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VW’s Electrify America opens California’s first 350kW ultra-fast charger, before cars can actually use it

Yesterday, Electrify America opened California’s first 350kW quick charge location. The bank of chargers includes nine CCS plugs and one CCS-CHAdeMO plug, and while most of them have an already-quick 150kW rate, two CCS plugs are capable of ultra-fast 350kW charging.

The charger is installed at the San Francisco Premium Outlets in Livermore, CA, which also happens to be a Tesla Supercharger location.  Tesla’s website states that the chargers there can charge at up to 120kW, though they’re the “urban” type supercharger and owners have clocked them maxing out at 72kW.

Electrify America is an organization formed by VW in the wake of the “dieselgate” scandal in response to a settlement with the EPA and CARB requiring them to invest $2 billion in EV projects in the US.  The organization will be installing quick chargers across the US and running ad campaigns encouraging electric vehicle adoption.

The 350kW charging standard uses 800 volts, as opposed to the standard EV battery which is around 400 volts, though no cars currently shipping are capable of charging at such a fast rate.  Some announced cars, namely the Porsche Taycan (and the Audi e-tron GT based on the same platform), will have this capability.

VW group’s other upcoming EV, the Audi e-tron SUV, will be limited to charging at 150kW – which is still plenty quick. Fred is currently on a press event doing some test drives of the e-tron SUV, so stay tuned to hear all about that car’s off-road capabilities soon.

A map of all of Electrify America’s planned and active charging locations is available here.

Electrek’s Take

At first glance it might seem a little silly to be installing chargers that literally no cars can use yet.  However, given that EV fans, and Electrek ourselves, have spent so much time questioning how auto manufacturers plan to compete with Tesla without having a quick charging plan, this is a welcome move towards remedying that situation.

Installing a 350kW charger future-proofs Electrify America’s network such that when cars capable of charging that fast do ship, they’ll be able to make use of these chargers on day one, and not have to wait years for an eventual rollout of a charging network.  This helps put customers at ease, because when buying the car, they don’t need to look at a planned map of what they’ll be able to do in a couple of years.  Instead they can look at a map of chargers they can use right now, and which will top them up just about as fast as filling up at a gas station (at 350kW, a large EV battery in the 75-100kWh range could fill to 80% in about 10-15 minutes).

The more ultra-fast chargers that get installed, the more cars will be designed to use them.  Talking to Rivian at the LA Auto Show last week, one engineer commented that their pack could be upgraded to 800 volts to make use of 350kW charging, but they aren’t planning on it unless 350kW becomes fairly common.  So proliferation might encourage manufacturers to move more in that direction as well.

I still don’t think that 350kW is completely necessary for everyone, and that ~120kW Tesla supercharging speeds are typically more than enough for travelers as it’s nice to get out of the car and have a chance to stretch, grab a bite, use the restroom, etc.  But the faster we make charging the easier the experience will be for people and the more throughput we can get at charging stations, thus making lines on busy travel weekends less likely.

Most other manufacturers don’t have any sort of plan to install their own chargers or otherwise create an ecosystem for owners to use on trips, so VW and Electrify America are definitely ahead of the game here.  Of course, they were court-ordered to do so, but at least the good is getting done.  Best yet, these chargers will be usable by any car capable of CCS charging – which these days includes almost everything except the Leaf and Tesla (though Tesla will soon be capable of CCS in Europe, and we hope to eventually see an adapter for US customers).

So good on VW for getting the format right, and for going beyond the minimum effort. They could have just put a bunch of 50kW chargers at their dealerships or something, but they’re putting chargers out on the road and encouraging the development and adoption of faster charging standards.

What do you think about VW’s charging strategy?  Let us know in the comments below.

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Avatar for Jameson Dow Jameson Dow

Jameson has been driving electric vehicles since 2009, and has been writing about them and about clean energy for since 2016.

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