Why China is winning the EV war

“The Biden administration has a climate goal that 50 percent of all new car sales in the US will be electric by 2030. Meanwhile, China already reached that milestone this year, in 2024. Over the past decade, China has pulled numerous levers to scale up its electric vehicle industry, and key to that strategy has been the development of the most globally competitive EV battery. Their efforts have spawned the world’s biggest battery companies, like CATL and BYD.
The Biden administration wants to keep Chinese cars and batteries out of the country — but that could be counter to our own electric vehicle ambitions in the short term.”


$7.5 Billion in Government Cash Only Built 8 E.V. Chargers in 2.5 Years

“In 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included $7.5 billion to build 500,000 public charging stations for electric vehicles (E.V.s) across the country in an effort to boost a switch to the use of clean energy.
As Reason reported in December, not one charger funded by the program had yet come online. Now, six months later, the number of functional charging stations has ticked up to eight.”

“Why so little progress? Alexander Laska of the center-left Third Way think tank told Autoweek’s Jim Motavalli that the federal cash “comes with dozens of rules and requirements around everything from reliability to interoperability, to where stations can be located, to what certifications the workers installing the chargers need to have.” Laska says the regulations “are largely a good thing—we want drivers to have a seamless, convenient, reliable charging experience—but navigating all of that does add to the timeline.”
A spokesperson with the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program, which administers $5 billion of the $7.5 billion total, further told Motavalli that the delay is because “we want to get it right.””


Glenn Youngkin Withdraws Virginia From California’s Electric Vehicle Mandate

“California first adopted its Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) standard in 2012. The rules required automakers to gradually increase sales of zero-emission vehicles as a percent of total sales in California, culminating in an 8-percent share in 2025. Plug-in hybrids, which use both electric and gas-powered motors, counted for partial credit toward the total.
The Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 1965 in 2021, which directed the State Air Pollution Control Board to adopt low-emission and zero-emission vehicle standards equivalent to California’s. The bill was signed into law by then-Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, whose support helped guarantee the bill’s passage. Virginia is among 18 states and the District of Columbia that have adopted some or all of California’s regulations.

But the following year, California adopted Advanced Clean Cars II, which greatly expanded the requirements of the original standard. Under the new rules, the zero-emission requirement would jump from 8 percent of automaker’s sales for model year 2025 all the way to 35 percent in 2026, increasing each year until 100 percent of all new vehicles sold for model year 2035 must be electric.

The following day, Youngkin and the Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates indicated their intent to repeal H.B. 1965 and uncouple the state from California’s rules, but the Democrat-controlled state Senate squashed their efforts the following year. In the 2023 elections, Democrats regained control of the House of Delegates while keeping control of the Senate, and the state Senate once again defeated efforts to repeal the law in January 2024.

Ultimately, California’s more aggressive rules provided the legal justification for Virginia’s withdrawal. Youngkin’s press release claims that H.B. 1965 merely authorized the state to follow Advanced Clean Cars I, the rules in place at the time that went through 2025. “An opinion from Attorney General Jason Miyares confirms the law, as written, does not require Virginia to follow ACC II,” the press release continues. “Therefore, the Commonwealth will follow federal emissions standards on January 1, 2025.”

“We are alarmed that Governor Youngkin thinks that he is above the law,” Nicole Vaughan, communications director for the Virginia Conservation Network, tells Reason in a statement. “Legislation passed in 2021 directs Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board to adopt Advanced Clean Cars and subsequent updates to the program. In doing so, Virginia exercised an option under the federal Clean Air Act to follow the more stringent standards adopted by California and several other states to address tailpipe pollution.””


China Is Doubling Down on Electric Vehicle Subsidies

“”China spent roughly $173 billion in subsidies to support the new energy-vehicle sector, which encompasses electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, between 2009 and 2022,” write Kubota and Leong. By 2019, there were 500 E.V. manufacturers in China. But that same year, the government started paring back those incentives, and by 2023, the number of automakers had shrunk by 80 percent.
Now, though, the country is ready to throw good money after bad: “Chinese leader Xi Jinping has called on local leaders to promote ‘new productive forces’—a buzzword in Chinese policy circles for the need to promote high-value manufacturing industries.” Local leaders responded by pumping money into struggling companies—in one case, giving the equivalent of $27.5 million to a company that had sold fewer than 2,000 cars in the first quarter of 2024.

“China currently has the capacity to produce some 40 million vehicles a year, though it sells only around 22 million cars domestically,” the Journal authors warn. As a result, the country’s largesse “is adding cars to a global market that risks becoming more oversupplied.”

Of course, E.V.s are not inherently a bad idea—especially in China, whose cities have a history of such severe pollution that it lowers the nation’s life expectancy.”

“But as with anything, the advent of clean-energy technology should be driven by market forces. The Chinese government spent more than a decade subsidizing the production of electric vehicles, no matter whether consumers wanted to buy them. When the spigot of free money finally shut off, and manufacturers had to stand on their own, the country saw the rise of “E.V. graveyards,” in which entire fields were covered in unsold or abandoned vehicles.

America would do well to heed China’s example as a cautionary tale about industrial policy. China averaged 9.8 percent annual economic growth for 35 years starting in 1978; in 2013, officials pledged to keep growth at 7.5 percent—a two-decade low for the country, even if it would have been an enviable figure for any other nation.

But much of that expansion was driven by government spending, not market forces: For much of the 21st century, China embarked upon a construction binge, building residential and commercial developments as fast as possible with no regard for whether there were any tenants to fill them.

The result was China’s “ghost cities,” full of high-rise apartments and shopping centers in which nobody lived. Worried about rising debt, the Chinese government finally started drawing back its building spree in 2020. Since then, the country’s real estate market has cratered, and its debt load has only deepened.”


Why is Biden blocking the cheapest, most popular EVs in the world?

“You can’t buy the Seagull in the US. But I bet you wish you could.
A small hatchback around the size of a Mini Cooper, the Seagull is a fast-charging electric car and claims a range of up to 250 miles (at least according to its home country’s generous tests); BYD, its Chinese manufacturer, claims it can go from 30 percent to 80 percent charged in a half-hour using a DC plug. It’s hardly a luxury car but it’s well-equipped, with a power driver’s seat and cruise control. “If I were looking for an inexpensive commuter car … this would be perfect,” veteran car journalist John McElroy said after taking a drive.

The best part? Its base model costs about $10,700 in China. That’s about a third of the cost of the cheapest EV you can buy in the US. In South America, it’s a little pricier, but still fairly affordable, at under $24,000 for a top-trim version. Even in Europe, you can get an entry-level BYD for under €30,000.

These are absolutely screaming deals — exactly the kind of products that could turbocharge our transition away from gas and toward electric vehicles.

And it’s just one of many BYD electric cars on offer, from the compact e2/e3 hatchback and sedan (think a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla) to the full-size, luxe Han EV, a more expensive option nonetheless selling for under $33,000 in China (it costs more than double that in Europe). Many of the options have an aquatic themed name: the Seal, the Dolphin, the Sea Lion.

The problem for Americans? The Biden administration is hell-bent on preventing you from buying BYD’s product, and if Donald Trump returns to office, he is likely to fight it as well.

That’s because the BYD cars are made in China, and both Biden and Trump are committed to an ultranationalist trade policy meant to keep BYD’s products out. They’ve seen what’s happened in other global markets that Chinese EV companies have entered. Shipments to Europe have increased astronomically; Chinese companies sold 0.5 percent of EVs in Europe in 2019 but they’re already over 9 percent as of last year. Companies like BYD make cheap, reasonably good-quality cars people are eager to buy.”


Ford E.V. Battery Plant in Michigan Named Worst Economic Development Deal of 2023

“Each year since 2018, the Center for Economic Accountability (CEA)—a nonpartisan think tank opposed to corporate welfare—has named its Worst Economic Development Deal of the Year, a dishonor awarded to the most egregious misuse of taxpayer funds nominally intended to spur economic growth.
This year, the ignoble honor goes to Michigan, which has awarded over $1.75 billion to Ford Motor Co. and Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. (CATL), a Chinese battery manufacturer. The two companies are jointly developing a factory in Marshall, Michigan, that would build lithium iron phosphate batteries for the automaker’s electric vehicle (E.V.) lineup.”

“facing strong economic headwinds, Ford announced it was “re-timing and resizing some investments.” While the Michigan plant was originally intended to create 2,500 jobs, Ford changed its pledge to 1,700 jobs and lowered its potential output by 40 percent, estimated to shrink the company’s financial investment by $1 billion or more.

Since Ford originally pledged $3.5 billion, Michigan’s contribution to the project could be nearly as much as what Ford plans to spend on its own factory. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, told reporters that Michigan’s investment may be “resized” as well, and “as Ford has had to make some changes…the state’s role will change as well.”

Of course, the deal’s merits were questionable from the start. When the project was first announced, Whitmer’s office claimed it would have “an employment multiplier of 4.38, which means that an additional 4.38 jobs in Michigan’s economy are anticipated to be created for every new direct job.”

This is a fanciful notion. Tim Bartik of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research has estimated that a more typical multiplier on a local or state level is between 1.5 and 2. Last month, Bartik calculated the estimated benefits of Michigan’s proposed investment; while he was broadly positive, he noted that a 4.38 multiplier was “very high,” and “if the Ford project had a more typical multiplier—2.5 rather than 4.38—the project’s gross benefits would be less than the incentive costs.””


Congress Spent $7.5 Billion on E.V. Chargers. After 2 Years, None Are Built.

“”The slow rollout…primarily boils down to the difficulties state agencies and charging companies face in meeting a complex set of contracting requirements and minimum operating standards for the federally-funded chargers, according to interviews with state and EV industry officials,” the article notes.
Even with federal funds, part of the problem may also be cost, because the chargers are quite expensive to build and maintain. The types of chargers mentioned in the law are either Level 2 or Level 3, also known as Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC). Level 2 chargers use alternating current electricity and take between four and 10 hours to charge an E.V., while DCFCs use direct current and can charge an E.V. in less than an hour.

Any long-term solution would prioritize DCFCs—no road-tripper will want to wait all day for their car to charge when fueling up a gas burner takes minutes. But DCFCs are considerably more expensive to install: A 2019 study by the Department of Energy found that while Level 2 chargers can cost up to $6,500 to install, DCFCs can cost as much as $40,000. Depending on factors like hardware costs, other estimates have put the price between $50,000 and $100,000.”

” Ultimately, consumer choices will dictate the future of electric vehicles; if people don’t buy them at their current price and with the current technology, then companies will either innovate or come up with something better. By merely subsidizing the current thing, the Biden administration is upholding the status quo and disincentivizing other innovations that could revolutionize the industry and make environmentally-friendly vehicles truly competitive with their gas-burning counterparts.”


Politicians Say They Want To Fight Climate Change. So Why Are They Fighting China on Electric Vehicles?

“Much of the banter surrounding the rise of China’s electric vehicle (E.V.) industry and the implication for the global economy is misleadingly alarmist. When our government gets involved in such narratives, it calls into question the sincerity of its insistence that E.V.s are essential to an existential battle against climate change. If China’s foray succeeds, the world gets cleaner cars and non-Chinese automakers are obliged to improve their own products.”

“any related national security concerns are often rooted in misconceptions about the technologies themselves. It’s important to differentiate between civilian and military technologies. E.V. manufacturing primarily involves civilian tech that’s unlikely to have significant national security implications.”