After dominating the world market for hybrid gas-electric vehicles, Japan’s automakers are now aiming to set the global standards for electric car charging.
A coalition of companies, including Nissan and Toyota, announced yesterday the creation of a organization called CHAdeMO that is working to develop the standards. “What we need to do is make this protocol a standard outside Japan,” said Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the main utility backing the venture.
The coalition has 158 partner companies. Non-Japanese companies interested in the effort include PG&E, Robert Bosch, Enel SpA, Endesa, PSA Peugeot Citroen, and Korea Electric Power.
US companies have been working to establish standards for the American market. In January, the Society of Automotive Engineers adopted SAE J1772 as the standard plug, which will be used by the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and other upcoming plug-in cars. The first adopters of these vehicles will predominantly charge their vehicles at home using 220-volt Level II charging, rather than rapid chargers. Agreement on the J1772 took years of debate and discussion.
If Japan takes a big leap forward with rapid charging standards, it will help all global makers of plug-in cars. The move would also clear the way for Japanese carmakers, most notably Nissan, to accelerate its electric car plans. Last year, Japan surpassed the US to become the world’s largest market for hybrid cars—even though the overall size of the auto market is significantly smaller. The Toyota Prius has been the No. 1 selling car in Japan for the past nine months. Attractive consumer incentives have been the key to the rising popularity of hybrids in Japan.
Plug-in cars commonly take hours to fully recharge, but so-called rapid chargers could reduce electric car recharging to about 15 minutes—not much longer than the time it takes for a visit to the gas station.