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BMW Developing EV Charging Network To Challenge Tesla’s?

The pseudo-rivalry between BMW and Tesla Motors looks set to continue into the foreseeable future, judging by recent comments made by BMW’s head of EV sales and strategy for North America.

BMW is apparently looking to spread its new DC charging stations all throughout the US next year — chargers utilizing an SAE standard plug, thus working with nearly every EV out there except for Tesla’s and Nissan’s.

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Given the recent pseudo-drama between the two companies, this certainly isn’t surprising, and is very likely what’s been in the works the whole time. Still, does BMW really think that it will outcompete Tesla in the US EV market? I’m not sure what I think about that, but it doesn’t seem like a bet that I would make.

BMW’s new charging technology is impressive, though — a DC charger that only weighs ~100 lbs, is only 24″ high and 17″ wide, and provides enough juice to deliver an ~80% charge in just 30 minutes. With the low weight and space requirements, it does represent a real improvement on the standard technology currently out there.

The head of EV sales and strategy for BMW of North America, Jacob Harb, called the new charger a “game changer” in an interview with AutoGuide, also noting that 2015 would be “the year of infrastructure.”

GAS2 provides some more thoughts on all of this:

BMW is naturally interested in expanding the EV charging infrastructure, so customers considering a BMW i3 or i8 will feel they can drive their cars anywhere. It is possible to drive a Tesla coast to coast today, but only via a limited number of routes. BMW wants its owners to be able to take a detour through Pocatello or South Succotash if they want to.

There is a tug of war going on between established auto makers and upstart Tesla. Even though Tesla says anyone can use its patented recharging technology, no one has accepted the offer. The issue is not getting the electricity from the charger to the battery. The issue is the shape of the plug and standardizing the low voltage control network that prevents the car from being moved while connected and keeps the charger informed about the status of the battery.

The BMW charger uses an SAE standard plug that fits every other electric car except for Tesla and Nissan. Resolving this conflict is critical. Just imagine how chaotic the auto industry would be if you could only fill up your Ford F-150 at a Ford sponsored gas station?

Eventually, this is likely to be resolved through the emergence of a victor, with the losing party (or parties) then being forced to adopt the approach of the winning one. Personally, I find it hard to see BMW cracking the EV market in the US… but I could be wrong.

Image Credit: BMW

 
 
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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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