Mercedes will build its own electric vehicle charging network

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

The German luxury carmaker said Thursday at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas that it will begin building the U.S. network this year at a total cost of just over 1 billion euros ($1.05 billion) . When completed in six to 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 the full network completed by the end of the decade, when the company aims to sell all electric vehicles based on market conditions. The complete network will have more than 2,000 charging stations and more than 10,000 plugs worldwide, Ola Källenius, chairman of the board of directors of Mercedes-Benz, told reporters.

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

The move will help the company compete with Tesla, which says on its website it has 40,000 charging ports worldwide. Tesla’s network is primarily for the exclusive use of Tesla owners, though CEO Elon Musk has said there are plans to open it up to other brands. The network gives Tesla a competitive advantage over other electric vehicle brands, which must rely on a network of privately owned charging stations.

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

The network will address customers’ concerns about not having enough range to reach their destination and find a charging station that works, said Markus Schäfer, Mercedes’ chief technology officer.

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

The charging centers will be built in cities and key population centers, close to major roads and close to shops and restaurants. Some will be at participating Mercedes dealers, the company said. “We know where our customers are in North America, we know where we sell electric vehicles,” Schäfer said.

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

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