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The pace of change in the EV market keeps accelerating. After some automakers announced they would adopt Tesla's charging connector (the North American Charging Standard), a group of seven automakers are teaming up on a charging network to rival the smooth experience of Tesla's chargers. (Tesla)

Automaker coalition plans high-power charging network to rival Tesla's

Joint venture, once formed, eyes having 30,000 DC fast-chargers. Tesla currently has 17,000.

In an announcement that could change the balance of power in the still-formative EV charging- station race, seven global automakers said they will work together to create an expansive DC-fast-charging network that would mean high-powered charging at far more locations in North America.

Stating a goal of installing at least 30,000 high-powered DC charging points in urban and highway locations were General Motors, Stellantis, Honda, BMW Group, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz Group. The group did not say when the full number of chargers would be operational, but did say the first stations should open in the summer of 2024 in the United States.

In a nod to the recent adoption of Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) by other automakers, the stations will be fitted with both the NACS connector and the SAE standard Combined Charging System (CCS)/J1772 connector. SAE is working to publish a standard for the NACS as J3400.

Addressing a common complaint about non-Tesla charging locations as they exist now, the group said the new locations would deliver “an elevated customer experience,” including improved reliability, appealing locations with amenities to use while charging and use of renewable energy where practical.

GM CEO Mary Barra said the customers need to enjoy the charging experience as much as they do the EVs themselves. “The better experience people have, the faster EV adoption will grow,” she said.

The announcement said the joint venture’s goal is to become the leading network of reliable, high-powered charging stations in North America. Right now, that title belongs to Tesla and its roughly 2,000 locations running about 17,000 chargers.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy reports that the entire U.S. public market comprises 32,000 DC fast chargers for the roughly 2.3 million EVs on the road. The National Renewable Energy Lab published an estimate that 182,000 DC fast chargers will be needed to support 30- to 42 million EVs that could be on the road as early as 2030.

The release said that both public and private money would be used to fund the network, which will use 100% renewable energy.

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said the effort goes beyond customer satisfaction. “A charging network at scale is vital to protecting freedom of mobility for all,” he said. “A strong charging network should be available for all — under the same conditions.”

NACS update: Task force gets to work
On this week’s SAE Tomorrow Today podcast, two standards leaders talk about the expedited process to standardize NACS and the state of ground vehicle standards themselves as the industry sees developments coming at a faster pace.

Christian Thiele, SAE’s director of global ground vehicle standards, talked to podcast host Grayson Brulte about the challenging environment. “There’s a technology revolution that’s happening right now, and we are moving quite rapidly and quickly into the emerging tech space, be it EV, ADAS, AI, etc.,” he said. “It’s all new technology – emerging technology – which makes it somewhat challenging to standardize.”

Rodney McGee, the chairman of the J3400 NACS task force, said other standards organizations weren’t able to move as quickly as SAE has on standardizing the Tesla connector. “I was recently in an IEC [International Electrotechnical Commission] meeting where they were discussing when they could get the NACS connector into the IEC standards, and they were discussing what seemed to be the more likely option, which was in 2029, or the closer option, which was in 2026, [but] didn't seem to be open to them.”

Thiele addressed how quickly the NACS standard could come together. “We're looking at publishing something inside of about six months and it'll be a technical information report toward the end of this year. Then we will vet it out,” he said, adding that a best-practices publication would come out a few months later, followed by final vetting. “This will fall around the 11-month window,” he said.

The podcast page also carries a transcript of the full conversation.

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