Electricity Brings BMW & VW Together

A friend and I were having lunch and the subject of gears—yes, gears as in those often-cylindrical objects with cut or otherwise formed teeth—came up.

A friend and I were having lunch and the subject of gears—yes, gears as in those often-cylindrical objects with cut or otherwise formed teeth—came up. She suggested that as more OEMs start offering nine- or more-speed transmissions, the number of gears will undoubtedly increase.

“But,” I countered, “as electric vehicle sales rise, there will be a decrease in the number of gears necessary in a vehicle.”

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Yes, that’s a BMW i3 and a VW e-Golf side-by-side

She made a sound that can be charitably described as a “guffaw,” and then said, with incredulity leavened with contempt (after all, we are in the Motor City, which probably would be better named “Engine City”), “Electric cars. Who’s going to buy them? Have you seen the price of gas?”

That may be common thinking. But the day before that conversation occurred, BMW of North America and Volkswagen of America, two German-based companies that do nothing but compete (OK, maybe it is more precise to say that BMW of North America and Audi of America are the competitors, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Audi is part of the Volkswagen Group), announced that they are working together, along with ChargePoint, an electric vehicle charging network, to grow the number of fast changing stations on both the East and West Coasts, then work to install them across the country.

The plan is to have these charging stations a maximum of 50 miles apart so that one could conceivably drive from San Diego to Portland knowing that there are places to get electricity along the way. A given station would have up to two 50-kW DC fast chargers.

A BMW i3 or a VW e-Golf can charge up to 80% in 20 minutes.

Or a station might have 24-kW DC Combo Fast chargers with the SAE Combo connector, which is a common type of interface for various vehicles. In the case of the BMW and VW, that permits 80% of charge in 30 minutes.

There intending on having 100 fast-charge stations installed by the end of the year.

While that is certainly a small number vis-à-vis gas stations, ChargePoint has a network of more than 20,000 places to plug in, although most are Level 2 stations, not fast-charge, which means generally 25 miles of range for an hour plugged in.

Still, my friend notwithstanding, the fact that companies like BMW and VW are getting together to build out electric infrastructure indicates that there will be continued growth of electric vehicles. Cheap gas and gears notwithstanding.