Mercedes Prepares To Go All-In Against Tesla

emirhankaramuk /
emirhankaramuk /

The electric car market has been red-hot in recent months. With the emergence of other brands besides Tesla, many have wondered when a luxury car manufacturer would step up and try to change the status quo. The bugs in the Tesla systems and the overall mediocre setups leave many pining for the opulence of their Porsche, Jaguar, and even Lexus.

With little hesitation, Mercedes has told people to hold their macchiato.

At the Consumer Electronics Show’s gadget show on January 5th, Mercedes unveiled the prototypes of their own charging stations. While they have been working on electric cars, being able to be independent of the Tesla charging station as well as their electric technology is a big boost for the German manufacturer.

The goal of this charging network is to have it up and running within seven years. Boasting 400 stations and 2,500 high-power plugs the project is estimated to cost $1.05 billion. Naturally, networks within Europe and China will soon follow, and they expect to have them globally by the end of the decade. Depending on the condition of the market they are also considering a move to become fully electric in that timeframe too.

Given this ambition, Mercedes is being incredibly broad with this venture. They have claimed that any vehicles will be able to charge at their stations, but Mercedes will have priority, and they will be able to reserve ports in advance. While a bold move, it also flies right in the face of Elon Musk and Tesla.

By contrast, the Tesla network is designed for Tesla users. With 40,000 ports around the world, it is mostly open to Tesla drivers, but Musk has said that he is open to expanding access to other brands. This current layout has given Tesla a huge advantage over other EV manufacturers, as other manufacturers are forcing drivers to charge at home or on a small setup of independent charging stations.

Mercedes’ lofty goal with this plan will provide each station with between four and 12 ports, and a maximum of 350 kilowatts of charging power. They aren’t acting alone on this either. Partnering with MN8 Energy, the large solar energy and battery storage operator based right here in the US is an incredibly smart decision. Their footprint makes getting set up across the US just that much easier. Adding an already electrifying company like ChargePoint to the lineup only makes things easier for the luxury manufacturer.

By addressing the concerns of many consumers about having a charging location close to them Mercedes is making sure they find ways to stay competitive in the rapidly evolving marketplace. This kind of complaint has been the root of the problem for many people who would love to own an electric vehicle but can’t feel safe owning one due to a lack of charging.

With a design that looks more like a retro fuel pump within 50’s “futuristic” designs than a Tesla charging station, the prototypes look very enticing to many Americans. While the design of a charging station is not likely to influence many consumers, the extra thought into the design is an incredible detail to keep in there.

Markus Schäfer, Mercedes’ chief technology officer has been keeping an ear pressed to the ground about making this successful. “We thought we had to go further and take the initiative here and create our branded global Mercedes-Benz network. We know where our customers are in North America, we know where we’re selling electric vehicles.”

This is an area Tesla has failed at, with many complaining that their closest charging station is too far away or in a less-than-desirable neighborhood. In places where electric vehicles have become popular like San Francisco and Dallas, having the closest charging station in a shady part of town is a horrible mistake. That might explain why Schäfer explained they will be placed in safe locations with ample lighting, and “not in the backyard somewhere of a shopping center next to a dumpster.”