E-vehicle drivers call for more power
Despite government policies designed to reduce traffic jams and control pollution, wider adoption of electric cars is being hampered by a lack of charging facilities nationwide. Du Juan reports.
Although she was sweating in her car, Li Yusi, an office worker in Beijing, couldn’t risk turning on the air conditioning as she drove to work under the blazing summer sun.
Li, whodrivesanelectric car, was worried that engaging the air conditioning would consume too much electricity and leave her shortofpowerfor the return journey.
“It sounds a bit ridiculous, right?” she said. “When someone buys a car, they want convenienceandcomfort. Instead, Ihave tosuffer heat insummer and cold in winter to ensure my car doesn’t run out of power.”
Many electric car owners have had similar experiences, especially the anxiety of searching for a charging station as theywatchtheir battery drain even further.
Limited battery range and a lack of charging stations are the biggest problems facing drivers of electric cars. That’s despite the fact that new energy vehicles are the best option in congested cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, where it’s extremely difficult to obtain license plates for traditional gas-powered vehicles.
License plate lottery
China’s roads are clogged: In January, a statement from the Ministry of Public Security showed that 23.85 million new cars were registered last year, taking car ownership to 172 million.
The number of new-energy cars was 583,200, a rise of more than 169 percent from 2014.
Meanwhile, in the first half of this year, sales ofnewenergy cars reached 126,000 units, a year-on-year increase of 162 percent. By the end of June, Beijing had awarded 38,170 license plates for electric cars, accounting for 75 percent of the annual quota.
Measures to tackle the problem have long been in place. In late 2010, the Beijing government announced new regulations on vehicle license plates in a bid to reduce both traffic jams and pollution.
Now, prospective drivers have to apply for license plates for a conventional vehicle via an online lottery. Until they have the plates, they are not allowed to buy a car.
When the first lottery was launched in early 2011, about one applicant in 11 obtained license plates, but as the number of prospective drivers rose, a surge in demand for plates saw their chances fall sharply. By May, only one in every 693 applicants had a chance of obtaining plates, according to data supplied by the Beijing government.
“I applied for a license plate for five successive years, but I never had any luck in the lottery,” Li said. “I gave birth last year, whichmadeit essential to buya car for everyday use. I felt as though I would never get a LiWei, license plate, so I decided to buyanelectronic car so I didn’t have to suffer the lottery.”
China’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions in 2030 by 50 to 60 percent of the 2005 level has resulted in a series of policies to boost green energy.
Oneof the policiesencourages the use of new energy vehicles by making license plates available on demand and providing government subsidies for manufacturers and purchasers.
Li Wei plans to buy an electric car priced at 180,000 yuan ($27,000). The central government will provide a subsidy of 45,000 yuan, while the Beijing government will provide a further 45,000 yuan, effectively halving the price of the car.
The 31-year-old will also benefit from a ruling that exempts new energy vehicles from purchase tax, which will save him a further 7,500 yuan.
That’s a good deal, given that in Shanghai, where prospective drivers of gas-powered cars have to attend prepurchase license plate auctions, the going rate for plates is about 90,000 yuan.
The difficulty of obtaining license plates for conventional cars in Beijing, and the soaring prices in Shanghai are the biggest incentives for choosing electric cars.
“Actually, an electric car is my second choice. To be honest, I’mstill hesitating because friends have warned me that it’s difficult to find charging poles in residential buildings, and a few days ago I discovered that only five parking lots in my community are equippedwith charging poles,” LiWei said.
“Those five lots have already been rented, which means I would have to use a public parking lot with charging services in a shopping mall near my home,” he added.
“Some gas stations provide charging services for electric cars, but they are too far from where I live. Plus, there are always long lines of cars waiting to be charged,” he said. “I really don’t want to spend several hours a week chargingmy car.”
He suggested the best way to promote wider use of electric vehicles would be to raise the number of charging poles in public areas and introduce regulationsdemandingthat developers incorporate parking lots for electric vehicles in their residential projects.
“The city government will support residential communities in building charging poles, and establish an online platform so drivers can apply to install private charging poles in their own parking lots,” said Xu Xinchao, head of the new energy and new materials department at the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission.
In the meantime, Beijing is considering introducing “mobile charging facilities” that could be sent to the assistance of electric car drivers in remote areas, he said.
Actually, an electric car is my second choice. To be honest, I’m still hesitating because friends have warned me that it’s difficult to find charging poles ...” a Beijing resident who plans to buy an electric car
Workers in a workshop at Kangdi Electric Vehicles Group in Changxing, Zhejiang province.
A technician uses a charging pole to charge an electric vehicle in Qingdao, Shandong province.
A driver sits behind the wheel of an electric car he has rented from a car service in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, in July.