China has pledged to step up efforts to maintain its global leadership in the EV adoption race, planning to invest RMB 10 billion this year to expand the already world largest EV charging network, a top government official said on Thursday.

Why it matters: More investment from government bodies could ease the burden of struggling automakers and reverse the downward trend in sales by making charging more accessible.

  • The move comes as Beijing pushes a new round of technology investment initiative with focuses on 5G networks, data centers and charging facilities for EVs, called “new infrastructure” by Chinese top leaders beginning this year.

Details: China will invest RMB 10 billion ($1.42 billion) to expand the country’s charging network by 50% this year to stimulate EV deployment, Cai Ronghua, a deputy director at the National Development and Reform Center (NDRC) said during a media briefing on Thursday in Beijing.

  • A total of 600,000 charging points will be established this year, with private charging points accounting for two thirds of the total number, according to a Xinhua News Agency report (in Chinese). China runs the world’s biggest EV power network with over 1.2 million charging points as of 2019.
  • The top economic planner expects over 200,000 new public chargers, or 48,000 charging stations, available along highways, urban roads and in the countryside.
  • Widespread charging infrastructure is expected to reduce the “range anxiety” from potential customers. China in 2015 planned to build a countrywide network of 4.8 million charging points to accommodate 5 million EVs on the roads by 2020 but has only achieved one-fourth of that.
  • EV makers are ramping up the efforts. Chinese media reported in January about Tesla’s plans to open 4,000 new superchargers across China this year, which almost doubled the current number.
  • Nio, however, plans to expand its battery-swapping network by 40% to 173 stations this year. It currently runs 25 supercharging stations but offers users access to more than 300,000 public chargers from service operators on its app.
  • The cash-strapped EV maker has reportedly spent RMB 2 billion on charging service network and been looking to spin off Nio Power, its EV charging service unit in search of external funding since mid-last year, with no updates being disclosed.

Context: China has announced a series of policy stimulus, including two-year extension of subsidies and tax breaks on EV purchase in bid to cement its position as the world biggest EV market.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen