Tesla’s Innovation Draws Friendly Fire From Abroad
German parts conglomerate Robert Bosch and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler (DDAIF.PK) have both raised concerns over the expansion of Tesla Motors’ supercharger network in Germany, which provides complimentary charges for Tesla vehicles exclusively.
“The future [of an electric charging infrastructure] lies in standardization,” Thomas Weber, Daimler’s research and development chief, told Automotive News Europe sister publication Automobilwoche. ”As with gas stations, we need a charging system for all manufacturers, not least because it reduces the cost of the infrastructure, but it is also more convenient for customers,” he added.
Tesla partnered with German train operator Deutsche Bahn back in January to bring four supercharging stations online along a corridor from Cologne to Munich. The system allows Tesla owners to give a quick charge in about 30 minutes, far faster than conventional household outlets are able to manage. However, Europe’s lack of a charging infrastructure has created quite a barrier to widespread EV adoption, and is a large current working against Tesla’s plans to expand in the region.
On one hand, Bosch and Daimler have a very valid point. Part of why cars are so prevelant and so ingrained in societies around the world is because they are able to conform to a standardized refueling method, which allows drivers to literally drive anywhere without fear that they’ll become stranded. Range anxiety is perhaps the biggest drawback for consumers when comparing EVs to gasoline-powered cars. It’s also true that a standardized charging formula would help bolster the industry as a whole, benefiting every EV from Tesla’s Model S to Nissan’s Leaf.
However, on the other hand, it’s quite apparent that Bosch and Daimler — the latter of which has a minor stake in Tesla — haven’t exactly been working towards improving access to charging stations on their own. In fact, worldwide, Tesla has been blazing its trail on its own to encourage greater EV adoption. So while the two German firms criticize its proprietary system implementation, they can’t say that they’ve been out in the field working as hard as Tesla to ensure EV drivers have adequate access to charging facilities.
Further, Tesla’s supercharger network is a key portion of its model. Tesla’s mission is to advance the capabilities of the electric vehicle, yes, but at the end of the day, Tesla is a business, and as a business, it needs to make a profit. Building up a network of universally compatible charging systems might be a noble endeavor, but it’s not in Tesla’s best interests.
Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner told Automobilewoche that it wouldn’t make economic sense if every carmaker pursued its own charging system, adding that, “The technology exists for a Europe-wide charging network, we just need to want to implement it.”
Except — they haven’t. No one has taken such an initiative before, which is why Tesla is doing it now. Nissan, which produces the world’s most popular electric car, the Leaf, hasn’t even brought it on itself to encourage greater adoption of the technology, and Nissan is considerably larger and boasts an exponentially greater global presence than Tesla.
Last year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that, “He’s not against working with other automakers to make their EVs compatible,” Autoblog reported. “The batteries need to be built with Supercharging in mind, he said, and Tesla needed to ‘solve the problem of long-distance travel and we can’t wait for others to agree with our strategy. If we wait for some sort of consensus, it’s going to take too long. We just need to get going and other manufacturers can either copy us or join us.’”