Talk about going from zero to 60.
Ford hasn't yet sold or even debuted any of the 16 fully electric vehicles it plans to unveil in the next three years, but the automaker on Thursday announced that drivers who buy the company's long-awaited EV when it hits lots next year will also get free access to 12,000 electric charging stations in North America – nearly three times as many as Tesla has in the U.S.
According to Ford, Tesla drivers could use the Ford chargers with a special adapter, which Tesla provides to its car owners. "Generally a Tesla only charges on a Tesla charger, but the adapter allows them to charge with other chargers," a spokesperson for EV infrastructure company Greenlots said.
The announcement of what Ford is calling the "largest vehicle charging network in North America" comes almost a year before the company's planned release of its first all-electric vehicle, a "Mustang-inspired" SUV. It seems designed to address one of the most stubborn challenges facing electric vehicle sales: so-called "range anxiety" — drivers' fears of running out of juice on the road.
"Among people who already own or want to purchase electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, 48 percent say that a lack of charging stations is one of their main concerns," Ted Cannis, Ford's director of global electrification, said in a statement. "We are dismantling those barriers, allowing more customers to confidently enjoy the benefits of owning an electric vehicle."
Clean energy advocates cheered the Ford announcement.
“It is great to see vehicle manufacturers making commitments to investments in the future of electrification,” Ben Prochazka, vice president of the Electrification Coalition, a nonprofit that supports reducing U.S. dependence on oil, said in a statement. “Creating a widespread, nationwide charging network is going to require investment and action from a number of stakeholders, charging infrastructure manufacturers, network providers, utilities and automakers.”
Another big benefit: Ford EV buyers will get two free years of charging at any of the 12,000 charging stations.
Ford is building the charging network in partnership with Amazon, which has increasingly invested in electric charging stations and components. Under the partnership, Ford has authorized Amazon to sell home-installation services for the Ford-made chargers.
Ford is also working with Greenlots, which is owned by the oil, gas, and petrochemical colossus Shell Group, which itself has stepped up its investments in recent years in green energy projects such as offshore wind farms.
Drivers will have access to chargers operated by Electrify America, a subsidiary of Volkswagen launched in the wake of the German company's emissions cheating scandal. Electrify America has said it expects to have 800 stations, with about 3,500 plugs, in 45 states by the end of 2021.
The partnerships mark a contrast with the strategy pursued by Tesla, which built its charging network in-house.
The new vehicle and big charging-station rollout are part of the company's self-proclaimed "all in," $11.5 billion investment in EVs through 2022. The 12,000 charging stations will include fast charging and about 35,000 plugs for vehicles. Every all-electric Ford vehicle will also come with a mobile charger compatible with either a 240-volt outlet – the kind used for large home appliances like air conditioners or washing machines – or a typical 120-volt outlet.
Ford introduced its first all-electric vehicle, the Ranger pickup, in 1998 but stopped production just four years later. In 2011 it debuted a fully electric version of its compact Ford Focus. Ford discontinued that model last year.