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BMW, VW team up with ChargePoint to build 100 CCS fast-charging sites for electric cars

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Mark Blinch/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A Volkswagen electric vehicle is plugged into a charging station. One network of VW and BMW charging stations will run from Boston to Washington, D.C. along Interstate 95; another will cover and connect Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

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As electric-car drivers know, Nissan and Tesla remain far ahead of other carmakers in availability of DC fast-charging locations for their cars.

Now, growing sales of U.S. and German plug-in models that use a different standard have led their owners to complain about the lack of sites to fast-charge their new cars.

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That's about to change.

At today's Washington Auto Show, BMW and Volkswagen announced that they would partner with the ChargePoint network to build almost 100 fast-charging sites using the Combined Charging Standard (CCS) protocol.

The BMW i3 and Volkswgen e-Golf are the highest-volume electric cars offering CCS fast-charging connectors; the third is the low-volume Chevrolet Spark EV.

The sites will provide fast-charging corridors along heavily traveled routes on both the East and West Coasts.

One will run from Boston to Washington, D.C. along Interstate 95; another will cover and connect Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

The fast-charging sites will be spaced no more than 50 miles apart, enabling road trips even in electric cars with rated ranges of 70 to 90 miles.

BMW and Volkswagen say the fast-charging stations will be sited "both within and between relevant metro areas."

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The new DC quick-charging stations will be part of the ChargePoint network of sites, which now includes more than 20,000 different locations for electric-car charging.

The pace of installations is expected to be relatively quick, with construction already underway on one site in San Diego.

The goal of almost 100 separate sites is targeted for completion by the end of this year, in locations that include "restaurants, shopping centers, rest stops, and more."

ChargePoint is assisting in site selection by using its database of charging sites to identify both gaps and popular charging sites to suggest locations.

Each site will include not only "up to two 50-kW DC Fast chargers, or 24-kW DC Combo Fast chargers with the SAE Combo connector," but also 240-Volt Level 2 charging, which can be used by every electric car sold in the U.S. today.

A 50-kW CCS station can recharge the battery of a BMW i3 or VW e-Golf to 80 percent of capacity within 20 minutes; a 24-kW station takes about 30 minutes to do the same.

While only three cars are sold in the U.S. today with CCS fast-charging capability, many more will follow.

Volkswagen said at last week's Detroit Auto Show that it will include CCS fast-charging on every plug-in vehicle it builds, including plug-in hybrids as well as battery-electric cars.

The Chevrolet Bolt electric-car concept unveiled at the Detroit show also included a CCS connector, which would make it the second GM vehicle using CCS.

Ford and Fiat Chrysler are also backing the system, though neither company has announced vehicles that will employ it.