* Carmakers to build 400 charging sites in first step
* Goal to make charging EVs as convenient as filling gas
* Joint venture open to other carmakers
(Adds recent comments by German economics minister; VW and
Daimler ongoing EV efforts)
By Andreas Cremer and Bernie Woodall
BERLIN/DETROIT, Nov 29 Four of the world's top
carmakers have agreed to invest in thousands of fast-charging
sites across Europe to boost mainstream acceptance of electric
cars, the companies said on Tuesday.
Spurred by the success of U.S. rival Tesla, which
has received huge pre-orders for its Model 3 car, German rivals
Volkswagen, Daimler's Mercedes, BMW
an Ford Motor Co's European division have
entered a joint venture to develop 400 charging stations.
Overcoming "range anxiety," the fear of running out of power
before reaching a charging station, is key to widespread
consumer acceptance of electric vehicles, which so far have
filled only a niche market.
Figures on the total investment were not released.
A memorandum of understanding for the JV was reached late
Government regulators have also been pushing electric
vehicle infrastructure projects.
In the United States, it remains to be seen how an
administration of Donald Trump will embrace such projects. The
White House earlier this month, and a week before the
presidential election, announced efforts to spur development of
EV charging infrastructure.
After the German government agreed to help the auto industry
with electric car subsidies, pressure has built for Germany's
carmakers to accelerate the development and rollout of electric
German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a potential
challenger to Angela Merkel in 2017, has called for Germany to
become a leader in electric vehicle technology.
Electric vehicle infrastructure will also get a boost from
Volkswagen's diesel emissions settlement, which calls for
investment in EVs, and Daimler recently announced investing 10
billion euros ($11 billion) in EVs.
Scarce charging points, as well as higher prices for
electric cars compared with combustion models, have stifled
mass-market demand despite sales incentives that often include
"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.
A goal is to make charging an electric vehicle as convenient
as refueling at conventional gas stations, the automakers said
in a statement issued on Tuesday.
Executives across the industry predict electric cars will
become increasingly popular due to advances that make batteries
cheaper and more powerful. Also, the VW emissions scandal has
sparked a regulatory backlash against diesel-engine vehicles.
Diesel-powered vehicles accounted for 52 percent of new
passenger cars sold in Europe last year, although they are a
small fragment of the U.S. market.
The joint venture, which is open to other automakers, is to
fund the establishment of charging sites beginning in the first
quarter of 2017, the carmakers said.
After reaching the initial goal of about 400 charging sites
along major highways in Europe, the group aims to have
"thousands of high-powered charging points" on the continent by
2020, the statement said.
The JV is to include Volkswagen's Audi and Porsche brands.
A Ford spokeswoman in the United States, Angie Kozleski,
said the JV is in discussions with power generation providers
but is not ready to announce which company or companies will
supply electricity to the charging stations.
The initial focus of the JV, Ford's Kozleski said, "will be
building the network in Europe and the joint venture will decide
on possible expansion, based on market insights, when it is
She would not comment on Ford or other automakers' efforts
to develop charging networks in the United States or Asia.
In September, ChargePoint Inc, the world's largest electric
vehicle charging network, said the U.S. divisions of Volkswagen
and BMW are collaborating on charging networks on the two U.S.
The European network will be based on so-called combined
charging system technology, enhancing existing AC and DC
charging standards and allowing for ultra-fast power levels of
up to 350 kilowatt-hours.
(Additional reporting by Edward Taylor in Frankfurt; Editing by
Maria Sheahan and Dan Grebler)