America’s Charging Experience Is Terrible. Here’s How Mercedes-Benz Aims To Fix It


When getting people to adopt new technologies, companies must make their products more luxurious, convenient, or simply better than whatever the outgoing ones were. We see this all of the time with electric cars. Take Mercedes-Benz, for example. The AMG EQE SUV makes more power than an SLS AMG, and the EQS 580 comes with the Hyperscreen— a massive display array only featured in the luxury brand’s electric products. But one thing that hasn’t kept pace with this high-tech, luxurious experience is the act of public charging.

Sure, charging at home is convenient and easy, but public charging creates more friction with someone deciding to buy an EV. And attempting to charge your $100,000 Mercedes at a broken station in the dead of night next to a combined pile of trash and snow behind a Walmart is not the experience the Silver Arrow brand wants for its customers.

To combat this, Mercedes-Benz is making an unparalleled move among established automakers by entering the charging space in North America—and it’s not just a concept that might come to fruition in the next decade.

Mercedes is releasing this tech now, and it just opened its first station at its North American headquarters outside of Atlanta. So when the automaker invited InsideEVs to check out its new chargers, we had to say yes.

Why Is Mercedes-Benz Investing In Charging? 

Mercedes-Benz Charging Stall

Automakers entering the fueling segment is something relatively new. Tesla commissioned its first United States-based site in 2012, and it ended up being one of the smartest moves the upstart automaker ever pulled; since then Tesla’s Superchargers have become global, bulletpoof and virtually synonymous with EV charging. In Europe, Audi completed its first charging hub as a concept in December 2021, and slowly started expanding from there (its next hub went live in November 2022). Tesla and Audi are outliers, though. Especially in the Western world, automakers are usually not directly involved in developing EV charging infrastructure. (They never wanted to build gas stations themselves, either, and no fueling partners ever stepped up to make Toyota’s expensive hydrogen dreams a reality.) 

So when Mercedes-Benz, a 97-year-old manufacturer behind some of the most iconic luxury cars ever built, decided to invest a billion dollars through a joint venture to improve public charging, I had countless questions about why it made such an unprecedented move.

Mercedes-Benz Charging Network

During our visit, I spoke to Mercedes-Benz Chairman of the Management Board, Franz Reiner, about the rationale for entering the charging space. “We know that you know the anxiety of the customers when you get a full electric car,” he said. “Where can you charge it, what is the time you spend at the charger, and where’s the location? So we said, ‘you know what, if we want to transform the industry, we need to be part of the entire system,’ and that is what we do.” 

For Reiner, investing in the charging segment is necessary to create a premium experience for all facets of Mercedes-Benz EV ownership. Charging is a big hurdle, and if Mercedes can work to ‘reinvent’ it, it would be a massive win for the German automaker.

Partnering For Success

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For Mercedes to develop a charging network, it first decided to create a new division through a joint venture with renewable power company MN8 Energy. The joint venture is called Mercedes-Benz HPC North America and is led by Andrew Cornelia, who previously held roles at Tesla and Volta. The firm’s primary purpose is to help expand Mercedes’ EV adoption by creating a network of fast, reliable, and luxurious charging stations. 

Mercedes-Benz HPC NA has a bold goal of deploying four hundred charging stations by 2030, accounting for 2,500 DC fast chargers across the continent. The one near Atlanta we checked out was the brand’s first location, though it expects to expand rapidly. The division of Mercedes-Benz has already partnered with Buc-ee’s and Simon MallsMoreover, the firm expects multiple Buc-ee’s hubs to go live at rest stops and gas stations in  Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Texas before 2024. 

“It’s not about the charging; it’s about what you do while you charge. So our partnership strategy is clear. We want to put charging in those retail locations where we can have a great cup of coffee or {eat at} a great restaurant, we can have green space, you can take your dog out for a walk. We’ve done that with Simon; we’ve done that with Buc-ees,” Cornelia said in a press conference.

400 Kilowatts, Courtesy Of Chargepoint

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On the charging side, Mercedes-Benz acknowledges that fast and reliable charging is of the utmost importance. The manufacturer went with ChargePoint for its initial hub to secure solid chargers. The ChargePoint DC fast chargers offer a maximum of 400kW of power. It should charge an EQS from zero to 80 percent in around thirty minutes. The chargers’ high rates will most benefit its upcoming 800V electric cars. 

Future stations will offer up to 500kW of power, a massive upgrade from Tesla’s V3 Superchargers, which push 250kW, and Electrify America’s 350kW Hyper-Fast Chargers. Mercedes’s chargers will feature both NACS and CCS1 connectors, meaning they will be able to power Tesla’s cars, the huge upcoming generation of EVs that also use that plug, and the hundreds of thousands of conventional EVs currently on the road. The station at its HQ currently only offers CCS1 capabilities. 

The automaker also clarifies that the electricity used to charge the cars is carbon neutral, in terms of energy production, on a monthly basis (hence the partnership with MN8 Energy). “We’re going to be making sure that we’re matching all the kilowatt-hours off the grid and going into those charging stations into the cars with clean, green kilowatt-hours that go on the grid each month,” said MN8 Energy’s CEO, Jon Yoder. As a side note, the GA current hub offers some on-site generation with rooftop solar panels.

The Experience 

Mercedes-Benz Charging Hub Interior

While fast charging is excellent, the other aspect the German automaker wanted to hit on was luxury. At the Georgia charging hub, Mercedes-Benz offers a lounge and restroom facilities. The lounge is reasonably sized, with several seating surfaces, a desk, a vending machine, and a coffee dispenser. The latter two amenities are pay-to-use. The vending machine is a little expensive, with bags of chips running around three dollars. The coffee machine is actually on the affordable side (ignoring the out-of-stock $8.50 Mocha); only $2.50 for a hot chocolate. 

The lounge and restroom are public, so they’re effectively included in one’s charging session fee. Since these are operated by Mercedes-Benz, EQ product owners get the best deal. These owners can reserve stalls through the infotainment system, acting as a safety blanket for road trips. Moreover, another perk of driving a Benz is lower energy rates. For non-Mercedes Benz owners, you won’t get preferred access and will likely have to pay a little more. However, this raises an important question: how much does using one of these stations cost? 

While access to the lounge and bathrooms asre included no matter what EV you pull up in, the only payment is the price per kilowatt-hour. Mercedes-Benz alluded that its prices will be in line with other networks. “We are looking to build a profitable network, but we’re also looking to build all of our features and all of our pricing in a simple way for the driver to understand so we don’t want this to be a slot machine where you know what you’re going to expect to be charged. We want to make sure that we communicate this effectively,” said Dimitris Psillakis, Mercedes-Benz USA’s CEO. 

Current EQ products will have six months of free charging hub access. 2024 model-year EQ vehicles will increase that duration to two years. The EQE and EQS lineup offers Plug and Charge capabilities (ISO 15118), so charging should be a breeze on those models.

Other Perks

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Another overarching concept Mercedes-Benz focused on was accessibility and safety. The current layout of most U.S.-based public charging stations makes it difficult for users with limited mobility to charge their electric vehicles. Moreover, drivers with trailers would have a challenging time with some spaces. The Georgia hub offers one wheelchair-accessible stall located near the facilities and a long pull-through one that should accommodate 26-foot-long trailers. 

Safety was another aspect that Mercedes-Benz HPC wanted to emphasize for the charging hubs. “I think there’s some very tactical things here. So the station behind us will have CCTV,” Cornelia told InsideEVs. “We’re really thinking about the types of partners we select, where we put these locations, where we even put it within the parking lot, and the route to travel. How do you get from the charger to the amenity— we want that to be the shortest distance possible.”

Future Plans 

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For Mercedes-Benz, this seems to be a win-win. Mercedes says it’s investing over a billion dollars into the project over the decade, but it does several things to strengthen the near-century-old automaker. Not only does it help EQ owners feel more comfortable with their EVs (even if they won’t use the stations) but it also heightens Mercedes-Benz’s position as an electric car manufacturer. 

A commitment to reliable public charging is a win for all EV owners, current and future. The notion of long charging lines, faulty chargers, and throttled units has the power to stray away prospective consumers. But with large-scale investments, especially from automakers themselves, these issues should hopefully be alleviated. 

Tesla has proven that you can have a reliable charging network nationwide. Mercedes-Benz wants to prove that it can check the “reliable” box, but also the “luxury” one. The first example of this looks promising, though we’ll reserve our feedback until we can do a proper road trip on the HPC network.



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