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G.M. and BMW Adopt D.C. Electric Car Charging

G.M. and BMW have adopted a new charging standard, and other manufacturers are expected to follow.

General Motors and BMW say they are moving ahead with technology that can give electric cars an 80 percent charge in 20 minutes. Charging time is a major problem in a car that can travel only 100 miles or less between charges.

Today, electric cars almost always use the existing alternating current power grid for charging, which means that the energy must first be converted from A.C. back into the D.C. format car batteries use to store energy. Bypassing the on-board hardware that does that conversion means avoiding a bottleneck and reducing charging time.

G.M.’s Chevrolet Spark EV, based on a Korean-built gas-powered minicar, has a published range of 82 miles. BMW says its i3 will go 80 to 100 miles on a charge. If either one could take on an 80 percent charge in 20 minutes, and if such charging stations were widely available, it could effectively multiply the car’s daily range.

G.M. had previously announced that its Spark would have a charging port with inputs for the standard A.C. charger or D.C. equipment.

The two vehicles will use a standard recently established by the Society of Automotive Engineers. There is an older international standard, widely used in Japan, but D.C. charging in North America is a rarity and companies here are starting fresh. Along with G.M. and BMW, other companies that have promised to use the new S.A.E. standard are Ford, Chrysler, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche.


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