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Chinese man builds his own Tesla-charging network

Chinese man builds his own Tesla-charging network

07/14/2014

By Wu Jing

BEIJING (Caixin Online) -- Disappointed by a lack of recharging facilities for electric cars made by Tesla Motors Inc., one of the first Chinese owners of the company's Model S took matters into his own hands.

Guangdong-based businessman Zong Yi started a campaign to build what he said is the first "electric-vehicle charging road" in the country, with recharging facilities in 16 cities from Beijing to Guangzhou. He paid for every recharging station along his indirect, 5,750-kilometer (3,570-mile) route himself.

What began as a way to get his car home from the dealership became a demonstration of the power of Internet-based organizing and a grassroots alternative to government-backed charging-facility projects.

When Zong, 44, took delivery of his vehicle in Beijing in the spring, he faced a problem: With recharging facilities absent outside of Beijing and Shanghai, how could he drive home to Guangzhou? His first idea was to bring a charger with him and ask to use power outlets at the hotels he stayed at along the way.

Zong quickly changed his mind. He didn't just want to drive back home once, he wanted to set up a route that could be used by future drivers of electric cars.

Zong contacted Wu Bixuan, the Tesla (TSLA) executive in charge of China operations, and told her that he wanted to buy 20 recharging facilities to give away along the road to Guangzhou. He also posted notices on popular networking site Sina (SINA) Weibo, China's answer to Twitter (TWTR), and through the popular messaging app WeChat, seeking property owners along the route with a spare parking space near a heavy-duty electrical outlet.

Zong would then donate and install the chargers in the space and mark it on an online map of his "China Electric Road." The owners of the parking spaces could decide whether to charge a fee or offer the service for free.

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