(c) Tesla Motors
A new Tesla owner in China was so disappointed that there were so few Tesla chargers to recharge his new Model S that he took the situation into his own hands and plans to build chargers along a 1,700 mile route.
According to a story on Caixin Online, a Guangdong-based businessman- Zong Yi- started a campaign to build what he said is the first "electric vehicle charging road" in the country, with recharging facilities in 16 cities from Beijing to Guangzhou. He paid for every recharging station along his indirect, 5,750 kilometer route himself.
What began as a way to get his car home from the dealership became a demonstration of the power of Internet-based organizing and a grassroots alternative to government-backed charging facility projects.
When Zong, 44, took delivery of his vehicle in Beijing in the spring, he faced a problem: with recharging facilities absent outside of Beijing and Shanghai, how could he drive home to Guangzhou? His first idea was to bring a charger with him and ask to use power outlets at the hotels he stayed at along the way.
Zong quickly changed his mind. He didn't just want to drive back home once, he wanted to set up a route that could be used by future drivers of e-cars.
Zong contacted Wu Bixuan, the Tesla executive in charge of China operations, and told her that he wanted to buy 20 recharging facilities to give away along the road to Guangzhou. He also posted notices on popular networking site Sina Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, and through the popular messaging app WeChat seeking property owners along the route with a spare parking space near a heavy-duty electrical outlet.
Zong would then donate and install the chargers in the space and mark it on an online map of his "China Electric Road." The owners of the parking spaces could decide whether to charge a fee or offer the service for free.
"If we install at hotels, we can handle everything on our own and avoid dealing with property management, power companies and the government," Zong said. "Seven hours of charging costs the property owners about 30 yuan in electricity. But if the driver has a meal or spends the night at the hotel, this can become a profit model."
Zong got over 500 responses to his social media campaign, so he added more conditions: four-star hotel, free parking, locations that were easy to find. He then chose spots in 16 cities.
Zong admitted the network is not without its problems. The recharging facilities can handle Tesla cars and e-cars from other companies, but their spacing – from 100 kilometers to 400 kilometers apart – is too much for most electric cars. Tesla's Model S can travel 500 kilometers per charge.