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European Carmakers Look to Catch Tesla

European Carmakers Look to Catch TeslaEuropean Carmakers Look to Catch Tesla

Europe’s biggest carmakers are drawing on the full force of the continent’s industrial prowess to build a network of ultra-fast charging stations as they look to stoke demand for electric cars and break Tesla’s stranglehold on the market.

BMW, Volkswagen, Ford and Daimler plan to build about 400 next-generation charging stations in Europe that can reload an electric car in minutes instead of hours, Reuters writes.

Until now, drivers of electric cars have had to leave their vehicles plugged in for hours at a charging station for a journey between cities, making many long range journeys impractical.

Installing new, faster chargers would spur the overall market, and also help the traditional car manufacturers close the gap with Tesla, the Silicon Valley-based e-car leader, which maintains its own network of charging stations.

Tesla’s chargers are the fastest in the industry, and are incompatible with existing electric cars made by rivals.

The carmakers are roping in experts from the European power and engineering industry, including Germany’s Innogy, E.ON and Siemens and Portugal’s Efacec, which are all working on the technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The new 350 kilowatt (kW) chargers would be nearly three times as powerful as Tesla’s.

Tesla’s tech billionaire CEO Elon Musk has hinted that the company will not be outdone, tweeting that 350 kW chargers are a “children’s toy”. A Germany-based spokeswoman for the company declined to comment beyond Musk’s remarks.

European carmakers believe they are on the cusp of a surge in demand for electric vehicles. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche expects electric vehicles will make up 15-25% of Mercedes sales by 2025.

But first, technicians have to solve the problem of conveniently charging them up.

Europe already has a network of nearly 72,000 public charging stations for electric cars, but most are so slow they take hours for a meaningful charge.

The International Energy Agency says only about 5,800 European charging stations are “fast”, which it defines as charging at a rate of 43 kW or more, the equivalent of operating 90 washing machines simultaneously.

The fastest chargers in widespread use on the continent so far are the more than 1,800 installed by Tesla. At 120 kW, they still need half an hour to give a car enough charge to drive 270 km.

 

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