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By Christoph Steitz
DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Europe's top carmaker Volkswagen and oil major BP plan to deepen their electric charging partnership and could expand it to other regions and technologies, their CEOs said on Thursday.
The comments reflect increasing efforts by carmakers and energy companies, including utilities and oil firms, to expand charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and tackle the issue of range anxiety - or concern about adequate energy storage - that's still weighing on demand.
To tackle the problem, both groups plan to jointly install 8,000 fast-charging spots across Europe by 2024 for battery-powered vehicles in a deal that will see BP putting up mobile chargers produced by VW at its network of petrol stations.
The mobile fast-chargers will have a capacity of around 150 kilowatts (kW), which can deliver a meaningful charge for a range of around 160 kilometres (100 miles) in just over 10 minutes, making it comparable with the time it takes to refuel.
"There are so many more areas where we are complementary," Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Duesseldorf, unveiling the first electric vehicle charging stations of their joint cooperation.
"BP has a very strong network in many places of the world. So it means what we do here we can do in other places as well," Diess said, adding BP could also be a strong partner in the area of electric truck charging.
The network will be open to other brands, BP CEO Bernard Looney said, a key differentiator to Tesla's network of superchargers, which has started to open up to rivals but still remains only accessible to Tesla drivers in numerous markets.
"Five hundred and fifty million people live within 20 minutes of a BP site," Looney said, adding this provided the scale needed to roll out electric chargers on a bigger level.
"The thing that I love about partnerships: we can do coolants together, we can do energy together, electrification, hydrogen ... all these things," he said. "We will do things in 3-4 years together that we didn't even imagine existed today."
Volkswagen also has European charging cooperations with Italy's Enel and Spain's Iberdrola, with Diess saying there would soon be an update on the latter alliance.
(Reporting by Christoph Steitz, Editing by Miranda Murray and Susan Fenton)