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Mercedes-Benz looks for EQC charging solutions

First-party wallbox, Chargefox highway network to top up Mercedes-Benz EQC

Mercedes-Benz logo15 Mar 2019

WITH Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific quickly approaching the expected October launch of its first battery-electric vehicle (BEV), the EQC mid-size SUV, it is hard at work developing a “seamless charging experience” for owners that will include private and public solutions.
 
Speaking to GoAuto this week at an EQC media preview event in Melbourne, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific EQ infrastructure readiness manager Claire Painter said the charging experience will be the same for all BEVs that the company launches in the coming years.
 
“Our aim at Mercedes is to provide a seamless charging experience for customers, be it at home or while you’re topping up your vehicle on the go,” she said.
 
“The aim will be, initially, to make sure that people can use their (electric) vehicle in the same way they can use any other vehicle.”
 
With the average Australian travelling 38km per day, the EQC400’s 80kWh lithium-ion battery pack and 400km-plus driving range (on the WLTP standard that better represents real-world commuting than the previous NEDC regulation) should put an end to anxiety.
 
Ms Painter said given that the average vehicle remains idle for 22 hours per day, 80 per cent of EQC owners are expected to charge their vehicles at their home or workplace using an AC charger.
 
“The first thing really will be around home charging solutions, having a home package that we’ll be able to have when the vehicle comes to the market at the end of the year,” she said.
 
“We’re going back to tender to market for that at the moment and figure out exactly what we need, because we know the market’s shifted significantly in the last couple of years. We want to make sure we’re getting the best service and deal for our customers.”
 
Key to this home package will be the new-generation Mercedes-Benz wallbox that comes with a Type 2 plug and will bundled with an installation service for EQC owners who purchase it.
 
The main advantage of the latest wallbox is that it supports single- and three-phase AC power, whereas the previous-generation unit only worked with the former.
 
While the latter’s output is up to 22kW, the EQC400 can only handle up to 7.2kW of AC charging, meaning it takes as little as eight to nine hours to top up from zero to 80 per cent.
 
Comparatively, a 2.3kW domestic power socket needs 27 to 28 hours to achieve the same result, but Ms Painter said this solution is more than adequate for some EQC owners.
 
“For those that don’t travel long distances, plugging it in every couple of night and topping up the battery could be a perfect way to manage your range,” she said. “It’s going to be a case of driving behaviour.”
 
The first-party wallbox also allows EQC owners to determine when their vehicle charges, which enables them to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates that are typically available overnight.
 
For those EQC owners that want their vehicle to be entirely emissions-free from wheel to well, Ms Painter suggests that they opt for a green plan with their electricity provider to ensure renewable energy powers their household.
 
“If you’ve got solar panels on your roof or battery storage, even better,” she added. “You’re not even utilising electricity from the grid, you’re generating your own electricity and charging your own vehicle in that way.”
 
The minority of EQC owners that live in homes where a power source is not accessible near their vehicle, such as most apartment-building carparks, are expected to use public charging stations if the required hardware cannot be installed in their dwelling.
 
Meanwhile, Ms Painter said highway charging is another important consideration, with Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific opting to partner with EV charging infrastructure specialist Chargefox, which this year plans to start building a national network that links Adelaide to Melbourne to Canberra to Sydney to Brisbane, while a link will also be established in Perth.
 
“That was still a question that came up a lot from customers, ‘What if I want to drive from Melbourne to Sydney?’,” she said. “Even though we know the majority will unlikely do that trip, I suppose it’s giving that comfort factor.”
 
Asked if Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific will subsidise charging costs for EQC owners using the Charge Fox highway network, Ms Painter said: “We’re working out those details at the moment. We’re still in final contract negotiation.
 
“What we’d like to do would be is to have some kind of membership offering, which could give discounted charging rates, or we might look at energy packages, as well. It’s all a bit on the table at the moment.”
 
Ms Painter added that Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific is not exclusively partnering with Charge Fox, meaning that if another large-scale highway network came online, it would look to expand its options.
 
“Mercedes-Benz won’t be an infrastructure company, we don’t want to own and operate infrastructure,” she said. “For us, it’s about how do you give access to customers to the largest networks – that’s all we want to do.”
 
For EQC owners that use the Charge Fox highway network, DC charging using a Combined Charging System (CCS) plug will be available with outputs up to 110kW, taking as little as about 40 minutes to top up from zero to 80 per cent.
 
The EQC’s in-built satellite-navigation system and the Mercedes Me smartphone application will incorporate as many local public charging stations as possible, going as far as to suggest top-up pitstops along the route when necessary.
 
Ms Painter said Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific is yet to confirm the impact that the EQC will have on its dealer network, including whether or not all dealerships will sell and service it, and how the necessary upgrades that come as a result will be funded.
 
She did add, however, that some locations are already in the midst of having their electrical capacity assessed on a case-by-case basis, so that separate charging solutions can be offered for public and private use, with dealers to determine if the former will incur a cost.

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