Trump tariffs risk putting brake on US electric cars, battery maker planning $400m factory warns ris

President Donald Trump’s policies are doing nothing to help the US develop domestic battery manufacturing, an entrepreneur who is aiming for his company to be one of the country's largest energy storage suppliers has warned.

Doron Myersdorf, chief executive of StoreDot, an Israeli battery company backed by multinational groups BP, Daimler and TDK, among others, is looking for a location in the US to site a new $400m factory. But he said that Mr Trump’s tariff strategy, which has raised the cost of aluminium, and his plan to block proposed increases in future fuel economy standards for vehicles, would slow the growth of what he expects to be a strategically critical industry.

“Production is going to be in China, and they are going to control the world through energy,” Mr Myersdorf said in an interview. “This whole tariff game is not helping.”

StoreDot has developed an innovative variant of the lithium-ion battery technology used in products from mobile phones to electric cars. It says its batteries will allow a car to be recharged in five minutes — roughly the time needed to refill a petrol vehicle — rather than the 30 minutes or more needed at a Tesla Supercharger.

The company received funding in a $60m round led by Daimler last year, and $20m from BP this year. With backing from large companies in the automotive and energy industries, StoreDot plans to build a factory in the US to build batteries with 1 gigawatt hour (GWh) of capacity every year, about enough for 30,000 cars, with the potential to expand to 10GWh a year. It aims to make a decision on the location of its US site by the first quarter of next year and be in production in 2021.

The US market for batteries for electric vehicles is forecast to be worth $84bn in 2025. Mr Myersdorf warned, however, that Mr Trump’s strategy could slow the development of the electric car industry in the US. The Chinese government has identified electric and hybrid vehicles as a priority in its Made in China 2025 industrial strategy, and a wave of investment is pouring into the country’s market. By 2021, China is expected to have 73 per cent of the total world capacity for manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The Trump administration has expressed concern about the Made in China 2025 strategy, and its new tariffs on imports from China, under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, have been presented as a strategy to prevent Chinese dominance in manufacturing advanced technologies, including batteries and electric vehicles. However, Mr Myersdorf said the administration’s tariffs on aluminium, imposed to protect US production, had raised the cost of manufacturing batteries in the US.

The transport department also this month announced plans to scrap the increasingly demanding fuel economy standards for the first half of the 2020s, introduced by President Barack Obama, which would encourage carmakers to sell more electric vehicles. It plans to remove California’s legal authority to use its own regulations to push manufacturers to sell more electric cars.

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