Electric-vehicle drivers are bracing for a battle that could make Obama-Romney look like the Tennessee Waltz.

The various automakers behind two incompatible plug-in standards for electric vehicle fast-charging stations are championing their own system as the better of the two just as global EV sales are expected to rise during the next few years. With more cars, more people will be looking for stations that can recharge their vehicles in a matter of minutes, Automotive News reports.

As regular readers will likely know, Japanese automakers like Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi are supporting the CHAdeMO standard, which was launched in 2010 and is used in 1,500 stations worldwide (all but 200 are in Japan). US and European automakers like BMW, General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen are instead standing behind the so-called SAE Combo standard, which was first demonstrated in May and is expected to debut by the end of the year. Combo supporters tout their standard as superior because, unlike CHAdeMO, it allows for one port to charge at both Level 2 and DC fast charge. CHAdeMO requires two different plugs. Earlier this month, SAE International finalized its so-called J1772 technical standards for Combo chargers.

The problem, as you might suspect, is that two competing systems, "could be another roadblock to the introduction of electric vehicles, increasing consumer resistance. A scattering of incompatible charging stations compounds range anxiety with plug anxiety," writes Automotive News. In other words, this is exactly not what plug-in vehicles need

In May, a GM executive publicly called for a CHAdeMO embargo, while CHAdeMO supporters have called Combo "the plug without cars," since no vehicles have been produced that are compatible with that standard.

As for Tesla Motors? It's pitching its own, third system of Superchargers, which are not compatible with either of the others.

This could get interesting.


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  • 63 Comments
      SVX pearlie
      • 2 Years Ago
      There is no real issue. In the US and Europe, all cars will be designed around SAE plugs, and Chadmo will be a limited to Japan. It's the same as US defaulting to 120V where the rest of the world uses 240V. The handful of Chadmo units in the US and Europe will have to be retrofitted, but that's the price for being an early adopter. Just like Betamax, DAT Audio, or Minidisc.
        Jens Kr. Kirkebø
        @SVX pearlie
        The only car manufacturer in Europe that have volumes of EVs coming (Renault) is not going with the SAE standard. They only support AC charging at up to 44kW with the Mennekes-socket. I don't see the SAE gaining any ground in Europe, the market will be shared with CHAdeMO, Mennekes and maybe Tesla (if not Tesla also supports the 44kW AC Mennekes-standard.
          MTN RANGER
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jens Kr. Kirkebø
          Renault = Nissan. Renault/Nissan is the only company actively supporting CHAdeMO. Mercedes, BMW, VW/Audi support SAE. How much is there market share in Europe?
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jens Kr. Kirkebø
          You fail to take notice of the Chevy Volt / Opel Ampera in Europe (and Oz/NZ later this year). GM is backing SAE globally, and they're driving the market right now.
          mustang_sallad
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jens Kr. Kirkebø
          The SAE standard has actually now been expanded to include the Mennekes connector for European vehicles to accomodate 3-phase AC. There's now also a "combo" version of the Mennekes connector, same deal with 2 big DC pins added below. In fact, many of the internet articles about the release of the updated SAE standard actually had an image of the European combo coupler instead of the north american one.
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is a very complex situation as the plug, the charger, the battery, the connector all have to be compatible and calibrated. Some car have an inside charger and some other have the charger outside. Also these fast chargers have to be connected to higher voltage then 240 volt, so the installer have to connect it almost to the electric pole. It's not the last time that we will heard about this story. The volt has more chance to see an increase in sale then the bevs.
        martinwinlow
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Not really. The batteries in all EVs are DC. In the context of DC 'fast charging', rather than AC Level 1 or 2 charging, the output from the ChaDeMo chargers is also DC and all the electronics to control output voltage, charge time and rate, safety etc are all in the charger, not the EV. Therefore it's just a question of the car telling the charger what it wants and the charger (obviously within limits) will oblige. Consequently, it seems reasonable (to me anyway) that if you want to you could retro-fit any EV with one or all 3 different 'standard' sockets and just provide the necessary electronics and wiring - relatively cheaply - to the EV to 'talk' to the 3 different charger types. Not exactly ideal but certainly workable. This is, of course, assuming you can find out what signals etc are required...
      mikeybyte1
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't see what the big deal is. They could make this work just like fueling stations. Today you pull up and there are different pumps for gasoline, diesel, and in some places even kerosene and propane. Why can't the charging stations have different "pumps" with the various charger plugs all down one side? Consumers just pull up and chose the right plug for their vehicle. They could even go one step further, and on the other side have a choice of Beta, VHS, HD-DVD, and Blu-Ray.
        solas
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mikeybyte1
        The big deal = $$$. While fuel stations have different fuels, as a very rough cut, the pump/tanks are identical. And: the hoses themselves relatively cheap. A 60-90kW cable is not cheap, and, as any eV owner will tell you, the general public will abuse those cables so badly, I guarantee you the [public] station cables, of any kind, won't last anywhere near their rated life. In a twist of irony, you'd think electricity = electricity... this is not so: Major incompatibilities exist: between cars and the eV charger (not even ChadeMo can talk to the Leaf properly), and certainly the different chargers themselves (a protocol issue: these are not simple metal fuel pumps).
        JakeY
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mikeybyte1
        That's essentially what will happen if you listen to what the US based charger manufacturers are saying (they have CHAdeMO stations that can be upgraded to SAE and/or have dual connectors). I don't agree with what fsfikke and solas is saying, that it will cost too much money. The connectors and software for CHAdeMO and SAE isn't too expensive (a couple thousand at the most). The bulk of the cost of a charger is the actual DC charging hardware, which would be shared by both in a dual plug station. So it's not a real significant expense to have a station with two different connectors.
        fsfikke
        • 2 Years Ago
        @mikeybyte1
        The same reason why combo players that have a HD-DVD and a Blu-Ray slot never took off. People want one standard that always works, and companies dont want to spend the around €4000 extra it costs to add compatibility for a different plug to a charging pole.
      Roy_H
      • 2 Years Ago
      This competition is good. CHAdEMO is a good first attempt. SAE's J1771/2 is a significant improvement. These are not much different under the skin. It would be worthwhile to upgrade CHAdEMO chargers with a J1772 cord and plug so they could be used with either type of vehicle. Tesla's supercharger is fundamentally different and as far as I can tell should be much cheaper to manufacture. It is also less capable in terms of maximum charge rate. CHAdEMO may win just by being the first with the most, but I don't think so. I really like Tesla's approach, simple, compact, and lower cost. Tesla is trying to find the balance between sufficient or acceptable charge rate and cost, and I think they have done it. However Tesla's approach will only really succeed if other manufacturers decide to adopt it too. Unlikely in the near term as most have "signed up" with J1772. So despite my preference, I predict the winner to be SAE's J1772 with some manufacturers opting to support Tesla. I think both will be around for a long time.
        MTN RANGER
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Roy_H
        I really don't think anyone will support Tesla's 'standard'. SAE will dominate by shear number of companies involved. The max power for these standards: SAE Combo (90kW) = Tesla (90kW) > CHAdeMO (62.5kW) The big issue is that Tesla would have had to wait for the SAE standard to be finalized to be incorporated into the Model S. They obviously didn't want to wait. I see this as being a limitation for them when everyone else goes to SAE.
        Jens Kr. Kirkebø
        @Roy_H
        I do not think Tesla will license their charging standard to other manufacturers. Tesla SuperChargers are free to use, when you buy a 60kWh or 85kWh Model S with SuperCharger hardware, you also get a lifetime of free use. I do not think Tesla is interested in providing free electricity to owners of other makes. They would then have to install some payment equipment at all their SuperCharger-sites and some means for Tesla owners to still charge for free. I do not see it happening, I think the Tesla system will remain a closed system for Tesla vehicles only.
        Marcuslime
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Roy_H
        Re;Tesla supercharger - what do you mean by "less capable in terms of maximum charge rate"? I thought this was by far the fastest charging system so far.
      Marcuslime
      • 2 Years Ago
      The tesla charger is a clear winner. It supports all 3 levels of charging, it's aesthetically appealing, well designe from a safety point if view and as raktmn has stated can support chargin at twice the current rate! Does Teslas 'proprietary' label on the charger outright prevent this from being considered as a universal standard or is it simply unappealing for other automakers due to payment if royalties etc to Tesla for using this technology. This is definitely the charger of the future - all other clunky, slow standards are just stalling mass adoption in the charger race.
        Roy_H
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Marcuslime
        Although Tesla owns the rights to their design, it would be in their best interest to allow other manufacturers to adopt it free of royalties.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Roy_H
          Exactly. If Tesla wants to be used, they can release the spec into the public domain.
      fsfikke
      • 2 Years Ago
      A big problem for car manufacturars like BMW, Daimler and BMW with the CHAdEMO plug is that it is a pretty 'dumb' connector, the Combo connector allows for a lot more communications between the car and charger. But I am sure that Combo will win in the end. The poles that you find out on the streets right now are mostly CHAdEMO's but that's just because they've been around for longer and car companies like Nissan are spending big bucks to place them all around Europe. The big German companies don't see it as their job to pay for the poles, they rather advice local governments and energy companies on which charging poles to place. Right now that's poles with both connectors.
      raktmn
      • 2 Years Ago
      Doesn't the Tesla connector allow for much faster charging than the other two? I would think that would be a very important key to the Tesla connector winning in the long run. Or at least a big reason why the other two standards would become obsolete sooner than the Tesla connector.
        solas
        • 2 Years Ago
        @raktmn
        Far less, in fact, as a white paper exercise. Now: if you mean the *car* (not the supercharger max potential, but the car's), the answer is yes. That all said, I highly doubt we will see a max-potential Chademo, or SAE level 3, for many years: they are limited by the installation site, typically. That leaves Tesla as the highest pot. supercharger network.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @raktmn
        The Tesla does provider higher power right now. But no, the SAE is rated as high as the Tesla connector and I think CHAdeMO is too (although no CHAdeMO charger goes that high yet).
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          Rotation has it right. The standards have room to grow beyond what is currently commercially available.
          raktmn
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          Thanks Rotation. That makes sense.
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      Nissan has the most to lose here. They should just come out with a Leaf with SAE Combo immediately and then force GM, Ford, Chrysler, BMW, BW, Daimler, and the rest to go with them to the government to get more chargers installed. Everyone wins then and Nissan maintains their lead.
        Chris M
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Or Nissan could just keep pushing their lead in both Chademo equipped vehicles and Chademo chargers installed, and make the SAE Combo a failure before it even starts. Or Tesla could have a smashing success and persuade other manufacturers to follow their lead, resulting in their own proprietary design becoming the default standard. There is a lot of possible ways this could go.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          "Nissan could just keep pushing their lead" USDM, the key sales thu Sep '12 look like this: - 24.3k Volt - 14.9k Leaf - 7.7k PIP To date, GM has outsold all other Plug-ins *combined*. And total plug-in series sales of 50k out of 24.8 Million vehicles over the same timeframe suggests that whatever "lead" might exist will easily be overturned.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          Or, I could use today's new USDM numbers thru Oct'12: - 27.3k Volt - 16.5k Leaf GM sold a whopping 2,961 Volt last month, making 3 consecutive months of 2,800+ Volt sold. Leaf sold 1,579 which is much better than last Oct, but still down from the 1700+ in May '11. But GM still extended their lead by another 1400 cars this month.
      Levine Levine
      • 2 Years Ago
      To help the free market elect the SAE plug , Government Motors wants an embargo against ChAdEMO. Betting against the electric car for decades after selling out and scraping the EV-1, GM didn't bother to take the initiative or push for the quick adoption of the SAE standard. Instead, GM is a knee-jerk, reactionary, Johnny-come-lately organization that circle-the-wagon against any perceived threat to its business. Having lost the" Number-One" auto maker title to Toyota, GM's game plan is as a spoiler, to low down the Japanese. First, the Japanese embrassed GM with superior Hybrid technology. Then again the Japanese auto makers embrassed GM with a slew of electric vehicles while GM has none. After over decade of catch-up, Ford has some real hybrid cars that give Toyota, Honda, Mitsub, and Nissan a run for its money. Meanwhile, GM is clueless. The Volt is languishing in dealer's lot but for fleet sales and leases. What to do when your market share continues to decline while Ford, Toyota, and Honda cannibilizes your market? GM's answer: Urge Big Government to place an embargo against a Japanese initiated fast-charger standard.
        Smith Jim
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Levine Levine
        Republicans: "We want the Chevy Volt, a high-tech car designed and built in Detroit, to fail because we are job creators." I decided to stop voting for Republicans because of the behavior of people like you..
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Levine Levine
        What the hell is that factually inaccurate ideological rant? Volt is languishing? It is the #1 selling plug-in car on the market. "Slew of electric vehicles"? There are two: the Mitsubishi-i and the Leaf. The USA has Tesla, Fisker, the Volt, Coda, and the Ford Focus Electric. Toyota has Tesla helping them with their RAV4. BTW, GM just announced great sales. Ford . . . not so good. And those hybrids from Ford? That is after they took $6 Billion in low-interest government-backed loans to build them. GovernFord Motors.
        Electron
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Levine Levine
        Keep in mind CHAdeMO will do only 60KW; adopting that standard will relegate EVs forever to the realm of city driving and short to medium range commutes. For serious roadtrip capable EVs like the Model S a lot more juice is needed. 100KW with current battery tech; hopefully at least double that when battery tech improves. Soon CHAdeMO will prove itself to be the Betamax of charging protocols.
      Electron
      • 2 Years Ago
      What's wrong with not agreeing on any standards at all in this phase of the fast developing EV game? The Renault Zoe's on board "chameleon"charger can handle everything up to 43KW. All it needs is a generic power outlet: very cheap to install. Every EV maker can hook it up to the custom onboard charger that fits its battery tech best. Since the Zoe is a relatively cheap offering I don't think it is too cost inefficient to have on board rather than a network of (possibly soon obsolete) stationary chargers.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Electron
        What is wrong is that these chargers are expensive and relatively few will be installed (at least initially) so you want to make sure everyone with an EV can use them. Having competing standards fractures the market and increases costs by requiring more different charger.
      Actionable Mango
      • 2 Years Ago
      Isn't there an automotive standard association that's suppose to work this stuff out ahead of time?
        GoodCheer
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        For a long while there, there was a turf battle going on between the SAE, who claim jurisdiction over cars, and the NECA, which claims jurisdiction over house wiring. It was highly destructive as we are now seeing, compared to other countries' agencies (IEC in Europe and CHADEMO in Japan) which pulled their pants back up and got to work.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @GoodCheer
          Yeah, you can thank the NEC for why EVSE needed to be hardwired into the panel, versus using a dryer plug.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        Yes, that would be the SAE. The problem is that it is an association and needs time to develop consensus agreement among multiple stakeholders - OEMs, electric utilities, EVSE equipment providers, etc. It's somewhat akin to herding cats, because SAE lacks the force of law or other mandate to compel people to agree or follow the standard. .
      • 2 Years Ago
      Competition is good only if it benefits the consumer./ In that case this competition between Chademo, tesla's charger and SAE combo is preventing many to buy an EV car. I hope for the sake of the EV industry that a standard will be picked soon . I have a Prius and would consider to buy a full Ev car if there was a decision on what the standard of charger should be. As soon as the standard is picked, stations will flourish.
        Ashton
        • 2 Years Ago
        The chargers specs isn't playing any significant role at all, with electric cars its a chicken and egg problem. That said, at least we have an electrical grid to help out with that. Which is a big luxury that CNG & Hydrogen cars do not have.
        mustang_sallad
        • 2 Years Ago
        well you're in luck, because the next EVs to hit the market from GM (Spark EV next year), BMW (i3 next year) and any of the other American or German companies will have the SAE combo coupler. The awkward step there is that they have to start from scratch again on availability of the charge stations.
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