Work multilaterally to install facilities that promote widespread use

Setting up more charging facilities is imperative to realize the widespread use of electric vehicles for decarbonization. The government needs to step up its support to install more chargers, as well as encourage technological innovation for the charging devices.

By 2035, the government plans for all new vehicles sold in Japan to be electrified, such as EVs. To achieve this, in June last year it set a goal of increasing the number of charging facilities to 150,000 by 2030.

Envisaged locations for charging stations include commercial facilities, gas stations, expressway service areas and parking lots at housing complexes and apartment buildings. However, even after the government set the goal, installation is not proceeding as expected.

According to a private-sector survey, more than 90% of people who do not own EVs cited a lack of charging infrastructure as a reason for forgoing the purchase of the vehicles. Measures are urgently needed.

The number of chargers installed in places where anyone can use them, such as commercial and public facilities, topped 30,000 at the end of March 2019, but the figure fell sharply in 2021, leaving only 29,463 in place at the end of March this year.

There have been cases in which chargers were removed from some commercial facilities in rural areas after the number of users declined during the pandemic, making devices unprofitable.

As long as the government is flying the flag to promote the installation of more charging facilities, it should also support the maintenance of existing ones. The government should consider subsidizing operations and expanding financial measures for the upgrades of existing facilities that are scheduled to take place in succession.

Installing charging facilities at residential premises, the most accessible location, is also important. The government this year raised the subsidies for installing facilities in apartment complexes and other residential buildings from a maximum of ¥300,000 to ¥350,000.

In urban areas, installing facilities at apartment buildings is particularly important, but at existing properties, it is difficult to reach a consensus among residents regarding the cost and location, creating a major barrier.

The Tokyo metropolitan government is considering enacting an ordinance that requires newly built houses and apartment buildings to have chargers installed. The United Kingdom has made it mandatory since June to install charging facilities at newly built houses and commercial facilities. Promoting the installment of chargers at newly built houses would be a promising option.

As demand for gasoline shrinks, mainly due to the growing use of eco-friendly vehicles, gas stations across the country are also making the shift to diversify their services, such as by installing charging equipment.

Under the current circumstances, however, it still takes about 30 minutes to fully charge an EV battery even with a fast charger; such poor turnover rates make it difficult for charging facilities to be profitable.

To expand the number of charging facilities, it is essential to develop technologies such as drastically reducing the charging time and increasing the capacity of storage batteries. The government and relevant industries must press ahead with making prioritized investments.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2022)