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Joint ‘ultra-fast’ electric car charging network unveiled by BMW, Mercedes, Ford and Volkswagen

Last year, 5 major automakers, BMW, Daimler, Ford and the Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche, announced that they joined forces to deploy 400 ultra-fast (350 kW) charging stations for electric vehicles in Europe.

Today, they unveiled that network, which is now called IONITY, and they elaborated on their plans.

They changed their “ultra-fast” name for the stations, which was to one-up “fast-charging” since their stations are capable of a 350 kW charge rate, while most ‘fast-charging’ stations, aside from Tesla’s, are capable of only 50 kW.

IONITY’s stations are now called High-Power Charging (HPC).

Their plan is still to have 400 stations across Europe by 2020, but today they confirmed that they will already have 20 stations by the end of this year.

They also announced new partners for the locations of those stations:

“A total of 20 stations will be opened to the public this year, located on major roads in Germany, Norway and Austria, at intervals of 120 km, through partnerships with “Tank & Rast”, “Circle K” and “OMV”. Through 2018, the network will expand to more than 100 stations, each one enabling multiple customers, driving different manufacturer cars, to charge their vehicles simultaneously.”

The group says that they are using the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard and that the whole network, despite being equally owned by BMW, Daimler, Ford and the Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche, is “brand agnostic”.

They say that other automakers can join in.

Electrek’s Take

This is by far the most significant electric car charging infrastructure effort by any major automaker and a clear move to try to catch up to Tesla’s Supercharger network.

The good news is that they are leapfrogging Tesla’s current Supercharger charge rate of 145 kW, but they are far behind in term of deployment since Tesla already has over 350 stations in Europe while this new group only plans to beat that by 2020.

At Tesla’s planned growth rate for the Supercharger network, the company alone should already have twice that around the same time.

But that doesn’t matter because at least now there’s some competition and they can drive each other to expand their networks and their charging capacities.

Right now, there’s no electric car that can accept this charge rate, but the fact that those automakers are investing in this network shows that they plan to release EVs with the capacity.

It’s also a great seal of approval for CCS with 5 major automakers representing a significant percentage of European sales getting behind the charging standard for a joint network.

Now I hope that they replicate the model in other markets. There’s no reason why they couldn’t do the same in North America unless they simply don’t want to, which is not impossible since those automakers are seeing Europe as a more important market for EVs going forward due to governments pushing for the technology and talking about soon banning gas and diesel cars.

On the other hand, the US government is talking about removing EV incentives while they keep subsidizing gas-powered cars.

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