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Electric cars are the future, and a new joint venture between major carmakers will attempt to make it easier to get around Europe using them. The plan is for a network of chargers with up to 350 kW charging capacity, which could drastically reduce overall charging times compared to what’s available today. The team-up includes BMW, Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen, and the roll-out of the fast-charging stations are due to start in 2017. Four hundred sites in Europe have been initially identified, and thousands of charge points could be in place by 2020 – around the time when participating car makers will be producing more electric vehicles (EVs).

Electric Car Charging 101

At the moment, most electric car charging is done at home – around 95% of it in fact. The most common way is to simply plug the vehicle into a standard electrical output, but his is very slow; you will probably only get 4 miles of driving range in one hour. Charging faster requires home electric vehicle service equipment (or EVSE), which consist of any device that can bring AC power to your car and allow it to be stored in the battery. EVSEs on the market can charge between 11 and 29 miles per hour, but they are relatively expensive and use a lot of your home energy budget.

And of course, you’re not always going to be at home – so it’s important to be able to charge your vehicle when you’re out and about. Some public charging stations are free, some are not, and some charge much faster than others. Also, different electric cars need different types of charging ports! There are various networks of charging stations out there already, and their rates vary from free to session/monthly/yearly flat rates to per-kWh rates to hourly rates. Also, some types of chargers are a lot faster than other types, ranging from 75 to 170 miles in 30 minutes.

Ford’s EV Line

Ford has recently announced plans to add 13 electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in hybrids to its product line by 2020. Currently, it has two hybrids, the Ford Fusion and the C-Max; two plug-in hybrids, the C-Max Energi and the Fusion Energi; and one EV, the Focus Electric. Their prices range from $26,000 to $35,000, and this past fall the range of the Ford Focus EV was bumped up from 76 to 100 miles. The company plans to push this to 200 miles by 2019 if possible, because consumers much prefer an EV that can reach 200 miles on a charge.

Other companies are also racing to stay competitive. The Chevrolet Bolt, the Tesla Model 3 and the Nissan Leaf are all expected to ship before Ford releases its long-range vehicle, so it’s working hard not to be left in the dust. At the same time, plug-in hybrids are improving and getting cheaper; many can now reach 50 miles or more on a single battery charge before the gasoline engine kicks in. Customers prefer the gasoline engine as a backup for when the battery fails, but with the increasing proliferation of charging stations, that might well change in the not too distant future.

EV Demand Worldwide

In fact, EV demand is rising sharply worldwide. Electric vehicles are going to be 35% of global car sales by 2040, according to new research by Bloomberg Energy Finance. The decreasing cost of batteries means that the total cost of ownership of EVs will fall below that of conventional-fuel vehicles by 2025, even with low fuel prices. The study forecasts that sales of electric vehicles will hit 41 million by 2040, 90 times the equivalent figure for 2015, when EV sales were around 462,000 (around 60% up on 2014).

The electric vehicle market is currently heavily dependent on ‘early adopters’ who are keen to try out new technology or reduce their emissions, and on government incentives offered by various countries. In the 2020s, the cost comparison and therefore the prevalence of EVs is slated to change dramatically, which makes right now a perfect time for Ford to invest in charging stations. The electric vehicle revolution is coming, and companies like Ford are eager to ensure that they take full advantage of the situation.

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