A GROUP of major motor manufacturers plans to open hundreds of fast-charging stations for electric cars in Europe and use a common plug technology in what they hope will be a big step towards mass acceptance of battery power.

BMW, Daimler, Ford and the Volkswagen Group, with its Audi and Porsche brands, have equal shares in the venture, Ionity, plans for which were first announced last year.

They said yesterday they will open the first of 20 stations this year in Germany, Austria and Norway at 75-mile intervals along major routes.

They plan to expand the network to more than 100 stations next year and have about 400 in place across Europe by 2020.

The founding companies said “other automotive manufacturers are invited to help expand the network”.

The aim is to make it easier for electric cars to travel long distances and render them more appealing to the mass market.

Hours-long charging times have meant battery-powered cars are limited to short commutes and local shopping trips. Owners typically recharge overnight at home or in an employer’s car park during the day.

That has left battery cars as a second vehicle in some first-adopter households, with a conventional car kept for longer journeys. The chance to charge up fast far from home would make it possible to take an electric vehicle on a family holiday.