US EVs and Critical Supply Chain Inputs

Stephen Wilmot’s lede in his Wall Street Journal piece lays out a major outcome of the tariffs proposed by Progressive-Democratic President Joe Biden on a variety of EV inputs sourced from the People’s Republic of China.

Making cheap electric vehicles in America is getting even tougher.


Based on a crude calculation, the tariff increase could theoretically add roughly $1,000 to costs per standard-range Model 3—not unaffordable, but inconvenient when Tesla is desperate to remove costs wherever possible.

There are moves afoot that seek to alter that sourcing.

A response more in the spirit of US government policy would be to bring LFP [Lithium-Iron-Phosphate] battery production onshore.


One of the strings attached to the $7,500 tax credit available for EV purchases as part of the Inflation Reduction Act is now that no battery materials can come from a “foreign entity of concern,” a designation that includes China.

The problem with those kinds of moves, though, is that they’re woefully incomplete. The original input to those products is lithium, and the vast majority of that is mined in the PRC, and the vast majority of the lithium that is mined is refined in the PRC—including being shipped from non-PRC mines to the PRC for refining. It’s functionally the same for nickel, another major component of EV batteries (LFP batteries aren’t yet ready for prime time), the only difference is that most of the nickel is mined in PRC-owned mines in Africa.

Leave aside the idea of whether battery cars are anything other than another form of personal transportation, like the various external combustion engine-powered cars we’ve tried out over the years, or the original battery cars of a bit over 100 years ago.

The situation extends far beyond some battery inputs. Leaving ourselves dependent on an enemy nation for any of the Critical Item inputs to our economy is far more than an inconvenience, and far more expensive than just dollars spent on alternative sources. Our national security, our national freedom, depend on eliminating that dependence.

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