BMW, Volkswagen Partner on Fast Charging Stations

Tesla Supercharger station

The stations will charge BMW, VW and other electric cars in 20 minutes.

One of the benefits of owning a Tesla Model S, besides its unequaled 200-mile range, is the network of 358 Supercharger stations in the U.S.. Available free of charge to Tesla owners, the stations can charge a Model S to 80 percent capacity in 20 minutes. The catch: the stations have a proprietary connector that works only with Teslas.

There are currently three incompatible systems for fast-charging electric cars and plug-in hybrids: Tesla’s, the CHAdeMO standard used by Nissan’s Leaf, and the Combined Charging Standard (CCS) that works with BMW’s i3, the Chevrolet Spark (and Bolt, coming in 2017) and Volkswagen’s e-Golf but is also supported by Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, GM, Audi and Bentley, even if some do not currently have CCS-compatible electric cars in production.

In Europe and England there are 515 charging locations using the CCS standard but only 16 in the entire United States, according to Green Car Reports.

Now, BMW and Volkswagen have announced that the companies will partner with the ChargePoint network to build 100 CCS fast-charging sites across the country that will deliver a charge to 80 percent capacity in about 20 minutes. The stations will support VW and BMW electric models and cars that use the SAE Combo connnector, the standard popular with American and European automakers.

Initially, 100 of the fast-charging stations will be added along heavily traveled corridors on the East and West coasts: the Interstate 95 corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C., and within and between Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

The stations will be positioned no more than 50 miles apart, making long-distance travel plausible for most electric cars, which today top out at about 100 miles of range—half that of the Tesla Model S—and typically much less, though GM promises its Bolt electric car will be able to drive 200 miles on a single charge. The BMW-VW partnership plans to expand the program to the rest of the country once the initial stations are completed by the end of 2015.

The lack of plentiful stations that can quickly charge electric vehicles remains one of the major impediments to electric car ownership going mainstream. U.S. electric and plug-in hybrid car sales were up 29 percent in 2014, but at just over 100,000 cars sold still represent an infinitesimal portion of the overall market--in December Ford sold more than 74,000 of its F Series pickup.