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Japan Now Has More Electric Car Charging Spots Than Gas Stations (transportevolved.com)
359 points by prostoalex on May 5, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 113 comments



Unlike the majority of gas stations in Japan however, the 40,000 electric car charging points quoted by Nissan includes ones in private homes, causing some critics to cry foul. After all, if a charging station is hidden in a privately-owned garage, it isn’t easily accessible to the public. Yet while we understand that criticism — and it’s why we used an asterisk in our headline — the rise of charger-sharing sites like PlugShare.com means that more people than ever before are offering their private charging station for others to use, either as an altruistic gesture or for cold, hard cash. Moreover, it’s possible to argue that because privately-owned charging stations are enabling owners to drive their cars without visiting public charging stations, they’re providing just as valid a service to everyday drivers as publicly-assessable, higher-powered ones. But while electric car charging stations may now be far more common in Japan than a gas station, the numbers of electric cars on the roads of Japan still represent a tiny proportion of the total cars registered. It includes public and private charging spots but the article does raise some good points about 'charge spot pooling' and reducing the dependency on petrol stations. Interesting times ahead!


I'd like to read exactly what those critics say because I'm curious to see if they are accounting for the difference in driving culture between the US and Japan. Specifically, in Japan:

1. Owning a car in Japan is no where near as simple as in the US. One of the requirements that makes the private charging stations criticism sound ignorant is that you must have a legal verified parking spot to own a car. So the majority of people who own electric cars will only need to use a charging station when they are away from home for longer than a single charge. This is probably not applicable in most daily use.

2. Charging stations can be left unattended for 24 hour use. That's a huge plus as electric cars start spreading. Why? Because in Japan, many gas stations close and are unavailable during most night hours. Finding 24 hour stations (usually self pump ones) after 7-8pm can be difficult in some areas. So the gap between accessible fill-up/charge-up spots isn't as big as most Americans are imagining. Of course a gap exists, but that will only close over time. (edit: people also are much more conscious about having a full tank before departing on long trips. It's just one of those things you have to think about when driving in Japan.)

3. Last is the daiko/taxi system in Japan. Read about the 0% alcohol tolerance system and how this car service system works to make people's lives easier here. Heck, you can't even ride your bike while drunk in Japan. The way people approach transportation here is just different.

The driving culture in Japan is very different and it's hard to take that criticism seriously unless some hard numbers and studies are done to take into account the massive difference in driving culture.


> Heck, you can't even ride your bike while drunk in Japan.

That is true in many places officially, though a blind eye is often turned.

In the UK (my location) this is covered by section 30 or the Road Traffic Act (1988): "It is an offence for a person to ride a cycle on a road or other public place when unfit to ride through drink or drugs".

You can't be breathalysed (well, you can but you can't be forced to, if they ask you can decline unlike when in a car or other such vehicle) or be made to give other samples (though as with breath, if they ask and you volunteer the sample can be used as evidence), but other tests can be demanded (i.e. the standard finger-to-nose, straight-line, and alphabet physical & mental coordination tests). It'll not affect your driving license if you have one but there are potentially significant fines.


[That is true in many places officially, though a blind eye is often turned.]

This is kind of off topic, but there are some places in the USA where you can get a DUI for riding a dirt bike in your own back yard (while drunk).

Since DUI laws often even extend down to roller skates, one could extrapolate that you could technically get a DUI for roller skating drunk around your kitchen.

Of course, no sensible judge would let that fly (I hope).

The problem in this case is that many of the DUI laws don't distinguish between private and public property.


> This is kind of off topic, but there are some places in the USA where you can get a DUI for riding a dirt bike in your own back yard (while drunk).

In what situation could this happen though? I feel like other laws would prohibit this from happening. A police officer can't enter your property without a warrant or probable cause. So unless you're visible in your backyard, and very noticeably intoxicated, how could they tell you're not just clumsy and practicing?

But if you end up driving through your neighbor's fence, or run over a guest/family member in your own backyard, I don't think a DUI is unreasonable. Or if you drive into your own home, tree, whatever, and try to contact insurance for damages, it also makes sense to consider that you were intoxicated.


I suspect people also tend to get busted for this sort of thing when the cops get called for some other (possibly related) reason, e.g. you're doing drunken donuts on your property and the neighbor calls the police because you're disturbing her with loud music.

In most places the cops would probably tell you yes, indeed, you can get a DUI for driving drunk on your own property, so turn off the radio, go inside, and we'll call it even.

When you're dumb enough to start mouthing off at that point, that's when you get the DUI.


I think there are different types of "enter your property." A police officer could certainly walk into your yard without a warrant, and if they saw "suspicious biking" in your backyard, I bet they wouldn't need a warrant to go in the backyard.

You're on much safer ground drunkenly roller skating in your kitchen.

I knew a guy who got a DUI pulling a fellow out of ditch. Mr. DUI was driving in his yard and yard travelled perhaps 15 feet. I don't think he touched the public road, or even intended to, but it doesn't matter, at least in my state


This would also apply to larger properties and businesses, such as farms. It is probably a good thing to have regulations against intoxicated driving around a farm when there are other people that could get hurt there.


> [In what situation could this happen though? A police officer can't enter your property without a warrant or probable cause.]

While this may seem like an extremely unlikely scenario for many people, it's actually not that hard to think of a situation where this could happen, particularly in more rural areas of the country.

Where I live (South Jersey), there aren't many places where you can legally ride dirt bikes and ATV's, but many people have a decent amount of land, so they ride around in their back yards.

Consider the following hypothetical scenario:

A group of friends riding around on dirt bikes in their back yard, drinking some Budweiser, when suddenly, a neighbor calls the cops for the noise. The cops arrive and notice the beer bottles on the ground.

Now, most rational cops would probably just tell the people to knock it off, but you're essentially at their mercy at this point.

Each person could end up getting a DUI charge for doing something that was not endangering anyone other than themselves.

> [But if you end up driving through your neighbor's fence, or run over a guest/family member in your own backyard, I don't think a DUI is unreasonable.]

There's one key detail here: You're referring to cases where an accident has actually (possibly) occured as a result of being drunk. In these cases, I agree, being drunk should definitely result in a more severe punishment. However, I'm talking about a DUI being used proactively as a method of preventing risky behavior that could have potentially harmed others, but has not actually resulted in any accidents.

My argument is that, unlike driving a car drunk on public roads (where a DUI is certainly justified), the risk of harming innocent bystanders in this scenario is exceedingly small, and therefore does not warrant a potentially life-ruining charge when no harm has actually occured.

If not here, then where do we draw the line?

Should a group of people playing baseball in their back yard while drunk be arrested and charged with a crime because they could have potentially hit the ball just right and killed someone?

There are tons of examples of crazy accident scenarios that could have been avoided by better judgement.

I think that situations like these should be addressed on a per-incident basis. It doesn't make sense to proactively punish people for things that are of such a low risk of harming others. These scenarios are rare and unique enough that a general law really doesn't work well.

> [Or if you drive into your own home, tree, whatever, and try to contact insurance for damages, it also makes sense to consider that you were intoxicated.]

I'm 80% sure that insurance would still have to pay out in this case. They pay out for house fires caused by cigarettes, so I assume this is no different, but I really have no confirmation of this.


> The problem in this case is that many of the DUI laws don't distinguish between private and public property.

Neither do injuries caused by drunk drivers.


I mean, fundamentally, on your own private property you are far less likely to cause injury to someone else or someone else's property, for the sheer fact that people would be trespassing on your private property to be there for the accident to happen. There's a material difference between private and public property, one having more chances for injury of others than the other.


I don't know about DUI specifically, but this is why crimes have many degrees of misdemeanor and felony for the same core behavior.


> That is true in many places officially, though a blind eye is often turned.

And it happens where I live too (in Japan). But I have seen police officers stop people who were obviously drunk from riding their bike too. It's very situational, but at least in Japan, it's a real enough thing that people actively think about it here.


About 15 years ago, a friend almost got a DUI for riding his bike while drunk in the SF bay area - the cop was going to cite him if he couldn't get a friend to come pick him up.


Another important point is that people in Japan are much more able (and likely) to travel by train for the kind of long journeys where refuelling/recharging would be important. So comprehensive charging station infrastructure is less of a prerequisite for most people to consider an electric vehicle.


It's true that you must have a parking spot to own a car, but not necessarily at your residence. People with unused parking often rent it out, through an intermediary company or directly to a neighbor. Empty lots awaiting construction are also often rented out as parking spaces.


Yup, I'm aware of that but also know that the situation is very dependent on where you live (prefectures, cities, etc.) which is why I want to see numbers and actual studies rather than a hollow criticism. The differences in cultures is real. I think I've given enough examples to show that. The question is, have the people criticizing the numbers done any real studies? Because in a vacuum, 40,000 charging spots, regardless of whether or not they are private or public, is an amazing number.


In general, most gas stations have more than one petrol or diesel pumping point!

Also, electric cars mostly have a much shorter range than gas/diesel vehicles, so need to charge more frequently.

And electric cars take much longer to charge than internal combustion engines (double-digit minutes to multiple hours, vs. single-digit minutes).

So, really, even if all of these charge points were publicly accessible, there are about two orders of magnitude too few of them to service an electric vehicle fleet of the same size as the IC vehicle fleet.

(It is, however, a very promising early sign.)


Yes, it would be more useful to compare capacity in range delivered. Filling up at a gas station takes ~ 5 minutes and adds 400 miles /640 kilometres of range. Filling up at a charging point takes x hours and delivers y range.

Stick in some real world average numbers, count pumping points (not gas stations) and charging points, and then adjust for peak demand (gas by day, electricity by night) and you have comparable numbers.


You also have to factor in (at least for trips) the real total time it takes to fill up. Typically you turn off the interstate and drive a mile or so into town, find the gas station, pull in, fill up (where you have to be at the pump while filling), then you may make a pit stop / grab a snack, and generally stretch you legs (assuming you've been driving for 400 miles = 7 hours). Whereas the Tesla quick charge stations, I believe you can leave your car unattended while it is charging.


> Whereas the Tesla quick charge stations, I believe you can leave your car unattended while it is charging.

This is correct.


I think I agree with you. The key thing to note is the speed at which new technologies are adopted, rather than the question of adopting as private vs public. I suspect someone with the right connections and resources could invest in the Yen, then strategize to put Japan as a frontrunner for electric car technologies (thus revitalizing its economy) and make a lot of money.


That sounds like a multi billion dollar investment, and Japanese companies do a great job of building electric cars for the export market already.


Here's the interactive map.[1] Most of those charging stations are not public. Hotels and auto dealerships have some of them. I've been looking for them in Google Maps. Here's one that's in a public parking lot and has signage.[2] You have to pay for parking to charge, but that's not unreasonable in Tokyo.

[1] http://www.chademo.com/wp/jpmap/ [2] https://goo.gl/maps/M5WYLuM4uEK2


This is hardly surprising. Or terribly newsworthy. Just reinforces how early we still are in the adoption of electric vehicles.

The amount of gas stations available has plummeted in most places over the last 20 years. I presume Japan is similar. It's been equally down to supermarkets getting into petrol supply and the oil companies introducing large weekly mininimums. UK probably has 1/2 or 1/3 the number of petrol stations compared to y2k. It's ruined the convenience of filling up and tiny 1 and 2 pump stations are consigned to history. Live somewhere rural? Now you can drive 20 miles just to fill up.

Meanwhile charging points are being put in everywhere - towns are making charging bays in car parks, or on street. Much like happened with petrol in the 1920s.

Oh, and let's not forget a charging point caters for a lot fewer vehicles than a petrol station.


Everyone can charge at home. You'll only need to charge out and about if you exceed ~200 miles in a trip.


Not entirely true if you live in one of many apartment complexes or multi-family residences. Additionally some single family homes might not have outlet access near vehicles. Which is likely more common in Japan too than here I assume.


Gas stations are incredibly damaging to the environment, and the land is very expensive to remediate if ever used for something else. That's why they have been disappearing.


As soon as EVs take off and gas stations start closing up shop, I'm going into petrol station remediation. There's gold in them there hills!


Oil, not gold ;+)


What something else? Is a retail space a worse fit on gas station land than the gas+retail spacd it replaced?


It is a strange experience to be jealous of countries with high population density. However, every time bicycles, electric vehicles, or renewable energy comes up, I feel profoundly embarrassed the US can't form a similar effort given our resources, even if I rationally understand it's probably not worth it to have a high speed train hit all the small towns in Montana, or how solar panels might not work as well in Forks, Washington as they do in California.


While I too agree that high speed rail (and even Internet) in absolutely rural areas doesn't really make sense...

The US still has areas of fairly to -really- high population density, and arguably, areas that should be far higher (city cores with skyscrapers, and city outskirts with 6-8 story high multi-use buildings), even the current suburban density is more than dense enough to support better transit experiences than we presently see.

Transit of both the mass people and the mass-data kind.


I'm not sure suburban density is enough. I live in Fairfax County, VA, which has a population density of 3,000 per square mile (about the same as Seattle). They recently extended the Metro out here. Getting to any of the stations, however, is impossible. There are more new Silver Line stations than apartment buildings within a safe and comfortable walk of them (they're surrounded by a scary wide major thoroughfare). I think you'd have to double or triple the surrounding density for them to be worthwhile. I think 8-10k per square mile is the magic number, and there aren't a lot of places in the U.S. that hit that.


> While I too agree that high speed rail (and even Internet) in absolutely rural areas doesn't really make sense...

Yeah, it's not like rural areas have power or phone service. /s

Seriously, what makes high speed internet so special that rural areas should not have it?

It's not like we don't know how to build networks and we've already built the power and telephone networks. Internet access is getting to be as important as phone service and power and it's undeniable that from a societal perspective everyone would benefit from having equal access to internet services.


[Seriously, what makes high speed internet so special that rural areas should not have it?]

I can see both sides of the "argument".

On one side, the internet is becoming a basic requirement for everyday life in this day and age (not yet though; there are still many people who do perfectly fine without it). I predict that it will eventually be considered as necessary as electricity itself. Depriving people in rural areas of that can be seen as somewhat inhumane and unfair.

On the other side, it seems kind of selfish to expect a company/government/whatever to spend billions of dollars to deploy infrastructure into areas where they will have one customer every 10 miles. This would eventually lead to increased costs for everyone, including those who have made the "sacrifice" of living in more densely populated areas.

One of the benefits of living in rural areas is that you're away from people. One of the downsides of living in rural areas is that you're away from people.

NOTE: I'm mainly thinking in the context of the USA's midwest, where you can have areas where there is one house every XX miles.

When it comes down to it, I am more of a supporter of the former side of the argument. Maybe not to the extent of forcing a company/government to cover the entire country in high speed internet, but something more along the lines of "all areas with a reasonable population density". This is how things work with waste water sewage where I live. If you live in the middle of no where, you don't have access to running water and sewage; you need a well and a septic tank. But if the area has X amount of people per Sq mile, then the utility is forced to install it.

My reasoning is mainly because the exclusion of non-profitable areas in terms of internet coverage extends well beyond rural areas.

There are even areas within densely populated cities that don't have access to real high speed internet (mainly low income areas). That's not right to me.


I was not arguing against rural internet; the cost is constant over time. But the rural internet requires lobbying and money to invest that requires political lobbying.

To reduce my position to something extremely concise, I'd simply lament that electric cars require a LOT of political lobbying compared to a country with higher average population density.


> Seriously, what makes high speed internet so special that rural areas should not have it?

Internet is not considered a utility in the same way that power and phone lines are. If this is the change you are suggesting, the ongoing debates about net neutrality, as well as rather confusing bandwidth monetization by telecom companies, are big issues in the way of commoditizing the Internet.


> Internet is not considered a utility in the same way that power and phone lines are.

I would not mind that the Internet be classified as a utility. Regardless of if it is or not, a co-ordinated effort should be made to bring high speed broadband access to all, including rural areas.

What I do take exception to is claims that bringing high speed Internet access to rural areas does not make sense or should not be done.

> If this is the change you are suggesting, the ongoing debates about net neutrality, as well as rather confusing bandwidth monetization by telecom companies, are big issues in the way of commoditizing the Internet.

Excuse my ignorance, but how does network neutrality stand in the way of commoditizing the Internet?

I'm much more inclined to say that mandating network neutrality, open access, transparent pricing and verifiable metering and billing would go a long way to solve any problems.


> I would not mind that the Internet be classified as a utility. Regardless of if it is or not, a co-ordinated effort should be made to bring high speed broadband access to all, including rural areas.

I mean, legally, they are public utilities. From my limited understanding, the utility companies MUST provide for either everyone in an area or no one, for example, amongst other regulations. This is not true for internet access, not in most places.

> Excuse my ignorance, but how does network neutrality stand in the way of commoditizing the Internet?

If people are able to "pay" for better, faster internet access, how can we regulate it as a public utility for everyone? One might argue that it seems "unfair" (for certain definitions).

This is related to internet billing: Do we bill the downloader? The uploader? How do we measure it? How do we verify the measurement? What if someone MITM injects packets?

We need to make decisions and figure things out in order to get internet to the level of, say, electricity.


> If people are able to "pay" for better, faster internet access, how can we regulate it as a public utility for everyone? One might argue that it seems "unfair" (for certain definitions).

I fail to see how this has anything to do with network neutrality. You pay for your internet connection, I pay for mine. There's nothing unfair about me having a 100M connection and you having a 1G connection.

Network neutrality only bans preferential treatment of service providers, it has nothing to do with who has what kind of connection.

> This is related to internet billing: Do we bill the downloader? The uploader? How do we measure it? How do we verify the measurement? What if someone MITM injects packets?

Internet access billing has fairly established practices. There are no unknowns there. It's either flat rate in retail or 95th percentile in wholesale. Metered billing is an anomaly that can be largely be done away with.

MITM packet injection is not really something you have to worry about. Suffice to say spoofing can be largely prevented.

> We need to make decisions and figure things out in order to get internet to the level of, say, electricity.

There really isn't much to figure out. You can sell Internet access almost the same way you sell electricity.


As regards rural areas (like where my sister lives) not having fast internet, this is why my blog has no graphics, photographs or other doodads: they take too long to download over phone lines.


I've heard stories of people not spending thousands of dollars to extend a power line. I guess in those situations, the utility just has to accept them as a customer. It makes sense to me to put that cost on the property owner, but it also really softens the meaning of must provide service.


> I guess in those situations, the utility just has to accept them as a customer.

Not true. Depending on the location, you can be responsible for tens of thousands of dollars to extend power the last mile. Thats why you see a lot of people going off-grid with solar and a backup generator instead.


I hope the words in front of the quote make it clear I understood that. My phrasing is ambiguous, but my meaning was 'the power company's obligation is limited to providing service once the line has been installed'.

I've heard stories of people not spending thousands of dollars to extend a power line. is also ambiguous, but I meant they chose to go without a hookup instead of spending thousands of dollars (usually at a camp or place they would like to build).


As a point of comparison, I live in a city in Japan (Nagoya) that's about the size (roughly) of Chicago. Bikes are very common here. Many street lamps have solar and wind generators. Fuel efficient 'kei' cars are everywhere. (Mine gets 35km/l.) The regional trains and local subways are always on time, never very crowded, and cover a huge area. The bullet train to Kyoto/Osaka is 1.5 hours, and 2 hours 45 mins to Tokyo.


I've long considered how weird it is that I'm jealous of the American past at times. We collectively have forgotten how deeply connected our rail system originally was and how fast it was when it originally was built. Even what small fraction of those rail lines that still exist, if America managed to wrestle them from the cargo companies running them near bankruptcy for a bandwidth of just cargo tons, found a way to pay for updates and upgrades (the most unlikely part of this scenario sadly) and got the lines back up to the original speeds, not even doing an upgrade to modern high speeds, people would be amazed at where you can travel and how fast you can get there...


By and large rail freight in the US is a rather profitable business and significantly more efficient than trucks for the routes and cargo where it makes sense. [1]

As for getting passenger rail back up to its original speed, I'd have to be convinced that (modulo the delays that can occur due to sharing rails with freight) that it's a lot slower than it once was. For example, the Twentieth Century from NY to Chicago took about 16 hours (per the song) and takes about the same length of time today.

How many people are going to take a 16 hour train from NY to Chicago when they can fly in a few hours? Maybe you and/or a few others who will do it now and then for the experience, but pretty much none of the business travelers who are the bread and butter of most routes would. Heck, cut it to 8 hours and, still, very few would take it.

The rail service was never all that fast over long distances. There just weren't any reasonable alternatives.

ADD: This isn't unique to the US BTW. I've looked at European routes like Dusseldorf to Paris and it turned out it made far more sense to fly.

[1] http://fortune.com/2015/06/04/union-pacific-railroad/


I'm mostly trying to refer to the unprofitable parts of the remaining rail network: the "rollover country" and lost connections, the towns built for rail that rail long since abandoned. I'm also explicitly not talking about long distances, but all the many medium distances where train travel makes the most sense on a continent and has almost entirely disappeared in America with rare exceptions on the coasts.

For an example, used to be you could take a train from Louisville, KY to Chicago in about five hours. It takes six to eight to drive there in today's traffic. The last time Amtrak tried to run that route it took eight to ten hours between the slow down in the tracks being in such disarray and the outright antipathy from the cargo companies to passenger travel and disincentive by the cargo companies to speed up their own rails because that route between Chicago and Louisville at this point is much more "roll through" than "drop off" these days from the cargo perspective.

(Sure, you can fly Louisville to Chicago in an hour and half, two hours, but a five hour train ride would still be competitive even/especially for business travel. An eight/ten hour train ride clearly was not.)

That's just the example off the top of my head. Louisville is a major US city with zero (!) current passenger routes. When Louisville deals with the city's rail infrastructure from a community safety standpoint (much less any other potential need), the involved companies such as CSX whine and complain that they are broke and can't possibly invest in the rail infrastructure they supposedly "own".

We refer to the founders of the American Rail system as Robber Barons for many reasons, but they certainly did a good job of robbing from the system's own future as well.


4-5 hours is probably just about the upper limit for viable high traffic passenger rail. Even on the Northeast Corridor (where Amtrak makes the money that the rest of their route system loses), NY to the north and NY to the south are popular. Boston all the way to DC much less so.

For better or worse, there just isn't a lot of appetite in the US for creating new rail lines that would be money losers.

>We refer to the founders of the American Rail system as Robber Barons for many reasons, but they certainly did a good job of robbing from the system's own future as well.

Not sure what you mean by that. They built much of the rail network. It declined after WWII (i.e. long after the so-called "robber barons") because the interstates and flying took away much of the passenger traffic and made it unprofitable.


My original point remains there are a lot of routes I'm jealous of that used to have less than or equal to 4-5 hour travel that were shut down and can't even be done at those speeds today. I'm not talking about new rail lines, I'm talking about all the existing rail lines that are underutilized by the existing cargo-focused train companies today because they aren't profitable for cargo, but could be useful for passenger travel given the old/original speeds, which we can't get today given the catch-22 of there is no demand there because the speeds aren't there and the speeds aren't there because the demand isn't there at the current speeds.

«It declined after WWII (i.e. long after the so-called "robber barons") because the interstates and flying took away much of the passenger traffic and made it unprofitable.»

I'm trying to point out it also declined because the inheritors of Robber Barons focused on the comfortable and easy profits of coast-to-coast cargo over long term investments in infrastructure. Yes, interstates and advances in flight did their part to minimize the public interest in passenger traffic, but so too did giving priority of all lines to cargo and avoiding long term capital maintenance and improvements. The railroad industry has a lot of "tech debt" that they've passed on from generation to generation and it's past time someone went in and refactored that debt. Yes, some of that tech debt is the fault of the Robber Barons themselves in that the majority of what they built (using public right of ways and public eminent domain to help construct it in a very strong example of America mistaking public infrastructure as private corporate profit centers) was never built with long term maintenance and sustainability in mind.


Interestingly, Japan oil consumption felt by +/- 18% since 2000 while population remained stable.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_Japan

http://www.indexmundi.com/energy.aspx?country=jp&product=oil...


This is mostly true for many developed countries.

For example, in the nr 1 economy in Europe, Germany, the figure dropped since the 80s, and all of this is well before renewables ramped up (which are still tiny). Same with the nr 2, the UK, also dropped, and the nr 3, France. I haven't bothered looking further. All these countries grew in size somewhat btw.

In part it's because of new efficiencies, in part because of shifting industries away from industrial towards services.


As I write this comment, this story is on the front page just above the story titled "Misperceiving Bullshit as Profound." I find the juxtaposition amusing. I'm a huge proponent of EVs, but this comparison is meaningless and silly.


More than one pump per gas station. Still very impressive!


And, as the article hints at, refuelling with gas takes minutes vs. hours for electric. It'll probably take a couple orders of magnitude more electric chargers than gas stations to support the same number of each vehicle type.


But on the other hand electric cars can be charged at home …

Depending on how many people have a place with a power outlet (ok, a garage) in close proximity to their car and depending on how many people frequently drive less than their range per day (and less than their maybe underpowered power outlet can charge in one night) that might save on quite some public outlets. But I don’t know the numbers.

I know many people where this would apply, though. And those outlets are included in this number, anyway. Which kinda supports my assumption: I think you might be able to get away with actually many fewer public power outlets than gas stations.


FYI, to own a car in Japan, you must have a legal verified parking spot that you own. For most people, that probably means land in the same area as your home. So even without a garage, they should still be able to install an outlet on their own property.

edit: There's a culture difference with regards to driving that I explained in another comment just now. Reading some of the other comments further down makes me think that very few people commenting here understand the laws and culture behind driving in Japan.


Cool! I obviously didn't know that. So that use case is probably quite common in Japan (if the other factors line up, but I don't see why they wouldn't, frequently).

In the US and Europe having your own, dedicated place to put your car is probably more or less weakly coordinated with owning a car (maybe less in the US, where at least in some places owning a car is more of a requirement?). Just because being able to afford a car is probably weakly coordinated with being able to afford your own spot. But this regulation should make that even more so in Japan.


This is true. A police officer will visit your home and verify your parking spot before you are allowed to purchase a car here. It's also worth noting that many people live in high-rise buildings or other multi-tenant buildings where a private charger could be put to service for more than one vehicle.

Every Nissan dealership has a charger, and I've never seen any queue for it, but it's almost always occupied.


Yep, commenters here don't understand the cultural and legislative backgrounds of Japanese driving. However, that is not the issue here.

For some commenters the article (or its headline) serves the sole purpose of self-adulation: Keeping your bias working. Adding 'stats' to back your argument. Something to numb other peoples criticism in a discussion.

In that sense, any subleties of Japanese culture would actually hurt.


But still, the needed breakthrough requires the companies to add their charging infrastructure, and connect those to the backends to allow the grid to take out spikes.

The majority of e-car owners would be comfortable to charge the car at the company parking lot (for cheap), and then even allow the grid to unload some power in case of spikes, when they can offer good incentives, like promises to keep them at 95% at the end of the workday and monetary incentives for taking out power when needed in the city.

The big problem are still expensive spikes, and with all those batteries it would be much cheaper to handle them. The best strategy is to arrange that with the parking lots of the big companies.


I suspect that the number of homes in Japan with a garage is very small - also ignores the problems that the grid will have if a non trivial number of people come home and all put their car on charge at around the same time

Even worse in the USA where you have 110v in homes rather than 240 V which is common in Europe.


The majority of US homes have 240 available, it just isn't used for most outlets. The bigger issue might be the amp rating of older grid connections.


Yep thats what id call a cooker circuit - in the uk with 240 v we can get 415v on that sort of circuit.


The article includes home chargers in its calculations. Even if everybody with an EV has their own private charger at home, some quick mental math indicates 1000 times more chargers (public + private) than gas stations.


This claim is only true because they included private garage based charging, such as in a home. A pretty big stretch in trying to generate a headline.


Either way, they're pretty abundant here. I see charging stations all over my city. Almost every branded car dealership has one, and there are dealerships everywhere. Also, people in Japan tend to live in multifamily buildings, and private garages can be quite large and serve a lot of cars.

It's rare if a day goes by when I don't see a Nissan with a charger plugged into the front badge somewhere.


> Also, people in Japan tend to live in multifamily buildings, and private garages can be quite large and serve a lot of cars.

How would you get the driver to reliably go back to the garage to move the car to a non-charging spot after completion? Sharing a parking charger between multiple users requires enormous coordination when usage patterns are not naturally collision free. Without autonomous parking and plugging, the whole concept of charging while parking is effectively creating a 1:1 relationship between chargers and cars


I'm not sure how it works. Many private parking garages here are relatively automated, though——you pull your car into an elevator, get out, walk outside, type in a code, the doors close, and your car disappears up the lift until you need it again. I'm certain that they will eventually work out a system for charging them all, but today the adoption of EV cars is probably not sufficient to warrant it. People are generally pretty ridiculously considerate of others here, so I can see them scheduling charging time and sticking to it.


The big plus of EV is that you can 'gas' (or charge) up your vehicle at your home. So I think including charger in private garage is just fine.


This implies an increased density of power availability, which doesn't follow given many charging stations are unavailable to the general public.


I think it's reasonable to count those. People use them, maybe even more than public ones. They serve a huge purpose and are an important part of having electric cars in society. They're very much on-par with gas stations for this count, and for the viability of the electric car system, in my opinion. After all, Nissan (referenced in this article) is talking about the viability of the electric car system in society, not just numbers for fun or headlines.

If people had personal gas stations because it took a long time to fuel your car and you had to do it overnight, those should count too, because they'd argue for the viability of the combustion engine. But that's not the case.


> "People use them, maybe even more than public ones"

I drive a Chevy Volt, which spends about 23 hours per day plugged in to the charger in my driveway. That private spot gets used a lot, but it only services one vehicle. Even a public charging station generally only serves the needs of a couple dozen vehicles per day. Whereas a gas station generally services hundreds, or even thousands, of vehicles. So a spot-to-station comparison isn't really very useful. The more relevant question is "how many vehicles does this infrastructure support, in what usage patterns?"

The answer to that question is, still a lot fewer electric vehicles than gasoline vehicles are supported by the current infrastructure (even in Japan), and the usage patterns are more limited.

We're clearly in a transitional period where electric vehicles are becoming viable, but there are limitations. As I said in a recent thread, "If I purchase a vehicle, I'm likely to want it to work for every trip I want to take ... If a car sucks for even one of those trips [to distant states, the airport at ~45 miles round-trip, or a long day of errands], I'm going to be hesitant to buy it". As electric ranges get longer and public charging stations get faster and more dense, electric vehicles will become more viable for more people, but right now they're still not on par with gasoline vehicles for the population as a whole (not even in a smaller country like Japan.) The progress is exciting, but sometimes it's presented in misleading ways that make it sound a lot closer to "always viable" than it really is.


> but right now they're still not on par with gasoline vehicles for the population as a whole (not even in a smaller country like Japan.)

Completely untrue. The average round trip daily commute in the US is ~45 miles. Even mediocre electric vehicles like the Leaf and the Bolt can do that.

I'm assuming Tesla's Model 3 is what causes EV demand to take off. ~200 mile range + Supercharger access = electric mobility is solved.


> "The average round trip daily commute in the US is ~45 miles."

You can't just look at an average trip and say "this vehicle can handle it, therefore it's completely viable for the average person", because the average person sometimes takes trips other than their average daily commute. Sometimes they go visit their grandparents or cousins out on the farm. Sometimes they visit their sister who lives two states over. Sometimes they make their ordinary daily commute but then follow it up by driving to a sporting event or a get-together some distance in the opposite direction. If an EV is suitable for your daily commute, but not for your occasional trips, then it's still not on par with a gasoline vehicle.

Even the supercharger network has a long way to go; here's a comment I made about it a month ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11431401

The takeaway is that about 1/4 of the US population lives in metro areas that are well-served by the supercharger network in all directions, and 3/4 lives in areas that have significant gaps for at least one significant direction of travel.

My uncle and my wife's grandpa were EV enthusiasts going back decades. I drive a plug-in electric (with a gas generator, which solves the not-well-covered trip problem) and so do my in-laws. I've been watching carefully. Right now, there are still lots of reasons for lots of people to stay away from pure electric vehicles, and while that list of reasons is getting shorter, it's still a long enough list that for a lot of people it's a non-starter as a primary vehicle.


I disagree, but respect your point of view.


I disagree completely. In your hypothetical world, what if they were all private gas stations? That would certainly affect the economics of owning a gasoline car for the worse, if you also had to build and maintain your own gas station to go along with it. But apparently we shouldn't take that into account?

Here's another hypothetical: What if every single private charging station in Japan was owned by the same individual, and he refused to let anybody else use them? Would that change your opinion? Because from the perspective of someone who's deciding which kind of car to buy, that scenario is functionally identical to the current reality.

The only infrastructure that affects "viability" of a new technology is infrastructure that's available to use. A bunch of roped-off private infrastructure doesn't change the equation for anybody whose not already a member of the club.


> The only infrastructure that affects "viability" of a new technology is infrastructure that's available to use.

In-home chargers do affect the viability of a new technology, and they are available to use. Just not to everyone. But most people who have an electric car have access to at least one private charger, and it's the one they will use most, so it affects them more than any other charger, especially for regular, in-region daily use/commuting.

> doesn't change the equation for anybody whose not already a member of the club.

Anyone who's not a member of the club probably doesn't have an electric car. When they get an electric car, they will likely either use their in-building charger or get their own.

All of these hypotheticals don't change the fact that this figure is encouraging to me. It shows that Japan is starting to figure out how to use the electric car as a reasonable replacement for the gasoline/diesel car. The number is still impressive, even if you don't compare it to the number of gas stations--but rather just to the number of people--it shows that they've adopted the electric car more than most (if not all) countries without their economy going to shit or a transport-related crisis happening.


> In-home chargers do affect the viability of a new technology, and they are available to use. Just not to everyone. But most people who have an electric car have access to at least one private charger, and it's the one they will use most, so it affects them more than any other charger, especially for regular, in-region daily use/commuting.

Yes, but you have to pay for one. It's part of the cost of switching (in a way that "constructing your own gas station" isn't). That's my point.


You're right, and I wasn't saying this article is groundbreaking, or that the progress is tremendous. I was just defending the figure/comparison as a reasonable one to make us aware of the progress in this early stage of EV adoption.


> If people had personal gas stations because it took a long time to fuel your car and you had to do it overnight, those should count too, because they'd argue for the viability of the combustion engine.

It's a different meaning, though—even if you have access to 1 million gas stations, it doesn't help you if your tank doesn't hold enough gas to get to the next station on your route. The total number isn't meaningful in "road trip" problems.


Every private charging station that provides for a driver who returns to that charger after each journey enables a space on a public charging station to remain free for people on road trips.

The total number might be too simplistic for planning a long journey, but private charging stations do have positive utility even for those that don't own them.


This exactly. I assume most people in Japan use cars for local trips/commuting and will return home at the end of the day.

After all, they have a brilliant long-distance transport system that vastly eliminates the need of a car for long trips.


That makes some sense, but still 40,000 is not a lot if you count private homes with electric car. It almost has to mean that substantially less than 40k electric cars are sold since not many people are buying them without a charger at home?


I wonder what the per-home number would look like relative to other countries. I'd think it's probably pretty high. Good for them, I say; they're still showing the rest of us that electric cars can work… and that takes a combination of having a good amount of public chargers, and people buying an electric car and owning a charger.

Remember, also, that it's still the dawn of the electric vehicle.


Why can't they be included?


Because you can't use them freely if you drive around.


There are dozens and dozens of petrol stations in my city, but when my tank runs low i only really go to "my usual place" that's near my house.

It's useful to have abundant stations in e.g. an emergency, but i assume most drivers refuel at their leisure.


It'd be like including your microwave in a map of restaurants in your area. Technically yes, you can get food there, but it's not the same.


It's an interesting part of the paradigm shift to EVs that one of the best things (refueling at home, cheaply, safely and greenly) is often discounted or even portrayed as a downside.

Similarly, in a parallel world where people only ate at restaurants, I can imagine suspicion about this new fangled home cooking, and how it's not a "real" restaurant, while the home cookers are like "it's cheap, convenient and healthy!"


Yeah, I definitely didn't mean it as a downside to EVs, just that home charging stations are private facilities, not public ones. The smear campaign to discredit plug-in charging (and its lasting effect on public perception) is one of the most annoying consequences of GM's attempt to get out of the old CARB EV mandate (before they just bought off some politicians or whatever they did to make non-plugin hybrids count as "EVs"). Witness the Prius being sold with "you never have to plug it in haha" as a selling point despite the fact that converting it to a plugin hybrid dramatically increases fuel economy. Gah.


I just came back from Japan, and saw very few EVs on the road, just one or two Nissan Leafs. By a wide margin the cars you mostly see on the road there are kei-cars, which are small cars with 660cc engines. They are cheap, tax-advantaged, offer good fuel economy, and are surprisingly roomy. Until there is a good EV kei alternative I don't think EVs will really take off in Japan. Hybrids are pretty common though.

I also saw several mobile charging spots at convenience stores though, which is brilliant, and some larger car parks covered with solar panels. Being able to get charging points at convenient locations using the existing grid, and thus doing away with specific trips to the gas station and fuel distribution logistics will be a huge advantage eventually.


The statistical evidence backs this up: pure electric vehicle sales in Japan are a tiny fraction of total vehicle sales -- less than 1% -- and sales are not growing significantly.

The headline is linkbaity and meant to play on people's unfounded stereotypes of Japan as some sort of environmentally superior Utopian Tomorrowland.

Only about 30,000 plug-in vehicles are sold per year in Japan[1], out of 4.2 million total passenger vehicles sold.[2]

Growth forecasts for plugins are anemic, with even the most optimistic estimates predicting only 50,000 units sold annually by 2023.[3]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plug-in_electric_vehicles_in_J...

[2] http://www.statista.com/statistics/269889/passenger-car-sale...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plug-in_electric_vehicles_in_J...


I think Japan is at least better than the US environmentally in a number of ways, but a lot of the benefit is squandered away by things like overuse of air conditioning, packaging waste, and industry.


I would be more interested in statistics about Norway as 30% of new cars are electric there.


I believe there are around 50 - 60 000 EVs in Norway and 6000 public charging stations. The EU is mandating that Norway needs to build 25 000 charging stations by 2020.

Shortage of charging points is becoming a problem as the number of electric cars is growing much faster than the building of charging stations. So while there is good geographic coverage the problem is that so many need to charge at the same time.

Whenever I pass charging stations down town they always seem to be occupied by somebody.


How can the EU tell Norway to build charging stations if Norway is not even a member of the EU? Do you have any sources for that?


Norway is part of the European Free Trade Association. It has access to the EU market but it means it has to respect certain laws and there is freedom of travel/work.


What happens with regular gasoline pumps there? 30% is a big number so I would expect some impact (closures, limiting working hours etc).


The actual data worth looking will the percentage of electric vehicles to ones that run on conventional fuel.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plug-in_electric_vehicles_in_J... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_car_use_by_country#Ja...


of note: Japan has about 80 million total vehicles (via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle#Japan ) -- so while the number of pure electric vehicles is rising, it's still a small percentage overall.


Why don't gas stations offer quick charging spots by now I wonder? Why are they not interested in attracting EV owners?


Sometimes revolutions happen quietly, very quietly.

(actually, that could be an electric car company slogan)


Japan has quietly done it and forgot to tell the world!


Cool, lots of cars running on nuclear energy, then!


Nope. There's barely any nuclear power here now. Most plants were turned off after Fukushima. In fact I believe only 1 is online at the moment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Japan


Ah, didn't know that. I guess they are mainly running on electricity from coal/oil/gas power plants, then.


Which is a lot more efficient than running off direct-drive petrol engines. There are reasons why e.g. diesel-electric locomotives are a thing.


All gasoline cars are running 100% on oil and that is never going to change. Electrical cars are using a mix of electricity sources, some not as good as others, but with each renewable energy source added to the grid, every electrical car, also the older ones, are getting a bit cleaner. Add to that the ability to steer the charging of the cars (at least partially) synced to grid load, they can help stabilizing the grid and make renewable sources easier to integrate.


Just like gasoline cars then. Gasoline cars use just as much electricity as EVs, as refining of oil to gasoline requires substantial amount of electricity.

With all the extra energy needs of gasoline cars for tankers, building and maintenance of gas stations, I think the world would need a lot less electricity production if everybody went electric rather than ICE.


and Tesla has barely THREE charging stations in Tokyo... (2 are in "center" and one on the periphery).


The last time I went to a Tesla store, they told me Superchargers aren't supposed to be used in cities, they're supposed to be used mainly for road trips. Putting them between major cities allows them to be free to be used for road trips without making them convenient enough for most people to use them as their usual charging station.




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