Food delivery giant Meituan will build battery swap stations and create a charging network for electric motorbikes, Chinese media outlet Tech Planet reported on Friday. The move will meet rising demand for electric vehicle charging services.
Meituan has already built at least one battery swapping station in Kaifeng, Henan province, as part of a pilot program. It has also launched a WeChat mini program, which is meant to show users the nearest swapping station, tracks their battery status, and includes a payment portal for swaps.
The company says it will build more stations in major cities by collaborating with third-party battery providers. Named Yuanyuan Huandian (“constant swapping”), the stations will allow millions of delivery riders—Meituan’s fleet on the street—to ensure their rides always have fresh power.
Almost every rider of Meituan and other food delivery platforms uses electric bikes or motorcycles to deliver orders. These are also popular personal transportation options for people in China. There were over 300 million two-wheeled electric vehicles in the country in 2020, according to consulting firm iResearch, meaning one out of four people uses an electric bike, scooter, or motorcycle.
As crucial infrastructure for electric vehicles, battery charging and swapping businesses mushroomed in China beginning in 2016. More than 1,400 companies of this type emerged in 2020 alone, according to the Shanghai Observer.
Major battery swapping service providers, like Huan Huan, are backed by automakers or battery manufacturers, including Yedea, the world’s largest manufacturer of electric motorbikes. China’s internet conglomerates also hold stakes in the market. Hello Bike, a bike-sharing platform backed by Ant Group and CATL, has marched into the EV charging market. With over 200 battery swapping stations in China, its battery swapping arm Xiaoha Huandian raised hundreds of millions of yuan in July and has plans to expand its network, Jiemian reported.
The need for battery charging and swapping services will keep increasing. In August, regulators banned citizens from charging EV batteries at home out of safety concerns. At the same time, the government rolled out subsidies and incentive policies, encouraging companies to provide more battery charging and swapping services to a broader range of users. The market value of the sector will reach hundreds of billions in yuan by 2025, Chinese media Security Times reported.