Mercedes to build its own electric vehicle-charging network

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Mercedes-Benz says it will build its own worldwide electric vehicle-charging network starting in North America in a bid to compete with EV sales leader Tesla.

The German luxury automaker said at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas on Thursday that it will start building the North American network this year at a total cost of just over $1 billion. When completed in six or seven years, the network will have 400 charging stations with more than 2,500 high-power plugs, the company said.

Networks in Europe and China and other markets will follow, with completion of the full network by the end of the decade, when the company intends to sell all electric vehicles depending on market conditions. The full network will have more than 2,000 charging stations and over 10,000 plugs worldwide, Ola Källenius, chairman of Mercedes-Benz’s management board, told reporters.

The company says the Mercedes-branded network will be open to owners of all electric vehicles, but Mercedes owners will be able to reserve charging ports and get preference over other makes.

The move will help the company compete with Tesla, which according to its website has 40,000 charging ports worldwide. Tesla’s network is mostly for the exclusive use of Tesla owners, although Chief Executive Elon Musk has said there are plans to open it to other brands. The network gives Tesla a competitive advantage over other EV makers, which have to rely on a patchwork network of privately owned charging stations.

Each Mercedes station will have four to 12 ports with up to 350 kilowatts of charging power. Mercedes will share the cost of the North American network equally with MN8 Energy, a large solar energy and battery storage operator. EV charging network provider ChargePoint is also a partner.

The network will address customer concerns about not having enough range to get to their destination, and finding a charging station, said Markus Schäfer, Mercedes’ chief technology officer.

While other charging networks are being developed, “We thought we had to go further and take the initiative here and create our branded global Mercedes-Benz network,” Schäfer said.

The charging hubs will be built in key cities and population centers, close to major roads and near retail businesses and restaurants. Some will be at participating Mercedes dealerships, the company said. “We know where our customers are in North America, we know where we’re selling electric vehicles,” Schäfer said.

The stations will be in safe, well-lighted locations, Schäfer said, “not in the backyard somewhere of a shopping center next to a dumpster.”

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