US House committees take further aim at Chinese battery makers

The Republican head of one co-sponsor committee unfortunately spills over into anti-EV rhetoric

US House committees take further aim at Chinese battery makers
Concern over CCP-linked companies has spilled over into anti-EV propaganda

The House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the US lower chamber has co-sponsored a bill aimed at banning the US’ Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from procuring batteries from six Chinese companies. But, while that committee is bipartisan, the Republic chairman of a co-sponsoring committee conflated their approach with an attack on EVs in general.

The Decoupling from Foreign Adversarial Battery Dependence Act is similar in nature to a provision signed into law in a previous National Defense Authorization Act, which prevented the US’ Department of Defense from procuring batteries from Chinese companies.

The six companies that would be further prevented from selling to the DHS, should the proposed legislation pass, are Catl, BYD, Envision, Eve Energy, Hithium Energy Storage Technology, and Gotion — all of which the bill’s sponsors accuse of being “closely linked to the CCP”.

While the bill itself might have a greater impact on energy storage than EVs — its sponsors cite reports of Catl-made batteries installed at facilities in FL, VI, NV and CA, as well as at a solar farm on leased land inside the US Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC which were subsequently decommissioned by the utility that had installed them —  Carlos Gimenez, the Florida Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security, made it clear that Chinese-made EV batteries were also in his sights.

“I am proud to introduce this legislation to ensure the Chinese Communist Party cannot exploit economic or security vulnerabilities that could be created through DHS reliance on lithium-ion batteries, especially amid this administration’s ill-conceived push for electric vehicles,” the Representative says.

And the background information provided by the committee on the CCP is also clear about what it sees as a threat posed by Chinese-made batteries in EVs. Catl in particular is identified as “a foremost actor in the global EV market” and “through Catl and other similar Chinese entities, China aims to create and exploit technological dependencies to achieve its goals”, it warns.

“Regarding security vulnerabilities, Catl could install malware on EVs, which could result in gathering sensitive information about their owners, as well as execute a shutdown of EV charging networks, or battery-energy storage systems or even disable targeted vehicles through hardware infiltration. It is critical to proactively work to prevent these and other vulnerabilities,” the committee says.

Concern over Chinese tech harvesting data in Western countries that the CCP considers hostile is a valid worry — albeit hardly one that is unique to Chinese battery-making. Indeed, it could be argued that Chinese software and consumer appliances would be far easier avenues for attempting to procure data the CCP may find useful than batteries and any battery management software associated with them.

The Biden administration earlier this year launched an investigation into Chinese software, rather than battery hardware, in 'connected cars'.

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Nonetheless, the proposed bill should serve as reminder that the US political climate is, for the foreseeable future, extremely hostile across the political spectrum to further penetration of Chinese technology into its EV market. The US is rather more likely to instead take action — on top of new mega-tariffs and foreign entity of concern rules — to further reduce current exposure to Chinese tech, which could be bad news for those importing either vehicles themselves or key supply chain elements from China.

And it also serves as a reminder, should anyone need it, that the elections in just over five months’ time are pivotal for the near-term future of EVs in the US. Victories for the Republicanism in either chamber or in the presidential race will not be pretty for the prospects of accelerated adoption.

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