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China could make monumental commitment to solve its EV charging problem

The Chinese government has been very aggressive with policies and incentives encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles, to little effect thus far. A new $16 billion charging station rollout initiative could fix that.


Which needs to come first, the charging infrastructure or the cars? When it comes to electric vehicle adoption, China may be inclined to think the answer is the former. The country that needs EVs the most has tried to encourage their adoption with many different policies and incentives, but a lack of charging infrastructure has hindered the efforts.

Only in China

Bloomberg reports that the charging obstacle could be obliterated in the near future by a brute force tactic: lots and lots of money. Two sources familiar with the matter informed Bloomberg that China is considering providing up to 100 billion yuan, or $16 billion USD, to fund electric vehicle charging stations.

The policy allegedly will be announced soon, though no more details were forthcoming from the two sources.

“Charging infrastructure and EV growth is a chicken-and-egg situation,” said Ashvin Chotai, managing director of researcher Intelligence Automotive Asia. “It’s got to be a gradual process to scale up both EV sales as well as charging infrastructure. EVs are still not very attractive when compared with conventional-powered cars.”

This is especially a problem in China, where a huge segment of the vast population does not have access to a charging station where they live. The absence of widespread public infrastructure virtually eliminates an EV as an option for this demographic.

Fortunately, China has a government that will do almost anything in its power to catalyze electric vehicle adoption to alleviate its air pollution problem – and it has the power to make big decisions and commit lots of money very quickly, unlike some governments we know.

The impact

If this $16 billion indeed comes to fruition and is used even moderately wisely, the impact on EV uptake in China could be huge in the long run as electric vehicles slowly but surely begin to overcome their range and up-front cost limitations.

In the United States, that amount of money could fund over 100,000 Tesla Supercharger stations – which generally come with a minimum of four charging units. It could build anywhere from 2 to 4 million public Level 2 charging stations (at $4,000 to $8,000 apiece, for example), or 160,000 to 640,000 DC fast charging stations (assuming a range of $25,000 to $100,000 each).

The numbers in China wouldn’t be the same, for numerous reasons. But you get the general idea: $16 billion could fund a whole lot of charging stations to support a large EV driving population.

Tesla Motors was also in the news recently concerning China and charging – the company is working with China Unicom (the second-largest mobile communications carrier in China) to build 400 charging points in 120 cities at China Unicom sites. Tesla will provide the equipment but the charging stations will not be the Supercharger variety. However, Tesla also announced plans for an additional 20 Superchargers in China to support an increasing population of Model S owners.


Weapon (not verified)    September 1, 2014 - 11:07PM

Hopefully, China is competent enough to spend money on Level 2 chargers and only high power Level 3 chargers. If they release 25-50kw Level 3 chargers, that would be a huge waste of money and make the infrastructure almost useless for long range EVs. An 80A Level 2 charger can charge a low range EV fast enough at low cost and Level 3 needs to be for long range EVs. Which means high power like the superchargers.

oscar colombi (not verified)    September 2, 2014 - 9:29AM

I think that the main effort should be spent in next years to enhance technology of energy storage devices
(batteries, nano capacitors, etc. ) to improve capacity and capability and decrease of costs.
And for this the purchase of EV should be supported by each Government.- Rechargin stations are of course a necessary energy network, but not the main target.-