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EVs Get One Plug to Rule Them All

After years of struggle and strife, the geeks and gearheads at the Society for Automotive Engineers, along with U.S. and German automakers, have adopted a single charging standard for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. Finally, we have one plug to rule them all. Well, all except the Japanese. And Tesla.

The new plug and charging standard — known as J1772 Revision B or the slightly more memorable “Combo” — will be adopted by automakers throughout the States and Europe. It will allow EV owners to enjoy “quick charging” as public charging stations come online. SAE International worked with more than 190 automakers, suppliers and utilities to create the standard, which can handle up to 500 volts.

But first, a quick primer for the uninitiated. There are three ways to charge an EV. Level 1 uses a 120-volt line like your TV uses. Level 2 uses a 224-volt line like your dryer uses. A third method, the direct current “quick charge,” uses high voltage to do the job in as little as 30 minutes. You won’t find those monsters in your garage, though; they’ll be limited to fleets and public charging stations.

It took years for the SAE to adopt a standard for Level 1 and 2, a plug known as J1772, and it’s the one everyone uses. The Combo will handle Level 2 and quick charging, but not everyone will use it. Not yet, anyway.

General Motors and Ford (and presumably the Germans, though they haven’t confirmed it yet) will adopt the new standard, but the Japanese – particularly Nissan and Mitsubishi – are out in the cold because they’ve already backed Japan’s CHAdeMO standard. Because there are different connectors and software protocols involved, people driving the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i won’t be able to use the new standard.

“We are disappointed that SAE has approved a fast-charging standard that will not accommodate more than 70 percent of the electric vehicles on U.S. roadways today,” Nissan America said in a statement. “At the time of launch, the Nissan Leaf was designed to comply with the CHAdeMO standard of quick charging, which was the only existing quick-charge standard certified at the time. All fast-charge-equipped electric cars on the road today support the CHAdeMO standard and Nissan felt this was the most logical path to global compatibility and consumer adoption.


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