It's easy to plug your electric vehicle into a charger, but it's hard to first find a nearby charging pile available, cheap and efficient. It is even harder to do that for someone venturing far from home.
A driver charges his new energy vehicle in Weifang, Shandong province. (Photo: China Daily)
Not having enough access to efficient charging piles remained problematic for EV drivers in China, according to a McKinsey survey.
With the total number of EV chargers climbing dramatically by 61.2 percent year-on-year to 1.17 million units by November, services bridging between charging stations and drivers have emerged as a top concern.
Buoyed by increasing demand for charging services, a rising number of EV charging infrastructure operators in China are exploring new business potential through information sharing, mapping, battery maintenance, and many other sectors, an expert said.
"As the total number of EV charging piles increase, EV drivers' demand for charging services like information and battery maintenance will soar," said Lin Boqiang, head of the China Institute for Studies in Energy Policy at Xiamen University.
China's EV charging service market is estimated to create an industry value worth 2.2 billion yuan ($315.9 million) by 2020, a report by industry association China EV100 and the Natural Resources Defense Council said.
The boom in China's EV charging service sector came as the government is extending its financial support to the operation of charging stations.
As a result, subsidies will be offered to EV charging operators that are commercially viable and able to guarantee a minimum usage and will no longer be easily available for electric vehicle charging infrastructure makers, Lin said.
"It is natural that an increasing number of companies are rushing into the sector and trying to take a share in the promising business. For them, it (developing EV charging services) is also a good opportunity to have businesses with added value and generate new growth points. Currently many of them fail to make ends meet," said Lin.
China's largest charging infrastructure provider Qingdao TGOOD Electric Co Ltd with 2 million kilowatt-hour annual charging capacity and about 190,000 charging piles, has joined hands with the second player State Grid Corp of China, the third-ranked Star Charge, as well as China Southern Power Grid to launch a website and app for classifieds for EV drivers, named Uniev, to tap the growing market.
By November, Uniev has its platform connected to over 390,000 public charging piles which make up about 85 percent of China's total. The platform covers information about the locations of the piles, availability such as whether it's fully occupied, prices, and user ratings.
The platform has also been developed for adaptation into various platforms like mobile phones, a mini app on WeChat, government platforms and in-car systems.
Huang Shan, general manager for charging services at Uniev, said the company has partnered with nearly a hundred charging operators and NEV manufacturers. It will continue offering products and solutions for NEV drivers, charging infrastructure providers, and NEV manufacturers.