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Electric cars begin test drive on expressway

2015-01-12 08:55 Global Times Web Editor: Qin Dexing

Availability of charging facilities a boost for industry, says analyst

A fleet of five electric cars started a drive from Shanghai to Beijing on Saturday morning to test the charging system on Shanghai-Beijing expressway which will be put into use later, according to a post of State Grid Corp of China on Sina Weibo.

The fleet had arrived in Tancheng, East China's Shandong Pro-vince, as of 6 pm on Sunday, State Grid said.

The Shanghai-Beijing test drive is jointly launched by State Grid and four automakers: Chinese automakers BAIC Motor Corp and BYD Co, and joint ventures Dongfeng Nissan Passenger Vehicle Co and Shenzhen BYD-Daimler New Technology Co, State Grid said.

The charging system will be officially put into operation on Wednesday, State Grid said in a text message sent to the Global Times on Sunday.

Although electric-car makers have been striving to convince consumers that the electric range per charge is enough for urban use, people are still holding back from green cars due to concerns over charging facilities, analysts said.

With the charging facilities installed on Shanghai-Beijing expressway, which is the first such trial in China, the organizers of the Shanghai-Beijing drive hope to prove that the charging issue can be solved and electric cars can even be used for long-distance travel.

Installing charging facilities on expressways will be another boost for electric cars in addition to the Chinese government's previous preferential policies for green cars, said Mei Songlin, vice president of Shanghai-based consultancy J.D. Power China.

There is a charging station every 50 kilometers on both sides along the 1,262-kilometer Shanghai-Beijing expressway, according to State Grid.

These charging stations may not be fully utilized at the beginning due to limited number of electric cars, but there has to be someone to take the initiative to launch the facilities before the adoption of electric cars gains scale, said Mei.

On average, an electric car has a range of 150 kilometers to 200 kilometers per charge, which means driving from Shanghai to Beijing would require six or seven rounds of charging, State Grid said.

It takes at least 30 minutes to fully charge an electric car, which is obviously much longer than refueling a gasoline vehicle, but State Grid stressed that the power cost is only 400 yuan ($64.43) in total for the Beijing-Shanghai journey, half of the gasoline cost.

It is easier to install charging facilities on expressways compared to crowded urban areas, Zhang Hui, a marketing official at Beijing-based Yika Car Rental Service, a firm that offers electric-car rental services, told the Global Times Sunday.

Zhang said that the availability of charging facilities is certainly a positive development for the electric-car industry, but his company usually does not suggest consumers to use electric cars for long journeys.

Even if expressways provide charging facilities, it takes over half an hour to fully charge an electric car, which means drivers may have to wait in line for a long time, he noted.

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