A customer checks a BYD F0 model at a showroom in Shanghai. [Kevin Lee / Bloomberg]
SHENZHEN - Electric vehicles may soon hit China's roads, but automakers are worried that slow development of charging stations will hinder sales of the new energy vehicles.
"There is a promising market for wholly-electric cars as they pose no threat to the environment. But now we are really concerned about the (slow) development of charging stations," said Zhang Xuan, a public relations official with BYD Auto Sales Co Ltd.
The Shenzhen-based carmaker plans to launch its electric powered e6 car in the second quarter of 2011, sources with the company said.
Prior to launching its e6 model, the company kicked off retail sales of its electric-hybrid F3DM vehicles in March, a transitional step for the company to shift its focus from traditional gasoline-powered cars to zero-emission products, Zhang said.
"We didn't launch the e6 model this year because of the slow development of charging stations," Zhang told China Daily.
At present, the southern city of Shenzhen has only one charging station, which was developed by China Southern Power Grid, according to Zhang.
"If there are not enough charging stations next year, e6 car owners will have to charge their vehicles at home, which will greatly reduce the vehicle's efficiency," Zhang said.
Zhang said BYD has begun talks with local power companies and government authorities to set up charging stations in the next few years.
"We will provide the charging technologies, but (sector development) will depend on how power grid companies and local authorities encourage electric car use," Zhang said.
The e6's environmentally friendly batteries give off zero emissions and cause no harm to the environment, said Zhang.
The five-passenger e6, with a maximum speed of 140 kph, consumes 21.5 kWh of power per 100 km and runs about 300 km on one charge, a record for a vehicle of its kind, Zhang said.
At present, some 45 e6 vehicles have been put into use as taxis in Shenzhen, which has become the first Chinese city to do so, sources with the company said.
One taxi driver is less than please with the current lack of charging facilities.
"I find it very inconvenient to recharge the battery. Every time the battery is about to run out, I have to drive to the charging station, which is far from the urban centers," said Chen Liehua, who drives an e6 taxi in Shenzhen.
"The government needs to facilitate the installation of sufficient numbers of charging stations or power outlets in public parking lots," Chen said.
BYD also hopes the subsidies offered by the government for new-energy vehicles would help spark sales of e6 and F3DM cars.
The Shenzhen government began offering subsidies for such vehicles in July, as part of broader national program to encourage energy efficiency.
Under the terms of the new regional subsidy plan, plug-in hybrid car makers can qualify for up to a 30,000 yuan subsidy for each sale and wholly-electric car makers can qualify for 60,000 yuan per unit sold, sources with the Shenzhen government said.
Meanwhile, under the national program, subsidies of up to 60,000 yuan will be given to buyers of all-electric vehicles in the five cities chosen for the pilot program, which includes Shanghai, Changchun, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Hefei.
BYD vehicles, including the hybrid F3DM and the e6 can enjoy both national and regional subsidies or a combined deduction of between 80,000 yuan and 120,000 yuan, which insiders believe is a significant attraction for buyers.
The subsidy plan has helped boost sales of BYD's dual-mode vehicles, with sales of its F3DM cars rising from 30 units in July to 51 in August, Zhang said.