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Four makers work on European charging network

BMW, Daimler, Ford, VW sign memorandum of understanding to invest

Published: December 1, 2016, 10:30 PM
Updated: December 7, 2016, 5:05 AM

Combined Charging System plug

Four automakers are joining forces to accelerate the development of an ultra-fast-charging network along major highways in Europe.

BMW, Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen (including Audi and Porsche) have signed a memorandum of understanding to invest in the deployment of ultra-fast, high-powered DC chargers along long-distance travel routes.\

Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept

“A reliable, ultra-fast charging infrastructure is important for mass consumer adoption and has the potential to transform the possibilities for electric driving,” says Mark Fields, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company. “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 consumers across Europe to own electrified vehicles.”

The goal is to quickly build a sizable number of charging stations (400 being the target) to enable long-distance driving, which all concerned see as probably the most important step toward facilitating consumer acceptance of electric vehicles.

ReachNow i3

“This high-power charging network provides motorists with another strong argument to move toward electric mobility,” says Harald Krüger, chairman of the board of management of BMW AG. “The BMW Group has initiated numerous public charging infrastructure projects over the last years. The joint project is another major milestone clearly demonstrating that competitors are combining forces to ramp up e-mobility.”

The stations would be equipped with 350 kW power level chargers (considerably more powerful than today’s most powerful chargers), significantly reducing the time it takes to completely charge a battery and make it more inline with the time spent filling up a fuel tank at the pumps.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron charge port in front grille

“We intend to create a network that allows our customers on long-distance trips to use a coffee break for recharging,” explains Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management of AUDI AG. “Reliable, fast charging services are a key factor for drivers to choose an electric vehicle. With this cooperation, we want to boost broader market adoption of e-mobility and speed up the shift toward emission-free driving.”

Of course, an important development is the adoption of a standard plug (most notably the Combined Charging System standard) to make it compatible with many current and future projected plug-in vehicles, regardless of make. The 400 stations will start going in next year, with thousands expected by 2020.

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“There are two decisive aspects for us: ultra-fast charging and placing the charging stations at the right positions,” says Oliver Blume, chairman of the executive board of Porsche AG. “Together, these two factors enable us to travel in an all-electrically powered car as in a conventional combustion engine vehicle. As an automobile manufacturer, we actively shape our future, not only by developing all-electrically powered vehicles, but by building up the necessary infrastructure as well.”

The joint venture is subject to the merger and competition regulations of various jurisdictions, but the manufacturers involved are ready to put their money where their mouths are, including signing up junior partners such as other automakers or regional businesses.

Mercedes-Benz Generation EQ concept

“The breakthrough of e-mobility requires two things: convincing vehicles and a comprehensive charging infrastructure. Together with our partners, we are now installing the highest-powered charging infrastructure in Europe,” concludes Dr. Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board of management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “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.”