The U.S. and China Should Compete on Electric Cars

Dec. 8, 2021

By Deborah Seligsohn

Ms. Seligsohn is an assistant professor in the political science department at Villanova University.

“If you are in the market for an electric vehicle today, there’s a good chance you’ll buy a Tesla.

Fast forward a couple of years, and this may no longer be true. Traditional automakers like General Motors and Toyota — as well as a slew of Chinese companies like BYD, Nio, Xpeng and Li Auto — are making their own electric models available to U.S. consumers.

Indeed, as the rapidly growing market for electric cars surpasses 500 manufacturers, cross-border competition is only getting fiercer. Although Tesla’s U.S. market share of all-electric vehicles was 79 percent in 2020, it may drop to 56 percent by the end of the year. Meanwhile, several Chinese companies are expected to announce large expansion plans to build more electric vehicle factories. Tesla took 12 years to produce 100,000 vehicles. Nio and Xpeng reached that milestone in half the time.

But what could become a headache for Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, is good news for both international climate goals and Sino-American diplomacy. Despite the recent fanfare over climate cooperation coming out of the Glasgow talks last month, it is competition — and not cooperation — between American and Chinese companies that will be the real driver of decreased greenhouse gas emissions around the globe.”