Today, I got the chance to view the EV Charging Hub that Mercedes-Benz is opening to electric vehicles of all manufactures. I will publish a followup article that will cover my first impressions of the hub. This article will describe what was announced today and compare and contrast it to the leading charging network in the US, Tesla’s.
Mercedes first announced it would be building a charging network 11 months ago at CES2023. A lot has changed (especially in North America) in those 11 months. Back then, everyone (except Tesla) was using CCS connectors. Meanwhile, Tesla had announced in 2021 that it would open the its Superchargers to other manufacturers’ vehicles and there was much chatter about that. Then, in May, Ford started an avalanche of 18 brands that have committed to convert to NACS connectors (otherwise know at the Tesla connector). But enough background, what is Mercedes-Benz announcing today?
- Mercedes-Benz is committed to investing over $1 billion in the Mercedes-Benz Charging Network.
- This was announced in January, but this reiteration is still a big number.
- The network will be powered by 100% clean energy using carbon neutral renewable energy sources.
- This was announced in August. With the company’s solar canopies, it seems to be starting toward that right away.
- The chargers will be the fastest in North America, with charging capacity of up to 400 kW.
- They previously claimed capacity was up to 500 kW per port in January, but the current 400 kW could always be enhanced in the future. After all, ChargePoint just announced new 500 kW chargers.
- The network will be open to drivers of all brands of electric vehicles.
- This was announced in January, but now they include details that they will have both CCS and NACS connectors.
- Although it will be open to all, there are several features, such as Plug & Charge and automatic reservations, that are exclusively for Mercedes-Benz owners. I am hopeful that they might open up these features to other cars, possibly in reciprocal agreements with other networks that open those features to Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
- The network will be located in key areas of EV saturation and along key travel corridors.
- The network will be integrated with retail locations, such as Simon malls and Buc-ee’s travel centers, making it easy for drivers to charge their vehicles while they shop or travel.
- These partnerships were just announced this month. I’m a fan of travel centers more than shopping malls. Shopping malls have traditionally had level 2 chargers. It will be interesting to see if these high-speed chargers will be a good match to the time people spend at the mall. They might be “too fast” if they complete the charge before you have completed your shopping.
Compared To The Tesla Supercharger Network
Overall, the Tesla Charging Network is currently more extensive than the Mercedes-Benz Charging Network, but the Mercedes-Benz Charging Network is growing rapidly. The Mercedes-Benz Charging Network also offers faster charging speeds than the Tesla Charging Network. Both networks are open to drivers of all brands of electric vehicles.
Here are some additional key differences between the two networks:
- Tesla’s Supercharger network is integrated with Tesla’s navigation system, which makes it easy for Tesla drivers to find and use the chargers. Mercedes-Benz network is integrated with its navigation system and has automatic reservations.
- Mercedes-Benz is partnering with retail locations, such as Simon malls and Buc-ee’s travel centers, to integrate charging into the shopping and travel experience. Tesla also has a partnered with many different retail partners.
- Tesla is developing its own charging technology, while Mercedes-Benz is working with other companies, such as ChargePoint, to provide chargers for its network.
- Mercedes-Benz aims to provide a reliable and luxurious experience that draws people to their vehicles, but the proof will be in the pudding. I’ve used about 20 Tesla Superchargers in the 5+ years I’ve been driving a Tesla, and the surroundings vary widely. Overall, I would call them extremely reliable, but not luxurious. JD Power recently gave them the highest rankings for fast chargers.
I think it is highly unlikely that Mercedes-Benz catches up to the Tesla Supercharger network in size, but that doesn’t appear to be their goal at the moment. Their goal is to be the best, and a visible marketing reminder to all the people who use them that Mercedes-Benz isn’t just a leader in electrification — it provides a premium experience and is a brand that consumers strive to be associated with. This is a good strategy, as Tesla will clearly be moving somewhat down market, both with its massive price costs and further with the introduction of its next-generation ($25,000) car. This might leave a bit of a vacuum in the luxury EV space for Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Lexus, Genesis, Infiniti, Polestar, Volvo, and Acura to compete to fill. None of those competitors have announced a charging network, so that might give Mercedes-Benz a leg up on the competition. You might argue that Audi, as part of Volkswagen Group, has the Electrify America network, but that isn’t branded as Audi’s and also has a terrible reputation for broken chargers, so it certainly isn’t much of a help to Audi marketing.
Here is the announcement in full:
Mercedes-Benz launches first EV charging hub in North America; Network aims to deliver a fast, reliable, premium charging experience for drivers of all EV brands.
- First Mercedes-Benz Charging Hub in North America located at Mercedes-Benz USA Headquarters in Sandy Springs, GA.
- Additional charging hubs to open across Texas and the Southeast by the end of 2023. • Over $1 billion financial commitment by Mercedes-Benz and MN8 Energy to build North America’s fastest EV charging network by the end of the decade.
- Powered by 100% clean energy using carbon neutral renewable energy sources. • Open to drivers of all brands of EVs with focus on quality and a Mercedes-Benz brand commensurate experience.
ATLANTA, GA (November 15, 2023) – Today, Mercedes-Benz HPC North America (Mercedes-Benz HPC NA), a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and MN8 Energy, launching a network of premium electric vehicle (EV) charging stations across North America, inaugurated its first Mercedes-Benz Charging Hub, located at the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz USA in Sandy Springs, Georgia. With the launch of the
Mercedes-Benz Charging Network, Mercedes-Benz sets a new standard for fast, convenient, clean and reliable EV charging, while promoting EV adoption by expanding the North American public charging map for all brand of EVs. This inaugural charging hub is the first step in Mercedes-Benz’s commitment to invest over $1 billion, in a joint venture with MN8 Energy, to deliver 2,500 chargers within at least 400 charging hubs across North America by the end of the decade.
Sandy Springs, GA: North America’s First Mercedes-Benz Charging Hub
The inaugural charging hub at the Mercedes-Benz USA headquarters represents a benchmark for standalone charging hubs. Special features include:
- 400kW Chargers: The first chargers installed are provided by ChargePoint and are all capable of charging rates of up to 400kW, offering customers some of the fastest charging speeds in the industry.
- Open to all from day one: Drivers of EVs from any brand can charge their vehicle and enjoy a Mercedes-Benz brand commensurate experience.
- Charging lounge: Charging hub customers can enjoy a premium, clean and comfortable environment while their vehicle charges, complete with couches and lounge chairs, vending machines, refreshments, and restroom facilities.
- Solar Canopy: Provides weather cover for customers, overhead LED lighting for safety and solar panels on top to generate passive clean electricity.
- Intelligent Indicators: A pylon built to a height of 15 feet, visible from the street, indicates the status of the charging stall: in use, free or reserved.
- Accessibility: The charging hub includes one charging spot, closest to the charging lounge, designed especially for handicap accessible vehicles, as well as one uncovered, drive-through charging spot that is designed for electric vans or EVs with trailers up to 26 feet in length.
- Powered by clean energy: Through both direct and indirect means, the charging hub uses renewable energy and is carbon neutral.
A Swiftly Expanding National Network
The Mercedes-Benz Charging Network will set a new benchmark for quality and customer experience in the charging industry. With proven partners to support ambitions for industry-leading uptime and reliability, Mercedes-Benz charging hubs will offer a seamless customer experience where charging fades into the background of EV drivers’ daily lives.
“The Mercedes-Benz Charging Network expands global charging options for customers of all EV brands to promote clean, electric mobility,” said Franz Reiner, Chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Mobility AG. “In North America, our strategy is clear: focusing on where EV drivers are and where they are going to enhance the North American EV charging map while setting new standards for quality and customer experience. These efforts will pave the way for greater EV adoption here in North America and around the world.”
Key to Mercedes-Benz HPC NA’s driver value network strategy is retail integration, and recently announced agreements with Simon and Buc-ees demonstrate this strategy in action. Simon retail outlets are destinations for food, shopping and socializing located in key areas of EV saturation – where customers are – and Buc-ee’s locations are the world’s most-loved travel centers located strategically along key travel corridors and EV charging deserts – where customers are going.
In addition to today’s first Charging Hub opening, Mercedes-Benz HPC NA announced that several hubs will open at Buc-ee’s travel centers in Texas, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia by the end of 2023, with further expansion in 2024. Charging hubs at Simon Mall locations are planned to launch in the first half of 2024, both showing the power of retail integration collaborations to facilitate a speedy network build out that has immediate customer impact.
“At the onset of MN8’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz to build an unparalleled charging experience, we shared a vision of bringing the decarbonized future faster,” said Jon Yoder, President and CEO of MN8 Energy. “The incredible speed with which we’ve made that vision a reality, demonstrated by the inauguration of the charging experience here at Mercedes-Benz USA Headquarters and the sites that will follow later this year, is a testament to the strength of our purpose and outstanding abilities of our teams.”
“With the official launch of the Mercedes-Benz Charging Network in North America, we aim to set a new standard for a quality charging experience for the entire industry,” said Andrew Cornelia, President & CEO of Mercedes-Benz HPC North America LLC. “Our driver-first network will deliver some of the fastest charging speeds and will be openly accessible to all EV drivers from day one.”
Disclosure: I am a shareholder in Tesla [TSLA], BYD [BYDDY], Nio [NIO], XPeng [XPEV], Hertz [HTZ], NextEra Energy [NEP], and several ARK ETFs. But I offer no investment advice of any sort here. Mercedes-Benz covered my travel expenses to experience the opening.
All images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz
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