Japan is one of the countries that was early to the EV game, with the launch of Mitsubishi i-MIEV and Nissan LEAF more than a decade ago.
The cars were supported by incentives, and the rollout of AC charging points and DC fast chargers that utilize the Japanese CHAdeMO standard (for several years the standard was spreading globally, including in Europe and North America). The massive deployment of CHAdeMO chargers, through high government subsidies, allowed Japan to increase the number of fast chargers to 7,000 around 2016.
Initially, Japan was one of the top all-electric car sales markets and on paper, everything was looking good. However, over the years, there was not much progress in terms of sales and Japan is now a rather small BEV market.
Most of the industry, including Toyota, was quite reluctant about electric cars, while Nissan's and Mitsubishi's EV push weakened.
Already three years ago, it was clear that the charging infrastructure's utilization was low, because the EV sales are low.
And here we are in mid-2021, reading Bloomberg's report that "Japan doesn't have enough EVs for its EV chargers." The number of charging points actually decreased from 30,300 in 2020 to 29,200 now (including about 7,700 CHAdeMO chargers).
"After offering subsidies to the tune of 100 billion yen ($911 million) in fiscal 2012 to build charging stations and spur EV adoption, charging poles mushroomed.
Now, with EV penetration only at around 1 percent, the country has hundreds of aging charging poles that aren’t being used while others (they have an average lifespan of about eight years) are being taken out of service altogether."
That's a quite sad image of the electrification in Japan, but the future does not have to be like that. With the technical progress and more domestic manufacturers investing in their first electric cars, BEVs will naturally expand this decade.
Japanese manufacturers simply missed the one-in-a-hundred-year opportunity to be at the forefront of the transition to all-electric cars (aside from Nissan, which simply weakened after the initial push).
Interestingly, the country has the ambition to deploy 150,000 charging points by 2030, but Toyota President Akio Toyoda warns to not make such one-dimensional targets:
“I want to avoid simply making installation the goal. If the number of units is the only goal, then units will be installed wherever it seems feasible, resulting in low utilization rates and, ultimately, low levels of convenience.”