Why Chinese Automakers Deserve to Win the EV Race

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The Chinese EV tariff debate goes on. I just put this summary in another article today, but am using it again to make sure everyone’s on the same starting page:

The argument for the tariffs is that China and provincial governments in China have given Chinese EV producers too much support, resulting in overproduction and artificially low prices that are counter to the foundation of a free market and true commercial competition. Of course, the counter argument is that all countries support their car producers and there is nothing unfair about what China has done. The tariffs are seen as protectionism and the actual assault on free market competition.

One recent comment on this matter really caught my attention recently. The comment came under an article of mine from one of our writers, Max Holland. In case you are not aware, Max writes about a half dozen EV sales and market share reports each month on different countries in Europe. Here’s his comment:

“The European auto industry has received around $100 B in subsidies since 2009.

“Given that they have produced less than a third of the BEVs made in China, European auto makers have received far more subsidy ‘per-BEV-sold’ than the Chinese auto industry.”

It’s a good point. How much money has gone into supporting the German auto industry (and its transition to EVs), the French auto industry (and its transition to EVs), the Italian auto industry (and its transition to EVs), etc.? (Similarly, how much has the US auto industry gotten in this regard?)

Now, I don’t actually know the numbers here, and it would take a lot to try to compare them to EVs sold, but Max is probably right. The amount of subsidy per electric car sold has probably been much higher in Europe than in China. And if that’s the case, how does it make any sense to put extra tariffs on them? Also, realistically, can China not justify putting tariffs on their EVs then? Oh, well, that doesn’t really matter, as almost no foreign-made EVs are sold in China.

But, getting back to Max’s comment, I think one key implied point is that Chinese automakers have done much more with the support they’ve received. They’ve created better electric cars and done a much better job of getting them into the hands of more buyers. Part of that may be the core vision and requirements of the country, without the waffling we’ve seen across Europe and the US for the past decade, and part of it has to be down to the Chinese automakers just doing better.

Of course, as I wrote earlier today, there’s a chance many of these Chinese EV producers have been overextending themselves and will go bankrupt. They may be selling so many EVs partly by underpricing them based on how much they cost to produce. We’ll see in the next few years. But, in any case, from a climate perspective, Chinese automakers are getting electric cars on the road much more effectively than US and European automakers. And perhaps we should be celebrating China’s ROI in terms of EV sales per yuan spent rather than moaning about it.


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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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