While promising advances in battery technology bring hope of seeing a notable reduction in the price of new electric vehicle models over the course of the next five years wide-scale electromobility remains unlikely as automakers clash over charging standards. With several automakers introducing competing charging solutions, sharing a common charge rate of 80% capacity in 30 minutes or less, the need for compromise grows increasingly dire as few of these technologies are compatible with each other. However, automakers seem to be clinging ever more unwaveringly to their own proprietary technologies despite the unifying technologies developed by groups of automakers, including Nissan and Mitsubishi and adopted by several charger manufacturers, such as the CHAdeMO standard.

A group of major automakers, including Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, joined this fray when they announced the development of a new charging system, dubbed SAE, in May, 2012. The proposed system would be installed in new EVs manufactured by these five automakers beginning in 2013 and would support a single charging standard across European and American vehicles, AC as well as DC charging methods, and would provide a single shared plug standard for all automakers.

Despite the arguable technical advantages of the proposed SAE standard, the lack of compatibility with the existing CHAdeMO standard, in use since 2008 and installed in at least 1 500 fast chargers, renders this a, largely, lateral move in terms of EV advancement. Many analysts have instead interpreted this move as one primarily motivated by a desire on the part of the controlling automakers to reduce the sales of Nissan’s Leaf EV. To further complicate the charging technology landscape, Chinese automakers have also begun equipping their EV models with chargers based on separate technologies for use on the Chinese market.

With the situation growing increasingly tense and the likelihood of a compromise being brokered among the automakers themselves, the decision may ultimately be left up to the International Electrotechnical Commission’s technical committee. The committee is reviewing the standards, and in the coming months is expected to approve one or more of the fast charger standards, a decision which many hope will spur automakers into a forced compromise.

Fortunately, for the sake of the EV market, the operators of several major groups of independent charging stations, including ABB, Eaton, and Schneider Electric, have already studied the prospect of converting stations to support whichever standard wins out in the end and have plans in place to realize this change.

Source: NY Times article on the evolution of the EV charging landscape

Read more: Torque news on the SAE charging standard

The International Electrotechnical Commission

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