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Is Ford's Charging Network a Headache for Tesla?

Sejuti Banerjea

Tesla TSLA easily has the largest charging network out there with its 4,375 public charging stations and around 15,000 plugs. About a third of these enable fast charging and with upcoming new technology, it will be able to pump 75 miles (250KW) of power in about five minutes. Because Tesla mans and manages its own charging stations, which are only available to Tesla owners, this has always been a key differentiator, other than its beautiful designs.

But Ford F has other plans. According to Ford spokesperson Emma Bergg, “We’re taking away all that hassle factor… That’s what we’re doing for our whole electrification plan: a seamless experience, so that jumping from internal combustion engines is not such a big deal.”

To make this a reality, the company laid out plans for its charging station network, before the 2020 launch of its first Mustang-style SUV that was from the get-go, designed to be an electric car.

And it’s not doing it alone. Electrify America will help it build the charging stations and also supply DC fast chargers. Shell Group's Greenlots will create a platform for independent charging providers to connect with buyers that Ford users can access through their FordPass apps. General Motors GM, which is building a large network of public chargers with its construction partner Bechtel could even join this network later.

Ford expects this network to have more than 12,000 charging locations with more than 35,000 plugs, or more than double Tesla’s footprint. Of course, since these are independent providers, the stations will be open to all and not just Ford users.

But Ford users have an advantage in that they can go check their apps or dashboard for the closest station and make an in-app purchase rather than subscribing to the individual networks. And then, they can add 47 miles in 10 minutes, or get up to an 80% charge of their batteries in about 40 minutes. This isn’t as good as Tesla, but it’s worth noting that the market continues to evolve.   

Further, since most people actually charge their batteries at home, Ford said it is working with Amazon Home Services to install at-home chargers for Ford users.

How It Affects Tesla

Since fuel is what drives vehicles and since electric cars can only go so far on a single charge, the availability of charging stations becomes very important. Tesla is ahead of the pack here, since its EVs do more than 300 miles, with the Model S doing significantly higher. No other manufacturer has that range yet, so these other cars need relatively more frequent charging.    

The network approach sounds like a really good idea, especially if traditional automakers (competitors) agree to collaborate on charging stations. The number of EVs on the roads is increasing, so with easier charging available, competition is set to increase rapidly for Tesla. But it also means that it could lead to more mass-market appeal with positive kickbacks for Tesla, which is already seeing more demand than it can handle.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the cost per gallon to charge an EV at around $1.21, less than half the cost of a gallon of gas, which is estimated to be $2.65. This can further increase EV appeal.

So is this good news or bad news for Tesla? The answer is, it’s too soon to tell.


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