electric cars, Nissan's Leaf, being charged at an EV charger network stations
BMW Group, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz Group, and Stellantis are forming the joint venture to build a new “high-powered” electric vehicle charging network across North America, starting next year. Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Citing the need for more fast charging to accelerate EV adoption, the group says the network rollout will start in 2024 in the U.S., with Canada to follow

Editor’s Note: On Feb. 9, 2024, the seven automakers in this charging partnership announced that the new network will be named Ionna and it has appointed Seth Cutler as its CEO. Previously, Cutler was president and CEO of EVconnect.

Seven global auto manufacturers are joining forces to build a new “high-powered” electric vehicle charger network of at least 30,000 DC fast chargers across North America, starting next year.

BMW Group, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz Group and Stellantis say the joint venture’s goal is to accelerate the transition to EVs on the continent by expanding access to charging that is “convenient, accessible and reliable.”

The charging stations will be open to all EV owners and will offer both Combined Charging System (CCS) or North American Charging Standard (NACS) connectors.

They are also expected to “meet or exceed the spirit and requirements of the U.S. National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program,” according to the joint venture press release (which includes 97 per cent uptime reliability for each charging port) and will support the “Plug and Charge” standard.

“North America is one of the world’s most important car markets — with the potential to be a leader in electromobility,” says Oliver Zipse, CEO of BMW Group in the release.

“Accessibility to high-speed charging is one of the key enablers to accelerate this transition. Therefore, seven automakers are forming this joint venture with the goal of creating a positive charging experience for EV consumers.”

Prioritizing charging experience

The first stations are anticipated to open in the United States in summer 2024. Canadians can expect to have operational chargers “at a later stage,” says the press release.

Unlike in the U.S., through NEVI, Canada currently lacks established performance and reliability standards for EV chargers. It is unclear whether the Canadian chargers will meet the same criteria as those in the U.S.

The joint venture group has said the focus of the new charging network is to enhance the ease and accessibility of charging for users in order to promote the widespread adoption of EVs.

“The fight against climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. What we need now is speed – across political, social and corporate boundaries,” says  Ola Källenius, Mercedes-Benz Group CEO.

“To accelerate the shift to electric vehicles, we’re in favour of anything that makes life easier for our customers. Charging is an inseparable part of the EV experience, and this network will be another step to make it as convenient as possible.”

The joint venture’s new network will complement some existing charging networks from a couple of the consortium’s partner automakers. For example, Mercedes intends to introduce a dedicated network of 3,000 high-power DC chargers in Canada (the Mercedes me Charge network) and the U.S. later this year. In a similar vein, GM is building its own network of EV chargers at its dealerships across both countries.

Charger funding sources and locations

The seven automakers did not disclose the total cost of building out the new network, but to finance this initiative, the group plans to leverage private and public funding from state and federal sources.

Part of securing those key funds is ensuring that any driver may use the charging stations, which means incorporating NACS and CCS charging plugs.

GM and Mercedes are already in a partnership with Tesla to incorporate NACS plugs in their North American vehicles by 2025. Hyundai and Stellantis are also “considering” and “evaluating” the possibility of adopting the NACS standard, as reported by Reuters.

The group has selected locations for the charging stations in metropolitan areas, along major highways, connecting corridors and popular vacation routes. Stations will offer various amenities, such as canopies, restrooms, food services and retail operations, either nearby or within the same complex.

The stations will also be powered entirely by renewable energy.

Expanding charging infrastructure

Both the Canadian and US governments are focusing on electric vehicles and deploying charging infrastructure.

There are over 20,478 chargers in Canada, according to data collected by Electric Autonomy in March 2023. At the start of the year, the federal government said it was investing over $1.2 billion in projects to build almost 84,500 electric vehicle chargers by 2027. However, Transport Canada is projecting an estimated 4.6 million EVs on the roads by 2030. To accommodate this number, the country would require approximately 460,000 public EV chargers.

This figure is based on the European Union’s Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive, which recommends an “appropriate average” ratio of 10:1 EVs to public chargers.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has over 140,000 publicly available EV chargers, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that 1.2 million public chargers will be needed to support 30-42 million plug-in vehicles expected on the road by 2030.

The two countries are also currently developing a binational charging station corridor, with 215 charging stations running from Quebec City to Michigan.

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