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China leads world in electric vehicles. The problem, VW executive says: not enough charging stations

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

Weiming Soh spoke at a forum hosted by Global Business Journalism Professor Lee Miller. (Photo by Nico Gous)


Global Business Journalism reporter

Mainland China has more than twenty times as many public charging stations for electric vehicles as the U.S., but a top Volkswagen executive thinks that is not enough.

“Charging poles are right now, in my view, way insufficient to support electric cars,” Weiming Soh, executive vice president of Volkswagen China, said during a panel discussion at Tsinghua University on Nov. 18. “Your electric car driving range will actually decide whether you make [a] profit or not.”

Mainland China has 478,118 charging stations according to the latest data from the China Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Alliance’s (EVCIPA). The latest data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Centre shows the U.S. has 23,583 charging stations.

“From 2005 to today, the market has been rocketing and this is not normal," Soh said. "Slowing down and looking into lasting changes, following on infrastructure, is probably more sustainable."

Volkswagen AG and its Chinese joint-venture partners recently announced it will invest over 30.9 billion yuan ($4.4 billion) in 2020 to boost electric-car and vehicle production. Volkswagen overtook GM as the top foreign automaker in China in 2013.

Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported more electric vehicles have been sold in Shanghai than in the U.S., U.K., or Germany. BloombergNEF expects electric vehicle sales to overtake the sales of new combustion-engine vehicles in the world’s second largest economy by 2032. Beijing has invested over $60 billion in the new energy vehicle (NEV) industry, but cut subsidies to buyers in June this year, leading to a drop in EV sales while the economy continues to slow.

Here are the key numbers from Bloomberg's October 2019 data from China:

  • The top 10 provinces accounted for almost three in every four charging stations (74.41%);

  • There is one charging station for every 394 Beijingers, 448 Shanghai residents versus one for every 1.35 million people in Xizang (Tibet);

  • There is a charger every 100m² in Shanghai, 300m² in Beijing, and 3.1km² in Guangdong, China’s most populous province, versus one every 68,244.4km in Xizang (Tibet);

  • There is an electric vehicle charger for every 14km² of mainland China, and

  • The number of electric charging points grew by over 65 percent since Dec. 2018.

In comparison, here are the key numbers from the U.S.:

  • The top 10 states with the most charging stations, account for over 60 percent (60.50%) of charging stations;

  • California has the state with most charging stations (5656), almost four times as many as second-placed New York (1488), followed by Florida in third-place (1488);

  • There is one charging station for 2,620 Vermonters and 6,994 Californians, versus one for every Louisianians; an

  • There is an electric vehicle charger for every 416.9km² of the U.S.

Electric vehicles, visualized

Graphic slideshow by Nico Gous

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