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Early adopters of EV technology had a common gripe beyond range anxiety and charging times: price. That is, in the United States. Chinese electric cars are cheaper and many American motorists would like the opportunity to buy a budget-friendly BYD EV. However, the latest tariffs make importing Chinese EVs all but impossible. While it might be a win for American brands, it harms the American consumer. 

100% tariffs on Chinese electric cars means it’s unlikely we’ll see BYD, SAIC, NIO, or Geely electric vehicles any time soon

Just shy of 28%. That’s the sort of tariff Chinese-built EVs had to contend with prior to the latest developments. It was more than enough to disincentivize Chinese electric car efforts for the U.S. market. However, the latest tariffs are more than steep, they’re prohibitive. U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration levied 100% tariffs on new Chinese EVs and solar cells. According to the BBC, the administration asserts that the measures are “a response to unfair policies and intended to protect US jobs.”

Like the previous round of tariffs, the maneuver makes it nearly impossible to import Chinese-built EVs. While it’s understandable that the U.S. Government would want to protect the country’s North American clean vehicle initiatives from cheap Chinese EVs, it does impact the American consumer negatively. Currently, affordable Chinese electric cars ship worldwide, giving consumers access to affordable electric vehicle technology, especially those urban commuters. 

Of course, a solution would be cheaper US-made EVs from domestic marques like Tesla, Ford, and GM. Tragically, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, one of the cheapest new EVs on the American market, started at around $27,495 for 2023. Conversely, the BYD Seagull, a compact Chinese electric car, sells for around USD 12,000 in the domestic Chinese market. 

A BYD, a Chinese electric car, charges by the curb.
A BYD EV charges | brunocoelhopt via iStock

It’s not just Chinese EVs, either. The U.S. Government recently overhauled the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) standards for which EVs qualify for the federal clean vehicle tax credit. According to the DOE, all qualifying electric vehicles must “undergo final assembly in North America.” As such, several European models will no longer qualify for the $7,500 incentive.

However, there is one loophole shoppers can exploit when it comes to foreign EVs. The IRS exempts foreign-built EVs from the restrictions as long as drivers lease rather than buy. Still, buyers who want up to $7,500 in federal credits on a new EV will have to opt for a North American-finished EV like the Ford Mustang Mach-E.