The three top German automakers and Ford (F) will collaborate on a European "fast-charging" network for battery-powered electric vehicles, the latest sign of accelerating acceptance of EVs by the global industry.
The automakers said they will set up a joint venture to build 400 chargers in the first stage of the project and by 2020 "thousands" across the continent. The chargers will use a 350-kilowatt DC standard, called a combined charging system, which enhances existing standards.
Two automakers noticeably absent from the group were General Motors' (GM) Opel subsidiary, which plans soon to begin selling a U.S.-made Ampera EV, and French automaker Renault, which pioneered the EV category with its Leaf EV. Neither automaker provided immediate comment.
"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," said Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler (DDAIF) , the maker of Mercedes-Benz and Smart.
EV sales in developed countries have been modest due to the initial higher costs to consumers for the vehicles, even with government subsidies, and concerns about the effective operating range between charges. Lighter, cheaper batteries that can store more energy have improved performance on the newest EV models, such as the Ampera, soon to be sold in the U.S. as the Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Charging stations also will make EVs more practical for urban dwellers living in high-rise buildings who often lack convenient access to a conventional electric outlet. BMW this week was reported to be revamping its slow-selling i3 EV.