efe-epaBy Paula Escalada Medrano Shanghai, China

Battery changing stations, charging trucks or drivers that take you to the nearest station are some of the systems being implemented in China to boost the use of electric cars and improve the limited driving range of these vehicles.

The country in which the most electric cars are sold in the world - more than one million last year (85 percent more than the year before) - is also the one that invests the most in developing new systems that will help alleviate one of the major factors hindering the growth of these vehicles; that they do not exceed a 500-kilometer (311-mile) range.

Founder of Cairn Energy Research Advisors, Sam Jaffe, told Efe that at present, electric vehicles (EV) "have limited growth prospects because of cost - they are still priced at too high a premium compared to gasoline vehicles - and because of range anxiety. One solution to range anxiety is easy to access and ubiquitous charging infrastructure."

"The charging infrastructure will help EV's from being a specialty niche vehicle class into a mass market option," said Jaffe.

Although the Chinese government's financial aid for purchasing EVs are available only for a few more months, in recent years $60 billion have been invested to help the sector flourish.

The aids have impacted automobile infrastructure, which are not only working on the manufacture of cars but also on charging systems.

Electric car company NIO introduced NIO Power a few months ago as "the world's first integrated energy services system," Shen Fei, vice president of NIO Power, told Efe.

The two models that the company are selling currently have a smart button that leaves the user worry-free as it offers options such as locating the nearest charging station or requesting a charging truck.

"These are the new thinking models and business models in the new era, where data and mobile connectivity will change the experience of electric car owners," said Shen, alleging that other brands are now copying them.

According to Shen, another service that the brand offers is the "valet service", which is already being implemented by companies such as Ford and Mercedes-Benz.

This service allows one to call a driver who will come to pick up the car and return it fully charged.

One of NIO's flagship products is its battery charging stations and in January it presented a complete route: eight stations set up across the 1,000-kilometer distance between Beijing and Shanghai.

At these stations, a car enters and a robot replaces its battery with a fully charged one in just three minutes. All these services are accessed for a monthly fee and are exclusive to NIO cars.

A similar but even more limited concept is the one that the state-owned BAIC is offering, which has recently begun offering battery exchange among users with the payment of a monthly fee.

Along with charging systems, mobile phone applications have also emerged in recent months that seek to provide users with planning for their travels.

Last month, the Alibaba Group's app, Alipay (which has also invested in the battery sector) launched a feature called "Ant Charging" for its 700 million users, which allows drivers to locate the nearest station belonging to nine charging companies, as well as their price and availability.

A similar application has already been introduced by transport giant Didi, which launched its Xiaoju Charge app in January 2018.

Although all these new charging-related services are expected to grow in the coming years, according to Jaffe, "the technology we have today is enough to solve the problem. It just needs to be expanded."

According to data from the Chinese Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Agency, there are about 3 million complete or hybrid EVs in the country and as of 2018 there were only 770,000 charging stations.

These deficiencies are being used to expand business by companies like Elon Musk's Tesla, which wants to replicate the network model of charging stations that it has in the United States.

Thus, as Tesla announced this week, 1,700 super chargers allowing a car to be charged in one hour and 2,100 regular chargers have already been built in China. EFE-EPA

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