in their efforts to accelerate the US’ planned clean energy revolution, Washington Post reports.
They noted that following the meeting at the Tesla offices in Washington DC, officials had expressed openness towards working with the government to open up its charging networks, however, they made no firm commitments.
The White House turning to Elon Musk for help has likely put the US President in an awkward position, as the two have repeatedly traded barbs over political and labor issues.
While Mr. Biden has been an advocate for companies using union labor, the billionaire CEO has repeatedly pushed to keep unionization efforts out of his factories.
Last year, Mr. Musk described the US President as “a damp sock puppet in human form” after Mr. Biden highlighted the US’ electric vehicle production by GM and Ford in a tweet, leaving out Tesla.
Now in charge of Twitter, Mr Musk has highlighted stories about Hunter Biden, the President’s son, who is facing controversy involving data from a laptop that allegedly uncovers corrupt activities.
Experts note that despite the push back in the US, Tesla’s charging in Europe is compatible with other electric vehicles thanks to government regulations that require conformity.
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The EV giant began making cars in Europe with the CCS charging standard several years ago and has also been retrofitting its existing charging stations there.
While Mr Musk has previously considered opening up his Supercharging network to competitors, he never went through with doing so in the US.
Now, the government may look to force the billionaire to submit, as officials told Reuters that the US Department of Transportation is expected to finalize a requirement that will pressure Tesla into opening up.
Under these plans, the carmaker will be required to open up in order to access the US’ $7.5billion (£6.2billion) in subsidies for Mr Biden’s ambitious clean energy plans, which involve installing 500,000 EV chargers in the coming years.
Proponents of electric cars have noted that a lack of EV chargers on roads, particularly in the US, has been a major reason for the slowdown in EV sales growth.
Stuart Anderson, the state of Iowa’s Transportation Development Division Director said: “We do understand that Tesla is looking to tweak their system to be more open access. So, if they do reach that point and meet those eligibility requirements, they certainly will be eligible for funding.”
The pressure building on the Tesla CEO may be working, as signs suggest that Elon Musk could be ready to democratize Tesla charging networks, despite denouncing the government’s involvement before.
In January last year, Tesla wrote to the US Federal Highway Administration, offering the government suggestions on how to shape its charging program.
In a July 2021 earnings call, Mr Musk said that the point of Tesla’s charging network was “not to create a walled garden and use that to bludgeon our competitors.”