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Seven Automakers Agree To EV Charging Standard

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On: Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 9:17AM | By: Chris Weiss

Seven Automakers Agree To EV Charging Standard

Think about the past several cell phones that you've had. If they were different models from different manufacturers, chances are good that each model had an entirely different charging port. Now think about your laptop, tablet computer, MP3 player, e-reader, and other portable electronics—they all have different types of charging ports. So when you go on vacation with several of them, you have an entire section of your suitcase filled with different adapters.

Now imagine a world where every portable consumer electronics device has the same type of charging hardware. You could bring all your favorite gadgets wherever you need to go, invite all your friends to do the same, and bring a single adapter or two to charge them all. While cell phone makers have made some progress toward a universal charging standard, we have yet to see it trickle down.

Luckily, the auto market is being more proactive. Seven major automakers agreed to universal EV charging hardware this week, meaning that you won't need any special kind of adapter to charge your vehicle and public charging stations won't need to invest in seven different types of chargers.

No insignificant collection of brands—Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, Porsche, and Volkswagen—made the agreement.

The agreement recognizes the J1772 connector standard that is used at Level 2 charging stations in the United States. The agreement also recognizes a universal communication system between the car and charging station.

Ford VP of international government affairs Steve Biegun explained (with some PR rhetoric): "At Ford, we know how important it is to provide technologically innovative solutions that are convenient for our customers—it’s part of our ‘One Ford’ vision and a key factor in our company’s overall success. We applied the same philosophy in working with other global automakers and governments to offer one common approach on charging electric vehicles—helping speed infrastructure development, strengthen economic growth and most importantly, make charging even more convenient for our customers."

While the agreement covers Chevy and Ford, which both have existing plug-in vehicles, and European brands that intend to add plug-in cars in the future, it does not include Japanese brands like Nissan (Leaf) and Honda (upcoming Fit EV), which recognize the CHAdeMO standard. Tesla also uses a different standard for its charging hardware. So owners of those vehicles will likely need to carry around adapters as the charging infrastructure moves toward using the J1772 standard.

To be honest, I'm not sure why it's so difficult for companies to make these agreements. Imagine if every car had its own gas-fueling hardware that was incompatible with other types of pumps. You'd have to either go only to specific gas stations or buy an adapter. Or the gas station would have to invest money in all types of pumps. Since EVs are going to need public charging stations to get off the ground, and we'd like that charging infrastructure to develop as quickly as possible, it seems like automakers should have come up with a standard before building and marketing EVs. But I guess that's just idealistic thinking.


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