(Bloomberg) — BlackRock Inc., Daimler Truck Holding AG and NextEra Energy Inc. aim to spend $650 million to build and operate battery charging and hydrogen refueling stations for trucks across the U.S.
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The companies agreed to collaborate on building a U.S. network of charging sites on critical freight routes along the east and west coasts and in Texas by 2026, according to a statement issued Monday. Each company will contribute equally for the proposed joint venture, with construction starting next year.
The plan will initially focus on electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, followed by hydrogen fueling stations for fuel-cell trucks, with sites also available for cars. The support for both batteries and hydrogen fuel cells sidesteps the simmering debate on which of the two technologies is best equipped to replace diesel engines in trucks.
The proposed joint venture comes as U.S. President Joe Biden tries to speed the adoption of electric vehicles with an infrastructure bill that sets aside $7.5 billion for a nationwide charging network. Pressure is also growing in Europe for charging infrastructure to cut emissions from gas- and diesel-fueled vehicles.
BlackRock Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink has positioned the $10 trillion asset manager as a leading proponent of sustainable investing, saying that decarbonization will require unprecedented investment across markets and industries.
NextEra is a Florida-based electric utility and renewable developer that calls itself the world’s biggest producer of wind and solar energy, and announced plans a year ago to electrify thousands of school buses.
Daimler AG spun off its truck business in December after more than a century under the same roof as the Mercedes-Benz car operation. Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius made the move in pursuit of a richer valuation and greater dexterity in a time of massive disruption to the auto industry. Daimler AG will be renamed Mercedes-Benz on Tuesday. The companies expect cars and trucks to diverge in the coming years, with Mercedes luxury vehicles shifting to battery power and hydrogen fuel cells playing more of a role in trucking.
Meanwhile, Volvo CEO Martin Lundstedt has called for regulatory approval of a $593 million charging network it wants to build across Europe with Daimler Truck.
“There is an urgent need of getting this in place,” Lundstedt said Friday in a post-earnings interview. “Everyone sees that the need of charging infrastructure is an absolute must in order to accelerate the deployment of battery-electric low-emission vehicles.”
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