GM and Pilot plan a 350-kw coast-to-coast charging network

Over the next several years, up to 500 DC fast-charging stations will be installed across the country at Pilot and Flying J travel centers, as part of a collaboration with GM and EVgo announced Thursday. 

While the number of chargers at each station will vary, all will be 350-kw CCS-format, with the bulk of them installed from 2023 to 2025, and the whole project will involve about 2,000 chargers. 

In what will sound familiar to anyone following the $7.5 billion federal EV charging infrastructure buildout, as specified by the U.S. DOT, the project is targeting 50-mile intervals. In proposed rulemaking, minimum standards for the network have asked for four connectors per DC fast-charging site. 

GM and Pilot coast-to-coast charging fast-charging networkGM and Pilot coast-to-coast charging fast-charging network

Hardware installation, as well as uptime and reliability will be managed by EVgo, but employees at the travel centers, all open 24/7, will be available to help troubleshoot charging with common U.S. charger issues like payment validation, it was suggested. 

“This is the world we live in every day, right? We have pumps breaking down, we have challenges with pumps all the time,” Shameek Konar, Pilot Company CEO, said in treating electricity as a fuel. “The benefit of this network and the 24/7 is that you at least will have people around to help you all the time. This will be a fully manned set of locations.”

Those who charge on the network will be able to earn points at Pilot travel centers, and most of them have a wide range of food options, expanded seating and lounge areas, souvenirs, showers, and free wi-fi. GM will be providing discounts through individual brand apps, and this is the automaker’s first foray into the retail side of charging. 

BMW i3 charging at EVgo fast chargers at Chevron station in Menlo Park, CaliforniaBMW i3 charging at EVgo fast chargers at Chevron station in Menlo Park, California

The network will be co-branded with “Pilot Flying J” and “Ultium Charge 360”—the latter being GM’s branding for aggregated EV services—but will be available to drivers of a range of brands’ EVs.

GM says that many of these sites will have overhead canopies to protect motorists from the elements, and some of them will have pull-through capability to accommodate larger electric pickups or SUVs towing trailers. 

Fuel retailers and the convenience store industry have been making a similar appeal for getting charging out to rural communities—that, like Pilot locations—are uniquely positioned with roadside services. 

According to GM EV Growth Operations chief Travis Hester, GM is using “some really powerful tools to look at where to put chargers on which corridors,” while it’s also employing its dealerships for input. 

The companies made clear that while they plan to invest their own funds in the network, they’ve conceived the idea around the potential to incorporate public funds—specifically, “intended government grant and utility programs”—in the project. 

GM and EVgo expand major-metro fast chargingGM and EVgo expand major-metro fast charging

Perhaps because of the nature of the plan, and the hope for public funds, GM would not disclose the amount of the investment, but it said that this is part of its nearly $750 million investment in EV charging infrastructure. That already includes a collaboration with EVgo to build out a network of 3,250 fast-charging charging stalls in major metro areas by 2025. It’s also looking to its dealerships to help with the installation of 40,000 publicly accessible destination chargers (Level 2) in communities. 

Pilot already hosts some Tesla Supercharger sites, Konar said, but called it “challenging” that only Tesla owners could use them, adding that the intent is to expand the number of chargers per site as demand increases. 

Installations for the network start this summer, with the first chargers due to be operational by early 2023.

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