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Review 2023: Top 10 Keywords for the Electric Vehicle Charging Industry in China

01-Liquid-Cooled-Supercharging
In the Electric Vehicle Charging Industry in China, 2023 was a prosperous year. This was largely due to the influence of China’s national and local policies and the fast-paced growth of the new energy vehicle sector. The industry reaped deep rewards in areas such as technological innovations and numerous applications.
This momentum, catalyzed by boundless new energy, led to an explosion of diverse ideas and progress, painting a vivid picture of a field filled with blooming flowers. Now, as we step into the early periods of 2024, a reflection on the ten crucial aspects that defined the charging industry in 2023 is pertinent. Also, it offers a chance to review the events that shaped the past year.

01 Liquid Cooled Supercharging

01-Liquid-Cooled-Supercharging
01 Liquid Cooled Supercharging

Liquid-cooled supercharging technology has long been used in charging equipment, but with the launch of 800V high-voltage platform trams in 2023, the demand for ultra-fast charging has been increasing. 2023, liquid-cooled supercharging stations on major highways along the service areas have been added one after another, the State Grid’s charging demonstration stations are also basically configured with liquid-cooled supercharging, and the major manufacturers have also exhibited their liquid-cooled supercharging products at exhibitions. Especially after Huawei launched the full liquid-cooled supercharging architecture, playing “a cup of coffee, fully charged to go” slogan, liquid-cooled supercharging rapid fire, was reported by major media attention.

Liquid-cooled supercharging is to set up a special liquid circulation channel between the cable and the charging gun, add liquid coolant in the channel to dissipate heat, and promote the circulation of coolant through the power pump to take away the heat generated in the charging process, so as to improve the transmission power of the cable to realize high-power charging. Compared with the traditional direct ventilation cooling method, liquid cooling can completely isolate the module inside and outside, avoiding direct contact between the internal electronic devices and external dust, salt spray, water vapor, flammable and explosive gases, etc., which can raise the protection level to IP65 for better safety. In addition, the liquid-cooled supercharger’s charging cable is thinner and lighter, which is more convenient for car owners, especially female car owners.

From a comprehensive point of view, liquid-cooled superchargers have the advantages of fast charging, strong compatibility, low noise, long service life, low operation and maintenance costs, etc., and their comprehensive performance far exceeds that of traditional charging modes.

It can be predicted that in the future, we will see more and more liquid-cooled supercharging stations in both highway and daily charging scenarios.

02 New Energy Vehicles Going to the Countryside

02-New-Energy-Vehicles-Going-to-the-Countryside
02 New Energy Vehicles Going to the Countryside

On May 14, 2023, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the National Energy Administration (NEA) issued the Implementing Opinions on Accelerating the Construction of Charging Infrastructure to Better Support New Energy Vehicles Going to the Countryside and Rural Revitalization. It proposes, “(1) Strengthen the layout and construction of public charging infrastructure. Priority in the county and township enterprises and institutions, commercial buildings, transportation hubs (stations), service areas along the highway (station) and other places to configure public charging facilities, and to the centralized resettlement areas of relocation, rural tourism key villages and other extensions, combined with the development of countryside driving tours to speed up the construction of charging piles along the highway, gas stations and other places with the conditions. (2) Promote the construction and sharing of community charging infrastructure. (3) Increase support for charging network construction and operation. Encourage conditional places to introduce public charging infrastructure construction and operation in rural areas special support policies. Increase land security and other support, carry out supporting power grid construction and renovation, and enhance the support and guarantee capacity of the rural power grid.”

Since then, the competent authorities around the world have launched relevant policies to realize “full coverage of counties and counties” of electric vehicle charging stations and “full coverage of townships and villages” of electric vehicle charging piles in areas suitable for the use of new energy vehicles. At the same time, urban-rural integration areas and rural areas are successively included in the construction area. In Zhejiang Province, for example, in the “Zhejiang Province to improve high-quality charging infrastructure network system to promote new energy vehicles to the countryside action program (2023–2025)”, the urban and rural charging infrastructure construction is one of the key points, which pointed out that: by 2025, Zhejiang Province will be built in the province of charging piles of more than 2.3 million, the countryside of not less than 900,000 to meet the charging needs of more than 4 million new energy vehicles, to meet the charging needs of more than 4 million vehicles. More than 4 million new energy vehicles charging demand, the formation of urban 5 minutes, urban and rural half-hour charging circle.

03 Coordinated Charging

03-Coordinated-Charging
03 Coordinated Charging

At the end of July 2023, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Ministry of Commerce and other departments issued “Several Measures on Promoting Automobile Consumption” to explicitly guide users to extensively participate in intelligent and orderly charging and vehicle-grid interaction, and encourage the development of pilot demonstrations for the application of interaction between new energy vehicles and the power grid. In the “New Energy Vehicle Industry Development Plan (2021–2035)”, it is also proposed to actively promote the intelligent and orderly slow charging as the main, emergency fast charging as a supplement to the charging service mode in residential areas. Therefore, orderly charging has become an important way to regulate AC slow charging, but also to create a high-quality charging facilities system is not accessible.

Traditional AC charging stations, often encountered transformer capacity, construction and management of construction is difficult, the procedures for the process is cumbersome, the later operation is not guaranteed and other issues. And orderly charging can be unified scheduling, management of vehicle charging behavior, combined with the remaining capacity of the transformer and user charging demand, co-ordinate the development of charging strategy, to achieve staggered charging by time.

The future significance of orderly charging lies in the fact that it can be combined with intelligent power technology, aggregating the charging piles, 5G base stations, air conditioners, smart home appliances and other controllable resources within the district to form a virtual power plant, participating in grid demand-side response, auxiliary services, etc., and promoting the lowest cost of electricity for the user and the optimal operation of the power grid.

04 Low Power DC

04-Low-Power-DC-EC-charging
04 Low Power DC EC charging

Low-power charging has already shown a DC trend in 2022, and the trend continues to deepen in 2023, with major manufacturers launching low-power DC charging piles such as 20kW.

For some EV models that do not have AC charging ports, they can choose small DC fast chargers for home use. For now, small DC fast chargers are more suitable for superstores, attractions and other scenarios. In these places, the user’s stay time is about 1~3 hours, ordinary AC pile is too slow, and fast charging is wasteful, small power DC just meets the charging demand. Compared with ordinary AC pile, small DC charging pile charging speed is faster, and the cost is cheaper than fast charging pile. In addition, under the same capacitance, more small power fast charging piles can be installed, and in the future can support orderly charging, V2G and other technologies.

For small DC charging pile, there are also industry personnel said that the European market prospects are more broad, to Germany, for example, the installation of small power DC pile in the residents’ homes or happy.

05 Mobile Charging

05-Mobile-Charging-EV-charger
05 Mobile Charging EV charger

“Mobile charging” is also a direction of attention in the charging field in 2023. Currently, there is still a large gap in the replenishment of electric vehicles, charging queues, fuel trucks occupy space and other phenomena in the charging station from time to time. The excessive charging pile construction in the station can alleviate the phenomenon of charging queues during busy times, but the charging demand in the station is small during idle times, and the low utilization rate of the charging facilities will result in a waste of charging resources, and the charging station’s operational profitability cycle will be lengthened. Mobile charging” can solve these problems to a certain extent.

The core difference of mobile charging pile is to bring “senseless” charging experience to car owners. After the owner comes to the parking lot, he can choose any parking space to park his electric car, and then enter the parking space number, charging market, and charging degree after placing the order through APP or small program, the cloud platform will choose the best pile according to the comprehensive situation at the moment and make it move to the designated parking space, and then a special person (some need to be plugged and unplugged charging) will insert the gun to start charging. During the charging process, users can view the charging status and remaining time in real time, when charging is completed, there will also be staff to pull out the gun, the completion of the charging information will be notified to the owner through the APP or applet, the owner can drive away from the parking lot after the online checkout. After completing the charging task, the robot returns to the base for charging, and then drives to the standby position to wait for the next charging task when it is fully charged.

Mobile charging robots, as mobile charging piles integrating energy storage and charging, have also become the focus of many companies competing for the layout, with car companies, charging service companies, robot manufacturers, and automated driving companies all entering the game. For example, Zhongneng Congcong, Huidian Technology, Find Pile Technology, Dark Horse Force, Beginning Way Technology, Fulongma and so on are enterprises with mobile charging as their core business. In addition, Energy Chain Intelligent Electricity, the State Grid, Guoxuan Gaoke, Volkswagen, FAW Hongqi have also launched mobile charging piles one after another.

06 Photovoltaic storage and charging

06-Photovoltaic-storage-and-charging
06 Photovoltaic storage and charging

Optical storage charging integrates photovoltaic power generation system, energy storage equipment, charging station in one, and is also a hot investment field in 2023. “Light storage charging” station can integrate PV charging, energy storage, discharge and battery testing and other multiple functions, to realize the new energy vehicle charging new energy electricity, is the first choice of parks and other public places to build stations, but also a beautiful city business card, by the government as well as enterprises and institutions in many places favored.

In short, the optical storage charging station has the advantages of multi-energy complementary, peak shaving and valley filling, high efficiency operation and maintenance, better experience, multiple services and so on.

At present, many forces are actively involved in the landing of the optical storage and charging station, including Tesla, GAC EAN as the representative of the OEMs, star charging, TGOOD, KOSDA, Xuji Electric, Sunny Power as the representative of the equipment/operator, the battery companies represented by the Ningde Times, as well as Datang, Sinopec, China Gas and other energy companies.

The development of optical storage and charging integration has become one of the important trends in today’s energy field, but from the current exchange situation, many optical storage and charging integration station has not yet realized profitability, strong demonstration, without a certain amount of resources and capital players are difficult to enter the game.

07 V2G + Virtual Power Plant

07-V2G-Virtual-Power-Plant
07 V2G + Virtual Power Plant

V2G (Vehicle-to-Grid Interaction), i.e., the two-way interaction between the unique energy storage function of electric vehicles and the power grid, the core idea of which is to utilize a large number of electric vehicle energy storage devices as a buffer between the power grid and renewable energy sources. Both pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids can realize V2G. and in the interaction between electric vehicles and the grid, V2G charging piles become the key connectors in both directions. A V2G-enabled charging post needs to have an internal bidirectional charging and discharging power module, a bidirectional DC metering meter, and a control circuit that interacts with the vehicle for battery information. Currently, manufacturers have introduced V2G charging piles with different specifications, such as 7kW, 15kW and 60kW.

Through V2G, electric charging car users can utilize the peak and valley differences, and sell electricity to the grid company to obtain revenue; the electric vehicle as an energy storage device to regulate the load, the grid company can improve the efficiency and reliability of the grid, but also to reduce the investment costs of the grid in the construction of energy storage.

V2G is inextricably linked to virtual power plants. Virtual power plant is the different space adjustable load, energy storage, microgrid, electric vehicles, distributed energy and other one or more of the controllable resources aggregated to achieve autonomous coordination and optimization control, participate in power system operation and power market transactions of the intelligent energy system, can effectively solve the new power system construction process.

08 Going Overseas

08-EV-charger-in-Overseas
08 EV charger in Overseas

At present, China has become the world’s largest charging pile market, Europe and the United States and other places charging pile construction is still in the early stage of investment, the future of the domestic and overseas markets are huge development space. China’s enterprises are also continuing to utilize technological advantages, grasp the development opportunities, and continue to expand the international market while plowing the domestic market.

China’s charging pile industry started earlier, while many foreign countries are still in the early stage of the industry, pile car pen low, DC pile accounted for a low percentage, so the overseas market construction gap, in addition to the high gross profit margin. China’s high-quality enterprises are through the DC whole, parts and components charging module exports, such as new technology, excellent products, mature experience called out to overseas.

09 Price War

09-Price-War-in-EV-charger
09 Price War in EV charger

Every fast-growing industry is bound to experience a “price war”.

For charging operators, the price war of charging service fees has long been the heartache of the charging service industry. With the rapid growth of new energy vehicle sales, charging infrastructure industry is getting more and more investors’ attention, thus, one after another charging station has been completed all over the country, although the volume increases, but the distribution of the national scope has the characteristics of unbalanced and irrational, and the density of some regional stations is high, which leads to the inevitable price wars, and the service fee of some stations is even reduced to a few cents. The fierce price war also makes the charging operation industry into a vicious circle. Charging station operation is a typical long cycle profit project, once caught in the price war, the profit cycle will be greatly extended, is not conducive to the construction of the earliest possible return to capital.

At the same time, we can also see that there are still a lot of services, adhere to the core competitiveness of the operator, and do not blindly participate in the price war, but use high-quality services to win user orders.

10 Profit Dilemma

“Profitability dilemma” is still the main problem faced by the first-line operators in the charging industry. Generally speaking, the charging station’s payback cycle ranges from 3 to 5 years, which also gives a great test to the patience of the investor. Entering the charging pile industry requires a large amount of construction costs in the early stage, according to the research data of the Charge and Switching Research Institute, more than half of the small and medium-sized operators have invested more than 200won, and nearly 80% of the operators are dissatisfied with the operation results.

As for the reasons of poor operation results, operators think it is mainly due to “price war”, “fierce competition” and “low policy strength”. As for the battlegrounds with better operational results, “site selection”, “traffic flow” and “operation” were the three main factors.

For large operators, take the market share of TOP1 Tercel as an example, it has continued to lose money since 2017 until 2022. However, judging from the annual announcements, its loss expenses have continued to shrink since 2018, and it is expected to reach profitability in the next few years.

Liquid-cooled supercharging, new energy to the countryside, orderly charging, low-power DC, mobile charging, V2G+virtual power plant, optical storage charging, going to sea, price wars, profitability dilemmas — these are the top ten keywords of the charging industry in 2023 that I summarized.

If you want to add one more, it must be “continuous learning”. In the face of the “price war”, in the face of “profitability difficulties”, and in the face of the industry gradually emerging new technologies, new trends, every practitioner in the charging industry need to continue to learn, and continue to cultivate.

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Leo Chen

Leo has rich experience in the field of EV charger industry.

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