- With EVs and their necessary charging infrastructure on everyone's mind these days, Mercedes-Benz's announcement of its own charging network is particularly timely.
- The automaker gave details of its plans during the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) event in Las Vegas this week.
- High-speed charging stations will be open to other brands, not just Mercedes.
UPDATE 1/7/2023: Markus Schaefer, Mercedes-Benz chief technology officer, gave additional details about the project, which we've added below.
Mercedes-Benz is set to launch a new, open electric vehicle charger network in North America later this year. Mercedes plans to have more than 400 hubs, a.k.a. stations, with more than 2500 high-power chargers, a.k.a. plugs, in operation across North America by 2027.
The network will also expand to include more than 10,000 chargers in Europe, China, and "other main markets" by the end of the decade, Mercedes said. Initially, Mercedes plans for each hub to have between four and a dozen chargers, but this number could grow to 30 chargers at a hub in the future.
One big reason Mercedes is willing to spend billions to acquire land and install thousands of charging stations is to improve, eventually, a Mercedes driver's EV experience, according to Markus Schaefer, Mercedes-Benz chief technology officer, who spoke to the media during CES this week. Schaefer said customers have made clear what they think about current EV charging solutions, and the level of dissatisfaction led Mercedes to decide "to do things right, the way we think things should work." That means finding safe, clean, and convenient places for the stations and a technological back end that provides benefits to Mercedes drivers.
That includes discounted prices for Mercedes me Charge users and a way for Mercedes EVs to navigate you to charging stations on long trips and automatically reserve a charging appointment at an appropriate location. If you take a different route or run into traffic, the reservation can be dynamically updated without extra work by the driver. Mercedes-Benz EV drivers can manually pre-book time at a charging station from their car, for example, and the network "will prioritize Mercedes-Benz customers." From a driver's perspective, the navigation system in Mercedes EVs will be able to communicate with the charging network and then optimize the route and reserve charging sessions automatically, if needed, so you'll get where you're going on time and without any range anxiety. Schaefer said the eventual system would "probably" not push out any non-Mercedes drivers at a busy station without an open plug and will instead navigate drivers to a nearby public charging station. Even with
the Vision EQXX on the display stand, Mercedes-Benz's big announcement at CES this year wasn't a new car but the news that the automaker is getting into the high-power—up to 350 kW—charging network game.
The charging network will be open to drivers of any compatible EV, and the locations will be selected to be close to key urban areas, near major roads and at participating Mercedes-Benz dealerships. The stations will use Plug & Charge technology that allows payment details to be sent from the car to the charger without any extra interaction, but credit card and app-based payments will also be possible.
Other Brands Are Welcome
Just because the stations are open to any compatible EVs doesn’t mean there isn’t something special for drivers of the EQS or other three-pointed star plug-in models. Mercedes-Benz EV drivers will be able to pre-book time at a charging station from their car, for example, and the network “will prioritize Mercedes-Benz customers.” From a driver’s perspective, the navigation system in Mercedes EVs will be able to communicate with the charging network and then automatically optimize the route and reserve charging sessions automatically, if needed, so you’ll get where you’re going on time and without any range anxiety.
Tesla led the way in automaker-operated charging stations for EVs, but almost all of its 40,000 Superchargers use a Tesla-specific adapter and are not compatible with other EVs.
Rivian is also building out what it calls the Rivian Adventure Network but only has nine stations in operation. Other electric vehicle automakers rely on public charging stations operated by independent or partner companies, like Electrify America, which Volkswagen was forced to create after its diesel emission scandal.
Mercedes will work with MN8 Energy to provide renewable energy for the charging hubs and with ChargePoint on other technical aspects of the hubs and chargers. Mercedes is a shareholder in ChargePoint, and the two companies already work together on the Mercedes me Charge technology in the U.S. Some of the new stations will have solar-powered lights and security features. Mercedes said it expects the North American portion of the network will cost a little over a billion dollars over the next six or seven years. Mercedes and MN8 split this cost roughly in half.
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