IONNA Superchargers to Miss Summer Targets

Two of IONNA’s partners confirm it’s unlikely any of the consortium of seven automakers’ superchargers will be in place this summer.

Graham Jarvis

May 29, 2024

5 Min Read
Kia EV6 charging
IONNA plan would boost public charging options for brands such as Kia.

IONNA, the much-hyped consortium of seven automakers, promised to install 30,000 electric-vehicle fast superchargers with some being operational in this summer. Unfortunately, it appears that it is suffering fits and starts – caused by the seismic changes in the industry, such as the adoption of the North American Charging Standard (NACS) and Elon Musk’s most recent firing (and to a degree rehiring) of his Tesla supercharger team.

The biggest change is that IONNA is all set to adopt NACS charging in response to the flood of automakers such as Hyundai – a partner in the consortium, and Ford – moving to Tesla’s charging standard. Christoph Karkoszka, the spokesperson for IONNA, tells WardsAuto, “We believe that charging should be open to all vehicles, and so with the majority of automakers adopting NACS, we don’t think there is an alternative.” He also admitted that there won’t be any Level 2 chargers and refrained to comment any further.

Despite IONNA’s troubles, Hyundai Motor America’s Miles Johnson – senior manager, IONIQ Brand, Santa Cruz, Motorsports and Technology Public Relations – comments: “In the United States, all-new or refreshed Hyundai BEVs will come exclusively with a North American Charging Standard (NACS) port, beginning in Q4 2024. Hyundai EVs with NACS ports will gain access to more than 12,000 charging points.”

Nevertheless, with such confidence being placed on adopting a single standard, it’s no surprise that Musk’s abrupt decision to lay off his EV charging team has potentially caused a tornado – leaving even Tesla customers in the dark and automakers feeling blindsided.

Operational: End of 2024

Despite IONNA ramping up by hiring its team for a range of roles since it announced its formation in February, two of IONNA’s partners have confirmed it’s unlikely any of IONNA’s superchargers will be in place this summer. The partners include BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz and Stellantis.

With IONNA being quite cagey about its progress, all that one partner could say is that IONNA is “continuing at a pace and that they expect to have first stations up and running by end of 2024.” Another partner of the consortium backed this view, so any summer target is likely to be missed.

Right Messages

Karkoszka said during a March interview the consortium is building a solid foundation and is focused on sending out the right messages, “rather than just throwing out breadcrumbs.”

Yet, more recently, when he was asked if there is any evidence that installation of the consortium’s superchargers would encourage more BEV adoption, his response was: “I guess that’s something we can answer when we have chargers in the ground. We can do this when we have a network that’s in use and which has a customer effect.”

EV Adoption Potential

James Bell, head of corporate communications at Kia America, also claims projects like IONNA have the potential to encourage BEV adoption because the plan is to situate the superchargers in attractive locations, such as behind grocery stores, gas stations and at the far end of parking lots. The aim is to make charging stations as convenient as filling up a car with gas. If they can reconcile with Tesla’s shaking up of the market, high-speed charging should take 16 minutes – depending on a BEV’s ability to receive it at full capacity.

He adds: “We know that IONNA will have options for the owner while the vehicle is charging. There will be opportunities for buying food or leisure. With regard to leisure, it could be a place for the kids to play, or an area to read and relax. So, it will be nicer than just sitting in your car.”

With Tesla’s disarray, Anjan Hemanth Kumar, consulting director at Frost & Sullivan, also thinks there is a good opportunity for IONNA to gain consumer confidence, provided the infrastructure is robust, compatible and reliable. “It is very clear that there is a need for an alternative to the Tesla network,” he remarks, adding:

 “One of the key reasons for customers backing out on EVs is lack of availability of public charging stations (unless they own a Tesla). The number of EV models have significantly grown but not the number of charging stations.”

Despite the market turmoil, and IONNA’s slower-than-promised progress, Karkoszka believes the cooperation of the seven founding automakers of IONNA will attract potential buyers. To date, as they aren’t anywhere near to being fully operational, it’s impossible to determine whether the automakers’ involvement will in reality increase their BEV sales.  

Potential Opportunities

However, there are other companies such as EnviroSpark Energy Solutions which see Musk’s firing of his BEV supercharger team as a gift. It represents an opportunity for IONNA too, as they could pick up some vital talent that could enable the consortium to eventually fulfill its ambitions and potentially to be competitive.

IONNA also has the support of the U.S. government’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program. Stephen Lommele, interim communications and stakeholder engagement lead for the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, says he can’t comment specifically on IONNA’s progress. Nevertheless, he says private-sector investment is an important piece of the puzzle for “developing a convenient and reliable charging network in the U.S.”

Lommele claims the Biden Admin.’s efforts through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) are already helping grow a convenient, reliable, made-in-America charging network. “Since 2020, the number of publicly available charging ports has grown by 80%, and in the same time period, EV sales have quadrupled, and one in every 10 vehicles sold is an EV,” he says. Private investments account for about $25 billion thus far, and this is being “complemented by $75 billion of dedicated investment in BIL, which he calls “a down payment to build a national network of EV chargers.”

IONNA is convinced it will be successful, and Karkoszka concludes by stating the consortium didn’t react to Telsa’s news because, he suggests, IONNA is on track for what it’s planning to do, though he won’t comment on timing. This may be because there is a chance that events could unfold in ways IONNA hasn’t.

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