Acting as if they just discovered the cure for the common cold, a consortium of European automakers including Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Daimler, and Ford are planning to invest in creating a network of ultra-fast EV chargers throughout Europe. Together, the group has figured out that lack of a reliable EV charging infrastructure is making people reluctant to buy an electric car. All of which begs the question, what took you guys so long? Tesla knew that in 2011. Until now, the car makers have been standing around with their hands in their pockets (and on their wallets) waiting for governments, taxpayers, or private industry to do the heavy lifting.
The plan is to begin with 400 charging sites by 2020 and expand that total to several thousand charging locations in the years that follow. The network will be based on the combined charging system (CCS) technology. Interestingly, earlier this year Tesla quietly joined the CCS consortium which has charging equipment capable of charging at 150 kW of power already in existence. There are hints the CCS standard could support power levels as high as 350 kW in the future.
Is it a coincidence that Porsche CEO Oliver Blume says the forthcoming Mission E sports car will be able to get an 80% charge in 15 minutes using a 150 kW charger? Probably not. The problem is the Mission E won’t be on sale for another 3 to 4 years. Given the pace of development spurred on by Elon Musk’s constant ambition to constantly raise the bar on what’s possible, by the time the other manufacturers catch up with where Tesla is today, the Silicon Valley upstart will be far down the road, around the bend, and finding new mountains to conquer.
That is not to say the announcement of advances in charging infrastructure is not welcome news. It is. But it calls to mind the old adage, “Better late than never,” and its less famous corollary, “But better never late.”