GM, Hyundai and 5 other automakers join forces to double EV fast-charger network in U.S.

Seven major automakers on Wednesday announced plans to nearly double the nation’s network of high-powered electric vehicle chargers, an effort to address a key consumer reservation about EVs — that they may not have a place to power up on the road.

The plan calls for adding 30,000 fast chargers in urban areas and along highways, according to a joint statement by General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, BMW Group, Mercedes-Benz Group and Stellantis N.V. The U.S. network had about 32,000 such chargers as of July, according to the Energy Department.

The first stations are expected to be open by summer 2024.

“Charging is an inseparable part of the EV experience, and this network will be another step to make it as convenient as possible,” said Mercedes-Benz chief executive Ola Källenius.

It is also crucial to broader efforts to wean American motorists away from gas power. U.S. EV sales are expected to make up more than half of all car sales by 2030, the companies said Wednesday. But EV prices — which averaged over $53,000 in June 2023 — represent a major hurdle for consumers, said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Cox Automotive. Another big barrier is charging infrastructure and anxiety about how far the cars can drive without running out of power, she said.

“If the automakers are going to meet their global goals for selling EVs, we have to have the infrastructure — and [auto companies] recognize that,” she said.

The stakes are high. Auto companies have poured billions into their EV businesses in a bid to catch up with Tesla, which controls the lion’s share of the market.

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Tesla has granted other companies’ electric vehicles access to its fast-charging network, another area where the company has had a head start. In February, the carmaker agreed to open 7,500 of its roughly 20,000 fast chargers to all EV drivers by the end of 2024, which was necessary for the company to be eligible for a slice of the $7.5 billion in federal subsidies Congress poured into charging infrastructure. Tesla and Ford jointly announced in May that Ford’s EVs would gain access to 12,000 Tesla Superchargers starting next year. GM soon forged its own deal with Tesla.

Fast chargers use direct-current electricity and can charge an EV battery to 80 percent from empty in 20 minutes to an hour — much faster than the four to 10 hours it would take a “Level 2” charger to achieve the same. About 77 percent of the 142,000 EV chargers in the United States are Level 2 chargers, while about 22 percent are of the DC variety, according to figures from the Energy Department.

But chargers of all kinds, including DC, have proved unreliable, as drivers have encountered broken chargers and confusing payment processes. An August 2022 J.D. Power survey found that 1 in 5 EV owners who had visited a station could not charge, largely because of system malfunctions.

Still, expanding the network of fast chargers will be crucial for auto companies to win over EV customers, said Krebs, noting that she could not recall another time so many major companies teamed up for a single venture.

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