Japan Enters Race for Global Electric Car Charging Standards

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.

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  • Anonymous

    “…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.”

    that would be awesome advancement. it’s good to see some leadership instead of more years of bickering to accommodate everybody’s demands.

  • DownUnder

    The Japanese are ahead again.
    Meanwhile, “Agreement on the J1772 took years of debate and discussion.”

  • Old Man Crowder

    Maybe, over time, they’ll have grades of electricity like they do gasoline:

    Regular: comes from the local power station

    Mid-Grade: 50% of the electricity is from renewable sources

    Premium: electricity from 100% renewable sources.

  • Mr. Fusion

    At Old Man Crowder:

    Love the idea for different grades.
    Over time, as renewable resources get more abundant, the cost of the “Premium” will be less than the “Regular”.

  • Shines

    I am not against a universal standard, but…
    Pick your plug. I don’t know how important it is to have a universal standard for car charging. After all if you travel internationally you know the need for adaptors for appliance plugs for different countries. While it is a pain in the rump it would not be the end of the world if a vehicle recharging station had several connectors depending on the type of charge needed. Certainly it would be bad if the number of standards got out of hand. But I could see not only the different grades as Old Man Crowder suggests but also several connector options with options something like Li fast charge; Nimh power charge; Capacitor Max charge. Certainly recharging stations and consumers wouldn’t want to be overburdoned with too many options, but as technology improves, new options may be needed and old ones disabled. Even drivers who pick a vehicle with a connector that becomes obsolete could be offered an adaptor. Just as long as every manufacturercountry doesn’t come up with their own unique standards…

  • veek

    Given the time it took to agree on the SAE plug, it seems the charging system may mean more than just a plug, and might possibly affect the way electricity is delivered (which could in turn affect the battery operation). Adapter plugs would also have to be strong enough to handle all the juice. Hopefully people can agree on a worldwide standard for this so the US isn’t odd-person out.
    I also hope the rapid delivery of power won’t adversely affect battery life — electric cars should be a good and durable option!

  • Mr. Fusion

    I agree with one or two options…like gasoline and diesel nozzles. But a universal standard within each category is a must. If we start dealing with adapters, people will try to do something they’re not supposed to, like rapid charging a non-rapid charging system. We’re not plugging in electric shavers or laptops here.
    This also opens up the door for universal adapters. Companies who like to produce cheap inferior products will surely jump on the opportunity. Got kaboom?

    The connection point between car and power source should be unique, standard, and simple enough to emulate a gas can equivalent.

  • Shines

    Hopefully the technology will be able to allow for a universal connector that allows for variable amperage and voltage depending on the size and type of battery that needs charging. The technology should also be failsafe on the car’s side. If someone tries to overcharge the battery the car’s charging system should disable it. I expect these new charging stations will be plug and play. Hopefully something as simple as: Just plug the car in and the charger communicates with the car and comes back with information like: A 98-100% (Max)charge; in 10 minutes; costs $8.00 an 80% charge; 6 minutes; $6.00 or a 50% charge in 3 minutes: $4.00.

  • veek

    Here’s another idea — perhaps the charging facilities could offer a discount for people who text and/or phone while they are in the charging station waiting for the 15 minute charge, instead of using their phones on the highway!

  • bill lichtenstein

    That’s an important point. We have to determine from what source the electricity is being generated. That source needs to be green and renewable for this approach to ultimately get us to where we need to be.

  • Anonymous

    As usual Japan is showing us the way on how to change with the times. By taking the initiative to introduce the rapid chargers will certainly improve sales of their electric cars and make charging so much simpler! It’s a pity that our Agreement on the J1772 took years of debate that made us miss out on an important opportunity!! Now that Japan has done it, I hope we’ll also take a “leaf off their book” and introduce rapid chargers here in the US very soon too!! Gps navigation

  • tapra1

    Non-Japanese companies interested in the effort include PG&E, Robert Bosch, Enel SpA, Endesa, PSA Peugeot Citroen, and Korea Electric Power.PC Talk