If you were asked to list the top three electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers, Tesla would most likely come to mind first, along with perhaps Chevrolet and Nissan after that—two out of three of those being U.S. companies.
Of these, Tesla is the only pure-play EV manufacturer, fully committed to electrification while shunning all other power trains. With the introduction of the Model 3, which is being produced at higher volumes than the company’s previous models, Tesla is now churning out approximately 5,600 vehicles per week, Bloomberg recently reported. At this rate, the company can claim to have joined the ranks as a mass-market automaker selling across global markets.
Seemingly then, America’s firm foothold in EV production should bode well for the future. However, an article published this week in Forbes indicates that the United States is in fact already losing the manufacturing battle when it comes to electric cars. Instead, China is increasingly dominating, accountable for 40 percent of the global production of electric vehicles as compared with 20 percent made by U.S.-based companies.
Yet again, China is surpassing the U.S. in manufacturing—this time with EVs
The author of the Forbes article, Paul Bledsoe, a partner of an energy and climate change consultancy, warns that EV manufacturing in the U.S. is in danger of going the same way as solar panel manufacturing—which has declined substantially in recent years. Once an important new and burgeoning industry in America, U.S. solar panel manufacturers have lost ground, also to China.
True, the comparison of the EV industry with solar panel manufacturing may have its limits. Solar panels are effectively electronic devices, a manufacturing discipline where China already has a huge advantage, whereas auto-making has been a dominant industry in the U.S. for well over a century. As such, the U.S. should benefit from its leading competence and experience in building cars. Still, manufacturers like China’s BYD are already major players in hybrids and battery electric vehicles, so there’s no room for complacency.
Bledsoe asserts that government policy will be necessary to keep EV manufacturing vital in America. But how likely is this when it appears the current administration’s position is not so much complacent about losing ground to China but rather, disinterested? The Donald Trump administration’s recent budget proposal wants to end federal tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles, while at the same time, the administration announced this week it wants to speed up gas and petroleum pipeline building. As a matter of setting priorities, though today’s global vehicle fleet remains predominantly gasoline- and diesel-powered, the rest of the world, including China, is moving on.