Automobile

Biden Wants to Electrify the Beast

  • After President Biden’s eventful day with the Ford F-150 Lightning, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki whether the presidential limo might ever be electrified, and Psaki said it’s something the president has thought about and wants to accomplish.
  • The presidential limo, colloquially referred to as The Beast, is currently supplied by General Motors and reportedly weighs around 15,000 pounds.
  • Most details about the Beast, including its current powertrain, are kept secret. The most recent edition was delivered by GM in 2017. We don’t know when the limo’s next overhaul will be.

    Say you’re a newly minted president determined to enact a climate-friendly agenda, but your only car is a 54-year-old Corvette. Kind of a bad look, right? So when a journalist asks you (or, the person you pay to talk to reporters for you) if you’re willing to electrify your other mode of transport, your fleet of armored limos, you almost have to say yes.

    Those were the circumstances when a member of the White House press corps asked Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary, whether the president would consider electrifying his limo (sometimes called the Beast). A few hours earlier, from behind the wheel of a prototype F-150 Lightning, a gleeful Biden had told the press that he would consider buying one of the EV trucks. So it wasn’t quite a surprise when Psaki told the press that, yes, Biden would consider electrifying his limo, and that in fact greenifying the Beast is “an objective for him.”

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    Still, don’t hold your breath for an EV Beast. We don’t know much about the president’s fleet of limos, but what we do know seems to complicate the idea of transitioning them to battery power. General Motors holds the contract for the current Beast, a family of identical limo-like vehicles that ride on commercial truck platforms and wear Cadillac badges (the president also sometimes rides in an armored Suburban 2500 HD). The current edition of the Cadillac limo reportedly weighs more than 15,000 pounds, so range from a 100-or-so-kWh battery pack (about the largest batteries we’ve seen in commercially available EVs so far) would likely be extremely limited. And we’d guess that having to sit around at Electrify America stations for half an hour every 100 miles is not high on the Secret Service’s wish list for the next-generation Beast.

    Note, though, that Psaki was asked if the president would “electrify” the limos, not whether he would make them EVs. An electrified vehicle, as opposed to an electric one, could be a hybrid or plug-in hybrid. And a plug-in Beast doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. It could run on EV power for a few miles at a time, for political or even diplomatic purposes—the president travels with his limos, and some parts of the world are quickly souring on internal-combustion engines—but there’d be a reserve of fuel in case of the need for a quick getaway or longer road journey. We’re just saying, when GM gets the call about designing the next Beast, they should ask us for ideas.

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