China’s heat wave is creating havoc for electric vehicle drivers

The break record The heatwave in China, which started again in June, has evaporated more than half of the hydropower generation capacity in Sichuan, a southwestern province that usually get 81% of its power from hydroelectric plants. That reduced energy supply, at a time when demand for cooling has increased, is bringing industrial production and daily life to a halt in the region.

And as power supplies became unreliable, the government introduced restrictions on EV charging to prioritize more important daily electricity needs.

Like a Chinese publication reported, finding a working charging station in Sichuan and surrounding Chongqing — a task that took minutes before the heat wave — took up to two hours this week. The majority of public charging stations, including those operated by leading electric vehicle brands such as Tesla, NIO and China’s XPeng, are closed in the region because of government restrictions on charging. commercial electricity use.

A screenshot sent to MIT Technology Review by a Chinese Tesla owner in Sichuan, who requested anonymity for privacy reasons, shows that on August 24, only two of the 31 stations The Tesla Supercharger in or near the provincial capital Chengdu operates. as usual.

A screenshot in a Tesla vehicle shows that only two of the 31 nearby Tesla Superchargers are available.
Screenshot of all Tesla Supercharger Stations near Chengdu.

In addition to facing mandatory service suspensions, electric vehicle owners are also being encouraged or forced to charge only during off-peak hours. In fact, the leading operator in the country, TLD, closed more than 120 toll stations in the area from 8 a.m. to midnight, the peak electricity hour. State Grid, China’s largest state-owned power company, also builds and operates EV charging stations; on August 19, the company announced that in three provinces with more than 140 million inhabitants and 800,000 electric vehicles, the company will offer a 50% discount if the driver charges at night. State Grid is also reducing the efficiency of 350,000 charging posts during the day, so it will take 5 to 6 minutes longer to charge the vehicles individually, but the total power consumption during peak hours will be reduced.

The impact is evident in videos shared on Chinese social media, showing long line EVs waiting outside a few active charging stations, even after midnight. Electric taxi drivers have been particularly hard hit, as their lives depend on their vehicles. “I started queuing at 8:30pm last night and I only started charging around 5am.” a taxi driver in Chengdu told an EV influence. “Basically you always have to wait in line. Like today, I didn’t even do much business, but now I’m stable again. And the battery will run out quickly.”

Charging challenges are also pushing some people back to fossil fuels. The Tesla owner in Sichuan was due to go to Chengdu for work this week but decided to drive his other car, a gas-powered one, fearing he wouldn’t find a place to recharge before back home. Another driver from Chengdu, who owns a plug-in hybrid, told MIT Technology Review that she switched to gas this week even though she usually goes electric because it’s a bit cheaper.

The sudden difficulty in toll collection in Sichuan and neighboring provinces caught the electric vehicle industry by surprise. “This widespread power shortage is still something we have never seen [in China]”Lei Xing, an auto industry analyst and former editor-in-chief of China Auto Review, said that the climate disaster is reminding the industry that although China leads the world in many EV adoption index, but there are still infrastructure weaknesses that need to be addressed. If this happens, problems will manifest. Right now, all electric vehicle owners who rely on public toll stations are having a hard time,” said Xing.

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