BMW, Mercedes to Set Up Joint EV Charging Network in China

At Least 1,000 Fast-Charging Stations Planned for China by 2026
EV charging
An electric charging plug sits connected to a BMW automobile inside a Bayerische Motoren Werke AG showroom in Frankfurt, Germany. (Peter Juelich/Bloomberg News)

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BMW AG and Mercedes-Benz Group AG will cooperate on a fast-charging network for EVs in China with a plan to open at least 1,000 stations by 2026, a move that will still leave the two luxury car makers trailing Tesla Inc.

First sites will open next year in regions with a high electric vehicle uptake via a joint venture between the Chinese subsidiaries of both German carmakers, BMW said Nov. 30. The move is catching up to Tesla’s more than 1,600 existing charging locations in China.

BMW and Mercedes, which already work with others on the Ionity fast-charging rollout in Europe, plan to open up its chargers in China to a broad range of EV brands. Some services like online reservations will be exclusive to its customers.

China is leading the global transition to electric cars, pushed by the swift rollout of an infrastructure that now counts 715,000 ultra-fast connectors, according to data compiled by BloombergNEF, almost 12 times the number of high-speed chargers available in Europe.

The country is the most important single market for BMW and Mercedes, which are trying to defend sales against local manufacturers. Although BMW’s deliveries in China declined in the third quarter, the company sees itself unaffected by an EV price war there. Mercedes in October warned about “brutal” price competition and reported a drop in third-quarter margins.

Both automakers also are still bracing for the possibility that trade terms with China could worsen after the European Commission started a probe into Beijing’s support for its EV industry.

While China has extended tax breaks to lift sales of EVs, some homegrown manufacturers like Nio Inc. are doubling down to reduce costs and jobs as they continue to post losses.

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