SPI said it is hoping enable more EVs to run on solar energy. Image: SPI.
Solar developer SPI Energy has invested around US$4.6 million in an electric vehicle rental service in China, with the company expected to build branded charging stations and leverage its PV business to finance its growth.
Vertically integrated SPI, which at the beginning of 2015 shifted its headquarters from the US to China, began its strategic investment in Yiwei (“Beijing Yiwei New Energy Technology Development Company”) last September.
Yiwei operates fleets of EVs for rental in China through an internet-based platform. SPI has taken a 60% stake in the company through a RMB30 million (US$4.56 million) investment in a deal hoped to help expand Yiwei’s fleet and increase the use of clean solar-generated power by EV users.
SPI set up its own online platform, Solarbao.com, a crowdfunder website set up in April 2015 to finance solar projects and said some projects enabled by that site would be feeding power into Yiwei’s charging infrastructure.
The suitability of fleet vehicles as a way to utilise clean energy in the transport sector has been covered in blogs for PV Tech sister site Energy Storage News over the past few months; engineer Melissa C Lott wrote about the effect it could have on air pollution in cities, while Lux Research analyst Dean Frankel focused on New York’s decision to deploy the “world’s largest” fleet of EVs by 2025.
Analyst Chris Robinson, also of Lux Research, recently told Energy Storage News that he expects competition in the automotive space to intensify over the next three to four years, as pure-play EV manufacturers such as Tesla and BYD face up to expected new EV models from traditional car manufacturers like Nissan and GM. These makers would have to compete not only with each other but also with improvements in conventional combustion engine automobiles and hybrids, Robinson said.
Thin-film PV manufacturer Hanergy built a small number of Tesla "supercharging" stations in 2014. Image: Hanergy.