Tesla Motors (TSLA 0.91%) has already built over 500 of its vaunted Supercharger stations around the world, but Tesla's are proprietary chargers that only work with the company's vehicles. The new Nissan/BMW stations use connectors that will fit all fast-charging-capable electric vehicles in the U.S. -- and they work faster than most non-Tesla public EV-charging stations currently in existence.
So what does this mean?
Not quite as fast as Superchargers, but better than most
Here's what we know about the BMW/Nissan effort. There are 120 stations that are either already open or set to open soon. The companies say that there are stations already open in 19 different states.
These are dual-port 50-kilowatt DC fast-chargers. They're a step up from the "Level 2" charging stations that are common in some parts of the United States. BMW and Nissan say that the new 50kW stations will be able to recharge a Nissan Leaf or BMW i3 "up to 80 percent in about 20-30 minutes."
That's not quite up to Tesla standards. Tesla claims that its Superchargers can recharge a Model S with an 85 kWh battery to 80% in about 40 minutes. But 80% for a Model S with a 270-mile rated range is a lot more than 80% for a Leaf with 107 miles of range, 216 miles to just under 86.
But on the other hand, you can't get an 85 kWh Tesla for under $80,000 -- and most sell for more. But you can get a Leaf for about $30,000. And soon, there will be much longer-range EVs available in the Leaf's price range, making more powerful public chargers practically a necessity.
An important step with more longer-range EVs coming to market soon
An all-new Leaf with an expected range of over 200 miles is due in about a year. General Motors (GM -0.89%) says that it will unveil the production version of the Chevrolet Bolt electric car early next month. It's expected to have about 200 miles of range at a cost of "about $30,000" after government incentives -- right in the Leaf's neighborhood.
There are more options coming at higher price tiers, too. BMW's next electric-car entry, expected to be a midsize sedan (or possibly crossover SUV), is also expected in about a year. And Volkswagen's (VWAGY -1.39%) new CEO, Matthias Mueller, is making a very big move into electric vehicles, with an all-electric Audi SUV set to be the first of a slew of new battery-powered models from the VW group of brands.
Tesla also has a more affordable model on the way, with range in that same neighborhood. Presumably, the baby Tesla will be capable of using the company's Superchargers. For the increasing number of non-Tesla EVs expected to hit the roads over the next few years, the availability of more and faster public chargers should help convince more buyers to "go electric" -- even if gas prices stay low.