It might sound like investing 101, but what Tesla ends up looking like as a company is key to its value
Mercedes opens first European fast-charging site
Mannheim is first location on its home continent ahead of further global expansion in 2024
German automaking heavyweight Mercedes has rolled out the first of its planned European network — and the fourth globally — of own-brand fast-charging stations in the German city of Mannheim. The firm ultimately plans a network of 2,000 sites across the globe under the Mercedes banner.
With charger capacity of 300kWh, the station and future network are designed for ultra-fast charging. This capacity theoretically allows an 80kW battery, like that used on a Tesla Model Y, to charge fully in 16 minutes. However, factors like temperature and battery condition affect real charging speeds.
According to Mercedes, each charger at the station has only one port to ensure that the maximum energy reaches the charging vehicle. “With that, certain electric vehicle models are already able to charge from 10pc to 80pc in less than 20 minutes,” the automaker says.
Welcoming the news, Volker Wissing, German minister for digital and transport says that “charging has to be as easy as refuelling”. “This is the only way we can increase the willingness to switch to climate-friendly electric cars.”
Wissing also notes that Germany has already surpassed its goal of installing 100,000 public chargers in 2023.
While the 300kW charging capacity of the ports is on the quicker end even of fast charging, the Mannheim charging station is not as fast Mercedes’ first branded North American charging station, recently opened in in Sandy Springs, GA. This first North American location has 400kW chargers — which would allow a Tesla Model Y to theoretically charge fully in as little as twelve minutes.
Mercedes’ planned European charging network is a collaboration with German utility Eon. And the automaker plans to rely on the same partner in the future.
“Eon will provide support in the search for locations, planning, construction, operation, and accompanying services for the fast-charging parks planned. This is an opportunity for us to advance electric mobility for Germany and the whole of Europe and to shape a more sustainable future for all,” says Alexander Krock, Eon’s CTO.
Mercedes has not disclosed who is supplying the charging hardware for its upcoming European network. The company has previously announced it is sourcing its 400kW chargers for its North America stations from American firm Chargepoint.
“After Atlanta in the US, and Chengdu and Foshan in China, Mannheim is already the fourth charging station that Mercedes-Benz is putting into operation worldwide. Others will be launched by the end of the year, including the US and China. From 2024, in addition to further locations in Germany, Mercedes-Benz will open charging stations in Italy, Spain and France, among others, in Europe,” the firm says.
“By the end of the decade, Mercedes-Benz plans to establish more than 2,000 of its own charging stations worldwide with over 10,000 fast-charging points. The new Mercedes-Benz charging hub in the Rhine-Main-Neckar region is located at one of Germany's most important transport corridors and is part of the company's global commitment to expanding the charging infrastructure,” it adds.
Charging network value
Opinion is divided on the utility of OEMs entering the charging space. There are some potential wins, assuming that an automaker makes a good job of it. One is brand recognition if one's charging stations both look and feel high-end and provide a reliable and positive charging and dwell-time experience.
Another is to reward buyers of one’s own vehicles with a preferential user experience. And a third is that more and better charging will help drive EV adoption more widely.
But there are also risks. One is brand damage if an OEM’s chargers are unreliable or deliver other negative experiences. Another is distraction from the larger challenge of managing the once-in-a-generation transition to e-mobility and whether expending time, money and attention on a non-core area such as charging is a smart use of resources.
Mercedes has clearly decided that the pros outweigh the cons, having committed not only to its own branded network but also joining a seven OEM-strong US consortium planning a stand-alone charging buildout. It is also a founding shareholder in European charging network Ionity.
At the same time, it has hedged its bets slightly by also agreeing with Tesla — the poster child for an OEM building brand-additive charging infrastructure — for North American Mercedes drivers to get access to its Supercharger network.