Didi eyes electric car market, plans to build own network of charging stations

Photo credit: Didi Chuxing.

Didi Chuxing, China’s biggest ride-hailing player, is about to get electric. With more than 260,000 electric vehicles (EVs) already in its global fleet, the Chinese unicorn is planning to roll out its own network of EV-charging stations.

At a sustainable energy summit in Beijing today, founder and CEO Cheng Wei announced Didi’s plan to build its own EV-charging system through joint venture projects. “Didi’s charging networks will not only cover our own fleet,” he said. “It will also serve families and the public.”

The Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), which sponsored the summit along with the United Nations, will invest in Didi’s first joint venture as a key partner in the company’s new infrastructure program. GEIDCO is a Beijing-based organization that promotes “sustainable development of energy worldwide.”

In 2016, about half a million EVs were sold in China – quadruple the number sold in the US.

The ride-hailing unicorn plans to launch ‘Orange Energy’ as its first project. The service will map existing charging stations in cities and display them in Didi’s driver’s app. Orange Energy will roll out in a few cities first as a pilot before advancing to the rest of China, a company spokesperson tells Tech in Asia, though its specific launch date has not yet been disclosed. In the future, the service will also expand to users outside Didi drivers.

“More projects are still at a planning stage, and there is no timeline for them,” she adds.

China is the world’s largest market for electric vehicles. In 2016, about half a million hybrid and fully electric cars were sold in China – quadruple the number of EVs sold in the US. To reduce pollution and curb emissions, the Chinese government has made a top-down push to grow its electric vehicle market, pouring more than US$5 billion in subsidies in 2015. Like other countries, notably the UK, China is working on setting a deadline for banning sales of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles.

Charging stations have also expanded aggressively in China. According to Research and Markets, the country had a total of almost 310,000 charging piles (which are similar to charging stations, but slower) by the end of last year.

As one of the world’s largest online transportation platforms in the world, Didi is well-equipped with data necessary to optimize the location and density of charging stations. The company claims it has more than 450 million users and 21 million drivers worldwide, and has already developed a comprehensive big data platform for analyzing traffic in real-time. By 2020, Cheng says the company will increase its EV fleet from 260,000 cars to 1 million.

See: Didi’s quest for China’s transportation data

Didi is also partnering with various local governments across China to reduce traffic. In Jinan, for instance, the company has been able to toggle traffic lights in real-time in response to traffic flows. On top of tracking its own cars, Didi’s app shows the location and movement of public buses in select cities and has also integrated Ofo’s bike-sharing service.

Currency converted from Chinese yuan. Rate: US$1 = RMB 6.60.

(Update 3 hours after publishing: Added response from Didi spokesperson)

source : techinasia

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