Japan is blanketed with charging stations. (PHOTO: CHARGEMAP)
One of the first countries in the world to embrace modern electric cars, Japan has long been considered something of a shining example on how electric car rapid charging infrastructure should be implemented.
In fact, look at the charging station maps for Japan, and you’ll see a sea of CHAdeMO DC quick chargers blanketing every major route from north to south and east to west, thanks in part to pro- electric car incentives and a nationwide — rather than regional — approach to charging station deployment. As of earlier this month, there were more than 2,819 CHAdeMO DC rapid chargers installed across the country, far more than the 1,532 installed in the whole of Europe or 854 found in the U.S.
That massive number of accessible, reliable charging stations combined with lower-power level 2 charging provision — both private and public — now means there are more dedicated charging stations in Japan than there are gas stations.
Far more in fact: over 40,000 says Nissan, versus the 34,000 gas stations currently trading in Japan.
“An important element of the continued market growth is the development of the charging infrastructure,” Joseph G. Peter, Nissan’s chief financial officer, said on a recent conference call with analysts. With two all-electric models now on sale in Japan — the LEAF electric hatchback and e-NV200 electric minivan — the more public and private charging stations there are, the easier both plug-in models are to sell.
Unlike the majority of gas stations in Japan however, the 40,000 electric car charging points quoted by Nissan includes ones in private homes, causing some critics to cry foul. After all, if a charging station is hidden in a privately-owned garage, it isn’t easily accessible to the public.
Yet while we understand that criticism — and it’s why we used an asterisk in our headline — the rise of charger-sharing sites like PlugShare.com means that more people than ever before are offering their private charging station for others to use, either as an altruistic gesture or for cold, hard cash.
Moreover, it’s possible to argue that because privately-owned charging stations are enabling owners to drive their cars without visiting public charging stations, they’re providing just as valid a service to everyday drivers as publicly-assessable, higher-powered ones.
But while electric car charging stations may now be far more common in Japan than a gas station, the numbers of electric cars on the roads of Japan still represent a tiny proportion of the total cars registered. In order to support more electric cars, Japan’s healthy, robust charging network needs to keep growing and developing, since even with CHAdeMO DC quick charging, speed of refuelling isn’t as quick as it is with a liquid-based fuel like gasoline or diesel.
Then there’s the challenge from hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. While the Japanese government to date has been quite proactive in its support of electric vehicle infrastructure, the current administration is working hard to promote hydrogen fuel cell technology in preference to electric vehicles.
As a consequence, it is investing heavily in supporting automakers like Toyota, Honda, and Nissan as they all work on bringing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to the Japanese market, providing generous incentives to those who are willing to become early-adopters of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and helping companies working to build and expand the fledgling hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
Despite saying it wasn’t interested in developing a hydrogen fuel cell car any time soon, Nissan has recently signed an agreement to work alongside Toyota and Honda in order to help popularise fuel cell vehicles and a brand-new hydrogen refilling infrastructure.
Which leads us to ask one question: will electric car charging stations in Japan continue to grow with governmental attention turned elsewhere?
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