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California Gov. Newsom says he wants to get rid of the tailpipe as we know it. State regulators voted this week to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by the year 2035. More than a dozen other states could follow. But can automakers produce enough electric vehicles to meet the demand those measures will produce? NPR's Arezou Rezvani reports.
AREZOU REZVANI, BYLINE: It's a busy morning at the auto mall here in Glendale, Calif. And Hyundai sales manager Andy Mardirosian is looking over his inventory of electric vehicles.
ANDY MARDIROSIAN: We're sold out. We're sold out. We don't have any.
REZVANI: There's been a huge demand for EVs in recent years, and dealers like Mardirosian have barely been able to keep up.
MARDIROSIAN: Gone before they even come in - that's how hot they are. They - I have, like, five coming in at the end of the month. They'll probably last a day or two.
REZVANI: California wants to build on the momentum Mardirosian sees at his dealership by phasing out gas-powered cars. Automakers were already building more EVs and embracing the electric future. But the pressure is really on now to ramp up production. And analysts say car companies face several major hurdles. Top of that list - prices.
MICHELLE KREBS: The people who are buying electric vehicles, most are in the highest income brackets. And most of the vehicles are very expensive.
REZVANI: That's Michelle Krebs of Cox Automotive. Right now, the average price of an EV is $66,000. And Krebs says that's well beyond reach for most people. Car companies are producing more affordable options, and the Biden administration is incentivizing car companies to focus on producing cheaper EVs. But boosting production doesn't really work without fixing infrastructure.
KREBS: People will become more confident if they see more charging stations and the range of the vehicles improve.
REZVANI: There are too few charging stations across the country. The federal government is spending billions of dollars to build more, but even that leaves questions about how much more an already fragile electric grid can handle. On the production side, critical minerals that go inside those all-important EV batteries may be harder to get without China's help.
SAM ABUELSAMID: Something on the order of about 90% of the lithium that's used in batteries is processed in China right now, which is not a desirable situation.
REZVANI: That's Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst with Guidehouse Insights. At a time when the Biden administration wants to reduce U.S. dependency on China, car companies are under pressure to find new sources for finding and processing those minerals, which is tough because...
KREBS: Because there's huge competition for that. Everybody's scrambling to cut deals for the minerals.
REZVANI: On top of everything, automakers need to adjust their workforce for an electric future. Abuelsamid, who's also a former auto engineer, expects to see more companies do what Ford did this week - lay off workers while still hiring in EV-related departments. The engineers will be essential.
ABUELSAMID: They're not going to be designing new engines. They're not going to be designing new transmissions. But instead, they need people with the skills to design electric motors and electrical architectures.
REZVANI: From ramping up production to revamping the workforce, all of this is part of the epic plan to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, which was only about 3% of auto sales last year. It won't be a smooth transition. But few really are, says Michelle Krebs.
KREBS: You know, transitions are never easy, and I think there are going to be some things that are not predictable. So buckle up.
REZVANI: It'll be a bumpy road ahead. Arezou Rezvani, NPR News, Los Angeles.
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