As part of a settlement with the federal government over its diesel emissions scandal, Volkswagen will help electrify the United States of America by building charging stations and investing $2 billion in electric transportation over the next decade.
And you thought the company would get off with a slap on the wrist.
The federal government saw an opportunity to turn the scandal into something positive and ordered VW to contribute to the next generation of transportation. This could be exactly the kind of jumpstart that electric cars need, because it could conceivably allow EVs to embark on cross-country road trips without fear of running out of electrons somewhere in the middle of Wyoming.
Not that Wyoming will get a lot of attention in the project. California, not surprisingly, will benefit from some pretty major investment. The Golden State currently has more EV drivers than any other, which explains the high concentration of investment there.
In response to the court order, Volkswagen created a subsidiary called Electrify America, which will make four $500 million investments separated by 30-month periods over the next 10 years.
The first set of investments involve Volkswagen spending $120 million on California’s charging infrastructure, with an additional $250 million set aside for 39 other states. Of the total, $255 million will be used to construct roughly 300 fast-charging locations along interstate and regional highways. The stations are anticipated to include five chargers each, but higher-volume areas could see stations with as many as ten.
The new network stands to dramatically expand the long-distance driving utility of current and future all-electric vehicles. With power rates of up to 320 kilowatts, the network would rival, and in some ways exceed, today’s Tesla DC Supercharger network.
In any case, the charge rate anticipating future EVs is very high – the Chevy Bolt EV, for example, is for now limited to a nominal 50 kW DC fast charge rate. What this means is that expected future EVs could be recharged quick enough to make switching from fast-fueling internal combustion vehicles far less of a concern.
Even better, the stations will be placed between 66 and 120 miles apart, making them accessible to the vast majority of EVs that are on the market or coming in the next couple of years.
Here’s the rub, though: Government can require Volkswagen to build these charging stations, but it can’t require citizens to buy cars that need them.
Since EVs still represent a tiny portion of market share, should the government insist on building a nationwide system of charging stations?