Plug-in electric cars present a more cost-effective option to decarbonise transportation than hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Electric vehicle super-network for charging planned across Europe

Image credit: Julia Herzog

Motoring giants BMW, Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen (including Audi and Porsche) have signed a collective ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ to create an ultra-fast, high-power electric vehicle charging network across Europe.

The aim of the Understanding is the rapid build-up of a sizeable number of charging stations across the continent to enable long-range travel for battery-powered electric vehicle (EV) drivers. The reasoning behind the agreement is that this will prove to be an important milestone towards facilitating mass-market adoption of electric vehicles.

The public perception of electric vehicles is believed to lag behind the technological reality, with many consumers primarily concerned about the long-range distance capability of electric vehicles and worried about being left stranded by what is perceived as a sparse network of charging points, at least when compared to the comparative glut of fossil fuel petrol and diesel filling stations all across Europe.

The projected ultra-fast high-powered charging network will have power levels up to 350kW and thus be significantly faster than the most powerful charging system deployed today. The build-up is planned to start in 2017.

An initial target of approximately 400 sites across Europe is planned. By 2020, it is expected that drivers will have access to thousands of the high-powered charging points. The goal is to enable long-distance travel through open-network charging stations along highways and major thoroughfares, which is not yet feasible for most EV drivers. The charging experience is expected to evolve to be as convenient as refuelling at conventional filling stations.

The network will be based on Combined Charging System (CCS) standard technology. The planned charging infrastructure expands the existing technical standard for AC and DC charging of electric vehicles to the next level of capacity for DC fast charging with up to 350kW.

EVs that are engineered to accept this full power of the charge stations can recharge brand-independently in a fraction of the time of today’s EVs. The network is intended to serve all CCS-equipped vehicles to facilitate the wider adoption of EVs across Europe.

Porsche AG’s chairman of the executive board, Oliver Blume, said of the Understanding: “There are two decisive aspects for us: ultra-fast charging and placing the charging stations at the right positions. 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.”

Harald Krüger, chairman of the board of management at BMW AG, echoed these sentiments, saying, “This high-power charging network provides motorists with another strong argument to move towards electric mobility.

“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.”

Each of the manufacturers involved will commit a substantial investment to create the network, underscoring their 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 car makers will be encouraged to participate in the network in future to help establish convenient charging solutions for EV customers. The Joint Venture also plans to cooperate with regional partners to ensure that the network is completed as soon as possible.

In the wake of the diesel emissions scandal at the Volkswagen Group, both parent company VW and its luxury sports marque Porsche have pledged their futures to the development of electric vehicles, abandoning further development of fossil fuel-powered internal combustion engines.

Nearly all automotive companies – General Motors, Tesla, Renault, Citroen, Kia, Hyundai, Honda and many more – are investing in electric vehicle technology, as the industry moves towards an all-electric future. Jaguar recently announced its first electric vehicle, the iPace, whilst Audi symbolically withdrew from the Le Mans sports car race – after two successful decades of racing – to underscore its commitment to the development of electric sports cars.

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