There is no question that the Chinese plug-in vehicle market of today thrives (with more than half a million sold in 2016 alone), although with that growth, there is still a lot of problems that prevents the technology from unleashing its full potential.
According to the Nikkei, consumers are now concerned about purchasing electric vehicles because of the lack of charging opportunities.
Apparently, there are often no private charging places available at home, and often there is trouble finding right public charging station application (there are some incompatibilities still). Additionally, often charging stations are located in unattractive places, or the spots are frequently ICEd (petrol only cars taking up the dedicated EV parking spaces)
BYD e6 ...and a friend
"At the end of 2016 there were 141,254 public charging stations in China. But an investigation of more than 500 sites across 32 cities by David Zhang, an independent electric vehicle charging expert, found that 70% of charging facilities were vacant and a quarter were occupied by non-new energy vehicles, leaving only 5% for charging.
"Because of the difficulty of renting a good location, most charging facilities have been installed in the wrong place. It is a common phenomenon for to be parked in the space or an not being charged occupying the space because of a lack of punitive measures," he said."
To enable access to around 80% of the charging stations found in China today, an EV owner would need to have up to 10 apps and/or applicable cards (perhaps just five would be needed ... if the EV driver stays around single city like Beijing or Shanghai). All because there is no charging network on national level.
"...the growth in sales has been accompanied by a confusing rise in competing methods and standards for charging stations, along with associated apps and payment systems."
""I've tried charging my car away from home, but couldn't, either because the charger head wouldn't fit or I had to buy a pre-charged card," said Liu Sheng, a Shanghai resident who owns a locally-produced Volvo S60L plug-in hybrid vehicle."
The result is that electric vehicles sales are lower than it could be, and current owners of electric vehicle owners of today are often unsatisfied according to a KPMG report.
There are also examples of plug-in hybrid drivers who don't charge their cars often ... or at all, they simply acquire the incentive subsidies to purchase the vehicle, and then drive it like regular car.
"A driver in Shanghai for ride-sharing app Didi admitted he never charges the Roewe e550 plug-in hybrid vehicle that he rents each month for 6,000 yuan ($870), but just fills the fuel tank when necessary. Against this background of practical difficulties, a report published this year by KPMG, a professional services company, showed that less than half of new energy vehicle owners surveyed would buy another such car, indicating a general dissatisfaction with the experience."
If the charging problems are not solved, sales will continue be lower than what one might normally expect, and private consumers will possibly turn to plug-in hybrids to skirt government plug-in vehicle mandates.