IONITY rapid-charging network: Hyundai and Kia become shareholders

Hyundai and Kia join BMW, Ford and VW Group in charging network investment, as new charger design is unveiled

Ionity chargers charging

Korean sister brands Hyundai and Kia have become the latest manufacturers to become a shareholders in the IONITY Europe-wide rapid-charging network, joining Ford, BMW, Daimler and VW Group brands Audi and Porsche.

Commenting on the news, IONITY CEO Michael Hajesch said: "Hyundai Motor Group brings significant international experience and know-how with a full strategic commitment to e-mobility. The participation of new investors in IONITY is a clear signal of trust indicating that the work of our young company is already bearing fruit."

At the same time as bringing Hyundai and Kia on board, IONITY also debuted a new design of charging station for its network, dubbed the 'High-Power Charger' (pictured above). The unit promises a "significantly improved user experience compared to what is currently available in Europe", incorporating an LED light ring to act as a 'beacon' at night, making it easier for drivers to find stations on forecourts.

The light ring communicates the chargers' availability by its colour, as well as providing a well-lit area helpful for drivers charging their cars during the hours of darkness.

IONITY chargers in the UK

The IONITY network recently opened its second UK station at Milton Keynes Coachway – near Junction 14 on the M1 – with four bays capable of charging at rates of up to 350kW. It followed the arrival of IONITY’s first facility on Junction 8 of the M20 in Maidstone, Kent, back in May.

A third station is expected to open in Gretna Green soon, and a spokesperson has told DrivingElectric that 10 locations will be operational in the UK before the end of the year. The spokesperson also confirmed that IONITY had secured deals for 30 sites across the country: the company plans to have a 40-strong network of rapid-charging stations in operation by the end of 2020.

Eight of those will be at service stations run by Extra MSA Group, which signed a deal with IONITY earlier this year. They include Leeds Skelton Lake (M1, J45), Cobham (M25), Cambridge (A14/M11, J28), Beaconsfield (M40, J2), Cullompton (M5, J28), Blackburn with Darwen (M65, J4), Baldock (A1M, J10) and Peterborough (A1M, J17).

Meanwhile, IONITY has indicated that it will meet demands to allow contactless card payments at rapid charging stations by next spring. Earlier this week, the government said it was “prepared to intervene” to ensure greater convenience for electric-vehicle drivers.

Asked if this was feasible in the timescale outlined by the government, an IONITY spokesperson said: “Absolutely. Our system here, you can see that we have the contactless pads there. That’s absolutely in keeping with what we want to do.” Currently, drivers wishing to use IONTIY’s chargers must have an RFID card, or pay directly on a smartphone using the firm’s app or website.

IONITY has also said that that its pricing structure will evolve later this year, with a “kilowatt-per-hour” system in the pipeline. At the moment, it charges a flat fee of £8 for all charging sessions, regardless of how much electricity drivers consume. No details have been revealed at this stage, although testing is being done on a software update that will allow the firm to more accurately measure the amount of charge running through its DC chargers.

What is IONITY and the Shell-IONITY fast-charging network?

IONITY was created following Shell’s acquisition of charging company NewMotion – one of the largest charging providers in Europe – and builds on the portfolio of the Shell Recharge fast chargers already located around the UK.

It’s the second example of a major oil company investing in electric vehicle charging, after BP’s takeover of Chargemaster in 2017. IONITY is a joint venture involving Daimler (parent company of Mercedes), BMW, Ford and VW Group brands Audi and Porsche. Hyundai and Kia became shareholders in September 2019.

Currently, there are no cars on sale capable using the full 350kW potential of IONITY’s chargers, although the forthcoming Porsche Taycan is set to become the first when it arrives in 2020. With up to 350kW delivered through a CCS charging cable, the company claims top-up times "as low as eight minutes", although this will depend on a vehicle's battery capacity.

Each station will initially feature up to six charging points, although most of IONITY’s sites have contracts for 10 years, which could see them expand as demand rises. All sites are expected to receive 24-hour support – both remote and on-site – with a network of 2,400 charging points across Europe planned for 2020. As of September 2019, IONITY has 140 stations live in 14 European countries, with a further 50 under construction.

Energy technology company Octopus Energy – backed by Octopus Investments, which claims to be the UK's largest investor in solar power – will provide the electricity for every IONITY charging station in the UK. The firm is promising "100% renewable energy", giving drivers "peace of mind" regarding their impact on the environment.