By Paul Lienert
DETROIT (Reuters) - German automakers BMW and Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE> are joining with ChargePoint to build a U.S. network of fast-charging stations for electric cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the companies said Thursday.
The companies plan to install nearly 100 ChargePoint ports on the U.S. East and West Coasts by the end of 2015 as part of an effort to promote greater sales of EVs such as the BMW i3 and the VW e-Golf.
ChargePoint operates one of the leading EV charging networks, with more than 20,000 charging ports in North America.
Tom Gage, chairman of EV Grid and an expert in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, said BMW and VW were among the largest vehicle manufacturers to help fund development of the U.S. charging network.
"Most people will rarely use it, but knowing it is there seems to remove a big purchase barrier" for electric vehicles, said Gage. Many EVs have relatively short driving ranges of less than 100 miles between charges.
The BMW/VW endeavor follows the establishment by California-based electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc of an extensive network of fast-charging stations for its battery-powered Model S sedan.
Tesla's Supercharger network, where Model S owners can quickly recharge their cars for free, now has nearly 2,000 ports at more than 350 stations around the world, including 160 in the United States and Canada. The Supercharger port uses a proprietary design that only works with Tesla cars.
The ChargePoint network offers several kinds of ports that will accept SAE Combo connectors - an industry standard type used on the i3 and the e-Golf - as well as the CHAdeMO connector used on the Nissan Leaf. The stations will also have Level 2 chargers, which can recharge most EVs at a much slower rate.
BMW and VW said the ChargePoint DC Fast ports will be able to recharge an i3 or an e-Golf up to 80 percent in 20 to 30 minutes.
To access the ChargePoint network, owners need a special card or a ChargePoint smartphone app. BMW and VW owners are automatically enrolled.
VW and BMW are making equal investments in the ChargePoint venture, but the automakers declined to disclose financial details.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit, editing by G Crosse)