When Zong Yi took delivery of his Tesla Model S earlier this year, there was a problem. He lives in Guangzhou and he picked the car up in Beijing. That's a 3,750-mile trip without a single charging station along the route. So he built his own – 16 of them – and paid for every one out of his pocket.
Zong figured he could bring a charger with him and plug in at hotels along the way, but he wanted to make the roundtrip from Beijing to Guangzhou semi-regularly – which is like saying you want to drive from San Diego to Anchorage every now and then. Nuts, sure, but he also had the altruistic motive of setting up a charging network for future EV drivers.
He took to Weibo – China's Twitter-like social network – to start gauging interest and contacting property owners along the route that had a beefy electrical outlet near their parking facilities. Zong committed to donating and installing the chargers himself, and then the owners of the space could offer it for free or charge for charging.
"Seven hours of charging costs the property owners about 30 yuan [about $5] in electricity," Zong told Chinese news outlet Caixin. "But if the driver has a meal or spends the night at the hotel, this can become a profit model."
After hundreds of response from both potential users and business owners, he narrowed it down to 16 cities with a four-star hotel and free parking that's easy to find.
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The hotel is the key part. Since he didn't buy Supercharger stations from Tesla, instead opting for standard quick-chargers that require owners to hang around for up to eight hours while their cars juice up. And to make the nearly 4,000-mile trek, you'd have to own a Tesla, since it's the only EV that has the range to make it from stop to stop.
Zong left Beijing on May 25 and he's about halfway home. When asked what it cost, he said it was about twice the price of the Model S, which starts at around $120,000 in China.