In a Twitter exchange I had today with Mike Levine, North America Product Communications Manager for Ford, he revealed that Ford would be announcing details of a partnership with Volkswagen’s Electrify America charging subsidiary. Below is the Twitter exchange as well as some extra commentary.
While details are non-existent at this point, at least directionally this is good news for current and future buyers of Ford EVs. What also isn’t clear is if the arrangement with Electrify America resulted from the recent conversations and partnership between Volkswagen and Ford around autonomous vehicle technology and the MEB platform.
The brief back and forth on Twitter with Levine began when I commented on his Tweet to Jalopnik:
This led to a thread and some comments from me about Ford’s US electric vehicle plans and ended with Levine’s Electrify America comment.
Now, some of you are probably saying: “But anyone can access the Electrify America charging network. Why is this news?” And on the one hand, you would be correct. But on the other hand, I believe it is proof of a growing recognition by the automakers of what a competitive advantage Tesla has currently with its Supercharger and Destination Charger networks.
On Friday (July 11) Electrify America (EA) announced a partnership with Harley-Davidson to provide future owners of the LiveWire electric motorcycle access to the EA network and various charging benefits. And while pure speculation at this juncture, the Harley-Davidson announcement likely provides a template and insight into what the Ford and Electrify America arrangement might look like. This may include:
- Access to all of Electrify America’s network of fast-charging stations across the US.
- Complimentary charging for Ford EV drivers for a specific time period (e.g., one year).
- Electrify America charging locations are integrated with an updated MyFord Mobile app to find charging stations, track charging status and usage statistics, enable easy payment, etc.
US Leading DC Fast-Charging Networks
According to the Electrify America press release on the Harley-Davidson arrangement, the company “…expects to install or have under development approximately 800 total charging station sites with 3,500 chargers by December 2021. Over this 30-month investment cycle, Electrify America will expand to 29 metros and 45 states, including two cross-country routes, delivering on its commitment to support increased ZEV adoption with a network that is comprehensive, technologically advanced and customer-friendly.”
Using data from the Alternative Fuels Data Center as of July 1, 2019, Tesla had a commanding lead in the US with 5,894 fast charging stations (connections), more than double the 2,156 for EVgo, which boasts the most public fast charging stations. Electrify America, which has been adding locations and stations at a faster rate recently than Tesla (whose network has been growing fast). Though, with 986 connections, it currently trails by almost 5,000 connections. (Update: A previous version of this article assumed that Electrify America’s 986 connections on its dual-connection stations were an inflated number and should be cut in half, since Electrify America stations can only charge a single EV at a time. However, Electrify America’s numbers take this into account already, so the 986 figure is an accurate/practical number.)
EVgo has the most locations, at 773 versus Tesla’s 635 and Electrify America’s 232. But an area where Tesla has perhaps its most powerful edge is the average of more than 9 stations per Supercharger location, compared to 4.25 (2.13 if you account for only being able to charge one EV at a time) for EA and 2.79 for EVgo.
Why Access to the Electrify America Network is Important for Ford
As anyone who has taken an EV on a long road trip knows, adequate access to DC fast charging stations is key to eliminating and reducing added trip time. For me personally and many EV owners, this is why the Tesla Supercharger network is so key.
As CleanTechnica writer Kyle Field wrote in his recent response to a New York Times article, Vegas, Baby! Los Angeles To Vegas & Back In A Tesla Model 3 — 8 Hours Of Driving & 70 Minutes Of Charging, “Driving an electric vehicle on long road trips is easy as long as you have the right one.”
The “right one” refers to both having decent range (e.g., at least around 250 miles or more) and having an EV with convenient access to a compatible fast-charging network.
And this is where an arrangement with Electrify America will be key in the future for Ford. Current plans are for Ford to launch its unnamed fully electric crossover, formerly referred to as the Mach E, likely in late 2020. With promised EPA range in the 300 mile neighborhood, the Ford EV could be an ideal road trip car.
But to entice reticent and more traditional buyers of a gas-powered Ford, the company needs to be able to promote simple and convenient access to an extensive fast-charging network. Depending on the details of the upcoming arrangement, the Electrify America partnership could just do the trick.
I personally have high hopes for both the unnamed electric Ford crossover and the Escape plug-in hybrid (PHEV), as you can see from my projections below for year-end 2023. But for Ford to achieve anything close to my projection for its EV, the Detroit automaker must ensure a great charging experience for its buyers.
Does This Mean Ford “Gets It?”
My comment on Twitter to Levine was based on a conversation with Ford’s head of EV infrastructure that I had at a recent Detroit automotive conference where I spoke. I shared my belief that Ford needed to take a more proactive role in building out a fast charging network and create a better complete electric vehicle experience for owners. Driving an EV is different from a gas-powered vehicle, and at least for the near term during the early phase of the EV market, automakers need to provide access to “refueling” as part of the entire customer experience.
The Ford executive told me that: “We don’t want to compete with Electrify America,” which implied to me that Ford was not going to invest in a charging network and simply leave that buildout to others. I found this attitude naive and, in fact, quite shocking. To achieve significant sales for an EV, it needs to not only have great range (among other things), but it must also be combined with access to a vast and easy-to-use charging network.
Putting the charging infrastructure executive’s comments into perspective with this new information, he obviously could not share that Ford would be partnering with EA in the future. I’m still not convinced, however, that Ford is actually yet committed to EVs or understands the EV market, but hopefully it is starting to see the light in the area of charging infrastructure.
I look forward to seeing the actual announcement from Ford and Electrify America in the future. Stay tuned …
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