General Motors is finally getting into the electric vehicle charging station business. Well, at least indirectly.
- General Motors is partnering with Bechtel to build a network of electric vehicle charging stations across the US.
- GM will leverage On-Star data to determine optimum locations for the chargers.
- While this is a promising step for GM in expanding its commitment to EVs, the General is not putting up its own money to fund the project.
In the deal, GM would provide data to the newly formed corporation as to where stations should be built to be most conveniently located. Importantly, the stations won’t be relegated to the sides of freeways and highways, as many are now. GM and Bechtel are keen to build some in urban environments, too, so that apartment and condo dwellers can easily access EV charging, too.
Bechtel will add weight to the deal as well. To match GM’s driver data input, Bechtel will lend its engineering, construction, and — not insignificantly — it’s permitting knowhow.
Where will all of GM’s strategic data come from? It’s On-Star system, of course, which gathers anonymous data from all new GM vehicles and pipes it back to the mothership. Don’t sweat Big Brother here — GM’s data collection is opt-in. So, it’s not spying on you unless you allow it.
Anyway, it will use data on how and where both its electric and internal combustion engine vehicles drive and refuel or recharge. This will inform where the fledgling brand will install its charging stations.
“The way we think about it, we want to put chargers where they’re going to have the greatest influence on EV adoption wherever that may be,” Mike Ableson, GM’s vice president of EV infrastructure and charging, told CNN. “I believe a lot of those are actually going to be in urban areas … Our hypothesis around fast charging is that people charge where their cars [are] already spending time.”
There is one twist to this story, however. Neither GM nor Bechtel will be funding this company. Rather, the two are fielding investments from outside companies. Of course, neither brand was willing to reveal who these early investors might be. Since the chargers will be accessible to more than just GM EVs, it stands to reason that other carmakers might want to buy in.
Frankly, it’s that last bit that really rubs me the wrong way about this plan. I mean, VW launched Electrify America, which is growing its EV charging infrastructure ahead of its EV onslaught in the coming years. Granted, the formation of Electrify America was a part of VW’s Dieselgate settlement with the U.S. government. Still, it is investing its own money to support both its customers as well as those of other brands, which will be able to pay to use the chargers, too.
So, why can’t GM spend money to grow the EV charging infrastructure in the U.S.? It brags its future has three pillars, one of which is zero emissions. And if it plans to sell 20 electrified vehicles (including e-bicycles — not just cars) by 2023, why can’t it pay to support their charging?
Perhaps I’m being overly callous. But I see it as having your cake and eating, too. You can’t claim your future is electric, and sell a ton of EVs, and then not fund the infrastructure that supports their operation — especially when you turn around and ask others to throw in on the deal.