General Motors Is Installing 500 Charging Stations With Its Partners
Like all EV manufacturers, General Motors Inc. (GM) is keenly aware that the ability to access charging stations is essential for successful consumer EV adoption. Because growing US public fast charging infrastructure can’t take place soon enough for current and upcoming EV drivers, as part of a larger corporate mission, GM partnered with Pilot Travel Centers and EVgo to install up to 500 charging stations at Pilot Flying J rest stops. The project builds on Pilot Company’s recently announced “New Horizons” initiative to invest $1 billion to fully upgrade its travel centers.
Targeting the installation of charging stalls at 50-mile intervals across the US, last year’s stated collaborative goal has been to accelerate the widespread adoption of EVs, increase access to charging, and help enable long-distance electric travel of people and vehicles across the US.
Fast forward now to the end of 2023, and GM has announced that they’ve opened 17 charging stations across 13 states. The chargers are co-branded “Pilot Flying J” and “Ultium Charge 360” to embrace the dual participation that grounded the funding effort for the project. Last year, GM revealed that the “Ultium Charge 360” network would be the moniker given to GM’s own vehicle apps and software with a variety of third-party charging services, such as Blink, ChargePoint, EVgo, Flo, Greenlots, and SemaConnect.
This national DC fast charging network will be installed, operated, and maintained by EVgo.
The update on the planned 500 charging stations comes as EV sales are on the rise, with more than 1 million electric cars and trucks expected to be sold in the US this year — or 9% of the passenger car market. What’s certain is that the number of EVs must rise quickly and exponentially to accomplish climate crisis mitigation goals. EVs are the key technology to decarbonize road transport, a sector that accounts for around one-sixth of global emissions.
As the network evolves, it will expand to serve high traffic arteries across the US so as to continue widespread transportation electrification efforts. The 3-company collaboration reaches beyond each individual entity to multiple public agencies and utilities; it’s an example of how public-private collaboration can make measurable progress in accelerating broader access to EV charging.
GM CEO Mary Barra remains committed to the company’s EV targets, and an important ingredient of meeting those targets is offering customers a reliable and easily accessible charging experience. “We are committed to an all-electric, zero-emissions future,” Barra affirmed last year with the original 500 charging stations announcement. “Ensuring that the right charging infrastructure is in place is a key piece of the puzzle. With travel centers across North America, Pilot Company is an ideal collaborator to reach a broad audience of EV drivers.”
GM estimates that, by the end of this month, 25 charging stations will be open, and these will offer 100 chargers in total. It’s a basic start toward the goal of 500 stations in total with 2,000 US charging stalls located in urban and rural areas. Widespread access to highway charging, particularly in underserved urban and rural areas, is a significant barrier to mass EV adoption.
Unfortunately, there is no announced date for completion of all 500 chargers, although the goal is to have 200 charging stations up and running by the end of 2024.
Part of the appeal for these new chargers is the partnership among Pilot Travel Centers, GM, and EVgo. EV drivers can anticipate enhanced amenities that are currently offered at Pilot and Flying J travel center locations. As the largest network of travel centers in North America, Pilot Flying J has over 750 locations in 44 states and 6 Canadian provinces.
The stations will offer numerous 350kW chargers, 24/7 scheduled onsite staff, pull-through stations for EVs towing, Plug and Charge compatibility, and protective canopies to ward off weather. Much like one would expect from a rest stop, they’ll offer restrooms, food, free WiFi, and the like.
GM customers have special incentives to use these chargers, as they’ll have the capacity to reserve chargers ahead of time and will receive discounts on charging fees.
Want to locate one of these charging stations? Part of the planned allure of these eventual 500 charging stations is a seamless digital user experience that been built into the network. You might choose GM’s myRewards Plus app, which offers food, drink, and merchandise for all EV owners, regardless if they own a GM product or not. Additionally, EVgo apps point out these and other charging stations available for your charging needs.
How 500 Charging Stations is Just One Element of a Complicated EV Adoption Picture
This GM/ Pilot Flying J/ EVgo collaboration is part of a larger system-wide effort to enhance consumer ease of transitioning to all-electric transportation The need to move the EV charging experience from fraught to trouble-free, from stressful to straightforward has to occur across all makes and moves of EVs, including but also beyond Tesla with its Supercharger network. Public charging has experienced growth in every quarter since 2019, and, in the first quarter of 2023, public charging ports accounted for about 88% of all charging ports , which total 161,562 individual sites, according to the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The number of charging ports is an important measure of available EV infrastructure and represents the number of EVs that can charge simultaneously at charging stations across the country.
EV sales are still growing strongly, but that demand is not keeping up with the expectations of carmakers and other companies that have invested billions of dollars in the EV space. Ben Prochazka, executive director of the Electrification Coalition, explained to US News some background about perceived diminishing EV sales. “The rhetoric has been that there are challenges in the market,” Prochaska began. “The reality is we’re continuing to see strong sales, strong growth. There are still things that we need to do and that need to move faster. So I don’t know if I would call it a pullback. There’s a lot of opportunity to continue to do more to help build consumer interest and confidence in this shift.”
Recognizing the their customers need as much access to charging as possible, GM has stated it will also use the North America Charging System, aka the Tesla Supercharger network — which will provide open-source charging ports for its future EVs. The trajectory is for the NCAS adapters to be available sometime in the first quarter of 2024, while the first GM-produced EV to feature Tesla’s charging port will appear on the scene the following year. The decision to enter into an agreement to use the NACS took place after announcing the 500 charging stations project with EVgo and Pilot.
While these moves seem positive for the expected rise in EV demand, Kristen Siemen, chief sustainability officer (CSO) at GM, appealed this week at COP28 for EV infrastructure and policy support to help make an all-electric transportation future a reality. Siemen called upon networks of electrification cooperation, saying “We also can’t make that transition on our own.” Support from an infrastructure standpoint needs to come via EV-favorable policies, she said.
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