The “chicken and egg” conundrum continues to haunt the electric car revolution — to move things forward do you need to build more electric cars or more electric car chargers? The answer, obviously, is “Both.” but so far, automakers have been reluctant to spend money on charging infrastructure for electric cars, hoping against hope that someone else would do the heavy lifting. Yet in order to meet tougher emissions regulations, they need to sell more electric cars. Faced with that reality, Daimler, Volkswagen, Ford, and BMW have formed a formed a partnership that will build a network of 400 fast charger locations along major travel routes in Europe. The network will be known by the name Ionity.
“The first pan-European HPC network plays an essential role in establishing a market for electric vehicles,” CEO Michael Hajesch said in the news release. “Ionity will deliver our common goal of providing customers with fast charging and digital payment capability to facilitate long-distance travel.”
The first 20 fast charger locations will be installed at 75 mile intervals along highways in Germany, Austria, and Norway by the end of 2017. A total of 50 locations will be in service by the end of 2018. The target date to complete the network is 2020. Each charge point will use the CCS charging standard and have a maximum power of 350 kW. The new network is intended to compete with Tesla’s Supercharger network, which has 7,000 chargers in operation worldwide and is well on the way to more than 10,000 soon.
The CCS standard is supported by Volkswagen, General Motors, BMW, Daimler, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, and Hyundai. Even Tesla is part of the CCS working group, yet its cars do not come with CCS charging ports built in. Interestingly, Tesla has just begun building cars for the Chinese market that feature two charging ports — one for Superchargers and another for China’s dedicated charging network. Could that suggest Tesla might add a CCS connector to its cars built for delivery in Europe in the future? That question has generated a lot of discussion on the Tesla Motors Club forum.
Standards are critical to the acceptance of all new technology. Originally, trains from Italy couldn’t run on railroad tracks in France because the spacing between rails was different. It was only when European countries agreed on one standard that rail service across the continent became possible. At present, there are three charging standards in wide use throughout the world — CHAdeMO, CCS, and Tesla. China has its own standard. Many countries have a hodgepodge of standards that make traveling long distances in an electric car a daunting challenge.
Eventually, one standard will prevail. The use of CCS chargers is growing rapidly but Tesla has the largest network by far. Which standard will be the winner? Ask us that question 5 years from now.