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Why a Mercedes-Benz charging network is necessary now

You’ll probably make the time to visit a specialized service facility when it’s time to have your Rolex serviced. Similarly, you won’t let the neighborhood shoe shiner fix the red bottoms on your Louboutins. Why then should your premium EV be required to use any plebeian charging network?

Mercedes-Benz is betting that its wealthy customers will want to treat their high-end EVs with the same level of elegance. Mercedes announced the development of a customized charging network for its expanding line of EVs—all-electric vehicles that will make up the company’s complete portfolio by 2030—at CES 2023 in Las Vegas last week.

The initial $1 billion investment, split with Mn8 Energy, will build 400 or more charging stations initially across North America, with 2,000 stations eventually delivering 10,000 total chargers worldwide.

To put that into perspective, that is one-fourth the size of Tesla’s present Supercharger network, which has taken ten years to develop.

Magnus Stberg, chief software officer, and Markus Schäfer, chief technology officer, were contacted by TechCrunch for further information regarding Mercedes’ decision to enter the EV charging market as well as how it intends to carry out its strategy.

Based on the size of the initial investment, Schäfer predicted that the network’s overall construction cost will be “several billion dollars” (“you can do the math,” he remarked).

In an interview at CES 2023, he stated, “We think it’s completely beneficial.” “If you drive an electric vehicle, you are aware of the experiences you have, particularly around the holidays and when you are traveling. That also isn’t Mercedes-like.

Despite the high initial cost, Schäfer claimed it’s just another significant investment the business is willing to make in order to dominate the EV market.

We discuss tens of billions of dollars in costs for the company’s transformation, he said. The chain of distribution for raw materials, the production of cells, or initial charging were not our top priorities.

But in order to source raw materials, Mercedes had to work with Rock Tech Lithium and others, and the company committed to constructing eight battery manufacturing facilities throughout the world.

Mercedes is currently focusing on a charging network because no one else has developed a network that they are satisfied with.

“We actually believed that other organizations would handle it, including energy firms that already operate petrol stations. It didn’t take place. Schäfer lamented, “It never happened.

Of all, investing the billions of dollars required to create an EV charging network is just one component of an ambitious project’s success—albeit a crucial one. The other crucial pieces of the EV charging network puzzle are where these chargers are placed and how they are maintained.

Both CTO Schäfer and Chief Software Officer stberg stated that while dealers will have a say in this decision, client density and usage trends will be the most important variables to consider when choosing sites.

We are aware of their travel tastes, and Schäfer stated that this information will be used to choose the ideal location.

By inference, it follows that new network won’t be created to plug gaps in current charging networks. Instead, it will be a high-end option available in densely populated locations, which are undoubtedly already well-served by Electrify America, Tesla’s Supercharger network, and other services.

Each area, according to Stberg, will be chosen to offer a “luxury Mercedes experience,” making sure none is put in a “dangerous location.”

It will be important to be close to delicious cuisine, and each place will have plenty of lighting and security measures. Mercedes stated that it will make investments to make sure each location is up to par, purchasing or leasing land as necessary.

Mercedes-Benz is taking steps to ensure up-time, the misery of many an EV road trip. Chargers will be high-speed, 350 kW to start but upgradeable even beyond that.

Both the hardware chargers and the monitoring system will be provided by ChargePoint. Schäfer stated that ChargePoint will be responsible for maintaining the software side’s functionality while Mercedes and partner Mn8 will make sure spare components are easily accessible nearby and can be installed by on-call experts. That raises some red flags. The software is typically at blame when chargers malfunction. In a 2022 survey of 657 Bay Area chargers, it was discovered that 22.7% of them weren’t working because of different system issues, such as unresponsive touchscreens. Only 0.9% of the chargers had a clear hardware issue, such as a damaged connector.

Availability is the final luxury feature we’ll discuss here. Mercedes-Benz owners will have the added benefit of a charger reservation system, even though these stations will be accessible to all EVs. MBUX navigation systems of today already recommend charging stops along the route and preheat the battery when it gets close to one. The automobile will go one step further and reserve them a space when choosing a Mercedes-owned charger.

The system will be aware that you’re arriving later if you’re stuck in traffic and can’t make it to the scheduled time, Schäfer said. As a result, it will update your reservation. Naturally, this will only occur if you are utilizing the built-in Mercedes navigation system and not Apple or Google Maps. According to Schäfer, “the concept is also the key to maintain them in our ecosystem.”

The first $1 billion investment to build this network will only be the start of the investment, but Schäfer is unwavering in his belief that it will ultimately turn a profit: “It has to be a self-sustaining enterprise. Absolutely.”

According to Schäfer, the business will eventually be lucrative, and he uses Ionity as an illustration of what can go well.

“This network is now worth so much more,” he declared. Thus, it was a wise investment… The same, we believe, can be done here.

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