China to rev up investment on electricity recharging facilities to support EV growth

By Zhang Hongpei Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/13 19:58:40

Electric cars being recharged in a parking lot in Weifang, East China's Shandong Province Photo: VCG

Charging services for electric vehicles (EVs) in China will be enhanced greatly in the next three years with more market participation and less government involvement, said a Chinese senior official on Saturday.

The boom of EV sales in China in the past few years has called for more investment in electricity charging facilities. However, the segment, generally in a weak position in the entire industrial chain, has a lower growth rate compared with that of EVs. This situation calls for more attention if the new-energy vehicle (NEV) sector wants to realize coordinated growth. 

Li Ye, executive director for regulation at the National Energy Administration (NEA) of China, said at the China EV100 Forum held in Beijing on Saturday that the charging industry is faced with problems like insecure basics and imbalanced layout in the country.

Li told the forum that as of the end of last year, China's charging piles had reached 760,000, up 320,000 compared with the end of 2017.

Of the total, about 300,000 were owned by the public sector, which has seen a slow growth rate. The rest were invested by private businesses, which have maintained high growth in line with the NEV industry's  transformation from government-led to market-driven, said Li.

As of the end of November 2018, Beijing had 219,000 NEVs and 147,000 charging piles, of which about 73 percent were privately owned.

However, getting battery recharged is still not convenient for every EV owner in the city, especially for those who have no access to private piles.

A Beijing-based white-collar worker surnamed Long told the Global Times on Sunday that the property management company of his apartment compound does not allow private charging piles. 

"Luckily, I can charge at my company's parking lot, where there are rows of piles for the employees. Otherwise, I'd really find it very inconvenient," he said.

"I've also tried the public charging stations or piles, but the space is usually occupied by some internal-combustion cars since the charging facility is built within the parking lot, which is a limited resource for cities like Beijing," Long continued.

Shao Danwei, CEO of Star Charge Co, an EV charging operator based in East China's Jiangsu Province, told the Global Times in a group interview on Sunday that about 50 percent of EV owners in first-tier cities in China don't have access to private charging facilities.

She said there are two approaches to deal with the situation. In the case of new buildings, real estate developers could install charging facilities during the process of construction. For old apartments, "we'll collaborate with local property management firms to build and operate the facility."

"It is important to satisfy users in terms of basic charging demand if we want to rev up the whole NEV industry," Shao noted.

Shao believed there would be two or more leading enterprises in the charging sector in the next three to four years.

Last month, two State-owned power enterprises - State Grid Corp of China and China Southern Power Grid - teamed up with Star Charge and another private charging operator, Qingdao Teld New Energy Co, to establish a company focused on charging facilities in the Xiongan New Area, North China's Hebei Province.

The company, called Xiongan Lianxing Network Technology Co, is China's largest EV charging operator. It accounts for 80 percent of the country's 730,000 charging piles, media reports have said.

The move is aimed at accelerating the building of charging infrastructure and resolving worn-out interconnections among facilities.

According to the guidelines for the development of EV charging infrastructure released in 2015 by the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planner, the nation's charging infrastructure will include 12,000 charging stations and 4.8 million charging piles by 2020 to meet the charging demand of 5 million EVs.

But there is still a big gap based on current figures. 

Li of the NEA said China will aim to enhance charging technology and improving facilities in the next three years.


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