SHANGHAI – China car shoppers are embracing electric vehicles in droves. Nearly 1.5 million EVs were sold across the country in the first nine months of 2021, more than triple the tally a year earlier, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
But the booming market has created a problem for EV drivers -- difficulty finding available battery charging facilities.
The problem has reared its head during this year’s National Day holiday – Oct. 1-7.
During the long holiday, a recurring hot topic in Chinese media has been the unbearably long time EV operators have to queue up for a recharge when they drive out of major cities.
It typically takes one hour to fully recharge an EV. However, EV drivers would have to line up for several hours to get a fresh charge on highways over the holiday, according to China Central Television.
On Oct. 1, a driver recharged his EV twice when driving from the south China city of Shenzhen to his hometown in central China’s Hunan province. He spent four hours each time waiting for a recharge.
It took him 16 hours to complete what used to be an eight-hour journey, the state television station reported.
On Oct. 2, a short video widely circulated on Chinese social media showed two couples engaged in a fist fight over access to a charging pole.
With more EVs hitting the road during the holiday, power grid operators in many provinces strived to cope with the sudden spike in electricity demand at charging stations.
In east China’s Shandong province, power consumption by local EV charging facilities surged 46 percent from Oct. 1-6 compared with the same period last year, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.
Utilities and private companies are ramping up investments in EV battery charging infrastructure across China.
However, the expansion of public charging networks still lags behind the growth of the EV market.
There were 4.93 million EVs on China roads as of June. But the number of public charging facilities across the country has only reached 923,000, according to official figures.
The gap may not be a big problem for EV users in normal times.
But during holidays, when EV owners opt to head out of town and travel far and wide, it has increasingly become a pain in the neck.