The joint venture can be considered a response to the growing Tesla Supercharger network in Europe, which is understood to number around 260 sites - with more to come.
Today's announcement confirms that the four giant car makers - which, between them, account for more than 20 brands on the global market - will launch 400 "ultra-fast" charging sites in Europe from next year.
"The goal is the quick build-up of a sizable number of stations in order to enable long-range travel for battery electric vehicle drivers. This will be an important step towards facilitating mass-market BEV adoption," the companies said in a joint statement today.
Described as an "initial target", the 400-strong network will immediately put the companies into contention with Tesla, and there are plans for the number of individual charging points to grow into the thousands by 2020.
"The goal is to enable long-distance travel through open-network charging stations along highways and major thoroughfares, which has not been feasible for most BEV drivers to date. The charging experience is expected to evolve to be as convenient as refueling at conventional gas stations."
The new network will boast another strong selling point, however: speed.
According to today's announcement, the new sites will be capable of power levels up to 350kW, outclassing the (recently upgraded) 145kW offered by Tesla's Superchargers.
Along with those new "ultra-fast high-powered chargers", the sites will also features level 2 AC and level 3 DC chargers.
The network will be based on the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard, making the sites compatible with most current and upcoming battery EVs.
The Volkswagen Group's involvement will come primarily through the Porsche and Audi companies, although the use of the CCS standard means that other electric vehicles in the group's future will be compatible.
The founding partners will hold an equal stake in the joint venture, but the group claims it will encourage other manufacturers to participate in the network "to help establish convenient charging solutions for BEV customers".
“This high-power charging network provides motorists with another strong argument to move towards electric mobility,” says Harald Krüger, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. “The BMW Group has initiated numerous public charging infrastructure projects over the last years. The joint project is another major milestone clearly demonstrating that competitors are combining forces to ramp-up e-mobility.”
“The breakthrough of e-mobility requires two things: convincing vehicles and a comprehensive charging infrastructure. With our new brand EQ, we are launching our electric product offensive: by 2025, our portfolio will include more than ten fully electric passenger cars. Together with our partners, we are now installing the highest-powered charging infrastructure in Europe,” says Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
"The availability of high-power stations allows long-distance e-mobility for the first time and will convince more and more customers to opt for an electric vehicle.”
Ford Motor Company
“A reliable, ultra-fast charging infrastructure is important for mass consumer adoption and has the potential to transform the possibilities for electric driving,” says Mark Fields, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company.
“Ford is committed to developing vehicles and technologies that make people’s lives better, and this charging network will make it easier and more practical for customers across Europe to own electrified vehicles.”
“We intend to create a network that allows our customers on long-distance trips to use a coffee break for recharging,” says Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG.
“Reliable fast charging services are a key factor for drivers to choose an electric vehicle. With this cooperation we want to boost a broader market adoption of e-mobility and speed up the shift towards emission-free driving.”
“There are two decisive aspects for us: ultra-fast charging and placing the charging stations at the right positions,” says Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG.
“Together, these two factors enable us to travel in an all-electrically powered car as in a conventional combustion engine vehicle. As automobile manufacturer, we actively shape our future, not only by developing all-electrically powered vehicles but by building up the necessary infrastructure as well.”