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Mercedes-Benz Is Rapidly Expanding Tesla-Fighting Charging Network

Mercedes-Benz charging station
  • Automaker is “all-in” on EVs and its billion-dollar high-power charging network.
  • Company believes EVs “are not political” and that consumer demand is there.
  • But Mercedes-Benz High-Power Charging executives push for continued government support.

Less than three months after opening its first Mercedes-Benz branded EV charging station in the U.S., the automaker’s captive charging company has eight locations up and running — the first of 400 stations it is committed to building across the U.S. and Canada by 2030.

The automaker is fully committed to the billion-dollar program because decent public charging stations promote ownership of EVs like the Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV, and “the next 150 years at Mercedes are electric,” said Andrew Cornelia, Mercedes-Benz High-Power Charging’s president and chief executive.

As part of its drive, Cornelia said he and his executive team have begun to meet with policymakers at the national, state and local levels to continue providing financial and other incentives for EV charging station construction. 

With a looming presidential election that could dramatically change the federal government’s currently favorable view of vehicle electrification, Cornelia said Mercedes-Benz is playing a long game and looking at building consumer acceptance, not playing politics, to promote EVs.

Acceptance is there

Media reports that EV sales slowed in 2023 are misleading, Cornelia said. The rate of sales growth was slower, but sales are still increasing, he said.

Mercedes-Benz’s EV sales for the year outpaced sales growth for the company’s internal combustion models; EV sales nationally were up 50% year-over-year; and the best-selling electric car in the U.S. in 2023 was the Tesla Model Y, Cornelia noted.

But half of all potential EV buyers still shy away from purchasing because of concerns about the availability, reliability and ease of use of public fast-charging networks, he said during a round-table discussion with reporters.

Problems to overcome

Fast-charging stations are critical to consumer acceptance of electric vehicles because they allow EV owners to drive longer distances and, in many cases, provide the fastest charging opportunities for apartment and condominium dwellers who don’t have access to home chargers. 

But consumers don’t want to have to sit in their cars while charging, endure long waits to get a charger, or arrive at a station with a nearly empty battery only to find that the chargers aren’t working — all problems EV drivers currently experience.

 “We are talking to the [Biden] administration about how to build” the best networks possible, Cornelia said.

EV proponents see the need for continued government assistance in terms of financial incentives and policy changes to remove roadblocks to obtaining permits for the construction of public EV charging stations. Also needed is a level field in terms of utility company rates — which sometimes make it financially impossible to place a charging station where one is needed, Cornelia said.

The Mercedes answer

For its part, the automaker is developing its own Mercedes-Benz High-Power Charging network of EV stations with covered charging spots, ultra-fast 400-kilowatt chargers, waiting rooms, and snack and beverage service.

It has committed to at least 400 locations with 2,500 chargers for the U.S. and Canada and hopes to go beyond that. The stations are open to all, but Mercedes EVs get preferences such as the ability to reserve charging spots and to use an automated “plug-and-pay” system.

The first eight Mercedes stations are in Georgia, Texas (three locations), Mississippi, Kentucky, Missouri and Colorado.

Separately, Mercedes-Benz is part of a consortium of seven car companies that have formed a joint venture — Ionna — to build hundreds of fast-charge stations with more than 30,000 chargers in the U.S. and Canada.

How many chargers are needed?

At the time of publication, there are around 40,000 fast chargers nationwide, including almost 25,000 in the Tesla network that is only now beginning to open up to other automakers’ EVs.

The Mercedes-Benz High-Power Charging network would boost the total by only about 5% and the Ionna network would bring a 75% increase, for a new total of around 75,000 fast chargers across the U.S.

That’s well short of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s finding that at least 180,000 fast chargers are needed by 2030 to properly serve the anticipated volume of EVs.

Edmunds says

EVs won’t be mainstream until drivers know that there’s a reliable — and plentiful — supply of fast-charging stations to make worry-free travel possible. Tesla decided early on that waiting for someone else to build a network of chargers wouldn’t cut it and built its own. Mercedes-Benz has the right idea by following suit and improving the charging experience. Other automakers should take note.