Biden Calls for Bolstering of American EV Industry to Enhance Competition with China

President Biden on Tuesday attending an online event highlighting progress made by American EV firm Proterra. (Source: The White House/YouTube)

During a virtual tour of an electric bus manufacturing facility on Tuesday, President Joe Biden lamented that the US is “running way behind China” in the scramble to develop and implement sustainable transport.

The comments came at an online event held in a South Carolina factory operated by Proterra, an American electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer specializing in sustainable public transport products.

Biden also expressed his ambitions for the US to serve as the global leader in the production of electric buses and passenger vehicles, in alignment with his administration’s goals of countering global warming and bolstering domestic job growth in the wake of the pandemic.

Recent years have seen a dramatic surge in China’s green energy auto industry, as several of country’s leading tech firms maneuver to enter an already crowded market.

Although the US is the home of Tesla – the most valuable and internationally-recognized EV company – China’s total production of electric automobiles is forecasted to outpace that of the US by a factor of more than three by 2023, according to data by Statista.

The long list of leading players in China’s booming EV industry include BYD Auto, Geely, NIO, SAIC Motor, BAIC Group, Xpeng and Li Auto, all of which have benefited from the country’s vast domestic consumer base and extensive support from the central government.

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Furthermore, a wave of leading Chinese tech juggernauts including Baidu and Xiaomi have this year announced plans to develop their own green energy vehicles. At this week’s Shanghai Auto Show, Huawei also joined the mad dash with the unveiling of a new self-developed hybrid SUV. These high-profile forays into the competitive market have ignited increased speculation and investment in China’s burgeoning EV industry.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has proposed a mammoth $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, of which $174 billion focuses specifically on boosting the country’s competitive edge in the development and manufacturing of EVs and charging stations.

Among the specific policies suggested in the bill is an ambitious goal to erect 500,000 public charging stations across the US by 2030. In stark contrast, the total number of charging stations in China reached 807,000 in 2020, according to data by Statista.

President Biden has also voiced the need to encourage consumers to make the switch from fuel-driven vehicles to new electric models, which currently represent just 2% of total car purchases. In 2020, automakers in China sold about 1.3 million passenger EVs while carmakers in the US sold only 328,000, according to Reuters, citing data from research firm Canalys.

Mitigating climate change represents one of the key objectives of the Biden administration, marking a significant departure from former President Trump, whose term in office came to a close in January.

The issue of global warming is frequently touted as one of the most promising channels for Sino-US cooperation in coming years, as top officials in both Beijing and Washington increasingly emphasize the need for coordinated action. During recent talks in Shanghai, US special envoy for climate John Kerry agreed with Chinese counterparts to jointly carry out efforts to tackle the challenge.

With increasing calls for more environmentally friendly policies within both China and the US, competition between the two countries in the field of EVs is likely to intensify.