China’s largest utility companies, State Grid and Southern Power Grid, are planning to spend a combined RMB 4 billion ($570 million) on charging stations this year, the latest move as Beijing calls on technology investment to boost electric vehicle uptake amid flagging sales.

Why it matters: This could mark the beginning of a new round of infrastructure boom in China, with charging stations as one of the key areas.

Details: State Grid on Tuesday announced an “all-in construction plan” of spending RMB 2.7 billion to build 78,000 new charging piles across China this year, according to a report by Chinese media Caixin. On Friday, China Southern Power Grid said it planned to invest RMB 1.2 billion.

  • Around 53,000 charging piles will be established for private use in local residential communities from more than 24 provinces and cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Zhejiang, with public and special charging facilities making up the rest.
  • The construction plan was 10 times greater the scale of last year. The state-owned electric utility monopoly said it expects to facilitate users with more access to charging, promote information sharing among service operators, and boost more private investment in the sector.
  • Localities immediately responded, as the Shanghai branch of State Grid on Wednesday revealed plans to build 3,000 new charging piles this year, reported Jiefang Daily, the city’s party mouthpiece (in Chinese).
  • China Southern Power Grid also piled into charging stations. Its RMB 1.2 billion investment is part of a RMB 25.1 billion initiative to build more than 380,000 charging piles over the next four years.

Context: China has built the world biggest power network for EVs with more than 1.2 million public and private charging piles across 400 cities as of last year, Cai Ronghua, a deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission said on Thursday.

  • China’s top economic planner is leading an RMB 10 billion investment initiative to expand the network by 50% by the end of this year.
  • Beijing in March called on localities to accelerate the construction of “new infrastructure,” referring to 5G networks, data centers and charging stations among other emerging technologies.
  • Speaking during a meeting at State Grid in Beijing on Tuesday, Xin Guobin, deputy minister of Industry and Information Technology said charging and swapping infrastructure are the “key foundation” (our translation) for new energy vehicle development.

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