German luxury automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz are set to establish a joint venture in China to build a comprehensive charging network. The agreement, signed by BMW Brilliance, BMW's joint venture in China, and Mercedes-Benz, outlines a 50:50 shareholding collaboration. The joint venture aims to deploy a minimum of 1,000 supercharging stations across China by the end of 2026, providing approximately 7,000 supercharging piles.
According to a press release, the charging stations will initially commence operations in key new energy vehicle (NEV) cities in China starting in 2024, with plans for expansion to cover more cities and regions in subsequent phases. Importantly, the jointly operated charging network will be open to the public, with exclusive premium services offered to BMW and Mercedes-Benz customers.
Customers of both automakers can expect a seamless digital charging experience, featuring plug-and-charge functionality and online booking. However, the full realization of the joint venture is contingent upon regulatory approval, as noted by BMW.
In response to China's rapidly evolving automotive landscape, BMW has been actively adapting to the electrification transition. As of October 2023, the company boasts 600 authorized dealerships in China equipped with charging facilities, including AC charging wall boxes and DC chargers. BMW's existing charging network taps into over 580,000 third-party charging piles, covering more than 320 cities in China.
Having initiated a supercharging station program in August, BMW's network currently spans nine cities and is projected to reach 50 stations by year-end. Notably, the supercharger network supports charging power of up to 600 kW and is accessible to all brands of electric vehicles (EVs).
In the broader context of China's charging infrastructure landscape, the country had a total of 2.525 million public charging piles as of October. Industry leaders such as Nio and Tesla have significantly contributed to this infrastructure, with Nio boasting 2,187 battery swap stations and Tesla operating over 1,800 Supercharger stations in China.
Both Nio and Tesla have taken steps to make their charging networks more accessible. Nio's network has been open to all brands of EVs for several years, and the company is extending its battery swap network to other automakers. Similarly, Tesla, initially exclusive to its owners, opened its China charging network to other EV brands in April on a pilot basis. On November 28, Tesla announced further expansion, making more than 350 Supercharger stations and over 260 destination charging stations available to other brands in China.