China’s EV industry is facing a ‘chicken-and-egg situation’ because of the lack and inconsistency of charging points, said industry players meeting in Beijing.
Just as the meeting’s participants—who included representatives from the National Energy Board, the Ministry of Industry and the National Development and Reform Commission—were applauding a new set of guidelines aiming to boost infrastructure for electric vehicles, a number of questions were raised about charging points and consistency within the industry.
“The industry is moving forward fast, and as it does it’s exposing problems,” said Hu Xiaoqing, the marketing director of BYD/Daimler joint venture the Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology Company.
“The charging stations should be of a good enough quality to be able to really drive sales of new energy vehicles. But there is still a lot of inherent resistance to charging, and this has an impact on purchasing—so the industry needs to do more to dispel owners’ concerns,” she said.
While the major cities of Beijing and Shanghai are on course for installing the number of charging points needed to meet the demands of the expected surge in EV ownership, the smaller cities and outlying regions are way behind.
And it wasn’t just the lack that was creating barriers, said CCID Consulting Auto Industry Research Centre research director Wu Hui.
“Charging facilities around the country are not the same, and even national standards differ,” said Wu. “Charging ports and protocols are inconsistent, resulting in charging stations that aren’t consistent with all models.
“Now there’s a lot of capital simply watching and waiting, and even if they want to enter the market they are not sure how.”
So far the worries don’t appear to have affected the sales of new energy vehicles, with September figures showing production and sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids were up.
But Wu warned of the long-term situation, where an explosion in demand would be accompanied by risks to the national grid.
“Existing electric vehicle charging is based on the national grid’s existing distribution network access, sharing residential electricity, commercial electricity and other public networks… with the development of the industry, charging demands increase, the existing distribution network may not be able to meet all the need and upgrading existing grids to meet demand could be incalcuable,” he said.
Government statistics show that by the end of 2014, China had built 780 EV charging stations, with an AC charge capacity of 31,000; and with the guidelines pledging to hit 200 billion AC capacity by 2020, five years doesn’t seem very far away.