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Electric car fast charging feud between SAE and CHADEMO, who will win?

The CHADEMO standard exists in the i-MiEV and LEAF, but a consortium of automakers are using the SAE J1772 committee to develop a completely different system, and hopefully electric car owners will benefit in the end.

At this weeks EVS26 electric vehicle conference, the impending choice between DC fast charging standards was the major topic. CHADEMO is the incumbent standard, developed several years ago by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and a consortium of Japanese automakers, and has been in use since 2008. The SAE is developing a new iteration of the J1772 standard which includes a new “combo” connector supporting not only AC charging, but also DC Fast Charge. A consortium of automakers promise to begin delivering electric cars containing the combo J1772 system in 2013. Unfortunately the two consortiums do not overlap, and instead we have a Hatfield-McCoy’s style feud going on. Maybe Beta-versus-VHS is the better analogy? (for the record, I owned a Beta VCR, but of course both were beat by DVD)

The CHADEMO group is led by Nissan, maker of the Leaf, and Mitsubishi, maker of the i-MiEV. Both cars require either a long recharge time (as much as 7 hours) at a 3.3 kilowatt charge rate via a J1772 plug, or a fast recharge time, 30 minutes, using the CHADEMO port. Research has shown that when the CHADEMO network was built in Japan, that electric car utilization went up dramatically, suggesting that the existence of a fast charging network alleviates range anxiety.

Not many CHADEMO charging stations exist in the U.S. but large-scale deployments are beginning in Chicago, the SF Bay Area, and other parts of California. Because CHADEMO is the only existing DC Fast Charging system, it is the only choice for businesses wishing to launch electric car charging networks.

The SAE DC Fast Charging consortium includes Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche and Volkswagen. For the last couple years these automakers, via the SAE committee, have prevented the CHADEMO standard from being adopted as an SAE standard, and have instead insisted on following the standardization process. Some claim the SAE committee is blocking adoption of CHADEMO on political grounds, with little technical merit, and among the goals is to damage Nissan’s electric car efforts. The SAE committee claims the nearly finished standard has technical benefits over CHADEMO.

There are several years of experience in deploying CHADEMO-compatible electric cars and charging stations, versus 0 years experience with the yet-to-be-finished SAE standard. Whether or not the SAE committee is blocking CHADEMO for political goals, it is ignoring a standard with several years of experience behind it, in favor of a new untried standard. That new standard had better have something good to it, eh?
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