Could Electrify America become more than road-trip charging and large-scale corporate atonement?
Based on a Tuesday report from Reuters, its owner Volkswagen appears to be interested in building up to something bigger and better with a partner. According to Reuters—citing two people familiar with the matter—VW is looking with Citi for a co-investor prepared to invest about $1 billion into the company.
Electrify America is the best-funded of the U.S. charging networks built for compatibility with a wide range of EV brands. Its origin story isn’t anything like other charging companies, or its nationwide charging alternative, the Tesla Supercharger network.
2021 Volkswagen ID.4 and Electrify America DC fast-charging station
EA was created out of the VW diesel scandal—as a necessary piece for its settlement with the U.S. EPA and California’s Air Resources Board—and includes a plan for $2 billion of investment from 2017 through 2026, with the primary mission the establishment of nationwide charging infrastructure.
As of last month the network had installed more than 630 charging stations and more than 2,700 individual chargers in less than three years, with plans to complete a second coast-to-coast route by the end of the year. By the end of 2021, it plans to reach 800 stations and 3,500 chargers.
While that reflects a continued expansion, the investment might give Electrify America a next round of funding so it can truly scale up. The outside investment could also create some necessary distance between it and VW, which is perhaps the reason why Electrify America hasn’t attracted many close, lucrative partnerships yet with other automakers.
Electrify America HomeStation
Electrify America has also just started to tap into the business around connected home charging, and has appeared more focused on business-to-business deals as the network takes form. Volkswagen is including three years of unlimited Electrify America charging with its ID.4 electric crossover, and Audi just hooked up E-Tron GT drivers with three years of EA charging plus the connected home chargers, as part of a coordinated installation.
Lucid and Mercedes-Benz are the only automakers outside the VW Group that have signed onto an unlimited plan (three and two years, respectively) for their buyers, while Hyundai and Ford are among those offering some amount of free credit on the charging network.
2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS
EA rebooted its pricing last year, with charging billed by the kilowatt-hour where it’s allowed. While the revamp resulted in higher costs to charge for many EV drivers, it sets the company up to become a “fuel” dispenser in the future, with margins that it could maintain by state or region.
Creating a cross-country charging network wasn’t EA's only mission, though. A Consent Decree reached in October 2016 laid out a $2 billion investment ($800 million for California) over 10 years, split between infrastructure, education, and awareness, with separate stipulations for California adding contingencies for equity and green cities.
Volkswagen and Citi declined comment to Reuters for the original report, and Electrify America told Green Car Reports that it had "nothing to share" beyond its existing plans for expansion. Perhaps more appropriately, we’ve reached out to CARB to see if this is subject to its approval, or if renegotiation of the Consent Decree terms are required. We scanned this long document and didn’t encounter obvious exclusions. We’ll update this piece if and when we hear back.