There are almost as many places to charge your electric vehicle in Beijing as there are in the entire United States.
China, the world's biggest market for EVs, has about eight public chargers for each one in the U.S., according to the latest counts. That imbalance likely will become more pronounced as China champions the technology spurring automakers to pivot away from gas guzzlers and accelerates its rollout of electric pumps, enlisting energy giants Royal Dutch Shell and BP along the way.
A new-energy vehicle development plan under consideration by Chinese officials and intended to shape the sector through 2035 will set new goals for boosting the number of public and private chargers, a person familiar with the proposal told Bloomberg News last month. The nation is said to be weighing a target of 60% for all automobiles sold to run on electric motors by then.
All told, China's electric fleet may swell to 162 million vehicles by 2040, according to forecasts by BloombergNEF, Bloomberg's primary research service.
"The availability of charging facilities has been rising pretty quickly," said Jing Kai, deputy head of the Beijing unit at Qingdao TGOOD Electric Co., which has the country's largest network of charging plugs. "The goal is to help EV users charge their cars wherever they go, making it as easy as buying a bottle of water."
EVs are essential to President Xi Jinping's blueprint for creating a manufacturing superpower by 2025. The nation is building at least 20 "EV towns" for carmakers and ancillary industries, and it has spent more than $30 billion subsidizing EV sales. China accounts for more than half of global EV sales.
U.S. automakers are moving at a slower pace, with Tesla generating most EV sales. The U.S. subsidizes some purchases, yet those benefits phase out, and BNEF forecasts sales will slump this year.
China had 466,101 public charging points by the end of last month, and that includes more than 54,000 in Beijing alone.
By comparison, there were 60,652 electric nozzles in the U.S. as of June 25, according to BNEF. California has the most of any state with 19,000 — or about the same amount China adds in an average month.
With global EV sales forecast to rise to 56 million units by 2040, compared with about 2 million last year, there's a need to vastly increase the number of publicly accessible chargers — to persuade wavering consumers they can switch to electric models without fear of being stuck on the highway with a dead battery.
In the U.S., automakers such as Tesla and Volkswagen are leading the push to add more chargers, including high-speed units.
Globally, there could be as many as 20 million public charging points installed by 2030, the International Energy Agency forecasts.
Yet even in China, a nation with more chargers than any other, drivers still get frustrated trying to find a spot to juice up.
Tom He drives a 25-seater Nanjing Golden Dragon Bus Co. Skywell minivan to shuttle workers between home and workplaces in Beijing, and he can cover as many as 99 miles on a single charge.
"It's not that easy to find an EV charging place," He said. "It drives people crazy when you can't charge them."