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State Grid Invites Private Investors to Build Charging Stations for E-Cars

(Beijing) – One of the country’s electricity distribution majors says it will invite private investors to build charging stations for electric vehicles.

Liu Zhengya, chairman of State Grid Corp., the larger half of the country’s power transmission duopoly, said it will open the building of a range of charging and battery swap facilities to private investors.

Shen Jianxin, vice director of State Grid’s sales department, said the decision is a response to the central government’s call to grant the market a bigger role in allocating resources. “To fully open up means that whoever wants to build (a charging station) can do it, and State Grid can also build,” Shen said.

The decision marks a U-turn in State Grid’s strategy to develop e-car charging facilities. In 2009, when the government pledged rapid expansion of electric car development and started offering subsidies for their purchase, State Grid proposed a model that would have allowed drivers to swap batteries at charging facilities. The company focused on standardizing battery and charging interfaces in the hopes of controlling their purchase.

But the model ran into problems because batteries for e-cars come in many shapes and sizes. Also, car companies do not want their battery technologies known to others.

Public demand for e-cars has fallen short of government and State Grid hopes. The industry has been troubled by disputes between car and electric companies and other problems. This has meant many of the company’s charging stations have been idle.

In 2013, State Grid changed tack, saying it was first interested in fast-charging systems, and then slower systems and battery swaps. It signaled it would allow private investors to get involved in the slow-charging facilities.
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