IONITY's CEO talks about its
fast charging philosophy and rollout status
IONITY is a high-power electric vehicle charging network which aims to facilitate long distance travel across the whole of Europe. A privately funded joint venture, it initially involved BMW, Mercedes Benz AG, Ford and VW Group with the brands of Audi and Porsche.
We spoke to Dr. Michael Hajesch, IONITY’s CEO, about the company’s journey so far, its fast charging philosophy and the plans for continuing to realise it.
An interview with Michael Hajesch,
CEO at IONITY
We established IONITY as a joint venture in 2017 to deliver e-mobility to the long-haul routes of Europe, as a supplement to everyday e-mobility which includes charging services at home, at work or in the urban environment. We are building and operating a closely woven network of charging stations on motorways across 24 European countries, to give drivers of electric vehicles the fastest currently available charging facilities on these main routes.
Can you introduce IONITY?
" High power charging is an entirely different world from previous generations of charging infrastructure "
High power charging is an entirely different world from previous generations of charging infrastructure. We established a highly professional and experienced team from the outset as we were aware from the start that the devil is in the detail as far as planning and rollout of this magnitude is concerned - 400 stations in 24 countries. Front-loading helped to get a lot of the sites allocated and planning completed in the early stages in most markets. Our team celebrated a first significant milestone in July of 2018, when we commissioned and opened our first station on the A61 motorway near Brohltal, Germany. Two years on and we have just commissioned station number 254 with a further 46 under construction.
Obviously, the COVID 19 crisis has been a serious setback and not just for our industry. Prior to the crisis we were achieving a rate of around 20 stations per month and, at its climax, this dropped to zero. We also observed a drop in the volume of charging activity across all markets as one country after the next went into lockdown and individual mobility was one of the first aspects of modern life to suffer. As lockdown eases in individual markets, we are starting to increase the rate of rollout again. Clearly this is a different world to 4 months ago, but we still believe that e-mobility is the right way forward and IONITY is on track in playing its part in making it happen.
How is the high-power charging network developing and what is your rollout strategy?
Our philosophy is simply built on three words - we are safe. We are also fast and green but let’s look at what we mean by ‘safe’. The distances between IONITY locations are easy to bridge for today’s EVs, making range anxiety a thing of the past. We are the first European HPC network open to all manufacturers of electric vehicles and use the European charging standard CCS; this should give us the broadest possible acceptance by drivers of current and future generations of EVs. We use ground-breaking and future-proof technology that automatically adapts to each vehicle and provides the maximum possible charging speed, and power, for each charging process - up to a maximum of 350kW (downward compatible) and, obviously, our charging stations meet the strictest safety requirements. Perhaps most importantly, because nobody likes to wait, our stations are equipped with at least four charge points so availability is high at each single location.
Being ‘fast’ is good news for all those who want to arrive at their destination quickly. We always offer the fastest
What is your philosophy for the high-power charging stations in terms of customer experience?
charging speed the EV will allow - right where it counts, on the motorway, and this allows you to continue your journey after around 20 minutes, at 150kW charging power, and less than 10 minutes at 350kW charging power - and all IONITY high power charging stations offer 350kW at every charge point.
Being ‘green’ is important so our charging service is based on a 100% renewable energy supply. This means that drivers benefit from a reduced individual CO2 footprint by using our sites.
Our philosophy regarding our customer experience is equally straightforward - our customer service team supports EV drivers across the whole network, in 7 languages - every hour, of every day of the year. We believe this makes us a truly customer-centric, accessible and reliable network which is essential when introducing new technologies and services. We recently received an ‘outstanding’ rating from German magazine, Connect, in its Charge Point Operator test.
Can you reflect on your relationship with Alfen?
Alfen is well-known in the Dutch market, with decades of experience of building compact stations and very good links to the local grid companies; this helps to get the designs aligned and deployed far more easily than it would if we were to employ companies from elsewhere. A real-life example of how this makes a difference is a situation where logistics and production delays led to us falling behind schedule and, without lead times, the road authorities would only accept deliveries between 2am and 4am. To help us, Alfen ensured that its transport
company would deliver two stations in one night, on the day before the summer holidays. Another good example is Alfen’s meticulous planning effort for all three Shell sites that we built in Belgium. They provided extra maps for the truck drivers for our new stations and minute-by-minute planning of all stages of the heavy lift (25T 6x3x3 concrete stations, separate lift of roof and transformer) – that’s what I call going the extra mile! Thanks to Alfen’s whole team for helping IONITY to realise European’s most progressive high-power charging network.