Clean Transport

Published on January 22nd, 2015 | by James Ayre


BMW + Volkswagen + ChargePoint Announce Fast-Charging Network

January 22nd, 2015 by  

It looks as though BMW intends to make good on its threat to Tesla’s current dominance in the American luxury electric vehicle (EV) market, based on a recent announcement made at the 2015 Washington Auto Show.

The company made the interesting reveal there that it was partnering with ChargePoint and Volkswagen to create extensive fast-changing corridors along the most heavily trafficked routes of both the East and West Coasts.

BMW ChargePoint


This partnership aims to see 100 DC fast-charging stations installed across both coasts in the near future — said expansion could, of course, be continued after that. And, it’s worth remembering, this expansion will be building on the more than 20,000 ChargePoint charging points that are already installed in North America.

The new stations on the East Coast will reportedly be installed on the busiest portions of Interstate 95 — from up in the Boston area to down in Washington, DC. In turn, the West Coast expansion will see the network encompass the metropolitan areas of San Francisco, LA, San Diego, and Portland. Said stations will, at the most, be no more than 50 miles apart — thereby facilitating long-distance travel along these routes.

“A robust network of conveniently located DC fast-charging stations will go a long way toward increasing electric vehicle adoption and making electric vehicle ownership even more enjoyable,” stated Robert Healey, Head of EV Infrastructure at BMW of North America, in an email to CleanTechnica. “The express charging corridors are another important step in the the development of the US e-mobility infrastructure that makes longer distance travel a real option for consumers, particularly along the most heavily trafficked portions of both coasts — making the BMW i3 and other electric vehicles even more appealing.”

Each of these new DC fast-charging stations will include to two 50 kW DC fast chargers, or 24 kW DC Combo fast chargers with the SAE Combo connector — the standards used in BMW’s and Volkswagen’s EVs. Said stations will also include Level 2 chargers — making the stations appealing to owners of EVs not compatible with the aforementioned standards.

All of the new stations are expected to installed by the end of 2015.

The EV manufacturers involved in this effort come as no surprise. It’s clear that there are a handful of major car companies that are serious or at least somewhat serious about advancing the EV revolution. Those include BMW and Nissan most clearly, but also Volkswagen, Ford, and GM.

Image Credit: BMW/ChargePoint

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About the Author

'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. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Benjamin Nead

    If Chevy stays with SAE-CCS for the Bolt (or whatever the production version of that vehicle will be called,) this will also benefit them. The VW/BMW network should also be equipped with CHAdeMO and Tesla plugs (even if the current for the latter isn’t up to the the amperage standards of the Supercharger network.) Why? It’s all 440V DC. Only the plug pinout is different.

    If money is being collected per individual charge, whoever owns the machines will benefit. Forward looking businesses who want to garner as much recharging business as possible will want to cater to as many different EVs as possible.

    The more comprehensive petroleum stations sell various grades of unleaded and diesel. Some even offer propane and natural gas. These different fuels require separate storage tanks. Building a multi-format 440V DC charging station is easier.
    All that’s required is separate plugs for the different brand of cars.

    The Green Car Congress site also covered this story and I found an interesting supplement there: three U.S. maps showing locations of all current Supercharger, SAE-CCS and CHAdedMO installations . . .

    • Steve Grinwis

      SAE is the future.

      • Benjamin Nead

        Well, perhaps. But, as shown on the maps (linked Green Car Congress article on my above post,) CCS deployment is currently running a distant 3rd. SAE-CCS is embraced by US and European automakers. But these manufacturers have been mostly producing PHEVs so far, which typically only come with a Level 2 J1772. It’s the Japanese (mostly Nissan) who have been putting most of the competitively priced EVs on American roads so far and CHAdeMO is the Japanese Quick Charge standard. I don’t see any sign of this group recanting anytime soon. Tesla? Their current draw requirements are higher, due to their larger batteries. But as the legacy OEMs start building EVs with larger batteries, maybe we’ll witness some of them jumping ship to embrace the Tesla plug standard.

        Today’s EVs are kind of like personal computers in the late 1990s or early 2000s, when most were still using SCCI and it was just the upstarts who were using USB. Firewire was predicted to replace them all in a few years. But it didn’t work out that way.

        As long as we witness auto manufacturers building the charging networks, there is always going to be a tendency to witness those charging terminals working only with the vehicles they make. Kind of a shame, really, as the nature of electricity to adapt to a variety of connectors is so much simpler than blending/dispensing liquid/gaseous fuels to work with different ICEs. As long as we’re not going to get Tesla to abandon their plug, the Japanese to ditch theirs and the US/Euro consortium to dump theirs, it’s up the people who build the charging networks to accommodate all.

        Simple translation: build all L3 chargers with three different plugs on them. Not all that hard to do.

        • Steve Grinwis

          Ultimately, yes, for now build out with all plugs, especially since the expensive part is the inverter.

          But SAE is the better standard, and has the most automaker support.

          • GCO

            I strongly disagree that SAE-CCS is better. It was finalized way too late, and offers no advantage over already existing solutions, ie CHAdeMO and Tesla’s.
            It’s not any faster, and not even as safe (CHAdeMO requires, and chargers constantly verify, galvanic isolation; CCS does not).

            CCS mere existence continues to cause doubts and delays in quick-chargers infrastructure build-up, and increases its cost, meaning less chargers for a given budget: the cheapest dual-standard QC goes for ~28k$, whereas CHAdeMO units start below 16k$ (and this isn’t a half-power unit at special “dealership only” price):

            Also, if it mattered, more manufacturers actually support CHAdeMO. List here:

            Like for CCS though, most don’t even produce EVs yet, so going by actual market share is IMHO more relevant:
            You decide whether to count Tesla as CHAdeMO or not, now that they have an adapter.

            Also, numbers above are for EVs only; sales of the Outlander PHEV should be added to the CHAdeMO tally.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Market share for the new standard is less. That’s not even remotely surprising. CCS is gaining marketshare like crazy with cars like the the i3.

            The Kia Soul EV, they have plans to switch them to CCS. That’s why their 100 kW chargers are dual ChaDeMo and CCS.

            That list of ChaDeMo ‘supporters’ is a list of members. I could show you a list of members of the SAE. It would longer and just as meaningless. All the big automakers who make EVs in meaningful numbers except for Nissan have committed to CCS at this point.

            CCS does constantly monitor the ground, through the J1772 ground pins… Not entirely sure if that counts as ‘gavanic isolation’ but it should be sufficient for safety. ChaDeMo isn’t safer than CCS.

            As for cost, is it really surprising that the new kid on the block is still a bit more expensive? Not really. Cost between the two standards is entirely a red herring. It should make no difference.

            And the piece of cake on the end? Is that CCS *IS* faster, as a standard. CCS scales up to 400 amps at 600 volts, far beyond what ChaDeMo can do with it’s connector.

          • GCO

            The 50 kW QCs referred to in this article are also dual-standard — yet you wouldn’t infer that VW and BMW have plans to switch to CHAdeMO, would you?
            (actually, BMW will offer a CHAdeMO i3… in Japan).

            Auto-makers producing quick-charge-capable PEVs in meaningful numbers (links above):
            – Nissan (CHAdeMO)
            – Tesla (proprietary; CHAdeMO with adapter)
            – Mitsubishi (CHAdeMO)
            – VW (CCS)
            – Renault (3-phase AC)
            – BMW (CCS)
            (Does Zero Motorcycle qualify? CHAdeMO)
            (Or smart semi-fast charging? 3-phase AC)
            Did I forget something? I count only two CCS in there so far…

            Safety now: residual current detection and isolation are different things.
            Why does e.g. your cellphone charger isolate its output from the 120V/230V~ input, even though the battery terminals etc aren’t normally accessible anyway? So none can possibly get zapped, regardless of how messed up or mistreated the phone is.
            An RCD (aka GFCI) instead detects if someone does get zapped, and immediately shuts down.

            We can debate whether this 2nd protection mechanism is just as “sufficient” as the first, but hopefully you’ll agree that combining both is superior to just one.

            Re voltage and current capabilities: protocols can certainly scale up, e.g. Aerovironment offers a 250 kW CHAdeMO charger:

            Connector geometry: if you bother to look, DC contacts are equally beefy (or meager, depending on your point of view) for CHAdeMO and either CCS variant, so physics don’t favor one over the other, sorry. If anything, CHAdeMO contacts are a bit further apart, so might allow for slightly better cooling or higher voltage…

          • Steven F

            “Why does e.g. your cellphone charger isolate its output from the 120V/230V~ input, even though the battery terminals etc aren’t normally accessible anyway? So none can possibly get zapped,”

            Isolating the output is done to protect the user and equipment from unexpected power surges in the grid. If a phone charger didn’t have isolated outputs a small power surge could cause the electronics to fail in way that would cause 120V to feed directly into the battery. That would cause the phone to burst into flames. If someone have the phone in their hands while it is charging there is the potential of a severe injury.

            The amount of energy released when a battery goes into thermal runaway scales with the size of the battery. Having a 80KW EV battery in the garage burst into flames due to a lightning strike on a power pole is very very bad.

          • Steve Grinwis

            GFCI doesn’t wait until someone ‘gets zapped’. The outside of the car is grounded, and the GFCI can detect if even a milliamp of current comes back down the ground, and cut power. If J1772, which also only has GFCI hasen’t been electrocuting people, we’re safe. Remember, J1772 is rated for full outdoor use. You’re safe to plug your car in, in the rain during a hurricane. You won’t get zapped. End of story.

            The 250 kW charger very is interesting! I note that it has an option to be ‘ChaDeMO compatible’. This implies that it is normally a CCS charger, I guess? They’re kinda light on details. If they can actually deliver that kind of power over a ChaDeMo connector, that would be surprising to me, as those in the industry have explicitly told me the connector is not rated for that kind of current. Makes me wonder if they have to derate the unit if the ChaDeMo option box is ticked? Or perhaps they have to have temperature sensing equipment onboard to derate the unit if the connector heats up too much? I know Tesla does this kind of thing. Unclear. Very interesting none the less. Thank you for showing that to me. I’d never heard of ChaDeMo connector above 100 kW up until this point.

            The one thing that ChaDeMo cannot do, that CCS does very nicely, is simplify charge points. All those Nissan cars need to have two connectors. CCS simplifies this all down to one, small enough to fit in the space of a traditional fuel door. Plug in on AC? Same charge point, go to DC fast charge? Same charge point. You even get to get rid of the redundant ground and signalling wiring. That’s probably worth it right there. Almost every single electric car on the market already has 2/3rds of a CCS charge connector already on the car. Just 2 large DC pins away from being fast charge capable. Not so with ChaDeMo standard, unless they want to attempt to supplant J1772 with their own AC charging standard?

            VW and BMW are the only ones making CCS compatible quick chargers in large numbers, it’s true. But that’s up from zero automakers in 2012… Why are automakers adopting this standard, and other automakers who are interested in making BEV’s promising to adopt this standard if it’s not technically superior? What advantage do they get by supported a barely released standard? GM, Ford, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, VW? Do you truly think that all these automakers are simply daft? That all the engineers working for all these top tier automakers don’t get it?

  • spec9

    FINALLY. There are hardly any SAE-CCS chargers out there. These 3 getting together should help get a lot more installed. Now, GM, Ford, Chrysler, and Mercedes should join them (they are all SAE-CCS backers).

    • sjc_1

      I would like to see ALL EV auto makers work with the states and federal government to have compatible chargers, Hoping that someone will have chargers someday is NOT a business plan.

      • Steve Grinwis

        We have an international body for this called the SAE. They have released an automotive quick charging standard. Automakers have largely agreed to follow it.

        Expect the world to standardise on SAE-CCS.

        • GCO

          That “international body” is actually very US-centric.

          The world, as you say, certainly won’t standardize on CCS, it’s way too late for this already. See my other comment below.

          • Steve Grinwis

            ChaDeMo is old, and can’t adapt to higher current flow rates, not to mention the connector is enourmous. Tesla is proprietary, and no one wants to get in bed with them on their chargers.

            SAE is how it’ll go. It’s the only reasonable go forward standard.

            Don’t forget that Europe nearly decided to mandate the death of ChaDeMo once already, and with good reason.

  • Offgridman

    Good news for those with or considering an EV.
    Even better news is that this rated a blurb on the radio this morning from the NPR morning report.
    Wanted to pass this on because of the numerous comments in the articles lately about clean tech news not being covered in the mass media.
    The times they are a changing.

  • eveee

    480V 3phase can supply a lot more power than 50kw. Looks like its easier to increase charge than increase EV efficiency.

    Here are some various charger details..

    Nissan Leaf ChaDeMo

    Tesla SuperCharger


    If you think its too (unnecessarily) confusing, or there should be some standardization, I agree. 🙂

    Maybe chargers should just have a little sign that says X kwhr/hr charge rate.

    • Adrian

      It’s already there. kWh/h = kW

      • eveee

        True. I guess EV owners have to think about how fast they fill up. An EV owner has to know their pack capacity in kwhrs, and the state of charge to do that.

  • BMW and VW are doing a disservice to the EV market by only offering such short range EVs, and then trying to promote the vehicles as useful for roadtrips. By only building two fast DC chargers at each site, they are guaranteeing that drivers of their vehicles will encounter wait times. Haven’t they looked at Tesla Supercharger sites? Most have at least 8 chargers per site, and offer twice the charge rate.

  • Charlotte Omoto

    Starting in Portland on the west coast does not support the state with the higher per capita new electric vehicle registration, and a bit deceptive to draw the east coast road from Maine to Florida when they’re only going to install chargers from Boston to Wash DC.

  • Adrian

    Good news, but why just 50kW? The SAE spec goes to 100kW, and VW is saying they will be doubling the range (which likely means doubling the battery capacity) of the Golf in a couple years, and doubling it again a few years after that.

    These are going to seem “too slow” very soon.

    • spec9

      Probably because it is very expensive.

    • Steve Grinwis

      Because no car in existence other than a Tesla can use 100 kW yet. Battery packs need to grow in size before higher charging rates are feasible. 50 kW chargers will charge an i3 in less time then the S85 will charge at 120 kW.

      • GCO

        The Kia Soul EV takes up to 100 kW — via CHAdeMO.

        • Steve Grinwis

          That’s true. It’s the exception, and there are only 3 100 kW ChaDeMo chargers in the world atm.

  • Philip W

    Not even half the power of a supercharger…

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