Automotive giants team-up to create Europe’s ‘highest-powered’ EV charging network

A host of the world's largest motor companies, including BMW, Volkswagen and Ford, have agreed to collaborate on the creation of Europe's highest-powered charging network to enable long-range travel for electric vehicles (EVs).

In total, six car makers have this week (29 November) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop “a sizable number” of ultra-fast, high-powered charging networks – with power levels potentially reaching 350kW – across Europe.

Planned to start in 2017, an initial 400 sites have been earmarked across Europe, and by 2020 customers should have easy access to thousands of charging points that are “significantly faster” than the current highest performing systems today.

“A reliable, ultra-fast charging infrastructure is important for mass consumer adoption and has the potential to transform the possibilities for electric driving,” Ford’s chief executive Mark Fields said. “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.”

Daimler AG, Audi and Porsche are also part of the collaboration, which aims to enable long-distance travel by placing charging stations along highways and major thoroughfares. The group hopes that the deployment will make EV charging as convenient as refuelling for traditional diesel and petrol vehicles.

The infrastructure will expand on existing technical standards for AC and DC charging of EVs, using the Combine Charging System (CCS) standard technology. Most major car brands support CCS technology, which is viewed as a quick method for charging car batteries via direct currents and special connectors.

“This high-power charging network provides motorists with another strong argument to move towards electric mobility,” BMW’s chairman of the board of management Harald Krüger said. “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.”

Earlier this year, Japanese carmaker Nissan claimed that EV charging station numbers would overtake petrol stations in 2020, based on the rates of increase for new charging infrastructure combined with a downward trend in petrol station deployments.

These trends are already evident in Scotland, where EV charging point usage in August 2016 was double that of last year’s figure. The data also revealed that rapid chargers make up only 18% of the total number of chargers across the country. However, use of these rapid chargers account for 42% of all sessions.

New world markets

New research released on Thursday (1 December) from analysts Accenture has suggested that the uptake in EVs – and subsequent charging stations – could expand well beyond Europe. Areas including China, the US, Japan and South Korea have all been highlighted as areas of growth by crucial distinctions that could improve the attractiveness of the EV market.

According to Accenture, technological factors can combine with economic and political levers in these countries to drive mass-market EV introductions over the next four years. The UK – which has recently pledged £390m for low-carbon transport – was also highlighted as an area for potential rapid growth, typified by government willingness to invest in EVs.

“In the markets that show growth potential for EVs automakers need to be ready to tap the expected growth in demand to ensure that they reach critical mass when the growth in demand is kicking off,” Accenture’s managing director of automotive practice Christina Raab said.

“Plans for an assortment of more affordable EVs with greater range aimed at the mass-market segment are moving EVs toward higher volume car-buying. Given this development, accessing EV-market attractiveness for each market individually will be essential for automakers as they plan for the growing differences between domestic markets.”

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie