PHOENIX — As the charging infrastructure landscape in the United States continues to underwhelm many users, Hyundai may have a solution.
A senior U.S. executive with the automaker says it is exploring establishing its own charging network.
“We actually have branded examples of EV stations in Korea, and is that something we may perhaps want to consider for America?” Olabisi Boyle, vice president-product planning and mobility strategy for Hyundai Motor North America, tells a small group of analysts and media here during a recent Hyundai Ioniq 6 drive event.
She says the network would be similar to the one Mercedes-Benz is going to establish, in that it would be in partnership with other companies, not wholly owned and operated. In the case of Mercedes, it is partnered on the U.S. portion of its forthcoming network with ChargePoint on equipment and with MN8 Energy on renewable energy.
Hyundai two years ago opened a fast-charging station in Seoul, in a converted gas station, in partnership with SK Networks. The station, in the Gangdong district of Seoul, has a café and lifestyle store for drivers to patronize while their vehicle charges. The automaker also in 2021 announced proprietary stations, called E-Pit, for the Korean market. The name is a reference to pit stops made while racing.
Of course, the most famous example of an automaker having its own charging network is Tesla, whose Superchargers are seen as the gold standard for an efficient DC fast-charging experience, in the U.S. and the world. Tesla owns and operates roughly 40,000 Supercharger stations globally.
Tesla also has slower 240V Level 2 Destination chargers in locations such as hotels, shopping centers and restaurants.
Not only are Tesla chargers lauded for their abundance, but users say they are quicker, more reliable and less of hassle to operate than stations from other charging networks. As more BEVs get into market from legacy automakers, and drivers are using chargers from networks such as Electrify America and EVgo, reports have proliferated on social media of confusing, inoperable and slower-than-expected fast chargers.
To improve U.S. charging infrastructure, Boyle says Hyundai, just launching the Ioniq 6 all-electric sedan in the U.S. and retailing for a year now the Ioniq 5 CUV, also is toying with the idea of asking dealers to locate chargers on their properties.
“With our dealers, they have land or property that they're not using (on which) they would set up infrastructure, for either hydrogen (refueling) or EVs, and can we maybe partner perhaps with a large national oil company that already has gas stations, maybe bring them together with our dealers to see if there’s an opportunity there?”
She says the dealership stations could be open to the public or only Hyundai customers.
Again, this setup is not unprecedented as many brands’ franchised dealers in the U.S. have chargers, although typically Level 2 or older DC fast-chargers (installed about a decade ago and outputting 50 kW or less) and restricted to the public.
Ford last year asked its dealers to get on board with a plan to install ultra-fast DC chargers, with at least one designated for external use by the public. Ford said at the time that 1,659 dealers in the U.S. would install two DC fast chargers and one Level 2 charger, with another 261 opting to install one charger, meaning two-thirds of its dealers would have on-site charging.
However, Automotive News recently reported 29 dealers had dropped out of the program bringing the chargers to dealerships, dubbed Model e. The program also includes requirements on how many EVs dealers must sell. Some Ford dealers have bristled at program requirements. Ford already has made some concessions, such as not requiring chargers be accessible 24 hours a day.