While electric cars are still in their infancy, some car makers have famously gone it alone with regards to charging infrastructure, building a network of rapid chargers for their own kind. Other networks, like Ecotricity’s Electric Highway in the UK have been built with a more flexible and open approach, willing and able to accommodate vehicles from any brand. Today, in an effort to push forwards CCS (Combined Charging System) rapid charging availability, BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create the highest-powered charging network in Europe.

“This high-power charging network provides motorists with another strong argument to move towards 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 goal is the quick build-up of a sizable number of stations in order to enable long-range travel for battery electric vehicle drivers. This will be an important step towards facilitating mass-market BEV adoption. Naturally, other brands that use the CCS system will beneift too, including Jaguar who announced their first electric car in mid November.

Current CCS charge points tend to deliver a maximum charge rate of 50kW but this new push will focus on enabling a higher powered network that will be better able to cope with battery electric vehicles (BEV) equipped with larger batteries. CCS has the distinct advantage of being as close to future-proofed as can be foreseen, with power levels up to 350kW. To put this into perspective, Tesla’s Supercharger network has been gradually improved over time and offers power levels up to 150kW today – or three times faster than current CCS charge points. The implication is a 100kWh battery will be able to be charged in under 20-minutes using a 350kW CCS charge point.

“We intend to create a network that allows our customers on long-distance trips to use a coffee break for recharging”, says 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 a broader market adoption of e-mobility and speed up the shift towards emission-free driving.”

The build-up is planned to start in 2017 with an initial target of about 400 sites in Europe is planned. By 2020 customers should have access to thousands of high-powered charging points. The goal is to enable long-distance travel through open-network charging stations along highways and major thoroughfares and support the next wave of battery electric vehicles that will – likely – be equipped with larger batteries to enable long range driving. Another aim is to make the electric charging experience as convenient as refueling at a conventional petrol/diesel station.

“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 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 companies have confirmed that all CCS equipped vehicles – brand independant – will be able to make use of the network, which will be very welcome to the likes of Jaguar mentioned above. What the cost of use per charge will be remains unkown, but the mere fact the alliance has been formed is a clear indication to fuel companies that manufacturers are no longer willing to wait for others to offer solutions to powering their vehicles and encouraging mass adoption.

“The breakthrough of e-mobility requires two things: convincing vehicles and a comprehensive charging infrastructure. With our new brand EQ, we are launching our electric product offensive: by 2025, our portfolio will include more than ten fully electric passenger cars. Together with our partners, we are now installing the highest-powered charging infrastructure in Europe,” says 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.”

The automobile manufacturers intend to make substantial investments to create the network, underscoring each company’s belief in the future of electric mobility. While the founding partners – BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen Group – will be equal partners in the Joint Venture, other automobile manufacturers will be encouraged to participate in the network to help establish convenient charging solutions for BEV customers. The Joint Venture is also open for cooperations with regional partners.

With cars like Porsche’s Mission-E, BMW’s next generation electric vehicles that will ultimately replace the current BMW i range, Mercedes-Benz’s EQ platform, Volkswagen’s intent to be the top electric car producer in the world and Ford’s future electric plans, the news should come as no surprise that the companies aren’t willing to wait for others to build a network for their vehicles, which cost millions to develop. Although the current and first generation of battery powered vehicles could be considered as loss-leaders, the next generation will need to turn a profit if it is to have a chance at becoming a viable business proposition for car makers. This should encourage mass-adoption by taking away perceived problems with electric vehicles, and by introducing convenience that does not currently exist. In addition, the next wave of vehicles is expected to be equipped with larger capacity batteries, that will each benefit from much faster rapid charge times, or else customers will be inconvenienced with multi-hour long recharge times.

“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 customers across Europe to own electrified vehicles.”

Source; BMW, Daimler, Ford, VAG (Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche)

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