Editorial: China embraced electric vehicles. The U.S. didn't. Now we're paying the price (2024)

For shoppers who want to buy an electric car but have been put off by the steep price tag, the news this week that President Biden has hiked tariffs on Chinese-made EVs to shut them out of the U.S. market is not good.

It means that Chinese-made EVs won’t be sold in the U.S. any time soon and American consumers won’t have access to affordable models, such as BYD’s Seagull, which sells for $12,000 in China. Similar EVs available in U.S. at the moment cost three times more.

Right now the American car market is sorely lacking in smaller, cheaper EVs. Automakers in the U.S. have focused on electrifying bigger, more expensive models, including SUVs, trucks and minivans. The average price of an EV is $55,000, and the high sticker price is one reason EV sales are slowing; price-limited buyers are shut out of the market.



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Biden’s decision to impose 100% tariffs on Chinese-made EVs stifles the possibility of competition in the lower end of the car market and means the affordability gap will continue. That will slow the transition to zero-emission vehicles at a time when the U.S. needs to rapidly reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

Admittedly, the politics of international trade policy with the United States’ leading economic competitor are complex. Biden is playing a long game. His administration, along with Congress, have committed billions of dollars to boost the manufacturing of electric vehicles and batteries in the U.S. so the country is not reliant on foreign imports.


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The Biden administration argues the tariffs are part of the larger strategy to grow the green economy by protecting the nascent domestic EV manufacturing industry and its good-paying jobs from competition from cheaper and sometimes better Chinese products. But it’s frustrating that the U.S. is in this position at all. China is winning the EV race because the government poured money into the development of zero-emission technology, knowing that EVs are the future.

While China was looking forward, U.S. automakers spent much of the last decade trying to delay EV production mandates and investing in bigger, more expensive gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks. When President Trump was elected, automakers persuaded him to roll back Obama-era vehicle pollutant standards that would have required companies to increase fuel economy and build more hybrid and electric vehicles.

The U.S. government and the industry wasted years dithering over tailpipe emissions standards while China was figuring out how to get rid of tailpipes altogether.


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Now, at least there is forward momentum in the U.S. — though slower than needed — toward a zero-emission future. Still, it’s impossible to separate the tariff decision from election-year politics. Biden and Trump are competing for the “toughest on China” title. While Biden announced the 100% tariffs on Chinese-made EVs, Trump said he would impose 200% tariffs on Chinese vehicles made in Mexico.


Earlier this year, the Biden administration finalized a watered-down requirement on electric vehicles, caving to pressure in swing states, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, from automakers and from the United Auto Workers union, which pushed to slow the transition to EVs because of concerns about job losses.

Biden has yet to make the case that protectionism will help American consumers and the fight to slow global warming, and his administration should support more policies and financial incentives to balance the higher cost to Americans. The tariffs may be a temporary measure to help the U.S. catch up, but ultimately the nation needs to be a leader in the zero-emission future.

More to Read

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    May 11, 2024

  • China’s highflying EV industry is going global. Why that has Tesla and other carmakers worried

    April 19, 2024

  • The EV market is in trouble: The latest sign is Tesla’s layoffs

    April 16, 2024

Editorial: China embraced electric vehicles. The U.S. didn't. Now we're paying the price (2024)


Editorial: China embraced electric vehicles. The U.S. didn't. Now we're paying the price? ›

Biden's decision to impose 100% tariffs on Chinese-made EVs stifles the possibility of competition in the lower end of the car market and means the affordability gap will continue. That will slow the transition to zero-emission vehicles at a time when the U.S. needs to rapidly reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

Why are Chinese electric cars not sold in the US? ›

In 2018, Trump imposed, and Biden has since continued, a special 25 percent tax on Chinese-made autos, on top of the ordinary 2.5 percent tax on foreign-made cars. That has so far prevented BYD and its Chinese peers from trying to enter the US market.

Why are electric cars so cheap in China? ›

For instance, she says, the Chinese government heavily subsidizes China's EV industry to give it an international advantage. Wages in the Chinese auto industry are lower. And some companies in the Chinese auto-supply chain almost certainly use forced labor, or modern-day slavery, according to human rights groups.

What would happen if the US switched to all electric vehicles? ›

This latest report estimates that by 2050, a switch to zero-emission vehicles and a decarbonized electric grid would mean 2.79 million fewer pediatric asthma attacks, 147,000 fewer pediatric acute bronchitis cases, 2.67 million fewer cases of pediatric upper respiratory symptoms and 1.87 million fewer cases of ...

Why electric cars won't save US? ›

Electric cars are dangerous

Largely because of their batteries, electric vehicles are typically around 30 percent heavier than equivalent gas-powered models. For every 1,000 pounds a car weighs over a Corolla, the chance of killing another motorist goes up by 46%.

What American cars are built in China? ›

There are currently four models for sale in the United States that are made in China. The Lincoln Nautilus crossover is built at the Changan Hangzhou Assembly Plant. The Buick Envision crossover is also built in China through a joint venture with General Motors and the Chinese state-owned automaker SAIC.

Are Chinese-made cars sold in USA? ›

Buick, Lincoln, Polestar, and Volvo sell Chinese-made vehicles in the US. Of those, the only Chinese-made EVs come from Polestar, a brand co-owned by Volvo and its parent company, Geely. The EV brand imported just 2,217 cars in the first three months of 2024.

What is the #1 selling electric car in China? ›

The BYD Song was the best-selling EV in China last year, repeating its 2022 success. The model finished 2023 more than 100,000 units ahead of the second-place Tesla Model Y.

Which country is leading in electric cars? ›

As of 2024, China is the country with the most electric cars in the world – and by a long shot. In 2021, there were 417 million registered vehicles in China, 319 million of which were passenger cars. Of that, 13.1 million were “new energy vehicles” – those with electric, hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell powertrains.

Can the US power grid support all electric cars? ›

A question that frequently comes up when discussing electric vehicles (EVs) is: “Can the grid handle it?” The short answer is “yes.” Getting that answer, however, takes working through a number of other key questions and doing a little bit of math. 1.

Why shouldn't we go all electric cars? ›

Electric vehicles are not “zero” emissions—they create more emissions than internal combustion engine vehicles when they are produced, and they also cause emissions when they are charged, usually by burning fossil fuels.

Why don't Americans want electric cars? ›

The most obvious reason for consumer disenchantment is the hassle of charging EVs. Few drivers are willing to plan their lives around finding a charging station and waiting around for their battery to top up. During the nation's recent Arctic blast, motorists found that getting a full charge took even longer.

Why are EV cars not the future? ›

While bigger batteries allow drivers to travel farther between charges, they also make the cars heavier, more dangerous, more expensive, and worse for the planet. The "range anxiety" that has resulted in massive batteries is another reason EVs don't work as a replacement for gas cars.

What is the biggest problem with EV? ›

Battery issues, climate control, and in-car electronics are among the biggest problems in electric vehicles.

What is the downfall of owning an electric car? ›

Pros and cons of electric cars
Pros Of Electric CarsCons Of Electric Cars
Electric cars are energy efficientElectric cars can't travel as far
Electric cars reduce emissions"Fueling" takes longer
Electric cars require lower maintenanceElectric cars are sometimes more expensive

Can I buy a Chinese electric car in the USA? ›

No American car buyer today can purchase a Chinese brand's electric vehicle. And no one is really sure when these EVs will arrive on US shores. But the prospect of cheap Chinese-made EVs is already causing sleepless nights in Detroit.

Why does BYD not sell in the USA? ›

According to analysts, even if BYD did want to start selling its cars in the US, a combination of geopolitical challenges and weak demand would leave it facing an uphill battle.

Can I import a Chinese electric car? ›

US battery electric vehicle imports

The United States doesn't currently import Chinese BEVs at scale largely because it places a 27.5 percent tariff on Chinese-made cars, along with other restrictions. Still, this tariff may not ultimately prevent Chinese autos from reaching the United States.

Why is BYD better than Tesla? ›

If long range and performance is essential than Tesla might be the car for you. Alternatively, if shorter daily commutes and only the occasional road trip replicates your driving style then a BYD might be more suitable and offers a more advantageous price point.

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