And we're not talking about the US.
A little less than a decade ago, the Japanese government began offering subsidies to companies to begin building electric vehicle charging stations located at key locations throughout the country. Chargers began appearing very quickly thereafter and managed to reach 30,300 units by 2019. One year later that figure dropped to 29,200, according to Automotive News.
This is the first time the number has declined since 2010, which isn't a good sign for a country that recently pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050. Why is this happening? Because EV charging stations only have an average eight-year lifespan and they're not being replaced when needed. The reason is very simple: there aren't enough electric vehicles, which account for just one percent of vehicles on the road.
Part of this problem has to do with Japan's two biggest automakers, Toyota and Honda, joining the EV party kind of late. Both are slated to launch more battery electrics in the very near future, such as the Toyota bZ4X, but their American, German, and South Korean rivals are all further along. Toyota also plans to reveal its new solid-state battery either later this year or early next. It has game-changing potential.
In the meantime, Japanese officials are taking action to replace those aging chargers and establish a growing network of new ones. The aim is to increase the number of chargers to at least 150,000 by 2030. In the short term, 1,000 rapid chargers will be installed on highways by 2025.
These goals may sound good, but reality and fantasy are two very different things. Toyota President and scion Akio Toyoda, who's gone on record questioning the feasibility of EVs and the construction of the necessary infrastructure, offered a dose of reality at a conference earlier this summer. "I want to avoid simply making installation the goal," he said. "If the number of units is the only goal, then units will be installed wherever it seems feasible, resulting in low utilization rates and, ultimately, low levels of convenience."
If the Japanese government wants its citizens to buy EVs, it needs to find better ways of encouraging them to do so. Otherwise, those future charging stations will go to waste, just like the current crop.