After a lengthy review period, the European Union has decided to implement new tariffs on electric bicycles imported from China in an effort to clamp down on e-bike dumping in Europe.
The amount of duty being levied is determined for each company specifically, and ranges from 21.8% to as high as 83.6%, though most will receive a duty of 37%.
Electric bicycle manufacturers in Europe have long complained about unfair business practices occurring in China, where companies take advantage of the incredibly low-cost of labor, subsidized materials and razor-thin profit margins in order to export e-bikes to Europe at rock-bottom prices.
The volume of Chinese electric bicycle exports to the EU has increased threefold from 2014 to 2017 with market share increasing to 35%.
These cheap e-bikes severely undercut the competition and make it difficult for local electric bicycle manufacturers in Europe to compete.
In order to determine the proper course of action and the extent of the new tariffs to be created, the European Commission visited a number of large electric bicycle manufacturers in China, including companies like Giant, Bodo, Jinhua Vision and Suzhou Rununion.
Those businesses all received company-specific tariff levels as high as 83.6%.
The entirety of the new regulations and the company-specific tariffs can be found in the official European Commission report.
It comes as no surprise that the electric bicycle industry is split regarding support of the new tariffs. The European Bicycle Manufacturers Association has come out in favor of the new regulations, which they believe will help bolster local companies and encourage local innovation in the electric bicycle industry.
On the other hand, the EU Light Electric Vehicle Association has already filed a lawsuit against the EU for what it claims are “procedural absurdities” that have taken place during the review process leading up to these new tariffs.
According to Annick Roetynck, LEVA-EU Manager:
The situation for importers is intolerable. Some importers have shipments waiting at sea. If they cannot be unloaded and sold, the importers lose their investments. If the Commission decides to collect duties retroactively, importers may lose their entire business. This is already punishment before a verdict was reached. The chaos and uncertainty created by this baseless procedure pose an existential threat to small businesses and the growing e-bike market in Europe.
The new tariffs come at a time when the United States is also preparing its own potential electric bicycle tariffs against Chinese e-bike exports, which could dramatically increase the price of electric bicycles in the US.
The last thing anybody wants is a trade war, but the commission did determine that many Chinese e-bike companies are taking advantage of their ability to absorb little or no profits for years in order to become dominant players in the global e-bike market, which can kill local e-bike manufacturers in the West.
In the US, imported electric bicycles are already even less expensive than in Europe. Take the best-selling electric bicycle on Amazon for example, which is just $370. And that’s not for some crappy off-brand bike either – it’s an Ancheer folding e-bike with a 4.7 out of 5 star rating. We’ve previously reviewed Ancheer e-bikes and found them to be inexpensive but surprisingly good for such a low price.
So not only are these inexpensive e-bikes flooding Western markets, but they are succeeding. They are becoming quite popular and their quality is seemingly above what most people would expect for the price.
While this is great for consumers and bodes well for the future of light electric vehicle adoption in the West, I can definitely still see why governments want to balance the benefits with the potential detriments to local industry. If there aren’t any US or European e-bikes left for China to compete against, what will force them to keep the quality up and the price down over the next few years when e-bikes become even more popular on our city streets and bike paths?