Fast-charg­ing Euro­pean net­work to tram­ple on Tesla’s mar­ket reign


Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS - Michael Tay­lor

Loss-lov­ing elec­tric car maker Tesla has shed an­other moat, with Ger­many’s car-mak­ing gi­ants ac­cel­er­at­ing work on a Europewide fast-charg­ing net­work to make the US com­pany’s Su­per­charg­ers re­dun­dant.

Work is un­der way to build 400 Ionity fast-charg­ing sta­tions across Europe by 2020 – just in time for a forecast flood of new bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cle (BEV) mod­els Euro­pean car mak­ers will need to pro­duce in or­der to meet that year’s tighter EU VII emis­sions reg­u­la­tions.

Ionity al­ready has its first tranche of 20 charg­ers spread along the main routes of Ger­many, Aus­tria and Europe’s lead­ing BEV-buy­ing na­tion, Nor­way, and plans to have 50 charg­ers in op­er­a­tion by the end of 2017. There is a max­i­mum of 120km be­tween each sta­tion.

The sta­tions will use 350kW charg­ing — more than twice the power of the se­cond-gen­er­a­tion 145kW Tesla Su­per­charg­ers – and are said to be price com­pet­i­tive with other out­lets.

For a BEV with a 500km range, such as Porsche’s up­com­ing Mis­sion E or Daim­ler’s Mercedes EQ SUV, the sys­tem’s charg­ing power is enough to de­liver an 80% charge in about 15 min­utes.

The con­sor­tium be­hind the net­work has pre­vi­ously re­vealed that each charger will cost it about $200,000.

The Mu­nich-based al­liance, led by CEO Michael Ha­jesch, has placed mul­ti­ple elec­tric charg­ers in var­i­ous Euro­pean petrol sta­tions un­der what it calls a “brand ag­nos­tic” phi­los­o­phy.

Ha­jesch has been a se­nior BEV e-mo­bil­ity ex­ec­u­tive at BMW since 2012.

“The first pan-Euro­pean HPC [high-power charg­ing] net­work plays an es­sen­tial role in es­tab­lish­ing a mar­ket for elec­tric ve­hi­cles. Ionity will de­liver our com­mon goal of pro­vid­ing cus­tomers with fast-charg­ing and digital pay­ment ca­pa­bil­ity, to fa­cil­i­tate long-dis­tance travel,” Ha­jesch says.

"The ini­tial fo­cus will be on the main routes be­tween the metropoli­tan ar­eas of the most pop­u­lated Euro­pean coun­tries, but it is likely that all Euro­pean coun­tries will be­come part of the net­work.”

Ionity is a part­ner­ship be­tween the BMW Group, Daim­ler, the Volk­swa­gen Group (which in­cludes Audi, Bent­ley, Seat, Skoda and Porsche) and Ford, whose Euro­pean head­quar­ters is based in Cologne.

The four groups have equal shares in Ionity but have in­vited other car mak­ers to join the scheme, in a strat­egy that looks sim­i­lar to the one em­ployed by BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz to buy the Here digital map­ping com­pany from Nokia.

The Ger­man mak­ers have a par­tic­u­lar eye on the French be­cause the Re­nault-Nis­sanMit­subishi al­liance is the world’s big­gest BEV and plug-in hy­brid car maker.

The core is­sue is that the French mak­ers have yet to sign up to the Com­bined Charg­ing Sys­tem (CCS) plug lay­out, and nei­ther has Tesla.

All of BMW’s i mod­els use the CCS plug, as do Volk­swa­gen’s BEV ver­sions of the Up and Golf, while Ford, MercedesBenz and Smart all plan to roll out EVs us­ing the plug.

“We sup­port in­dus­try stan­dard­i­s­a­tion with the use of the CCS stan­dard, as it is the most com­monly used charg­ing stan­dard that en­ables the ma­jor­ity of BEV driv­ers to use the charg­ing net­work,” Ha­jesch says.

“The net­work will not be lim­ited to ve­hi­cles from a sin­gle man­u­fac­turer but rather im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence for all BEV ve­hi­cles with the CCS stan­dard,” he says.

The move is a big blow for Tesla, which ex­pected its Su­per­charg­ing net­work to keep it a step ahead of the com­ing wave of Euro­pean BEVs and comes af­ter the US gov­ern­ment’s new tax bill pro­posed to elim­i­nate the EV sub­si­dies that pro­vide Tesla with cash­flow.

The first stand-alone elec­tri­fied brand from the lead­ing Euro­pean car mak­ers is BMW’s i model, whose 22,225 sales through to the end of Septem­ber made up just 0.01% of the BMW Group’s 1.8-mil­lion to­tal ve­hi­cle sales in 2017.

Ionity will roll out 400 fast-charg­ing sta­tions across Europe by 2020, at a cost of $200,000 each.

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