Why is it taking so long for the electric car to take over? One of the biggest challenges with electrical vehicles is the ever-present range anxiety–the fear that you’ll run out of juice before you reach the next charging station. Elon Musk promised to solve this for Tesla drivers with the Supercharger network. Now the American divisions of BMW and Volkswagen are teaming up to build 100 direct current (DC) fast charging ports across the US to improve long-distance travel.
The two car makers are also partnering with ChargePoint, a startup that provides the network for getting access to charging stations. The 100 additional charging stations will be tied in with ChargePoint’s current 20,000 stations in North America.
“Many of our customers voiced the concern about availability of public chargers,” said Robert Healey, BMW’s head of EV infrastructure, in a phone call. “We listened to them and we have committed to building out the infrastructure. To do that efficiently, we need partnerships betweens OEMs.”
BMW and Volkswagen will be providing the majority of the cash for all 100 stations with some money coming from ChargePoint. The group has already begun construction of the ports in San Diego and plan to get all 100 up by sometime this year. “The build out schedule is literally as fast as humanly possible,” said Healey. “We’re fully funded and fully staffed. The only limiting factor is normal construction time.”
The stations will be placed along high-traffic areas of Interstate 95 on the east coast that runs from Boston to Washington, D.C. On the west coast, the new charging stations will connect cities running as far north as Portland and as far down as San Diego. The charging stations will be placed no further than 50 miles apart.
The fast charging ports will include either two 50 kW DC Fast chargers or 24 kW DC Combo Fast chargers. A 24kW port will charge BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf up to 80 percent in 30 minutes, and in 20 minutes at a 50 kW station. The 100 locations will also include Level 2 chargers, which are slower chargers but are compatible with all electric vehicles.
The charging stations will of course support the two companies own electric cars–the i3 and e-Golf–but will also support any vehicles with DC fast charging capabilities and vehicles that use the SAE Combo connector, which is the standard favored among American and European car makers. “From BMW’s perspective, we’re committed to support electric car mobility, not only for BMW but for others,” said Healey.
Tesla has also started the process of building out a vast network of “Supercharger” stations that can power up a Tesla vehicles in 30 minutes. Currently, the Supercharger network numbers around 150 stations in North America. The only problem is, these charging stations only work with Tesla cars.
As opposed to Tesla’s propriety Supercharger stations, the charging stations BMW and Volkswagen are building use the popular SAE standard.
Last year, Tesla opened up its patents to the Supercharger system that would, in theory, allow for other electric cars makers to adopt the technology and use Tesla’s infrastructure. But we’ve yet to see any results of this. Although the Financial Times reported that Nissan and BMW may be interested in working with Tesla on the charging technology, Healey from BMW would only say: “we have committed to the SAE standard.” This new commitment may help push the electric car to where it needs to be.