Nearly half of the electric car charging equipment installed worldwide by 2015 will be heading to China, according to a recent report from Pike Research. Today an announcement from Scottsdale, Ariz.-based charging infrastructure company ECOtality indicates that China’s role in the electric car charging boom will encompass not only installing the equipment domestically, but also building it for international deployment. Down the road, when you pull up to a charge point, there’s a good chance it could have been made in China.
ECOtality, whose subsidiary eTec snagged a nearly $100 million federal stimulus grant last month to support what the company describes as “the largest deployment of EV chargers and vehicles ever” (12,750 charging systems in five states for 5,000 Nissan LEAF electric vehicles), says this morning that it has formed two joint ventures with China’s Shenzhen Goch Investment, or SGI, in order to manufacture, assemble and sell EV charging equipment in China.
According to this morning’s release, SGI will contribute $10 million for the manufacturing and assembly venture, which SGI founder Dongsheng Gong envisions will supply charging systems for “industrial, airport and on-road electric vehicle applications around the world,” and another $5 million for the sales effort.
The market for electric car charging systems in China is being driven by several forces. Chinese automakers, including BYD, Chery and Geely, have a strategic reason to go electric: Legacy car companies in North America, Europe and Japan haven’t yet mastered the technology, and so moving early and fast could allow China-based companies to grab a lead in the nascent market.
In addition, as China’s vice minister for industry and information technology, Miao Wei, a former Dongfeng Motor chairman, told the New York Times earlier this year, “the Chinese auto industry cannot grow sustainably” unless the “bottlenecks” of air pollution, rising consumption of imported oil and traffic congestion are addressed. Hoping to alleviate at least some of these problems, the Chinese government has thrown its weight behind electric vehicles, providing subsidies for research and electric vehicle purchases. All of that spells big opportunity for a company like ECOtality.
Rendering of ancitipated Tianjin manufacturing facility courtesy of ECOtality