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Bid to expand charging network into countryside

By Cao Yingying | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-15 09:18
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A customer charges his Zeekr model in Yantai, Shandong province, on May 5. TANG KE/FOR CHINA DAILY

China aims to accelerate the development of charging infrastructure to support the promotion of new energy vehicles in rural areas, where there is vast potential for growth.

This initiative is expected to not only boost rural consumption, but assist the growth of new industries such as rural tourism, officials said at a meeting earlier this month.

Several ministries have launched a "going to the countryside" campaign to promote the adoption of NEVs in rural areas for three consecutive years.

According to Xu Haidong, vice-chief engineer of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, the association has held 18 events across 16 cities in China. In them nearly 200 NEV models were launched, resulting in the sales of more than 4.1 million NEVs in rural areas.

Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association, said the potential for promoting NEVs in rural areas is even greater than in large cities. This is due to China being an aging society and there are enormous opportunities presented by the development of NEVs for middle-aged and elderly people.

As the popularity of NEVs continues to rise, so does the demand for charging stations.

China Merchants Securities has predicted that the demand for new charging stations could surpass 7 million units by 2025, with a corresponding market value of more than 160 billion yuan ($23.04 billion).

Similarly, CITIC Securities forecast that the public charging pile market will reach a size of 48.7 billion yuan within the next three years. The market is expected to enter an accelerated construction phase driven by policy and market demand, with a long-term potential of more than 100 billion yuan.

Despite China having the world's largest and most widely distributed network of charging facilities, with 6.09 million charging facilities nationwide as of April, the biggest concern for NEV buyers remains the inconvenience of charging.

One of the major issues is the shortage of charging piles.

According to the China Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Alliance, there were only 2.59 million charging facilities set up in 2022. But 6.9 million NEVs were sold during the same period, which indicates that the goal of one charging pile for one NEV is still far from being met.

Besides, there are other issues that the development of charging infrastructure still faces, such as the unreasonable layout of some public charging facilities, difficulty in installing charging stations in some residential areas, irregular operation of the charging market and inadequate maintenance of facilities.

In comparison to urban areas, the rural population and vehicles are more widely spread out, posing unique challenges for implementing sufficient charging infrastructure.

According to a representative from the China Southern Power Grid, as reported by Economic Information Daily, there may be initial obstacles in promoting NEVs in rural areas. These include low investment interest, profitability issues and equipment safety and stability in complex and remote environments.

The representative proposed the development of charging service stations that integrate solar power generation, energy storage, charging and swapping to meet the diverse demands of rural consumers and enrich the profit models of charging stations.

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