Seven Major Automakers Launch ‘Ionna’ Charging Network to Compete with Tesla

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Seven Major Automakers Launch 'Ionna' Charging Network to Compete with Tesla

In a significant move to enhance America’s EV charging infrastructure, seven leading car manufacturers announced a joint venture last summer. This collaboration has now materialized into a fast-charging network named Ionna, which has recently gained regulatory approval and begun operations. At the helm as CEO is Seth Cutler, who brings extensive experience from his previous positions at EV Connect and Electrify America. Ionna is set to debut its first charging stations in the U.S. in 2024, with plans to expand into Canada shortly thereafter.

In an ambitious move to tackle EV charging concerns, BMW, Honda, General Motors, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis have joined forces. Their collaboration aims to ease the charging anxieties that prevent many consumers from embracing electric vehicles, thereby boosting their own car sales in the process.

In July, these automakers unveiled plans to install over 30,000 high-powered charging points across North America, aiming to surpass the extensive reach of Tesla’s Supercharger network. This initiative is a breath of fresh air for the EV sector, especially given the current state of America’s charging infrastructure, which is plagued by a shortage of public chargers and reliability issues. While Tesla’s Superchargers have set a high standard for user experience and convenience, they were previously inaccessible to non-Tesla vehicles.

The disparity between the current infrastructure and the burgeoning demand for EV charging is stark. According to the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the country will require 182,000 publicly available fast-charging plugs by 2030 to accommodate the influx of electric vehicles—nearly 140,000 more than what’s available today. With the majority of EV charging currently happening at home, enhancing public charging access is critical for attracting buyers without home charging capabilities.

Historically, car manufacturers have leaned on third-party providers to meet their EV charging needs, a strategy that contrasts with Tesla’s approach of developing a proprietary network since 2012. Recently, however, there’s been a significant shift as more automakers actively invest in and form partnerships within the charging sector. Mercedes-Benz, for example, is rolling out its own “charging hubs” complete with lounges, while General Motors collaborates with EVgo and Pilot Travel Centers to expand highway charging options.

The upcoming launch of the Ionna network and the automotive industry’s alignment with Tesla’s North American Charging Standard (NACS) signal a major transformation in EV charging infrastructure set for 2024 and beyond. Last year marked a pivotal moment as numerous leading car companies adopted Tesla’s NACS for future models, a departure from their previous standards.

This collaboration opens Tesla’s extensive charging network to a broader range of vehicles, initially requiring adapters for non-Tesla EVs. Eventually, manufacturers like Ford, GM, and Toyota will introduce vehicles directly equipped with the NACS port, further integrating the charging ecosystems.

Moreover, the federal government’s investment in EV infrastructure, part of President Joe Biden’s initiatives, is beginning to influence the charging landscape, albeit slowly. Despite the slow start, with only a handful of federally funded fast-charging stations operational, heightened activity and development are anticipated in 2024, promising to enhance public EV charging availability significantly.

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