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Europe to get 350kW charge network

A current affair: Car-makers are banding together to create a network of the world’s fastest EV charging stations that will allow European drivers to top up batteries over a coffee break.

Six car brands join forces to roll out Europe-wide fast charging network by 2020

30 Nov 2016

FORD, Audi, BMW, Daimler, Porsche and Volkswagen have teamed up to commission a network of 400 rapid-charging stations across Europe by 2020 to slash battery electric vehicle charging times.

With a mighty 350kW of charging power, the network of Combined System Charging stations will enable European EV owners to cover greater distances than the current recharge technology allows by “significantly reducing charging time”.

While early adopters of battery-powered cars might be put off trans-European road trips by top-up times of more than 30 minutes, the new infrastructure will ensure drivers can get back on the road faster.

Audi AG chairman Rupert Stadler said: “We intend to create a network that allows our customers on long-distance trips to use a coffee break for recharging.

“Reliable, fast charging services are a key factor for drivers to choose an electric vehicle. With this co-operation, we want to boost broader market adoption of e-mobility and speed up the shift toward emission-free driving.”

The project came to light in an announcement by Ford in Cologne overnight when it staged an event for more than 2000 employees, dealers and journalists to reveal a range of models, including the new Fiesta.

Ford Australia product communications manager Damion Smy said there were no immediate plans to roll out a similar charger network locally, but he confirmed that the company was committed to future electrified technology.

He said that until the supporting infrastructure increased demand for EVs and PHEVs in Australia, the blue oval’s range of EcoBoost-powered vehicles would cater for fuel economy conscious customers.

In Europe, the “brand-independent” charging network is being developed to allow system updates as the technology evolves.

Ford is predicting charging times to ultimately come down to that of conventional liquid-fuelled vehicles, solving one of the electric vehicle’s greatest challenges.

Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Dieter Zetsche said the breakthrough of e-mobility required convincing vehicles and a comprehensive charging infrastructure.

“With our new brand EQ, we are launching our electric product offensive,” he said.

“By 2025, our portfolio will include more than 10 fully electric passenger cars. Together with our partners, we are now installing the highest-powered charging infrastructure in Europe.

“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 joint venture is critical to the success of the project with all the participating brands adopting the same connector design, which works with the current EV pool as well as various future models.

With a universal plug as an integral part of the project, other brands have the potential to benefit from the agreement, which encourages other manufacturers to adopt the universal network, further boosting its appeal to drivers.

Exclusive EV-maker Tesla appears to be the only brand that won’t benefit from the European Combined Charging System, with charging of its range only possible at the company’s dedicated network of Supercharger 120kW points that fall short of the new rival network.

While some of the world’s major car brands are collaborating to make EVs more attractive to potential customers, Tesla has taken a step back from its previous philanthropic approach and is now asking customers to pay for a recharge.

So far, the partners in the new charging network have not spelled out details such as pricing.

All of the six collaborating companies have a vested interest in the electrified vehicle market with either plug-in hybrids and full EVs already in showrooms, or future electrified vehicles on the way from concept form.

BMW continues to roll out its portfolio of i-cars and PHEVs, while both Porsche and Audi have promised a full-electric vehicle by the end of the decade.

Ford already offers the Fiesta EcoNetic and Focus Electric in other markets, while Mercedes will introduce a growing range of EQ-Class models between now and 2025.

Porsche AG executive board chairman Oliver Blume said the joint venture hinged on two critical elements.

“There are two decisive aspects for us: ultra-fast charging and placing the charging stations at the right positions,” he said. “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.”

BMW Group management board chairman Harald Kruger said the latest charging network project was a major advance and follows its other previous ventures to make charging EVs easier for customers.

“This high-power charging network provides motorists with another strong argument to move toward electric mobility,” he 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.”

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