Chinese automaker BYD Co. is considering building a battery plant in the US but doesn’t currently plan on selling its electric cars there, a top executive said, while laying out a case for tweaks to Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act that seeks to limit reliance on Asia’s biggest economy.
“Currently we don’t plan on selling in the US, we need a better understanding of what the next steps are,” BYD Executive Vice President Stella Li said in an interview Tuesday. “We’ll continue to invest in electric school buses and also battery components but for consumer cars, we haven’t got a decision yet.”
As an automaker with large manufacturing capabilities and a vertically integrated supply chain stretching from batteries to chips, BYD stands to lose from Washington’s efforts to rebalance the sector away from China. The US Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in August, is pushing EV makers globally to produce more vehicles in North America and secure the key minerals for them outside of China.
Li said the IRA threatens EV uptake in the US, although she welcomed the country’s efforts to strengthen its own supply chain. The legislation has been widely criticized by carmakers and EV battery makers in Europe, China, South Korea and Japan.
Hopefully the US can “modify some language to at least allow Chinese vendors to participate” in certain processes, she said.
BYD is pursuing a dedicated cell production site in America, buoyed by robust consumer demand for cleaner cars. But Li called the requirement to source raw materials from countries the US has free trade agreements with, and which necessarily sidelines China, “confusing.”
Li was speaking to Bloomberg from Chile, where BYD is in talks to enter into a mining project and applying for permits to process lithium into cathodes for batteries. BYD is also looking to invest in African lithium projects, although it recognizes the infrastructure shortfalls.
(By Danny Lee, Eduardo Thomson and James Attwood)