China produced 794,000 new energy vehicles (NEVs) in 2017, while it sold 777,000 NEVs. Cumulative ownership in the country stood at 1.8 million units, representing more than 50 percent of the world’s total. In the first four months of this year, 232,000 NEVs rolled off production lines, up 142.4 percent year on year, while 225,000 units were sold, soaring 149.2 percent on a yearly basis.
Production of pure EVs stood at 172,000 units during the four months, a year on year gain of 120.6 percent, while sales jumped 130.5 percent to 168,000 units. Production of hybrid plug-in vehicles reached 59,000 units, up 239.6 percent year on year, while sales advanced 226.7 percent to 57,000 units. Some 90 percent of NEVs in China are electricity-powered and charging facilities are one of the important contributors to the sustained growth of the sector.
However, growth in the number of EVs well outpaced that of charging stations. The number of installed charging stations across the country stood at 450,000 units in 2017, including 210,000 public charging stations, up 51 percent year on year. The remaining 240,000 are privately owned units. An effective proportion of EVs to charging stations is supposed to be 1:1, however the proportion of ownership of EVs to public charging stations in China is only 8.6:1.
What’s worse, the charging station sector has been in a downturn and most of the leading charging station makers, including Qingdao TGOOD Electric, have been steadily losing money. The chairman of TGOOD recently disclosed that the company aims to reduce its losses by around 100 million yuan and reach breakeven for 2018. There are more than 100 operators in the charging station market, and the top four operators collectively hold an 86 percent share. Yet, they are all booking losses, mainly due to the long period of cost recovery.
The key point is the low utilization rate of charging stations. Despite the relatively high number of units sold for private use, follow-up surveys show that up to 75 percent of the units go unused after being installed. Estimates show that a DC charging station must be used eight times a day on average to reach a breakeven point, however the average in China is hovering around four uses per day. Based on the current operating environment, it takes five years to recover the costs for each charging station.
The good news is that the Chinese government has rolled out a number of policies to facilitate development of charging facilities. According to some recent information issued through a nationwide charging network, China plans to build a network of 12,000 charging stations to meet the power demands of 5 million EVs by 2020. In addition, 4.8 million distributed power stations, including 500,000 for public use, will be built during the same period.
Lead image credit: TGOOD