A new joint venture has formed that will develop a high-power, EV fast-charging network in Europe has been signed by BMW, Daimler, Ford, and Volkswagen Group (including Audi and Porsche). In other words, these major auto companies are looking to finally catch up to Tesla on one of the most critical components of a healthy and vibrant electric vehicle ecosystem.
This newly signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will reportedly see the firms cover common long-distance travel routes in Europe with high-power DC electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging stations that offer up to 350 kW in power. (For comparison, current non-Tesla EV “fast chargers” max out at 50 kW, while Tesla’s max out at 120–135 kW.)
The planned buildout — based on the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard — will reportedly involve around 400 station locations.
Work on the development of the network will begin sometime in 2017, according to the press release — with the goal being for there to be thousands of high-power charging points on the continent by 2020.
Here are a couple of quotes on the matter from the press release:
The Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Dr Dieter Zetsche, stated: “The breakthrough of e-mobility requires two things: convincing vehicles and a comprehensive charging infrastructure. With our new brand EQ, we are launching our electric product offensive: by 2025, our portfolio will include more than 10 fully electric passenger cars. Together with our partners, we are now installing the highest-powered charging infrastructure in Europe. The availability of high-power stations allows long-distance e-mobility for the first time and will convince more and more customers to opt for an electric vehicle.”
The president and CEO of Ford Motor Company, Mark Fields, stated: “A reliable, ultra-fast charging infrastructure is important for mass consumer adoption and has the potential to transform the possibilities for electric driving. Ford is committed to developing vehicles and technologies that make people’s lives better, and this charging network will make it easier and more practical for customers across Europe to own electrified vehicles.”
And the Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG, Oliver Blume, stated: “There are two decisive aspects for us: ultra-fast charging and placing the charging stations at the right positions. Together, these two factors enable us to travel in an all-electrically powered car as in a conventional combustion engine vehicle. As automobile manufacturer, we actively shape our future, not only by developing all-electrically powered vehicles but by building up the necessary infrastructure as well.”
Notably, the founding partners are open to other manufacturers joining the network, as well as local partners, according to the press release. (Editor’s note: Interesting, since Tesla has already developed a superfast charging network in Europe and the US that is open to other automakers as long as they design cars that can use it and chip in on the costs.)
As our own market research has repeatedly shown, EV consumers rank access to superfast charging at or near the top of their “required” and “very important” features lists.
Update from the editor: I asked Peter Badik, the co-founder of GreenWay (a leading charging network company in Europe), about this announcement. He noted:
“Well, they definitely want a piece of the cake in the after-sales market. Repair and maintenance is going to be much less profitable, and earning a continuous stream of revenue from EV owners is very, very appealing.”
I also asked what this meant for companies like GreenWay (and Fastned in the Netherlands). He responded that there wasn’t yet clarity on this matter (though, he did know these automakers were working on such a collaboration):
“Hard to say at the moment. I think it is not clear at this moment if they will really go out and build the network on their own or will align with existing CPOs (charging point operators).”
We’ll see, and will certainly keep you posted.
If the automakers are looking for a profit boost from the charging network, it is a notable departure from Tesla, which seemingly doesn’t aim to make the Supercharger network a profit center.
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