Port of Los Angeles May Lower Tariffs on Electric-Car Imports

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BYD e6 electric crossover, Electric Avenue, 2010 Detroit Auto Show

BYD e6 electric crossover, Electric Avenue, 2010 Detroit Auto Show

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In an effort to cut a small amount off the high sticker prices of zero-emission vehicles imported into the United States, the Port of Los Angeles wants to become the first U.S. port to offer reduced tariffs for clean vehicles. 

The plan, first proposed in May, was approved by the Board of Harbor Commissioners. The discount is still waiting for final approval from the Los Angeles City Council.

The tariff cut, which would help companies like the Chinese manufacturer BYD Auto Co., consists of a 15-percent discount on the wharfage rate for battery-electric vehicles that pass through the port.

BYD plans to import its e6 all-electric crossover utilty vehicle, though it has missed several deadlines for doing so. The discount would also apply to the 2011 Nissan Leaf, which will be imported from Oppama, Japan, for two years until Nissan's Leaf assembly and lithium-cell manufacturing facility opens in its Smyrna, Tennessee, complex.

"The port is proud to play a key role in attracting new and clean technology enterprises to the city," said Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

"We will continue to find creative ways to expand our business and job creation opportunities while remaining committed to our strict environmental standards," she said.

The reduced tariff would allow foreign manufactures to sell their electric vehicles at slightly more competitive prices, although wharfage fees typically amount to hundreds of dollars at most, meaning a reduction of 15 percent would reduce the price by tens of dollars, not several hundred.

In its effort to assist sales of electric cars, the Port of Los Angeles may also be giving a boost to imported vehicles at the expense of domestically built battery electrics like the 2011 Tesla Roadster, 2011 Coda Sedan, and of course the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

If the discount is approved, U.S. automakers and non-imported electric vehicles will face slightly stiffer competition from competitors like BYD--something they may not have taken into consideration before.


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