As with many other industries, China seems to be thundering ahead in the manufacture of electric vehicles, accounting for over one-third of all EVs sold globally, including 98% of the world’s electric buses. This has pushed even the United States behind in absolute numbers and has widened the gap further. In 2018 China sold over 1.2 million EVs which accounted for over 56% of global sales. China is also speeding up the creation of a network of EV charging stations that is proportionately sized to service the massive and fast-growing number of EVs across its vast landmass.
This massive push for growth in the use of EVs was achieved through focused efforts by the Chinese government blending attractive subsidies and determined policies. This push has also resulted in China acquiring the largest network of electric vehicle charging stations in the world, numbering well over half a million today. About half of these charging stations are available for public use while the other half are installed in the parking lots of businesses and institutions. Interestingly, only around 15% of these chargers are in use as EV drivers find them too complicated while many don’t function at all.
Another reason these chargers are not in use, is because Competition among Chinese EV charging companies in recent years has resulted in the need for various payment methods and apps that aren’t compatible with each other. This payment issue deters people from using the EV chargers in place. To make it easy for drivers to use public chargers, they need to find it easy to pay. This means that EV chargers should accept popular payment methods found in China’s market, like Alipay and WeChat Pay.
For the world’s largest EV market to have 85% of its EV charging stations lying unused is a serious matter that the Chinese government will need to address at some point. This will require policy changes as well as technological upgrades on a massive scale if China is to sustain the level of growth in its EV industry.
China is adding over a million EVs every year and will soon need chargers in its network that are compatible with all makes and models of EVs. The chargers will also need to enable China’s most popular cashless payments, payment via QR code scans, seamlessly. International manufacturers and distributors will also have to take into account ease-of-use, ensuring that consumers understand how to charge and how to pay. As such voice interaction in Chinese, and localized usage instructions are critical to acceptance. Without such efficiency, China’s EV industry could face serious hurdles to growth.