Will Biden’s new 100% tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles affect e-bikes?

The Biden Administration announced sweeping new tariffs on imported goods from China, including increasing tariffs on electric vehicles from China. But will electric bicycles be impacted?

It’s no secret that almost all electric bicycles in the US start their journey in China. The country is simply the world leader in e-bike manufacturing. Despite a tiny amount of US-based electric bicycle manufacturing largely coming from one company, Chinese factories account for almost the entirety of e-bikes in the US.

Any change in the tariffs on Chinese electric bicycles thus sends shockwaves through the US market.

The fact that the Biden administration passed new 100% tariffs on Chinese EVs has been widely covered. However, it is less clear exactly which types of EVs are included.

The purpose of the new tariffs is to prevent American automakers from needing to compete head to head with Chinese automakers, whose lower cost electric vehicles could otherwise make their way stateside and catch the US auto industry with its pants down.

But electric bicycles have gotten caught up in US/China trade wars before, and so there is reason for e-bike riders to be concerned.

mod cargo electric bike

The lack of clarity at this point is due to a lack of details provided by the Biden administration. While the White House has released a statement regarding the reasoning behind the new tariff increases, details are still few and far between.

As the administration explained:

“With extensive subsidies and non-market practices leading to substantial risks of overcapacity, China’s exports of EVs grew by 70% from 2022 to 2023—jeopardizing productive investments elsewhere. A 100% tariff rate on EVs will protect American manufacturers from China’s unfair trade practices.”

But what we don’t yet have is a list of HTS codes from Customs and Border Protection, the agency tasked with handling US imports and exports. Without that detailed list, it’s impossible to know which EVs will be caught up in the tariffs.

It is reasonable to suggest that because electric bicycles are classified as consumer products in the US and not motor vehicles, that they likely won’t be included in the 100% tariffs targetting Chinese electric vehicles. However, that’s largely a distinction without a difference to CBP, which is only interested in international importation classification and not domestic regulation classification.

When the Trump administration passed sweeping 25% tariffs on Chinese imports in 2018, electric bicycles were initially included. Over time, tariff exemptions grew to include e-bikes, and those exemptions were renewed several times, albeit often with uncomfortable gaps in between renewals.

Those same exemptions could provide a precedent for additional tariff exclusions for e-bikes, if they should ultimately fall within the 100% tariff EV categories.

Electrek’s Take

At this point, we simply don’t have enough information from the government to know just what could be included or exempted from the tariffs. It’s safe to say you likely won’t be getting a cheap BYD electric car any time soon, but the same can’t yet be said for electric golf carts, e-motorcycles, or e-bikes.

Until CBP shares a comprehensive list of the electric vehicles affected, we’re all just guessing. The only thing for sure here is that there are no winners. Chinese automakers see a potential US market expansion cut off and US automakers get to continue stagnating on EVs.

Congratulations, we’ve all lost.

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