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General Motors, Bechtel team up to build EV charging network across US

U.S. carmaker General Motors Co. is partnering with construction company Bechtel Corp. to build "thousands" of charging stations for electric cars across the country, CNN Business reported May 28, citing executives from the two companies.

Instead of co-funding the planned charging network, GM and Bechtel will create a separate company and invite other companies to invest, similar to the arrangement that Bechtel implemented for its liquefied natural gas partnership with ConocoPhillips in Australia, CNN said.

"We think that, with the involvement of two companies like General Motors and Bechtel, that this is going to be attractive to outside investors," Keith Hennessey, president of Bechtel's project development arm, Bechtel Enterprises, reportedly said.

The new company will build the charger network, which would also cater to other car companies apart from General Motors, the report said. The project is expected to support the carmaker's plan to launch 20 new electric vehicle models by 2023.

Under the deal, GM will provide the data and expertise needed to identify the areas where the chargers would be built, while Bechtel will contribute its expertise in engineering, building and permitting for the stations, CNN said.

The planned network is expected to be located in densely populated cities where many potential electric car owners live, instead of confining the network to major highways, which have become saturated with fast charging networks from other providers, according to the report.

"The way we think about it, we want to put chargers where they're going to have the greatest influence on EV adoption wherever that may be," Mike Ableson, vice president of GM's EV infrastructure and charging, reportedly said.

Bechtel has previously been involved in power generation and power transmission, as well as the construction of transportation infrastructures such as highways, airports and rails. Hennessy reportedly said that the electrification of cars "is the convergence of two core markets for us."

In an email to S&P Global Market Intelligence, a spokesperson from General Motors confirmed that the Bloomberg report is accurate, but said that there is no official announcement yet for the partnership as the companies are still in a memorandum-of-understanding phase of the collaboration.

"General Motors and Bechtel will collaborate to build out public electric vehicle (EV) fast charging infrastructure in the U.S. to support growing adoption of electric vehicles. This collaboration and future build-out will help alleviate issues with customers' range anxiety by leveraging General Motors and Bechtel's scale, flexibility and proprietary data to provide chargers in locations convenient to EV customers," the spokesperson said.

The plan mirrors similar initiatives by other global car companies that are banking on electrification to propel growth. Germany's Volkswagen AG has set up Electrify America, a unit that operates the group's vehicle charging network. In February, Electrify America said it will use Tesla Inc.'s Powerpack battery systems at its charging station to drive down costs.

The latest report comes less than a week after U.S. lawmakers debated a Democratic infrastructure proposal, which would, among other things, provide a $1.5 billion fund to replace leaking natural gas pipelines and develop an electric vehicle charging network.