Auto Execs Agree Infrastructure Is Key To Electric Car Success

Executives from two major auto companies stated this week that the electric car revolution is on hold until a comprehensive charging infrastructure exists. In New York, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault Nissan, told an audience, “The main problem of electric cars is people complaining that there is no infrastructure.” At a meeting outside of Stuttgart, Germany, Stefan Niemann, Audi’s head of electric cars, echoed those sentiments. “We need awesome cars and a seamless infrastructure,” he said.

SuperCharger location in Colorado Springs

Niemann scolded his colleagues at a meeting of the Technical Congress of Germany’s powerful automotive industry organization, the VDA. Matthias Wissmann, president of the VDA, started by advocated for better diesel engine technology for the industry. “Without diesel technology, Europe won’t be able to meet its CO2 targets,” he said. Niemann disagreed. “Those who had ever driven electrically are lost for the internal combustion engine for all times,” he told his colleagues.

He said that car buyers really want to buy an electric car that will not harm the environment and are even willing to pay a premium for them — as the success of the Tesla Model S has clearly demonstrated. But they don’t want to sacrifice the fun of driving either. That means they require an extensive network of high power charging stations so they can drive wherever they wish without waiting hours to recharge along the way. Niemann said chargers that operate at 350 kW or more are essential.

According to EE Times Europe, he also had unkind words for the electric car lineup currently available to European drivers.  “These cars are slower than those with conventional drive and they have a much lower range – and in compensation they are more expensive,” he said. He then went on to praise Tesla for going out and building a charging infrastructure for its customers while the rest of the industry are sitting on their hands waiting for someone else to do the hard work for them. “I hate to admit it, but Tesla did everything right,” he said.

As forthright and visionary as Carlos Ghosn is, he used his time the New York auto show to demand governments build the charging infrastructure needed to get mainstream drivers to switch to an electric car, according to Inside EVs. “Governments, in order to encourage the industry to move in this direction, they’re going to have to finally build the infrastructure,” he said.

Tesla has done exactly that and without a dime of public money. According to Teslarati, it now has 611 SuperCharger locations worldwide with more than 3,600 individual high power charging stations. It has also forged partnerships with thousands of shopping destinations, hotels and B&B’s to make lower power chargers available for its customers. In the long run, the success of Tesla Motors may hinge on the fact that it created a reliable charging network with its own money while others waited for someone else to pick up the check.

Image credit: Tesla Motors

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.