Ireland is set to be included, by 2019, in the rollout of a network of fast-charging stations for electric cars being planned for European motorways by a new joint-venture comprising Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, and Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler.
The four car giants will start building the stations along European roads this year, making progress with the joint project even as allegations of a technology cartel have put a cloud over co-operative efforts.
The Munich-based joint venture, Ionity, will open 20 charging stations this year on major roads in Germany, Austria, and Norway. Through 2018, it will expand the network to over 100 sites to ease concern among drivers of electric cars about ending up stranded on long trips. By 2020, the joint venture is targeting 400 stations across Europe.
An industry spokesperson suggested Ireland is likely to be included in the second tranche of the rollout — probably during 2019 — given that Volkswagen and Audi are due to launch a raft of electric car lines in the Irish market from 2020.
Ionity will employ 50 people by the start of next year. Chief executive Michael Hajesch said this first pan-European high-power charging network “plays an essential role in establishing a market for electric vehicles”.
Carmakers are spending record amounts on developing electric vehicles to meet tough pollution standards, and the unusual broad-based co-operation shows the strain of ensuring those efforts eventually pay off. For now, electric car sales remain at a fraction of total deliveries. Through September, BMW has sold 22,225 i3 electric city cars, out of total group sales of 1.8m vehicles so far this year.
The plan is making progress even after allegations surfaced earlier this year that VW, Daimler, and BMW colluded for decades on technology. The heads of Volkswagen and Daimler, who self-reported the possible collusion to escape fines, both sought to downplay the issue last month. BMW, while pausing talks for new joint projects, last week said it would continue to work “professionally” with its competitors.
Ionity’s new 350-kilowatt supercharger will bring a vehicle such as Mercedes’ planned EQ electric SUV, which has a 500km range, up to about 80% capacity in 15-20 minutes.
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