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Volkswagen powers up the grid to take on Tesla

  • VW’s EV infrastructure chief has energy business background
  • VW betting on speedy growth of fast-charging community
  • VW taking part in catch-up with U.S. EV pioneer Tesla

FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) plans to double workers numbers at its charging and power division, roll out new fee expertise subsequent yr and strike extra alliances to take on Tesla (TSLA.O) in a key electrical car (EV) battleground: energy infrastructure.

By guaranteeing there are sufficient fast-charging plugs – and sufficient energy – for the EVs it needs to promote, Europe’s largest carmaker hopes to persuade drivers anxious about battery ranges that they’ll ditch their fossil gas vehicles for good.

Underlining its electrical ambition, Volkswagen has drafted in energy business veteran Elke Temme, who spent practically twenty years at German power firms RWE (RWEG.DE) and Innogy, to assist the carmaker get in higher form to take on Tesla.

In the job since January, Temme, 53, has been tasked with bundling the carmaker’s numerous energy actions akin to procuring power, enabling clients to cost their vehicles at residence, and on the highway, and promoting the electrical energy required.

Getting this performed would require a much bigger workforce and Temme plans to double the workers at Volkswagen’s European charging and power division, generally known as Elli, to about 300 in 2022, having already tripled it this yr, she informed Reuters in an interview.

“We’re investing in huge growth areas that don’t always have to be profitable right away. We always see these investments in the overall context of our group strategy,” she mentioned. “That’s why building up a comprehensive infrastructure is key.”

Temme declined to specify the funds she has been given however mentioned Volkswagen, led by Tesla admirer Herbert Diess, has permitted the funding requests for the division, which additionally sells residence battery storage techniques comparable to Tesla’s Powerwall.

Volkswagen leads the pack worldwide by far with its funding plans for EVs and batteries by 2030, in accordance to a Reuters analysis, and it’s planning to spend 35 billion euros on battery EVs by 2025.

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But when it comes to the networks of fast-chargers that many analysts consider are essential for bringing EVs into the mainstream, VW has some catching up to do.

Tesla has been rolling out high-performance Superchargers for years and has a worldwide community of about 30,000 fast-chargers that it says can provide a 200 km (125 mile) enhance in quarter-hour.

The firm mentioned in October that its personal community has doubled in the previous 18 months – and can triple over the subsequent two years.

Volkswagen, in the meantime expects its community of fast-chargers to practically quadruple to about 45,000 by 2025 – when it goals to overhaul Tesla as the world EV market chief – with 18,000 EV pumps in Europe, 17,000 in China and 10,000 in North America.

Volkswagen in March mentioned it plans to spend 400 million euros on increasing its fast-charging community on the continent by then.

But that is a drop in the ocean in contrast with the 5 billion euros the European Union reckons is required yearly till 2040 to develop charging infrastructure on the continent, and it’s elevating the strain on utilities and governments to step up.

In Europe, the Volkswagen group is a shareholder in the EU’s fast-charging enterprise Ionity, together with rival carmakers BMW (BMWG.DE), Daimler’s (DAIGn.DE) Mercedes-Benz, Ford (F.N) and Hyundai (005380.KS).

It has additionally teamed up with power companies akin to Italy’s Enel (ENEI.MI), Britain’s BP (BP.L) and Spain’s Iberdrola (IBE.MC) to plug geographical gaps and type the blueprint for the way funding for EV infrastructure may be break up throughout industries.

“Various models are conceivable, from product partnerships and joint ventures to M&A,” mentioned Temme.

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Tesla has already proven that when it comes to EVs, simply promoting vehicles not cuts it. It has adopted a mannequin that provides clients the whole lot from vehicles to battery storage to photo voltaic panels in addition to electricity in some U.S. states.

Volkswagen is now promoting energy to retail purchasers that drive an EV or plug-in hybrids. One of its tariffs – which is out there to clients who do not personal a VW – has attracted greater than 10,000 purchasers since its launch in July, Temme mentioned.

She mentioned VW was planning to make its fast-chargers out there for all EV drivers, in contrast to Tesla which has thus far stored its supercharging community only for Tesla drivers – with the exception of a pilot programme in the Netherlands. learn extra

“We are pursuing a different approach than Tesla when it comes to charging infrastructure roll-out,” mentioned Temme.

“We want an open, non-discriminatory charging network and will develop our services to make our offer more comfortable, simpler, more attractive.”

Volkswagen says its open-for-all strategy means consumers of its EVs can cost at greater than 250,000 current public charging factors throughout Europe – from numerous suppliers with numerous charging speeds.

The drawback is that charging protocols and fee strategies can range throughout distributors, probably turning the act of refueling an EV right into a time-consuming and messy enterprise.

From the first quarter of 2022, Volkswagen plans to supply “Plug & Charge” expertise in Europe to make the course of smoother.

The automobile will retailer the proprietor’s fee particulars and make a contactless fee when the charging plug is connected to the EV at refuelling stations set up for the service.

While these are new challenges for established carmakers, Temme, who witnessed first-hand the abrupt shift of Germany’s utilities away from nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe, believes they are often mastered.

“Utilities must reinvent themselves and transition from nuclear and coal to renewables. In the automotive industry, including at Volkswagen, the question is currently how to consistently shift the focus from conventional vehicles to sustainable mobility,” she mentioned.

“These challenges are of similar magnitude.”

($1 = 0.8738 euros)

Reporting by Christoph Steitz, Vera Eckert and Tom Kaeckenhoff; Editing by David Clarke

An Ionity electric vehicle charging station is pictured on the motorway service station

View of the depot tower of German carmaker Volkswagen's electric ID.3 car in Dresden, Germany, June 8, 2021. Picture taken with a fish eye lens. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel/File Photo

An employee presents the new electric Volkswagen model ID.4 during a media show in Zwickau, Germany, September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel/File Photo

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