Fast-charging European network to trample on Tesla’s market reign
Work is under way to build 400 Ionity fast-charging stations across Europe by 2020
Loss-loving electric car maker Tesla has shed another moat, with Germany’s car-making giants accelerating work on a Europe-wide 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-Nissan-Mitsubishi 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, Mercedes-Benz 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.