CHAdeMO may lose its smile

by Ernie Hernandez on May 13, 2012

CHAdeMo logo

SAE International leaning to separate standard

No surprise here, but SAE International is looking to embrace a different electric vehicle (EV) fast charging standard than the CHAdeMO standard adopted by several Japanese manufacturers, according to Automotive News.

The first clue is that the engineer leading the group is a General Motors engineer. Not difficult to see which direction he’s going to be leaning. SAE International is looking to publish their standard by late July or early August 2012. As most U.S. companies are not yet in the EV marketplace, they can easily wait to see what comes as a result of this new standard.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) worked with Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Subaru to develop the CHAdeMO standard in 2010 prior to the delivery of EVs into the marketplace. Not a domestic big-three maker to be found in the coalition.

At issue primarily is the methodology. The CHAdeMO standard requires a second plug in addition to the J1772 charging plug that is needed for 120 volt or 240 volt charging. American makers wish to have one plug serve 120 volt and 240 volt needs, as well as the 480 volt fast charging requirements. The CHAdeMO standard requires a different physical connector for the 480 volt fast charger.

Other advantages to the SAE International standard will include not needing to specify an extra cost optional charge port if one wishes to have a DC fast charge connection capability. Currently this is the case on Nissan and Mitsubishi electric cars. We see the (American) world gravitating toward the SAE solution with the Japanese makers ultimately reluctantly embracing the new SAE standard likely to be adopted as well.

What does this mean for cars already equipped with the CHAdeMO standard? Support with the meager installed base of CHAdeMO chargers that currently exists, with some future chargers likely offering support to both protocols. Some clever engineer is probably already at work developing an adapter that CHAdeMO vehicle owners can use to plug into the future SAE International standard. The lack of an SAE standard is very likely the cause of the delayed rollout of DC fast charging in America. No maker wants to commit big time to a doomed standard, so many are likely waiting on the sidelines until later this year. In fact, some equipment makers have already committed to support the new SAE standard upon its release.

While Nissan and Mitsubishi may have the early lead in EV production, the vehicle sales numbers are still so small that an argument can be made for the consumer benefit of having just one connector to deal with. Those who chose to purchase an EV early in the cycle must realize that we are in the equivalent of the HD DVD vs Blu-ray wars – there can only be one winner. Time will tell, but our thinking is that the CHAdeMO plug on our LEAF will ultimately succumb to the fate of the HD DVD.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Warren May 14, 2012 at 7:32 am

Most are doing 100% of their charging at home. Most will not have access to DC fast charging, by the time they are read to get a new car.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) May 14, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Warren, thanks for the comment. We have been able to do all of our driving for the past year using our home charging station. I can think of only one or two times that we charged elsewhere, and it was not out of necessity, but more out of curiosity. Many, if not most, will be able to do fine with home charging only. 240 volt opportunity charging at the mall or at restaurants will be a nice perk, but not a requirement for most, in my view.

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Tom K May 15, 2012 at 9:39 am

Hi LEAFguy. I’ve commented before that I charge my LEAF away from home at least 50% of the time. Whether it’s at work or another location, I’ve managed to travel 18,000+ miles in my first year of ownership, even with a painfully slow EVSE expansion in my area (SoCal). A network of quick chargers would make the logistics of traveling far easier for me and completely relegate my gas car to a dusty corner in my garage…

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) May 15, 2012 at 10:46 am

Hi Tom,

I know that some (perhaps many) LEAF owners charge away from home, but most primarily charge their cars at home. Having accumulated more than 18,000 miles on your LEAF in one year is a testament to the fact that LEAF is more than just a short trip about town vehicle.

When we bought our LEAF, I specifically went with the SL trim level to get the fast charge port knowing that there was no standard in place yet. In this instance, as in many other industries, being first is no guarantee of being the survivor. Sometimes being first allows others to fully explore the flaws and develop a better system. From a maker’s standpoint the design and cost factor of having a single port is important. From the consumer’s view, the idea of a smaller (or only one) port improves the style of the vehicle.

I think that because the car came before the standard, there was this inherent risk that Nissan and early purchasers faced about the development of this standard. Many (unreasonable in my view) LEAF owners have questioned whether Nissan will provide them with an update if the standard is changed. These consumers should take some personal responsibility and understand what they are buying before plunking down their dollars. Nissan is not responsible for creating an international standard, though they tried to influence it with their membership in the CHAdeMO association. The problem with that is that the CHAdeMO association is a Japanese organization, not an American one. And SAE International is an American based standards agency and everybody knows (tongue firmly planted in cheek) that American based agencies always know best.

If there was a better DC fast charge network in Southern California my wife could take the car up to Pasadena when she has to attend a meeting. Stopping for coffee part way up would not be an unpleasant break in her trip. As it is now, she has to take our 8 year old minivan which we kept for family vacations and backup needs such as this. She would rather drive the LEAF. Hopefully the determination of an international standard will improve the painfully slow development of the fast charge network, not only in Southern California, but across the country.

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Tom K May 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm

It may be the Betamax vs. VHS… We shall see…

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gary May 15, 2012 at 9:55 pm

It’d be nice to have a little honesty here. The plug that GM & the SAE dreamed up serves only one purpose, and that is to try and slow down EV development. The saddest part of that reality is that the same energy could have been directed in actual design & manufacture of U.S. EV’s … but nope … no product. SAE needs to make a plug for quick charging? Really? Here’s a novel idea. How about if GM at least MAKES an EV, before they go and decide the Chademo is no good. The simple truth is, GM, caught with their pants down again, have no EV’s even on the drawing board for mass production. Even the Spark conversion will only be a token experiment delivered to a teeny market in an even smaller amount of states. Thanks once again GM … I’m having another EV1 deja vu.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) May 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm

gary – Welcome to Living LEAF.

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gtbhawaii November 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Aloha,

I tend to agree with the other Gary… Where is Detroit in the ev market – it should have been an ultimateum to make ev’s with their bailout.

America should adopt chademo, and put chargers in malls / not gas stations – gas stations will eventually charge more for the use of their chargers, than what it’s worth. America & sae – not with big oil in the way – support chademo (2013 Zero DS Motorcycle ordered & waiting).

Mahalo.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) November 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Gary (I’m guessing) – Welcome to Living LEAF. I’ll give you some info about your Zero purchase in your other comment.

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Melina May 27, 2014 at 10:49 am

Ernie, as far as charging, LEAF ownership is a no-brainer to the home owners. Lets talk about Apartment residents and condominium owners with the HOV resistance of installing charging stations. This is where the real challenge of growing the EV market is. Until public charging is available just like gas stations are, connector standards are completely irrelevant at this point, in my opinion.
P.s. I really like your blog and the initiative.

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Ernie Hernandez May 27, 2014 at 11:17 am

Melina – Welcome to Living LEAF. Change is the thing that many are reluctant to welcome. It is much easier to live with the status quo than to create difficulty by introducing EV charging stations into an existing community. In that sense, it is good that some property managers are seeing into the future and incorporating charging stations into their developments. This is still the exception, rather than the rule, but it’s a start.

It’s interesting that you commented now, as my most recent article reminded me to write an article about the state of the EV connection world. That article will be up soon. It is still way early in the game, but at some point we will need to see some consolidation in this area.

Thank you for your kind comments.

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