Why BMW and Nissan are Building Electric-Car Recharging Stations in the U.S.

By John Rosevear Markets Fool.com

BMW AG (NASDAQOTH: BAMXF) and Nissan Motors (NASDAQOTH: NSANY) announced that through their joint efforts, a slew of new electric-vehicle fast-charging stations have recently been installed across 33 U.S. states -- and there are more to come.

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What BMW and Nissan said about the new charging stations

The two automakers have been working together since late 2015 to build recharging stations in the U.S. In this latest push, the two worked with EVgo, the largest U.S. public network of "DC Fast" recharging stations, to add 174 new locations in 33 states. The stations give EVgo a total of 668 fast-charging stations right now -- with 50 more, supported by the BMW-Nissan partnership, set to be added during 2017.

A BMW i3 and a Nissan Leaf at a DC Fast charging station. Image source: BMW AG.

The stations are 50-kilowatt dual-port DC Fast chargers with connectors to support both the CHAdeMO (used by Nissan) and SAE Combo (or "CCS," used by BMW) charging standards, Between the two standards, any electric vehicle equipped with quick-charge ports can recharge at these stations.

They're fairly fast, too: The stations can charge a Nissan Leaf or BMW i3 up to about 80 percent in roughly 25 to 30 minutes. That's significantly faster than the Level 2 (240-volt) chargers that are most commonly available at U.S. public charging stations.

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Both companies say they're committed to building a strong network of public charging stations in the U.S. as part of a larger effort to encourage Americans to choose electric vehicles.

"BMW's continuing collaborations with Nissan and EVgo, further demonstrate the company's commitment to building a robust public charging infrastructure across the country. We recognized early on that meaningful partnerships like this would be essential in order to support the expansion of convenient and accessible electric vehicle charging options," said Robert Healey, head of EV Infrastructure for BMW of North America. "The expansion of the plug-in vehicle charging infrastructure will give more U.S. drivers the confidence to choose an electric vehicle, such as the BMW i3, as longer distance EV travel becomes increasingly commonplace."

"Nissan continues as a leader in building accessible infrastructure to benefit Nissan LEAF drivers as well as all EV owners. Infrastructure for all is a key strategic priority for us as we continue expanding the network of dual-port quick chargers across the country," said JeSean Hopkins, Senior Manager, Nissan EV Infrastructure Strategy and Business Development. "We look forward to ongoing teamwork and the continued build-out of public quick-charge stations."

What it means: Small steps toward an electrified automotive future

Slowly but surely, America is acquiring some electric-car recharging infrastructure beyond Tesla Motors' (NASDAQ: TSLA) Supercharger network.

These 50-kW chargers aren't quite in the same league as Tesla's Superchargers, which can deliver up to 120 kilowatts and add 170 miles of range to a Tesla in about 30 minutes.But at least as of right now, Superchargers only work with Teslas. And as noted above, these new DC Fast chargers are a significant step ahead of the most common public chargers available in the U.S. now. That's important: Wide availability of reasonably fast chargers will be key to convincing mainstream auto customers to make the leap to fully electric vehicles.

The stations only work at full power with electric vehicles that have DC fast-charging capability built in. But most new electric vehicles can be ordered with that capability. It's standard on 2017 models of Ford's(NYSE: F) Focus Electric and available as an option onGeneral Motors'(NYSE: GM) Chevrolet Bolt.

BMW and Nissan are funding these charging stations to help support sales of their own electric vehicles first and foremost, of course. But the network will help rival automakers sell their electric vehicles as well -- and that in turn should help convince all automakers to make larger commitments to electric vehicles.

Long story short: BMW and Nissan are taking some small but important steps to help lead Americans -- and other automakers -- toward electric vehicles.

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John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Ford and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool recommends BMW and General Motors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.