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Why a Mercedes-Benz charging network is necessary now

You will most likely make an appointment at a specialised service centre when your Rolex is due for maintenance. Similarly, you wouldn’t take your Louboutins to the local shoe-shiner to get the red soles fixed. If you own a high-end electric vehicle, why should you be restricted to using a low-end charging infrastructure?

Mercedes-Benz is banking on the fact that its affluent clients would want to lavish the same level of refinement on their electric luxury vehicles. Mercedes announced the development of a proprietary charging network for its expanding line of EVs at CES 2023 in Las Vegas last week. By 2030, the entire Mercedes product line will be electric.

The initial $1 billion investment will be divided with Mn8 Energy to fund the construction of 400+ charging locations across North America, with plans to expand to 2,000 locations worldwide by2020, with a total of 10,000 chargers.

To put it in perspective, Tesla’s existing Supercharger network is almost a quarter that size.

For more information on why Mercedes is entering the EV charging market and how it plans to implement its strategy, TechCrunch chatted with Magnus stberg, chief software officer, and Markus Schäfer, chief technology officer.

According to Schäfer, “you can do the arithmetic” and estimate a final cost of a couple billion dollars for the network’s construction from the first investment’s scope.

We think it’s completely valuable,” he stated in an interview at CES 2023. “If you’re a driver of an electric vehicle, you already know the sort of experience you have, especially during the holidays and while on the road. That’s not how Mercedes acts.

However, according to Schäfer, this is just another large expenditure the corporation is willing to make in order to dominate the EV market.

‘We speak about tens of billions in cost of modernising the firm,’ he added. However, “dealing with the raw material supply chain, cell production, or charging” was not our first focus.

In any case, Mercedes had to do these things, including forming partnerships with Rock Tech Lithium and others to secure a steady supply of raw materials and pledging to construct eight battery production units throughout the world.

Since no one else has developed a satisfactory charging infrastructure, Mercedes is focusing on this issue at the present.

We expected that somebody else, like the energy firms that operate gas stations now, would handle it. That did not occur. Schäfer bewailed that it had not occurred.

Investing the billions required to construct an EV charging network is only one part of the puzzle, albeit a crucial one, in order to realise such a lofty goal. The location of these chargers and their upkeep are also crucial pieces of the electric vehicle charging network puzzle.

Chief Software Officer stberg and Chief Technology Officer Schäfer have both said that dealers would have a say in this matter. However, customer density and use patterns will be the primary considerations.

Schäfer stated, “We know their travel tastes, and that is exactly what we will use to choose the ideal location.”

Inference: this will not be a charging network meant to fill in where others have failed. Instead, it will serve as a pricier option in urban centres that are already well-served by Electrify America, Tesla’s Supercharger network, and others.

Each area will be handpicked to provide a “luxury Mercedes experience,” as stberg put it, and no signs will be placed in a “scary position.”

Each facility will have ample lighting and security systems, and a close proximity to nutritious meals will be a top emphasis. Mercedes has promised to make financial investments—including the purchase or lease of land—to assure the quality of each site.

Mercedes-Benz is taking measures to assure up-time, the misery of many an EV road trip, by installing high-speed, 350 kW chargers that can be upgraded even further.

The chargers and the infrastructure to track them will be supplied by ChargePoint. According to Schäfer, Mercedes and its partner Mn8 will make sure local spare parts are easily accessible, along with on-call specialists to instal them. However, it will be ChargePoint’s responsibility to maintain the software side of things running smoothly. That’s certainly cause for alarm. It’s generally the software’s issue when chargers stop working. In 2022, a survey of 657 charging stations in the Bay Area revealed that 22.7% were inoperable as a result of different technology problems like as unresponsive touchscreens. Broken connectors or other obviously defective hardware affected just 0.9% of the chargers.

The provision of this service is the ultimate touch of luxury. While anybody with an electric vehicle may use these stations, Mercedes-Benz owners get the added perk of a reservation system for the charges. Current MBUX navigation already recommends charging stations en route and preconditions the battery when the vehicle gets closer to one. Mercedes-Benz vehicles have the ability to reserve a charging position while using a Mercedes-owned charger.

According to Schäfer, “if you’re in a traffic jam and, you know, you can’t make it to this time,” the system will automatically adjust your reservation to reflect your new estimated arrival time. However, this is only possible with the Mercedes’ built-in navigation system, and not with Apple Maps or Google Maps. According to Schäfer, “the concept is also the key to maintain them in our ecosystem.”

While Schäfer acknowledges that the first $1 billion spent on the network’s debut is just the beginning of the investment, he is certain that the firm will ultimately turn a profit. Absolutely.”

Schäfer has predicted that the business would turn a profit in the future, using Ionity as an example of how things might go well.

“This network’s value has skyrocketed,” he said. That means it was money well spent, right? Here, we believe the same thing is possible.