To Boost Demand, European Electric Car Charging Sites to be Funded by Automakers

In order to boost mainstream acceptance of electric cars, four of the world’s top carmakers have agreed to invest in thousands of fast-charging sites across Europe, the companies said on Tuesday.

German rivals Volkswagen, Daimler’s Mercedes, BMW an Ford Motor Co’s European division have entered a joint venture to develop 400 charging stations, spurred by the success of U.S. rival Tesla, which has received huge pre-orders for its Model 3 car.

Key to widespread consumer acceptance of electric vehicles, which so far have filled only a niche market is overcoming “range anxiety,” the fear of running out of power before reaching a charging station.

While a memorandum of understanding for the JV was reached late last week, figures on the total investment were not released.

Government regulators have also been pushing electric vehicle infrastructure projects.

How an administration of Donald Trump will embrace such projects in the United States remains to be seen. Efforts to spur development of EV charging infrastructure were announced by the White House earlier this month, and a week before the presidential election.

Pressure has built for Germany’s carmakers to accelerate the development and rollout of electric car infrastructure after the German government agreed to help the auto industry with electric car subsidies.

Calles for Germany to become a leader in electric vehicle technology was given by German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a potential challenger to Angela Merkel in 2017.

Daimler recently announced investing 10 billion euros ($11 billion) in EVs, Volkswagen’s diesel emissions settlement, which calls for investment in EVs, will give a boost to electric vehicle infrastructure.

Despite sales incentives that often include government assistance, mass-market demand have been stifled by scarce charging points, as well as higher prices for electric cars compared with combustion models.

“The availability of high-power stations allows long-distance electric mobility for the first time and will convince more and more customers to opt for an electric vehicle,” Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche said.

The automakers said in a statement issued on Tuesday that a goal is to make charging an electric vehicle as convenient as refueling at conventional gas stations.

Due to advances that make batteries cheaper and more powerful, electric cars will become increasingly popular, predict executives across the industry. Also, the VW emissions scandal has sparked a regulatory backlash against diesel-engine vehicles.

Although they are a small fragment of the U.S. market, diesel-powered vehicles accounted for 52 percent of new passenger cars sold in Europe last year.

The carmakers said that funding of the establishment of charging sites beginning in the first quarter of 2017 is the aim of the joint venture which is open to other automakers.

The statement said that the group aims to have “thousands of high-powered charging points” on the continent by 2020, after reaching the initial goal of about 400 charging sites along major highways in Europe.

The JV is to include Volkswagen’s Audi and Porsche brands.

The JV is not ready to announce which company or companies will supply electricity to the charging stations but is in discussions with power generation providers, a Ford spokeswoman in the United States, Angie Kozleski, said.

(Adapted from Reuters)

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