Volkswagen Invests $2 Billion In Charger Network

Electric Car

VW's EV charging stations will be open to all vehicles.

Replacing conventional fossil-fuel-powered automobiles with electric vehicles will take more than just developing and producing the cars themselves – and convincing people to buy them. It'll also require building an infrastructure of charging stations as robust as the network of gas stations that have sprung up across the country and around the world over the past century. And Volkswagen knows that better than most.

According to Automotive News, the German automaker is investing a massive $2 million in Electrify America – its initiative for building fast-chargers across the United States. But it's not doing so entirely of its own volition, and it won't happen overnight.

As part of the settlement with federal authorities over the Dieselgate scandal, VW will dole out the billions in four 30-month cycles. The first stage will see half a billion spent on a network of 484 rapid chargers in 17 urban areas and along highways by the middle of next year. To date only 24 such sites have opened.

It'll take ten years to complete the investment. But once it's finished, the network stands to rival (or even overshadow) the network of Superchargers that Tesla has installed across the country. There's a key difference, however, between VW's network and Tesla's.

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The Electrify America chargers will be open to all plug-in electrified vehicles – not just the ones that the Volkswagen Group makes, like the VW e-Golf, the new Audi e-tron, and the E-Hybrid versions of the Porsche Cayenne and Panamera. The group plans to build 27 models across four brands on its new electric-vehicle architecture. Tesla's network, meanwhile, is only open to Tesla vehicles.

That's given Tesla a leg-up on the competition, offering key access to its chargers to combat “range anxiety” – the concern of running out of juice before reaching your destination or a charging station.

In that sense, VW's investment could stand to be the great equalizer among all electric vehicle manufacturers. But it won't get there without a degree of difficulty – not the least of which will be navigating government bureaucracy to get the charging stations approved. In the meantime, though, it's brokered deals with rival networks like EV Connect, SemaConnect, and Greenlots to provide Electrify America customers with access to further charging stations outside its own network. So by the middle of next year, its customers will have access to some 12,500 chargers – more than the 11,200 or so that Tesla currently has installed.

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