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China to Lead Electric Car Charging Boom by 2015

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In the international race to build out infrastructure for electric vehicles, the U.S. government’s recent push for networks of charging stations and the work of Silicon Valley startups on their home turf represent no match for China. According to a new report released today by Pike Research, more than 5 million charge points will be installed worldwide by 2015 — bringing in nearly $6.5 billion in revenue — and nearly half of the equipment will be heading to China.

Largely that’s the result of a strong push by the Chinese government to achieve countrywide mass adoption of electric vehicles. As we’ve written before, there’s a strategic reason for Chinese automakers to go electric: Legacy car companies haven’t yet mastered the technology. By moving early and fast, China — which had the world’s highest vehicle sales last quarter — could dominate the growing EV market.

Many auto companies, policy makers — and, of course, infrastructure startups like Better Place and Coulomb Technologies — say drivers need access to widespread charging networks in order for electric cars to get anywhere close to mainstream. According to Pike, China is on track to lead deployment of this infrastructure in the coming years.

The firm (whose managing director and founder, Clint Wheelock, provides analysis for GigaOM Pro) expects the U.S. to take the No. 2 spot for EV infrastructure, with more than a million charge point installations by 2015. Israel and Denmark (two countries where startup Better Place has deals) are also expected to be “hotbeds for EV charging infrastructure.”

Last month, we wrote about a comment from IBM VP for Energy & Utilities Allan Schurr at the Grid-Connected Mobility Conference that overnight charging at home “in fact is likely to be the rarity rather than the most common” for plug-in vehicles. He explained that there’s a large portion of drivers who won’t have the option of installing a charge point in their garage, and few automakers would opt to sell only to the small fraction of drivers who do have that option. As a result, Schurr said he expects more investment to go toward public and commercial charging infrastructure.

Pike analyst John Gartner said he expects that investment — a “strong funding push by governments” — to result in more than half of all charge points being in public stations by 2015. “Retailers will also install public access stations primarily as a marketing tool, and many companies will also offer workplace charging stations for their employees,” Gartner said in a release about the Pike report today.

Much work remains to be done for Pike’s forecast to prove on target. Public and workplace charge points involve so many different groups (utilities, billing system developers, city regulators, hardware companies, automakers) that coordinating them all represents a huge job — or, for the companies that, like IBM, want to help manage the coordination of this multibillion-dollar buildout, a potential opportunity.

EV Charging Station credit BYD Auto

14 Responses to “China to Lead Electric Car Charging Boom by 2015”

  1. joe daks

    I see the large companies now wanting to control charging outlets for EV Cars rather than allow home charging overnight, they can do this by fitting their own connectors on power cords which will not fit home wall sockets.

    Do we really want large Cooperation control over Electrical energy so that they can push up pricing in line with Petrol.


  2. Josie Garthwaite

    @stefan You’re right – renewable, low-carbon energy is an important piece of the puzzle if plug-in cars are going to make a meaningful dent in vehicle emissions.

  3. stefan

    while investing in electric vehicles is perfect people should not forget that if that electricity is made from coal fired powerplants the whole idea of reducing CO2 emissions is absurd!!!we should shut down coalfired power plants if we want to reduce our GHG in the first place, and there is still a long way to go whether it be USA, China, Europe…

  4. Lawrence

    Safety is great….but my desire to drive my own car, and willingness to bear the risk, alienates me from the idea of a “car that drives itself”.
    Much like my willingness to take business risk alienates me from a government that wants to make business decisions for me.

  5. Why aren’t we talking about smaller, lighter, and more intelligent cars?

    It seems to me that driving is ideally suited for automation – and where we could see the biggest (by far) improvement in efficiency. In theory, driving is all about following the rules … rules that could easily be programmed into an intelligent car. When we can move from “protection” (with large steel-frame roll-barred airbagged tanks) to “prevention” (where cars simply drive themselves and refuse to bang into each other and other things) we can dramatically reduce the size and weight of cars. Recharge visits are far less frequent and it becomes feasible to “park and charge” a lot more cars in a lot less space. Commute time becomes productive time.

    And don’t get me started on the lighter requirements on infrastucture …