GM enters highway charging fray

Detroit heavyweight is latest OEM to launch own-brand charging network

GM enters highway charging fray
GM-branded chargers will be an increasingly common sight at US truck stops

US legacy automaker GM has opened the first stations in a planned nationwide DC fast-charging network. The OEM has opened 17 charging locations at truck stops under the Pilot Flying J retail brand across 13 US states, targeting 25 locations and 100 charging stalls by the end of 2023.

US charging company EVgo is providing fast chargers capable of up to 350kW charging speed for the sites, which are also equipped with the plug and charge protocol. The network was first announced in July 2022 with a target of installing charging stations at 50-mile intervals on popular highway routes across the US.

“By the end of 2023, it is expected that at least 25 Pilot and Flying J travel centres will feature EV fast charging, with approximately 200 locations targeted by the end of 2024. In total, the network will include up to 2,000 high-power fast charging stalls at up to 500 Pilot and Flying J travel centres across the US,” GM says.

Following the pattern of other OEMs’ own-brand charging network, the chargers will be usable by drivers of all EVs, but GM customers will receive benefits involving slot reservations and discounts on charging.

GM has previously pledged $750mn in investment towards EV charging infrastructure, including installing 100,000 charge points in the US and Canada through its Level 2 Ultium Charge 360 ecosystem and another collaboration with EVgo to build out a network of 3,250 public charging stalls in major metro areas by 2025.

GM was also one of seven automakers who announced a coalition to build a nationwide charging network in July. GM now becomes the second of these OEMs to launch its own-brand charging sites, following Germany’s Mercedes. GM has not commented on how the new launch affects the coalition project.

Highway charging

A smoother EV charging experience is routinely cited as one of the biggest pull factors towards EV adoption. And several OEMs of late have launched own-brand highway charging in locations with facilities to make longer charging stops (when compared to ICE refuelling) more amenable to new adopter customers.

“From the consumer side especially, there is a culture shift that has to happen. When you are in an EV and it is your primary means of transportation, you are no longer able to pull up to a gas station and fuel up in five minutes and be on your way. Your stop has now become a 20-to-30-to-35-minute stop,” says David DeVoe, staff engineer for US automaker Rivian’s charging field services.

Using existing highway sites for fast-charging locations also allows the planning of charging corridors to optimise distance between stops on popular routes, points out EVgo COO Denis Kish.

“EVgo is committed to delivering a convenient, reliable, and customer-centric charging experience. With robust amenities, optimal corridor locations, high-power charging and more, our collaboration with GM and Pilot puts drivers first and boosts range confidence,” he says.

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Many of these automaker-branded charging projects, including Mercedes’ networks in Europe and the US, as well as the GM network, involve the OEM using charging hardware provided by charging firms.

But several OEMs are also developing their own proprietary chargers for their branded networks, including the recent network announced by Geely-owned UK brand Lotus, Rivian’s network in the US, and Tesla’s global Supercharger network.

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