Should we be thinking about standardized everything for plug-in vehicles?

AutoblogGreen reader Michael V. is worried. With all of the work being done on plug-in vehicles by automakers large and small, he thinks a slew of propriety batteries, chargers and plugs will effectively kill (well, at least hurt) the widespread adoption of plug-in vehicles. Instead of just worrying, though, Michael wrote an open letter to the auto industry, which he sent to us and we've pasted after the jump, about this issue.
While Michael is certainly onto something with the thought that incompatible plugs could pose a problem for, say, GM-Ford families (for example), he's missing one detail. The beauty of a plug-in system is that we don't need to come up with a new standardized plug agreement; there already is a standard plug. Whatever device you're reading this post on uses it. The issue, though, is the high-speed chargers (like the one from Tesla Motors, pictured), which are not standardized. Considering the complexity of these systems - and the simple fact that there is so much potential variety in battery types and chemistry and sizes that PHEVs and BEVs can use - calling for a standard at this point seems quixotic, to say the least. A good idea, and certainly customer friendly, but perhaps something to keep on the back burner for now. Let's get these vehicles on the road first. They will have a "standard" plug from day one, and we can all live with that.

Michael's letter (minor typos edited:

An open letter to the auto industry,

I have seen lots of articles about just about every auto maker having plans for plug-in hybrid or all electric vehicles. I think this is great I am 100% supportive of shifting some or all of the burden of producing energy for transportation away from gasoline.

One huge request though, please act soon to create and adopt an industry-wide standard for power supplies, plugs, and battery packs. I am a software developer and follow developments in the computer industry closely. I know that standards for interfaces like this can take years to be developed and agreed upon between all parties, much less come to market. It disturbs me that I haven't heard anything about this crucial step to implementation.

I'm sure you have experienced what a clusterf**k it is to change cell phones, laptops, or other gadgets. Every phone has a different plug and every time you change phone's you need to buy new accessories like different car chargers for the plug and whenever you travel you have to bring the charger with you.

There will never be infrastructure to support remote "refueling/charging" if there is no standard. People without enough garage space will not be able to charge their car outside if they have to leave a power supply, which might cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, outside and vulnerable to theft. Building the power supply/inverter into the vehicle might be possible but it may add weight and should still have a standardized interface to keep costs low since it will probably represent a relatively high failure rate, consistent with other electronic equipment. I don't want to go to visit my parents house and not be able to plug-in at their place because we drive different cars.

No one would drive anywhere if they had to go to a Toyota, GM, Ford, VW, Honda, etc... gas station. So there should probably also be a standard interface for battery packs like there are for AA, AAA, C, and D batteries. If I drive and need to "refuel" on the road, I should be able to stop at a battery station and swap out the car's battery or batteries in a few minutes to continue my trip. Even if their are 2 or 3 standard sizes and capacities, it will be manageable, but if every model has a different battery it will be impossible to do this.

Getting together and working out a set of standards, which is open or cheap to license, would be a very strong signal to the world that the automotive industry is serious about making the next generation of vehicles work for the future. I hope that the DOE, DOT, ISO and the Press can help with this issue to make sure that it happens.


[Source: Michael V.]

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