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Seven carmakers unite to launch RE-fueled EV charging network in North America

Tesla's charging network could face its first formidable rival – or meet its first formidable ally – within a year.

Seven automakers have come together to launch a charging network across the US, in a decision that could dilute the dominance of Elon Musk's company but help spur sales of electric vehicles across the continent. They will also take advantage of US government subsidies to the CCS-type charging connector, different to Tesla's proprietary charging connector, the NACS.

The seven automakers that have joined hands include BMW, Mercedes, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Stellantis.

Announcing their plans, the companies said they planned to build "high power", meaning fast-charging, stations with around 30,000 charging points in urban areas and along highways. Fast chargers are able to charge an EV battery from zero to 80 percent within the space of 20 minutes to one hour, helping bridge the comparably shorter time it takes to fill cars with petrol or diesel. This makes them well-suited to highways and busy routes where consumers desire quick battery recharges.

The network's charging stations will host both types of charging connectors, CCS as well as Tesla's NACS, and be open to all EV owners. The companies also announced that they would use renewable energy as much as possible to power their stations and charging infrastructure.

The first stations will be up next year, the companies said, without giving away the location. However, they mentioned that they were looking at "convenient" locations that also offered amenities such as restrooms, food services and other stores around.

No investment numbers were declared. "The parties have agreed not to disclose specific investment numbers at this time, but the seven founding automakers intend to work as equals to ensure the success of the joint venture," the companies said in a statement. They did not disclose the time frame required to construct the entire network.

The US and Canada currently have a combined 8,700 fast charging stations having around 36,000 charging outlets. Tesla, which owns the largest network of fast chargers in North America, has around 2,050 charging stations with over 22,000 charging points. The company has opened NACS (short for North American Charging Standard) to rival companies, and carmakers Ford, General Motors and Volvo have signed up to let their owners access the network through the use of a special connector, while charging companies Blink Charging and ChargePoint have signed up to install NACS connectors at their charging stations.

Experts note that the consortium's network, planned at 30,000 chargers, will rival Tesla's in size and scope. However, they don't see the two groups tussling for market share. The installation of more EV charging stations and charging points is likely to boost EV uptake across the country, they feel.

Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with S&P Global Mobility, told Associated Press that the carmakers' announcement was not necessarily a threat to Tesla. "I think the reality is this is needed, and these automakers are getting together to say 'we need this'" she said. "Tesla can't build enough for everyone." 

Akshay Singh, a partner at consultancy PwC Strategy&, told Reuters the alignment offered financial benefit to all its members. "The investment will be far less through this partnership than building individual charging networks," Singh told the agency, adding, "They also get to control the customer experience and collect data."

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