China installed 284,000 public EV charging outlets in 2020, including 112,000 in December alone – more than the entire US public charging network – according to data published by BloombergNEF.
BNEF’s Head of Advanced Transport, Colin McKerracher, quoted numbers which showed that China had over 800,000 publicly available EV charging outlets installed at the end of 2020 – up from 516,000 in 2019 and 300,000 in 2018.
Unsurprisingly, China finished 2020 representing almost two-thirds of all public EV charging points installed globally.
McKerracher noted that the US electric vehicle transition benefits from the extensive urban sprawl and the resulting detached homes with driveways or garages that, in turn, provide much easier private charging options and thus reducing the need for public chargers.
Conversely, China’s EV owners are mostly high-rise dwellers in cities that also have stringent policies and incentives aimed at limiting sales of new internal combustion engines so as to reduce pollution levels.
In addition to its 800,000 publicly available EV charging outlets, China has another 900,000 home and workplace charging points installed, whereas the US has tens of millions of garages with regular sockets.
But China’s increasing availability of publicly available EV charging outlets is also driven by the country’s efforts to create the infrastructure ahead of demand and higher levels of EV adoption. Already the ratio between the number of public charging points and the size of China’s EV fleet is much lower than other countries.
Looking again at China and the United States, McKerracher shows that there is now one charging point in the United States for about every 20 EVs, whereas in China the ratio falls to around one to five.
According to McKerracher, “if you squint at the data across multiple countries you can see a trend where the more EVs that are sold, the more money that goes into installing charging stations and poles.
“Eventually, a robust public charging network will be necessary everywhere to spread out EV adoption across all income levels and housing types. While the move to electric vehicles is now inevitable, it may not be equitable.”
China’s numbers are not the whole story, however, as they do not take into account power output, location, quality of user interface and payment system, utilisation rates, and other factors.
Volkswagen’s director of technology strategy in China, Xu Peng, revealed during the company’s Power Day in March that only 30% of public chargers in some parts of China are actually functional – suffering from either defective chargers, or the globally common problem of being blocked by internal combustion engine vehicles.