Volkswagen will rapidly build a nationwide EV charging network at hundreds of sites across 40 states within the next 3 years, according to new plans revealed last week.
The new network stands to dramatically expand the long-distance driving utility of current and future all-electric vehicles. With power rates of up to 320 kilowatts, the network would rival, and in some ways exceed, today’s Tesla DC Supercharger network.
In any case, the charge rate anticipating future EVs is very high – the Chevy Bolt EV, for example, is for now limited to a nominal 50 kW DC fast charge rate. What this means is that expected future EVs could be recharged quick enough to make switching from fast-fueling internal combustion vehicles far less of a concern.
The spending plan is one part of the company’s so-called “dieselgate” court settlement finalized last year with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over excessive pollution emitted from some its vehicles sold in the United States.
Volkswagen’s new plans add to a previously released California-specific draft plan which is pending approval by CARB later this month.
The company, through its new Electrify America subsidiary, intends to spend a total of $500 million in each of four consecutive 30-month periods over the next 10 years. The money is divided primarily between community charging, highway charging, and public education projects with 40 percent of funds, or $800 million over the full 10 years, dedicated to California under the legal agreement.
As part of the first cycle of its investment plan, VW says it intends to spend $120 million on EV charging infrastructure in California and a further $250 million in the other states. Some of those funds would be set aside for operating expenses and long-term maintenance.
Of that combined $370 million, some $255 million would be used to develop nearly 300 ultra-fast DC charging locations along several dozen interstate and regional highways. Each location would typically have about five chargers although the number at any specific site would vary between four and 10.
Some of the first highway locations could be completed as early as next year. At least 200 of those locations would be completed by mid-2019 and another 90 are projected to be under active development and likely to be completed over the following year. The scope and pace of the planned installation schedule roughly mirrors the first years of Tesla’s DC Supercharger network in the U.S.
All of the highway chargers would be next-generation units designed to support a peak charging rate of at least 150 kilowatts and some would support up to 320 kilowatts. The sites are being designed to be “future proof” for medium to long-term use and will feature transformers and grid connections that allow for easy upgrades in later years.
The locations would be spaced an average of 66 miles apart so those closer to urban areas would be usable by most existing all-electric cars. The longest distance between charging locations would be set at 120 miles.
Almost all existing non-Tesla DC charging stations support between 25 and 50 kilowatts in the United States so VW’s new stations could support charging at up to 3 to 6 times faster when used with future vehicles.
Even some existing cars may be able to charge somewhat faster than they can on existing chargers. Chevrolet officials have hinted that the 2017 Bolt EV can reach a peak charge rate of perhaps around 20 percent faster. The Kia Soul EV and the new Hyundai Ioniq electric sedan can reportedly charge at a peak rate of up to 70 kilowatts.
A further $80 million during the first cycle would be spent on community charging at a total of around 650 locations in 16 metropolitan areas nationwide. Some 300 of those locations would be located in and around New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Portland, Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Denver, Houston, Miami, and Raleigh. In California, a heavier concentration of charging locations would be installed in and around Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, and Sacramento.
Most community-based charging would be focused on public locations such as retail shopping, parking garages, and so-called charging depots that would contain clusters of DC chargers. Locations with shorter turnovers would get 50 and even some 150 kilowatt chargers while longer-term parking areas would get slower 7 kilowatt AC charging. About a third of the charging would be located at workplaces. The remaining chargers would be installed at multi-unit residential complexes.
Estimated consumer EV charging prices are not yet known but the new VW charging stations will be open to all car models and will not be located at or near VW dealerships. Volkswagen will own the chargers and is allowed to operate them at a profit.
A separate aspect of the overall VW settlement includes a $2.7 billion environmental trust fund to be used as a source of project grants overseen by Native American tribal governments, individual states, and local agencies. VW also faces billions of dollars in other civil and criminal penalties.
Altogether, some 5,000 charging stalls supporting AC or DC charging would be built nationwide by the end of 2019. All DC chargers will feature both CHAdeMO and CCS standard plugs and AC charging will feature J1772 standard plugs. Tesla vehicles use a proprietary plug design but the company sells compatible adapters.
Tesla has built a fast DC Supercharger network of its own since late 2012 that supports maximum theoretical charging rates of up to 145 kilowatts at over 350 locations and 2,200 charging stalls across the country. Some existing Tesla vehicles can charge at a peak rate of about 120 kW at these stations. Tesla’s existing DC CHAdeMO adapter is limited to 50 kilowatts. Last year, the company joined the European CharIN consortium that is leading the development of CCS.
Most of these Tesla sites are located along highways away from large metropolitan areas and are primarily intended for use by travelers on long-distance trips. Some of VW’s community charging locations will have 150 kilowatt and 50 kilowatt charging but the plan is vague about how many and where.
By the time VW has completed its first buildout of charging stations in 2019, Tesla itself will likely have greatly expanded their Supercharger network to support an expected wave of less expensive Model 3 sedans hitting the road late this year.
The new electric chargers are expected to support flexible payment schemes including both simple credit cards and subscription-based plans. VW said they aim to create shared billing agreements with other charging providers. This presumably would be similar to or include the ROEV Association being created to link the billing systems of ChargePoint and EVgo.
EVgo, a spin-off of the NRG electric utility, today has a nationwide network of over 900 DC charging stations at over 600 locations but they are 50 kilowatt or less and are often clustered in big cities leaving large gaps without charging on the highway.
At California’s request, VW has plans to concentrate a further $44 million towards so-called Green City initiatives that seek to demonstrate transformative use of electric vehicles within a city. Sacramento has been tentatively identified as the first city to be targeted to receive services such as electric car sharing along with electric delivery and taxi fleets.
In order to promote public awareness of electric vehicles, VW plans to spend about $20 million of its California budget and a further $25 million or so from its non-California national budget. About half of that spending would go towards television ads beginning this fall.
VW has no plans to fund hydrogen fuel cell vehicle filling stations during this first round of spending but may do so in the future. California is strongly encouraging VW to add hydrogen fueling investments in later years.
VW says their expenses for personnel and other administrative overhead will be about 8 percent of the overall budget.
The company has already held a round of meetings with suppliers and plans to begin negotiating contracts. It says it does not intend to “reinvent the wheel” and will purchase hardware and software from existing companies. It plans to operate the network in a sustainable long-term fashion “in line with the same economic constraints faced by others in the charging industry”. In the past, ChargePoint has strongly urged that VW not be allowed to use its diesel settlement funds to unfairly dominate the industry.