BMW and Chinese power company State Grid on Wednesday announced a massive charging network expansion that would roughly double the number of charging piles for the carmaker’s vehicles in the country as it seeks to resolve a critical bottleneck in electric car adoption.

Why it matters: BMW’s plan follows Beijing’s doubling down on EV power services as a part of its “new infrastructure” initiative to boost domestic spending, including auto consumption.

  • The news comes just a week after China’s minister of industry and information technology voiced Beijing’s support to build charging and swapping facilities to increase EV uptake, Xinhua News Agency reported.
  • China’s State Grid, alongside Southern Power Grid, in April revealed plans to spend a total of RMB 4 billion ($570 million) on charging facilities this year, in response to Beijing’s goal to expand the country’s charging network by half to more than 1.8 million piles by year-end.
  • China’s latest incentive policies on charging infrastructure are relatively more indirect, compared with incentive measures such as tax cut, but are more refined for the longer-term benefit of the market, Paul Gong, a China auto analyst at UBS told TechNode on Thursday. 

Details: BMW and State Grid EV Service, a subsidiary of China’s biggest utility company, will jointly provide more than 270,000 charging piles to car owners by year-end, including 80,000 direct current fast chargers, the two companies said on Wednesday.

  • BMW will also join the State Grid’s charging network, which the automaker said will provide a charging pile every 50 kilometers (30 miles) on Chinese intercity highways.
  • The two companies also plan to partner on charging technology development with the aim to achieve a goal of a 10- to 20-minute total charge. BMW is the first multinational automaker to forge a strategic alliance with the state-owned utility entity.
  • Last year, Chinese EV owners spent around 1.5 hours on average per charge using public fast chargers, Ren Zeping, chief economist at the Evergrande Group, said recently in an article, citing public records (in Chinese).
  • The German auto giant last year delivered more than 60,000 EVs in China, less than one-tenth of the total 723,700 automobiles sold in the country. Accordingly, the company has built more than 130,000 charging piles as of 2019.
  • China is the single largest market for BMW Group, accounting for nearly 30% of its total sales volume. Jochen Goller, president and CEO of BMW China said the company will offer six new new energy vehicle models in China this year.

Context: BMW is not the only major global automaker accelerating its push into electric cars in the world’s largest auto market, as the government continues its policy support.

  • Volkswagen last week announced plans to invest a combined $2.3 billion in Chinese OEM JAC Motors and battery supplier Gotion High-tech as part of its goal to sell 1.5 million EVs in China by 2025.
  • Meanwhile, Tesla said it will maintain its investment plan to build 4,000 new superchargers in China by the end of this year, which will not be affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Tesla currently runs 2,500 superchargers across 150 Chinese cities.

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