Imagine for a moment that each car maker provided a different fuel filler for putting liquid fuels into the vehicle. You could only put gas in your Ford at stations with Ford nozzles and you’d be out of luck at a Honda or Chrysler gas stop. It sounds weird, but that’s close to the problem facing owners of pluggable electric vehicles.
Home-charging stations (Level I or II) have been mostly solved in North America with the adoption of a standard charging connector but some owners are discovering they can’t connect to a public charge-up point.
Development of a public charging infrastructure, perhaps in a parking lot or public garage, has been delayed by the lack of an industry standard connector and the different electrical systems in use on the cars.
Not all EVs on the road now can even connect to a high rate port, but it’s obvious that “parking ports” for short term use need to recharge the vehicle to a useful level in less time than overnight at home. The entire industry sees solving that problem as one key to increasing sales of electric vehicles.
Now a coalition of eight U.S and German OEMs – including Ford, GM and Chrysler – have announced agreement on a single-port fast charging system, which they say could recharge some battery EVs in 30 minutes or less.
It is more than just a connector agreement, too. The new charging system was developed to create one standard for electrical systems, charge controllers, and user safety in international markets.
The “DC-Fast” system has both AC and DC charging capabilities and integrates the ability to handle a variety of low and high-rate charging protocols (Levels I, II, III) into one standard connector. Supporters say this is a necessary step to allow any EV to recharge at almost any station, thus reducing the
SAE International is examining the new system and may adopt it as a standard for fast charging, and the European manufacturers association ACEA has also endorsed the idea of a common connector. Developers expect to have the DC-Fast system available at the end of this year.
While this is a step forward for U.S and Euro markets, it still presents a problem for any EVs going to or coming from Asian markets. The Japanese auto industry, working through the CHAdeMO (Charge de Move) Association, is promoting its own connector, pin layout and internal charging system(s). The association says that almost 1200 of their chargers are in use in Japan with 200 more in use in Europe.
Some industry observers see this turning into the automotive version of Betamax vs. VHS while others predict no problems ahead because OEMs are already used to making other safety and emission changes for each market they enter.