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US senator calls for China EV ban

US senator calls for China EV ban

Electric vehicles may become a new front in America’s tech war with China after a US senator called for Washington DC to block Chinese-made EVs to protect domestic industries and national security.

Sherrod Brown, senator for Ohio and chair of the Senate Banking Committee, penned a letter to President Biden, claiming «there are currently no Chinese EVs for sale in the United States, and we must keep it that way.»

He warned that «Chinese EVs, highly subsidized by the Chinese government, could decimate our domestic automakers, harm American workers, and give China access to sensitive personal data,» insisting the US government must ban Chinese-made EVs as soon as possible, calling it «a matter of economic and national security.»

The move comes as the dispute between the two economic superpowers over technology rumbles on, with the US last week sanctioning four more Chinese companies, claiming they were involved with providing chips for accelerating AI to China’s military and intelligence users.

Among those added to the Entity List maintained by the US Department of Commerce was Sitonholy (Tianjin) Co, understood to be one of the largest distribution channels for Nvidia’s datacenter products in China, thus cutting off supplies of Nvidia GPUs to many Chinese companies.

Meanwhile, politicians in DC are said to be livid after Chinese technology giant Huawei was able to launch a new laptop line based on Intel’s latest AI-enabled Core Ultra processors, despite sanctions in place against the company.

According to Reuters, the Biden administration came under fire from angry Republicans when news broke of Huawei’s MateBook X Pro, the company’s first AI PC. But it was revealed that Intel had managed to obtain a license that permitted it to supply Huawei with processor chips, and this was issued by the Trump administration back in 2020.

While the sanctions against Chinese organizations like Huawei are claimed to be motivated by national security interests to try to prevent Beijing’s military from getting access to advanced AI capabilities, the calls for a ban on EVs appear to have more to do with economic fears.

These fears are not groundless – Chinese automakers are now said to account for about half of all EVs sold globally each year. They have also been claimed to represent a real threat to the car industry in Europe and the US because China-based brands typically carry a lower price tag than their western rivals.

And the claims by Senator Brown also appear to have some legitimacy. Reports say that Beijing has heavily subsidized its green tech industries, with BYD, now the largest manufacturer of electric vehicles in the world, said to have received at least $3.7 billion in state hand-outs.

«Time and again, we have seen the Chinese government dump highly subsidized goods into markets for the purpose of undermining domestic manufacturing,» Senator Brown said. «We cannot let the same occur when it comes to EVs. American automakers and autoworkers need a level playing field – they cannot, and should not be expected to, compete with these heavily subsidized Chinese EVs.»

The number of Chinese cars purchased by US customers is understood to be very low as these are subject to an extra 25 percent tariff on top of the regular 2.5 percent import duty that DC applies to imported vehicles.

However, Senator Brown notes in his letter that BYD already sells an electric hatchback named the «Seagull» for the equivalent of less than $10,000. This compares with the $28,140 that has been reported as the starting price of the current cheapest electric car available in the US, the 2024 Nissan LEAF S.

There is also a national security twist as Senator Brown claims that data collected by the sensors and cameras in Chinese EVs could pose a threat. «China does not allow American-made electric vehicles near their official buildings. To allow their vehicles freedom to travel throughout the United States would be foolish and highly dangerous,» he stated.

Senator Brown also claims in his letter that nearly 20 percent of all electric vehicles sold in Europe during 2023 were made in China, citing this as a cautionary example.

The European Commission last year announced an investigation into subsidies in the Chinese EV industry, but there are said to be misgivings in Germany and elsewhere that a ban on Chinese EVs could backfire, with Beijing retaliating by locking Western carmakers out of the lucrative China market entirely. ®